Will Solar Power And Electric Vehicles Diminish The Need For Local Food?

Discussion in 'The big picture' started by insipidtoast, Oct 6, 2011.

  1. insipidtoast

    insipidtoast Junior Member

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    I just returned from a documentary screening of Revenge of the Electric Car (Sequel of Who Killed the Electric Car) and felt a burning desire to pose this question in this forum. I see Solar Power and Electric Vehicles as a way to continue business as usual. We can still get all our food from miles away produced by "organic" farms.

    Where does permaculture fit in to this? Wouldn't these developments destroy the demand for permaculture?:sweat:
     
  2. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    No to the last question. It doesn't matter really because you still need cheap oil to build the cars and the factories that make the cars. And we won't have cheap oil for that much longer. The financial cost of replacing the car fleet with electric cars would be phenomenal. As would the cost to climate change.

    However I do think that whatever happens food will have to be grown closer. I'm not aware of electric long haul trucks ;-)
     
  3. insipidtoast

    insipidtoast Junior Member

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    Please note that I'm playing the devil's advocate here, because I really don't want something that will eliminate the need for permaculture.

    Assuming solar power and electric motors catch on, we will see electric long haul trucks and the manufacturing process will become dependent on electric and solar power...not on fossil fuels. I'm aware there are things like rubber tires, which need petroleum for the manufacturing process, but the amount of petroleum required for these and other parts is miniscule compared to the amount of petroleum required to produce and fuel a gasoline-powered long haul truck that goes across country in a week. What part of getting the car to customer cannot be electric or solar powered?

    In the United States, governmental departments are already spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fund electric vehicle companies. That was one of the big reasons why the government saved General Motors: they promised to build an electric vehicle. This isn't going away anytime soon. There is too much of a demand. The amount of peak oil skeptics these days is a lot less than the amount of climate change skeptics.

    As for the replacement costs, there are already people retrofitting gas vehicles into electric vehicles.
     
  4. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    How do you think that long haul trucks will be made without cheap oil? Or electric cars? Rubber tyres are the least of it, although there are already problems with the tyres needed on the massive machines in metal mines (look that up).
     
  5. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    No electric vehicles of any sort will not do away with the need for permculture for the same reasons that pebble gives.
    It takes petrolchems to make the parts of the car -seals for instance, this is the same reason I think the wind and solar power efforts will be doomed as well at least until they figure out how to make parts without oil.

    From what I can see, more and more people are looking at and wanting to have better quality of food.
    Most perhaps are put off because they dont know how to grow their own but I think there will be a time when it is realised that they have to grow their own if only for economic reasons.
     
  6. TheDirtSurgeon

    TheDirtSurgeon Junior Member

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    Sure, we need petroleum to build electric cars.

    But that's a better, longer lasting use of petroleum than burning it for energy. If we only used the oil for making plastics and rubber, the existing supply would last us for millenia.

    It comes down to this: do we ask whether or not we should be using certain resources? I say no. The question is, are we using x resource to its highest potential?

    I would also say that we needn't worry about converting every wheeled transport vehicle to electric. Long haul trucks would not be a good platform. The energy required to move 40 tons over mountains at 70mph is too much for any electric technology available today. They can chug along fine on biodiesel, and being as they use a small percentage of the total of liquid fuels, that's fine. We can supply that with oil crops.

    The real difference to be made is in the cities. 90% of city driving is daily commutes of 60 miles or less. Current EV technology shows that we can easily achieve 200-250 miles to a battery charge, in a small, light vehicle. That's the best and highest use of electrics and solar charging. Beyond that range, the utility of liquid fuels and internal combustion is unlikely to be matched by electrics for the foreseeable future, especially as IC technologies continue to improve in efficiency. 100% of city commuters driving electrics would cut liquid petrol fuel usage by something like 70%, if I recall stats correctly. That's huge.

    That's of course to say nothing about the enormous reduction in pollution, with millions of cars no longer spewing exhaust in rush hour traffic. That alone is reason enough to move this direction. We don't have to run around like Chicken Littles crying about global warming. There's no way anyone can argue that air pollution is a good thing, and that's how you get 100% support for electric cars.

    We just have to remember that it can't be for everyone. Like me, for instance. I'm a contractor. I need a truck, and frequently haul or tow heavy loads. Electrics aren't there for me yet. But Joe Corporate Slave who works in a high rise 20 miles from home, goes grocery shopping, and drives the kids to football practice is the ideal candidate for the electric car, especially if you provide him free solar power at work. He'll buy one without any coercion.
     
  7. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Do you have an analysis of the cost to climate change of replacing the current car fleet in the US with electric ones? I'd like to see the economic analysis too so we can put it in a peak oil context.
     
  8. TheDirtSurgeon

    TheDirtSurgeon Junior Member

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    I don't think those are relevant questions. Furthermore, they are too vague to be useful. How do you define, precisely, a "cost to climate change" when we still don't even know what's going on with that? Even the "peak oil" issue lacks sufficient data to make an analysis.

    We have to work with what we DO know, thus:

    Millions of cars crawl through rush hour traffic daily, on short trips. This wastes fuel, as miles-per-gallon approach zero. And the emissions cause pollution. This is simple, it is known fact, and it is quantifiable.

    Why do we need to flagellate the public with unproven propaganda, when we have scientific fact at our disposal?

    The economic issue is simple. As battery technology improves, batteries will get cheaper. Petrol will continue to rise. The equation has been, and is still moving, in the direction of economic favorability of electric cars for the urban commuter.

    This cannot be helped along by government. Government needs to get out of the way, and let the market work. As of right now, in the USA, the oil industry is so heavily subsidized by taxes that, if the full cost of a gallon of gasoline were paid at the pump, it would be in the neighborhood of $10/gallon. That's enough to make anyone look to an EV.

    Bottom line there, without government interference that already exists, alternative, clean, renewable fuels and technologies ARE the sound economic choice in a free market.
     
  9. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    "unproven propaganda"

    Are you saying that you don't believe that human generated climate change, and peak oil are real issues?

    We already do climate change impact analyses. I just haven't see one done for replacing the car fleet. But what it would be would be looking at the carbon emissions involved in manufacturing those cars and taking the old ones out of the system.

    No-one is arguing that combustion engine isn't polluting and shouldn't be replaced. I'm just not convinced it's possible in the way that you are proposing (mostly because of peak oil and the economic crises). I think moving to rail, light rail, and low energy transport like biking is more the way to go, and, like you say, backing this up by prioritising oil for specific essential purposes.
     
  10. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Sell the car (or covert it to duck housing), buy a bike and work from home. We need to find different solutions to the problem rather than swap energy source A for energy source B.
     
  11. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    Doomed Doomed ! do I hear a bell tolling?
     
  12. Grasshopper

    Grasshopper Senior Member

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    Peak lithium may be a bigger hurdle than peak oil
     
  13. insipidtoast

    insipidtoast Junior Member

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    Are you referring to the carbon footprint of replacing gasoline parts with electric parts in existing cars? We should consider converting existing vehicles to electric before going out and buying a brand new car.

    I'll take a stab at it, and say that the carbon footprint left by converting gasoline powered vehicles to electric vehicles is less than allowing the gasoline powered vehicles to run for another year.

    Also, if you want to debate about climate change please go start your own thread. This thread is about debating how electric vehicles and solar power will effect the demand for things like permaculture and local food. If we can Swap energy A with energy B, then why would people feel compelled to approach their lives from a different paradigm?
     
  14. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    What's so good about business as usual? Commuting for hours to work in meaningless office jobs. Living in neighbourhoods where no-one knows their neighbours. Big asphalt scars cutting swathes across the planet. Mountains of poisonous old car tyres littering the Earth. Young kids dumped at heartless childcare facilities from dawn 'til dusk while parents slave to pay for their oversized houses and oversized vehicles, to lug their oversized bodies down to the letterbox to collect the mail (I kid you not!). All for the convenience of having some unknown farmer in some distant land sending food to the nearest concrete jungle, to be smashed, pulverised and turned into something that no longer resembles food. Hmmm... Forgive me for not seeing the good side of 'business as usual'.

    I prefer the idea of walking out the back door, past the chickens, under the shade of the oak tree, listening to the bird songs, with children in tow to collect a few fresh herbs, an egg and some asparagus for a fresh lunch. Saying hi to the neighbours, or dropping by to offer them some silver beet only to come home with arms full of something else.

    But to each their own I guess.

    Wouldn't you prefer to know the folks who are growing your stuff; to see how they do things; to know you are supporting your friends an neighbours? If you had the choice of buying it from Ping next door or from Bob half a world away, wouldn't you rather get it from Ping?

    Permaculture is all about Permanent, sustainable culture. It fits in with anything that is permanent and sustainable. It doesn't exclude technology, but unfortunately much of technology excludes itself.

    It is difficult to answer this question meaningfully without getting into the discussions people have started, i.e. global warming, pollution, peak oil, peak energy etc. So I'll have my two cents worth. It will have to be a great leap forwards in technology.

    It's worth reading David Holmgren's work on future scenarios
     
  15. Yukkuri_Kame

    Yukkuri_Kame Junior Member

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    Energy descent, yes, but we are not going back to the stone age. Renewable energies are going through exponential growth, both in MW installed and efficiency gains. The next 20 years will see energy innovation similar to what has happened over the last 20 years in computers.

    Will it be enough to continue business-as-usual? Nope, thank god.

    I think a lot of people are going to be forced to grow in their backyards due to the economics of peak debt. Staples like grains may still have a lot of food miles on them, but the trend towards relocalization will continue.

    Rail and boats will have to carry more goods. I just do not see solar-powered semi trucks in the future. Personal transport will be more rail, public transport as well as shift to lighter EV's, including electric bicycles.

    As for the embodied energy in cars or trucks - open source manufacturing is going to radically change things. Cars can be designed with cradle-to-cradle loops, with every part recyclable on a community scale. Built-in obsolescence will become obsolete, as cars are designed to last for 75 years instead of 10 - especially if we drive less.
     
  16. Greenmama

    Greenmama Junior Member

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    I just read The Transition Handbook by Rob Hoskins. It is 'about the transition to sustainable communities post peak oil". I haven't see the movie in the original thread, it sounds like it must at the very least be inspiring.

    I think that what is important with the post-peak oil argument is maintaining hope (this book actually does a good break down of the psychology of change and how we view this change). Although I don't see solar energy 'saving the day' I think it will help us transition to simpler more self-reliant lifestyles.

    The problem with conventional agricultre is that it is based on monocultures heavily fertilised with oil-based fertilisers and pesticides. This doesn't just make transportation across wide spaces beneficial, its essential for this system to work. Because of the perishability of most agriculture, refrigeration is also necessary. I haven't see the solar power film in the OP, but I assuming it is saying that is saying that large solar powered refrigerated vehicles will be developed in time to save us from the peak oil crisis?

    I hope it does. But I think it's unlikely. Peak oil is estimated to have already happened or be about to happen (somewhere between 2007-2015). Will we develop the technology capable of meeting these transport needs in the next 5-10 yrs? Perhaps (I don't know much about solar transport, only that they've yet to produce a commercial solar powered vehicle where I live). Regardless it will still be about maintaining a sensitive system that will ultimately collapse without access to reliable transportation. Permaculture is about reducing your reliance on those systems. If individuals reduce their dependence on the system, then it doesn't matter whether we are saved by a golden bullet. Permaculture will never be obsolete because of this.

    I live in a very isolated major city (Perth Western Australia) to get here you have to travel great miles from anywhere. I guess permaculture has always made sense to me because we are more conscious of the visible distances things travel. I highly recommend you check out the Transition Handbook if this sort of thing inspires you because it will outline a whole variety of scenarios 'post oil' including the susatinable transport scenario :)
     
  17. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    The transport of goods and passengers is an enormous waste of energy we are for example 7 to 8 hours by road from a city . The relentless road trains carting goods from the east to west and vice versa in vast australia is madness . Rail will need to be upgraded the simplest way would be to roll trailers onto rail flatops . Cities need fast passenger monorails . Why do we need 846,772 models of cars / commercial vehicles to do the same job , Goverments will continue to prop up the unviable motor industry as they need the fuel tax hmmmmmmmmm. There will be a swing to electric with road use taxes to take the place of fuel tax , business as usual until the whole mess becomes tooooooo expensive , then who knows .Make sure you have food security by then .
    Rob
     
  18. Dzionik

    Dzionik Junior Member

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    No but what is next survival scenario for big coop, something US already doing, bombing and occupying round the world for resources and energy.

    As long as insurance companies dictate the security measures on cars and their weight drops to a reasonable level we can not expect any real progress in the development of personal transportation. Although there are already technologies that are able to make a vehicle under 100 kg weight, nobody deal with such a vehicle because it would not be able to drive legally on the streets. And today hybrid and electric cars are as said:

    oversized and oversized and over..............
     
  19. springtide

    springtide Junior Member

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    Back to grasshopper's comment you might like to look up peak phosphorus as well as the lithium, also to all what will happen when everyone's daily power consumption goes up 50% when they plug in their cars - plus cook dinner, plus hot water, plus tv, air con, computer, etc all around 5 o'clock. I really think it will give new meaning to the phrase "5 o'clock shadow" when brown - outs start to hit.
     
  20. TheDirtSurgeon

    TheDirtSurgeon Junior Member

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    I am not. I am saying that the data are insufficient to draw conclusions. "Climate change" still remains in the realm of theory, is based on flawed computer models, and there is no solid consensus. That doesn't mean it's not happening, but that we cannot definitely say one way or the other. In case you haven't noticed, there is still considerable room for argument.

    I do indeed think we are creating problems. But that's my opinion, and it ain't worth shit in the context of the things we could and should be doing to improve our environment.

    "Peak Oil" remains nebulous as well. There are camps who say it has already happened. There are scientists who say it will in 50 or 100 years. Then there are people who say it's made up by the oil companies to justify increased prices. Who do you believe? The only thing we can say for certain is this: A) this is a planet of finite size; thus B) any resource contained therein is also finite in size -- barring of course the possibility that there is a wormhole in Earth's core piping the oil in from elsewhere in the galaxy.

    Will we run out someday? Yeah. When? Insufficient data, too many competing theories. Again, conjecture is not sufficient justification for turning a society on its head.


    Based on the aforementioned flawed models, which themselves are based on insufficient data. What you call "analysis" here is really nothing more than a guess. It may be a somewhat educated guess, but it is nevertheless more conjecture.

    Which brings me back to my point. I can think of a goodly number of reasons to change the ways we do things, based on sound science and reasoning that no one can argue with! Why can't we stick with the facts?


    What is your understanding of what I proposed? I'm not sure what you think it is, because you don't specify what's not possible. ??

    Correct me if I'm wrong -- you seem to have the notion that we'd just suddenly replace the entire car fleet in one go. I'm more for wringing the life out of whatever we've already got, and replacing it as it wears out. Given the propensity of cars to wear out, doesn't this make sense?


    I don't see why there's a conflict, as if it must be one way or the other. I don't see a world in which light rail and bicycles completely obviate the need for the automobile. Do you?

    I would love to see cities put in more bike paths. There's one reason I don't ride my bike around town: it's flat dangerous. I won't ride in car traffic. I'd like to live to see grandchildren.

    Some cities have excellent bike path networks, and they do get used. Light rail here is still subsidized because it doesn't pay for itself... though I believe that will change over time.
     

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