Filling The Gaps
When we take a long road trip there are many things that we plan on working out along the way, such as where we’ll stop for gas and food. Just as we expect there to be many choices for gas stations and restaurants, there are many options along the climate roadmap. And just as we may not find our favorite restaurant nearby when we’re hungry, our currently favorite technology may not be the one we choose ten or fifteen years from now because in many cases new technologies will jump ahead.
This isn’t to say that we won’t face obstacles that seem insurmountable. One challenge is carbon neutral jet fuel. In addition to bio-jet fuels now being developed, companies are also developing technologies that produce jet fuel from clean energy while recycling CO2 from the air, in the same way biofuel does. Biofuel methods have been demonstrated, but the technological method appears more likely to be economically practical. This is one portion of the Climate Roadmap that still needs to be written.
Given the national and global interest in energy and climate, there are now millions of engineers, entrepreneurs, and investors developing new solutions to key problems. This is resulting in electric car range increasing and prices decreasing. They are giving us electric charging stations across the country so that in 2014 it became common for electric cars to drive across the country. Power storage for wind and solar plants is already beginning to come online, long before it’s required in bulk, 10-20 years from now.
With millions of engineers working passionately on these projects, it is unlikely that any field will fail to find timely solutions. In those cases where solutions are especially difficult, that just means that we’ll produce a little bit more CO2 for a few years. For example, if jet fuel proves to be difficult to produce from solar, wind, or nuclear energy in ten years, that will leave us emitting 3% of the CO2 we produce now for another ten years. That is just 1/7 of the 80% emissions reduction target that many scientists say we need for now.
To encourage the technology development, the best policy is a steadily increasing price on carbon, which will tell investors and inventors that clean energy improvements is where the payoff will be in the future.
We have twenty years to further develop the missing links such as batteries, smart grids and domestic manufacturing capability. We now have Google, computers, 3D printers, and millions of highly educated engineers connected by the internet. The energy storage market will attract entrepreneurs to build cost effective storage when it’s needed (about 2030), electric cars (2025), and electric heat pumps (2020).
The demand for these technological advancements gradually expands along with the steady increase of low cost renewable electricity. Replacing inefficient equipment at the attrition rate over a 20 year transition period means that vehicles and industrial processes can be gradually replaced with efficient electrical versions as the old equipment wears out anyway. Planned capital expenses rise slightly if at all, because new technology tends to be lower cost than old.