Hughesair (Inflection Point)

Retired physician and air taxi operator, science writer and part time assistant professor, these editorials cover a wide range of topics. Mostly non political, mostly true, I write more from experience than from research and more from science than convention. Subjects cover medicine, Alaska aviation, economics, technology and an occasional book review. The Floatplane book is out there. I am currently working on Hippocrates a History of Medicine and Globalism. Enjoy!

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Location: Homer, Alaska, United States

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Higher Gas Prices

NY Times Business headline: "Adapting with Gritted Teeth to Higher Gas Prices"

One might view any wrinkle in the status quo as an opportunity. This fuel price crisis, and it is a crisis, has to be one of the biggest entrepreneurial opportunities to come along.

Energy policy is driven by special interests, so no alternatives are in sight. Peak oil was several years ago and we are now on the down trend in production with rising costs of recovery. Saudi lies about its reserves, and the supply may be considerably less than reported. The truth is highly existential even Machiavellian in the ME. Higher price are inevitable. One expert claims $300 a barrel.

Petrodollars are driving a religious fanatical anti Western reaction, no news there. Food shortages and accelerating food prices are a further consequence. Historically when it comes to food it comes to war.

Hydrocarbons are a dead end. How can we even think of going back to coal? Bio-fuel has already had a further devastating impact of food prices, especially corn, and Bio-fuels still emits carbon dioxide; they are not carbon neutral.

The opportunity afforded the energy entrepreneur is both simple and explosive. Like Google's cloud initiative for band-width, reinvent the electric grid as a cheap exploitable resource. Innovation and new enterprise will soon crowd the field seeking their share of the energy resource for the margins and the choices that free energy brings.

On a practical scale and in transition, cars and trucks can easily make the transition to electricity. The technology is in place; hybrids are an unquestionable success. We just need the plug-ins. EVs were a success in California until the manufacturers pulled them from the market. Honda's hydrogen fuel cell is on the road now in Southern California. The fuel cell is like another kind of battery.

Homes will hear with electricity as well if not cleaner than gas or oil and the installation is less expensive. For greater efficiency there is the heat pump run on electricity, combining an element of geothermal.

Alaska has enough volcanoes to generate hydrogen like Iceland is already doing. The research, the science and what's on the books for clean energy runs way ahead of the industry, just read the physics.

To get there we must subsidize cheap, clean electricity with massive solar, wind, hydro-electric, cautiously some nuclear, waiting for clean fusion, tidal and geothermal. Solar is evolving rapidly. In the Economist, Nanosolar believes it can produce electricity for as little as $1 for each watt of capacity.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe, and H2 carries more energy per molecular weight than anything else. Lithium is not far behind. There is no reason, other than local business concerns of the utility, that electricity cannot be the cheapest thing ever. The economic growth as a result of cheap electrical infrastructure will be more than worth the effort.

Eliminate three problems with one strategy: Stop the money flow to the ME, find cheap transportation, heat and energy once again and save the environment all at once, and do so as a business opportunity of a lifetime, supplying jobs and a higher standard of living for millions of Americans.

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