When folks in government talk about our reliance on oil, why does it seem like there’s constant chatter about fuel cells? Why are we waiting on hydrogen fuel cells when we can do something now? Here’s the cynic/realist perspective (you get to choose which one): fuel cells are twenty years from production/wide spread use, and that’s a lot of time to put off tough economic decisions (like investment in infrastructure, etc). By saying we favor investing in fuel cell research, we’re putting off the really big decisions ad infintum.
43 is in south america to talk up Brazil and ethanol this week. Ethanol is promising as an alternative to oill. It’s too bad we don’t have the growing capacity to grow even a sizable fraction of the corn we’d need.
Hybrid engines improve fuel efficiency, but the cars are expensive due to the cost of the batteries.
What I want to know is: why we aren’t pushing – really pushing – a combination of the two? With meager tax incentives (not the expiring, woefully short lived tax credit) for hybrid vehicles, auto fuel economy could go through the roof – and we could do that now.
We could also pass regulation to force increases in fuel economy (of non-hybrid engines). We can do this now.
Car makers (and some Republicans) will tell you this will result in slower or more expensive cars. I say horse pucky.
Consider that the average horsepower of automobiles sold in the U.S. increased 65 percent from 1980 – 2000. Lest you think that just means cars got bigger and faster – well, you’d be right. But also consider that the average horsepower to weight ratio went up 51 percent over same time period; AND, average fuel economy for vehicles sold in the U.S. stayed virtually the same. (In 1982 the average fuel economy of a car sold in the U.S. was 21.1 MPG. In 2006 it was 21 MPG.)
What does this mean? Auto makers made engines that were a lot more efficient in turning gasoline into power, but used all of those increases in efficiency to make more power. Why is it unreasonable to insist that some of this increased efficiency (which will presumably continue over time) goes towards lower fuel consumption?
Rather than making a car that’s 30 percent more powerfull in ten years… why not a car that’s 15 percent more fuel efficient (and only 15 percent more powerfull)? If you phase in the increases in fuel efficiency, I submit that cars don’t have to be ANY more expensive, or ANY less powerfull (just a little less powerfull than they could have been – which may still be more powerfull than today). Granted, I’m no engineer – so it probably doesn’t work exactly like that… but I’ll bet I’m not too far off.
Combine all of these approaches: investment in domestic ethanol production, (more) tax incentives for hybrid vehicles, and increases in fuel economy standards… before you know it, you’ll have reduced our reliance on foreign oil by sizable amounts.
By the time those fuel cells are ready for production, we may not need foreign oil anymore anyway. (Yeah… only if the political climate does a 180.)