Wednesday, June 22, AD 2011
Cars is one of the few Pixar or Dreamworks movies that I have not seen (and with a two-year old, I’ve seen a lot). Well it doesn’t look like I’ll be seeing the sequel either.
Debuting in theaters this Friday, the seemingly innocuous Disney-Pixar film ‘Cars 2’ has become a tool to wedge a fight against fossil fuels in favor of alternative forms of energy.
When John Lasseter moved from executive producer to executive director last year, he overhauled major portions of the plot into a good vs. evil story against big oil.
Here is the part of his interview that caught my attention.
Why isn’t alternative fuel more… Why isn’t everybody jumping on that bandwagon? It makes so much sense: Electricity, solar, whatever. There’s ethanol. There’s all this stuff you could be doing. And so I thought, well, that could be really cool in that you could have big oil versus alternative fuel. That’s when we kind of crafted the bad guy’s story.
Yes, the reason that more people aren’t using “alternative” fuels is because of some evil cabal by the oil companies. It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that technological advances have not yet made these alternative fuels cost competitive with traditional forms of energy, or because alternative forms of energy are not as reliable.
This statement is reflective of the leftist mindset. Alternative fuels are good. Oil is bad. Therefore we should be doing more good, and less bad, and we should villify the bad people because, gee golly willickers, we need to make sure more people like the good guys.
It sure sounds good. Obviously we should be using those other forms of energy. If we just snap our fingers we can make it so.
Except that the real world is not so easy. Take wind energy. What a tremendous potential form of energy, right? It’s a renewable resource that people seem to think could soon supply forty percent or even more of our electricity. Why don’t we just build those windfarms right now?
Because the wind doesn’t blow when we need it the most. This blog post details the difference between peak energy demand and wind capacity factor. Long story short, times of peak demand are precisely the times when wind power is least reliable. And this post discusses a winter peaking scenario. Summer peaking utilities (and a significant majority of American utilities experience peak demand during the summer months) must deal with even greater disparities. In order to visualize this all, picture peak demand as a bell curve. You get relatively low demand in the morning and evenings, with electricity demand peaking in the middle of the afternoon. Wind availability is a reverse bell curve – wind blows the most in the morning and evening, least in the hot mid-afternoon. That’s the story of a day-time demand. It’s largely repeated on a monthly scale as well. The peak demand months are July and August, whereas the optimal times for wind generation are Fall and Spring.
Renewable resources are intermittent resources. When the wind ain’t blowing, you need generation to back up the renewables. Care to guess what fuels are used to back up renewables? Natural gas and coal – you know, those dirty forms of electric generation. Moreover, because these resources are being used as peakers rather than baseload, they are not being used as efficiently, and therefore are even more pollutant than normal.
And we haven’t even discussed the need to build new transmission infrastructure in order to transmit the electricity from the generation source to the end-use customers.
Oh, and on top of all that, renewable forms of energy are used for electric generation. Oil is used for transportation. So the two forms of energy are not interchangeable.
I joked on Facebook earlier today that I wanted to buy a Prius and then put a bumpersticker on it that said “Fueled by Coal.” The point I was trying to make is that if we do start driving more electric vehicles, they’ll have to be powered by something. And guess what fuel source generates nearly half of all electric generation in this country? That would be big, nasty coal. But hey, at least we get almost all our coal domestically, so that at least slays one type of bogeyman.
Lightning McQueen, the race car star of “Cars,” goes on a worldwide Grand Prix tour, sponsored by a new green fuel called Allinol. Allinol is produced by a character named Sir Miles Axlerod, described by Disney-Pixar’s website as an environmental champion:
Sir Miles Axlerod is a former oil baron who has sold off his fortune, converted himself into an electric vehicle and has devoted his life to finding the renewable, clean-burning energy source of the future—ultimately discovering what he believes is the fuel everyone should be using. Axlerod is also the car behind the World Grand Prix, a three-country race he created that attracts the world’s top athletes—but it’s really an excuse to show off his new wonder-fuel, Allinol.
Ah yes, what a wonderful plot device. But that’s the thing – it’s not real. There is no magical fuel that will make cars run. It doesn’t exist. Will there be some marvelous development in the future that displaces oil? Perhaps. But for now we have to confront reality. But reality is not where people like Lasseter choose to live. His movie at least implies that the only reason that these magical new forms of energy aren’t being used is because some mean men at the oil companies don’t want them to come to market. If only we’d recognize the devil for who he was, we’d soon all be jetting around town on cars powered by pixie dust.
Lasseter hasn’t considered the alternative explanations because he’s likely too ignorant. Like most Hollywood lefties his understanding of energy policy most likely stems from bumper sticker slogans. So maybe I do need to produce those Prius stickers just to get through to Lasseter and his ilk.