The “100 Mpg Prize” and Other Energy Stories

Michael Giberson

Speed blogging a few stories:

“The ’100 mpg prize’: An idea whose time has passed?” by Ken Paulman

Earlier this week, California GOP Rep. Dan Lungren introduced a bill that would offer a $1 billion prize to the first automaker than can put 60,000 cars achieving 100 mpg on the road. Only requirement – the cars have to run on gasoline.

The bill is intended as an alternative to further government investment in electric and hybrid cars. And once you get past the irony that the party that excoriates “picking winners and losers” wants to predetermine what kind of fuel we’ll all be using in the future, it’s hard to argue with an effort to develop more efficient gasoline cars. After all, even by the rosiest of projections, the majority of cars on the road 20 years from now will still run on gas.

So can government bounties for innovation work?

Paulman takes a long at the 18th century history of The Longitude Prize. I wonder if the various X Prizes would be a better, since more recent, analog.

“Revolt Brews as Tepco Seeks Higher Rates” by Phred Dvorak and Mitsuru Obe in the Wall Street Journal. (Sub.)

TOKYO—Tokyo Electric Power Co. and other utilities are starting to see revolt by some of their biggest customers, as rising fuel costs and the shutdown of nuclear reactors push Japan’s already-steep electricity costs even higher.

A handful of companies, such as Tokyo Steel Co. and cosmetics maker Kose Corp., have said they are considering switching electricity providers if Tepco, Japan’s biggest utility, boosts corporate rates around 17% as proposed in January. Other customers have complained privately, Tepco said.

It is possible for large consumers to switch power providers in Japan, but complicated, and the tight supply market is making a switch even harder to arrange. I wonder if the challenges will push Japan toward a more regimented market or a more liberalized power market?

ALSO: Energy secretary backs natural gas exports at least for now, though the logic is a bit convoluted. (“The low price of natural gas is hurting domestic job growth” and “Exporting natural gas means wealth comes into the United States.” Okay, Mr. Secretary, so do you think the high price of oil is good for domestic job growth? Does importing oil mean wealth leaves the United States?

AND: Sierra Club took $26M from gas industry to fight coal-fired plants. So is this like one bootlegger funding a baptist campaign against the other bootleggers? The Sierra Club decided to stop taking the money in 2010 (mostly from Chesapeake Energy’s CEO Aubrey McClendon) after deciding it didn’t want money from fracked natural gas wealth.

FINALLY: Gasland‘s Josh Fox arrested at U.S. House hearing on fracking. Apparently his request to film was declined because his crew didn’t have Capitol media clearance, and he took his crew to the hearing anyway. The linked report says he knew there was a chance he’d be arrested, and it is likely the case that the arrest will be much more valuable to him than actually filming the hearing would have been. (Here is the House Science Committee subsequent statement on media coverage of the hearing; it mentions that the event was webcast and is now archived on the committee’s website. See link on this page. Unfortunately, all the fun happened before the meeting begun.)