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Welcome to Our World of Energy!

Our World of Energy (OWOE) is a multi-media campaign that has been created to provide an unbiased view of energy, including pros and cons of each source, to the American public. It is OWOE's intent to help inform the public on where the energy that drives modern life comes from, why this subject is important, and how technology is changing the industry to address modern problems such as climate change, scarcity of resources, and environmental impact.

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June 17, 2018

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley

Are we on the cusp of mass adaptation of Electric Vehicles (EVs) for transportation?  Probably not for at least a while longer. When doing the financial analysis comparing EVs to Internal Combustion (IC) Vehicles at the personal or family level, the comparison usually yields these results:

IC vs EV Decision Chart

For personnel transportation, EVs have significantly higher deprecation costs compared to ICs, quite simply because there is a very limited secondary market for EVs. Thus with no resale value, EVs tend to depreciate to 0 value. But this could change rapidly. The U.S. already had around 700,000 EVs on the road at the end of 2017 and is on pace to have more than 1 million electric vehicles on the road by the end of this year. Globally the total  was closer to 3 million EVs (including PHEVs) at the end of 2017 and it is very likely to be closer to 4 million or more by the end of this year. As supply increases, the depreciation cost will decrease. (Editor’s note: I passed a used car lot in L.A. last week that had 2 Tesla Model S for sale, so we could be seeing the early stages of good used EVs entering the secondary markets in some areas.)

Global EV Outlook 2018 (IEA)

Of course most EVs also have a high initial capital cost, but that is already decreasing rapidly. In spring of 2017, analysts at UBS took apart a Chevy Bolt and found that there was significant room to reduce production costs without changing the design. Looking a bit further out, the UBS analyst then forecast that EVs will reach price parity with ICs in 2018. (See Telegraph.) As more large automakers bring manufacturing technology and scale to bear, they will be able to bring EV costs down below IC vehicle prices. Scary.

So how are EVs being integrated into society?  From the top down, just the way horseless carriages replaced horse driven carriages. Wealthy buyers today tend to gravitate towards the high performance, luxury EV sedans such as Tesla Model S, Jaguar I-Pace, Fisker, or forthcoming Mercedes S-class. (See Handelsblatt and Forbes.)  For the well to do and well driven, these EVs are affordable, dependable and outperform in style, comfort and brute power most things IC.

Just like the turn of the 19th century, the wealthy were the first to adopt the new automobile technology, while middle and lower class folks continued to trod along with horses for several decades. Truly, in this sense, EVs are evil in that they reinforce class divisions in society.

Eventually EVs will become more affordable and secondary markets will begin to flourish, battery technology will improve and then EVs will be adopted and used en masse. But it is at this point that the true evil of EVs will become apparent: Their ability to destroy industries and the jobs that go along with them.  (See Reuters.) EVs don’t have transmissions, belts, hoses, radiators, mufflers, or a whole host of things that need to be built, supplied and maintained as in traditional ICs. EV drive trains have around 20 moving parts, while ICs typically have 2000. (See CNBC.)

Vehicle Drive Components (source: https://avt.inl.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/fsev/compare.pdf)

With so few moving parts to maintain, society will not need as many mechanics as it now needs to support IC vehicles.  And the follow-on effect will be horrendous. Mechanics make decent wages, pay taxes, support families. So too with the remaining auto factory workers. It might be darn near impossible to completely automate assembly of 2000 pieces, but automating the assembly of 20 pieces is much more doable. More shockingly, it may even be possible in the near future to buy EV car parts, body, engine and motors on-line to assemble not just a home-built name brand EV, but a totally unique, model John or Jane Doe EV. The customization possibilities can be as wide and varying as all individual drivers (robots and AI included). And how about the IC fueling process’ Without the risk of spilling a combustible material, gas stations won’t need on-site personnel or require tanker trucks or drivers, and the all-automated charging station / snack shop will soon displace the traditional gas station.

Sure EVs are evil.  But that’s not the first time somebody has said that about cars. Back in the early 20th century, there were serious concerns about the evil contraptions suddenly taking over the roadways, with the Georgia State of Appeals court writing that, “Automobiles are to be classed with ferocious animals….” (See Detroit News.) Somehow, we need to prepare ourselves against these ever propagating electrical ferocious animals as best as we can, for eventually and probably sooner than expected, EV finances will trump ICs at all levels of society.

 

 

 

 

Published by Our World of Energy


May 10, 2018

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley

I love the guys and gals over at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). They tend to produce some of the coolest energy studies with nifty graphics (all the while hiding the space aliens from us). Earlier this year, as it does every year, LLNL published the U.S. energy flow chart which illustrates total US energy production by source and how it is consumed. (more…)

Published by Our World of Energy


March 22, 2018

By W. H. Luyties, editor OWOE. With the election of Donald Trump as president of the US and control of all 3 branches of the government in the hands of Republicans, who have historically been strong supporters of fossil fuel interests, one lightning rod topic has been the push to increase coal and oil production in the US. This has energized both proponents of fossil fuels, who see an opportunity to possibly save their industries (coal) or increase production (petroleum), and opponents, who fear the environmental consequences of such a change. But is this a real threat to the global move away from fossil fuels, or is it simply rhetoric to energize a political base? (more…)

Published by Our World of Energy


October 31, 2017

There is no doubt that the practice of net metering for residential solar photovoltaic systems has been a key enabler of the rapid growth of rooftop solar generation in the United States (see OWOE: How does net metering encourage private investment in home solar systems?). But has it outlived it usefulness? Or, has it even become a barrier to greater renewable penetration into the marketplace?

Net Metering (Illustration by Andy Warner)

(more…)

Published by Our World of Energy


August 26, 2017

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley

Revenue Trap: ” A focus on revenue at the expense of weakened strategy and reduced profits.”

Oil prices seeming to whipsaw back and forth, weekly, daily, even hourly is the result of many oil and options traders clearing trades at whatever slim profit they can eke out. Of course, multiply that slim profit by the huge volumes traded and well, Wall Street still makes a hefty profit whether oil is up or down.

Other folks are starting to talk about oil supply and demand hitting a new equilibrium, or that shale production has peaked. Fair enough. In fact, I agree that efforts to constrict oil supply are starting to have some effect. I doubt however that restricting oil supplies will be effective in the long run. OPEC claims that compliance with the production quotas is strong, but on the other hand, some OPEC members have recently vowed to opt out of the quotas and to even increase production. Don’t forget about some of the African members of OPEC who were free to pump and sell as much oil as they could. (more…)

Published by Our World of Energy


May 30, 2017

Almost a year and a half ago OWOE blogged “What about transportation?” in which we took a brief look at the challenges facing a renewable energy transformation of the transportation industry, which accounts for approximately 30% of US energy use. In what has been a relatively short period, the answer to that question has become much clearer. Let’s take a look at what’s happened since then.

Tesla Model X

(more…)

Published by Our World of Energy


April 13, 2017

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley Absolutely, the United States can become energy self-sufficient, but it is unlikely to become self-sufficient in oil production.

Since the end of last year and the beginning of this year, several governmental and intra- governmental bureaucracies, independent think-tanks of all sorts and large energy producing companies have issued annual energy outlooks in one form or another. I characterize them as “Business as Usual” (BP, Exxon, etc.), “Business is Changing” (Shell, Carbon Tracking Institute, etc.) and “Fanciful Delusion” (OPEC). In all forms these reports are interesting reading. (more…)

Published by Our World of Energy


March 8, 2017

The nuclear power industry in the United States has had a history of wild swings from optimism to pessimism to fatalism. After the first wave of over 100 nuclear reactors that were planned in the 1960’s and 1970’s was completed, there has been a span of 2 decades without a new reactor being built. Then, starting in the early 2000’s, a new feeling of optimism arose as the nuclear industry, electric utilities, the US government, and even some environmental organizations realized that nuclear power could be the solution to the world’s global warming problem. And with the high cost of fossil fuel (at a time before fracking technology drove natural gas prices to historic lows), most in the industry believed that new nuclear plants could be built quickly and be cost competitive with other new power sources. These plants would incorporate new technology and advanced safety features, would be governed under new streamlined government regulations to avoid costly design changes mid-construction, would apply lessons learned during construction of the earlier plants, and would have access to competitive financing with federal loan guarantees. This was considered the beginning of the “nuclear renaissance”. Between 2007 and 2009, 13 companies applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for construction and operating licenses to build 31 new nuclear power reactors in the US. Today, plans for virtually all of those reactors have been cancelled, and nuclear power generation reached a peak in 2010 and has since been declining (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Nuclear Plant Generation History

(more…)

Published by Our World of Energy


December 10, 2016

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley Imagine a future where your choices for purchasing a new car include numerous options for electric vehicles (EV’s) and internal combustion vehicles (ICV’s). But competing with the typical federal or state subsidies for the EV’s are hefty rebate checks from OPEC or Russia for purchasing a fossil fuel burning ICV. That may sound crazy, but in today’s age of large supplies of easily produced shale oil, inexpensive renewable energy options, and changing societal demographics, it’s only a matter of time before the current oil glut results (see EIA figure below) in stranded oil resources that are too expensive to produce for many of the suppliers, drastically reduced supply-side control from oil producers, and a critical need for oil suppliers such as OPEC to find creative ways to stimulate demand.

Source: EAI Dec 2016

(more…)

Published by Our World of Energy


October 24, 2016

Last month’s OWOE blog “Did the World Hit Peak Oil in 2015 and Nobody Noticed?” generated some interesting discussion. One follower raised a very good question regarding whether we have compared the fate of the oil industry with the fate of the coal industry in terms of the effect of oil and gas as disruptive technologies. Since it’s been some time since we touched on coal, now is an ideal time to use this question as a lead-in to the broader subject. The simple answer is “yes”, as the relatively recent rapid decline in coal production and usage has been a demand driven phenomenon caused by many of the same issues as we are seeing with coal. If we look only at the US, peak coal occurred in 2008, as illustrated in this figure from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

US Quarterly Coal Production
US Quarterly Coal Production

(more…)

Published by Our World of Energy