May 4, 2010 – The “Black Swan” Solution to Our Energy Problems

Featured Trades: (LED BULBS), (GE)

4) The "Black Swan" Solution to Our Energy Problems. I firmly believe that simple solutions to our energy problems will come out of the blue, and are something no one is thinking about now. Here is one of them. General Electric (GE) is about to start mass production of their 'Smart Energy LED Bulb' which can screw into a conventional socket and produce the same amount of light as a 40 watt bulb, but consume only nine watts of power. Some 22% of America's electric power supply is used for lighting, and this bulb could cut our total consumption by 17.6%. Other bulb manufacturers are getting into the game, like Philips, Osram, Toshiba, and Panasonic, some with more efficient designs. The downside is that, while they last 25,000 hours, or ten times longer than a conventional incandescent bulb, they will initially cost $40-$50. Economies of scale are expected to bring costs down dramatically in a few years. The Department of Energy has selected Seattle as the test bed for an all LED (light emitting diode) public lighting system. Here is another game changer for our energy woes. If you double engine efficiencies, US oil consumption drops by half. This is not so hard to do. One of the first things you learn in a physics class is how inefficient an internal combustion engine is, using hundreds of moving parts to convert only 25% of the energy input into motion.  Diesel engines do better at 40%. Electric motors have five moving parts and are vastly more efficient, some advanced models converting up to 80% of energy into motion. It all reinforces my belief that we are going to see $300/barrel oil in the foreseeable future, because none of these alternatives will kick in fast enough, and then $10 barrel when they finally all hit at once.