What is the cost of new energy?

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Source: trendy meditation (id:xinchaochensi)

Author: wuhuawang

Since the beginning of this year, due to the impact of the international situation, the oil price has continued to soar. At the same time, the electric vehicle enterprises represented by BYD have ushered in the spring. In May, BYD’s sales soared, and its market value exceeded that of the general public. It has once again entered the top three global car enterprises. Recently, online riders have discussed the topic. Most of them can’t do without oil vehicles. Is it worth buying? Is the tram era coming.


Under the historical trend of carbon neutrality and environmental protection, it is certainly a general trend for trams to replace oil vehicles. At the same time, trams also represent China’s hope to quickly catch up with Europe, America and Japan in the automotive industry, the most important bastion pillar industry in developed countries. However, from the perspective of human energy history, this process will not be achieved overnight. Today, let’s sort out the context.

From the perspective of economic history, before the coal and steam engines were put into large-scale industrial production, the “big diversion” in human history did not have the conditions: regardless of the social governance structure, they were essentially living on the production and consumption chain of organic fuels and agricultural products accumulated by plant photosynthesis. Even if there was a certain surplus, it would be consumed by population growth, This is the so-called “Malthusian economy” state: all social production is only enough to feed the mouth, in a critical equilibrium, and technological progress is slow.

In his book farewell to charity, Gregory Clark believes that in the pre industrial era, land is the most critical factor of production, but the land supply is basically fixed. Under this inborn restriction, no matter in which society, as long as technology remains unchanged, the average output per worker will decline as the labor force increases. As a result, per capita income will decline as the population increases. Technological development mainly leads to population growth. Before the industrial revolution, the settled society could not improve people’s living standards, and they were still in the state of natural economy.


In his book continuity, chance and change, rigley emphasized that the industrial revolution symbolized the beginning of the transformation of society from an “organic” manufacturing system to an “inorganic” modern world system. Before 1800, the world’s food, energy, clothing and building materials were all produced organically in the agricultural field. The economy has become less and less dependent on the sustainable production of animals and plants, and more and more dependent on energy and minerals. It began with the classical industrial revolution relying on coal and iron.

Rigley believes that the organic production system has three important characteristics: first, in the long run, all the output obtained from this system will be offset by the same input. Second, in the inorganic system, the benchmark rate of production efficiency is zero. In the organic system without innovation, the efficiency growth is negative. The third is that the experiment of improving the mode of production itself is difficult to carry out. Because the production period is relatively long, it may last for several years if animals are raised. Every year, changes in climate and diseases and pests will have a huge impact on output. The soil conditions of each plot, even the same plot, are also different. Therefore, a change beneficial to a’s environment may have no effect on B, or even harm.

In the highly controversial book “great diversion”, pengmulan insisted that the industrial revolution was not a continuation of a continuous development process, but an accident that suddenly deviated from the stagnant balance of the pre industrial era. He believes that the origin of the accident in Europe lies in two geographical contingencies – coal and colonies. For pemulan, the key to preventing the rapid growth of the core of the world economy lies in the ecological aspect.


Before 1800 ad, all societies must produce resources – grain, energy and raw materials – on a fixed area of land and on the principle of renewability. “Advanced organic technologies” in Europe and Asia reached their natural limits in 1800. To significantly increase the output of energy intensive materials (such as iron) – that is, the characteristics of the industrial revolution – there is only one possibility: to find new sources of energy or raw materials outside the system.

Europe can jump out of this step because there are coal reserves near the populous towns. In addition, it also has vast and open American land for use, and temporarily lifted the ecological restrictions with the food and raw materials of a whole continent. These geographical advantages – not differences in innovation potential – are the reason why Europe has become successful and Asia has failed.

Clark further concluded that in the 1850s and 1860s, four innovations reduced the cost of steam powered ocean transportation: propeller, iron hull, composite engine and surface condenser. The propeller converts kinetic energy into power more efficiently through the flow of water. The weight of iron hull is 30% to 40% lighter than before, and the cargo capacity is increased by 15% under the same steam power conditions. The compound engine can improve the efficiency of converting coal into mechanical power. Surface condensers save water. The composite engine and surface condenser greatly reduce the coal consumption per horsepower hour of the engine.

In the 1830s, the consumption of coal per horsepower hour was 10 pounds. By 1881, it had dropped to 2 pounds. In 1838, the fastest speed of the great western in the Atlantic was 10 miles per hour. In 1907, the Mauretania was able to run 29 miles an hour. Finally, the Suez Canal and the Panama canal were completed in 1869 and 1914 respectively, greatly shortening the distance of some major ocean routes. The Suez Canal has shortened the journey from London to Mumbai by 41% and the journey from London to Shanghai by 32%, greatly shortening the distance between European and Asian markets. The transportation cost from Britain to the eastern hemisphere in 1906 was only 2% of that in 1793.



On the other hand, before the industrial revolution, wood was the primary source of construction, tools and fuel. Sailing ships depended on wood and canvas. Furniture, carriages and almost all transportation equipment and production tools depended on wood. Heating and lighting were inseparable from charcoal and firewood. Power mainly depended on animal power – plants as food. The title of the first chapter of richardrhodes’ energy biography is “no kingdom without wood”. Williamharrison, an Elizabethan observer, wrote in 1577: “most of the buildings in our English cities and good towns use only wood.”

The tools at that time, such as ploughs and hoes, were all made of wood. At most, they were only edged with iron. London is a city built with wood. Houses are usually of high-rise roofs and semi wooden structures. They are heated by burning firewood in a stone stove. The stove built in the middle of the house is called “reredos”. Smoke from wood blows through the room and out of the window. It took about 2500 big oaks to build a ship in the British fleet. In 1630, there were about 300 ironmaking workshops in England. Every year, 300000 carts of wood were burned to make charcoal. Each cart of wood was equivalent to a big tree.

In China, due to the lag of industrialization, by the time of the first forest census after the founding of new China, the national forest coverage rate was only 11.81%. It is also this “wood energy crisis” that made coal the first to be popularized in England. The coal transportation volume of Newcastle increased from about 35000 tons in the mid-16th century to about 400000 tons in 1625. “Within two generations, the coal trade from the Tyne River has increased 12 times.” Between 1591 and 1667, the amount of coal transported into London increased from 35000 tons per year to 264000 tons per year; By 1700, the gross tonnage had almost doubled to 467000 tons per year.

The first revolution of energy from “organic” to “inorganic” brought the first substitution of wood: the use of steel and glass, and the popularity of ceramic products. In his book steel, steam and capital, rogersosburn described this process in detail. It is also the popularity of cheap glassware, the emergence of a large number of iron and steel industrial machines, and the steam power that have greatly improved the tolerance and stability of standardized processing that have led to the further development of endless physical and chemical experimental progress, thus making the fine utilization of petroleum possible. Without the precision iron and steel processing technology laid down in the era of steam engine, It is difficult to realize the idea of internal combustion engine driving automobile and aircraft so conveniently.

Coal can also produce gas and refine kerosene. Canadian doctor abrahamgersner was one of the earliest improvers and promoters of the commercial kerosene process. Soon, benjaminseliman Jr., a chemistry professor at Yale University, invented the crude oil cracking process, making oil exploitation a viable business. By 1870, the investment in the US oil industry had reached 200million US dollars (equivalent to nearly 4billion US dollars today). The annual oil production of Pennsylvania totaled more than 4.8 million barrels. Among the commodities exported by the United States, only cotton sold more money. However, due to the lack of suitable use, kerosene producers have to choose to pour volatile distillates – especially gasoline – into pits or pour them on the ground to evaporate.


Little benjaminseliman

From 1887 to 1896, Westinghouse and thomasedison fought a so-called “current war”. Also during this period, Willamette falls electric company installed the first hydraulic AC power station in the United States in 1889 to transmit the power from Oregon to Portland, Oregon, 13 miles away. By 1896, nearly 300 hydropower stations had been put into operation in the United States.

In fact, the electric car is nothing new: it was invented almost at the same time as the internal combustion engine car. Pedrosalom, an early electric vehicle manufacturer and enthusiast in Philadelphia, said in a speech at the Franklin Institute in 1895:

“Compared with the simple structure of (electric vehicles), the driving device of gasoline vehicles is extremely complex, with numerous chains, belts, pulleys, pipes, valves, cocks, etc. this raises the question whether this is feasible? If there are so many parts, we can reasonably assume that one of these parts will fail.”


Early electric vehicles

So why did the internal combustion engine win? Rhodes concludes that infrastructure constraints are the main reason – a necessary condition to support technological development when a new technology emerges. Electric vehicles were mainly limited to urban driving, because there was a lack of charging stations in rural areas that had not been electrified at that time. Steam cars and diesel locomotives can usually find fuel in paint shops or department stores in the countryside, partly because gasoline has been used as a detergent and solvent, and partly because farmers have used fixed gasoline engines to drive machines from washing machines to grain mills.

By 1914, there were 1.7 million registered cars in the United States, compared with 8000 in 1900. The number of cars in New York City surpassed the number of horses for the first time in 1912, and the gap gradually widened over the next 10 years. By 1920, 500000 horses were made into pet food and fed to cats and dogs every year. “In addition to transporting some goods in the local short distance, the horses keep leaving the city and will never come back.”.

The invention of wind power technology is also much earlier than our usual impression: Marcellus Jacob and Joe Jacob brothers manufactured the first batch of commercial wind turbines in the 1920s, but gradually lost the market in the 1950s due to cost problems. The invention of silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells began in Bell Laboratories in the 1950s. The solar energy conversion power of the first batch of silicon PV cells in Bell Laboratories was 6%. However, with the improvement of boron doping and production technology, the power was increased to 11% by 1955. Scientists at Bell Laboratories estimate that the maximum efficiency of its photovoltaic cells is about 22%. Photovoltaic power generation began to be applied on a large scale, thanks to the high oil price during the first oil crisis in the 1970s: Southern California Edison started the first megawatt solar power plant near the town of hispiria in the Mojave Desert in 1982.

However, in terms of supply stability, all power generation methods are not comparable to nuclear power: in 2016, the average capacity coefficient of the U.S. nuclear power plants, whose capacity accounted for nearly 20% of the country’s electricity, was 92.1%, which means that they have 336 days of full power operation in 365 days a year (the other 29 days were isolated from the power grid for maintenance). In contrast, the time for stable power generation of U.S. hydropower system is 38% (138 days per year), that of wind turbine is 34.7% (127 days per year), and that of solar photovoltaic power station is only 27.2% (99 days per year). Even power plants powered by coal or natural gas can only guarantee about half of the power generation time.

In addition, the charge flowing from the generator to the power socket occurs almost instantaneously, which means that it must be generated in real time to meet the demand. Therefore, energy storage for power generation has become a major problem: at present, there are only two feasible mainstream methods: battery energy storage or pumped storage. A major constraint to the extensive use of wind, solar and water power is that coal or natural gas power plants must be prepared to supplement the power grid when they cannot work effectively due to weather, commonly known as peak shaving.



Chart source: energy biography: a history of human survival crisis, written by richardrhodes, people’s daily press

Italian physicist Cesare macheti believes that from an economic point of view, “the basic assumption is that – this assumption has been proved to be very effective and powerful – the main energy, secondary energy and energy distribution system, but different technologies compete for the market, they should also have corresponding performance”. Society is a learning system. It works by spreading culture – ideas from one person to another – just as epidemics spread. The invention of new technology is just the beginning. Henry Ford’s Model T needs a gas station. Gas stations need gasoline, which comes from oil. Oil must be discovered first, processed by refineries, and transported to refineries through pipelines. Gasoline must be transported to cities where cars are parked. People have to give up riding or horse drawn cars, choose to buy cars, learn how to drive, and so on.

Brian Arthur pointed out in his book the essence of technology that new technology is inevitably rough. “In the early days, it was enough if it could be used,” he wrote After its first appearance, Arthur went on to write that “new technologies must now have appropriate components to make them reliable, improved and scaled up, and effectively applied to different uses”. This makes it possible for “new energy” to be invested and improved on a large scale only when it has cost advantages.

Luis de Sousa, a Portuguese political scientist, explained: “all energy sources in the industrial age follow a similar trend when entering the market

It will take 40 to 50 years for these kinds of energy sources to expand from 1% to 10% of the market share. To eventually occupy half of the market share, it will take nearly a century from the time when the market share reaches 1%. “

“For many Elizabethan Britons, coal was the excrement of the devil, like many who oppose nuclear power today,” Rhodes wrote. The energy issue has become politicized.

If we put aside our vision and only focus on the chart itself, whether Ningde times, Longji shares or BYD, its market value, stock price, and operating time cycle are basically synchronized with the crude oil price. At the lowest point of crude oil price, Tesla and musk were at a loss and nearly collapsed. The realization of the “general trend” is much more tortuous than we imagined:


In july2008, the international crude oil price once reached a high point, which was 146.08 US dollars per barrel (currently about 120 US dollars). At that time, in order to stabilize the economy, the Chinese government used subsidies and decoupling oil prices from the market to drive down the price of refined oil. At that time, the price of No. 93 gasoline in Beijing was 6.2 yuan per liter. However, as the per capita car ownership in China was very small at that time, the move also attracted criticism of “subsidizing the rich”.

Later, the domestic oil price began to connect with the international market. At the same time, from photovoltaic, wind power to electric vehicles, the government launched a strategy of large-scale subsidies to support the development of new energy. Just two years ago, with the low oil price at the beginning of the global epidemic in 2020, people still doubted the future of electric vehicles. However, the new crown is not over yet, and the soaring oil price makes people believe that a new era is coming.

The historical process of new energy needs to be driven by the price crisis of old energy. No old energy price crisis? Then we should create the price crisis of old energy through war and politics, which is also a kind of promotion and subsidy. As we all know, the 2008 western financial crisis was finally mitigated by China. However, in the face of today’s broader and more systematic crisis, it is unrealistic to expect to continue breathing like that in those years.

The longer the era of high oil prices lasts, the longer the window period of battery and alternative energy power generation technology will be. If we are really worried about the climate crisis and global warming, we should restrict the use and exploitation of coal, oil and natural gas, continuously reduce supply, keep the price of “old energy” rising, and make the “arbitrage space” of Fengshui nuclear sustainable, so as to speed up the process of energy substitution.

Both are at the expense of the current “welfare”. The utility of subsidies for new technologies is uneconomical. The only difference lies in whether they are subsidized through government public subsidies or through the utility premium of consumers. The green waters and green mountains belong to who, and the golden mountains and silver mountains belong to who. There is no need for consistency and will not be consistency.

If you want to achieve energy independence at the national level, put the battery in your pocket. This subsidy for the application of non fossil energy technologies will really continue for some time in the future until its cost is completely “cabbage”. However, in the future, it may be realized by paying a “premium” by consumers.

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