[FoRK] "What did the president know and when did he know it?"

Eugen Leitl eugen
Thu Jul 7 03:09:37 PDT 2005

On Thu, Jul 07, 2005 at 01:12:02AM -0400, Stephen D. Williams wrote:

> Another solution would be found that fit the new economic profile.  
> Hydrogen windmills off the coast, etc.

Why hydrogen, and why off the coast? Aeolean power is already very
competitive -- in specific locations. Unlike photovoltaics, the wind doesn't
stop blowing in the night. Hydro power is already well-developed -- but for
micro installations.

> As I commented recently, running out of oil will probably be the best 
> thing that could happen from the energy perspective.  We're stuck in the 

Yes -- unless the market panicks, and there will be more military conflicts
over squabbles over scarce resources.

> local minima of oil-based energy.  Nothing else is cost effective.  Even 
> with massive cashflow from productivity-based (i.e. from human labor) to 
> inert natural resource based (and indirectly funding terrorism), oil is 
> still the cheapest source for many kinds of energy and chemicals.

You make it sound as if the price is homogenous over time and place. In
reality the price landscape is convoluted, changing over time, and sinking cost of
the renewables and rising cost of the fossil energy have already crossed over
in many niches. Over time, the niches grow bigger, and coalesce, until fossil
energy eventually ceases to be relevant.

> The world/US won't make the capital investment in other solutions until 
> they have to.  It won't be a calamity if we "run out of" oil, just a 
> period of a little turmoil.  (heh)  The oil producing countries won't 
> turn off the spigot because as soon as they do, they sow the seeds of 
> their obsolescence.

It's pretty easy to break off the spigot with a little nuclear exchange.

> The high cost of European fuel doesn't cause capital investment because 
> nearly all of the cost is tax which won't go away even if the fuel cost 
> were zero.  I would argue that having a high tax on fuel (and even 

This is not true, because the high costs of fuel cause innovation in the
vehicular sector (both fuel efficiency, novel fuel, and exhaust cleanness).
It would be of course better if the taxes were directly invested into R&D,
but we know what to think of state's efficiency in resource allocation.

Another positive point of high fuel cost is inhibition of long-distance
heavy transport, which is largely a good thing.

> trains) is like having a metered Internet connection: it inhibits usage, 
> effectiveness, and value of the infrastructure.  It is argued that 
> inhibiting usage is good, but is this really always true?  What about 
> learning, living, entrepreneurialism, research?

It's a mixed bag, but the positive effects above probably do dominate.

Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a>
ICBM: 48.07100, 11.36820            http://www.leitl.org
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