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Reason for lack of new energy innovations?

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progressiveman1
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What are some of the main reasons why the US is still so highly dependent on oil? How big of a role has the gov't played in slowing down new energy innovations? Does the private sector have a hard time developing new energy innovations because of the large sum of money needed for this process along with the reluctancy to make a high-risk investment? And can nuclear energy replace oil altogether?

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The first thing I learned in Auto Tech school was that gasoline is not made out of crude oil.

I think the reason that we are dependent on oil is because too many people stand to lose too much money.

If industrial hemp was legal , gasoline could be manufatured out of that and ran in four and two stroke engines with no difficulty.

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Oil is the "smartest" source of general-purpose energy. I would be interested to know what it would cost to make a nuclear-powered lawnmower -- I'm betting that it would be more than $200 per unit. Solar chain saws just don't cut it (*rimshot*). The question ought to be, why should we develop "alternative energy sources"? More specifically, what form of anergy would it be economically reasonable to develop. Because the considerations are not just "will we run out of oil in 100 years, making gasoline an unreasonable long-range fuel?", but "will the government decide to abruptly eliminate -- or subsidize -- gasoline production", i.e. will the government broker a deal with Iran (or not); open ANWR to drilling (or not); make new refineries impossible (or not)?" Will the government decide to massively subsidize ethanol as a fuel? Will the government penalize ethanol as a fuel? Will the government invest $100 billion in fusion research; or will it invest $100 billion in geothermal research? That sort of thing is impossible to predict, which means that an ordinarily prudent course of action might end up being suicidal, and vice versa. That's why we're waiting for congress to make a decision.

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I know what you mean -- I'm still waiting on my nuclear powered hover car B)

I think you have to have a more long-term perspective if you think innovations are slow, especially for cars. Used to be, cars might have a radio, then they got AM/FM, then they got cassettes, then CDs, then multiple CDs, then memory sticks, then MP3 players, etc. When I bought my first car in about 1975, it was an eight cylinder, massive horse power and maybe, if I was lucky, got 8 miles to the gallon. I just bought a new used car and at four cylinders great acceleration, and 23 miles to the gallon, I think there have been innovations over the past 30 years; even in cars, if you know where to look for them.

As to why they are not made at a faster rate, well that has a lot to do with government regulations on cars. If we had pure capitalism in the markets, first of all gasoline would be dirt cheap (gas in 1975 was about 0.80 per gallon if not less) and who knows how cars would be powered. I don't think it is unfeasible to have a nuclear powered car -- or at least a nuclear powered big 18 wheeler rig -- but people are so freaked out about nuclear anything and the government wouldn't permit it anyhow. Under capitalism, if someone could make a nuclear powered home, truck, boat, or car and could show they were safe, which they would be, then it would be on the market within a few years and everyone would have one.

To have innovation one needs freedom to innovate, and the government is stifling innovations like crazy in all areas, unless it just isn't regulated.

So, if you want that nuclear powered hover car, then advocate capitalism :thumbsup:

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You think the government is artificially pushing things toward oil?

Ha.

Hahahahaha.

Oil is the cheapest, most efficient, most economical portable source of energy. The government is doing everything it can get away with to force us away from oil, to our extreme detriment. If they would but get the hell out of the way, we would be exporting oil and it would be so cheap that people on the street would give you funny looks if you used the word "dependent." Which is what they ought to be doing anyway because even now the concept is ridiculous.

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Regardless of whether Oil is cheapest, easiest or most economical at this point I would expect people to be trying to reinvent the wheel so to speak. Just think of the kind of energy revolution a real world equivalent of Galt's motor would cause. Think of the economic, industrial and social possibilities.

I don't believe in conspiracies but I also can see that in their own self interest oil companies and those dependant on oil might find it economically prudent stifle or buy up some innovation.

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We have had a government-subsidized auto industry for a long time. I think transportation would look different if we didn't have a century of government interference, but my bet would still be on petrochemicals.

I'm intrigued with the idea of hybrids. Not electric/gasoline hybrids, but conventional/maglev hybrids. You could power the long-distance travel at centralized nuclear power plants, and use conventional motors for city driving. The tech isn't viable yet, but fortunately we have the modern miracle of gasoline, and a very long time to use it while we develop alternatives.

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I don't believe in conspiracies but I also can see that in their own self interest oil companies and those dependant on oil might find it economically prudent stifle or buy up some innovation.

How can you see this? May I ask what economics you have read or what your level of familiarity of economics is?

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Maybe it's because oil is currently the best, cheapest source of energy available.

What about the negatives? Being dependent on foreign countries and OPEC (which has caused several oil shortages in the past), and uncertainty of oil supply in the Earth.

More specifically, what form of anergy would it be economically reasonable to develop. Because the considerations are not just "will we run out of oil in 100 years, making gasoline an unreasonable long-range fuel?", but "will the government decide to abruptly eliminate -- or subsidize -- gasoline production", i.e. will the government broker a deal with Iran (or not); open ANWR to drilling (or not); make new refineries impossible (or not)?" Will the government decide to massively subsidize ethanol as a fuel? Will the government penalize ethanol as a fuel? Will the government invest $100 billion in fusion research; or will it invest $100 billion in geothermal research? That sort of thing is impossible to predict, which means that an ordinarily prudent course of action might end up being suicidal, and vice versa. That's why we're waiting for congress to make a decision.

The gov't doesn't necessarily have to change any of their current policies regarding those issues (or they could change them again and again), so why would potential inventors/investors wait around for those decisions?

Edited by progressiveman1
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To have innovation one needs freedom to innovate, and the government is stifling innovations like crazy in all areas, unless it just isn't regulated.

So, if you want that nuclear powered hover car, then advocate capitalism :thumbsup:

Innovation would probably happen quicker if the gov't stole (I mean taxed) us higher and subsidized certain groups, since more funds will be raised that way. Of course, it violates our right to our money.

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What about the negatives? Being dependent on foreign countries and OPEC (which has caused several oil shortages in the past), and uncertainty of oil supply in the Earth.

If they would but step out of the way, we would be a net oil exporting nation. Thus such concerns are entirely a manufactured crisis caused by the government, used to call for more restriction of the government.

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Innovation would probably happen quicker if the gov't stole (I mean taxed) us higher and subsidized certain groups, since more funds will be raised that way. Of course, it violates our right to our money.

What? Do you mean to say that communism or socialism is more innovative than capitalism. I beg to differ. Please read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand.

The most large sums of money from the government can do is to do something that costs too much for an individual to do right now, such as space exploration, moon landings, and going to Mars and stuff like that. But even then, I think it would go faster for individuals if the restriction of private profit in space would be lifted. Private enterprise brought us Thomas Edison, who came up with innovations no one else could even think of, aside from a handful of some other advanced innovators.

Both government regulations and government subsidies keep us stagnant as there usually isn't much demand for what the government is meddling in and pushing (i.e solar power). For example, there is plenty of oil out there even in the United States, but the government won't let oil companies in there to drill it out. And if taxes are so high that it is difficult to have savings, then the backyard or garage innovators are stifled at the beginning. For something like nuclear power, they have to use government approved plans for construction, which means only the tried and true methods are permitted, and these days that means using nuclear fuel to boil water, which isn't the most efficient way of using nuclear power. Nuclear radiation (alpha and beta particles) are charged, which means that be electricity streaming off of a nuclear source, and I think it would be possible to build batteries using that type of nuclear fuel, but it would be illegal.

Also, please read Ayn Rand's Anthem or even Atlas Shrugged to see how collectivism stifles innovation. In other words, the John Galt Line types of innovations and John Galt's motor are only possible in capitalism. The government funded research might come up with some innovations, but the motivation isn't to come up with viable and affordable products. Under capitalism, we get usable products at a decent price; under collectivism, for a while, we might get costly innovations, but they would not be available to the average buyer for decades, if even then.

Look at the innovations in computers, which are totally profit oriented and free from government interference. And compare that to, say, trains and automobiles which are highly regulated. It is not cold hard cash handed to government approved products that brings innovations, but rather the freedom to profit from one's work that brings us innovations.

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The gov't doesn't necessarily have to change any of their current policies regarding those issues (or they could change them again and again), so why would potential inventors/investors wait around for those decisions?
Thanks to the wonders of modern science, we can study the metaphysically-given and learn how to build stronger, more flexible building materials; we can find ways to miniaturize electronic components to create faster, more powerful computers. You can study weather pattern in Bengal to determine whether a particular business enterprise is too risky becuse a cyclone will destroy your facility or the resource that you plan to exploit. You can study the nature of combustion and ventilation systems, and decide if it is safe to send that train into the tunnel. That's because in those areas, we're looking at the laws of nature.

When it comes to government conduct, there are no such laws. The level of risk soars infinitely. A prudent investor needs to be as concerned with random political whims as with the facts of the product. I would not invest in a company researching human cloning in the US simply on the grounds that even if it becomes technically possible and profitable, it could very easily become prohibited by law, which would mean billions of research dollars down the drain.

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What? Do you mean to say that communism or socialism is more innovative than capitalism. I beg to differ. Please read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand.

I meant just for a very short period of time. Like if the gov't heavily subsidized companies to innovate alternative energy right now. Although I do understand that a society won't sustain ideal productive growth long-term when the gov't initiates force against the people. Thanks for the nice explanation though.

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We have had a government-subsidized auto industry for a long time.

We've also had an auto industry that has been heavily regulated for many years. The expense added to cars by federal safety and emissions regulations (to name just two types) is considerable. Despite the fact that there have been many innovations in autos, as pointed out by Thomas, there would have been many more in the absence of government regulation.

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What would you say to someone who claims the lack of alternative energy innovations in the past 30 years is a fault and negative effect of the free market? Would your argument consist solely of establishing the importance of acting on principle?

Who says its a negative effect? There is no such thing as an authority on this matter, there is just the relative costs of different technologies. Let the people decide. Up til now, nothing beats the cheapness of coal and oil, and the people vote with their wallets.

If crude oil continues to raise in price then eventually some other thing will be cheaper and the world will change. There has been energy technology innovation, but none of it has been able to beat fossil fuel economics.

The principle at work here is just "people minimize their expenses".

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Short answer -- there are better sources of energy then oil, but they aren't economically viable or technologically possible at the moment, like fusion power, and plasma.

Diminishing marginal utility really comes into play here when it comes to how we use our capital and energy.

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What would you say to someone who claims the lack of alternative energy innovations in the past 30 years is a fault and negative effect of the free market? Would your argument consist solely of establishing the importance of acting on principle?

No, I would also point out that anyone who thinks the auto industry is a free market is really kidding themselves. Just follow that link and see how much the government burdens auto-producers via the unions. Then try saying that the auto industry is, on the balance, "subsidized," with a straight face.

Edited by Inspector
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Just follow that link and see how much the government burdens auto-producers via the unions. Then try saying that the auto industry is, on the balance, "subsidized," with a straight face.
Unfortunately these additional labor costs have hit US automakers particularly hard. Their lower profitability per vehicle causes them to innovate less, come out with fewer new models and styles, and produce a less advanced product than many of their foreign competitors.

The cost of government regulation of the auto industry has been massive:

For example, the law to control emissions reduces fuel efficiency. The government's requirements concerning side-door guard beams, energy-absorbing steering columns, and other safety features have added about 200 pounds to the weight of an automobile. These government actions lower fuel economy--and generate more pollution in the process.

In turn, fuel economy standards have forced the manufacture of smaller, lighter cars that are inherently less safe than the heavier cars that would otherwise be produced. When two cars of different size collide, the safety advantage lies with the occupants of the heavier vehicle. Also, in single vehicle accidents (such as hitting a tree), the occupants of heavier cars are likely to suffer fewer injuries.

The fuel efficiency standards applied to cars made in the United States after 1990 are estimated to result in over 2,200 additional traffic deaths every year. Overall, safety and emissions requirements add more than $2,500 to the price of the average new automobile. That's a stiff hidden tax on the American motorist.

http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=381

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Nuclear power would be far and away the cheapest form of energy if the government didn't regulated the hell out of it. Nuclear power is the safest and most efficient source of energy we have and if the government weren't regulating it, there is little doubt it'd be the main power source. My guess is that instead of one giant power plant supplying a huge region, we'd have thousands/millions of these things powering small neighborhoods, or even single houses. Imagine that, no more rolling blackouts and power too cheap to meter.

However, having said that, if there are no regulations on innovation there is nobody that can tell us where the technology will take us. Nobody can predict all of the clever inventions that would spring up in a completely free society.

And, btw, there is no shortage of oil. There is no problem with oil supply, except where the government stands in the way of drilling for it. The whole idea there is some big energy crisis is a myth of certain types of intellectuals and the media, much the way global warming is so much hype. If you want an indicator of supply of oil, then the best one is the price at the pump.

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And, btw, there is no shortage of oil. There is no problem with oil supply, except where the government stands in the way of drilling for it. The whole idea there is some big energy crisis is a myth of certain types of intellectuals and the media, much the way global warming is so much hype. If you want an indicator of supply of oil, then the best one is the price at the pump.

How do you know we are not near the 'peak oil' phase?

I don't think it would be very accurate to look at the price at the pump and try to determine supply of oil from that. I do know that the value of the dollar plays a large part in that price, along with other factors that other people on here could probably point out.

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