Ex-Intel CEO Andy Grove spoke before a crowd of 600 enthusiastic, hybrid car folks at Plug-in 2008 earlier this week. He started his speech with a reminder that one month ago Russia effectively declared war on the Czech Republic by stopping shipment of natural gas.
Why? Because the Czech government said it favoured NATO and the EU. Two days later, the Czech government changed its mind and suddenly natural gas was again flowing from Russia. The availability of petroleum may well determine whether an economy grows or declines. For a nation like China, it can determine national political stability.
One of Grove's themes was that oil is priced as a world commodity and goes to the highest bidder. So, if the US starts pumping more oil out of the ground, it will probably go to China, because the Chinese will pay top dollar. Electricity, on the other hand, stays on the continent where it is produced. Andy called this 'stickiness'. This stickiness will move America away from importing 75% of their oil for transportation.
Another theme was that the world’s wealthy nations have neglected the obvious: they have allowed energy to become similar to a farmer who has too many sheep grazing a small patch of land, and no other plan on how to feed the herd. The world has depleted its oil and not planned for another way to power transportation.
Grove said over half of Americans drive alone less than 20 miles to work in gas guzzling SUVs and pickups which get 12 to 16 miles per gallon. He proposed converting 10 million of those gas guzzler SUVs and pickup trucks to 30% electric power in four years. This will save a lot of fuel, because SUVs and pickups now consume 40% of America's gasoline.
Our speaker, the former CEO and founder of Intel, is the author of 'Only the Paranoid Survive' and four other business books. So Grove, always the pragmatic visionary, had a five step outline for achieving energy resilience. First was his retrofit program for millions of gas guzzlers. He admitted that the regulators would have to help by giving concessions for the modifications. This will make the SUVs and pickups into dual-fuel vehicles.
Andy Grove introduced the work of another Andy - Andy Frank, a University of California at Davis professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering. His team’s re-engineered Chevy Equinox SUV was a unique entry in the national Challenge X competition, sponsored by the US Department of Energy and GM. Professor Frank is generally considered to be the inventor of the modern plug-in hybrid.
Next, Grove spotlighted the work of HEVT.com and the electric-motor boosted Ford F-150 pickup which also participated in the competition.
This will shift Americans into electric powered vehicles for a majority of their transportation needs. Additional electricity for the grid will come from multiple sources including solar, wind, nuclear, and existing coal power plants retrofitted to reduce CO2. Electricity can be downloaded off the grid and stored in auxiliary batteries at home, or in the electric vehicle’s battery. This is done during the low-rate, low usage night time hours. Later, during peak hours, unused power can be uploaded back to the grid. That battery storage, grid replenishment idea is really new.
There is a move towards an intelligent electric grid, and intelligent appliances in the homes. Many of these ideas are outlined in an article Grove wrote that was published in the July/August issue of The American Magazine.
After his speech, the audience broke up for three days of work shops on how to implement the ideas he brought up. More on those later. X