Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thoughts about an electric car argument

A while back, in the comments of a post I did on electric cars, had a bit of a go-round with a guy who insisted they’re much better than I thought(fine; I have no problem with the idea of electric cars, my problem is with a lot of the ‘They will save us!’ attitude), and that no additional electric generation capacity would be needed to charge up a couple of million cars. That last was the part that got my attention; considering the forecast is that we’re going to need more electricity every year for the foreseeable future- if we want the economy to grow instead of stagnating or collapsing, that is- I didn’t see how you could add in charging all those cars and it not have an effect.

Well, he claimed that it would be done by using the ‘excess electricity’ available at night. Which made no sense to me; there’s generally less demand on the system at night, but that doesn’t mean there’s a bunch of ‘excess’ electricity hanging around, waiting to be used. I once read some of a description of electricity use and generation(much of the technical stuff I had to skim over; just don’t have the background to fully understand it) that boiled down to ‘the amount being generated and the amount being used are virtually identical’, which would mean that if you start charging a bunch of electric cars at night you’re not using ‘excess electricity’; you’re causing generation capacity that was not previously being called on in those hours. Which is not ‘using excess’.

Turns out that part of what this involved, in his explanation, is that the future holds you being charged different rates for electricity being used at different times of day; you use some in the afternoon(say when it’s hot and you want to use the a/c), you’ll be charged more than for power you use at night(when you don’t need as much anyway), and ‘reducing’ demand during the day would produce the excess at night to charge the vehicles. Again, you’re not using ‘excess’, you’re forcing people to use the generation capacity at different times of day. Which does not change that we’re going to continue to need more power every year, and juggling hours isn’t going to change that; you’ve got more glasses than bottles and playing this game isn’t going to change it. We need more electricity(and gas and diesel for that matter), and that means more power plants and fuel for them. Period.

What really blew the “No, we don’t need more generation capacity” argument was both that, and this statement as part of a 'coal needs to go' statement:
...These pollutants (SOX, NOX and mercury primarily) are responsible for thousands of premature American deaths every year. Most of these, obviously, occur in states with the highest percentage of coal plants. This is a cost of coal that is not paid for when you buy a kWh from your utility.

That has to stop.

Any human with a sense of fairness will agree that when you do harm to another, you should compensate that person.
What the hell does 'compensating someone' have to do with how we generate power? Answer is, it doesn’t. But it makes a fine ‘progressive’ argument for playing games with peoples’ lives, and this nations’ future. Especially when he throws in
... The way to pay for it is through "tiered rates". This means you get a certain number of kWh per month at a low rate. The the second tier costs more. Every tier additional costs even more. We have five tiers in California and I can guarantee you that people conserve when they know they are paying a lot.
Well, no shit; you charge people out the ass for something, they use less of it. Even when they need it. Which translates to “You’re going to be forced to use power how the government decides, not how you need it.”

Which brings me back to my original thought: I have no problem with someone using an electric car. I do have a problem with someone ordering me to use one(whether it meets my needs or not), and pretending there’s no real price for the power needed to keep them running. That’s like Obama pretending having the electric company(under government direction, of course) control how much and when you can use you’re a/c or heater will solve our need for more power; it won’t, it’s just a nice argument to allow the government even more control over your life.


Fire said...

This person you engaged in a debate with seems to have no problem being told how to live his life, when to breathe, how deep that breathing can be, and when to piss. The bad part about that is there's more people like him out there. I'm searching for the technical name for that type of person....wait, it's on the tip of my tongue........


Joe said...

Just as a FYI the excess capacity statement is based on the fact that power company have different kinds of power plants providing electricity. Some like a nuclear plant run at a pretty constant capacity and can't be started of stopped quickly. Other like a Gas powered turbine can be started and stopped quickly, but cost more to run.
So if you have unused "base load" power at night using it to charge batteries would increase the efficiency of the power grid.

JohnOC said...

The generating capacity issue is also a reason that technologies like wind, tidal, and solar power generation are not necessarily as good at replacing other power plants for meeting demand as people assume. If you cannot rely on the plant to produce enough to meet demand, then you have to have enough generating capacity on hand to meet demand anyway, and in the case of coal, gas, and nuclear plants that means having a bunch of coolant already at a boil to be thrown into a turbine at a moments notice.