Electricity is a funny thing. I get it from my wall. I get it from batteries. But electricity isn’t something that’s harvested directly from the world. There aren’t natural electricity wells that we drill to get the juice. Electricity is an abstraction of energy to humans. (Scientifically, it’s pure energy. For a human, it’s abstract.) Increasing this energy abstraction is a Good Idea.
Although I’m living in Berlin for the time being, I know all too well about the gas prices in the States. The U.S. is loud, very loud. The price of gas has always been a national issue. “How’s your gas price?” is an acceptable pick-up line. We obsess over it. But the idea of putting a “raw” energy source into something you use is an antiquated idea. Cars are the the only things we exempt from the 21st century, really.
When my computer depletes its energy, I plug it into a wall. When my phone depletes its energy, I plug it into my computer. All the lights in my apartment draw their electricity from the building’s wiring. I don’t have to walk down the street to get a few gallons of electricity for my house for that week. Instead all of this is delivered to me in my state of blissful ignorance: I don’t know nor do I care whether my specific amps were sucked from a river, pulled from the sky or extracted from blocks of radioactive metal.
To someone that writes code, this makes a lot of sense. Most computer programmers do not write in 1’s and 0’s. They write in high-level, abstract languages. They operate on the safe assumption that the lower levels will handle themselves accordingly. If there’s an error in a fundamental component, there’s usually a backup available. The failover triggers. The programmers do not worry. The computer will eventually translate each line of code into the appropriate bundles of 1’s and 0’s, avoiding the corrupted specks on the hard drive and weaving around stalled programs.
So as a programmer, marrying a major form of transportation to a singular energy source is odd, if not downright dangerous. It’s been necessary for awhile given the bulkiness of batteries and the relative efficiency of gas. But more and more all-electric vehicles are coming onto the market. These cars are great not because they are saving the environment but because they decouple the price of travel from the price of the fuel source. They are good for the environment now, but they have the potential to be even better for the environment as the world eventually shifts to cleaner energy sources. “The only car that is better tomorrow, than it was today.”
We should be encouraged—especially in fatter years—to do the best to increase our energy abstraction. Make cleaner and more efficient batteries. Worrying about MPGs and EPAs is short-sighted. Decreasing the carbon emissions in a class of vehicles is making a better cigarette filter. “Energy independence” is not a hedge against volatile nations, it’s independence from a specific source.
I hope that one day we can all have grandkids sitting on our laps, telling them about how people would change their driving habits because of changes in the price of gas. In the future, where I’m hopefully not too bald, all energy is abstracted. The grandkids would stare at us blankly. And then we’d all have one of those chortles that only a grandfather makes. Then they’ll go back to playing with their Apple (temporarily Apple-Exxon) iPad 63s.