02 April 2008

Look at all that unused capacity, Martha...

Oil age nearing the end, analyst says

Gasoline-powered cars are driving humanity to the end of the oil age, leaving electric vehicles as the best weapon against global warming. This is the major conclusion in a dramatic international report written by a former Exxon insider and released Tuesday to Canwest News Service. "Sometime during the year 2008, humanity will probably pass the point at which it collectively consumes 1,000 barrels of crude oil every second of every day. More than half of it -- and the share continues to rise -- is dedicated to the movement of goods, services and people," said the analysis by physical chemist Gary Kendall, titled Plugged in: The End of the Oil Age. "Despite the pivotal role which oil is playing during the early years of the 21st century we are, without a doubt, entering the twilight of the Oil Age." Kendall, 34, is now a senior energy business and policy analyst at the World Wildlife Fund's European office in Brussels, following a nine-year career in the oil industry. His analysis also warns that some alternatives, such as hydrogen or biofuels, including ethanol from agricultural crops, could do as much environmental damage as crude oil from conventional wells.

In the 200-page report Kendall says that government and industry should focus on new technologies that reduce dependence on oil such as the G-Wiz, a battery-powered electric vehicle now on British roads that retails for about $17,000 and offers a 75-kilometre range with top speeds of about 80 km/h. London commuters who drive the G-Wiz already enjoy several benefits, including an exemption from the daily congestion charge, free parking in designated bays and even free electricity from adjacent charging posts, the report said. An increase in electric vehicles would be expected to put more demands on electric utilities and power grids, but Kendall noted that a recent impact assessment of plug-in hybrid vehicles in the US concluded that power companies already had enough energy to charge 84% of cars in the country, driving an average of 53 kilometres per day. In his report, Kendall compares the challenge at hand to the revolution in communications sparked by the mobile telephone, but he said the new infrastructure for electric vehicles would be trivial, requiring only new wiring or extension cords on existing buildings and power sources. Kendall's analysis also questions the energy-intensive extraction of oil from Alberta's tarsands, as well as the use of biofuels, since he says they do little to shift vehicles away from the internal combustion engine in the transportation sector which consumes almost 95% of its primary energy in fuels derived from crude oil.
(Vancouver Sun 080402)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Arrgghhh!!! I hate articles like this that make electric cars sound like the answer. Where do you suppose all that electricity comes from? Hydro dams, solar panels and wind turbines? Not so much, especially in Great Britain. By the time you add up the losses of converting chemical (coal) energy to thermal (heat) to mechanical (turbine) to electrical (power lines) back to chemical (battery) to electrical (electric motor) to mechanical (car transmission) you burn far more energy than if you just went from chemical (gasoline) to mechanical (car transmission) which happens in today's cars.