Thursday, August 04, 2005


The Hybrid Car You Never Hear About

Kos diarist KumarP has an interesting diary about biodiesel that manages to shoot down a number of popular myths about it -- while reminding us that we could have had clean non-OPEC-reliant cars sold to us decades ago, except that certain petroleum-based interests (such as the Bush Family) fought tooth and nail to make sure this didn't happen.

So what will the oil companies do when the oil is all gone?

Sell crack to the Chinese, and crystal meth to the west side. Oh, wait... they already do that last part.

No. I do not make a distinction between Halliburton and the guy who sells crystal to teenagers at 19th Ave and Van Buren, except to say that Halliburton is of course a lot worse.
Yeah. The guy selling crack can at most destroy the lives of a few dozen people. The Halliburton exec has the power to destroy the lives of billions of humans -- and the planet's ecosystem as well.
Having read the diary, I have some real questions about this. Suppose you drive 15,000 miles per year. You can either spend $7500 extra to get a car that gets 70 miles to the gallon, or save the upfront money to buy a car that gets 20 miles to the gallon. If gasoline is $1/gallon, the first car costs $214/year to operate. The second car costs $750/year to operate. Net difference is $536/year, so the payoff time is 14 years.

If gas is $2/gallon, that drops to 7 years, and at $4/gallon, the payoff is 3.5 years. And if you drive more than 15,000 miles, the payoff is even shorter.

But there's also the costs of financing, hidden or not. If you had to borrow the $7500 at 10%, it's costing $750.year. Even if you don't have to borrow, you could invest the $7500. At 5%, it is earning $375/year. Financing considerations roughly double the payoff time. Even $4/gallon gas makes it a roughly breakeven investment.

Then there's the question of whether the fuel sources don't have their own hidden costs. The Kossacks have done a good job laying out the issues. Used restaurant oil has a negative opportunity cost vs. disposing of it (in other words, using it for anything is a net benefit over dumping it). But using, say, corn has hidden costs in the energy used for farming and in damage to the land. If you can make biodiesel out of kudzu or cockroaches or College Republicans, it would probably be cost effective (see Townhall columnist The Virgin Ben for the lowdown on the Cockroach Republicans.).

Now, as these cars are mass produced, the costs will come down. But at the moment, these would be a tough sell to the American public, few of whom can spend the extra money up front.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

More blogs about politics.
Technorati Blog Finder