Saturday, February 25, 2012

The gas ceiling instead of the glass ceiling

The economy seems to hit a "gas ceiling" when ever it starts to pick up again. Like the famous glass ceiling said to be encountered by women rising toward the top of corporations, the entire economy hits a gas ceiling when increased consumption pushes up prices. Then high prices threaten to push the economy back down and a slower economy brings down prices again.

Using energy more efficiently can keep the economy going. Drilling for more oil is happening, but that oil is more expensive; unlike the Republican dreamers would like you to believe. The cheap deposits are already depleted. There's still lots of oil, but it's harder to extract.

Alternative energy tends to be more expensive also, at least in the short run. Maybe something like Moore's Law applies to solar collectors; like it has applied to computer chips. Doubling in efficiency every 18 months? Then using electricity to charge batteries for cars, or make hydrogen fuel, might be more viable.

Solar collectors are getting better, but maybe not progressing as fast as computer technology has been progressing. Alternative energy is likely to be more expensive than even expensive oil for a while; at least in automobiles. Solar can be quite inexpensive for heating, if one has the right south facing windows and remembers to open and close their drapes at the right times.

My brother has solar collectors on his house and he recently got an electric car. He reports, in his Facebook posts, that he drives on sunlight. He says around 60% of his electricity for home and car comes from the sun with the remaining 40% from the power grid.

Some say we should use natural gas instead of oil as a fuel for transportation. It may be cheaper than oil for a while, but at start there are conversion costs. Also, in the long run, it's still a greenhouse gas; tho less carbon based than oil or coal.

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