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@harveyD The problem I have seen with any plastics based product it its ability to maintain over time. All plasic based components I have seen get weaker and more brittle with age. Magnesium is used quite a bit already, it becomes a bit of a problem during vehicle fires however.
From my experience the motivator is not size of the people, but capability of the vehicle, and signaling. Lots of people have trailers, boats, larger parcels of land, etc. requiring a truck. I know the average height and BMI of the world is increasing thanks to modern agriculture supplying increased calories available to people at lower cost but this is not the primary motivator in my experience.
@Harveyd Wouldn't a national sales tax and higher fuel taxes be even more regressive than the current system? While you propose 0 taxes on the first 20k the current system has earned income tax credit for levels above that to act as an income redistribution system. So in a way you would be balancing the budget on the backs of the people who can least afford to contribute.
@engineer-poet I believe that your interpretation of consumers being irrational by their vehicle purchase may be incorrect. They simply value thing differently than you or I. Perhaps they value the signaling, or the utility, or some other attribute more than the fuel cost differential between a large vehicle and a small vehicle. By and large people are mostly rational. There is however a branch of economics that looks at seemingly irrational behavior and attempts to better understand the psychology behind it, behavioral economics. Physics and chemistry training I do lack, however my 10 years in the automotive field working on gas, diesel, hybrid, and light electric vehicles before I got into finance and economics does give me some insight to vehicle technology. That is why I find this site interesting. As to the history of technological change, economics it built on the backs of men who lived during the largest technology change in human history, the industrial revolution. Adam Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, Marx and many others who were the fathers of the field were doing so to understand the role of humans and technological change. I do agree that some of economics does suffer from the Ricardian vice of holding too many things constant, and slavishly adhering to limited models, but that is mostly due to the influx of math and physics majors masquerading as economists as the field has attempted to give itself the patina of science. If you look at advanced (phd) level econ, you would see math on the level you took for and engineering degree. The policy prescriptions you have proposed are a very mixed bag. Command and control designs have more often than not failed. CAFE is the worst possible way to move automakers to more efficient vehicle production. Taxes to correct market pricing failures due to negative social/public externalities is the least distorting and least likely to promote rent seeking behaviors and in my opinion should be used. The increase in the market price has already caused more of a transition than CAFE ever did, look at sales of smaller vehicles and v-6 powered pickups. Did you ever think you would see the day when Ford was selling more v- 6 powered pickups than v8? 10 years ago did you think there would be such a crush of 35+ mpg vehicle entering the market place? Most people did not. The price signal works and should allowed to continue working. As to your idea of what “the economist’s” reaction to food scarcity would be I believe you are incorrect. From my training the most common response would be an increase in the price of food causing self-rationing and a signal to producers to increase the use of planting area to take advantage of the high prices. The cure for high prices is high prices. That being said it is the role of the government to have proper regulation to not allow manipulation of the market, something it fails at all too often. I as a person not and economist believe that we as the more fortunate through the government as they are the most efficient actor in the role should assist the least able to obtain food and other basic human dignities.
I was trying to get a discussion going not about the validity of peak oil, but rather about the scare tactics used by some in the movement. I never stated that peak oil hypothesis was wrong, in fact I believe that we will hit it and maybe soon. I was blindsided by the very low level of understanding of economics however. To say that most economist do not believe that almost all resources are finite is waaayyy off base. I do not believe that we will run out, nor do I believe there will be huge social upheaval due to the decline in oil. The beauty that is the price signal will move us to the next best alternative in the most orderly and efficient way possible. Just as we had peak whale oil we will have peak dinosaur juice. Just as we transitioned in the past, we will in the future. As to the invisible hand, yes I do believe that all of us following our own self-interest will lead to the most efficient transition from petroleum to whatever replaces it. The price signal will cause us to conserve, and will motivate the entry of new technologies that are as efficient into the market. I am against the use of government to distort incentives be it for the production of petroleum or for “green energy”. I am all for government support for research, as it is a public good and would be under produced without subsidies.
Actually economics exist because of scarce resources and unlimited desires for resources. Economics goal is to study and advise the most efficient use of these scarce resources. The hypothetical economist in your world would agree that there are only 10 coins, but would believe that the likely increasing marginal cost to find the final coins would precipitate an increase in the market price of the resource (coins) leading to the exploration of alternative resources to coins. It would likely end up that the final coin('s) may never be extracted due to the high marginal cost, and the use of alternatives. Please look into economics; it is defined in the field as the study of the allocation of scarce resources to a world of unlimited desires! While there is a finite amount of oil in the ground at this time, I do not believe we will ever "run out" of oil. Just as in the example I cited above the marginal cost and suitability of alternatives will make exploration and extraction of these final reserves uneconomical. So fear not petroleum lovers we will never "run out".
I am actually a trained economist, so education is not really lacking. The problem I see is that most people who are environmentally minded are not educated in finance or economics. I realize that the stated reserves of this field are a drop in the barrel of world consumption, but in concert with discoveries such as Brazil, ever-advancing extraction technology, and the likely reserves in the arctic there is small probability for a crisis. The reason we use oil as our primary transport fuel is that it is the most cost effective alternative at this point in history. When it no longer is there will be a transition. Who benefits from peak oil lies? The folks who wish to force via mandates and laws their social engineering ideas on the rest of society. The rent seeking for grants and subsidies in "green energy" that cannot be sustained by the market benefit as well. Look at Germany and solar power. That boondoggle only exists because of distorting subsidies. Wind is kind of a joke, look at the money spent on the offshore wind power in Great Briton the cost the power produced is more expensive than nuclear! Along with the fact that we will still need just as much base load power production as the sun only shines at most half the day and the wind is not constant while demand is. I stated that peak production is possible, but the invisible hand of the market will be our salvation. For the record, I do believe that there are negative externalities that are underpriced in fossil fuel production. I also believe in the greenhouse effect, the earth is round, and evolution.
Oh god peak oil is coming!!!! Oh wait large new oil discovery... Oh god peak oil is coming!!!! There is no shortage of oil, just the really cheap and easy to get oil. The incentive to find oil is directly related to demand and price. Even when peak production does occur the invisible hand will work its magic, demand will reduce as price increases, and the incentive to produce alternatives will increase accordingly. To the disappointment of some of the frequent commenters on this site, it most likely will not change life as much as they would like it to, we humans are incredible at finding ways to maintain our lifestyle. Chicken Little environmentalism only hurts the movement by showing its lack of intellect.
Why do people wear jewlery? It requires mining and smelting and all kinds of really nasty stuff. SIGNALING!!! It is the same with trucks in the culture of parts of the US. Why people pay more for shirts with logos on them when a plain shirt is cheaper and requires less energy to produce?
Harvey, Fords hybrid tech in the escape and the fusion is equal to and in the case of the fusion exceeds that of the the all might savior Toyota. So the main hang up is availability of batteries for these vehicles at a price that makes them profitable. This next generation Focus will be a global platform, more like the EU Focus. I personally think that battery electric vehicles are like hydrogen powered vehicles, they are the power source of the future and always will be.
I personally think this is a sign that people when faced with economic realities are realizing that the premium for hybrids does not contain enough value to offset the opportunity cost of the funds used to buy these vehicles. A wise decision in my opinion.