Robert Preston as Professor Herald Hill in the movie The Music Man was a spell-binding travelling salesman promoting schoolboy’s bands complete with lessons, uniforms and instruments. Professor Hill targeted River City, Iowa. Happily for Herald a pool table arrived at at the same time and installed in the local billiard hall. Grasping the arrival as a prop to promote his band products, the quick thinking Professor composed a captivating song about the evils of pool versus billiards. He sang ” My friends you have trouble right here in River City; trouble and that starts with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool”. Today he could well sing “My friends you have trouble right here in River City and across the world; trouble and that starts with a capital T and that rhymes with E and that stands for energy”
Acknowledging the existence of energy troubles in River City and across the world, how can anyone make any sense of the issues and solutions? Substance gives way to a constant barrage of blah blah. Worse the blah blah is frequently contradictory. Even worse quantification quickly morphs into claims such as huge offshore winds can reduce fossil fuel consumption in the United Kingdom by forty percent, or cell phones are massive consumers of energy, enough to power ten thousand homes, or nuclear energy is civilization’s worst enemy because the tons of spent rod will contaminate the world.
Political forums provide no respite. With all sincerity elected officials advance diametrically opposed solutions to the same problem. One will say “if we’re going to cut gaseous effluents sixty percent by 2050 there is no other way except by renewables”. A civil servant associated with the party in opposition speaking in favor of nuclear expansion, said “anybody who is relying upon renewables to fill the energy gap is living in an utter dream world and is, in my view, an enemy of the people. (2)
So what is a mere mortal to do?
Let us imagine that somewhere in this wide world there is a dedicated venture so ambitious as to utilize renewable energy, develop the complete power storage equipment, construct competitive vehicles, build a dedicated fuel distribution system and an innovative product distribution structure. All of this is accomplished as a profitable private sector venture.
Professor Herald Hill would sing “My friends we have a potential energy alternative right here in River City and around the world. As a blatant promoter his song would exclude verse after verse about the multitude and magnitude of the risks. He might add, the Tesla experiment is one of the largest private sector ventures of its kind in history.
By way of review, Tesla’s corporate strategy is the build of an energy related corporation, assimilating solar power, electrical storage, energy distribution and electric engines. Say what?
Can solar power do the necessary massive electric generating job? Tesla thinks so. A measure of their conviction is the acquisition of Solar City to the tune of three billion dollars.
Can the lithium-ion battery do the energy storage job? Tesla says yes; storage capacity is fundamental. Progress is indicated by the rapid increase in these batteries to do the job.
Can an electric powered auto look and act like the cars we now own and love? Simply put, check out the currently available models. These are not elaborate golf carts.
Can renewable energy make economic sense without subsidization? Tesla recognizes that subsidies are available for the purchase of electric powered vehicles. The continuation or expansion of such programs are matters of conjecture.
Tesla has availed themselves of incentives related to research, product development, plant location, employment costs, and to Solar City. Unquestionably the amount has been substantial. Worldwide, all manners of location inducements are negotiable; high technology ventures even more so. Tesla has and will benefit from these opportunities.
Can a manufacturing process be created out of nowhere to produce millions of vehicles? Tesla has a one five point three million square foot plant in California with more on the drawing board. State of the art technology highlights the facility; robots are everywhere.
Can distribution and maintenance systems be organized eschewing traditional methods? Tesla’s main focus is an online system with company service centers, replacing the traditional dealership model.
Will entrenched competition from traditional producers prevent success? The Fords of the world will not standby and be eradicated. Tesla faces severe competition; their response-bring it on.
Are sufficient financial and human resources available? Tesla’s current balance sheet shows five and half billion dollars of paid in capital and losses to date of two and half billion dollars. The company will require new capital. The availability is not assured. Employment now stands at fourteen thousand and growing. Recruiting has not been problem.
Will vehicle demand remain at traditional levels? Tesla believes so.
This is an authentic high risk project with the potential of providing access to low cost fuels powering electric engines whose efficiency is much higher compared to the internal combustion engine.
Tesla investors vision the evolution of a competitive product prospering without subsidies.
Bonuses- unlike most energy enterprises, the Tesla trial provides transparency and score cards in real time. Company documents, external audits, the Securities and Exchange Commission and countless financial analyst ensure an avalanche of information. Most notable, documentation emphasizes the major risks that permeate every part of a huge economic venture. Gone is the blah blah.
A story worthy of inclusion in Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air by David McKay (2).
Herald Hill would surely welcome the opportunity to sell Tesla stock to the citizens of River City; a cake walk compared to band instruments.
(1) Five methods of measuring energy
(2)Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air by David JC McKay UIT Cambridge Ltd. page 2