Even if "we" never "run out of oil" we should still use electrified cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, etc

If “we” never “run out” of Oil, should we still be adopting electric cars? I found this discussion on one of the electric vehicle forums (see link below) and, well, my stand is that we should not only adopt electric vehicles, but to rethink our whole transportation system. In my mind the availability and looming scarcity of fossil fuels is only one of a large set of reasons to adopt electrified cars, bicycles, motorcycles, trucks and more.

My way of describing that issue is – Peak Oil. That is, the theory, supported by a big big pile of data, that covers the question of “when do we run out of oil?” It is a model about the extraction rate of oil from an oil field over time, and the observation that all oil fields reach a peak of production from that field. At about the midway point to the extraction of all oil from a field, the rate of extraction begins to decline. The decline rate varies from field to field. Scientists have been adding up all the oil fields for decades, and had predicted a peak of conventional oil production in the 2005-10 time frame, and indeed the highest production level for conventional oil occurred in that time.

It’s not so important the exact date of when conventional oil production peaks, but that it will happen. And that the peak of conventional oil production will make dramatic changes to the world economy.

The discussion over at mynissanleaf focused on an article by a well known climate change debunker who wrote an article suggesting that hydraulic fracturing and methane hydrates are going to let “the world” stay hooked on fossil fuels for the coming 2-300 years or more. That we’ll never run out of oil.

I’ve written a bit about this recently (see link below) where the U.S. Government is supporting research into Methane Hydrate resources in both Alaska and Texas. These have the potential to be a huge source of natural gas, which in turn can be liquified into a fuel suitable for internal combustion engines.

Further, the hydraulic fracturing process has made a dramatic turnaround in the natural gas industry. Just a few years ago that industry was full of doom and gloom, but today there’s a natural gas boom underway. Thanks to frakking, or Hydraulic Fracturing.

That “we” are using these processes is a symptom of Peak Oil. That is, all the cheap conventional oil is getting more and more difficult to find and extract.

Therefore, in order to keep the game going with a fossil fuel driven society “we” need to go further afield from the cheap conventional oil, and develop the technology required to tap the more expensive resources out there.

For example – the oil platforms heading for ever-deeper waters off the coast. It’s more expensive to drill in 10,000 feet of water, than it is in 1000 feet of water. Plus, with the Gulf Oil disaster of 2010 we have a great example of how much more difficult it is to fix the disaster once one of these oil wells blows up. We can be certain there will be more of those sorts of oil spills because of the history of that industry.

Staying on the subject of Peak Oil, not only are these newer resources a symptom of that effect, they have their own pattern of peak availability. Sometime in the future there’ll be a peak methane hydrate point, for example. Why? It’s because of the nature of the beast – there is a fixed amount of fossil fuel resources, so as we consume them the supply diminishes.

I call this the death spiral pattern – because the fuel resource is one that’s diminished as we use it.

A fuel resource like biofuels or solar energy or wind energy is not a death spiral, because those resources are not diminished by consumption. There will always be wind, and sun, and plants.

For me – this is a very strong reason to adopt electrified vehicles, because they do not participate in the death spiral, but participate in the life spiral.

What of some other reasons to adopt electric vehicles?

Climate change and other environmental concerns – Tapping fossil fuels desequesters carbon that the planet stored safely underground to give us the beautiful climate in which our bodies and the ecosphere around us evolved in. Carbon desequestration is changing the climate, that will present a challenge for all of us animals and plants who evolved to live in this climate.

Biofuels at least do not desequester carbon. But, all the sorts of hydrocarbon fuels involve release of toxics into the atmosphere.

Global financial system – The current situation, with only a few countries having significant fossil fuel resources, causes a flow of money into those countries which is destabilizing the global financial status, as well as global power politics. This is not good. Solar powered electric vehicles use locally sourced electricity that is renewable and because it’s locally produced wherever it’s installed it doesn’t funnel money into a select few pockets.

Noise pollution – Those explosions in an internal combustion engine make an unholy racket that fills our cities with obnoxious noises. If more were electrified, cities would be quieter. If electric vehicles were to be forced to emit some noise for the benefit of blind pedestrians (there is questionable research behind that) the noise should be kept minimized, just enough to make a noise signature that people can tune into. Cars do not have to be noisy. And to my motorcyclist friends, loud pipes do not save lives, and they’re totally obnoxious. What saves lives is the sort of focus and attention that we practice as motorcyclists.

What if we never Run Out Of Oil? (mynissanleaf.com)

US Dept. of Energy exploring Methane Hydrate resources in Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and elsewhere (longtailpipe.com)

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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