Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Assault on batteries

I'm stunned that technology is still so bad for storing energy. Energy production is hard enough, but to have to use it immediately makes things that much more inefficient. Wind energy, for example, can't be sure it will produce enough to satisfy people's needs at any given time, so it must be supplemented with other generators, which usually turn out to be coal or natural gas-based. If only we had good batteries!

The more immediate need, of course, is for small batteries we can fit into cars and such. Even if we can produce clean power on a large scale, we'll still be dependent on less clean portable fuels for transit unless we can harness large scale power production for use on a small scale. That's one reason for the push for investments into electrically powered cars and batteries, which the President has recently pushed as part of a $2.4 billion investment into the technology. Given the potential positive externalities it seems an arguably appropriate government investment, but in addition to the usual notes that increasing the deficit isn't a good idea, detractors note that Asian countries like China, Japan, and Korea already have a head start, and we may or may not catch up.

It's always tough to predict winning investments, and as far as I know, governments don't have a better track record than anyone else. It would be great if this turned out to be a winning bet, but who knows?

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