The Energy Enigma

What is James Hrynyshyn talking about?

…consumers are forever demanding more power, in the form of torque and acceleration, from their cars. Just as important, however, is the lack of incentives for the automobile to invest in efficiency. Electric and even hybrid technologies are decades old, but we’re still waiting for a mass-production electric car from Detroit. Gasoline has been too cheap to worry about and largely still is. It’s axiomatic that if fuel costs were to rise significantly, we would start to see a major push for improved efficiency. The close correlation between the rollercoaster of demand for the Toyota Prius and the price of gasoline last summer is a case in point.

The Energy Grid blog
is closing down in a few days, so get over there now and express your opinions while you have a chance!

It is sponsored by Shell Oil, by the way. So maybe you’ll comment on that as well.


  1. #1 Lilian Nattel
    July 20, 2009

    Right–so tax it.

  2. #2 ZA
    July 21, 2009

    yeah! tax tax tax tax! RAPE THE ECONOMY! Yeah! Fuck it HARD!

    You big gummint types will have nowhere to run when it all falls down. It’ll be open season.

  3. #3 Bill James
    July 21, 2009

    He starts out making an interesting point:

    The rebound effect, in which efficiency gains are nullified by increased usage, is almost certainly to blame for rising transportation-sector emissions in much of the world, but not in the United States, it seems.

    And then goes on to reason how the U.S. can become more efficient. Now it’s entirely likely that his was not the point that caught my eye but therein the point is raised nevertheless. As the U.S. reduces consumption and likewise demand we create a scenario where both price and availability improves for the rest of the world. To put it succinctly; if we don’t use it, they will. Which is also another aspect of the rebound effect, with any anticipated net gains in emission reduction globally being lost in all probability.

  4. #4 MadScientist
    July 21, 2009

    I have no idea what he means when he says the automobile industry has no incentives to improve efficiency. Engines have improved an awful lot in the past 20 years and any further miniscule improvement is hard to come by. Of course if you drive a hummer the thing still hogs gas like there’s no tomorrow.

    Further improving energy efficiency in internal combustion engines really doesn’t matter at all now; it will make no significant impact on rising CO2. We need improved public transport and need to make serious cuts to fossil fuel burning vehicles. Resource consumption makes it somewhat unlikely that personal transport can simply be replaced with electric vehicles – at least not with the world’s current population. We’ve got a serious population problem but no government will admit it or make long term plans to fix things; in fact governments only talk about more growth.

  5. #5 itzac
    July 21, 2009

    Wow, ZA. I find myself at a loss for words. I just don’t know how to address such a sophisticated and thoughtful argument. Truly, your grasp of the complexities and nuance of economics is awe-inspiring.

    Tax the ever-loving crap out of gasoline. Ideally this is a tax that should garner no revenue. It is a disincentive, not a cash grab.

  6. #6 Nathan Myers
    July 21, 2009

    It doesn’t need taxation. All that would be needed would be to end the subsidies. If the entire cost of the Iraq adventure were charged to direct users of petroleum, for example, we might see a positive efflorescence of alternatives to petroleum. If the full environmental and health cost of coal were added into their electric bills, people would jump for the alternatives.

    Similarly, if corn actually cost to buy what it costs to produce, you would see a great deal less corn-derived stuff (I won’t say “food”) on the shelves.