Join Date: Apr 2006
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I don't know how gasoline and other fuels overtook each other a hundred years ago, but there was an automobile "industry" way before there were many non-military aircraft up there.
Diesel remains problematic now and may be even more so in the future. In the US it has been essentially off the car market for years because of the particulates in the emissions. I know, a couple of exotic afterburner/catalyst technologies are supposed to bring it back--we'll see how or if that works. Diesel also works out better under constant load, which isn't the situation with passenger cars. So I've got nothing against diesel (well, except for the noise and sitnk) but will be surprised to see it become king.
Right now the most promising, most mature, and most economically viable "solution" to our fuel shortages is synthetic fuel, made from coal or from garbage. Both processes are proven (Hitler ran his war machine on synfuel from coal), both have copious amounts of feedstock that don't demand using up food stocks, and both are economically viable at $5/gallon (US prices, ignoring the tax-inflated EU prices) which is close to where we are.
Electric cars? Nope, still need a battery technology miracle, that's been waiting for 100 years. Hydrogen cars? Again, needing a technology miracle (gobs of power for the manufacture) which MIT may or may not have touched. Everyone promises a miracle...but if we'd just ban the casual private ownership of 6,000 pound vehicles and start using what already works and can be distributed without modifications...That's where I'd place my bets for the way things will settle out.
To me the only question--absent a technological miracle--is how the Saudis will play this. I think they'll keep gasoline [oil] prices down just below the point where synfuels become economically viable, for as long as they can. Once they let it get competitive, someone will invest the billions in new plants. And THEN, I fully expect the Saudis to drop their prices, send the synfuel makers into bankruptcy, buy up the assets at a dime on the dollar, and get back into the routine business of Machiavellian politics, which they have played SO WELL for SO LONG.
Maybe my local Nooze sources are all Republican Stooges...but I hear the top Democratic presidential candidate is now making an ass of himself by saying that if we all inflate our tires and do a few other tiny things, we can solve the fuel problem. Inflate our tires?? Talk about a two percent solution...Not that the Other Guy, dreaming of offshore drilling and stopgaps that wouldn't come online for a decade, is doing any better.
I don't see any miracles, or big changes here. Just business as usual. And, perhaps, some radical common sense in places like Utah, where they are looking at a mandated 4-day workweek to reduce commuting by a fast 20%.