Every time I fill up, I’m buying another 300 miles of transportation. Today, I pay 13¢ per mile for the fuel that carries me that distance. But I’d be willing to pay 22¢ per mile for fuel, or more—using a vehicle of similar size, performance, reliability, and initial cost compared to the one I drive today—if that’s what it took on my part to achieve and sustain independence from oil.
For those of you who keep track of fuel prices on a per-gallon-of-gasoline basis, I’ll convert it: Today, I pay $3.00 per-gallon-of-gasoline. Each gallon gives me 23 miles worth of transportation; a full tank costs roughly $40 and gives me a total of 300 miles. That comes out to 13¢ per mile.
But I’d rather not have to buy gasoline to get my 300 miles of transportation. I’d rather buy, for example, hydrogen. I’d jump at the chance to pay a mere 13¢ per mile for it, and I’d do it with a smile for 22¢ a mile; in other words, I’d be willing to pay $66 for 300 miles of not-oil-based transportation. In that case gasoline would cost me absolutely nothing, and I'd be extremely happy about that.
How much extra would you be willing to pay for transportation in return for oil independence? I know some people who not only would not be willing to pay more, they want cheaper gasoline more than they want oil independence . . . so, they support things that knock a few cents off the price of a barrel of oil, such as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, etc. That’s okay; diversity of opinion is what free markets and a free society are all about. The Wisdom of Crowds will work out the solution eventually.
For me, hydrogen technology looks like it has the lead in the race to solve the oil problem. Will it win that race? The market (you, me, and several million others) will eventually decide that as we continue casting votes with our dollars. But I’m keeping an eye on the race, especially the developments in hydrogen technology. Currently, the main problem with the much-hyped hydrogen fuel cell solution is: How do you store 300 miles worth of hydrogen in a vehicle of similar size and performance to the one I drive today? They don’t quite know how yet, but as soon as that problem is solved on a large scale basis, affordable-cents-per-mile hydrogen transportation will be just around the corner. And if some other not-oil technology wins the race, so much the better. In any case, I’m keeping an eye on developments.
A lot of geniuses in a lot of laboratories around the world are working on the problems, including several at my alma mater, Purdue. (Next step will be to hook the winning technologies up with sufficiently-funded entrepreneurs; after that it’s goodbye OPEC.) Below are links to a few relevant articles you might find as interesting as I did.
• OPEC feels threatened.
• Summary of the hydrogen storage problem (Scientific American).
• Purdue: Just fill ‘er up with water (and organosilane).
• Canada and Germany: graphite.
• Denmark: ammonia.
• NIST: titanium atoms.
• Akron: solid hydrogen fuel.
• Intelligent hybrids in the meantime?
• Why we need to increase the gasoline tax.
Will these developments lead to "goodbye OPEC" in my lifetime? I hope so, but we'd better hurry up.