Oddly enough, I try to leave the climate change part out of my discussions since there are always those who will immediately shut down communication when that is brought up. There are countless reasons why we need to switch to more efficient transportation and away from oil without even bringing up climate change - even if I do agree with you!
Of course the whole concept of "I can afford to drive my beast, so I will continue to do so" violates the rights of the rest of us. Why are the rights of car buyers more valid than the rights of people who want clean air and water and who wish to turn back the tide on climate change?
Great followup, Rob.
One wonders what cost we put on human life as well? That cost is also not reflected in the price of gas at the pump. The cost of the wars we wage that are arguably for oil are also not included the $75b number nor in the price at the pump.
The specific numbers can never be nailed down perfectly. What matters here is the understanding that gasoline is subsidized. I get so tired of people saying that solar and EVs need to compete on a "level playing field" while they make the assumption that gasoline pays its own way.
The 32 percent figure for coal-fired plants' efficiency is a world-wide average. Those in the USA are better, and the makers of some modern plants (which is what we would get if we had to build more) claim in excess of 50 percent.
The 35 percent efficiency of the turbo-diesel is only true at full-load, a rare driving modality. At less than full-load, the pumping losses become significant, hence the 20 percent real-world figure. Over-powered clunkers are worse than that.
I agree that the need to get moving on renewables is indeed urgent, and someday in the future, we will be thanking the early adopters of EVs for getting the kinks worked out for the rest of us.
One more thing that is bugging me. There have been all sorts of calculations tossed around in support of various points of view, and they all seem to ignore something far more significant (and costly) than the cost of gas: climate change. Those folks with their 20 MPG barns on wheels complaining about $4/gallon gas are completely ignoring their disproportionate contribution to the continued rise in atmospheric CO2.
Gas hit $1.394/litre CDN here in Montreal yesterday which is around $5.30/gallon. Given that I paid my Mazda3 $2000 a few months ago, gas prices would have to increase dramatically before I spend $30-40k on an electric vehicle. I still think the fastest way to get a dramatic reduction in fuel consumption comes by changing our driving style and habits. I was able to get better fuel economy on my previous V8 BMW than my friend was in his 4-cylinder Mazda6 simply by adjusting how I accelerate and how I approach stop signs/traffic lights. I'm not talking about hypermiling here. When people floor it to reach the next red-traffic light I just facepalm. Synchronized traffic lights can help reduce fuel consumption as well when you happen to catch them on the right cycle. These aren't long term solutions, but they can make a difference...RIGHT NOW. We can't expect everyone to just drop their ICE vehicles and buy EVs in the next year or 2 (or even 5). They are way too expensive and are impossible for people who live in apartments or highrises without charging stations, or those in the suburbs who need to travel long commutes. EVs are an inportant part of the longterm solution though and I'm excited about the technology. But I bet if everyone eased off of the accelerator pedal a little across the continent we would notice huge drops in consumption instantly.
Interesting way of thinking.
One note : That $75 billion military cost is needed to protect only the 'imported' part of our oil supply. We import some 12 million barrels/day, which translates to $17/barrel, or $0.40 per gallon.
Also note also that that $75 billion is paid for by the US tax payer, and thus is a subsidy paid by all of us to gasoline users.
And in that cost we did not include the cost of sustaining (for life) the 10s of thousands that come back from these wars with limbs blown off, their mind messed up, or the ones that paid the ultimate price... Would you care to include that cost as well ?
Let's take your $75B/year number at face value...
The US uses something like 21 million barrels of oil a day (wikipedia). Annually, that equates to 7.7 billion barrels/year. So the price of military protection of our supply lines is a little under $10/barrel. 42 gal/barrel means that 75 billion in military spending is subsidizing our gas to the tune of 25 cents a gallon.
Is my math off? 25 cents a gallon seems very low...
I believe most scale-produced hydrogen is currently made from natural gas. I take it the concept here of storing grid power via hydrogen involves electrolysis. Are there any industrial-scale plants generating hydrogen now (I don't think so)? Has storing it in metal hydrides moved past the concept phase?
It is a very extraordinary initiative taken by President Obama, but it will be too early to forecast any figure based on the limited figures we have as on today.
The cost and the lifetime of the batteries will be the extreme bottle neck for this.
One more comment :
Increased use of EVs and PHEVs (moving away from oil) would be benificial to electric power generation companies, including the coal industy and nuclear power, and alternative energy industries. It would damage the oil industry, including Exxon and Koch Industries, so let me predict that there will be significant lobbying from the oil industry and Koch against moves to increase PHEV and EV automotive usage, even though such a move would benefit the US as a nation, as an economy, and the US tax payers in cost per mile driven.