New costs, old & sunk costs

One of the arguments against e-fuels (that is, producing fuels from electricity generated; for example by electrolysing water to produce hydrogen, or synthetic methane from that hydrogen) is that it is very inefficient and wastes a lot of energy. A lot of energy storage is not worthwhile because the energy cannot be held efficiently over long time, or that they cannot be released when needed.

The gross amount of energy wasted never really seemed to be a problem when we were in the old fossil fuel world. When there’s no power generated, we are happy to flare away gaseous fuel, wash machine parts with petrol and use oil wastefully even though a lot of energy, fuel have been consumed to extract them, transport them. When converted into actual energy potential in joules, I’m pretty sure a lot of energy had been wasted all these while.

With the climate crisis and energy crisis today, reducing energy demand is a sure-win approach to mitigating those problems. Yet people are unwilling or unable to do much about it. Australia is still not adopting double-glazed windows as the standard, many countries still do not have Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for motors. Part of the reason is that supply chains are still entrenched; and people are just being caught up with their sunk costs.

There is definitely going to be a lot of new costs involved with replacing equipment, electrification, removing the need for conventional fuel and switching to renewables, adding battery energy storage systems to our grid. But by simultaneously reducing energy demand and increasing green supply, a Stanford study seem to indicate this is easily within reach. It certainly brings up a lot of interesting questions and would be worthwhile digging around to appreciate the bottlenecks better. But are we even willing to take that first step of digging around? Or do we prefer covering up?