Friday, November 11, 2011

The Last Decade



I heard a startling report of a statistic on CNBC this morning. The reporter stated that 25% of the cumulative global goods and services ever produced and consumed were produced and consumed in the last decade. This means in the last ten years the global economic output was one quarter of all that in human history. So much for the “lost” decade in the West. The Orient, Russia, Brazil, Turkey, Middle East and parts of Africa and South America have woken up economically. In a way this is great news for the billions of people who now are enjoying increased economic prosperity and sharing in global trade and consumption. For the planet it just means we have consumed increasing amounts of fossil fuels, iron ore, bauxite, and other natural resources. We also destroyed more of the globe’s habitat for the sake of economic progress. The statistic of economic output and therefore consumption over the past decade is quite amazing.

I watched Charlie Rose on Bloomberg last evening. His guests were Elon Musk of Tesla and Bob Lutz who retired from GM. The discussion was about the electric cars and about Tesla and the Volt in particular. My disdain for Musk is well documented and after listening to him pontificate on how he is working to save the planet I have to admit he got under my skin further last night. He said his desire is to help the planet and change the course of increasing carbon emissions. He touted the “success” of his Roadster and he claimed the Model S Sedan will sell 20,000 vehicles a year after they reach full stride. In the first year he claimed that they will sell 6 or 7 thousand vehicles. He said the price will range from $50,000 for a stripped down Model S with lesser range to $100,000 for a fully equipped vehicle with large enough battery pack to travel 300 miles.

For the sake of analysis let’s say Tesla does become an economic success and does sell 20,000 vehicles a year with an average range of 240 miles. This means Tesla will need something like 80 kilowatt hours of lithium ion batteries per vehicle or in total 1.6 million kilowatt hours of batteries each year. Had these batteries been placed in the Buick Regal E-Assist they could have equipped 1.6 million vehicles. If all vehicles travel 15,000 miles a year, the 1.6 million Buick Regal E-Assists will save almost 200 million gallons of gas a year compared with standard Buick Regals without E-Assist. Each of the Teslas will save 600 gallons of gallons of gasoline a year so the 20,000 in total will save 12 million gallons of gasoline a year. Elon should have got into the E-Assist business if he really wanted to save the planet from carbon emissions. By the above argument he has used up precious lithium and has caused the planet to use an extra 188 million gallons of gasoline a year. At 19 pounds of CO2 emissions per gallon he single handedly caused an added 1.8 million tons of CO2 emissions per year by his misguided desire to save the planet.

On the economic front if his average Model S sells for $80,000 or about $50,000 more than a Buick Regal E-Assist he did reduce the world’s economic output by some $46.4 billion. I calculate this as 1.6 million Buicks times $30,000 average selling price minus 20,000 model Ss times $80,000 average selling price. I guess if we want the next decade to really be a lost decade and not chew up more natural resources we should let Elon have all the lithium in the world. Of course Al Gore and Fisker won’t let Elon monopolize the lithium supply so we don’t have to worry about Elon single handedly screwing up the world. The moron who produced the sequel to who killed the electric car should start working on the trilogy that thermodynamics and heavy expensive batteries killed the electric car. I believe a more important film will be about who killed the Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Spanish, UK, and US economies.

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