On the bleeding edge

I’ve been trying out various new technologies lately, with mixed results

My first attempt to present a paper using videoconferencing from my desktop Mac came to grief as a result of software incompatibilities, so I’ll be using standard videoconference methods again, to present a paper on Urban Water Pricing to a seminar at LaTrobe Uni, Albury-Wodonga, on Thursday. I’ll get started earlier next time and see if I can’t get these problems overcome.

During my recent visit to Canberra, I hired a Prius, which was an interesting experience. A few random thoughts about implications.
* I was particularly struck by the way it sits silently at traffic lights, and more generally how much quieter it is, most of theh time. than a standard car. That alone would be a big plus in a move towards electric cars.
* As this piece in Salon points out, a hybrid is not necessarily more fuel-efficient than smaller conventional cars. Then again, you can save even more just by driving less. The more options there are the better. I expect the price differential noted in the article will decline over time as production volumes increase.
* Looking at how easy it would be to switch to hybrids, I’m more convinced than ever that a peak in oil production (which may already have been passed) will not been the end of industrial civilisation as we know it, or even a major change in our way of life.
* s regards the more serious problem of global warming, a hybrid still uses electricity, so the gains aren’t as great. Still, many small reductions add up to big reductions Reader canberra boy points out that the Prius is not a plug-in hybrid as I thought . Rather the battery is recharged entirely by regenerative braking or, when that falls short, by the engine. As usual, Wikipedia has the details

Finally, I upgraded my Mac OS to OS 10.5 (Leopard), and am a bit grumpy. It seems as if it went smoothly for everyone but me, and in fact I nearly always have trouble with system upgrades. But, in between I really love my Mac, and my experience running Windows XP under virtualisation has only confirmed me in this.

108 thoughts on “On the bleeding edge

  1. BioBill: You may be interested in this piece from Robert Rapier that points out the bleeding obvious: As oil prices rise biofuel prices rise as well because of the poor energy return of biofuels, and the very high fossil fuel inputs of biofuel production.

    High Oil Prices = High Biofuel Prices

    If biofuel prices rise in tandem with oil prices, its clear biofuels won’t be the magical substitute provided by the market. The invisible hand will have to find a substitute that doesn’t have high fossil fuel inputs.

  2. Toyota’s Prius–the most successful hybrid car in history, with more than 800,000 in circulation

    Meanwhile in Europe:
    Diesel Auto Sales Trending to Exceed Gasoline in Europe in 2006

    The latest quarterly pricing survey by Pricewaterhouse Coopers and eurocarprice.com finds that diesels accounted for 49% (7,415,198 units) of the total European car market at the end of 2005. That represents a 7% increase in annual sales volume over the prior period.

    That’s more than 7 million per year in Europe alone compared with 800,000 total for the Prius which represents 90% of all hybrid car sales. No doubt, diesels have continued to gain market share in 2006 and 2007.

    Not that I don’t like hybrids, but the hype certainly exceeds the reality of the sales numbers.

  3. Actually I stand corrected. Toyota announced today:

    Toyota has sold 1,188,255 hybrids worldwide from 1997 through September 2007; of that total, the Prius account for 72%, or 851,228, according to figures released by Toyota.

    Still, the numbers are tiny and diesels out sell all the hybrids Toyota has ever sold by 6-to-1 in one year in Europe alone.

  4. This has been a great thread, good to see myriad here (first time I’ve seen her) with facts and figures and cogent arguments.

    Don’t have much to add but a few qualifications about desal – salinity really isn’t a problem if you’re pumping offshore in the right place – I predict the Wonthaggi plant EES (if conducted) will have zero concerns about this aspect of the proposal. Energy use is problematic but solvable, the real thing is the cost of the water will never allow for economic agriculture, except limited hydro horticulture.

    I reckon Observa (for once) and Myriad are both right about hybrids versus diesels. A prius was the best choice at the time for a leased comcar, a diesel is likely to be the best choice for the next ten years, then hybrid diesels.

    Myriad, Lindenmayer is an expert, but not a guru – he still gets a few things wrong. I’m speaking from an informed position, I work in forestry.

    BilB, it’s probably time you stopped talking about agriculture and ecology and got onto something more comfortable (maybe hybrids v diesel?). Your opinions don’t seem to accord closely with reality.

  5. Carbonsink,

    When are you going to realise that in serious ethanol production the fuel cost is minimal as I demonstrated with actual figures from the farmers themselves, and all of the fuel used can be from the fuel generated. Ethanol powered farm vehicles, who would think it possible. Many Australain farmers run their farm vehicles on methanol of biodiesel already. Using the Howard tactic of presenting the lie over and over will not change reality, and will ultimately make you look foolish.

    I’ve just spent 2 days at an education camp on the Hawkesbury River with my primary school daughter. The building was 130 years old and the charm of the place was set by a 100 year old camphor loral tree. It would have been impossible to have a eucalypt in this setting simply for the risk falling branches (public safety) and the fire risk.


    You have to recognise that was before may not work in the future. The ecology is in a state of flux.

  6. BioBill:

    Using the Howard tactic of presenting the lie over and over will not change reality, and will ultimately make you look foolish.

    Mate its not me that has a problem with reality. Its becoming increasingly clear that biofuels are uneconomic, cause widespread environmental damage, and probably produce a net increase in greenhouse gases:
    Record Oil Prices Can’t Make Biofuels Profitable

    The building was 130 years old and the charm of the place was set by a 100 year old camphor loral tree.

    Don’t let me near it with my cordless drill and handy bottle of glyphosate 360! Bloody camphors. Try telling anyone up here on the NSW north coast that they’re beautiful trees.

  7. Carbonsink,

    You have that much hatred for things non Australian? Well you are going to be busy. I’m back from 2 days in Melbourne where the entire charm of the place is set off by hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of mature european trees providing magnificent shade and beauty. Then you can move on to Sydney where all of the highest realestate value areas are festooned with a multitude or european varieties. Wow, you are going to make a big name for yourself, you, your electric drill, and your poison.

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