Waaah! Americans whine about high gas prices

Transport is big, but it’s only 50% of oil usage.

Removing profits entirely from the oil industry wouldn’t buy you more than a little while for keeping prices down.

Once oil hits $100 a barrel, you’ll start see some serious shifts in land usage patterns and whatnot.

I wonder about this. Certainly the cost of a subway is gigantic. But how does it compare to the cost of building extra roads, everyone’s second car, and the insurance and maintenance on all that? I don’t think its so much a distinction of cost, as what people are willing to pay for. People are a lot more willing to put $800 towards their own car and $200 in taxes for roads than to have $1000 taken away in taxes and put towards a subway, even if the subway ends up being more convenient.

Ultimately what would probably be the best is environmental power as a focus, with nuclear as a fallback.

I don’t think nuclear is very suitable as a ‘fallback’ option. You either build the plants or you don’t, and it takes a long time to build the plants. You don’t want a scenario where you don’t have enough power today and you are just starting the process of building a power plant.

Certainly, that’s the argument everyone always uses. But to say that that will always be the case is extremely short sighted, not to mention counter-productive. When the market demands a better way of producing hydrogen, someone will invent it. Ultimately, as I said above, the focus needs to be on source production of energy moving away from fossil fuels.

Most cities don’t pay for the cost of building roads. At least in Canada. That falls to provincial/federal governments for highways, and for roads in cities, it tends to fall towards the companies building new housing areas. The city doesn’t come in and build the road for them. The city does have to maintain, but the difference is that the initial investment for a mass transit system is vastly more cost intensive than simple maintenance of an existing system which is created by means that don’t cause a direct impact on the city’s pocketbooks.

I don’t think nuclear is very suitable as a ‘fallback’ option. You either build the plants or you don’t, and it takes a long time to build the plants. You don’t want a scenario where you don’t have enough power today and you are just starting the process of building a power plant.

I meant fallback in the sense that it already exists, and on days/periods where there’s not enough environmental power, the nuclear plants pick up the slack. Sorry I didn’t make that clear.

Because the government is BETTER and more efficient than private companies? Because it’ll lead to LESS waste than right now? Seriously, since when was “just give it to the government to handle” a good idea?

I dunno what demand trends the oil companies are seeing right now with the higher prices, but if demand is highly inelastic (in that it doesn’t change much with changes in price), you could argue that the price of gas has been too low. If they can make more money at $3.50 a gallon than at $2 a gallon, why shouldn’t they charge that? Once we start talking about windfall profits taxes and other ways of shorting out the free market, you start wrecking the whole system.

Now, of course, if there is illegal stuff going on - collusion, etc. - then take care of that, but people want gas and they’re willing to pay a certain amount for it. How is that different than vintage t-shirts that cost $200 or a handbag that costs $1000? Sounds stupid to me, but if the demand is there, who am I to judge?

The difference is, as TheWombat layed out, there are cases when gas is not a cosmetic thing, but a matter of need. There are places where you can’t live without a car. I’m pretty sure people can live without vintage t-shirts and designer handbags.

Yeah, this. Also, different from.

It works pretty well for funding scientific research. Whoops, nevermind.

Well, there’s always maintaining corporate competition. Doh!

Well, how about public transportation? ok, maybe not

I’ve got it! Providing for the public welfare! shit.

The sad thing is that I really do believe that the government has to step in and do certain things, and right now I can’t think of one that isn’t completely fucked. (And most of it was fucked long before Bush held office.)

They did a pretty good job putting a man on the moon. Weak follow-through, though.

Yeah, that falls under “funding scientific research.” And the weak follow-through you mention of course is the problem with that.

I guess I agree that cities (with the way things are currently) can’t easily afford to build subways. That doesn’t mean that the subways are unaffordable, though. I think at root its a matter of what people want. Transit is not something people like to spend money on, so there is no money for transit.

I meant fallback in the sense that it already exists, and on days/periods where there’s not enough environmental power, the nuclear plants pick up the slack. Sorry I didn’t make that clear.

You would have to build additional nuclear capacity for it to take up the slack (even in Ontario, which uses the most nuclear). It doesn’t make sense to me to build an unreliable system for 100% capacity and another reliable system to fill in for the days/weeks when the unreliable system isn’t available. Especially if most of the costs of the reliable system are in it’s construction, and not it’s operation.

Now, as you say, if we had a good, efficient way of storing power for long periods, I’d feel a lot more sanguine about solar and wind. Of course, there are still drawbacks. Up near my parent’s place they have several wind farms. The wind turbines they set up are absolutely gigantic. Still, it would take thousands of those to replace one reactor, and that’s when the wind’s blowing, and not blowing too hard.

Yeah, I suppose you may be right on these points. But if most of the load was taken off the nuclear power, then its power can be routed to areas which needed it.

Now, as you say, if we had a good, efficient way of storing power for long periods, I’d feel a lot more sanguine about solar and wind. Of course, there are still drawbacks. Up near my parent’s place they have several wind farms. The wind turbines they set up are absolutely gigantic. Still, it would take thousands of those to replace one reactor, and that’s when the wind’s blowing, and not blowing too hard.

Well, a big step in environmental power will be on a smaller scale, when people have solar roofing, and their own wind turbines set up to provide enough power for their own home, which is then supplemented if needed from the main power grid. Obviously you wouldn’t be able to replace existing power with, say, a giant wind farm. But if it were handled on more of a per-home basis… shrug.

I’m no expert, I’m just throwing out what seems like good ideas to me. But I think you might be underestimating the ability of wind power; that one wind turbine in downtown toronto powers about 500 homes. That’s a pretty big swath of city, really.

You must not have heard that a new race to the moon is on with China. Not only the US (again), but Japan and even India.

We have hydrogen buses here in upstate NY.

You must not have heard that a new race to the moon is on with China. Not only the US (again), but Japan and even India.

Yeah, if we actually stick to Bush’s post-Columbia plan (or something like it) maybe we will be back on the moon… 50 years after we got there the first time. :(

Oh, that’s pretty cool. Didn’t know they’d actually deployed any. Do you know how they are finding the cost of hydrogen? I know that a couple years back it was about ten times the cost of gas.

I do not believe man has been on the moon.

Just out of curiosity, what does going to the moon do for us? Seems like Mars should be the target (maybe Venus?). Who knows really, I’m just curious.

Yeah, the one’s I’m talking about are around the size of the Toronto one. It’s 30 stories high, with 24-meter blades. It’s web site claims 250 homes, on average. It’s rated at 750 kW, and over the year, it’s power output averages out to 160 kW. It would take 3-4,000 of those to match one reactor. The ones out by my parent’s place are larger and about twice as powerful.

The average is the thing that gets me. For every wind turbine in the mix, you need some other source that you can flip on when demand peaks or when the wind speed isn’t in the right range. Something like a dam isn’t bad for that, as you can turn on the pipes when you need to, and even run the system backwards to store water for energy (in some places).

That’s why I don’t think it’s as simple as every house with it’s own windmill/solar panel. You need something else to fill in.

I’m wondering if you couldn’t have a kind of automatic market for power. Then a company with some storage technique could draw power when it’s cheap and sell it when it’s expensive. The capabilities of the power system as a whole would be reflected in how much the price fluctuates. If you have a system with lots of capacity that you can turn on and off, it’s a pretty steady cost. If you have a lot of capacity that turns itself on and off, then the cost is subject to that.

Of course, then you would get to worry about cheating, strange market dynamics, Enron-style market manipulation, etc, etc.

True enough. There are also some interesting power initiatives going on with regards to heating/cooling in Toronto. I saw last time I was there that Enwave finished their construction near the Royal York – that system was supposed to replace the air conditioning in one of the buildings downtown with a deep lake cooling system; the idea being to draw the building’s air through a cooling chamber at the bottom of the building fed with cool water. I’m interesting in finding how it works out.

Because the government is BETTER and more efficient than private companies? Because it’ll lead to LESS waste than right now? Seriously, since when was “just give it to the government to handle” a good idea?

Post Office.