July 28, 2004

Iron Blog Subjects: Alternative Energy

Going through the Iron Blog topic list:

There was a day when petroleum seeps were an alternative energy source. Then the supply curves radically changed, the price at which you could get petroleum in large quantities became affordable and the age of oil began. Today, there are lots of other ways to get energy. Like petroleum, before modern drilling and extraction techniques revolutionized things, these alternative energy sources are generally expensive, in short supply, and only feasible in limited application or with government subsidy.

Nobody can really predict when we're going to have our next eureka! moment but the incremental progress that is being made shows that it will quite likely be within our lifetimes. The question of alternative energy really is what role should government play in encouraging things, moving technologies ahead with subsidy and with R&D funding? The day you can run some new motor running on another fuel cheaper than petroleum burning internal combustion engines at every conceivable practical price of oil is the day that a massive switchover will start to occur naturally. The free market will switch over the world without a great deal of state intervention because switching over will be cheaper than buying new ICE equipment.

Most government support is likely to be counterproductive because the money too often goes to the best proposal writers instead of the best avenue of inquiry and those government money fortified R&D boys develop an instant dislike to all their potential competitors for the brass ring of replacing ICE burning petroleum and they tend to express that dislike in efforts to bury their competitors. We only do energy source changes very infrequently. We need to ensure that the best alternative will win out for the next energy age. Throwing in government subsidies is not going to help us get to that point.

Posted by TMLutas at July 28, 2004 01:49 PM