Sunday, November 09, 2008

Car company problems

Like a bucking bronco, the price of gas rises and falls with supply and demand. It takes car companies several years to change the product line. Bigger cars? Smaller cars? Gas prices change in months.

When fuel is cheap, markets in USA (at least) tend to favor bigger cars for safety. Expensive fuel brings smaller vehicles into popularity.

Maybe there should be a tax on imported oil. Put a floor on the price so it doesn't drop below a certain point and pull the rug out from under automakers who are now, possibly, trying to tool up for smaller cars. A floor on the price of imported oil would also help domestic energy and alternative energy production here in USA.

OPEC is thinking oil is too cheap now. Oil is cheap while our economy is in the dull drums. OPEC is trying to limit production to raise the price of oil. Well, it could further kill the goose that lays their golden eggs and put world economy even further into dull drums.

We could intervene with a price trick of our own. A variable tax on oil imports. That would raise the price and keep the money in USA, not going to OPEC. Maybe that money could then be used to bail out automakers, since it looks like the government is bailing them out anyway.

If oil prices go up, the tax can come off.

I'm not a big fan of bailing out old automakers, but maybe that money could be used to support alternative energy.

A lower speed limit might create more permanent demand for smaller vehicles. It's safer going slower so people might not demand being surrounded with so much steel during times of cheap energy.

Energy is fairly cheap, while economy is in dull drums. If economy picks up, energy prices will rise. In the recent debate between vice presidential candidates, Sarah Palin talked about "heating up the economy" at one point. Yes, I thought "global warming."

Heating up alright.

Well, that's old news now. Hurray for Obama. I hope he is an innovator.

Too bad energy still puts a kind of ceiling on economic growth. Limited energy, resources, space on Planet Earth.

We need to strive for quality of life rather than just economic growth. And/or we need to define economic growth in new ways.

More nuclear power?

Solar and wind, of course.

I ride my bicycle.

I may not have much money, but quality of life is there, most of the time.

Maybe obesity is USA's biggest economic problem. Obesity is not just in physical shape. It's also all the excess baggage. Personal debt, obligations, overhead, bureaucracy, whatever.

Car companies are like slow moving dinosaurs. Slow moving as energy markets change within months. Really cars are kind of dinosaurs.

We need more agility.


Anonymous said...

There has been lots of issues with cars lately and most of the issues can really hurt one's pocket, specially for gas money. I wonder why they are not using all of the technologies available to run a car, there are lots out there that suggests that using water to run cars is ok.

Theslowlane Robert Ashworth said...

For energy density, it's hard to beat gasoline for running a car.

There was a great segment of the NPR Radio show Science Friday on physics. Aired Dec. 10, but archived on Science Friday web site.

One of the topics was about alternative fuels and how hard it is to beat the efficiency of gasoline. That's part of the reason why USA remains addicted.

Our best battery technology, to date, is the lithium ion battery, yet pound for pound, gasoline provides 100 times the energy of a lithium ion battery!

Wow. 100 times the energy per pound.

Hydrogen fuel is somewhat better. Pound for pound, it actually has 4 times the energy of gasoline, but it takes up a lot more space. If one is figuring things based on space (the size of the fuel tank needed) hydrogen takes a lot more space; 3 or 4 times the space for the same energy output as gas. Hydrogen is a very light gas that takes up lots of space.

So gasoline is hard to match.

These figures were quoted in the book "Physics For Future Presidents" by Richard Muller. He was a guest on Dec. 10 2008 NPR Science Friday.

No I don't think water would work as a fuel.

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