Friday, May 04, 2007

What in hell is the Electron Economy?

I recently discovered an epic series of posts from Michael Hoexter, author of the Green Thoughts blog, on the Electron Economy. What is that? It's a point of view on sustainable energy use that focuses on relying more on electricity as opposed to relying on point of use fuels (petroleum, biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen, etc.), emphasizing "the desirability of building out the electricity-based energy system as a means of harnessing most renewable and carbon-neutral forms of energy."

Here's Hoexter's thesis in brief:

Electricity generation, efficient forms of electric storage (electrochemical batteries and beyond), and electric motors, powered by renewable energy flows, should become even more central in our energy economy, much more important in the short and intermediate term than more celebrated biofuels or hydrogen fuel cells.

Hoexter has written an exhaustive document covering the past, present and potential future of electric power and its uses, makes a persuasive case, including statistics, that electricity is the nearest, best option for sustainable power--including for heating and transportation, two areas of limited electricity use today. (He points out that electric motors convert 85-90% of received energy into kinetic energy, while gasoline engines convert just 15-25%.) Add to that a pervasive distribution network (which have yet to develop for new fuels), and electricity may be where we should focus our R&D efforts, rather than switchgrass.

Here are Hoexter's posts:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

And if you have more time, here is the original source of the "electron economy" concept--a paper by Dr. Ulf Bossel of the European Fuel Cell Forum.

On the same subject, "Science Friday" from National Public Radio several weeks ago presented an interesting segment on advanced fuel technology in automobiles (download an mp3 of the broadcast here). It included an advocate for plug-in hybrids (Sherry Boschert, the author of "Plug-In Hybrids: The Cars That Will Recharge America"), whose arguments were more compelling to me after reading Hoexter's introduction.

Hey Toyota, when's your plug-in hybrid going to be ready?

(Thanks to my friends at Futurelab for alerting me to Michael Hoextler's work.)

(Lead photo by clix via stock.xchng)

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