Real time substitutions are taking place in commodities due to NYC Mayor Bloomberg's schedule for all NYC taxis to be hybrids by 2012, and also the increased presence and use of other energy sources such as solar and wind. I wonder about the dire predictions of $100 per barrel oil.

I also heard today the suggestion that if U.S. drivers switched to the equivalent European models, one year's consumption Chinese oil would be saved. I wonder about countries such as Venezuela and Russia, which are heavily oil-dependent and moving in non-market friendly directions.

Henry Gifford replies:

Yes, things are changing a little. Many NYC taxis are already hybrids, the jeep looking ones. As they are driven more than other vehicles, the payback is more attractive, with drivers reporting huge savings, especially when the air conditioning is off. Looked at another way, a non-taxi hybrid sits idle most of 24 hours, yielding no payback.

Yesterday I heard about a New York State agency paying about 2/3 of the purchase cost of a solar system that has a 94-year payback. Solar is nice, but expensive.

Wind in urban areas is mostly for show, as velocities close to the earth's surface are lower than a few dozen meters, and it is hard to harvest energy from the turbulent wind currents near buildings.

This all strikes me as two examples of the government using our money for things that don't pay well. That is unless the systems installed result in property tax increases exceeding the value of the energy saved. This isn't unheard of. It would be one example of the government partly taking credit for a change already in progress, and perhaps slowing the change down in the process, by encouraging taxi owners to wait for the government to set up the plan to pay them for what some are already doing.


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