NEW ENERGY: A REALITY NOW AND COMING ON
The Economist, Britain’s revered conservative weekly, takes note of New Energy and energy efficiency from a skeptical point of view reminiscent of Vice President Cheney’s misguided, condescending characterization of conservation as merely a “personal virtue.”
But where the Vice President found nothing but a misinformed threat to unbridled oil consumption, The Economist finds something far more valuable: “…in the imaginations of a coterie of physicists, biologists and engineers, an alternative world is taking shape…plans for the end of the fossil-fuel economy are now being laid and they do not involve much self-flagellation…the prophets of energy technology…promise a world where, at one level, things will have changed beyond recognition, but at another will have stayed comfortably the same, and may even have got better.”
The New Energies are easy to advocate for because there are enormous virutes in adopting them. Not personal virtues, practical virtues, the kind of virtues even the folks with the big money understand: “…the proponents of the new alternatives are serious. Though many are interested in environmental benefits, their main motive is money. They are investing their cash in ideas that they think will make them large amounts more…”
Some conservative observers are reluctant to get excited about New Energy because, incorrectly, they think they have seen this show before: “…alternatives were widely discussed [in] the early 1970s…there are two differences…[first,] this price rise is driven by demand. More energy is needed all round…[second,] 35 years have winnowed the technological wheat from the chaff. Few believe in fusion now…the idea of a hydrogen economy is also fading fast. Thirty-five years of improvements have, however, made wind, solar power and high-tech batteries attractive…”
The prize: Present world energy consumption is ~15 terawatts, $6 trillion/year. By 2050, those numbers will double. If the new generation comes from old sources spewing greenhouse gases, the world is likely to go broke coping with the associated disasters. The only logical conclusion: Those who spend on New Energy now will soon make new fortunes.
The transition is being led by innovators from the tech revolution of the 1990s. Companies like GE, BP and Shell are getting on board.
Ready for primetime...(click to enlarge)
The Economist knows its readers and concluded its article accordingly: “There are lots of terawatts to play for and lots of money to be made. And if the planet happens to be saved on the way, that is all to the good.”
The future of energy; A fundamental change is coming sooner than you might think
June 19, 2008 (The Economist)
The power and the glory; The next technology boom may well be based on alternative energy…
June 19, 2008 (The Economist)
New Energy advocates, innovators and investors
New Energy is not just about being green anymore, it is about the future of energy and the technologies where the next fortunes will be made.
...Almost ready. (click to enlarge)
- The industrial revolution, which has always depended on fossil fuels, is some 200 years old.
- A 1970s excitement over New Energy aroused similar excitement but flailed when oil prices faded.
- Oil is no longer cheap and unlikely to ever be cheap again.
- Coal will become prohibitively expensive when an appropriate price for greenhouse gas emissions is applied to it.
- Markets are more clear about the right choices for future energy now than they have ever been: Nobody is going to wait for the hydrogen economy or nuclear fusion. Wind, sun and plug-in vehicles is where the money is settling.
- As western governments institute a cost for greenhouse gas emissions and incentivize technological development, New Energy can be expected to become cheaper and more attractive even to emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and Russia.
- Former CIA Director James Woolsey’s endorsement of plug-in vehicles is an indication of the mainstreaming of the idea.
- The fading of the 1970s excitement over New Energy is unlikely to be repeated because energy demand is not going to fade and the need for emissions-free energy is going to increase.
- Wind energy is now price competitive with natural gas and is approaching price parity with coal.
- Solar is expected to achieve price parity by 2015.
- The price of oil may fluctuate but the era of cheap oil is gone. The cost of natural gas is following oil prices. Electricity is a cheaper way to power cars than oil at today’s prices.
- The new transmission necessary to accommodate higher levels of electricity consumption will also facilitate intermittent energies like wind and solar and electric vehicles.
- A price on emissions will only make fossil fuels less competitive sooner.
Coming next year and the year after. (click to enlarge)
- The Economist: “As these alternatives start to roll out in earnest, their rise, optimists hope, will become inexorable. Economies of scale will develop and armies of engineers will tweak them to make them better and cheaper still. Some, indeed, think alternative energy will be the basis of a boom bigger than information technology.”
- The Economist: “Let a hundred flowers bloom. When they have, China, too, may find some it likes the look of. Therein lies the best hope for the energy business, and the planet.”