Army.ca Forums

The Newsroom => International Defence and Security => Topic started by: redleafjumper on December 01, 2005, 14:56:08

Title: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: redleafjumper on December 01, 2005, 14:56:08
A scary strategic problem to ponder.  


Recently I read a report on the status of oil reserves and consumption rates.   Like many, I have never been very concerned about gas and oil as there seems to be a lot available and it didn't really seem to me to be something to worry about.   I have regarded alarmist comments in the popular press about oil and energy sources as mere conspiracy theories.   I was wrong.   There is a problem with oil and it really is something to be concerned about.   Here's a synopsis of the situation:

The OPEC countries and especially Saudi Arabia have the largest reserves of oil.   Other nations, particularly Russia also have large reserves.   Canada doesn't have huge actual oil reserves, but our tar sands and oil put us in second place in the world after Saudi Arabia for being able to produce oil, even if the process is expensive.  

According to the unpublished report and my own supplementary investigation (do a google search for "world without oil" to get a taste) in the best case scenario, including maximum, not actual, reserve estimates at just current consumption rates, the world will be out of accessible oil in 50 years.   This time frame doesn't consider increasing consumption.   Mid-point of oil reserves will occur at around 2007!   From then on, oil demand will go up and the existing stocks will go down.   Oil is not a renewable resource; it doesn't grow back, so when it is gone it is gone.

So what's the strategic problem?   Well to spell it out, there will be considerably more pressure on existing oil in the short term.   There will be conflict over existing oil reserves.   The United States, China and Europe are huge consumers of oil and they do not have reserves that will support their needs.   Countries that have oil will be under tremendous pressure to provide it and there will not be enough to meet needs.   We have oil and others will want it.   Selling Canadian oil to China will not be popular with our southern neighbours.   The cars and trucks we drive are part of the problem, but the biggest consumer of oil isn't the automobile, it is the industrial and agricultural base for which we rely on everything we have.   We have more than just a military and strategic problem and the solutions are not apparent.

There is some discussion on alternative energy sources, such as solar power, hydrogen fuel cells, nuclear energy, wind and tide power, etc.   The problem is that all of these ideas rely heavily on, you guessed it - oil.   In ancient times sources of minerals to make metal were relatively accessible and surface mining was used to gather the resources.   Those non-renewable resources are gone and we now rely heavily on mining.   Mining cannot happen without oil.   Even the hydrogen fuel cells require platinum to work.   Platinum needs to be mined.   Powering resource extraction equipment from chainsaws to feller-bunchers and mining equipment all requires oil.   Solar power, batteries and wind power simply cannot power logging trucks or very much industrial equipment.   Even agriculture cannot produce enough oil to replace some of uses of the fossil fuels without dramatic changes that would seriously impact the food supply.   There will be no trains, no planes, no automobiles.   There will be extensive reworking of scrap metal.  

When the oil is gone, there will not be any means of supporting the infrastructure that currently exists.   That is, no transportation of food, no manufacturing of metal, or plastics, no mining, no ships, no air travel, etc.   This lack (not shortage) of oil will have a dramatic impact on how people live and interact.   It will affect all aspects of civilization as we know it.   It will dramatically affect world population.   It is a problem for us, not in 50 years when there is none left, but probably in the next 10 to 15 years as it becomes clear to people and governments that there won't be any more.

In a period shorter than the time since World 2 to now we will be out of oil.   Imagine what it will be like in 20 to 30 years as the situation deteriorates.   What will our country look like?   Will we have one?   We have some serious challenges to overcome, not the least of which is what our defence policy should be in the light of this situation.

But don't believe me.   Look into it yourself.  

(edited to correct sentence error)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Infanteer on December 01, 2005, 15:06:58
Is this your writing or something you got emailed to you?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: redleafjumper on December 01, 2005, 15:09:10
No one e-mailed it to me, I wrote it. 
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Infanteer on December 01, 2005, 15:15:44
Okay, it came off as an Internet spam-mail.  Given that you actually wrote it, I'll read it.  :)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Bert on December 01, 2005, 16:55:48
I can't say how factual this is but to support Redleafjumper's article, I found a
document on the 'net.  http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/

Even if the conclusions are subjective, it discusses a very real problem.  We've
also noticed alot of recent attention by China, Japan, the US, and the EU in landing
on and characterizing asteriods/comets. 

Eventually, resources on Earth wil be depleted to the point that other alternatives
in other places will be sought.  Between now and then it may be a scrounge for
who gets what in the world community.  We are seeing some of that now with
Chinese, Indian, EU, and US resource interests .
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Not a Sig Op on December 01, 2005, 17:12:04
Don't know, I'd say it's all quite alarmist, it's mostly based on the assumption that the bulk of power produced is produced by burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, but no where in the article that Bert provided at least, could I find an actual reference to how much electricity is generated from fossil fuels versus from alternatives (Hydroelectricity, Nuclear Power, etc). That being said, I'm guessing you'll find that most of the article was written around a theoretical where all electricity used in the production/manufacturing cycle is produced from fossil fuels.

Given that *all* uses for fossil fuels have alternatives (Admitedly, fossil fuels are the most viable for the time being), I can see a bump in the economy happening in the short term when oil shortages become a reality, but no long term catastrophic crash... just as long as it takes for resourceful people to build alternatives to fill the demand.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 02, 2005, 01:17:18
The article seems to be in the thrall of zero sum economics. In the past, our ancestors faced similar problems, such as the deforestation of Elizabethan England. The escalating price of wood led to conservation. then substitution. Coal became the heart of the industreal revolution.

Similarly, the ever increasing price of oil will drive us first to conservation (how much driving will you do with gas selling at $2+ litre), and eventually substitution. So called renewables are too variable and have too low of an energy density to be really viable solutions with today's state of the art (I have done the business plan for photovoltaic roof shingles; the payback time is astronomical), so the substitution will be some form of nuclear energy, either fission or fusion. Beyond that, well you will have to fill in the details.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: couchcommander on December 02, 2005, 01:26:54
I've heard the common response is that while this may be true of current existing and known (or even just currently used) reserves, we continue to find new resevers all the time. I can't really say how true this is though.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: clasper on December 03, 2005, 09:14:47
I've heard the common response is that while this may be true of current existing and known (or even just currently used) reserves, we continue to find new reserves all the time. I can't really say how true this is though.
We continue to find new reserves all the time, but not at the same rate we used to.  There is a much debated theory called Hubbert's Peak.  Hubbert (in the 1950's) examined all of the new oilfield discoveries in the US, and came up with a predictive model.  Examining new discoveries is difficult because oil companies tend to lie about what, where, and when they found something in order to keep things quiet while they evaluate the discovery, then trumpet their success to impress the shareholders, then go quiet again if the results don't turn out as well as their predictions.  Hubbert's model attempted to correct the oil companies' misinformation, and posited that peak oil production in the US would peak 40 years after the peak was reached in discoveries.  Hubbert predicted that US production would peak in 1970, and decline after that- he was wrong by a year.  US production peaked in 1971.

The best guesses for the peak in worldwide discoveries say they happened roughly 40 years ago.  Some people have claimed that we have reached peak production (and Chevron is starting to discuss this publicly), whereas others contend we're not there yet.

Extrapolating Hubbert's theory from US domestic production to worldwide production poses some problems.  The most exacerbating one is that whereas US oil companies tend to lie a bit about their discoveries, major resource holders like Saudi Aramco lie a lot, and there isn't really any good data for discoveries made in Russia (which has a large amount of oil).  There are other reasons why Hubbert's theory may not be easily extrapolated (like the increase in technology in the industry, improved reservoir management, etc.) 

Overall it's a pretty muddy debate, but a few things are clear: oil is non-renewable, and will run out at some point.  Alternative energies will be required some day, and recent oil prices suggest alternatives are needed quite soon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubbert%27s_peak

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: redleafjumper on December 03, 2005, 11:37:22
The comparison of the depletion (not merely shortage) of a non-renewable resource to the shortage of a renewable resource such as trees does not hold.  As stated, oil is not renewable, it isn't possible to plant more.  Even thought there have been geat strides made with synthetic oils, they still cannot be used in the same ways that the fossil fuels can be and even the synthetics require real oil.  If one was an investing type, a strong portfolio might include research and development of alternative energy sources and at least for the next several year fossil fuels.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: kincanucks on December 03, 2005, 13:22:15
Don't worry because with climate change, brought on by the burning of fossil fuels, the Arctic Ice Cap is melting at an increased rate and will soon exposed access to more oil and gas reserves.  Of course we may have to go to war with Denmark over them.

http://www.sfu.ca/casr/id-arcticviking1.htm
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Big Foot on December 03, 2005, 13:27:54
Don't forget that we also have the world's largest oil reserves in the oilsands in Alberta. Everybody seems to forget about those...
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GO!!! on December 03, 2005, 13:31:14
As the price of oil rises, other technologies will become more viable. The market will provide.

20 years ago, everyone would have laughed at you if you had stated that you would pay 50,000$ for a gasoline/electric Toyota SUV - but the price of gas rose, and such technology became not only viable, but desirable.

As majoor mentioned, we started with wood, moved to coal, now to oil, there is a next step, and it will become apparent once petroleum becomes too expensive.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: FatwogCpl on December 03, 2005, 13:36:47
the next step will only become apparent when the oil companies are no longer making money. Besides the move from wood to coal to oil was a technological one not economic.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 03, 2005, 13:38:14
WRT trees, although they are renewable, are you going to down tools for 80 years waiting for them to grow back? The deforestation in Elizabethen England was as critical to them in real terms as oil shortages are to us today.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: FatwogCpl on December 03, 2005, 13:43:33
I see your point, perhaps it was both. It's more efficient for locomotives, ships etc. to create steam with coal rather than wood and making an automoble that runs on coal would have just been impractical. the only next logical step was petrol. i guess you could say the the step beyond is nuclear, but we just have not down sized that enough to run my wifes SUV  ;D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Target Up on December 03, 2005, 14:02:09
Besides, how much would it cost to fill up at the plutonium station?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GO!!! on December 03, 2005, 15:15:41
Although plutonium and uranium are finite resources as well, electric vehicles, powered by either nuclear or renewable sources would be my best guess.

As oil becomes more expensive, I think that harnessing waves, tides, wind and solar energy will become a better and better idea - and once it costs 400$ to fill my trucks - I'll be buying a vehicle that has an electric engine as opposed to the current 6.6L V8.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: FatwogCpl on December 03, 2005, 15:26:16
I still like the Bio-Diesel idea, there can't be anything wrong with a vehicle whose exhaust smells like french fries, It even reminds me of the Regimental Drink of 1 Svc Bn........Gravy!!
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: redleafjumper on December 03, 2005, 18:11:11
Try doing heavy resource extraction without mining equipment that is dependant on oil.  A solar powered logging truck or scraper isn't going to work very well.  Plastic making and metal for turbines and wind towers depend on oil.  It is a nasty dependance that we have created.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GO!!! on December 03, 2005, 20:14:30
The new electric motors that Toyota is putting in the Highlander Hybrid SUV is more powerful than the gasoline one. It's limitations are centered on Batteries (intolerance to cold, lifespan, price)

The technology is there, it is only a matter of the high price of hydrocarbons providing the impetus for development.

In addition to this, new extraction techniques (horizontal drilling, 02 injection, multi port extraction heads, deep extraction, etc) make the wells that were capped after 25% extraction 30 years ago becoming viable again for salvage production.

I'm not arguing that we are going to run out of oil, and there is a school of thought that states that the peak of production has already been reached. I'm saying that it is not like we don't have a safety net of new technologies, it is there.

Also, our petroleum addiction in terms of lubricants and plastics is a non issue. Less than 5% of total extraction goes to producing lube, and that part of the oil is not usable for many other purposes anyhow. Plastics are made from fuel production by - products. We will be using hydrocarbons in small amounts for uses such as this for a very long time, even after the use of petroleum as a source of energy has largely disappeared.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 04, 2005, 00:16:52
I see your point, perhaps it was both. It's more efficient for locomotives, ships etc. to create steam with coal rather than wood and making an automoble that runs on coal would have just been impractical. the only next logical step was petrol. i guess you could say the the step beyond is nuclear, but we just have not down sized that enough to run my wifes SUV  ;D

Actually, the cause and effect were reversed. Coal has a greater energy density than wood, when people had to substitute coal for wood heat they found many processes (like smelting) became easier and more efficient. Raising steam is also much easier with coal. Similarly petrolium has a greater energy density than coal, and is easier to handle since it is a liquid. Higher energy densities led to smaller engines and new technologies to harness the energy, which made cars and airplanes (among other things) practical. As a BTW, the first "car" was designed by Nicholas Joseph Cugnot and constructed by M. Brezin in 1769, and in 1857, Felix Du Temple and his brother Louis, France, flew a model monoplane whose propellers were driven by a small steam engine.

Nuclear power in its present form has a very high energy density, but the technology is not very mature, so we are living in the same sort of transition period as from wood to coal or coal to oil. As GO!!! says, the market will provide incentives to harness this technology.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Not a Sig Op on December 04, 2005, 00:49:40
If only they could master fusion power... it's going to happen eventually, but it's just not an energy solution right now...

Reference the bio-diesel that somone mentioned, not really a viable solution, takes way to much land to produce sufficient quantities of natural oils to produce biodiesel for use as a fuel. It's an interesting concept, perhaps even a potential by-product of the fast-food chains that are making us ever fatter, but just not really viable.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KevinB on December 04, 2005, 01:59:05
People are using BIO Deisel off old fast food oil...  As such it is not taking anything to make (the few additives excepted).

I recommend reading Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond - its kinda frightening -- especially for those like myself who drive a V-8 Gas Gussling Behemouth (so we can drive over and crush those pesky hybrids  ;) )
 
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: TCBF on December 04, 2005, 02:12:57
Why, just a few minutes ago, I had an experiment on cold fusion going on in a glass of water right here...

... but, I got thirsty and drank it.

 ;D

Homemade bio-diesel is easy enough to make, but is mostly a summer diesel.  a buddy of mine makes it and he says it freezes when it's cold out.

Tom
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: redleafjumper on December 04, 2005, 02:21:52
I had a chemical engineer and his family over for dinner this evening and I asked him about this oil situation.  It turns out that he was quite knowledgeable about it.  He works for a refinery and is involved with research into alternative fuels.  We had a good chat about the problem and he stated that it is expected that in forty years we will be out of oil.  It will be increasingly important to conserve oil for functions that are not replaceable by other energy sources.

He was quite encouraging about bio-diesel, but not very encouraging about making synthetic jet fuel - he expects that process to be incredibly expensive. If I have this correct, he said something about using pulp-mill waste to make the diesel as the byproduct of glycerin is much more limited in that process rather than making it from other sources.  The glycerin by-product is produced in great quantities, well beyond what could be reasonably consumed.   Apparently his company has been in talks with scientist from other countries, notably Sweden.  One issue of discussion is the incredible amounts of energy required to harvest the oil from the tar sands and the fact that a lot of oil is used up to extract the oil from the tar sands.  Some see that as a terrible waste of  the resource and nuclear reactors are one thing that would save a great deal of energy and oil in the tar sands.  The problem is that nuclear power is not popular in Canada and not at all in Alberta.

He was enthusiastic about Geothermal systems for heating and cooling homes and business.  While set-up costs are expensive, the maintenance costs are low, and there is a possibility of powering the pumps and blowers with solar power.  One problem is that the 40 watt solar appliance items are presently incredibly expensive in such a system, however it is possible that as these systems become popular the price might come down, and thus shorten cost recovery time.  Quite an interesting chat, certainly more to look into.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: TCBF on December 04, 2005, 03:48:24
Interesting. Maybe those National Lampoon cartoons of coal powered Soviet WW2 aircraft  were ahead of their time!

I think right now, nuclear is the only solution, especially here in Alberta.  We can talk about clean coal all we want, but that won't last forever either.   Geo-thermal heat pumps are expensive, but that price should come down as well with economies of scale.   A real challenge will be to get totally independent houses: no sewer, water, or electrical hook-ups. 

While we are at it - let's built better and warmer houses instead of copying what they build in SoCal and Florida.

Tom   
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: George Wallace on December 04, 2005, 11:10:01
Well Tom, there are always Windmills....Some thing to chase.   ;D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 04, 2005, 13:15:01
Here is a link to an article about bio diesel. The interesting thing to note is if the numbers pan out, the entire supply of fuel for transportation could be produced with a very small amount of surface area:

http://www.unh.edu/p2/biodiesel/article_alge.html
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GO!!! on December 04, 2005, 13:20:39
There is another side to the strategic argument on the topic of oil though.

If we reduce our consumption of oil in a big way, the price of it will remain static relative to inflation, or even fall in price. This cheap oil will be able to stimulate the economies of our competitors, also giving them an edge in the area of military uses for oil.

If we were so foolish as to trade in oil as a source of energy prior to it becoming prohibitively expensive, we would in fact be hurting ourselves, and helping our competitors. (just like the Kyoto accord)

We must continue to use oil at our present pace to ensure that any surplus does not fall into the wrong hands, and when it does run out, all of the players will be on a more level field, due to extremely high prices.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KevinB on December 04, 2005, 13:31:28
Actually we are best off covertly cutting usage and creating larger strategic reserves - thus militarily we can maintain a higher level of readiness and remain operational for a longer period...

 Kyoto is a farce as it does not adress half the issues we face
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: xFusilier on December 05, 2005, 16:43:11
Actually its:

3.3L V6 - 200kW

Front (123kW)+Rear(50kW)=173kW

So if you look in terms of horsepower, yes they are less powerful, but if you look in terms of force the electric motor develops higher torque (465 N.m vs. 287 N.m).  In addition given the faster response of an electric throttle, the whole 27kW difference is probably not really noticeable.  Posted in metric to confound your Yankee Imperialist Ways ;D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GO!!! on December 05, 2005, 21:57:48
Actually its:

3.3L V6 - 200kW

Front (123kW)+Rear(50kW)=173kW

So if you look in terms of horsepower, yes they are less powerful, but if you look in terms of force the electric motor develops higher torque (465 N.m vs. 287 N.m).   In addition given the faster response of an electric throttle, the whole 27kW difference is probably not really noticeable.   Posted in metric to confound your Yankee Imperialist Ways ;D

Now that is some verifiable research!

But I digress.

I was'nt advocating the purchase of the present technology, only indicating that it is there for us at a later date, once it is perfected. I could also point out that Toyota has entered the top 3 of US auto makers, and that GM is haemorraging billions every year, but I'm sure that would be "emotional BS" too.

Anyhoo, since you brought vehicles up, I will be purchasing a new vehicle soon. I will spend in the neighborhood of $45,000 (CAD), on a new or nearly new SUV. It will be a 4x4 and on the larger end of the spectrum. What (in your opinion) should I buy from an economic and strategic standpoint? 

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: xFusilier on December 05, 2005, 22:11:26
Well if you want the opinion of a Mo-ltia guy ;D

There is no doubt that one of the factors limiting freedom of action in terms of terrorism in the west it is our dependance on Middle Eastern Oil.  Even if Canada could be self supporting in oil, we do import to replace that which we export.  If you want to follow the old, addage of "think globaly...act locally", a hybrid does make sense, doing your little bit to reduce western reliance on fossil fuels does have its merits and does have the advantage of savings at the gas pump. But I would advise you to look at the reliability of the technology in the vehicle (as you would with any vehicle).  It seems however that most of the vehicles that are being manufactured as Hybrids are fake-4x4's like the Toyata Highlander (beefed up Camry) or the Ford Escape, definately something that would be unworthy of the mandatory AIRBORNE plate (maybe someone could lone you a Logistics Branch plate?).  Personally if it was me I would hold out until Hybrids are cheaper or Fuel Cell technology gets on line.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KevinB on December 05, 2005, 22:18:02
 ::)  yeah some of that was called for...
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: xFusilier on December 05, 2005, 22:25:46
It was all tounge in cheek, not intended to give offence.

All in all said above it appear that GM does make a Chev Silverado 1500 Hybrid.  But like I said its all new technology there are very reasonable arguments both theoretical, see above, and practical (read the effects of gas prices, were all going to be telling our grandchildren about the good old days when the Liters moved faster than the Dollars).  But one has to be aware of the fact that you are buying rather new technology, so YMMV.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GO!!! on December 05, 2005, 22:33:50
Well if you want the opinion of a Mo-ltia guy ;D

I don't, I asked the guy who is convinced of the omnipotence of the US auto industry.
Quote
There is no doubt that one of the factors limiting freedom of action in terms of terrorism in the west it is our dependance on Middle Eastern Oil.   Even if Canada could be self supporting in oil, we do import to replace that which we export.   If you want to follow the old, addage of "think globaly...act locally", a hybrid does make sense, doing your little bit to reduce western reliance on fossil fuels does have its merits and does have the advantage of savings at the gas pump. But I would advise you to look at the reliability of the technology in the vehicle (as you would with any vehicle).   It seems however that most of the vehicles that are being manufactured as Hybrids are fake-4x4's like the Toyata Highlander (beefed up Camry) or the Ford Escape, definately something that would be unworthy of the mandatory AIRBORNE plate (maybe someone could lone you a Logistics Branch plate?).   Personally if it was me I would hold out until Hybrids are cheaper or Fuel Cell technology gets on line.

I suppose I could always slap a mo - litia sticker on it, do my job 3 days a month, and dispense disparging, rambling, incorrect advice too, but that would be pretty dumb, now would'nt it?  ;)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GO!!! on December 05, 2005, 22:35:01
Oh yes, and everything I just posted 10 seconds ago?

It was all tounge in cheek, not intended to give offence.  ::)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: xFusilier on December 05, 2005, 22:51:49
Quote
I suppose I could always slap a mo - litia sticker on it, do my job 3 days a month, and dispense disparging, rambling, incorrect advice too, but that would be pretty dumb, now would'nt it?

But wait a minute, thats....what...oh hold on a sec...

Quote
I don't, I asked the guy who is convinced of the omnipotence of the US auto industry.

My mistake, I'll just go back to my Lada Maintainer Correspondance Course.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 05, 2005, 22:58:06
Actually the Honda Ridgeline looks like a good compromise between fuel economy, practicality and LCF. That "trunk" in the load bed is a pretty interesting idea.

At this point in time, I would still be more concerned with what I "need" rather than the theoretical MPGs? Since I have a young family I need a minivan to get around, and the one with the most practicality (based on renting and using the offerings of the "Big Three") was the Caravan. If you need an SUV for real off road or heavy duty use then your choice should be different from someone who drives their SUV on the city streets all the time.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GO!!! on December 06, 2005, 12:46:00
Baker,

While your information is enlightening, I am looking at a 2004/05 Tahoe as representing my requirements the best. For about the same amount of money though, (or less) I can buy a Toyota Sequoia, with approximately the same capabilities. The rub?

The Toyota's fuel economy is far superior to the Chevy, and it retains value quite a bit better too. Considering I tow a boat, camper and carry building materials for my cottage quite regularly as well, the full size is a plus.

While I realise that Toyota parts are more expensive, as I only intend to own this vehicle for 5 years max, this is not really an issue for either vehicle. The shop rate in Edmonton for Chevy and Toyota is the same (100$/hr) for warranty required maintenance.

I would like to buy North American, keeping money and jobs here, but when it will cost me approximately 8,000$ (estimated difference in cost of ownership over 5 years) to do so, I really have a hard time justifying it.

Why should I buy American? (I am trying to be convinced here !)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GO!!! on December 06, 2005, 15:57:57
The paradiGM model looks good!

I would not have believed that 30mpg from a Tahoe was possible.

1) How often will the batteries (the 42V one that powers the veh) fail, is their operation affected by the cold, and how much do they cost to replace?

2) Will the warranty on this new vehicle be sufficient to address concerns about it's unproven drivetrain, and;

3) Will this truck be priced similarly to the LS (V8 4WD) Tahoe?

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 06, 2005, 23:30:14
Although you might not be in the market for a really big truck, Oshkosh also has a hybrid drive system sized for HLVW sized vehicles:

http://www.oshkoshtruckcorporation.com/about/tech_innovations%7Epropulse.cfm

Quote
Oshkosh is a leader in the development of next-generation hybrid propulsion systems in heavy trucks. ProPulse® is an unmatched hybrid electric drive system that dramatically improves fuel economy, reduces emissions, improves life cycle costs, and serves as an on-board AC generator with enough output to power an entire airfield or hospital.

"This leading-edge technology is the first significant step toward the development of an entirely new generation of highly mobile and incredibly efficient trucks. Our focus is on enhancing performance characteristics while making trucks environmentally friendly," said Robert G. Bohn, Oshkosh's chairman, president and CEO.

The ProPulse system uses a unique, modular series-hybrid arrangement to simplify the transmission of power to the wheels. The diesel engine powers an electric generator, which provides direct power to the wheels, eliminating the torque converter, automatic transmission, transfer case and drive shafts. The system has no batteries, using ultracapacitors for energy storage instead. A regenerative braking function stores engine energy and then uses it to assist in the next braking operation, reducing wear and tear on the brake system.

ProPulse has applications for Oshkosh's entire line of products, including defense, refuse hauling, fire and emergency, and other commercial markets. Oshkosh has applied for patents on various aspects of the ProPulse design.

No word on fuel economy or one to one comparisons between regular trucks and ones powered by the ProPulse system.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 24, 2005, 01:08:11
Hybrid Diesel Electric or Gas Electric systems are interesting enough, but BMW has a different take on the Hybrid idea: use the heat generated from the engine to raise steam! A small steam engine is incorporated into the drivetrain, offering a claimed 15% reduction in fuel consumption, as well as a boost in overall power and torque (designing the transmission would be very interesting).

Possible objections would be the steam engine and "boiler" are dead weight until the car warms up, and in urban commuting and short drives to the mall, this would be a serious objection, since there would be a lag between starting the engine and getting the working fluid up to the boiling point for the steam engine to kick in. Trucks, busses, delevery vehicles, trains and cars fitted out for extended use (taxis and police cars come to mind) would benefit, however. The steam engine could be declutched and run as an APU for a short time after the engine is shut down as well.

http://www.gizmag.com/go/4936/
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Fishbone Jones on January 03, 2006, 11:59:02
Sherwood,

I might go over, because the wife wanted to. I'm more partial to the Hot Rod Show. I'll PM you if we're going over.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Revelations2005 on January 12, 2006, 04:29:40
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1581824890/104-4759890-6395103?v=glance&n=283155
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=46888

We have entered the age of the resource war. It is unfortunate that it has come to this.

Ever since the creation of the Model T the Oil companies have known that there are alternative fuels other then Oil. Even Henry Ford wanted the Model T to run on Hemp Oil.

Unfortunatly history took it's course in the name of the all mighty USD. Greed.

Now the Oil companies have put our earth in a major jam.

* * * Canadian Soldiers; Do not allow yourselves to be used as a pawn in the future wars for Oil. * * *
Canada has not forgotten Pascendale and Dieppe. Canada does not want to see our brave men and women of the forces to be wasted in a terrible game of chess.

I sincerely hope that when it comes to fighting for the US in Iran, Syria, Venezuala etc or fighting here in Canada against American Imperialism I hope you make the correct decision. In the halls of Northern Command the US Military Industrial Complex is at the present time planning the Annexation of Canada.

www.globalresearch.ca
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Fishbone Jones on January 12, 2006, 10:55:44
Revelations2005,

You've got a thread already running with your chicken little conspiracy theory. I suggest you keep all your rhetoric there. Stop spamming the board with this stuff. This is the only warning your getting on this.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Cliff on January 12, 2006, 15:23:17
Overall it's a pretty muddy debate, but a few things are clear: oil is non-renewable, and will run out at some point.  Alternative energies will be required some day, and recent oil prices suggest alternatives are needed quite soon.

My focus is on China (since it's producing most of the worlds goods/junk) and it's huge demand on oil. I have no doubt that there will be a show- down in the not too distant future over the world oil supply. I don't think alternative energies will be sufficient to curtail that scenario = based on world population growth, and insatiable appetite for oil.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on January 23, 2006, 01:35:00
From Instapundit:

Quote
GOOD NEWS THAT I HOPE IS TRUE: Roger Stern has an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences arguing that oil is, in fact, plentiful, and that supply issues are politically driven. PDF version is available here: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/0503705102v1
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: SeaKingTacco on February 01, 2006, 17:10:05
Interesting, if dense, read.

If I understand one of their conclusions correctly, taxes on petroleum products are actually beginning to artificially favour alternate sources of energy, without necessarily ensuring that these alternative energy sources are viable or economical.  Thoughts?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on February 02, 2006, 13:53:27
Interesting, if dense, read.

If I understand one of their conclusions correctly, taxes on petroleum products are actually beginning to artificially favour alternate sources of energy, without necessarily ensuring that these alternative energy sources are viable or economical.  Thoughts?

Increasing taxes works on the demand side of the equation (higher prices reduce usage and drive consumers to seek lower cost alternatives), but since the price mechanism is taxation, the money is siphoned out of the productive economy, and energy producers see no incentive to move towards alternatives (and less money is availalbe for alternative energy investment anyway, since it is in the "General Revenue" pot of the government, not in the hands of individual investors).

It is an interesting conumdrum (and obviously more complex than a one line summary can give), since the United States spends something on the order of $100 billion per year on imported oil. With that amount of money flowing out of the country, you would imagine there would be every incentive to turn things around, but this isn't true, and hasn't since the 1973 oil embargo.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: TCBF on February 02, 2006, 22:41:06
So, after the Isrealis try to take out the Iranian nuclear capability and the Iraniansthen  close the gulf using their Sunburn anti-ship missles (thanks a bunch for that, Russia!), how much will oil cost per bbl?

Tom
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on February 03, 2006, 01:13:14
So, after the Isrealis try to take out the Iranian nuclear capability and the Iraniansthen  close the gulf using their Sunburn anti-ship missles (thanks a bunch for that, Russia!), how much will oil cost per bbl?

Tom

I'll call Ralph Klien and ask how much he wants  ;D ;D ;D

Update: Some people are believers in the alcohol economy. My own personal take is that they are not adding the energy inputs of fertilizer and other petrochemicals needed for modern high intensity agriculture (we are talking about raising enough biomass to fuel the transportation economy of the United States), but nevertheless:

http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleID.18976/article_detail.asp
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: clasper on February 03, 2006, 02:50:22
I'll call Ralph Klien and ask how much he wants  ;D ;D ;D

Update: Some people are believers in the alcohol economy. My own personal take is that they are not adding the energy inputs of fertilizer and other petrochemicals needed for modern high intensity agriculture (we are talking about raising enough biomass to fuel the transportation economy of the United States), but nevertheless:

http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleID.18976/article_detail.asp

Very interesting article from Robert Zubrin.  There were a few holes in the economics of his Case for Mars (which was 15 years ago), but he's learned quite a bit since then.  He's still politically naive, but you can bet the physics behind what he's saying is bang on- he's analyzed all of the inputs for modern agriculture (and realized that agriculture is incapable of providing all of the alcohol required for the economy).
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on February 03, 2006, 16:50:39
Getting off the oil wagon or at least getting a new and secure supply away from the middle east is becoming more and more pressing:

http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson200602030807.asp

Quote
Three Pillars of Wisdom
Finding our footing where lunacy looms large.

Public relations between the so-called West and the Islamic Middle East have reached a level of abject absurdity. Hamas, whose charter pledges the very destruction of Israel, comes to power only through American-inspired pressures to hold Western-style free elections on the West Bank. No one expected the elders of a New England township, but they were nevertheless somewhat amused that the result was right out of a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Almost immediately, Hamas's newly elected, self-proclaimed officials issued a series of demands: Israel should change its flag; the Europeans and the Americans must continue to give its terrorists hundreds of millions of dollars in aid; there will be no retraction of its promises to destroy Israel.

Apparently, the West and Israel are not only to give to Hamas some breathing space ("a truce"), but also to subsidize it while it gets its second wind to renew the struggle to annihilate the Jewish state.

All this lunacy is understood only in a larger surreal landscape. Tibet is swallowed by China. Much of Greek Cyprus is gobbled up by Turkish forces. Germany is 10-percent smaller today than in 1945. Yet only in the Middle East is there even a term "occupied land," one that derived from the military defeat of an aggressive power.

Over a half-million Jews were forcibly cleansed from Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, and other Arab cities after the 1967 war; but only on the West Bank are there still refugees who lost their homes. Over a million people were butchered in Rwanda; thousands die each month in Darfur. The world snoozes. Yet less than 60 are killed in a running battle in Jenin, and suddenly the 1.5 million lost in Stalingrad and Leningrad are evoked as the moral objects of comparison, as the globe is lectured about "Jeningrad."

Now the Islamic world is organizing boycotts of Denmark because one of its newspapers chose to run a cartoon supposedly lampooning the prophet Mohammed. We are supposed to forget that it is de rigueur in raucous Scandinavian popular culture to attack Christianity with impunity. Much less are we to remember that Hamas terrorists occupied and desecrated the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in a globally televised charade.

Instead, Danish officials are threatened, boycotts organized, ambassadors recalled — and, yes, Bill Clinton steps forward to offer another lip-biting apology while garnering lecture fees in the oil-rich Gulf, in the manner of his mea culpa last year to the Iranian mullacracy. There is now a pattern to Clintonian apologies — they almost always occur overseas and on someone else's subsidy.

Ever since that seminal death sentence handed down to Salman Rushdie by the Iranian theocracy, the Western world has incrementally and insidiously accepted these laws of asymmetry. Perhaps due to what might legitimately be called the lunacy principle ("these people are capable of doing anything at anytime"), the Muslim Middle East can insist on one standard of behavior for itself and quite another for others. It asks nothing of its own people and everything of everyone else's, while expecting no serious repercussions in the age of political correctness, in which affluent and leisured Westerners are frantic to avoid any disruption in their rather sheltered lives.

Then there is "President" Ahmadinejad of Iran, who, a mere 60 years after the Holocaust, trumps Mein Kampf by not only promising, like Hitler, to wipe out the Jews, but, unlike the ascendant Fuhrer, going about the business of quite publicly obtaining the means to do it. And the rest of the Islamic world, nursed on the daily "apes and pigs" slurs, can just scarcely conceal its envy that the Persian Shiite outsider will bell the cat before they do.

The architects of September 11, by general consent, hide somewhere on the Pakistani border. A recent American missile strike that killed a few of them was roundly condemned by the Pakistani government. Although a recipient of billions of dollars in American aid and debt relief, and admittedly harboring those responsible for 9/11, it castigates the U.S. for violating borders in pursuit of our deadly enemies who, while on Pakistani soil, boast of planning yet another mass murder of Americans.

Pakistan demands that America will cease such incursions — or else. The "else" apparently entails the threat either to give even greater latitude to terrorists, or to allow them to return to Afghanistan to destroy the nascent democracy in Kabul. American diplomats understandably would shudder at the thought of threatening nuclear Pakistan should there be another 9/11, this time organized by the very al Qaedists they now harbor.

The list of hypocrisies could be expanded. The locus classicus, of course, is bin Laden's fanciful fatwas. Oil pumped for $5 a barrel and sold for $70 is called stealing resources. Tens of millions of Muslims emigrating to the United States and Europe, while very few Westerners reside in the Middle East, is deemed "occupying our lands." Israel, the biblical home of the Jews, and subsequently claimed for centuries by Persians, Greeks, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Franks, Ottomans, and English is "occupied by crusader infidels" — as if the entire world is to accept that world history began only in the seventh century A.D.

The only mystery is not how bizarre the news will be from the Middle East, but why the autocratic Middle Easterners feel so confident that any would pay their lunacy such attention.

The answer? Oil and nukes — and sometimes the two in combination.

By any economic standard, most states in the Middle East — whether characterized by monarchy, Baathism, dictatorship, or theocracy — have floundered. There are no scientific discoveries emanating from a Cairo or Damascus. It is tragic and perhaps insensitive, but nevertheless honest, to confess that the contemporary Arab world has lately given the world only two new developments: the suicide-bomb belt and the improvised explosive device. Even here there is a twofold irony: The technology for both is imported from the West. And the very tactic arises out of a desperate admission that to fight a conventional battle against a Westernized military without the cover of civilian shields, whether in Israel or Baghdad, is tantamount to suicide.

Meanwhile, millions of Africans face famine and try to inaugurate democracies. Asia is in the midst of economic transformation. Latin America is undergoing fundamental political upheaval. Who cares? — our attention is glued instead on a few acres near Jericho, the mountains of the Hindu Kush, the succession patterns of Gulf Royals, and the latest ranting of an Iranian president who seems barely hinged, and without petroleum and a reactor would be accorded the global derision once reserved for Idi Amin.

So take the dependency on oil away from Europe and the United States, and the billions of petrodollars the world sends yearly to medieval regimes like Iran or Saudi Arabia, and the other five billion of us could, to be frank, fret little whether such self-pitying tribal and patriarchal societies wished to remain, well, tribal. There would be no money for Hezbollah, Wahhabi madrassas, Syrian assassination teams, or bought Western apologists.

The problem is not just a matter of the particular suppliers who happen to sell to the United States — after all, we get lots of our imported oil from Mexico, Canada, and Nigeria. Rather, we should worry about the insatiable American demand that results in tight global supply for everyone, leading to high prices and petrobillions in the hands of otherwise-failed societies who use this largess for nefarious activities from buying nukes to buying off deserved censure from the West, India, and China. If the Middle East gets a pass on its terrorist behavior from the rest of the world, ultimately that exemption can be traced back to the voracious American appetite for imported oil, and its effects on everything from global petroleum prices to the appeasement of Islamic fascism.

Without nuclear acquisition, a Pakistan or Iran would warrant little worry. It is no accident that top al Qaeda figures are either in Pakistan or Iran, assured that their immunity is won by reason that both of their hosts have vast oil reserves or nukes or both.

The lesson from all this is that in order to free the United States from such blackmail and dependency, we must at least try to achieve energy independence and drive down oil prices — and see that no Middle East autocracy gains nuclear weapons. Those principles, along with support for democratic reform, should be the three pillars of American foreign policy.

Encouraging democracy is still vital to offer a third choice other than dictatorship or theocracy — especially when we now recognize the general Middle East rule: The logical successor to a shah is a Khomeini; a Zarqawi wishes to follow a fallen Saddam; a propped-up Arafat ensures Hamas; and a subsidized Mubarak will lead to the Muslim Brotherhood. Puritanical zealotry always feeds off autocratic corruption — as if lopping hands and heads is the proper antidote to military courts and firing squads.

And we also know the political blame game at home: Past realist failures at propping up dictators are postfacto reinvented as sobriety, while the messy and belated democratic correction is derided as foolery. Even the election of Hamas and the honesty it brings are welcome news: Support the process, not always the result, while stopping the subsidy and dialogue if such terrorists come to power. Let them stew in their own juice, not ours.

In the meantime, until we arrive at liberal and consensual governments that prove stable, there will be no real peace. And if an Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Syria obtains nuclear weapons, there will be eventually war on an unimaginable scale, predicated on the principle that the West will tolerate almost any imaginable horror to ensure that one of its cities is not nuked or made uninhabitable.

Yet if billions of petrodollars continue to pour into such traditional societies, as a result they will never do the hard political and economic work of building real societies. Instead their elites will obtain real nuclear weapons to threaten neighbors for even more concessions, as they buy support at home with the national prestige of an "Islamic bomb." Saddam almost grasped that: Had he delayed his invasion of Kuwait five years until he resurrected his damaged nuclear program, Kuwait would now be an Iraqi province, and perhaps Saudi Arabia as well.

In the long-term, democratization in the framework of constitutional government has the best chance of bringing relief. But for the foreseeable future the United States and its allies must also ensure that Iran, and states like it, are not nuclear, and that we wean ourselves off a petroleum dependency — to save both ourselves, the addicts, and even our enemies, the dealers of the Middle East.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His latest book is A War Like No Other. How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War.
   
  http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson200602030807.asp
       

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 27, 2006, 00:24:12
Interesting observation: rising pump prices are not affecting consumer behaviour in the way expected by classical economists, but there are other factors.

http://www.forbes.com/home/columnists/2006/04/20/energy-costs-gasoline_cx_ns_0420schulz.html

Quote
Why The Pump Isn't More Painful
Nick Schulz 04.20.06, 11:30 AM ET

When it comes to gas prices, the media too often know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Flip open a paper or turn on the TV and you'll learn that gas prices are rising again. "Stormy 6 Weeks Ahead," says CBSNews--and warns consumers to expect "pain at the pump." MSNBC says, "Further surge in gas prices expected." "Summer is approaching--and gas prices are already climbing," MSN Money tells us. And this week, crude oil hit $70 per barrel. The culprits include rising demand, pinched supplies, uncertainty over future crude prices and instability in the Middle East and Nigeria.

But what's more interesting about these stories is what they don't tell you. For example, the Associated Press reports that "surveys indicate drivers won't be easing off on their mileage, using even more gas than a year ago." Now why is that? If prices are rising, one would expect consumers would use less.

The answer might be in some of the long-term trends that the short-term media lens is too cramped to see. Energy prices may be rising, but energy itself is much less important to consumers and to the overall economy than it once was.

According to the Bureau of Economic Affairs (see chart here), American consumer spending on energy as a fraction of total personal consumption has declined considerably since 1980. Whereas 25 years ago, one in every ten consumer dollars was spent on energy, today it's one in every 16. In other words, what it takes to heat and cool our homes and drive to and from our jobs and vacation destinations is relatively less costly than it was then.

This goes a long way toward explaining why even when gas prices rise this summer--higher than they were throughout the 1990s--people will still be driving more; it's much more of a value than it was a generation ago.

What's more, so-called energy intensity is declining rapidly. That means we produce more with less energy. According to Economy.com, "The U.S. economy has undergone major structural changes over the last two decades, becoming more energy efficient, thus reducing its overall dependence on energy. … The energy intensity of the U.S. economy has declined by roughly 40% since the first oil crisis (as of 2001)."

These trends are healthy for the economy. They also put the lie to President George W. Bush's recent unwise rhetoric about America's oil "addiction." The nature of addiction typically is that it becomes all-consuming, eating up a greater share of one's life and livelihood. But the long-term trends of American consumer spending reflect something different: Energy is becoming less important to the overall economy over time.

Of course, no one likes to pay more at the pump. And with some analysts predicting oil per barrel going up to $75 or higher in the near future, we might see retail prices go up further still. But unlike a generation or two ago, these increases won't prompt the broader economic pain they once did.

Nick Schulz is editor of TCS Daily.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Old Guy on April 27, 2006, 16:38:09
Here's a link to a well-reasoned article in Reason magazine (no pun intended).

http://www.reason.com/0605/fe.rb.peak.shtml

Jim :)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: tomahawk6 on April 27, 2006, 22:15:03
The US and Canada could be self sufficient in oil within two years by doing the following :
1.US - coal liquification
2.Canada- liquificiation of tar sands

The cost of a liquification plant is $1.25b  per 22,000 barrel/day. These plants are modules so a 50,000 barrel/day plant is $2.5b. Cost is $25 to $30 a barrel to liquify coal/tar sands. Plant should be built on a site with large proven reserves to keep transportation costs at a minimum. Montana for example has 120 billion tons of proven coal reserves. This technology can be used to liquify oil shale as well. I think this is the best short term way to make our countries entirely independent of foreign oil.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 28, 2006, 15:48:43
Market incentives will help bring about many of the alternative ideas that are being touted here, increase production of existing resources and perhaps unleash a few ideas no one has thought of yet:

http://www.nationalreview.com/kudlow/kudlow200604280845.asp

Quote
The Greatest Story Never Told
Even the oil saga can’t disrupt this upbeat economic page-turner.

As all the pollsters are telling us, there’s an inverse relationship between rising gasoline prices and President’s Bush’s falling approval ratings — most especially his approval rating on the economy. Of course, these polls describe a certain national angst over energy that harkens back to the dreadful 1970s. But there’s a better reality out there: Namely, the upturn in gas prices simply is not stopping the economy the way it did three decades ago.

Today’s economy may be the greatest story never told. It’s an American boom, spurred by lower tax rates, huge profits, big productivity, plentiful jobs, and an ongoing free-market capitalist resiliency. It’s also a global boom, marked by a spread of free-market capitalism like we’ve never seen before.

The political resolution to the disconnect between fear (high energy prices) and reality (a great economy) remains to be seen. But as the data keep rolling in, the economy continues to surpass not only the pessimism of its critics, but even the optimism of its supporters.

Recent data on production, retail sales, and employment are stronger than expected. The latest durable-goods report shows huge gains in orders for big-ticket items like airplanes, transportation, metals, machinery, and computers — even cars and parts. These orders suggest that the economic boom will continue as far as the eye can see. And there’s more: The backlog of unfilled orders, the best leading-indicator of business activity, gained 12 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter. With this kind of real-world corporate activity in the pipeline, highly profitable businesses will be doing a lot of hiring in the months ahead in order to expand plant and equipment capacity. Just what the doctor ordered.

As for the energy angst, President Bush recently outlined a sensible pro-market mid-course policy correction. He is suspending the ethanol tax mandate that forced gasoline distributors to switch to the corn-based fuel from the MTBE oxygenate. This ethanol regulation was one of the great energy-policy bungles of all time. Neither refiners nor transporters were anywhere near ready to implement this misguided mandate, which drove up pump prices by 50 cents in just a few weeks. Energy secretary Sam Bodman was warned by industry leaders — like much-maligned former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond — that the ethanol-switch would be a disaster. But Bodman didn’t listen, although, according to the polls, it seems like America did.

But with Bush’s recent action, futures prices for unleaded gasoline are already retreating, and it wouldn’t surprise if the whole ethanol-price-hike effect was reversed. Crude oil is also declining in the aftermath of the Bush announcements, which included the decision to stop the crude-oil fill rate for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. At the margin, government deregulation is giving markets more latitude — always a good thing.

The big point here is that free markets work. Rising prices from the global boom will lead to more conservation, less consumption, and more production, but only so long as government stays out of the way. Instead of blaming ExxonMobil for high gas prices, irate motorists and voters should blame Congress for mandating, regulating, and taxing against energy.

Indeed, bashing big oil won’t create a drop of new energy. Nor will confiscating Lee Raymond’s bank account. Actually, over the past fifteen years, ExxonMobil’s total investment has exceeded the company’s earnings, according to Washington analyst James K. Glassman. Meanwhile, all the evidence from time immemorial shows that gas prices are set by market forces, not manipulation at the production level. So-called price gouging is nothing but a political red herring. Windfall profits taxes and special tax subsidies will only diminish energy investment, not increase it.

Energy is best left in the hands of the free market. With this in mind, Congress should allow environmentally friendly drilling in ANWAR and the Outer Continental Shelf, more LNG terminals, and the creation of nuclear power facilities. Deregulation works: Just look at the boom in Canadian oil sands.

President Bush can also build on his new energy policy with more pro-growth measures that will extend the economic boom: Get rid of the ethanol tax for good. Repeal the tariff on imported ethanol from Brazil and elsewhere. Repeal the multiple taxation of dividends and cap-gains, and abolish the death tax while you’re at it. Exercise the budget veto pen to stop bridges and railroads to nowhere. Go back to the Reagan economic model of a strong dollar to hold down inflation and lower-tax-rate incentives to promote economic growth. That model will work as well today as it did twenty-five years ago when it launched the long prosperity boom we continue to enjoy.

Most of all, let free markets work. This is the new worldwide message of freedom, prosperity, and optimism.

— Larry Kudlow, NRO’s Economics Editor, is host of CNBC’s Kudlow & Company and author of the daily web blog, Kudlow’s Money Politic$.
http://www.nationalreview.com/kudlow/kudlow200604280845.asp
       

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: probum non poenitet on April 29, 2006, 08:37:01
Here's a bit of optimism for you:

In the 1960s, there was a raging debate in the computer science field whether or not a computer would ever be able 'smart' enough to play chess.
Many of the top computer scientists said it was far too complex for a machine, and always would be.
40 years later computers can beat the best human players in the world.

I think our technology is advancing so fast, that when it really becomes important and profitable, alternate energy will come to the fore. It will probably be something we haven't even considered yet. (If you had talked about electricity or photography or radio to someone 50 years before they were invented/discovered, they would have thought you were crackers).

Of course, in the future we will probably also have to deal with berserk terminator robots ... :o
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Otto Fest on April 29, 2006, 10:19:08
I too am optomistic.  As prices rise the users at the margins who gain the least utility value from it will stop or lower their consumption.  Case in point, my car was just totalled, but we still have a van for three kids.  I now walk or ride the bike to work and save about $250 per month.

I'm constantly asked when I'm getting a new car.  I answer "why?"

Most oil companies are publicly traded entities striving to make a profit for their shareholders, so are obligated to sell to the highest bidder.  China can buy all the Canadian oil companies it wants, but if it attempts to sell cheaper oil to itself will go bankrupt.  It won't be north americans that go without because we are filthy rich (as a whole).  It will be the developing and third world that will suffer.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GAP on April 29, 2006, 11:14:14
The next set of wars/conflicts has already and will continue to be about resources. Oil is a major factor, even if it is Politically Incorrect to mention it. All other arguemen ts aside, the Iraq war has an oil supply component, as does Afghanistan (via Tajikistan pipeline).

I don't want to get into a big flap about all the good reasons...that's not the point here. Governments and companies are more than aware of the coming crisis, and are developing their inroads and areas of protection/development for the past 20 years, and will continue to do so. They just don't advertise it.

This whole scenario has an up side. As long as there was a "glut" of oil, alternative methods or fuels would not be considered seriously. Just look at the development of the hydrogen fuel cell and wind power within the last 5 years will tell you that something is changing.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: tomahawk6 on April 29, 2006, 11:18:41
Good post Grunt. The China and India together are using as much oil as the US did 10 year's ago, which is causing pressure on oil prices, then throw in the jitters over Iran's nuclear program and you have +$75 oil.
It may be that the Iranian's are sounding crazy to keep oil prices and their profits high.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: clasper on April 30, 2006, 07:23:35
Most oil companies are publicly traded entities striving to make a profit for their shareholders, so are obligated to sell to the highest bidder.  China can buy all the Canadian oil companies it wants, but if it attempts to sell cheaper oil to itself will go bankrupt.
Unfortunately this isn't true.  The major oil companies (BP, Shell, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, etc.) are all publicly traded, but they control fewer reserves than major resource holders controlled by national governments in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and elsewhere.  Many of these governments behave less rationally than free markets do, and will throw whatever wrenches they can into the works of alternative energies (whether it's actually in their interest or not).
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 01, 2006, 00:28:08
True enough. Venezuela and Saudi Arabia (among others) sell heavily subsidized oil to their home markets, while "letting" us buy it at the market price. This isn't limited to oil or the third world, Ontario's policy of selling electricity to consumers for less than the market price is setting us up for the greatest financial disaster in Canadian history; all our tax money is going to American generating companies [who are using coal fired plants too, no less] to buy our peak power.

One of the interesting common theams of the alternative energy movement is to "create" more resources that are under our control (either "home grown" resources like biodiesel or ways and means to unlock the tar sands or shale oil that exist here in North America).
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 04, 2006, 10:55:45
Engines capable of operating from multiple fuels is one component to energy independence. The quasiturbine engine is the future. It can burn diesel,gas,methanol and even hydrogen. The engine does not require oil, which is a huge plus. Burns fuel with far fewer emitions than current engines. Fewer moving parts. I really am excited about this engine.

http://www.quasiturbine.com/

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/quasiturbine4.htm
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: 54/102 CEF on May 04, 2006, 20:07:38
A PDF File for you from this author http://www.oilendgame.com/

See notes on the 60 slide show here
http://www.jhuapl.edu/POW/rethinking/SeminarArchive/022306/022306_LovinsNotes.pdf

Full presentation in PDF http://www.jhuapl.edu/POW/rethinking/SeminarArchive/022306/022306_LovinsPresentation.pdf

Extracts

۞ Symbols link to start of relevant video NOTE - this links to videos of the presentation here ---- look for Feb 23 Speaker: Amory Lovins

See video archive http://www.jhuapl.edu/POW/rethinking/video.cfm
Rethinking the Future Nature of Competitions and Conflict
23 February 2006
Amory Lovins
Director, Rocky Mountain Institute
Winning the Oil Endgame
۞ 1
Mr. Lovins began by describing his work and that of his Rocky Mountain Institute
• Vision: abundance by design (http://www.natcap.org)
• Mission: foster the efficient and restorative use of resources to make the world
secure, just, prosperous, and life-sustaining
• Past security work
o Defense Science Board panel on platform efficiency (1999–2001)
o Studies for SECNAV and COMNAVSEA on ship power and
transformation issues
o Led “greening”-of-Pentagon
o Strategy lectures for NDU, AWC, NWC, NPS, OJCS
o Definitive unclass study of domestic energy vulnerability (1981)
o Extensive unclass nonproliferation syntheses 1970s–80s
o Redefined security in Security Without War (1993)
o Does not consider himself an expert on military affairs
Energy efficiency improvements from RMI work
• From RMI work involving $20B in redesign of over 80 companies
• Retro fits can bring free byproducts
• Redesigns can save capital so that new plants can be located in Texas, not China
• Tremendous savings can be had no matter what the company
o Retrofits usually have 2-3 year paybacks for investments
o New, specially designed facilities can save on capital investments
Major Thesis: The US can get completely off its oil dependency and revise its economy
• All to be lead by business profit motives and decisions
• Can/should be accelerated by DoD’s interest
Context: competition drives strategy and things do change
• Military strategic vectors used to be stealth, speed and precision
o Then network central warfare issues added
۞ 2
o Now need to consider Power as the 5th strategic vector
 Electrified warriors keep running out of batteries
 Systems also need huge amounts of fuel
o Threats can now be asymmetrical, demassified, elusive, remote, irregular,
techno-savvy
 Now need many small units covering large areas
• Power issues are about 50 years behind the other vectors
o So ripe for attacking the problem
• Currently need oil to move military’s heavy equipment
o Ultra light materials could change all that
• A reasonably conservative target would improve fuel use by 3-4 times
Current requirements and acquisition process hugely undervalues fuel efficiency
• Logistics are assumed to be free
• In war games, never deal with fuel issues
• In reality whole divisions tasked with hauling fuel around
o They are very vulnerable
o Cut backs in need for fuel would change tooth to tail ratio big-time
o Could save 10s of B$ per year
Biggest win would be more strategic – won’t need as much oil so won’t need to treat oilproducing
countries differently or fight for oil rights
• See Winning the Oil Endgame
• Partially paid for by Andy Marshal in Net Assessments
• Has been endorsed by a number of military officers and DoD policy-makers
• Push civilian world change so eliminate US oil needs by 2040s
Winning the Oil Endgame is not based on any political strategy but on business logic
• 1/3 of the way through a 3-year program
• Doing business acupuncture to help maintain the flow of business
o Involves tweaking small issues
۞ 3
Things can change quickly:
• In 1850 the biggest US industry was whaling to provide oil for lamps
• Within 6 years 5/6th of the market moved away to fossil fuels
• Whalers did not watch what their competition was doing at the time
 No one bothered to add up all the fuel alternatives coming on line
 Happening again
We know that major conservation and other efforts can work
• Did after the 1970s oil shocks
• Broke OPEC control for 10 years
• We can save oil faster than the Saudis can stop selling it
• Investment can be one time
• There could be 1 million new jobs available
o Mostly in rural areas that have been losing populations
Key to making changes – vehicles
• Need to make them light and slippery to cut wind resistance
• Includes cars, trucks, planes, etc
• Remarkable new materials will be very important
o Carbon fiber cars and other vehicles
• Use of more exotic (often more expensive) materials is compensated by simpler
manufacturing processes

Where does a car’s fuel energy go?
Only 6% goes into acceleration
Therefore less than 1% actually propels the drivers
Would save a great deal if vehicles were made much lighter

New materials can be highly impact absorbing
• Can be aluminum, light steels or carbon composites
• No longer have to be big and heavy to be safe
o Carbon composite structures can absorb 6-12 times as much energy per kg
as steel does
• Could be simpler and potentially cheaper to manufacture
۞ 4
Need to migrate innovative techniques and materials from military/aerospace industries
to high volume vehicles
• Example: In 1994–96 DARPA/ Integrated Technology for Affordability Skunk
Works® team designed an advanced tactical fighter airframe
o 95% of carbon-fiber composites
o 1/3 lighter than its 72%-metal predecessor
o but 2/3 cheaper because designed to be made from carbon
o Too radical for military customer
• Same players designed a halved-weight SUV

GM et al are obviously re-inventing themselves
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: clasper on May 05, 2006, 05:14:41
Further to my last about national oil companies behaving less than rationally:

http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=31765

Edit: just noticed that tomahawk6 posted the same article here:
http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,42915.msg0.html
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 05, 2006, 09:25:52
One thing that isn't thought of often is the time it takes to work new changes in and replace the established capital base (i.e. the "sunk costs" of what is already out there). Here is a link to a somewhat pessemistic article suggesting the changeover could take 50 years. I think a more reasonable extimate would be around 20, splitting the differecen between Amory Lovens and MIT

http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=16777&ch=biztech

Quote
Hydrogen Reality Check

Fuel cells won't significantly dent fuel consumption for 50 years -- we need to look elsewhere.

By Kevin Bullis

High oil prices and concerns about the long-term availability of oil have U.S. government officials singing the praises of hydrogen fuel cells as a solution to our nation's transportation energy problem. But fuel cells, while a promising technology, could take more than 50 years to have a significant impact on gasoline consumption, according to estimates by MIT researchers. On the other hand, improved internal combustion engines and lighter vehicles could offset energy consumption much sooner, especially if consumers have incentives to buy them and manufacturers to make them.

"The potential for hydrogen fuel cells having an impact that you'd notice is a long way away," says John Heywood, professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. The estimates assume that competitive fuel cell vehicles will be available within 15 years, an achievement that will require improvements, for example, in hydrogen storage and production and fuel-cell costs. But even if and when fuel-cell vehicles come with the price and performance that consumers want, it will still take decades more before such new vehicles work their way into widespread use.

One factor slowing the impact of any new vehicle technology -- whether advanced internal combustion engine, hybrid, or fuel cell -- is the average lifespan of a car, which is about 15 years, according to Heywood. Even as people buy cars with new technologies, old ones stay on the roads, continuing to burn fuel and emit carbon dioxide.

follow the link to read the rest
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Bert on May 07, 2006, 17:43:23
Heres a poster with convenient oil statistics and bright colors.

http://www.oilposter.org/posterlarge-x.html
Title: Re: Syntethic Fuel for the US Military
Post by: Thucydides on May 14, 2006, 01:36:52
Interesting post. Perhaps it should join the thread here as well? http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,37017.0.html
Title: Re: Syntethic Fuel for the US Military
Post by: Enzo on May 14, 2006, 02:36:26
So, not a solution to the issue of energy, but a technology to increase the efficiency of the existing fossils eh?

Quote
John B. Holmes Jr., Syntroleum's president and chief executive officer, said his firm would sell the Air Force its synthetic fuel for testing "at our cost, and we may be losing a little bit."

The main question on my mind is, what's Syntroleum's stock going for these days?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 14, 2006, 18:43:02
Soy biodiesel plants are in the process of being built as we speak. I think that coal liquification should be actively pursued, followed by oil from shale. In Canada the tar sands are already being aggressively developed. I can see a time in the next 5-10 years the US being self sufficient and no longer importing oil. This would help the trade deficit the US has.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Otto Fest on May 14, 2006, 20:29:23
Both Nazi Germany and South Africa in the 70s had huge coal gassification plants.  If ever there's a conspiracy, this 'secret' technology would take the cake.  We need to stop wasting Hydrocarbons to fuel our vehicles and power plants as they are far more important for plastics and pharmaceuticals.  Perhaps $100/bbl is not such a bad thing.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 14, 2006, 22:43:39
I don't think there is a single "magic wand" solution, so persuing all different options gives us the flexibility to meet all possible contingencies. Coal liquefaction as persued in the 1930's and 1970's was hugely energy intensive, so an improved process needs to be found (maybe even more efficient than the Syntroleum process). More efficient ways of using existing fuel also need to be persued in tandem; I once read that if every vehicle in North America had the tires inflated to the proper pressure, there would be a 10% reduction in transportation fuel usage! (Go get a tune-up and tire check people!)

Here are some links for "Plan B", promising to increase fuel economy by 50%:

http://www.me.berkeley.edu/cal/HCCI/

http://www.llnl.gov/str/Westbrook.html
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 18, 2006, 22:41:11
Nice article on Wikipedia, and the links section at the bottom leads you to quite a few similar chemical process to convert coal and other solids into usable liquid fuels

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karrick_process

Enjoy
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 25, 2006, 11:23:25
The market will cause some strange and counterintuitive things to happen. If this article is correct, the conditions favourable for alternative resources (bio-diesel, liquified coal, tar sands, oil shale) will end with the bursting of the "oil bubble", removing the incentive of high prices. Since science is a step wise process, any potential gains made in this round mean investors will start from a more developed technological base when the next oil shock arrives, and perhaps some of these plans will finally reach fruition.

http://article.nationalreview.com/

Quote
The Oil Bubble Is Next to Burst
The free market is the ticket for this commodity round trip.

By Thomas E. Nugent

Tune in to any of those financial news networks and you’ll be sure to find a commodity guru still predicting $1,000 an ounce for gold and $100 a barrel for oil. Should the little guy jump on this bandwagon? Or is it too late? Well, the recent plunge in some commodity prices is giving speculators second thoughts about the durability of the commodity bull market.

The price volatility of another well-known commodity, natural gas, can be instructive here. As the world frets about energy shortages, natural gas is suffering from rising inventories and sluggish demand. Last year, the gurus were looking for $20 per million BTUs of natural gas. Recently, that price dropped below $6 per million BTUs. Natural-gas price fluctuations, as represented in the following chart (prepared by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis), indicate the forming of a price bubble, with natural gas prices rising from a low of approximately $6.50 in March 2005 to a peak of $14.50 in December 2005. But once the peak heating season reflected a warmer-than-normal winter, the price of natural gas plummeted back below the low levels of 2005. (Incidentally, many tech stocks charted much the same course between 1998 and 2002.)

One irony here is that little news about the recent natural-gas round trip makes it into the media. Why aren’t raucous politicians singling out gas-company executives — labeling them patriots for sacrificing profitability in the name of helping the country through an energy crisis? The reason for the silence is that energy-company executives do not determine energy prices and the politicians know it. In Washington, good news is no news — so you won’t hear any good news about the fall in natural gas prices.

On the other hand, when it comes to the bad-news rise in oil prices, Washington politicians are not only vocal, they are predictably nearsighted in their proposed solutions: Punish the auto companies by imposing higher CAFÉ requirements! Impose windfall profits taxes on oil-company profits! Prohibit drilling for oil off our coasts and Alaska! Pillory the oil-company execs!

But our experience from the energy-price run-up of the 1970s reminds us that free markets will resolve high energy prices, while politicians will only exacerbate them.

In particular, here are a few reasons why free-market factors will erode the current high price of oil: More windmills and solar power will pop up, the billions of dollars invested to get oil from tar sands will begin paying dividends, nuclear power will reincarnate, a rising number of drilling rigs will begin operating within the U.S., smaller cars with higher fuel mileage will proliferate, substitute fuels such as ethanol and hydrogen will take hold, and on and on.

Efforts to innovate, substitute, or even conserve at the same time the oil supply is expanding will create the perfect environment for an oil-price decline. Back in the early 1970s, and then again in the early 1980s, high oil prices led to lower oil prices. Oil bulls rely on rising global demand, but few of them fear a rise in supply through incremental oil as well as new energy sources that will displace oil as the primary fuel.

When Hertz begins to charge less for big car rentals than small car rentals, as pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article, the handwriting, as they say, is on the wall.

From a high price eclipsing $75 per barrel, oil has recently fallen below $68. If the fall in natural-gas prices is a good indicator, oil prices still have a long way to drop.

— Thomas E. Nugent is executive vice president and chief investment officer of PlanMember Advisors, Inc., and principal of Victoria Capital Management, Inc.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 27, 2006, 12:06:05
More counter intuative information. The free market in oil is self correcting, you just need to give it time to react:

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZGE4M2RlMDM1MmI0OGM1M2ViMGQ4MWUyYzc2YmEyZWU=

Quote
Surprise Drop in Oil?
Free markets could soon deliver a much different energy scenario.

By Larry Kudlow

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S., recently told the United States Energy Association that any U.S. conflict with Iran would threaten the Strait of Hormuz and triple the barrel price of oil. Of course, such language could be an attempt to get President Bush to rule out the military option as Iran pushes to weaponize its uranium-enrichment program. But the administration will not rule anything out as it grapples with this belligerent power.

That said, I’d like to challenge the prince’s assessment of the potential direction of oil prices, and the idea that the Middle East necessarily holds all the cards.

The Energy Department just announced that crude oil supplies rose 1.4 million barrels to 347.1 million for the week ended June 16. Analysts had been expecting a drawdown, so this news caught them by surprise. More, crude oil supplies in the U.S. are now at their highest levels since May 1998, when oil was trading around $15 a barrel. Add in the fact that Canadian oil inventories are fully stocked, and the more imminent reality is of a sizable oil-price decrease — not a huge increase.

Recently I interviewed four oil-tanker executives who control a combined 85 percent of the oil coming into the United States. They confirmed market rumors that the amount of oil being stored on large carriers on the high seas is abnormally high. One of the CEOs even predicted the possibility of $40 to $50 oil in the next 6 to 12 months. In another interview, Chevron CEO David O’Reilly suggested that gasoline and energy demands have flattened in the U.S., and may be showing signs of decline.

Prince Turki can threaten $200 oil all he wants, but we may instead be looking at a downward correction that will have oil prices dropping more than anyone imagines possible. Supplies are at their highest levels in eight years, while demand appears to be falling, or at least leveling off. Should a significant price correction be in the offing, stock markets and the economy will cheer.

The economic principles at work here are very simple: Markets work. Supply and demand works. Higher prices are gradually slowing consumption. At the same time, those high prices continue to stimulate outsized profits and investment returns. So capital is pouring into all the energy sectors, providing a strong foundation for new energy production. Chevron, for example, is reinvesting virtually all its profits in new oil-and-gas exploration and drilling. The drilling industry, meanwhile, has recovered from last year’s Hurricane Katrina shock and is once again producing near peak capacity.
 
There’s even good news from Washington on the energy front. The House Resources Committee, chaired by California Republican Richard Pombo, has just delivered the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, which will give coastal states the authority to drill 100 miles or more offshore. This will allow for exploration and production in the deep seas and on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), where kajillions in oil-and-gas reserves are waiting to be siphoned. It also will provide the coastal states with significant oil and gas royalties. Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi opposes this, but the bill has strong bipartisan support.

Finally, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued its first license for a major commercial nuclear facility in thirty years. Construction of the $1.5 billion National Enrichment Facility in New Mexico could begin in August, and according to Louisiana Energy Services CEO Jim Ferland, it could be ready to sell enriched uranium (for electricity) by early 2009. Senate Energy chair Pete Domenici calls this a “renaissance of nuclear energy in this country.”

A combination of market forces and government deregulation could be setting us up for a big crack in energy prices, including gas at the pump. And it may happen sooner rather than later. Many years ago, during the 1970s oil crisis, Milton Friedman argued that free markets are more powerful than OPEC, and Ronald Reagan proved the point when prices plunged after he deregulated energy in the early 1980s. Twenty years later, energy-market forces may be poised to assert themselves once more.

Iran and its allies will continue to rattle their sabers in an attempt to boost the value of their only cash crop. And of course, a gunboat battle in the Strait of Hormuz will temporarily boost prices again. But pessimists keep making a one-way bet on sky-high oil prices that will doom the American economy, even though record low tax rates on capital have so far prevented anything like this from happening.

Conventional forecasters understate the economic power of free markets, low marginal tax rates, and energy deregulation. As a supply-side contrarian, I’ll take the other side of that trade. Indeed, as future events unfold, we may be headed for a much different energy and economic scenario.

— Larry Kudlow, NRO’s Economics Editor, is host of CNBC’s Kudlow & Company and author of the daily web blog, Kudlow’s Money Politic$.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Nemo888 on June 27, 2006, 12:31:38
More counter intuative information. The free market in oil is self correcting, you just need to give it time to react:

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZGE4M2RlMDM1MmI0OGM1M2ViMGQ4MWUyYzc2YmEyZWU=


Hilarious, obviously you've never heard of OPEC.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 27, 2006, 13:17:58
Hilarious, obviously you've never heard of OPEC.

And just as obviously you did not read the article. OPEC is only one group of suppliers, perhaps you have heard of Canada, another, non OPEC supplier or the myriad other nations which make up the global market? Enough said.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Nemo888 on June 27, 2006, 16:26:50
Why would the global suppliers compete to sell a limited resource and make less money? The answer is simple, they wouldn’t.

If you don’t believe that I have a bridge I’d like to sell you…

There are these things called diamonds. Geologically they are a semi-precious stone but they are very expensive nonetheless. There are a limited number of suppliers that control the market (like the oil cartels).  Without actually colluding (which OPEC does do) they have decided to artificially inflate the price to make more money. Did the light turn on yet?

And your respected source used "kajillions" in his article. That’s not even a word. (So I did read it)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: OCdt.Banks on June 27, 2006, 17:11:18
Your article although interesting is evidently flawed, in several ways. First of all this article claims that "Supplies are at their highest levels in eight years, while demand appears to be falling, or at least leveling off. Should a significant price correction be in the offing, stock markets and the economy will cheer." How could that be, with the emerging markets of China and India, the population of the United-States set to reach 300 million, more and more individuals driving bigger and bigger SUV's. Not to mention the need to reach our own energy consumption needs, how do we produce our energy? through the burning of Fossil fuels (Natural gas, Coal, Oil etc...) It is evident that oil is harder to come by than in the 1970's, less and less new oil fields are being found by prospectors and most of the new oil is far deeper than before, or in much more far away regions. The end of " Easy Oil " is upon us, for example:
- The Sand Island, Azerbaijan. Twenty years ago this oil field was producing a majority of the Soviet Unions oil in that area, now they are forced to drill 2 miles beneath the surface  to claw out a meagre 4,500 barrels a day!
-Ghawar, Saudi-Arabia. In 1953 held a seventh of the known oil reserves, almost 6 million barrels of Crude a day! Now 50 years later it is forced to inject 45% water to pump out the remaining amount of oil in the reservoir.
We may be finding more and more oil but that oil is in far away regions. The amount of consumption of Fossil fuels is set to jump up much higher in the near future: By 2025 the world will use twice as much energy as it uses today, the current oil consumption in the United-States is set to jump from 80 million barrels a day to over 120 million barrels a day. This is not to mention the "emerging" economies of India and China. The question though is there enough oil to continue this amazing growth and usage doubling every generation or so?

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 28, 2006, 00:26:14
Boiling the article down to the fundamental point, increasing demand raises prices, which causes the supply side of the equation to change in order to match the two sides. OPEC's constant battle is not with the United States, it is with members cheating on their "quotas" in order to sell more oil and rake in more money. High prices also change consumer behavior, hence the observation that demand is flat or decreasing (these observations apply to the United States and are probably projections for up to one year out).

Also, if you follow the entire thread, you will see myriad examples of how increasing prices of fuel drive investors and inventors to look for new ways to cash in, such as coal liquefaction, oil sand production, bio diesel and so on. Increasing demand by China and India will simply result in more alternatives being researched and coming to market. The market is a dynamic system, so changing one factor (prices or available supply) will simply result in changes to other factors (consumer demand, product substitution).
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GAP on June 28, 2006, 00:39:07
Interesting poll being talked about on CBC. People in states were polled about where their oil came from...only 4% knew that most of their oil comes from Canada.    Public perception was the middle east.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Dolphin_Hunter on June 28, 2006, 00:41:52
We are not running out of oil, we will run out of drinkable water before we run out of oil.

http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Stossel/story?id=1954572&page=1      Have a read, there are other good myths on the page too.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Nemo888 on June 28, 2006, 00:54:04
Boiling the article down to the fundamental point, increasing demand raises prices, which causes the supply side of the equation to change in order to match the two sides. OPEC's constant battle is not with the United States, it is with members cheating on their "quotas" in order to sell more oil and rake in more money. High prices also change consumer behavior, hence the observation that demand is flat or decreasing (these observations apply to the United States and are probably projections for up to one year out).

Also, if you follow the entire thread, you will see myriad examples of how increasing prices of fuel drive investors and inventors to look for new ways to cash in, such as coal liquefaction, oil sand production, bio diesel and so on. Increasing demand by China and India will simply result in more alternatives being researched and coming to market. The market is a dynamic system, so changing one factor (prices or available supply) will simply result in changes to other factors (consumer demand, product substitution).

Notice how even though there are competing oil companies the price of gas is the same all over town? These companies have silently agreed not to compete. You know its true every time you go to the pump. The whole "market forces" thing is a joke right?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: clasper on June 28, 2006, 03:00:06
It is evident that oil is harder to come by than in the 1970's, less and less new oil fields are being found by prospectors and most of the new oil is far deeper than before, or in much more far away regions.
Actually the price of oil in current dollars is less now than it was during the 70's.  How does that imply that oil is harder to come by?
Quote
The end of " Easy Oil " is upon us, for example:
- The Sand Island, Azerbaijan. Twenty years ago this oil field was producing a majority of the Soviet Unions oil in that area, now they are forced to drill 2 miles beneath the surface  to claw out a meagre 4,500 barrels a day!
There is truth in this statement, but defining "easy oil" is problematic.  Drilling two miles beneath the surface has been common for decades.  The deepest offshore wells are currently in the range of 6 miles.  If you want to prove that easy oil is behind us with a simple depth analogy, you'll have to prove that it is harder to drill that 6 mile well now than it was to drill a 2 mile well back in the 30's.
Quote
-Ghawar, Saudi-Arabia. In 1953 held a seventh of the known oil reserves, almost 6 million barrels of Crude a day! Now 50 years later it is forced to inject 45% water to pump out the remaining amount of oil in the reservoir.
Water injection is a sign of disaster?  Do you know anything about the oil industry?  (Here's a hint: look at production levels in Saudi Arabia since 1953, and you'll see that the end isn't quite nigh yet.)
Quote
We may be finding more and more oil but that oil is in far away regions. The amount of consumption of Fossil fuels is set to jump up much higher in the near future: By 2025 the world will use twice as much energy as it uses today,
Worldwide oil production was half of its current levels in the late 60's.  Why will the next doubling take 20 years instead of the 35-40 which the last doubling took?
Quote
the current oil consumption in the United-States is set to jump from 80 million barrels a day to over 120 million barrels a day. This is not to mention the "emerging" economies of India and China. The question though is there enough oil to continue this amazing growth and usage doubling every generation or so?
Worldwide oil consumption is currently in the 80 million bbl/day range, US consumption is only about 20 million bbl/day.  If you're going to spew alarmist drivel, at least get the easily-googled facts straight.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 28, 2006, 11:52:17
Notice how even though there are competing oil companies the price of gas is the same all over town? These companies have silently agreed not to compete. You know its true every time you go to the pump. The whole "market forces" thing is a joke right?

I can drive around London and get a spread of about 4-6 cents a litre depending on when I do this (the biggest spread is usually near the end of the day). Since there are only four gasoline refineries in all of Ontario, this does restrict the amount of competition available (if we had more refineries, I would expect larger price spreads). The prices of most resources including oil have dropped in inflation adjusted dollars since the 1970's, mostly due to market forces increasing supplies or forcing substitutions of cheaper alternative resources. We are seeing the same things in the oil market, and indeed it is fairly easy to make analogies with previous "energy crisis" periods like the whale oil shortage of the late 1800's (which inaugurated the age of petroleum as an inexpensive substitute), or the wood shortage in Elizabethan England which kicked off the age of coal as Britan's inexpensive substitute.


Given your knowledge of basic economics, I would suggest the only joke was on the part of your educators, who have left you woefully unprepared for understanding how things work.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Nemo888 on June 28, 2006, 11:56:57
You mean the the 1970's price artificially inflated by OPEC? Maybe I should get you some crayons.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: muskrat89 on June 28, 2006, 12:57:23
OK, enough of the personal jabs. Keep it on track, everyone.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Koenigsegg on June 28, 2006, 13:05:23
I know not all gas stations do this of course, but Nemo is correct in some places.  In Barrie and such, the companies come to an agreement on what to charge, at least some of them do...
Petro Can, and Esso love doing this in Barrie.  However it is illegal...

If you look across the pond at western Europe, we aren't bad off...They are getting absolutely gouged, but they have several reasons behind the prices that they make public.  We tend not to get straight answers...Unless I am listening to the wrong news.

They have been saying we ony have 35 years of oil left for like 50 years.  I am not worried about running out of oil, as we have probably have a lot left.  I am worried about us killing the planet slowly with burning it.

**Typed this before Muskrat posted his statment...And I forget what track the conversation was on before we got off track, so I will post this, and if need be, you can skip it**
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Dolphin_Hunter on June 28, 2006, 14:11:00
We own the oil though.  So we shouldn't compare ourselves to Europe where they have to import their oil...  We shouldn't be paying these high prices, we should take care of our own needs first (which isn't much) then sell surplus oil on the world market, at market prices.

We have more oil reserves than most OPEC nations, so why does the media feel the need to focus on OPEC all the time, when in Canada we don't need to import oil.

At point in time it was cheaper to import oil than it was to pump it out of the sands.  Now times have changed, we don't need to import at all, but yet we continue to do so.  Why? 



Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: George Wallace on June 28, 2006, 14:13:18
Did you know that Irving imports most of its' crude from South America?  Venezuela is one of our major suppliers.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 28, 2006, 16:53:27
Re: petroleum imports and market prices:

Oil is a fungible commodity (i.e. oil from one place is more or less just like oil from somewhere else), so people will buy it from where they can get the best price, and producers will sell it where THEY get the best price. Sometimes the two don't quite match up, like the example of Irving buying from Venezuela, since it was somewhat cheaper to import oil by tanker than pipe it in from Western Canada. I expect the situation is changed a bit with the growth of East Coast oil drilling, but the principle remains the same.

As for why we pay world prices, let me put you in the place of the owner of a coffee shop. You are told you should sell your coffee to local residents for (say) .75 a cup, and can charge $1.25 to out of towners. On the other hand, the Timmies just down the road on the other side of the town line sells coffee to everyone for $1.25. What incentive do you have to keep selling coffee for .75  when you have to pay the same "input" costs for each cup you make, and don't make as much profit? There are several possible outcomes, such as you move your store out of town, you refuse to sell coffee to locals, you get city hall to subsidize you for each cup you sell locally and so on, most of which don't benefit the consumer in any way at all. Suggesting producers sell Canadian oil at sub world prices in Canada would either result in oil being sold outside Canada to the highest bidder, or producers closing shop and reducing production (until the suppressed price was bid up to world prices), or a black market developing which benefits the criminal elements but few others.

Short answer, the Invisible Hand will wrestle you to the ground every time you try to mess with market forces.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Dolphin_Hunter on June 28, 2006, 17:12:27
I agree with all of that.  Here is my question to you then.

Why is gasoline so much more cheaper in nations with vast oil reserves?  (its not our taxes)

In a few Latin America and Middle-East nations, such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, oil is produced by a government-owned company and local gasoline prices are kept low as a benefit to the nation's citizens.

OPEC controls the oil the market, much like Debeers controls the Diamond market. 
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Nemo888 on June 28, 2006, 17:54:36

Why is gasoline so much more cheaper in nations with vast oil reserves?  (its not our taxes)

Because governments threaten them. Technically oil is a National Resource, like water, trees or air so they can't have total ownership of it
http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060625/NEWS01/606250358/1001

But they are still making record profits.
"Oil industry awash in record levels of cash
But a smaller portion of profits is going to find new oil discoveries"
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8646744/

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: clasper on June 28, 2006, 18:24:55
In a few Latin America and Middle-East nations, such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, oil is produced by a government-owned company and local gasoline prices are kept low as a benefit to the nation's citizens.
And since most of those companies are owned by the sultan's brother instead of shareholders, they are run inefficiently, and tend to waste their resources (ie oil reserves).  BP, Shell, and Chevron do a much better job of managing their reservoirs and getting the most out of their production compared to Saudi Aramco, Sonatrach, and PDVSA.  Citizens who are well fed generally don't ask for that extra percentile of efficiency, but shareholders are a pretty ruthless bunch- they'll pull their money out and put it behind someone who's doing the job better.

The fact that these national oil companies sell gas at a price that their impoverished citizens can afford isn't necessarily virtuous.  Take a look at Nigeria to see what happens when many people in an oil-rich country can't afford gasoline.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: DBA on July 01, 2006, 15:58:51
Read up on Trudeau's National Energy Program. Played out pretty much the way a_majoor suggests it would today. It pissed off oil producing provinces and they cut development and exports to the rest of Canada. When world prices lowered and Mulroney came to power it was axed. Wikipedia link (mindful that it's not allways accurate or complete) National Energy Program (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Energy_Program)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: 54/102 CEF on July 01, 2006, 22:56:36
A scary strategic problem to ponder.  
But don't believe me.   Look into it yourself.  

(edited to correct sentence error)


I did

Oil is coming down - here we are mid wya through summer and WOW! It`s hardly above the buck it ws last summer

More here http://author.nationalreview.com/latest/?q=MjE0OA==
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 07, 2006, 15:39:39
Another reality check for everyone. This .pdf document outlines the various alternative energy sources and quantifies them in easy to understand ways. The crack about photovoltaic being like converting dollars to pesos on a one to one basis is far too true: I worked on a business plan for quite some time and never came up with any viable solution. The Laws of Physics are rigorously enforced, and not even an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada is going to allow you to evade them.......

http://www.tinaja.com/glib/energfun.pdf
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: joaquim on July 12, 2006, 14:36:11
For Canadians, this whole issue boils down to one question: when oil shortages become reality, will Alberta sell its oil to Americans or Canadians?

Secondary questions: Could we win a military battle for Fort McMurray? If not, are we really a sovereign country?

The silence of Canadians on this issue is deafening.

Joaquim, a concerned civilian.

PS: I highly recommend The Oil Drum, a wonderful blog by oil professionals. This post graphs the latest world production data (April 2006), proving that Hubbert's peak was indeed in December 2005. There is also a graph showing how the Saudis are desperately trying to keep up with demand in order to maintain the illusion of eternal oil:  http://www.theoildrum.com/story/2006/7/2/205758/5414 (http://www.theoildrum.com/story/2006/7/2/205758/5414) .
Oh, by the way, yes, Hubbert's model does take into account Alberta in its calculation of world reserve. It does not account for coal reserves (100x larger than oil reserves) or gas reserves. Both can be converted to liquids to replace gasoline, for a price.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: redleafjumper on July 12, 2006, 14:50:05
From 54/102 CEF - Oil is coming down - here we are mid wya through summer and WOW! It`s hardly above the buck it ws last summer...

Actually, oil prices where I am are increasing.  The price at the pumps most place in central BC is around 117.9 per litre of regular gasoline.  The expectation here is that we will soon be seeing prices nearing $1.35/litre.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 13, 2006, 12:02:47
A counterproductive move.

http://www.populardoctrine.com/2006/07/12/unifying-the-left-and-right-gas-price-regulation/

Quote
If there’s one issue that should be unifying the Canadian Left and Right, it’s condemnation for the decision made by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia’s Conservative governments to regulate gas prices at the pumps. In an attempt to quell public anger over rising gas prices, both governments have caved in and enacted the worst kind of public policy: regulation.

In what has become a national news story, many gas stations in New Brunswick have boycotted the governments decision by closing their gas stations, arguing that they cannot afford to sell gas at the government’s price, as there are no margins to make.
 
A Saint John service station has stopped selling gasoline because, with the province now capping prices at the pump, the owner says he can’t make any money.

Stephen Tobias, who owns an Esso gas station and is under contract to buy fuel from Wilson Fuel, says the price he pays Wilson for his gas is essentially the same price he can charge.

Kevin McCann, Wilson’s New Brunswick manager, said he sympathizes with Tobias. He said he knows of other retailers that are thinking of shutting down for the same reason.

I understand where the government is coming from: Canadians are not used to paying high gas prices because we’ve had it so damn good for quite some time. Consider the prices around the world, as listed on CNN:

In London, the price averages out to $1.49/litre, and in Hong Kong, gas rings in at $1.48/litre. Sure it’s not the $0.04/litre Venezuelans enjoy, but the going Canadian rate (roughly $1.08/litre) isn’t such a big deal when we look at it in relative terms. Truth is, it hasn’t been enough to stop most people from filling up their SUV, pick-up trucks and Hummers for their drive to the office, the soccer game, or to the community BBQ. I say let the free market dictate prices, and we’ll be far better off in the long run. The government has no place to step-in with regulation.

As for the left, they should be cheering at the sight of high gas prices, as it may be an impetus for change in the Canadian way of thinking. Maybe (and this is just a maybe) when the prices get high enough, people will resort to greener means of transportation. Perhaps they’ll get off their fat cheeks and hop on their bike. Maybe they’ll realize that public transit has its advantages (it let’s you read the paper, catch up on sleep). Maybe they’ll force themselves to talk with their neighbor about the option of carpooling.

Hold on Joseph! Most places don’t have extensive bike paths like Vancouver, or an intricate public transport system like Toronto, or the sunny days of Victoria, you can’t assume everyone has access to everything you’ve mentioned above.

Yes, I realize that. But if the prices are high enough, and if enough people lobby for useful, efficient, user-friendly transportation options (think of the Eurorail, fast-speed trains, Le Metro à Paris…) than the government may stop with these short-sighted, knee-jerk reactions and come up with some sustainable, long-term solutions.

And that’s good public policy.

I suppose this requires a vision — a hostile thing in a political environment too preoccupied with quick vote-gaining gimmicks.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: redleafjumper on July 13, 2006, 16:24:40
Some more oil news today of interest from the CTV website.  The article is credited and reproduced below:

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060713/oil_prices_060713/20060713?hub=TopStories

Oil prices hit new high amid Mideast tension
Updated Thu. Jul. 13 2006 2:05 PM ET

Associated Press

LONDON -- Oil prices hit a new high above $76 US a barrel Thursday in a market agitated by escalating violence in the Middle East.

The latest surge in oil shook stock-market investors' confidence, though economists said most U.S. consumers and businesses appear to be absorbing higher energy costs surprisingly well.

U.S. gasoline demand continues to rise in spite of near $3-a-gallon pump prices, core inflation remains relatively low and the U.S. economy is forecast to grow by roughly 3 percent in the second half of the year.

"Two years ago I might have said that $70 or $75 a barrel would be some kind of a tipping point. Now I'm not so sure anymore," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight, a private forecasting firm.

Still, Behravesh said lower-income Americans are suffering disproportionately from higher energy costs and "I could certainly make a policy case for helping them out on a temporary basis."

Light sweet crude for August delivery shot up as high as $76.55 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as fighting between Israel and Lebanon intensified, explosions hit Nigerian oil installations and a diplomatic standoff dragged on between the West and Iran over its nuclear program. The previous Nymex high of $75.78 was set last Friday.

Adjusted for inflation, oil prices would need to rise to about $90 a barrel to exceed the highs set a quarter century ago when supplies tightened in the aftermath of a revolution in Iran and a war between Iraq and Iran.

Today oil prices are being pushed higher by rising global demand and worries that the world's limited supply cushion would not be adequate to offset a lengthy disruption to output in major producing countries, such as Iran or Nigeria. There are also concerns about the risks hurricanes pose to U.S. production.

The latest fear being priced into the market is that the conflict between Israel and Lebanon could spill over into other corners of the Middle East, the region that produces nearly a third the world's oil and contains almost two-thirds of its untapped reserves.

Israel intensified its attacks against Lebanon on Thursday, blasting Beirut's airport and two Lebanese army air bases near the Syrian border, and imposing a naval blockade. More than 50 people have died in violence following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants.

In Nigeria, government officials said twin explosions hit oil installations belonging to an Italian oil company in the volatile southeastern delta region. Elsewhere, militants attacked a group of 11 boats carrying supplies to Chevron's offshore oil fields Wednesday, killing four navy sailors who were escorting the convoy, Brig. Gen. Alfred Ilogho said Thursday.

"The oil price has become a register of geopolitical tensions and fears," said Daniel Yergin, who heads Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

Yergin said petroleum supply-demand fundamentals are improving, with global oil inventories and spare oil-production capacity rising, but clearly not enough to offset the geopolitical unrest.

The surge in oil prices rattled stock market investors, sending the Dow Jones industrials sharply lower for the second straight day. Shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, slumped 2 percent on the New York Stock Exchange on concerns that high energy prices are cutting into consumers' discretionary income.

"The economy took $50 oil in stride," Yergin said. "It's clearly not taking $70 or $75 a barrel in stride. This is a rougher adjustment."

In other Nymex trading, gasoline futures climbed 3 cents to $2.29 a gallon, heating oil futures rose more than 3 cents to $2.05 a gallon and natural gas futures advanced 20 cents to $5.99 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GAP on July 13, 2006, 19:15:43
It is about the Oil !!   :)

Once mocked, new Caspian oil pipeline looks smart now
ASSOCIATED PRESS   POSTED ON 13/07/06
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060713.RTICKERMAIN13/TPStory/TPBusiness/Asia/ (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060713.RTICKERMAIN13/TPStory/TPBusiness/Asia/)


Almost a decade ago, former U.S. president Bill Clinton threw his weight behind a multibillion-dollar pipeline designed to bring the oil riches of the Caspian Sea to the West, bypassing Russia and tapping a source of crude outside the unstable Middle East.

Critics derided the proposed 1,770-kilometre, $3.9-billion (U.S.) pipeline -- snaking through Azerbaijan, the mountains of Georgia and northern Turkey before hitting the Mediterranean coast -- as too expensive and too difficult to build.
More on link

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: 3rd Horseman on July 13, 2006, 21:50:11
It is time for the Canadian Government to opt out of OPEC and set a domestic price and world price for oil. I would suggest that with many provinces now toying with gas control the time is right for the feds to step up to the plate and do it. Prices should be 21 to 30 per barrel sold domestic and let the world price go were it may.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Apollo13 on July 13, 2006, 21:55:12
The cheap, easy to get at oil is a thing of the past. It's the hard stuff we need to get at now.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/01/20/60minutes/main1225184.shtml

There is lots of oil to go around, but it's the cost due to consumption that's gonna do us in I think.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Apollo13 on July 13, 2006, 21:56:21
Horseman, very good point. I agree.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: SeaKingTacco on July 14, 2006, 10:11:50
Quote
It is time for the Canadian Government to opt out of OPEC and set a domestic price and world price for oil. I would suggest that with many provinces now toying with gas control the time is right for the feds to step up to the plate and do it. Prices should be 21 to 30 per barrel sold domestic and let the world price go were it may.

Jesus wept...why is economics SUCH a lost art nowadays?

3rd- let's say you are a farmer.  You produce grain.  Your costs are $1.00/bushel.  Ideally, you would like to make a profit so you try and sell when the price is at least $1.15/bushel.

Now wait. Some guy in NB wants cheaper bread.  He manages to convince the government that there are votes in this.  They regulate the price of grain at $.80/bushel. You tell me farmerboy- how long are you going to be in business, selling at a loss?  How exactly would every farmer in the country downing tools make "more" grain available?

And tell me, since you, like me, you live in the Maritimes- how well is the retarded attempts by the local governments to regulate the retail price of gasoline going (something which is largely set every morning for the entire world in NY harbour)?  How come like 120 rural gas stations in NB are refusing to sell gas- could it be that they don't like selling a commodity at a loss?  Do you think for one second that Alberta (or the hundreds of oil companies in Alberta) will sell at gasoline to you at a loss?  They will leave it in the ground first.  BTW, the gasoline you burn in NB largely comes from South America.  We pay full world price per barrel here.  You going to convince the South Americans to give us a special "maritimes" rate of $40.00/barrel, because we are such good guys?

And all of this ignores the human nature.  Tell me- do you waste more or less gasoline when the price is $.50/litre or $1.50/litre?  Price affects demand, which in the long run affects price.  Trust me- it works.

Sorry to be a bit harsh- but regulating the price of anything never works in the long run.  Take it from me (who lived in Alberta during NEP) and my brother, who is in the oil business in Alberta, that the only cure for high prices, is high prices.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: redleafjumper on July 14, 2006, 19:22:26
SeaKing Taco +2.  The problem, which is the point of this thread, is that the stuff will be in shorter and shorter supply while demand increases.  Price fixing will not, and never has worked.  Supply and demand are going to drive what happens with oil.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: SeaKingTacco on July 15, 2006, 10:19:18
Redleaf-

Agree absolutely.  The more expensive oil gets, the greater the incentive for an alternative (or many alternatives) to be developed.  This has happened everysingletime in human history.  When trees for fuel became in short supply in Europe, coal was exploited.  When whale oil for lighting became scarce in the 1860's, conventional oil came into common usage in, like, 6 years.

Let the market work- when Joe and Mary Lunchbox get tired of paying $100.00 to fill their SUV every week, things will change.  And my sense is that, in my part of Canada anyway, the tipping point is just about here.

Cheers.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 17, 2006, 01:57:19
Instead of an SUV, you might consider buying one of these:

http://www.popsci.com/popsci/automotivetech/d7213bcc2eb84010vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.html

Quote
Thin Car Travels Far

John Matras

To listen to automakers snipe about tightening fuel economy standards, you'd think it impossible to squeeze more miles from a barrel of Extract of Arabia. This, of course, is not the case, particularly if you design a vehicle expressly to drive far and drink little.

Forget power, space, and speed: Volkswagen AG's latest idea-on-wheels does not address the requirements of the average American family driver. What it can do is travel more than 100 kilometers on a single liter of fuel. Translation: 235 miles per gallon.

The car's designers combined highly tuned aerodynamics, exotic materials, and a 0.3-liter diesel engine to achieve 0.99 liters per 100 kilometers. The project, the brainchild of engineer Thomas Gänsicke, is an engineering exercise and therefore has rather whimsical features. Most noticeable are the car's canoe-like proportions: It's 4 feet wide and 11 feet long. Occupants sit tandem, the passenger straddling the driver's seat, both wedged under a 4-foot-long gullwing canopy.

Three video cameras eliminate the mileage-reducing wind drag of rearview mirrors. Wheels are faired in, side-cooling air inlets open only when necessary, and even the keylocks have been replaced by a proximity unlocking system. The resulting coefficient of drag is 0.159, compared with 0.30 or so for most production cars.

The slinky carbon-fiber bodywork covering the magnesium frame is just the beginning of the unobtainium-based technology used throughout. The front suspension is a combination of titanium, aluminum, magnesium, and ceramics and weighs less than 18 pounds. The single-cylinder four-stroke engine has monoblock construction—there's no separate cylinder head—and is all aluminum. Fuel is atomized directly into the cylinder at 28,000 psi. Two overhead camshafts operate the one exhaust and two inlet valves. The fuel pump is magnesium, the exhaust system titanium.

The engine produces a thundering 8.5 horsepower and weighs only 57 pounds. It conspires with a 6-speed gearbox—magnesium housing, hollow shafts, titanium bolts—to pinch miles from the diesel fuel. The transmission shifts electronically, killing the engine when an onboard computer foresees an inkling of fuel savings. A starter-generator, with energy stored in nickel-metal batteries, rekindles the engine as necessary.

Because the electric motor only restarts the engine, the 1-liter car is not a hybrid. Gänsicke explains that if fuel economy wasn't paramount, the motor could be used to increase horsepower and torque by 30 percent. "But that's not the effect we wanted." In fact, he's not terribly specific about performance, other than to say that top speed exceeds 70 mph and that it's "not very quick in accelerating."

It can, he promises, "swim with the usual traffic." Who better to emphasize that point than Ferdinand Piëch, chairman of VW? For the most recent board meeting in April, Piëch drove the 1-liter car from Wolfsburg to Hamburg, 110 miles, averaging 264 miles per gallon on the way. That works out to an ultra-miserly 0.89 liters per 100 kilometers.

Of course, "0.89-liter car" doesn't quite have the same ring.


SIZING UP THE SMALL FRIES
How VW's 1-liter machine stacks up against the shortest-wheelbase vehicle on American roads today, the Mazda Miata.

VW 1-Liter Car

Length: 143.7 in.
Width: 49.1 in.
Height: 43.7 in.
Weight: 588 pounds
Peak Power: 8.5 hp
Fuel Capacity: 1.7 gal.
Mileage: 235 mpg


Mazda Miata

Length: 155.3 in.
Width: 66.0 in.
Height: 48.4 in.
Weight: 2,387 pounds
Peak Power: 142 hp
Fuel Capacity: 12.7 gal.
Mileage: 29 mpg
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: redleafjumper on July 17, 2006, 04:30:30
I wonder how it performs in snow with a moose on the roof?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 17, 2006, 20:52:16
The VW dealer was out of that model anyway  ;), but you can always try some of the tips in this article. Any Transport NCO's want to do an experiment with their fleets?

http://www.omninerd.com/2006/07/16/articles/57
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: 3rd Horseman on July 17, 2006, 23:06:25
Holy Crap Tacco!

     The problem is that if the world price was reflective of the real price then you would have an argument. I don't think that controls work in a free market economy but that is not what we are in right now with oil. The feds need to step in to sort out a runaway of profits based on our foolish alliance with OPEC. The truth is that oil is artificially high and that is my point when we are being F&^%% up the a^& by the rest of the world we need a strong government to step in.  The bread thing does not work with oil. The basics are that our oil companies make good money at 14 to 21 per barrel and we have lots of oil. It is foolish for us to pay a world price for oil when we have enough oil to set a dom rate.
   As a small example:

Saudi has a dom rate and world price
Venezuela has a dom rate and world price
Nigeria has dom rate and world price
Kuwait has dom rate and world price
Iraq same
Iran same
Turkey same
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 18, 2006, 10:50:10
Holy Crap Horseman!

Look very carefully at that list and pick out the common denominator of most of these governments on your list:

All but two are autocracies where the State (or the ruling class) owns the means of production and siphon off the wealth generated from the sale of oil. Iraq inherited this system form the former Ba'athist regime, and once the insurgency dies down should consider privatizing the oil fields and dumping the system, Turkey also uses this to quell or moderate domestic opposition and should also make the same calculation (short term pain for long term gain).

For a Saudi prince who is already swimming in money, or a Hugo Chavez who is busy buying off the mob, the loss of revenues from having a domestic price is either irrelevant or considered a lower cost than using the payoff to protect your own tender a**. In a functioning free market economy, the loss of revenue from setting a "domestic" price is a giant opportunity cost to doing business, and shareholders are not willing to pay that cost through forgone profits and dividend payments. You might be upset about that forgone revenue yourself (checked your mutual fund holdings lately?), and the loss of that wealth to the economy means less wealth to spend, save or invest, hurting everyone inside and outside the oil industry. As the examples of Canadian industry gradually shutting down during the time of the National Energy Program, or gas stations closing due to Government price controls show, in the end you won't be able to buy fuel and petrochemicals (except maybe through the black market) once controls are imposed.

As for the World price reflecting the "real" price, what are you getting at? The cost of production and refining is factored in, since oil is sold by auction to the highest bidder on the world market. If you don't match the bid price, you don't get any oil,  period.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on August 01, 2006, 16:33:59
More fun with numbers. Now you can see why "alternitive" energy isn't and the only "Green" in "Green" energy is the cash subsidies. There are plenty of niche and "botique" markets for alternative energy, just don't think they will power a high tech civilization like our own:

Quote
Dear Folks:
To really gain some perspective on the energy problem , and understand what a tough nut it is, read this reply by Uncle AL, from another Sci-forum:

"Do you have any idea how much energy the US uses/year? It has held reasonably steady at 60 bbl oil equiv/capita. 1 boe = 1700 kWhr-thermal. There are 290 million US folk or

1.74x10^10 boe/year, or
2.96x10^13 kWhr-thermal/year, or
1.065x10^20 joules/year, or...

...or the equivalent of 1.2 metric tonnes of matter 100% converted into energy each year, E=mc^2. Are ya gonna alternatively burn algae, git, or catch wind

The US consumes the equivalent of 1.2 metric tonnes of matter 100% converted into energy each year, E=mc^2.

You are all clueless. Sparrow farts run through a gas turbine won't get you 10^20 joules/year. Not now, not ever. Pulling 10^20 joules/year out of wind or waves would monstrously perturb the weather. Where do the energy and raw materials necessary to fabricate and install your New Age hind gut fermentations originate? Who pays for the environmental impact reports and litigations therefrom?

What are the unknown hazards? Can you guarantee absolute safety for 10,000 years? Let's have a uniform set of standards, eginineering and New Age bullshit both. Area necessary to generate 1 GW electrical, theoretical minimum

mi^2
Area, Modality
====================
1000 biomass
300 wind
60 solar
0.3 nuclear


3x10^7 GWhr-thermal/year would need 9 billion mi^2 of wind collection area. The total surface area of the Earth is 197 million mi^2. 24 hrs/day. Looks like yer gonna come up a little short if 100% of the Earth were wind generators powering only the US.

Are ya gonna alternatively burn algae to generate 10^20 joules/year? Now you are a factor of 3 even worse - before processing and not counting inputs. THEY LIED TO YOU. They lied to you so poorly it can be dismissed with arithmetic. Where are your minds?

--------------------
Uncle Al
http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/
(Toxic URL! Unsafe for children and most mammals)
http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz.pdf "

The smart money is probably on synthetic hydrocarbon fuels for the short to mid term future. Invest in coal......
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on August 02, 2006, 02:36:12
The smart money is probably on synthetic hydrocarbon fuels for the short to mid term future. Invest in coal......

Or maybe this:

http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=17236&ch=biztech

Quote
Abundant Power from Universal Geothermal Energy
An MIT chemical engineer explains why new technologies could finally make "heat mining" practical nearly anywhere on earth.
By Kevin Bullis
 
A section of the geothermal plants north of San Francisco, known as The Geysers. These plants rely on relatively rare geologic formations. MIT professor Jefferson Tester believes geothermal can be much more widespread, by making artificial reservoirs for harvesting the earth’s heat. (Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
The answer to the world's energy needs may have been under our feet all this time, according to Jefferson Tester, professor of chemical engineering at the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. Tester says heat generated deep within the earth by the decay of naturally occurring isotopes has the potential to supply a tremendous amount of power -- thousands of times more than we now consume each year.

So far, we've been able to harvest only a tiny fraction of geothermal energy resources, taking advantage of places where local geology brings hot water and steam near the surface, such as in Iceland or California, where such phenomena have long been used to produce electricity. But new oil-field stimulation technology, developed for extracting oil from sources such as shale, makes it possible to harvest much more of this energy by allowing engineers to create artificial geothermal reservoirs many kilometers underground.

Tester calls it "universal geothermal" energy because the reservoirs could be located wherever they're needed, such as near power-hungry cities worldwide.

Technology Review spoke with Tester about the potential of universal geothermal energy and what it will take to make it a reality.

Technology Review: How much geothermal energy could be harvested?

Jefferson Tester: The figure for the whole world is on the order of 100 million exojoules or quads [a quad is one quadrillion BTUs]. This is the part that would be useable. We now use worldwide just over 400 exojoules per year. So you do the math, and you know you've got a very big source of energy.

How much of that massive resource base could we usefully extract? Imagine that only a fraction of a percent comes out. It's still big. A tenth of a percent is 100,000 quads. You have access to a tremendous amount of stored energy. And assessment studies have shown that this is thousands of times in excess of the amount of energy we consume per-year in the country. The trick is to get it out of the ground economically and efficiently and to do it in an environmentally sustainable manner. That's what a lot of the field efforts have focused on.

TR: We do use some geothermal today, don't we?

JT: In some cases nature has provided a means for extracting stored thermal energy. We have many good examples. The Geysers field in California is the largest geothermal field in the world -- it's been in production for over 40 years and produces high-quality steam that can readily be converted into electric power, and it's one of the rarities nature-wise in terms of what we have worldwide. In the mineral vernacular they would be regarded as sort of high-grade gold mines.

TR: But haven't people been talking about greater use of geothermal energy for years now? What's changed?

JT: Like many energy technologies, it had a lot of support structure back in the 70s and in the 80s, but our national priorities shifted from energy to other things, and we didn't necessarily invest enough in it at that time to bring it to fruition.

Many [energy] technologies, whether they're renewables or nuclear power or coal or whatever it might be, need to be continually revisited and placed in context with the current state of technology. In this case, our interest in trying to go after hydrocarbons and extract hydrocarbons has developed a lot of technology in subsurface engineering that's useful and makes geothermal worth revisiting.

TR: How do you plan to harvest stored heat from more areas?

JT: What we're trying to do is emulate what nature has provided in these high-grade systems. When we go very deep, [rocks] are crystalline. They're very impermeable. They aren't heat exchangers like we really need. We'd like to create porosity and permeability. [The rock] actually is filled with small fractures, so what you're trying to do is find those weak zones and reopen them. We need to engineer good connectivity between an injection set of wells and a production set of wells, and sweep fluid, in this case, water, over that rock surface so that we extract the thermal energy and bring it up another well.

TR: What technology do you need to open up the rock and harvest the heat?

JT: All the technology that goes into drilling and completing oil and gas production systems, [such as] stimulation of wells, hydraulic fracturing, deep-well completion, and multiple horizontal laterals, could in principle be extended to deep heat mining. Hydraulic methods have been the ones that hold the most promise, where you go into the system and you pressurize the rock -- just water pressure. If you go higher than the confinement stress, you will reopen the small fractures. We're just talking about using a few thousand pounds per square inch pressure -- it's surprising how easy this is to do. This is a technique that's used almost every single day to stimulate oil and gas reservoirs.

TR: What still needs to be done to make artificial reservoirs for geothermal possible?

JT: Like any new technology, there are technical issues. But I don't see any show-stoppers. I think that the evolution of the technology, with 30-plus years of field testing, has been very positive. The basic concept has been demonstrated. We know how to make large reservoirs. We need to connect them better, to stimulate them better than we have in the past using some of these hydraulic methods and diagnostics that are now available to us.

So it's the scale-up to a commercial-sized system that has to be done, making a heat mine that is large enough and productive enough to sustain the economic investment. But we believe that's possible to do based on where we are now with the technology.

TR: You're working on new drilling technology. How does this fit in?

JT: We feel that as part of a long-term view of the possibility of universal heat mining, we should also be thinking about revolutionary methods for cutting through rock and completing wells. Most of the drilling that's done today is made by crushing and grinding our way using very, very hard materials to crush through and grind through minerals in the rock. And it's been very successful. It's evolved tremendously over the past century, and we can do it, certainly, routinely, to 10 kilometers. But it costs a lot. So we're looking for a fundamental way to change the technology that would change the cost-depth relationship, and allow us to drill deeper in a much more cost-effective manner. It would open up the accessibility tremendously.

TR: What are the advantages compared with other renewable sources of energy?

JT: Geothermal has a couple of distinct differences. One, it is very scalable in baseload. Our coal-fired plants produce electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The nuclear power plants are the same way. Geothermal can meet that, without any need for auxiliary storage or a backup system. Solar would require some sort of storage if you wanted to run it when the sun's not out. And wind can't provide it without any backup at 100 percent reliability, because the typical availability factor of a wind system is about 30 percent or so, whereas the typical availability factor of a geothermal system is about 90 percent or better.

TR: What are some environmental concerns with "heat mining?"

JT: Obviously in any system where you're going underground, you need to think about are you disturbing the natural conditions in the earth that might cause bad things to happen. We have a pretty good history of knowing the effects of extraction. Nevertheless, it has to be monitored carefully and managed carefully.

In some natural systems you have to deal with the emissions -- control of hydrogen sulfide and other gases. Environmental regulations insist on full re-injection of the fluid.

This is not a free lunch, but there's virtually no carbon dioxide, so you're producing baseload electric power without generating any carbon dioxide.

TR: How fast do you think artificial geothermal systems can be developed?

JT: With sufficient financing and a well-characterized field, you can go into existing areas right now and build a plant, getting it operational within a few years. But to get universal heat mining is going to take an investment which won't be quite that quick. It might take 10 or 15 years of investment to get to the point where you have confidence that you can do this in virtually any site that you can go to. Once it gets in place, though, it can be replicated. I think it's very reproducible and expandable. That's the great hope at least.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: DBA on August 02, 2006, 03:59:41
Geothermal isn't a solution either. The earth just doesn't generate enough heat and it takes so long for it to propagate through most rock formations. You can extract heat faster than it's being replenished from below but that's not really sustainable unless the heat reservoir is very large. A few places have underground water in close proximity to lava flows which means the heat is replenished at a very high rate compared to most rock formations but that's the exception.

I think for energy savings moving heat instead of directly generating it is one area for a lot of energy savings. The equipment costs more which has to be amortized against running costs for the life of the product. As energy prices increase it becomes more viable. Invent such a device and you stand a good chance of cashing in over the decades to come.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on August 03, 2006, 14:04:50
An interesting flow chart which lays out "what goes where". An interesting figure is the "Lost energy" (usually released in the form of waste heat). If anyone can find a way to reduce that figure, they will have made a huge dent in the problem, and become billionaires in the process.

(Anyone looking for me, I'll be in the basement lab.... ;))

http://www.jerrypournelle.com/images/2006/U.S.EnergyFlowTrends-2002-InExajoules-USEnFlow02-exaj.gif


Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: WarmAndVertical on August 06, 2006, 14:06:52
The problem doesn't start when we run out of oil...it starts when we hit the PEAK after which supply starts to decline while demand continues to rise (mainly due to newer growth economies such as Asia).  The experts vary on when we hit peak fron now to within 6-8 years.   
I guess you either understand it or you don't, but don't expect to see cheap oil ever again.
Oh, and the economies (US, UK) who are anticipating this problem are making moves to secure their piece of ME and Mid Asian oil patch politically or militarily.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: couchcommander on August 06, 2006, 19:20:30
BAH! No need for messy hydrocarbons, or geothermal.

ITER is coming online soon (http://www.iter.org/), along with a host of other recent (some very recent) advances, making fusion a reality within the next few decades.... clean and 4000 megawatts a pop.  I'm sure, however, the radical greenies will find something wrong with it.

(Plus LCF is VERY HIGH! The JET reactor, offline, and in operation:

(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/e/e5/Inside_JET_tokamak.jpg/800px-))

In the mean time, 1200 megawatt ACR's will do nicely, along with hydro, wind, and tidal power (excellent stuff, unlike wind it's predictable, and not to mention output can be far above even 10,000 megawatts).

Unfortunately, ALL of these have a high capital cost (although they have very low operating costs). Thus, the various corporations that do power generation (at least out here in Alberta) will either have to actually start to looking at the long term and make these expenditures now to protect both themslves and our economy from massive spikes in the cost of a diminishing resource (HA! Why would they do that when we've made it so easy for them to make money off of our troubles?), or the government will have to develop a back bone and decide that a vital public utility is no place for a short sighted corporation to be playing, build them themselves, and then put them under the control of an arms length crown corporation where the people and the industry who rely on the services are adequately represented on the board (i.e. NOT Canada Post, or VIA, etc.).

Or, a smart bunch of investors might just get the right idea..... nahhh ;)

My .02... ok well maybe .03
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on August 06, 2006, 23:12:14
or the government will have to develop a back bone and decide that a vital public utility is no place for a short sighted corporation to be playing, build them themselves, and then put them under the control of an arms length crown corporation where the people and the industry who rely on the services are adequately represented on the board (i.e. NOT Canada Post, or VIA, etc.).

Ontario Hydro (Now Hydro One) was and is such a corporation, and because they didn't and don't have to face market dicipline we have over $30 billion dollars in "stranded" debt from the old utility. and we are facing a potential situation where Ontario may have to endure brownouts or rolling blackouts, while the government has set up Ontario for the greatest financial disaster in Canadian history by supressing the market price of electricity, but using tax dollars to pay market rates for imported American electricity (peak market rates, not "base" rates). While this means of fulfilling el;eectrical demand is certainly a short term triumph of market capitalism over psudo socialist pandering for votes, we can be rest assured that:

a. American utility companies will serve their home markets first in event of a demand spike, and
b. new generating capacity is being built to service the Ontario market.....in the United States.

Nuclear fusion energy is certainly the great white hope of the energy industry, but it has been stuck in "commercial fusion will be possible in 20 years" since at least the mid 1950's, so I won't be holding my breath. There should be a more concerted effort to experiment with many more fusion concepts such as "Migma", the Farnsworth fusor, Proton-Boron fusion, and so on since the current approach has been rather dissapointing, to say the least.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: couchcommander on August 07, 2006, 02:54:45
I don't condone subsidizing a service in the slightest, I am a firm believer that the true cost of something should be reflected in what we pay for it (including environmental costs), not to mention going heavily into debt with no repayment scheme.

However, I don't think I need to point out that neither the OEB nor HydroOne board's are such that "the people and the industry who rely on the services are adequately represented" (I see a bunch of laywers, career capitalists, and energy sector people). ;)

In the end, I think we could both agree that preferrably a mix of private/public investment in relatively low impact sources (tidal, gen 3 + nuclear, hydro, etc.) would be best (barring a dilithium chamber coming online anytime soon, of course ;))



Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Tiamo on August 07, 2006, 12:47:10
This is an interesting article on how to build 6,000 nuclear reactors by 2050:

http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/Articles%202005/Nuclear2050.pdf

Interesting things (if proven true), China is planning to build 32 nuclear reactors.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: dglad on August 07, 2006, 13:04:41
Geothermal isn't a solution either. The earth just doesn't generate enough heat and it takes so long for it to propagate through most rock formations. You can extract heat faster than it's being replenished from below but that's not really sustainable unless the heat reservoir is very large. A few places have underground water in close proximity to lava flows which means the heat is replenished at a very high rate compared to most rock formations but that's the exception.

Actually, the Earth has lots of internal heat, left over from its formation, plus given off by decaying radioactive elements like potassium, plus (a poorly understood amount) from tidal stretching of the planet by the Moon and Sun.  You could obtain ready access to this abundant geothermal energy, as long as you mined it in the ocean basins.  Oceanic crust is very thin and has high thermal conductivity compared to continental crust.  The abundance of hydrothermal vents and marine volcanic activity along spreading oceanic ridge zones shows the extent to which the earth's internal heat can and does vent, if given an opportunity.  Continental crust, which is relatively thick and rich in minerals that don't conduct heat as well, functions as a very effective blanket over the upper mantle--lots of heat trapped underneath, but far, far beyond our ability to access it in any reasonable way.

So if I was going to do this, I'd venture to set up something resembling an off-shore drilling platform and drop the infrastructure from it into the geothermally active zones of the ocean basins, use that heat to generate electricity, and then transmit it--probably by submarine cable--to where it was needed.  Of course, I'd also drive up the capital and operating costs by some ungodly factor as well, but there you go.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: dglad on August 07, 2006, 13:19:33
I don't condone subsidizing a service in the slightest, I am a firm believer that the true cost of something should be reflected in what we pay for it (including environmental costs), not to mention going heavily into debt with no repayment scheme.

Does that mean you support a lower rate for northwestern Ontario, since the grid west of Wawa is effectively isolated from the rest of the province by a measly 300 MW bridge?  The northwest is currently in a state of oversupply, thanks to the closures of so many forest industry operations...but the Wawa "bridge" prevents the excess energy from being moved east and south towards the GTA.  In the meantime, most electricity in the northwest is produced at about 4 cents per kWh, which is much lower than the expensive power produced (mainly by nuclear reactors and coal) in the rest of the province.

Frankly, I'd like to see the residential user base subsidizing electricity more heavily, with lower rates for industrial and commerical users.    Cheaper electricity won't help a home-owner if they don't have a job....


In the end, I think we could both agree that preferrably a mix of private/public investment in relatively low impact sources (tidal, gen 3 + nuclear, hydro, etc.) would be best (barring a dilithium chamber coming online anytime soon, of course ;))

Agreed.  In fact, Ontario should be looking to buy more heavily from provinces like Manitoba, that can produce relatively cheap and clean hydroelectric power on a large scale.  The issue, again, is moving it to the south of Ontario, which would require a new tranmission infrastructure.

Finally, regarding the availability of oil globally...has anyone mentioned Thomas Gold, who theorized that hydrocarbons are not derived mainly from decayed biomass, as is generally held, but actually originate in the Earth's interior and "well-up" through time into the crust?  It's a, to say the least, controversial theory, that most petroleum geologists discount (it makes for interesting Google searches on "thomas gold oil", however).  It hasn't been disproven and, in fact, there is evidence from organic inclusions in igenous rocks and from results of deep experimental drilling to suggest that at least some hydrocarbons do occur in the upper mantle and lower crust.  Whether or not this can prove to be a significant source of oil and gas is highly problematic, but it does put an interesting spin on the issue of global oil supply i.e. maybe we should be looking for hydrocarbons somewhere other than the "traditional" territory of sedimentary basins such as the Middle East, west-central North America, North Sea, etc.



Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: couchcommander on August 07, 2006, 16:09:21
Does that mean you support a lower rate for northwestern Ontario, since the grid west of Wawa is effectively isolated from the rest of the province by a measly 300 MW bridge?  The northwest is currently in a state of oversupply, thanks to the closures of so many forest industry operations...but the Wawa "bridge" prevents the excess energy from being moved east and south towards the GTA.  In the meantime, most electricity in the northwest is produced at about 4 cents per kWh, which is much lower than the expensive power produced (mainly by nuclear reactors and coal) in the rest of the province.

Frankly, I'd like to see the residential user base subsidizing electricity more heavily, with lower rates for industrial and commercial users.    Cheaper electricity won't help a home-owner if they don't have a job....

Ah no i don't think subsidizing is the way to go. Think of it this way, the higher rates being paid in the south compared to the north will encourage a few things a) reduced usage in the south, helping to deal with the shortage, and b) either i) encourage the relevant authorities to build new infrastructure, or if they are not willing to do that ii) encouraging industry to move to the west where electricity is more abundant/cheaper. Either way, it is helping deal with the issue (there is definitely a preferable option, but it will sort itself out in the end if nothing is done).

The nice thing about capitalist markets, when they are not distorted, is that they are self balancing (and I'm no fan of capitalism, but I will definitely give it that). It's the same with home's subsidizing the cost of electricity for industry - all that does is bring down the cost of goods artificially, leading to more demand than the infrastructure can actually sustain.

Once again, as we've both agreed, the solution to all of this is building new infrastructure, not just trying to artificially reduce costs.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on August 29, 2006, 15:06:14
I came across this interesting link, apologies if it has already been posted. 

http://www.youtube.com/v/ry6w3mRm-FM

I especially liked the part where the guy says that the power from the car could run your home.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: redleafjumper on August 29, 2006, 17:54:23
I liked the part where he said you could put a new upper body on it to make it into a pick-up truck.  This looks like a good idea.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on August 30, 2006, 14:21:03
I couldn't get a sense from the video how loud or quiet the thing was while it was running.  I would think it would be fairly quiet. 
At least until it got in an accident and blew up.   ::)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: TCBF on August 30, 2006, 19:24:47
"At least until it got in an accident and blew up. "

- What to spend my money on.... gas or "Blow-Up" insurance premiums...

Say, by your photo, it would appear you are promoting intemperance amongst the law enforcement community...
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on September 03, 2006, 02:07:20
Say, by your photo, it would appear you are promoting intemperance amongst the law enforcement community...

Maple syrup.  It's a Super Trooper thing.  You wouldn't understand.   ;)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GO!!! on September 03, 2006, 19:17:53
Maple syrup.  It's a Super Trooper thing.  You wouldn't understand.   ;)

I've heard that that movie is really more of a documentary disguised as a comedy - would you agree?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on September 04, 2006, 16:39:37
I've heard that that movie is really more of a documentary disguised as a comedy - would you agree?

Pretty much, but we haven't achieved that level of seriousness or professionalism yet.   :P ;)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Zell_Dietrich on September 04, 2006, 18:05:04
My first thought was how uncomfortable I would be sitting on top of that much Hydrogen.... then I realised that cars have even more Gas in them.... and they blow up all the time.  Why did that comfort me?

Well I know that we have a cheep way to make Hyrodgen,  http://www.zetatalk.com/energy/tengy14r.htm
I can see it now,  large coastal algae farms making hydrogen and every community center with a large hydrogen producing public park.  Just imagine complete independence from foreign sources of energy.   A dream... just a dream.  Now imagine we switch our farming base onto those engines... suddenly we have a stable food source. (Now to develop the technology top produce plastics/chemicals from renewable resources.... http://www.eesi.org/briefings/2003/EnergyandClimate/5.20.03%20Biomass/5.20.03%20Biomass.htm   and better http://www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20040205/science.htm#1   Humm,  maybe when peak oil comes,  we'll be just fine.   (Although switching now would save tonnes of money and health problems)

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on September 05, 2006, 00:36:42
Save your kum-bay-ahs for now.  Do some looking and see who holds the pattents for the new tech. 
Ding.  Big oil. 
We won't see these things until all of the cheap, easy to process oil is out of the ground and the oil companies have found a way to ease out of the industry and diversify their money into other areas.  The tech has existed for something like 20 years, it has just been shelved by and large.
They have us by the short stubbies.  That's why when the hippies started crying about "No Blood For Oil" in Iraq, my response was always "why"?  Cheap oil helps all of us, and no (affordable) alternative is going to show up any time soon.  Waxing Sadam and his pack of arseholes was a bonus side trip.
Standing by for lefty salvo... :warstory:
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: rmacqueen on September 05, 2006, 00:56:26
If you want to read an interesting book on the subject have a look at THE BOTTOMLESS WELL
The Twilight Of Fuel, The Virtue Of Waste, And Why We Will Never Run Out Of Energy by Peter Huber and Mark P. Mills.  In it they point out how historically shortages of one kind have always led to new inventions to overcome the problem and some of the new forms of energy scientists are working on.

One concern I have with the idea of hydrogen is the exhaust.  Sure, it is nothing more than water but what affect would billions of cars worldwide creating water have on the atmosphere?  Could we be creating a new kind of greenhouse "gas"?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on September 05, 2006, 01:25:58
One concern I have with the idea of hydrogen is the exhaust.  Sure, it is nothing more than water but what affect would billions of cars worldwide creating water have on the atmosphere?  Could we be creating a new kind of greenhouse "gas"?

I have heard of that sort of gas.  I think it was called "vapour" and I have heard (probably just conspiracy theory, mind you) that it can lead to a thing called "clouds".  I read a paper in a science journal that said that "clouds" when subjected to the right atmospheric pressure can produce a by-product called "rain" that there is no known way to stop. 
Imagine the streets covered in auto fuel.  The potential for death is unimaginable. 
 :dontpanic: (I know, I'm being a dick.  But it is meant in fun ;))
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: rmacqueen on September 05, 2006, 01:42:46
I have heard of that sort of gas.  I think it was called "vapour" and I have heard (probably just conspiracy theory, mind you) that it can lead to a thing called "clouds".  I read a paper in a science journal that said that "clouds" when subjected to the right atmospheric pressure can produce a by-product called "rain" that there is no known way to stop. 
Imagine the streets covered in auto fuel.  The potential for death is unimaginable. 
 :dontpanic: (I know, I'm being a dick.  But it is meant in fun ;))

Awe, you hurt my feelings  :crybaby:

Actually, though, an excess of vapour creating clouds could trap heat especially if global warming is, in fact, a natural phenomenon and the world continues to warm without the aid of pollution
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Zell_Dietrich on September 05, 2006, 02:23:15
Well it is a valid point,  little water droplets from our current cars are responsible for lots of the ice on the road - especially where cars stop and then go again. (Intersections) Now, as for "Big Oil"  there is one group that can in the intrest of public good scrap existing patents,  change the laws/tax structures and directly invest into infrastructure... this group can force big oil to do anything if it has the will to do so.  Who is this group? That would be us.... or more accurately our elected officials.  If enough people demanded it we could do it... (for 5 minutes before America invades us for being commie pinkos) But the point is we could do exactly what Brazil did with its ethanol solution.  http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/05/04/60minutes/main1588659.shtml

Remember 30 cent a liter gas?  Well.... we could do it.  Imagine the economic stability of having independent energy source?  Not to mention the environmental bonuses think of the price stability and national pride.  We'd only need to trade for what we want,  not what we need. :-)   (I swear I'm not just a tree hugging hippy,  there are sound economic reasons to switch to alternative energy)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on September 05, 2006, 03:11:32
Zell, there are also sound economic reasons that Brazil no longer attempts to  be energy self sufficient with ethanol (something about using five units of energy for every four units of energy contained in the ethanol), and very sound economic reasons that a "made in Canada" price strategy would only benefit organized crime (since the rest of us would be on some sort of rationing plan).

The short answer is that no one will work for a loss unless there is a greater opportunity cost for NOT doing so (i.e. Hugo Chavez sells oil domestically below cost because he needs to keep the mob quiet in Venezuela), so oil companies will slowly or quickly pack up and leave, resulting in the odd situation of Canadians having an oil shortage despite sitting on trillions of barrels of bitumen in Alberta. Not only would companies be hurt, but check your mutual funds; or don't you want to see the maximum rate of return for your own investments?

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Zell_Dietrich on September 05, 2006, 09:48:30
Zell, there are also sound economic reasons that Brazil no longer attempts to  be energy self sufficient with ethanol (something about using five units of energy for every four units of energy contained in the ethanol), and very sound economic reasons that a "made in Canada" price strategy would only benefit organized crime (since the rest of us would be on some sort of rationing plan).

The short answer is that no one will work for a loss unless there is a greater opportunity cost for NOT doing so (i.e. Hugo Chavez sells oil domestically below cost because he needs to keep the mob quiet in Venezuela), so oil companies will slowly or quickly pack up and leave, resulting in the odd situation of Canadians having an oil shortage despite sitting on trillions of barrels of bitumen in Alberta. Not only would companies be hurt, but check your mutual funds; or don't you want to see the maximum rate of return for your own investments?

I had no idea that Brazil was moving away from the ethanol plan.  I thought that it was an realistic energy source. (Basically solar energy in chemical form thanks to our little friends the plants) The next time this topic comes up I would like to be better informed.  Where did you read that "  Brazil no longer attempts to  be energy self sufficient with ethanol (something about using five units of energy for every four units of energy contained in the ethanol)"  I ask because I get conflicting data whenever I read up on this, almost as though anyone with a tendentious agenda could come to any conclusion that they want.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/energy/ethanol.html has near the bottom of the article an example of this.
"A Cornell University study that appeared in the journal Natural Resources Research in July 2005 found that producing ethanol from plants such as corn, sunflowers and soybeans uses more energy than the fuel generates.

In terms of energy output compared with the amount of energy required to produce ethanol, the study found:

Corn requires 29 per cent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.
Switch grass requires 45 per cent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.
Wood biomass requires 57 per cent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.

Critics of the Cornell study argue that the researchers used outdated data to come to their conclusions. One of the researchers — Prof. David Piementel — had looked at ethanol's energy efficiency in the past and concluded it wasn't worth the effort. However, there's also a long list of studies that have found that the production of ethanol results in a net gain in energy — between 34 and 75 per cent. "


http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=6817    <-- The Wall Street Journal, 16 January 2006 Has the best overview I've seen

And I have to agree with you 100%.  If we choke off free market forces and remove the incentives it would destroy the economic infrastructure that delivers goods at a somewhat reasonable price and somewhat efficiently. It would lead to an increase in the underground economy and of course an increase in organised crime.  I'm not someone who advocates central planning,  however I do see a role for a little long term thinking.  CEOs are only looking at the next dividend they can declare for their bosses,  the shareholders.  Government can take the lead and help to encourage the economy to develop along certain lines.  Tax breaks,  business grants, land grants and so forth to encourage desirable  progress.

I still say Canada could become energy independent.  If we were to simply build a few more refineries up here, (a few land grants, secured business loans and a road or two and we could) it would create jobs and increase our market stability. Insted up pumping it down south to get refined then shipped back up here.  But I think we should focus on long term solutions,  things that can sustain us not for 100 years, but for the next 10,000.  I'm sure we'll develop newer better technology that will create new energy sources,  but when dealing with the wealth and prosparity of my country... I'd perfer to ensure food will be there insted of hoping some wonder technology will suddenly replace the depleating resource. 

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on September 05, 2006, 10:23:54
CEOs are only looking at the next dividend they can declare for their bosses,  the shareholders.  Government can take the lead and help to encourage the economy to develop along certain lines.  Tax breaks,  business grants, land grants and so forth to encourage desirable  progress.

I am no economics guy, but it strikes me that most companies have been better at planning and implementing than the government is.  Companies come up with plans, and actually stick to them.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: rmacqueen on September 05, 2006, 19:18:04
The various levels of government in this country also seem to work against each other.  Case in point, Dolton McGuinty's push to conserve electricity in Ontario. 

While he is trying to convince everyone to use less electricity the reality is that it is the cleanest form of energy we currently have.  So, that being the case, to be environmentally friendly we should be heating our homes with electricity yet the provincial government is telling us not to.

At the same time, the alternative is usually natural gas which emits greenhouse gases and has rapidly dwindling reserves.  Some estimates say that we will run out of natural gas in 20 years.  And the Federal government wants us to cut down on it's use.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Bruce Monkhouse on September 05, 2006, 19:19:24
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/05/business/05cnd-oil.html?ex=1157601600&en=e30fa890ddd4fe84&ei=5087%0A
 
By JOHN HOLUSHA
Published: September 5, 2006
What could be a major discovery of domestic oil in the Gulf of Mexico was announced today by a trio of companies led by Chevron Corporation.

 The discovery, in the deepest water yet explored in the Gulf, could be the biggest domestic oil field since the northern Alaska field opened a generation ago.

The news pushed the price of crude oil to a five-month low of $68.38 a barrel in midday trading, although tensions in the Middle East and the threat from hurricanes remained as concerns for traders.

The new field’s location near the coast of the United States makes it particularly attractive, said J. Larry Nichols, the chairman of Devon Energy Corporation of Oklahoma City, which holds a 25 percent interest in the find. The discovery “could not have happened in a better place,” he said in a news conference.

The prospective yield of the area, called the lower Tertiary, could approach six billion barrels of oil, Devon said. The other owner, with a 25 percent interest, is Statoil of Norway. Chevron owns 50 percent.

Statoil said the test results were “very encouraging and may indicate a significant discovery.” It said the company and its partners plan to drill another well in the area next year to try to determine the extent of the field.

Chevron said the well, known as Jack #2, and located 270 miles southwest of New Orleans, produced a “sustained flow rate of more than 6,000 barrels of crude oil per day” in a production test. The company said it found the oil producing formation about 20,000 feet below the bottom of the Gulf, with the well drilled to a total depth of 28,175 feet.

“More than half a dozen world records for test equipment pressure, depth and duration in deep water were set during the Jack well test,” Chevron said.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: SeaKingTacco on September 05, 2006, 22:29:44
Quote
Chevron said the well, known as Jack #2, and located 270 miles southwest of New Orleans, produced a “sustained flow rate of more than 6,000 barrels of crude oil per day” in a production test. The company said it found the oil producing formation about 20,000 feet below the bottom of the Gulf, with the well drilled to a total depth of 28,175 feet.

That is freakin amazing.  When I read stuff like that, it really makes me wonder how oil is actually formed.  I mean- 5 miles deep to sounds a bit deep, even for hundreds of millions of years of plankton, algae and plants building up.  Stories like this are making me question a "biological" only origin for petroleum products.  Does this mean that hydrocarbons may be way more plentiful than we ever suspected?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Bruce Monkhouse on September 05, 2006, 22:36:34
...or does the earth start to crumble beneath us as we suck out its core?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: TCBF on September 06, 2006, 01:30:27
"Stories like this are making me question a "biological" only origin for petroleum products.  Does this mean that hydrocarbons may be way more plentiful than we ever suspected?"

- Could the earth be producing 'deep oil' as fast as we use up the surface stuff, you mean?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on September 06, 2006, 01:32:22
Chevron said the well, known as Jack #2, and located 270 miles southwest of New Orleans, produced a “sustained flow rate of more than 6,000 barrels of crude oil per day” in a production test. The company said it found the oil producing formation about 20,000 feet below the bottom of the Gulf, with the well drilled to a total depth of 28,175 feet.

Clearly, it is located on a native sacred burial ground, and should be immediately surrendered to the people from whom it was stolen from.   ::)

In other oil news, has anyone heard much about this Iranian oil bourse?  Got a hold of these two articles:

http://www.iranian.ws/iran_news/publish/article_16543.shtml

http://www.321gold.com/editorials/petrov/petrov011706.html

I have no idea as to the veracity of the sources, and I also know diddly about economics, so hopefully one of the bigger brains will be able to ferret out what the implications of Iran being a major oil player will be.  Any chance all the sabre rattling bullshit the last few months out of Iran was a strange sort of advertising gimmick?  "We can destroy you all, or you can buy our oil at favourable rates.  Your choice..."   ???
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: TCBF on September 06, 2006, 01:34:31
Who is funding their nuke program?  China?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on September 06, 2006, 01:45:03
I recall there was a big thing about the abiological origin of oil and natural gas a few years ago, but until I read that post, Bruce, test wells attempting to prove the theory have always come up dry. This dosn't mean there are not true believers: http://www.gasresources.net/DisposalBioClaims.htm

Zell, the data for ethanol is ferociously manipulated by both sides in order to score points. Since the recent ethanol plant opened in Ontario cast about $100 million to build, has a garunteed market due to government fiat (regulatory requirments to blend all gasoline sold in Ontario with ethanol) and of course never ending subsidies, you can see what the stakes actually are for the winners.

Being a big fan of CSI, I will provide proof by inference: if ethanol was "all that", then it would have been on the market a long time ago, and without any government subsidies. Since we know this is not true, we can infer that the figures demonstrating ethanol consumes more energy to produce than the end user gets by burning it, thus confirming the Cornell University study.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: clasper on September 06, 2006, 16:20:39
That is freakin amazing.  When I read stuff like that, it really makes me wonder how oil is actually formed.  I mean- 5 miles deep to sounds a bit deep, even for hundreds of millions of years of plankton, algae and plants building up.  Stories like this are making me question a "biological" only origin for petroleum products.  Does this mean that hydrocarbons may be way more plentiful than we ever suspected?
Actually the "Lower Tertiary" as the article calls it is only about 60 million years old.  If you divide 20,000ft of sedimentary rock by 60,000,000 years, you end up with about 0.1mm accumulation per year.  If you think about how long it takes to accumulate 0.1mm of dust on your shelves, it suddenly doesn't seem very odd for several miles of sedimentary rock to accumulate over geological time (which is very very long).

If this discovery is as large as Prudhoe Bay, it's going to be very interesting to see how they develop the field.  When I was working in Prudhoe (about 20 years after development started), there were about 5000 people working there at any one time, and thousands of wells.  The challenges of conducting a similar operation in  deep water offshore are tremendous.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on September 07, 2006, 13:40:02
Interesting look at another alternative technology for converting coal to liquid fuel. The comments section is good as well, and I include one which pretty much sums up why we are not seeing liquid coal, ethanol, bio-diesel or other magic solutions just yet:

http://strongconservative.blogspot.com/2006/09/proven-way-to-lessen-dependence-on.html

Quote
A Proven Way to Lessen Dependence on Foreign Oil
This Article was originally published by the American Thinker

Until recently, the plan (such as it is) for reducing America (and the world’s) dependence on oil from foreign sources, mainly in the Middle East, has been to find more sources of domestic oil and oil from friendlier, non-OPEC countries. This hasn’t been a terrible strategy in theory, but the political left has hampered this effort by refusing to allow drilling in such places as ANWR and the Gulf of Mexico. But the number of undiscovered or untapped oil resources close to home does not appear to be not as abundant as we would hope.

America still remains the third largest producer of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Russia, but its thirst for oil cannot be quenched by domestic supplies alone. America now imports more oil from Canada than from any other country, but that still is not enough.
But all is not gloomy. In fact, a technology was developed in the 1930’s – by the Nazis – to produce oil from coal. Coal is one of the most abundant fossil fuels in the world and can be mined relatively easily. Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Montana have huge reserves of coal.

And now, the governor of Montana wants to take that old technology and use it in America to produce oil for less cost and from domestic sources. “Gov. Brian Schweitzer believes Montana could produce oil and other petroleum products from the millions of tons of coal reserves it owns in southeastern Montana.”

Montana has 2.4 billion tons of coal, which could produce mass quantities of oil for years to come. The cost is relatively reasonable too, about $30-$35 per barrel of oil from coal. That’s a lot more reasonable than $70 from Saudi Arabia, especially when it probably only costs them $5 to produce, leaving a healthy profit to donate to extremists around the world.

But get this, ”[t]he coal-conversion process produces no air pollution, uses no water and creates electricity as a byproduct. The petroleum fuels produced could be shipped out of state by pipeline.” (interpolation: the F-T process, or some variation of it requires coal to be converted to gas, then reacted over catalysts to produce liquid fuel. A "water shift" reaction is often needed to convert the methane from coal gas into Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen. This is energy intensive, and does require water, especially if you are making oil in industrial quantities)
What are we waiting for? I’m not one for conspiracy theories, by any means, but if governments in Canada, the US, and Europe don’t jump all over this then I’ll start believing in a huge conspiracy with Exxon Mobile, BP, Shell, and every other company that’s been milking us on high gas prices for the last few years.

Of course, there will be detractors and opposition to this new source of energy. Global Warming Theorists will tell us that the coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels and that we need other cleaner options, or that coal mining will destroy environmentally sensitive areas, yadda yadda yadda. But the fact remains that alternatives to oil are not available at this point in history. While it would be great if we could all use fuel cells, wind and solar power, and bio-diesel, the feasibility of using such energy sources is not great in quantities sufficient to make a big difference. An option now exists that is comparable or cleaner to traditional oil refining that can free us from foreign sources, and that’s a start.

So how does coal liquefaction work? “What you do first is the coal gasification process,” Gov. Schweitzer said. “You crush the coal up, heat it and get your gas. From there, it’s a chemical reaction. You have a big tank and use either cobalt or iron as the catalyst. What you get out of that is the building blocks to make fuel. You get carbon monoxide and you get hydrogen. With those two, you can make any fuel you would like to make – diesel, gasoline, heating fuel, plastics, fertilizer or pure hydrogen.”

Its not just Schewitzer who finds this interesting, the Chinese do as well. China plans to launch a coal-liquefaction program in the next 5 years. “Generally speaking, 2 tons of coal can turn out 1 ton of oil,” explained Shu Geping, a senior engineer of the China Coal Research Institute.

In South Africa, they’re already making it work: “South Africa, whose structure of energy reserves is similar to China’s, has established three coal liquefaction manufacturers with total investment of US $7 billion in 1950. In 1999, these manufacturers registered a profit before tax of US $610 million."

So we have a proven technology that works and will save us money. The refining process does not pollute, and we can eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern energy. What are we waiting for? Such possibilities should result in a national effort to change the way we produce energy. This is essential for our future security and the well being of future generations. Not only that, but not having to buy oil from corrupt regimes in the Middle East would eliminate huge amounts of money that are funneled to terrorists each year.

The benefits would extend to South America as well, the Chavez government would have less money to sustain its corrupt political machine and might be replaced by a pro-American government which believes in free trade and integrity in government. Russia and China would have less need to appease the tyrannical regimes in the Persian Gulf for the sake of their own energy security; they could start their own coal liquefaction programs since both nations have huge reserves of coal. Germany, Britain, France, and other European nations would no longer be tied to Arab oil either, and the Japanese could buy from Russia, America, Canada, Britain, Germany, or other coal-rich country.

The potential for a new world exists with this old technology. Whether that world would ultimately be safer than our current reality is unforeseeable, but I think it’s worth a try. The status quo of energy dependence on OPEC and corrupt Gulf States does not have to continue. There is a way out, with old but proven technology.

Ronald Reagan once said, “I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.”

Coal liquefaction might help make terrorism and Islamic-fascism obsolete by choking the manner in which they are fed. What better way to promote a new Middle East?
posted by The Strong Conservative @ Monday, September 04, 2006     

10 Comments:
Quote
 
At 10:54 PM, Otodo said…

My Understanding is that the dilemma faced by corporations is that - sure its profitable at $30-$35 a barrel but then the Saudis can pump oil at $10 a barrels for years, and thus bankrupt competition.

The Saudis were pumping at prices in the $10-$20 range through much of the nineties - though it was beginning to bankrupt them - not the Saudi oil production company but the corrupt, inefficient govt. They have a large, useless govt teat dependent population and are otherwise largely revenueless (not as well invested relatively as the Kuwaitis).

These structural problems tend to point towards a $20-$25 long range target as comfortable and most other oil producers would probably fall in that range.

Montana coal gassification producer would be s$%& out of luck - no way they could compete.

The South Africans (and Nazis before them) made it work as they were disconnected from the world market and subsidized the endeavor - not allowed to fail economically.

Would the US Govt be ready to subsidize the cost differential once a massive coal gassification supply caused a price collapse? Out of what taxes? Would Americans swallow this?

I think the only hope is to get production costs down to $10 a barrel then the US Govt could feasibly say - yes, we will subsidize the production cost for the next 30 years if prices sag below, say, $12 a barrel. The US could afford that.

New oil shale and tar sand technology, and polymerization technology (only a partial solution but significant - 20% of current US consumption)) could reach the above production cost goal. Coal gasification looks a stretch currently.

A Conspiracy? I'll be glad to build a plant producing oil for $35 a barrel - will you promise to buy the oil for $38 a barrel for 30 years even if the global price lowers to $15?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on September 20, 2006, 00:36:54
Some more about ethanol

http://www.damianpenny.com/

Quote
The ethanol scam
Once again an important piece is buried in the Globe and Mail's business section (full text not officially online).

How do you convince consumers that what's bad for you is good for you? You feed them a load of bull, and hope they don't catch on. So it is with the Ontario and federal governments, which are spinning their pro-ethanol campaigns as consumer-friendly solutions to our energy and environmental problems.
Ontario's new ethanol pamphlet is a masterpiece of creative propaganda. The pamphlet is to be distributed at gas stations between now and January, when gas containing 5-per-cent ethanol -- that's the law -- arrives at a pump near you...

...Nowhere does it say your car's fuel economy will suffer because of the ethanol content. And guess what? Ethanol is generally not cheaper than gas  -- sometimes it's far more expensive, as it was in the summer -- so the drop in fuel economy won't be offset by lower prices at the pump...

In a cover story called The Ethanol Myth, the October issue of Consumer Reports magazine provides a clue. Its editors tested two Chevy Tahoe SUVS, one which ran on gas, the other with a blend of 85-per-cent ethanol and 15-per-cent gas (known as E85). The average fuel economy of the E85 Tahoe was 27 per cent less than that of the gas-powered version. The driving range fell from 440 miles to about 300 miles. Acceleration also suffered. Science provides the answer. The energy content of ethanol is far less than that of gas, so you have to burn more ethanol to go the same distance...

...While there is no doubt that burning ethanol emits less smog-causing pollutants and greenhouse gases than burning gasoline, several respected scientists have shown that making ethanol is an energy-intensive process that may actually increase emissions if you measure the energy inputs from the corn field (fertilizer, diesel fuel to power tractors and the like) to the retailer...

Thanks to Consumer Reports and other publications, Americans are starting to get the message that ethanol is a dead loss for consumers, a disaster for taxpayers because of the endless billions in subsidies and, at best, of marginal benefit to the environment. Yet in Canada, you will not find a politician who will even discuss ethanol's shortcomings...
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on September 20, 2006, 00:41:28
Quote
Yet in Canada, you will not find a politician who will even discuss ethanol's shortcomings...

Because if they speak it out loud, they will lose their subscription to The Kyoto Herald and have to give back the free sweater vest.   ::)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Aden_Gatling on September 20, 2006, 13:40:44
All of these guys stand to benefit financially from creating the perception that there's an increasing scarcity of oil ...

Quote
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT

LOCATION: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2006/s1741419.htm

Broadcast: 14/09/2006

Oil supply conjecture grips industry
Reporter: Mike Sexton

 
KERRY O'BRIEN: Motorists around the country are enjoying welcome relief from high petrol prices with the cost of fuel easing in the past week - still high, though. The price fall follows a drop in world prices of almost $10 a barrel after the announcement of a massive oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. While it is a welcome impact on the hip pocket, the great fear, of course, is that in the end it just postpones the inevitable for a finite resource. The theory of peak oil suggests that the planet already has used more than half the reserves and so in the near future demand for oil will inevitably outstrip supply. That Doomsday view was challenged this week by the Australian boss of Exxonmobil who believes there's been an over reaction to high oil prices and that there are still enormous reserves of oil and gas. But the record high prices paid for oil this year have created an urgency within the industry, as companies big and small look to cash in. Mike Sexton reports.

MIKE SEXTON: Each day more than 80 million barrels of oil goes up in smoke. It's estimated 1 trillion barrels of oil have been burnt since the first cars hit the road, leaving many to ask just how much is left.

DON HENRY, AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATION FOUNDATION: There's very good science out there that says particularly for oil we may be at peak or we may be coming up to it.

MIKE SEXTON: The peak oil theory suggests at one point the world will have used more than half the oil and future demand will outstrip supply, leading to dramatic changes to our society. But big oil isn't buying it.

MARK NOLAN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, EXXONMOBIL AUSTRALIA: These peak oil theories have been around since the 1920s, particularly in times of high oil prices. Our view is that the world has abundant energy resources and that there is no peak oil theory of value.

MIKE SEXTON: Exxonmobil Australian's CEO Mark Nolan is one of those who dismisses the theory. Speaking at the Asia Pacific oil and gas conference in Adelaide this week, he argued when it comes to energy needs, oil will be the main game for a long time to come.

MARK NOLAN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, EXXONMOBIL AUSTRALIA: According to the US geological survey, the Earth currently has more than 3 trillion barrels of conventional recoverable resources and so far we've produced 1 trillion of that. Conservative estimates of heavy oil and shale oil push the total recoverable resource to over 4 trillion barrels.

MIKE SEXTON: But Don Henry from the Australian Conservation Foundation is deeply cynical about the comments. He believes running out of oil is a secondary issue when compared to the damage greenhouse gas emissions are doing to the environment.

DON HENRY, AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATION FOUNDATION: Exxonmobil is a global vandal. They've invested millions of dollars in to trying to confuse the public and muddy the science on climate change. They're a big global greenhouse polluter and they have ruthlessly pursued short-term profits at the expense of the planet.

MIKE SEXTON: But the world's addiction to oil shows no sign of waning. US Government energy statistics forecast consumption will increase by almost 50 per cent in the next 25 years. That, combined with recent record high prices, means the rush for black gold has never been stronger, including Australia where 40 per cent of oil is imported.

TINO GUGLIELMO, STUART PETROLEUM: The industry is awash with a lot of money, a lot of cash flow.

MIKE SEXTON: Tino Guglielmo runs Stuart Petroleum, a tiny company with holdings in the Cooper Basin that straddles the South Australia/Queensland border. It on sells most of the 750,000 barrels of oil it produces to the multinational Santos. When Stuart Petroleum began in 1999, oil was under US$20 a barrel. At its height this year it was selling for almost 80.

TINO GUGLIELMO: This is a great time to be a producer, particularly a pure producer of crude oil, which is ourselves. It has actually had a bit of a down side so there is a lot of competition for materials and equipment and, of course, people.

MIKE SEXTON: Like everyone else in this industry, Stuart Petroleum is desperately looking for the next barrel.

TINO GUGLIELNMO: There's been a lot of competition for those deals on acreage that has been thought to be prospective and some of the prices that have been paid for some of that acreage is frankly astounding.

MIKE SEXTON: But making money in oil and gas means more than just fining a reserve and drilling. For two decades the oil industry had stable prices and so to lift profit margins, an estimated 2 million people worldwide were retrenched. Now staff are in demand. How competitive is it to get the right people at the moment?

EVE SPRUNT, SOCIETY OF PETROLEUM ENGINEERS: It's very much a technical experts market at this time. You hear some rather amazing stories about the types of job offers people are getting around the world.

MIKE SEXTON: Many areas being pursued in Australia are not new, but rather reserves that were previously unexploited because they were too small or too hard to reach. New technology means in many cases the oil and gas can now be accessed. While in others, the oil was always there and it is now worth spending the money to get it out.

JOHN DORAN, ROC OIL: We've just brought a field down in Western Australia, which I can guarantee would never have been brought on if the oil price hadn't risen.

MIKE SEXTON: John Doran is CEO of the Sydney based Roc Oil company, which has holdings on four continents worth almost $1 billion. He believes that Australia remains under explored because it only has 1 per cent of the world's known reserves.

JOHN DORAN, ROC OIL: With all of this high-cost oil, there is more impetus to explore. The trouble is the world is available now, so you don't have to just explore in Australia.

MIKE SEXTON: Last month the Federal Government injected $135 million into data collection to assist companies find oil fields. This money will probably help with so called frontier projects, mostly under sea beds that are too expensive for the small players.

TINO GUGLIELMO, STUART PETROLEUM: The government is promoting access and information in frontier areas and offshore, either in unexplored or under explored basins and potentially in deep water. These are areas that are not really - because
of our size, they can't really be explored by a company, such as Stuart.

MIKE SEXTON: At the moment, there is relief at the bowser as oil prices drop on the back of a discovery this month in the Gulf of Mexico. There, US company Chevron claims to have a new field capable of producing 15 billion barrels of oil. While the price has eased, no-one can forecast the future in these volatile times.

JOHN DORAN, ROC OIL: Next week I don't know what the oil price is so when you make planning decisions three years out, you have to have a lot of testosterone or whatever to say, "OK, I'm going to go for the high oil price." Most of us would be more conservative view with the oil price.

KERRY O'BRIEN: It is getting increasingly unpredictable in the Gulf of Mexico, too. Mike Sexton with that report.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Zell_Dietrich on September 24, 2006, 06:34:04
Hummm Fuel Cells eh? 

http://www.autoblog.com/2006/09/22/army-takes-delivery-of-equinox-fcv-as-project-driveway-kicks-off/

PRESS RELEASE:
U.S. Army Takes Delivery of GM's Latest Fuel Cell Vehicle Army First Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell Vehicle Customer

Washington, D. C. - The U.S. Army became the first customer of General Motors Corp.'s latest fuel cell technology today as the automaker deployed the first vehicle of its next generation Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle fleet.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a champion of fuel cell technology, and Larry Burns, GM vice president of research and development and strategic planning, gave the Equinox Fuel Cell keys to Army Maj. Gen. Roger A. Nadeau, commander of the U.S. Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command.

On Sunday, GM announced "Project Driveway", a comprehensive market test to place 100 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles with consumers in three key U.S. regions: California, Washington, D.C. and the New York City metropolitan area. A variety of drivers, including individual consumers, will begin driving the vehicles in the fall of 2007. The fuel cell vehicle the Army received today is a vehicle which will enable a direct performance assessment of GM's latest generation of fuel cell technology.

"The delivery of this vehicle today illustrates what is possible with the powerful collaboration of industry and government," said Sen. Levin. "The Army's involvement with this important program demonstrates the military's commitment to develop and test alternatives that will offer tremendous potential to reduce our dependence on oil on the battlefield. This vehicle also highlights the important work occurring in our domestic auto industry to move toward fuel cell vehicles, and the Army provides an important test bed for this technology."

The Army's fuel cell vehicle will be used for non-tactical transportation purposes, primarily on military bases in Virginia and California. It is powered by GM's fourth generation fuel cell propulsion system, offering significantly improved performance, refinement and range as compared with earlier generation vehicles. The Army's vehicle is a four-passenger crossover vehicle, with 186 miles of petroleum-free operating range. Safety features include driver and passenger airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS) and OnStar.

"GM is demonstrating its commitment to hydrogen fuel cells as the answer for taking the automobile out of the environmental debate and reducing our dependence on petroleum," Burns said. "The U.S. Army is an important partner in validating GM's fuel cell technology in real use operation. Delivery of this vehicle is an important milestone in the Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle program announced last week, and in our ongoing relationship with the U.S. Army."

GM has a history of working with the Army on demonstrating and evaluating fuel cell vehicles. In April 2005, the U.S. Army took delivery of the Chevrolet Silverado Fuel Cell truck, the world's first compressed-hydrogen fuel cell pickup, for demonstration and evaluation in different climates and locations around the U.S. In addition to using the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle to evaluate the performance of GM's latest fuel cell technology, the military will continue to obtain first-hand experience with the operation, maintenance and logistics of fuel cell vehicles. This vehicle is an engineered prototype of the 100 vehicle Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell market test fleet that GM will deploy to various customers beginning in the fall of 2007.

The U.S. Army has one of the largest fleets of vehicles in the world and GM produces more than half of the non-tactical U.S. military vehicles purchased each year. Improving fuel economy and reducing the logistics of the fuel supply chain could save millions of dollars.

General Motors Corporation

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest automaker, has been the global industry sales leader for 75 years. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 327,000 people around the world. With global headquarters in Detroit , GM manufactures its cars and trucks in 33 countries. In 2005, 9.17 million GM cars and trucks were sold globally under the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, HUMMER, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Vauxhall. GM operates one of the world's leading finance companies, GMAC Financial Services, which offers automotive, residential and commercial financing and insurance. GM's OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on GM can be found at www.gm.com.

U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM)

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command gets technology out of the laboratories and puts it into the hands of warfighters as quickly as possible. RDECOM manages eight laboratories and research, development and engineering centers, plus the U.S. Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity, System of Systems Integration, international technology centers, and capability and technology integrated process teams. RDECOM maintains liaisons to the field, hundreds of international agreements, and engineer and scientist exchange programs. RDECOM has more than 17,000 military, civilian and direct contractor personnel, a multi-billion dollar annual budget and is responsible for 75 percent of the Army's science and technology objectives. RDECOM provides direct support of the technical base to Future Combat Systems and Future Force, ensuring the nation has the protection it needs for the 21st century and beyond. More information on the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command can be found at www.rdecom.army.mil.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: regulator12 on September 24, 2006, 08:04:22
Oil is not the problem...major corporations make big coin off of oil and they are not stupid. I am sure that they have plans to release new energy's. such as using ethanol, or using hydrogen....but we wont see those in mass production until oil really starts to run out because these big companies will still make money....did you know that Brazil is the only country to be 100% self reliant. They do not need imported oil because over 90% of the country uses ethanol........Canada and the USA could do that easily, why don't we???Because the oil companies want to make there money....
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Zell_Dietrich on September 24, 2006, 08:12:45
:-)  Well ethanol has good points for sure.   (It came up a while ago in this thread)  And Canada is already self-reliant.  We pull out of the ground around 4 times more oil than we consume.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: DBA on September 24, 2006, 08:27:06
Oil is not the problem...major corporations make big coin off of oil and they are not stupid. I am sure that they have plans to release new energy's. such as using ethanol, or using hydrogen....but we wont see those in mass production until oil really starts to run out because these big companies will still make money....did you know that Brazil is the only country to be 100% self reliant. They do not need imported oil because over 90% of the country uses ethanol........Canada and the USA could do that easily, why don't we???Because the oil companies want to make there money....

From wikipedia on Ethanol fuel in Brazil (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol_fuel_in_Brazil), spot checked with other sources and it's fairly accurate. The last bit is a bit of a stretch tho.

The ethanol program also led to widespread replacement of small farms and varied agriculture by vast seas of sugarcane monoculture. This led to a decrease in biodiversity and further shrinkage of the residual native forests (not only from deforestation but also through fires caused by the burning of adjoining fields). The replacement of food crops by the more lucrative sugarcane has also led to a sharp increase in food prices over the last decade.

Since sugarcane only requires hand labor at harvest time, this shift also created a large population of destitute migrant workers who can only find temporary employment as cane cutters (at about US$3 to 5 per day) for one or two months every year. This huge social problem has contributed to political unrest and violence in rural areas, which are now plagued by recurrent farm invasions, vandalism, armed confrontations, and assassinations.
----------------------------

Look at the wages and method of harvesting. That's not possible in the US and Canada even with migrant labor from Mexico and other Central and South American countires. It's just like China where cheap labor allows them to produce things for far below what we can. Where labor is cheap enough it's possible to produce ethanol price competitively to oil/gas and that's what they are doing, they also removed subsidies for ethanol production a long time ago. Up north even with major subsidies and forced usage it's still not price competitive with gas produced from oil.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: 3rd Horseman on September 28, 2006, 22:46:14
Ethanol still requires production energy to create itself, the reality is that for ever litre of ethanol produced it costs 3/4 s of a liter of fossil fuels. A 25% net gain is not worth it especially when you are using food to create a fuel. With the latest discovery off Mexico the US inventory of OIL rises to 50% more, that coupled with our tar sands we in North America have no scary oil issue for some 200 years to come. On another note on Ethanol when a civilization uses its food for fuel production we are on a slippery slope to doom.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on October 11, 2006, 01:47:27
This article suggests that a 100 mpg vehicle is within the current state of the art, but for the estimated $50-60,000 USD, you get a small vehicle, modest performance and little space. Picture on page two.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/how_to/3374271.html
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 13, 2006, 13:29:21
Some more on alternative fuels, and why they are "alternative"

http://greentories.blogspot.com/2006/11/are-we-there-yet.html

Quote
Monday, November 13, 2006
Are we there yet?

Canada is getting on the ethanol and biodiesel bandwagon. But it's moving slowly, DENISE DEVEAU reports

Ian Cameron and Steve Gray, co-founders of Cameron's Coffee, started out with the best of intentions when they vowed to use only biodiesel fuel blends in their small fleet of company cars. But three years later, ask Mr. Cameron how it turned out and he says with regret, "We're not [using biodiesel] any more. We simply couldn't find enough places to get it."

Even when they tried to get a fuel tank installed at the company's plant in Port Perry, Ont., "we couldn't negotiate the distribution costs," he recalls. "What else could we do?"

Such supply problems are gradually being resolved as governments and advocacy groups push to add renewable fuels to gasoline.

One such group, E3 Fleet, is a consortium of fleet managers that works to promote greener alternatives in the transportation industry. The group's website (found at http://www.e3fleet.com) provides an interactive map to help members find nearby alternative fuel stations. Users simply type in their address and the kind of green fuel they're looking for, and the system shows where to find supply stations in their area.

What the map underscores, however, is the fact that in many parts of the country the supply of green fuels is spotty at best. Product distribution has been inconsistent, and incentives to support the infrastructure have been lacking. Driving market adoption while ensuring supply requires many players, from government and refineries to retailers and auto manufacturers.

The Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, among others, is laying the groundwork to raise awareness and lobby government to build a better infrastructure.

The federal government's Renewable Fuels Strategy also promises to kick-start the supply network. It targets an average of 5-per-cent renewable content (either ethanol or biodiesel) in Canadian gasoline and diesel fuel by 2010.

Flexible-fuel vehicles can run on gas that has up to 85-per-cent ethanol content, while a standard combustion engine cannot take any more than 10-per-cent ethanol.

Other countries offer incentives to boost the biofuels industry. Sweden, for example, reduced the registration costs and eliminated parking fees for flex fuel vehicles, reduced excise taxes on green fuels, and set mandates for green fuel requirements at pumping stations.

The demand for the flex-fuel option in cars is growing considerably in Canada, says Phil Petsinis, manager of corporate affairs at General Motors of Canada Ltd.

At least five manufacturers are offering it as an option, he says, and GM has 15 models in which the feature is either optional or standard. "It's seamless to the consumer because it's the internal electronics that make the adjustments. In the future I expect it will be standard on vehicles," he says.

Mr. Petsinis notes that Brazil has had a long-standing policy on ethanol use since the 1970s oil crisis, and the U.S. government is becoming equally supportive. "Half the entire fuel pool in Brazil is provided by ethanol. In the U.S., the government has implemented measures to provide funding support for the infrastructure changes needed to deliver E85 [a fuel blend with 85-per-cent ethanol]," he says.

Mr. Petsinis calls Canada's supply of E85 "quite dismal" but expects to see improvements as more consumers adopt the flex-fuel technology.

"It's all a question of economics and market access," agrees Kory Teneycke, executive director of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association. "The programs that are in place in other countries that have been very successful aren't in place here right now. Success involves government using a combination of carrots and sticks to encourage early adoption."

He doesn't think supply will be the problem. "The market will supply that which is necessary.  The question is will it be Canadian supply?" That depends on the return on investment for producing fuels here, he says.

The demand for biodiesel will not be driven by the consumer market; diesel cars represent less than one per cent of vehicles on Canadian roads. But diesel engines are common in the transportation and commercial sectors, and that's where biodiesel is gaining ground.

"Corporations using biodiesel tend to be stationary fleets such as public authorities like the [Toronto Transit Commission], where the vehicles can all fill up at the same place and stay within the same routes," Mr. Teneycke explains. "Long-haul fleets won't use it until supply is everywhere."

That's not to say industry is sitting back and waiting. One of the largest users of biodiesel fuels in the country is Terminal Systems Inc., a container terminal operator in Vancouver. It uses close to 6 million litres of diesel a year to run 300 engines in its vehicles and machinery. In the past year, TSI converted to a 20-per-cent biodiesel blend, says Ken Kristensen, assistant manager at TSI's Deltaport facility.

"We buy our own raw diesel and blend it ourselves with a soy-based biodiesel," Mr. Kristensen says. To encourage usage, TSI is also considering an on-site fuelling facility for trucks arriving at the terminals.

Unless a company has the volumes and buying power of a TSI, generalized availability of renewable fuel sources could take some time, says Dennis Rogoza of Rogoza Consulting Group, an environmental consultancy in Victoria. "Widespread distribution is a problem. It doesn't make economic sense to transport product thousands of kilometres. It's going to be tough unless all the oil companies do it."

So a strategic approach is needed to create economies of scale. "Companies need to generate the volumes to make it affordable," explains Mr. Rogoza. "The municipal governments in the Greater Vancouver Area, for example, were able to form a buying group to create the economies of scale needed to lower the overall price."

Such efforts will need government support, Mr. Rogoza adds. "[Mandates] could transform the market and turn modest usage levels to massive. Look at California. It just signed a law requiring 50-per-cent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. [They said] they could do it, so they made it law."

posted by Mike Shenher @ 10:20 AM   

Ah yes, attempting to manipulate the market for endless showers of subsidies and grants for Biodiesel and ethanol.

Sorry people, but the real reason we don't use alternative fuels or electric cars is there is no current economic justification for them. Even if sensible alternative fuels can be produced (questionable in the case of ethanol, since it costs more in terms of energy to produce than you ever get out of it), Saudi Arabia can continue to pump oil for as low a $20/bbl; undercutting any possible competition.

Trying to wrestle with the market is futile, the invisible hand will get you every time.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: rmacqueen on November 13, 2006, 18:53:17
There is also the problem that taxpayer money is paying for a number ethanol plants but they are using US corn because it is subsidised.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 14, 2006, 06:36:07
There is also the problem that taxpayer money is paying for a number ethanol plants but they are using US corn because it is subsidised.

BONUS! Tax subsidies from two different nations. How cool is that for the ethanol promoters?  >:D

How cool is that for you and me?  :rage:
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: RoperAB on November 14, 2006, 13:00:01
There is no shortage of oil except a man made myth. Then if you factor in coal to oil tech the world has more oil than what it knows what to do with.
The problem is most oil cost $15 a barrel to produce. Gulf region oil cost $5 a barrel. Its very risky to invest billions of dollars in non gulf region oil recovery because if you ever started to cut the dependence on gulf oil the OPEC producers could simple open its taps and flood the world markets with $5 a barrel oil until your bankrupt.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 21, 2006, 14:22:21
More demonstrations of why alternative energy is "alternative". If there was some sort of practical means of storing electrical energy generated in off peak periods and releasing it when needed, then this migh not be such a problem. Looking at the chart here: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,37017.msg422007.html#msg422007 suggests a lot more bang for the buck comes from finding ways to reduce thermodynamic losses rather than finding new energy sources.

http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/issuesideas/story.html?id=7235a029-e0cb-479d-aeb6-ef19c4fc32f5

Quote
Windmills aren't the answer
 
Colby Cosh
National Post

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
 
EDMONTON - It's official: The glorious future of abundant free energy has been put on hold. In May, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) announced that the province's grid could not safely accommodate more than 900 megawatts of wind-power generation, a target that will be met late next year. Proposals for 3,000 more MW of production have been thrown into indefinite limbo at an estimated cost to producers of $6-billion; meanwhile, the province is already spending $1-billion to strengthen the transmission system so that even the 900-MW cap can be reached. In Ontario, meanwhile, the grid operator warned late last month that 5,000 MW -- about one-fifth of the province's current peak consumption -- is probably the absolute technological limit. (A total of 1,280 MW of wind capacity is already in operation or being built.)

It is starting to look as though wind cannot meet more than a fraction of our energy demand even if other issues with the technology, like esthetics and wildlife impacts, are ignored. The problem, as engineers skeptical of wind power have been yelping for decades, is that power usage and production constantly have to be balanced in an electrical grid. Adding too much unstable, unpredictable power to the system creates a risk of failure and cascading blackouts. In fact, the EU is investigating the possible role of Germany's heavy wind-dependence in causing a Nov. 6 blackout that hit 10 million Europeans.

The depressing corollary is that even in reaching the modest limits now being laid down by the grid police, Alberta and Ontario are relying implicitly on the relative sluggishness of their neighbours in adopting wind technology, using interconnections with other provinces and states to off-load excess power and cover shortfalls. So the system operators' warnings aren't just a sign that wind has reached a dead end in their home provinces. They also mean that B.C., Saskatchewan and parts of the U.S. Northeast will never be able to get major wind projects off the ground if they are to continue to serve as an energy release-valve for their wind-harnessing neighbours.

The windustry has met the announcements with its usual optimism, pointing out that existing wind installations could be made to co-operate better with the grid if improved region-specific wind forecasting existed. But even assuming such a thing can be wished into existence, predictability is not the same thing as stability. During low-wind, high-demand periods, a drop in output still must be made good by other power sources. Since a nuclear pile can't be switched on and off like a light bulb, Ontario's hydroelectric output is already taxed to the limit and Alberta doesn't have much hydro, guess what technology steps in to fill the void? That's right -- good old Stone Age hydrocarbon burning.

This wouldn't be such a big deal if wind output were naturally synchronized with patterns of maximum power usage. But a report released last Wednesday by Energy Probe, Ontario's independent power think tank, confirms another longstanding taunt of the wind skeptics: Wind is often utterly out of sync with human activity.

Energy Probe's analysis of hour-to-hour capacity factors at Ontario wind farms shows output declining disconcertingly in the morning, just when we greedy energy hogs are getting out of bed, turning on appliances and lights, and going to work. On a month-to-month basis, data from this summer show wind output remaining flattest during the hottest periods. And the AESO has found that in Alberta's southern wind corridor, the turbines spin like crazy when the chinook is blowing and little electricity is needed; in the still air of serious cold snaps, when loads are high, the turbines grind stubbornly to a stop.

The overall result is that much of the theoretical environmental benefit from wind power cannot be realized, especially since the generators that must remain on standby to provide emergency "ramping" tend to produce more pollution per watt than round-the-clock coal and gas facilities.

But at least it's still economically free energy, right? Well, maybe. As an internationally observed rule of thumb, wind farms are expected to deliver, on average, 30% of their theoretical maximum power output. On the basis of partial data, Energy Probe expects the three major farms in its study to come in at 24%-27% over a full 12 months. And that's not even including the showpiece Windshare turbine at Toronto's CNE, which delivered a mean capacity factor of just 14.7% in its first 42 months of operation.

It must be a harrowing time for those who once thought the cool breeze could save us all from the coming ecocide. The expectations of wind advocates have already had to be minimized as they realize there is nothing inherently virtuous about their pet piece of tech. Alas, like recycling fanatics, they are likely to end up praising wind power as a moral enterprise that "instills good habits" and signals "green consciousness," even if the honest cost-benefit analysis goes against them in the long run.

colbycosh@gmail.com

© National Post 2006
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: dglad on November 22, 2006, 00:31:21
It's unrealistic to think that wind power will ever provide more than a relatively small portion of production.  The Hydro One limit of 5000 MW in Ontario represents about 20% of current provincial demand and about 15% of near-term future demand, based on a recent forecast report from the Ontario Power Authority...I'd be very surprised if wind power EVER reached numbers that high.  Part of the reason is that about half of Ontario's major wind potential (according to the MNR Wind Atlas) is along the James and Hudson Bay coasts...a LONG way away from any transmission infrastructure whatsoever.  So the roughly 4-5000 MW available along those northern coasts won't be going into the grid any time soon, and may be better suited in providing electrical power to remote northern communities, who currently rely on expensive, unreliable and dirty diesel generation.  Most of the rest of the signficant wind potential is along the Great Lakes; however, large sections of Superior are tied up in parks (especially Pukaskwa National and Lake Superior Provincial), while much of Huron's shore is heavily invested with private lands.

More, it's undesirable to have too much reliance on a single type of generation.  It's best to have a diverse mix, that preferably represents an oversupply.  That way, if a nuclear plant, gas-fired plant or hydro-plant has to come off line, there are other sources to take up the slack.  If we develop, say, 2000 MW of wind generation capacity in Ontario, and then rely on 1000 MW of production at any given time, we have both enough of a buffer to smooth out instabilities and a source of short-term emergency supply.  However, we will still need substantial generation from nuclear (which can form your base supply, since it can't be "throttled"), as well as hydro and some fossil (probably natural gas, but relatively clean coal technologies are available as well).  Another interesting possiblity is biomass, including municipal, forest and agricultural waste, and peat.  There are enormous peat bogs in northern Ontario and, interestingly enough, early research suggests that harvesting a peat bog and burning it to generate electricity may actually cause a net reduction of "greenhouse" gases in the atmosphere, as the CO2 produced by burning peat has less "greenhouse" effect than the methane given off by the bogs themselves.  And, a harvested bog basically becomes a lake.  Co-firing coal with biomass may allow for much cleaner operations; this is being studied in northern Ontario now.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 27, 2006, 14:25:02
Reducing thermodynamic losses and reducing the use of oil derived fuels is possible using a Stirling engine. A modern Stirling engine can operate at close to the theoretical efficiency of a heat engine, and can be designed use almost any source of heat, including solar and nuclear. Hobby minded people can find plans for Stirling engines, including Low Temperature Differential (LTD) engines which can use the heat of a candle or your hand (or alternatively a cup of ice water as a heat sink) to run.

Stirlings work best at constant speed/constant output, which makes them ideal for generators, as well as prime movers where they can run at a constant speed for most of the time. Railway locomotoves, ships, transport trucks and even aircraft are possible users of Stirling engines. For cars, utility trucks and other applications requiring more variable outputs, a Stirling can run as a constant speed generator in a hybrid vehicle, and also supply the "base" power, while electric engines provide acceleration and braking power.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stirling_engine for an introduction
http://www.qrmc.com/ proposes a very compact and powerful version of the Striling for aircraft use.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 27, 2006, 15:10:19
The true scale and scope of the problem:

http://www.reason.com/news/printer/116887.html

Quote
Brother, Can You Spare 22 Terawatts?
Big ideas for the future of energy

Ronald Bailey | November 24, 2006

The flip side of the climate change conundrum is energy. Burning fossil fuels—coal, oil, gas—produces 80 percent of the world's commercial energy. They also produce 61 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that are thought to be increasing the earth's average temperature. In the past, energy production scaled directly with a country's gross domestic product (GDP). More energy produced more GDP.  But some analysts believe the connection between GDP growth and energy is loosening, which, if true, is good news because it means that fueling future economic growth will be easier to achieve.

However, Daniel Nocera, a professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writes a sobering analysis of the challenge of supplying adequate energy to the world in 2050. In his article, "On the Future of Global Energy" in the current issue of Daedalus (unfortunately not online), Nocera begins with the amount of energy currently being used on a per capita basis in various countries and then extrapolates what that usage implies for a world of 9 billion people in 2050. For example, in 2002 the United States used 3.3 terawatts (TW), China 1.5 TW, India 0.46 TW, Africa 0.45 TW and so forth. Totaling it all up, Nocera finds, "the global population burned energy at a rate of 13.5 TW." A terawatt equals one trillion watt-hours.

Nocera calculates that if 9 billion people in 2050 used energy at the rate that Americans do today that the world would have to generate 102.2 TW of power—more than seven times current production. If people adopted the energy lifestyle of Western Europe, power production would need to rise to 45.5 terawatts. On the other hand if the world's 9 billion in 2050 adopted India's current living standards, the world would need to produce only 4 TW of power. Nocera suggests, assuming heroic conservation measures that would enable affluent American lifestyles, that "conservative estimates of energy use place our global energy need at 28-35 TW in 2050."  This means that the world will need an additional 15-22 TW of energy over the current base of 13.5 TW.

So where will the extra energy come from? Relying on figures from the World Energy Assessment by the United Nations Development Program, Nocera looks at the maximum amounts of power that various non-fossil fuel sources might supply. Biomass could supply 7-10 TW of energy, but that is the equivalent of harvesting all current crops solely for energy. Nuclear could produce 8 TW which implies building 8000 new reactors over the 45 years at a rate of one new plant every two days. Wind would generate 2.1 TW if every site on the globe with class 3 winds or greater were occupied with windmills. Winds at a class 3 site blow at 11.5 miles per hour at 33 feet above the ground. And hydro-power could produce 0.7-2 TW if dams were placed on every untapped river on the earth. Nocera concludes, "The message is clear. The additional energy we need in 2050 over the current 13.5 TW base, is simply not attainable from long discussed sources—the global appetite for energy is simply too great."

Burning coal, gas, and oil could fuel the world in 2050, but the carbon dioxide produced by these fossil fuels would have somehow to be captured and sequestered (CCS) underground in order to prevent it from being vented into the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming. Some CCS pilot projects have been launched but they are not cheap and they are far from proven.

Given the magnitude of the problem of fueling the future with carbon-neutral energy, Nocera argues that the only real alternative for carbon-neutral energy production is some form of solar power. More energy from sunlight strikes the Earth in one hour than humanity uses in a year. But converting sunlight into energy useful to people is a huge unsolved technological problem. In 2000, author Richard Rhodes and nuclear engineer Denis Beller calculated that using current solar power technologies to construct a global solar-energy system would consume at least 20 percent of the world's known iron resources, take a century to build and cover a half-million square miles. Clearly a lot of technological innovation needs to take place before solar becomes an option for fueling the world.

The challenge of supplying the world with carbon neutral energy has a lot of people calling for the launching of a "Manhattan Project" or "Apollo Project." What they mean is that the Federal government should dramatically boost research and development spending for novel energy technologies. Let's recall that the Apollo Project absorbed 5.3 percent of the Federal government's budget in 1965. A comparable expenditure would be $136 billion in 2006—that's almost 5 times higher than the Energy Department's 2006 budget. It is also more than the Federal government currently spends on the agriculture, commerce, energy, homeland security, interior, justice and labor departments. Let's also recall that the Apollo program turned out to be a technological dead end that managed to get just 12 astronauts to walk on the moon. Another telling example of Federal bungling in the energy field was the $20 billion wasted on President Jimmy Carter's Synfuels Corporation which was a pilot project that aimed to make oil production from coal commercially viable. It died in 1985.

Maybe Nocera is right that solar power is the way to go, but history teaches us to scrap the Apollo Project model for technology R&D. Federal bureaucrats are simply not smart enough to pick winning energy technologies. Instead,eliminate all energy subsidies, set a price for carbon, and then let tens of thousands of energy researchers and entrepreneurs develop and test various new technologies in the market. No one knows now how humanity will fuel the 21st century, but Apollo and Manhattan Project-style Federal energy research projects will prove to be a huge waste of time, money and talent.

Disclosure: I own 50 shares of ExxonMobil stock. So what!

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

The lifestyle of modern day India isn't something we would want to aspire to (the 4 TW solution), but it isn't clear what "heroic conservation measures" are being proposed. Since a great deal of current energy consumption is released as waste heat or otherwise unrecoverable energy, programs to reduce energy losses would seem to be what is being advocated here, and certainly well worth the investment.

Part of the problem is the existing capital stock is so vast that it would take decades to economically replace inefficient power plants, old cars, light bulbs, CRT computer monitors and other energy hogs (look around, they're everywhere). Even then, if a vast quantity of electrical energy is consumed in transmission losses, then reducing demand only solves part of the problem. Similarly with cars and trucks, a 100 mpg car still only uses a fraction of the chemical energy in the gasoline or diesel fuel if the power source is a four stroke engine.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: dglad on November 27, 2006, 21:00:33
There's simply no way that 9 billion people (using Nocera's figure) are going to have a uniform standard of living.  It's never been the case in human history; there has always been an affluent few at the top, who conspicuously consume most of the resources.  The far more likely scenario (unfortunately) is that we will, in 2050, produce what we produce, a small proportion of the population will use a disproportionate share of it, and the rest will make do with what's left.  This will be in spite of the efforts of governments and business alike.  The result will be further poverty, famine and otherwise depressed standards of living for a majority of people on the planet, and resulting strife, tension and unrest as humanity muddles along into the future.  Gloomy, perhaps, but the past seems to be all too good an indicator of the future in this department.

The only thing I could possibly see changing this is the development of some truly remarkable, simple, reliable and cheap energy source (cold fusion turns out to be real after all...someone figures out how to fuse hydrogen in something the size of a refrigerator at a cost of a few cents per kWh...a truly fool-proof and inexpensive solution for sequestering CO2 is developed so we can burn coal, oil, gas, peat and whatever else til the cows come home...something like that).  It could happen, I suppose....
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: rmacqueen on November 28, 2006, 19:18:11
Read "THE BOTTOMLESS WELL, The Twilight Of Fuel, The Virtue Of Waste, And Why We Will Never Run Out Of Energy" By Peter Huber and Mark P. Mills.  It is an interesting read
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 07, 2006, 16:59:28
Ontario shoots itself in the foot yet again! Even though wind power can only make a small dent in the overall supply picture, there is no reason to deep six proposals like this so long as technical issues like ensuring it does not destabilize the grid through voltage fluctuations can be addressed.

http://www.intelligencer.ca/webapp/sitepages/content.asp?contentid=307383&catname=Local%20News&classif=

Quote
County wind project has new owner

Bruce Bell  /  The Intelligencer
Local News - Thursday, December 07, 2006 @ 10:00

The wind turbine project slated for Royal Road at Point Petre in the southern reaches of Prince Edward County is about to be taken over by another Alberta firm.

Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. is set to formally complete the acquisition of Vector Wind Energy Inc. of Ottawa later this month. Vector purchased the Royal Road project from TransAlta Corp., (Vision Quest Windelectric) in February.

"We certainly like the prospects of the Royal Road project and although I'm not completely familiar with all the details myself, we feel it is in a very appropriate area and are ready to move ahead once everything is finalized with Vector," said Hydro Canada CEO John Keating.

Hydro Canada has built and operates a number of sustainable energy facilities across Canada. Publicly listed since 1990, the company owns and operates 18 green-power facilities. Wind-generated electricity accounts for five sites and hydroelectric power for 12 sites. Canadian Hydro's first biomass plant is located in Grande Prairie.

The company owns and operates 45 turbines at Melancthon 1 Wind Plant near Shelburne which produces almost 200,000 MW/h of electricity.
They expect to complete construction of the second phase of the project in 2007, adding another 88 turbines producing a further 350 MW/h of renewable energy annually.

Closer to Prince Edward County, Canadian Hydro is scheduled to begin construction on its Wolfe Island site in 2007 and Keating said he expects that project to be up and running by the end of 2008.

Plans call for 86, 2.3 MW turbines to be erected which will generate an estimated 537,000 KW/h of energy or enough to power 75,000 homes. Keating said the Royal Road project is a natural fit for the company with Wolfe Island close by.

"Once the acquisition is completed we will have to become more familiar with the Royal Road project in order to advance all the work TransAlta had begun prior to selling to Vector," he said.

"We wouldn't anticipate a lot of changes but things like the turbines might be different and we will need some changes for that. Being so close to Wolfe Island, there will be operating synergies between the two sites."

The Prince Edward County project is still before the Ontario Municipal Board. After the municipality approved the project a number of appeals were filed.

A number of wind-turbine projects have received approval recently and Keating said he believes the government fully endorses the production of green renewable energy.

"I don't see any evidence they are trying to slow this process down at all," he said from his Calgary office. "Each project has its own obstacles that have to be dealt with, that's just part of the process, but I think the government is as committed to this as we are."

Rob Miller, a project engineer originally with Vector and now with Canadian Hydro agreed with Keating, saying he had only heard about off-shore projects being slowed down.

"I think the Ministry of Natural Resources basically put a moratorium on off-shore turbines on the grounds they didn't have enough criteria to assess it yet, but that differs completely from turbines going up along the shores of the Great Lakes in remote areas."

Meanwhile, the province has put the brakes on a wind power mega-project proposed for Lake Ontario off the shores of Prince Edward County.

The Ontario government has deferred Trillium Power Energy Corp.'s plans to build a 710-megawatt wind farm - the largest of its kind in North America - until the province can further study the environmental impacts of offshore wind projects.

The Toronto-based private company had proposed building as many as 140 wind turbines in a shallow area of Lake Ontario 17 to 25 kilometres offshore near the Canada/United States water border.

Construction on the $1-billion project was supposed to start in 2008.

But Steve Irwin, spokesman for the Ministry of Energy, said offshore wind energy is still in the early stages in Ontario and more study is needed. He also said the delays are specific to offshore wind projects only and aren't an indication of any provincewide suspension of wind power proposals in general.

"I wouldn't call it a moratorium," he said. "[The review] involves looking at how it affects lake water conditions, what it does to wildlife in the area, how it affects everything from birds to bats." - with files from the Kingston Whig-Standard

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on December 07, 2006, 21:30:31
Arthur, did you see this from Edward yesterday?

http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,46854.msg491398.html#msg491398

Quote
Here is a letter to the editor, reproduced under the Fair Dealings provisions of the Copyright Act, from today’s Globe and Mail from Tom Adams of Energy Probe (see:  http://www.energyprobe.org/energyprobe/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=486 ):

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20061206.LETTERS06-9/TPStory/Opinion/letters

Quote
Wind power disappoints

TOM ADAMS
Energy Probe

Toronto -- Re Answer Blowing In Wind (letter -- Dec. 2): The David Suzuki Foundation complains that Energy Probe's recent wind-power study, which identifies disappointing production results from wind in and around Ontario, is based on only a "few months of data" and that the experience in Germany provides "concrete evidence about the reliability of wind power."

In fact, our study shows disappointing production from Ontario and Quebec-based wind-power installations since the 1990s. Germany's actual wind-production results since the industry became established four years ago are also about a third less than expected.

Leading German environmentalists and energy experts, including world-renowned expert Richard Tol, whose work on greenhouse gases the Suzuki Foundation cites, recognize that the German wind system has been a political boondoggle. Mr. Tol notes that the real beneficiaries of Germany's overblown wind system are the corporate interests aligned with Germany's powerful Green Party.

Maybe someone needs to take a closer than usual look at the $430,000 in loans M. Dion used to finance his leadership campaign (see: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,54201.0.html ) to see how much came from those destined to benefit from Canadian environmental billion-dollar-boondoggles.

By the way the 710 MW plant would require 355 Turbines to be installed, wired and maintained off-shore if that were the installed capacity.  In which case the plant will produce 180 to 240 MW a year on an intermittent basis.

If the intent is to GENERATE that amount of power on an AVERAGE basis would require at least 3 times that number of Turbines.  In practice, and in conformity with the German experience, you would likely need to install 4 times that number or about 1500 turbines.

Combined the 8 reactors at Pickering produce 4120 MW.   

This Turbine Farm will produce less than a single new reactor at Pickering or Darlington and be much less reliable.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 07, 2006, 23:50:29
I well understand the limitations of wind power (unless the turbines are situated near the House of Commons, there will never be enough steady supply of wind); however since the McGuinty government seems determined to take electrical generating capacity off line, some sort of replacement capacity (however limited) is needed.

The current slack in Ontario's system is being met by coal fired plants in the United States, and of course Hydro One must pay premium rates to buy it. Since the consumer pays subsidized rates for electricity, the taxpayer must make up the difference ( :o hey, wait a minute.....!)

In the free market consumers would pay some entity for electrical power, and the entity (person, local corporation, multi national corporation) would attempt to meet the demand.  Successful entities will thrive, and P/O'd consumers will see to it that unsuccessful entities fail. Given the vast requirements, someone, somewhere would be building nuclear power stations to generate the baseline, and distributed power systems would be popping up to cover peak needs and local outages from the grid. Consumers also react to market signals; if the price rises, consumer behaviour changes, lights get turned off and so on.

So long as economic illiterates can distort the market with subsidies and ill conceived "Green energy" plans, Ontario will be  on the edge of disaster. Given the huge capital base which is needed to supply the needs of a province, it may take a decade for a new government to set things right.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on December 08, 2006, 00:06:05
In the meantime Art -  have you bought your generator yet?  :)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 08, 2006, 00:09:25
I was thinking of yoking some of the more obnoxious trolls on these threads to a treadmill....... >:D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on December 08, 2006, 00:14:09
An inspired use of under-utilised recyclable resources.  You should patent it.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: CTD on December 08, 2006, 00:45:36
Put up all the windmills you want. What happens when we disrupt the wind patterens?

The experts say it cannot happen. But to me if you put up these wind mills that are 200 feet in the air and have blades that are harnessing the energy, meaning they are putting resistance in the air, Eventually the wind will take the path of least resistance.

Mind you this will occur over a long period of time, that is unless we build these things all over the place. Then be prepared for differant weather patterens and so on.

A good balance between all of the present and future power sources is what is needed.
Not a one component for all. 
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: rmacqueen on December 08, 2006, 09:14:05
We could also help offset some of the generation problems by having homes start to generate some of their own power.  Every roof is a potential solar collector and there are a number of small wind generators that could be used in urban areas.  The houses do not have to be "off grid" but even a partial generation of power is less that needs to be produced from a large facility.  As well, when excess is produced it can be put into the system to be used elsewhere.

The problem is the cost of retrofitting such a system into existing housing.  I researched installing a hybrid system (combo wind/solar) in my home and it would cost over $40,000.  This is not an amount your average home owner can afford to sink into something like this.  Rather than spending huge amounts on building all kinds of large generators the government should take a look at subsidizing the installation of these systems with the money it would save.

Another option would be to support small generation for rural communities.  There are many towns that have rivers that could be used for hydroelectric generation and large open areas for wind and solar.  The cost benefits would be quite substantial as it would alleviate the need for increased transmission lines, and the maintenance of them, and have the side benefit of being able to keep the lights on during storms. In my small neck of the woods there are a number of small towns with populations of less than 5,000 people but they add up when put together.  Within a half hour drive I estimate there are over 30,000 people living in small communities.  Extrapolate that across the entire province and that is a large amount of power no longer coming from the large generators.

In the free market consumers would pay some entity for electrical power, and the entity (person, local corporation, multi national corporation) would attempt to meet the demand.  Successful entities will thrive, and P/O'd consumers will see to it that unsuccessful entities fail. Given the vast requirements, someone, somewhere would be building nuclear power stations to generate the baseline, and distributed power systems would be popping up to cover peak needs and local outages from the grid. Consumers also react to market signals; if the price rises, consumer behaviour changes, lights get turned off and so on.

Given the way Enron screwed California, by creating artificial shortages to inflate prices, I not sure how comfortable I am anymore with privatization.  In a perfect world that would be great but given the nature of the grid I am not sure I would trust best practices to overcome corporate greed.  The government is already favouring large corporations over smaller producers to the detriment of the consumer by creating centralized control rather than serious competition in the market.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 09, 2006, 02:48:47
Given the way Enron screwed California, by creating artificial shortages to inflate prices, I not sure how comfortable I am anymore with privatization.  In a perfect world that would be great but given the nature of the grid I am not sure I would trust best practices to overcome corporate greed.  The government is already favouring large corporations over smaller producers to the detriment of the consumer by creating centralized control rather than serious competition in the market.

Enron was reacting to a very screwed up "privatization" that had been passed by the California legislature. Essentially, the government there had made it virtually impossible for any competitors to enter the market (although it was now a private market) through regulatory burdens. Interestingly enough, that is the same model used in Ontario, only in this case "Hydro One" was giventhe assets of Ontario Hydro, while the taxpayer assumed the debts. Compounding the error, the government set the retail rates for electrical energy (not the market), so anyone who wants to compete needs to be able to finance multi billion dollar baseline generators with extremely low ROI. The Americans are now in the role of ENRON, since their utilities across the border supply much of the peak power, and of course supply it at peak rates.

It annoys me to no end when Government failure is passed off as market failure.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: rmacqueen on December 09, 2006, 07:28:37
Enron also created artificial shortages in California to inflate the prices.  It is no coincidence that when Enron collapsed the blackouts in California ended.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on December 09, 2006, 15:54:36
Quote
The problem is the cost of retrofitting such a system into existing housing.  I researched installing a hybrid system (combo wind/solar) in my home and it would cost over $40,000.  This is not an amount your average home owner can afford to sink into something like this.  Rather than spending huge amounts on building all kinds of large generators the government should take a look at subsidizing the installation of these systems with the money it would save.

Respectfully Mac, why would I pay 40,000 dollars for you to produce 1 kW of power for your own personal consumption when I can't pay for it for my own use? Am I supposed to pony up 80,000 so that we can both have one?

By contrast, even a 2 MW public utility windmill, costing 1,000,000 dollars installed and operating inefficiently at 25% will produce power at an installed cost of 2 dollars per kW.  And those numbers are still cost ineffective compared to both nuclear and carbon fuelled plants, not to mention large scale hydro.

And we haven't touched on the cost of keeping our two domestic power plants operating or how we deal with those days when the air is still and the roof is covered in snow.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: CTD on December 09, 2006, 18:46:35
Why not dig holes in the gound and harness the steam produced by the earth, or how about using ocean currents and wave action the list goes on.
the problem with all of these other better alternatives is they have draw backs. Some are worse then what we have now.

Lets dam every river we have, and install a water wheel to harness the energy, where do the fish go, what about the other wild life in the river?

Lets install solar panels on every house. The cost to make the glass, the pipeing needed to circulate the water or the wire needed to transfer the electricity. The excess heat absorbtion generated by millions of homes with huge arrays of solar panels with cause more problems.

Use wind mills, so much renewable wind it's unblievable. Set them up all over.

Huge ocean wave generators. We can line the coast with them, then wait and see what happens.

All these alternatives have a long term effect. The effects we want to see may not be what actually happens. Wind, water both take the path of least resistance.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 17, 2007, 02:17:50
In the March 2007 edition of Car and Driver, there is an interesting article about the Chevy Volt concept car. It utilizes a 16 Kw/Hr Lithium Ion battery pack (a very scaled up version of what runs your laptop, and about eigh times more powerful than the battery pack in a Toyota Prius), and is a "series" hybrid, in that the internal combustion engine does not directly drive the wheels, but rather a generator to keep the batteries charged. The car can also charge up from normal house current (just plug in at night). The sticking point is the battery pack is very expensive (est $40,000), and needs special care to prevent overheating or it could catch fire. Some heavy duty R&D is required in this area.

From a military perspective, the series hybrid allows the generator set to be placed anywhere, allowing for better space utilisation and balance, and the generator does not have to be any particular form of engine, it only has to deliver the proper current to the batteries. A fuel cell could substitute for an engine when the state of the art matures. In tactical terms, the vehicle has enough electrical energy to run for some distance on pure electric power, allowing for silent run ups. (The Volt is designed to run for 40 miles on batteries alone before the engine kicks in).

An interesting mid term development.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on March 18, 2007, 00:16:54
Arthur, back in 1999 I read "Powering the Future" by Tom Koppel.  It was about "The Ballard Fuel Cell and the Race to Change the World".  Geoffrey Ballard got his start in Fuel Cells in 1983.  Before that he was working on other concepts. He switched because the other concepts needed R&D and he had been working on them since 1975.

The earlier concept? Lithium batteries........Just a little more R&D needed. >:D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: rmacqueen on March 18, 2007, 10:36:40
Malcolm Bricklin, the man who brought the Yugo to North America, and started General Vehicle Corp which built the ill-fated Bricklin car (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bricklin_SV-1#Commemorating_the_Bricklin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bricklin_SV-1#Commemorating_the_Bricklin)) is currently trying to raise financing to set up a company to build "series" hybrids in China.  He claims it will have the look of Mercedes, the interior of a Lexus and the price tag of a domestic car
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 20, 2007, 01:37:07
Some people turn solutions into problems:

http://www.herald-review.com/articles/2007/03/01/news/local_news/1021491.txt

Quote
State makes big fuss over local couple's vegetable oil car fuel 
By HUEY FREEMAN - H&R Staff Writer
DECATUR - David and Eileen Wetzel don't get going in the morning quite as early as they used to.

So David Wetzel, 79, was surprised to hear a knock on the door at their eastside home while he was still getting dressed.

Two men in suits were standing on his porch.

"They showed me their badges and said they were from the Illinois Department of Revenue," Wetzel said. "I said, 'Come in.' Maybe I shouldn't have."

Gary May introduced himself as a special agent. The other man, John Egan, was introduced as his colleague. May gave the Wetzels his card, stating that he is the senior agent in the bureau of criminal investigations.

"I was afraid," Eileen Wetzel said. "I came out of the bathroom. I thought: Good God, we paid our taxes. The check didn't bounce."

The agents informed the Wetzels that they were interested in their car, a 1986 Volkswagen Golf, that David Wetzel converted to run primarily from vegetable oil but also partly on diesel.

Wetzel uses recycled vegetable oil, which he picks up weekly from an organization that uses it for frying food at its dining facility.

"They told me I am required to have a license and am obligated to pay a motor fuel tax," David Wetzel recalled. "Mr. May also told me the tax would be retroactive."

Since the initial visit by the agents on Jan. 4, the Wetzels have been involved in a struggle with the Illinois Department of Revenue. The couple, who live on a fixed budget, have been asked to post a $2,500 bond and threatened with felony charges.

State legislators have rallied to help the Wetzels.

State Sen. Frank Watson, R-Greenville, introduced Senate Bill 267, which would curtail government interference regarding alternative fuels, such as vegetable oil. A public hearing on the bill will be at 1 p.m. today in Room 400 of the state Capitol.

"I would agree that the bond is not acceptable, $2,500 bond," Watson said, adding that David Wetzel should be commended for his innovative efforts. "(His car) gets 46 miles per gallon running on vegetable oil. We all should be thinking about doing without gasoline if we're trying to end foreign dependency.

"I think it's inappropriate of state dollars to send two people to Mr. Wetzel's home to do this. They could have done with a more friendly approach. It could have been done on the phone. To use an intimidation factor on this - who is he harming? Two revenue agents. You'd think there's a better use of their time," Watson said.

The Wetzels, who plan to speak at a Senate hearing in Springfield today, recalled how their struggle with the revenue department unfolded.

According to the Wetzels, May told them during his Jan. 4 visit that they would have to pay taxes at either the gasoline rate of 19½ cents per gallon or the diesel rate of 21½ cents per gallon.

A retired research chemist and food plant manager, Wetzel produced records showing he has used 1,134.6 gallons of vegetable oil from 2002 to 2006. At the higher rate, the tax bill would come to $244.24.

"That averages out to $4.07 a month," Wetzel noted, adding he is willing to pay that bill.

But the Wetzels would discover that the state had more complicated and costly requirements for them to continue to use their "veggie mobile."

David Wetzel was told to contact a revenue official and apply for a license as a "special fuel supplier" and "receiver." After completing a complicated application form designed for businesses, David Wetzel was sent a letter directing him to send in a $2,500 bond.

Eileen Wetzel, a former teaching assistant, calculated that the bond, designed to ensure that their "business" pays its taxes, would cover the next 51 years at their present usage rate.

A couple of weeks later, David Wetzel received another letter from the revenue department, stating that he "must immediately stop operating as a special fuel supplier and receiver until you receive special fuel supplier and receiver licenses."

This threatening letter stated that acting as a supplier and receiver without a license is a Class 3 felony. This class of felonies carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

On the department of revenue's Web site, David Wetzel discovered that the definition of special fuel supplier includes someone who operates a plant with an "active bulk storage capacity of not less than 30,000 gallons." Wetzel also did not fit the definition of a receiver, described as a person who produces, distributes or transports fuel into the state. So Wetzel withdrew his application to become a supplier and receiver.

Mike Klemens, spokesman for the department of revenue, explained that Wetzel has to register as a supplier because the law states that is the only way he can pay motor fuel tax.

But what if he is not, in fact, a supplier? Then would he instead be exempt from paying the tax?

"We are in the process of creating a way to simplify the registration process and self-assess the tax," Klemens said, adding that a rule change may be in place by spring.

David Wetzel wonders why hybrid cars, which rely on electricity and gasoline, are not taxed for the portion of travel when they are running on electrical power. He said he wants to be treated equally by the law.

David Wetzel, who has been exhibiting his car at energy fairs and universities, views state policies as contradicting stated government aims.

"You hear the president saying we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Wetzel said. "You hear the governor saying that."

State Rep. Bob Flider, D-Mount Zion, also plans to support legislation favoring alternative fuels.

"I'm disappointed that the Illinois Department of Revenue would go after Mr. Wetzel," Flider said. "I don't think it is a situation that merits him being licensed and paying fees.

"The people at the department of revenue apparently feel they need to regulate him in some way. We want to make sure that he is as free as he can be to use vegetable oil. He's an example of ingenuity. Instead of being whacked on the head, he should be encouraged."

Huey Freeman can be reached at hfreeman@herald-review.com or 421-6985.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 05, 2007, 18:07:08
Don't be surprised if strange things happen with your Lithium Ion batteries:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/battery_pr.html

Quote
Building a Better Battery
They run out of juice – or burst into flames – at exactly the wrong time. Can't anyone make a battery that doesn't suck?
By John Hockenberry

ON A HOT JULY DAY AT A FOOD PACKAGING COMPANY in Vernon Hills, Illinois, Henrik Gustavsson sat at his workstation tweaking electrical drawings for an industrial juice-making machine. He looked up and noticed an odd haze at the far end of the office. A coworker shouted, "Hey, there's a fire!" Gustavsson rushed over to join the crowd gathering around a Dell Latitude laptop sitting on a desk in its docking station. "There was smoke coming out of the sides," the 26-year-old engineer recalls. "As I got close it actually started popping, and a flame shot straight up into the air." To Gustavsson, the closed, burning laptop looked like an overheated George Foreman grill. It smelled horrible – not surprising, since it was cooking up an LCD-keyboard-melt sandwich.

Gustavsson snapped some photos as colleagues sprayed the burning Dell with foam from a fire extinguisher. "That thing did not want to go out," he says. "We had to zap it three or four times." They then carefully carried the laptop out to the front sidewalk and waited for the fire department to arrive. When nobody was looking, Gustavsson pried the smoldering, melted carcass open to find a 5‑inch hole where the lithium-ion battery had been. "It was pretty awesome," he says. That night, he posted his pictures to the nerdy Web site Tom's Hardware. The images received more than 80,000 hits over the next week.

It was a long, hot summer for lithium-ion batteries this year. Stories of Dell laptops spontaneously combusting dominated tech news. One computer set fire to a Ford pickup in Nevada; another ignited in the overhead compartment of a Lufthansa flight as it sat on the tarmac at Chicago's O'Hare airport. A video of a Dell that exploded spectacularly during a business meeting in Osaka began making the rounds on the Internet. In mid-August, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that Dell had agreed to recall 4.1 million Li-ion batteries – the largest battery recall in history. Nine days later, Apple asked its users to return 1.8 million more Li-ion packs. Then, in September, Toshiba recalled 340,000 batteries. Sony, which manufactured the batteries for all three companies, will spend an estimated $250 million replacing them.

The technical term for these bizarre incidents is thermal runaway. It occurs when the touchy elements inside a Li-ion battery heat up to the point where the internal reaction accelerates, creating even more heat. A sort of mini China Syndrome of increasing temperature builds until something must give. In the case of a laptop flameout, the chemicals break out of their metal casing. Because lithium ignites when it makes contact with the moisture in the air, the battery bursts into flame.

Exploding notebook computers are, of course, extremely rare. There are just a handful of documented cases, even though an estimated 1.8 billion Li-ion cells are in circulation. Sony claims the latest conflagrations were caused in part by trace amounts of metal accidentally left inside the batteries during the manufacturing process. The company adds that problems are also caused by laptop makers placing batteries too close to internal heat sources like CPU chips.

But such technical excuses sidestep the fact that flammability and heat intolerance are long-standing problems that have plagued Li-ion batteries since they were invented almost 30 years ago. And as devices have gotten smaller in size but richer in features, things have only worsened. Forced to produce more energy in less space, Li-ions die faster (as early iPod owners found when their batteries wore out long before their players did), and their propensity for thermal runaway greatly increases.

Lithium-ion technology may be approaching its limits. Batteries conform to technical restrictions set by nature and don't obey Moore's law like most of the digital world. In the last 150 years, battery performance has improved only about eightfold (or less, depending how it's measured). The speed and capacity of silicon chips, of course, improves that much every six years. "Li-ion is an extremely mature technology, and all of the problems are known by everybody," says Art Ramirez, the chief of device physics at Bell Labs. "They aren't going to change."

If Li-ion technology is at, or even near, its maximum potential, gadget makers (and users) are in trouble. Li-ion – with its high power, fast recharge times, and steady voltage – is the best battery the consumer electronics industry has. It powered the 50 million laptops, 800 million cell phones, and 80 million digital cameras sold in 2005. If the technology stagnates without a viable replacement, so will every kind of portable device, from ThinkPads to Game Boys.

So the hunt is on for a better battery. And it's just not the usual Asian giants – Sanyo, Sony, Toshiba – on the prowl. Tyco, Lucent, Intel, and venture capital firms like Draper Fisher Jurvetson are among those pumping millions of R&D dollars into battery startups and research labs. Of course, kicking the lithium habit won't be easy. Possible successors like fuel cells have been heralded for decades, but design, implementation, and cost issues have prevented them from reaching our Nokias and MacBooks. Yet, to get the juice they need, gadgets will almost certainly require something totally new. We'll need more than just better batteries; we'll need to rethink the way all portable electronics are designed and made.

IN THE MID-1800S, French inventor Raymond Gaston Planté created the first rechargeable battery, a combination of sulfuric acid and strips of lead foil.

People thought of Planté's creation as a "box of electricity" or an electric fuel tank. It's an analogy we make to this day: The scientific symbol for a battery is still a fuel-tank-like box. But the metaphor is not apt. You don't fill a battery with electrons that are sucked out later, only to be replaced ("Fill 'er up.") with more electrons. A battery is more like a complicated and finicky chemical pump that exploits what happens when certain materials (mostly metals) are placed together in an electrolyte solution. All batteries – watch, flashlight, cell phone, car – work basically the same way. Negatively charged electrons are chemically stolen from a metal anode and flow rather desperately toward a positively charged metal cathode at the other end of the circuit. Voltage is a measure of the force pushing the electrons from pole to pole, while current is the number of electrons speeding by a given point. Together these attributes establish the power of a battery. Current can be altered by changing a battery's size, but voltage is determined (and fixed) by the atomic makeup of the materials used. Those attributes, recorded in the good old periodic table of elements, were configured shortly after the big bang and are not subject to clever human modifications.

The first widely produced batteries were lead acid. Used in early cars, they got the automobile to start as reliably as the horse. By the 1960s, engineers had developed lighter, single-use alkaline and mercury batteries, making portable transistor radios and two-way communication devices possible. In the 1980s, compact rechargeable batteries were developed using nickel and cadmium. Originally used by the military and NASA, NiCads eventually reached the consumer market, giving us video cameras, the first laptops, and cordless power tools. The power cells were reliable but suffered from an annoying glitch dubbed the memory effect: If users didn't fully charge the batteries on initial use, the cells could "remember" only their original partial charge. This was fixed by the development of nickel metal hydride. NiMH packed more power, had less memory effect than NiCads, and recharged faster.

Scientists long knew that lithium would make an excellent anode. Most battery chemical combinations deliver 1.2 to 2 volts. But when paired with the right cathode, lithium atoms practically spew electrons, delivering the highest nominal voltage of any element in the periodic table: 3.6 volts per cell. (Multiple low-voltage cells can be strung together to achieve the same punch – that's how you get 9-volt batteries – but this adds weight and bulk.) Lithium tends to explode on contact with air, however, which made research difficult. In the 1970s, a US scientist with the ironic name John Goodenough (batteries never are) finally figured out how to tap the electron potential of lithium: Combine it with cobalt. Then all it took was a manufacturer willing to spend the money required to safely mass-produce the new batteries. Sony grabbed the opportunity in the '80s, producing a rechargeable lithium-ion pack for a video camera. These batteries were the first rechargeable cells to exceed the energy of single-use alkalines. They had no memory effect, four times the energy of NiCads, and twice the energy of nickel-metal-hydride cells. A new era had begun.

Throughout the '90s, Li-ions enabled a host of advances. Laptops could be made lighter and were able to power backlit screens and bigger hard drives. Cell phones could be smaller. The MP3 player was born. But these new devices hungered for more and more power. While a flashlight or a car starter places simple demands on a battery, powering a computer or camcorder is much more complicated. These devices contain dozens or even hundreds of individual components, and LCD screens have different voltage and current needs than, say, hard drives or Wi-Fi chips. So voltages are stepped up or down using transformers and other circuits, resulting in enormous losses in efficiency. The more complex a device, the harder the battery has to work.

Furthermore, because digital calculations require steady voltages to maintain memory, power fluctuations can be disastrous. So modern batteries are designed to operate in a narrow range where they can deliver constant output. To keep voltage steady and at effective levels, a battery must be packed with lots of extra power. There's really no such thing as a dead battery anymore; even when a cell registers empty, it still has plenty of juice in it – just none in the usable range. Battery-industry veteran Mike Mahan puts it this way: "It's like you have a 20-gallon tank and you can use only 5 gallons, but you still have to drive around with 15 gallons anyway."

Squeezing enough power into compact Li-ion cells to deal with these issues requires serious safety equipment. Today, most Li-ion cells contain at least two – and sometimes three – separate countermeasures to keep the reaction from getting out of control. According to Glen Wensley, chief polymer chemist at batterymaker Solicore, these safeguards can represent as much as 30 percent of the engineering and perhaps half the cost of a standard lithium-ion battery. "It's an extremely unstable system, and so you need a voltage limiter, a current fuse, and a third safety system, which is actually internal to the battery. It's called a separator, which physically separates the battery to prevent thermal runaway." The first two systems keep the battery from overcharging or over-discharging. The third is a kill switch: All batteries have a porous separator between the anode and cathode to keep the reaction from happening too quickly. In most Li-ion cells this component completely solidifies if it gets too hot. It's a kind of electrical suicide that destroys the battery to cool it down. These defenses are one reason that thermal runaway is extremely rare.

FLAMING LAPTOPS may be dramatic, but to Sony they are mostly a PR headache. The company's main concern is still squeezing more power out of smaller Li-ion battery packs. Case in point: the company's ultraslim family of digital cameras. Product designers managed to cram an advanced imaging sensor, processor, and LCD into a 0.9-inch-thick shell. And the battery? "One of the most difficult things about that camera was the damn battery," says Mike Kahn, a senior product manager at Sony. "It had to be thin, and it had to be powerful." Eventually, Sony solved the problem by giving the battery its own chip. "The battery constantly talks with the processor to minimize power use and avoid waste," Kahn says.

Sony sees its success with cameras as a sign that lithium-ion technology still has more than a little life left in it. Last year, Sony unveiled the Nexelion, a so-called lithium hybrid that pairs lithium with tin for the first time and claims a 30 percent capacity increase over previous lithium-ion cells. The batteries were first offered in new Sony Handycams last summer. Keeping pace, Toshiba also announced a higher-powered Li-ion battery last year.

These improvements, however, won't really keep up with consumer demand for more power. Nowhere is this more apparent than in laptops. "The industry wants dual-core processors and an eight-hour run time with no increase in size and weight," says Valence Technology's Jim Akridge. "It doesn't look like that's going to happen."

One way to keep up with power demands is to go back to the periodic table. Lithium offers the highest voltage of any element, but lower-voltage metals don't explode and may ultimately be able to hold more power. Among the companies betting on tamer elements is Zinc Matrix, a startup run by Ross Dueber – a former Air Force major who used to design advanced nickel-cadmium batteries for the military's Strategic Defense Initiative.

Dueber and his team have come up with a power cell that runs on silver and zinc and uses stable, nontoxic water as an electrolyte. The company claims it has solved manufacturing difficulties associated with previous silver-zinc efforts and boasts that its cell offers a 50 percent increase in run time over lithium ion, with none of the safety issues. But because silver-zinc has a lower voltage, these batteries must pack lots of cells together to achieve the industry standard of 3.6 volts. This makes the batteries heavy – a serious drawback. Dueber's plan for overcoming this is to convince devicemakers to retool their products to run at lower voltages. "Our first battery will simulate lithium ion, but eventually we hope to be designed into the future," he says.

In September, Zinc Matrix demonstrated a six-hour prototype for an Intel-based laptop. If all goes well, Dueber says, that battery could be on the market by the end of next year. Among those funding the effort are Tyco Electronics and Intel. Dueber says he has received about $36 million to date.

At best, though, Dueber's battery is only a sort of electrochemical methadone – same addiction, just slightly longer-lasting, with no flameout. No matter how much the industry toys with a single box of electrons, it will eventually encounter the same predictable roadblocks: too many components demanding too much power for any one battery. That's why Solicore decided to think small.

Based in Lakeland, Florida, Solicore is developing Li-ion batteries in ultracompact forms that can sneak into places batteries have never gone before. This might allow Solicore's cells to act as secondary batteries in a device. For example, one could be slipped behind a laptop's screen, where it would power just the backlight, taking some of the load off the main battery. To make such versatile Li-ion cells, Solicore has developed a new type of lithium polymer.

Lithium-polymer batteries use an advanced gel rather than a liquid to separate the cell's positive and negative poles. Solicore's proprietary polymer restricts electron flow so it can't be disrupted by heat or even a violent blow from a hammer, which means the batteries won't get caught in a thermal runaway cycle. This lets engineers make batteries without standard safety features, which means they can be made in virtually any shape or thickness. Some of the early models are as thin as sheets of paper, essentially printed and cut like credit cards. In fact, they are already being used to power a new breed of smartcards, which come with their own onboard display and may someday even have wireless capability. Solicore is working with Visa and others to bring the cards to market next year.

STANDING AMONG THE VOLT meters, electrical wiring, and beakers full of various electrolytes in his Bell Labs research facility, physicist Tom Krupenkin holds a partially etched disc of silicon. Nearly all of its surface is empty. In one corner, there's a micron-scale pattern of posts that, under a microscope, looks like a hyper-orderly lawn. It's called nanograss.

Krupenkin, a Russian-born scientist with PhDs in materials science and in physics, is one of a growing number of researchers who think consumers and gadgetmakers need to take a more radical approach to battery design. In his eyes, playing around with new chemistry or mysterious polymer goop won't deliver the kind of exponential growth the industry needs. "In the traditional battery world, there is nothing new anymore," Krupenkin says. "There has to be a different way to think about these devices, different processes brought to bear."

Krupenkin thinks he has found such a process – something that will be more than just a quick fix. Instead of sealing an unstable reaction in a big box, he and his team – a combination of Bell Labs scientists and researchers at a startup called mPhase Technologies – are designing tiny batteries out of nanograss that can be turned on and off chemically. Such precise control, they argue, would let them take the idea of multiple batteries a step further. Krupenkin's vision is that future gadgets would behave like biological systems, in which cells carry their own power instead of relying on a single primary energy source for the whole organism.

Nanograss, Krupenkin explains, is superhydrophobic, or massively water resistant. Fluids deposited on the tiny silicon posts are practically frictionless. A droplet of water remains spherical on the nanograss. But when Krupenkin applies an electric charge between the droplet and the silicon, the droplet disappears. The current has disrupted the water's surface tension, causing it to fall into the nanograss, where it's held firm by the tiny posts. Krupenkin calls this "electrowetting." Apply another tiny current across the conductor and the water molecules heat up, causing the droplet to rise back to the top of the nanograss, where surface tension once again keeps it in a nearly perfect sphere.

The idea is to marshal this electrowetting to fine-tune a battery's internal reaction – regardless of what the battery is made of. The nanograss would hold a battery's electrolyte away from the reactive metal when no power is needed, then release it when it's time to turn on. This type of structure would free device manufacturers to distribute fields of tiny batteries deep into their products. Components could pop on and go to sleep as needed. Rechargeable nanograss would be controlled by the microprocessor, which would manage exactly how much power each system needs. And because each component would have its own power bank, the built-in inefficiencies of the single-voltage, single-power design would vanish, driving down costs and potentially increasing battery life by an order of magnitude for the first time in 100 years.

The problem is that product makers would have to retool and redesign almost all their devices to take advantage of these minute, chip-controlled batteries. It's a hurdle that Krupenkin and his team know could take years to get over. But they also know that sooner or later, gadgetmakers will want more than lithium-ion batterymakers can provide. As Bell Labs' Ramirez puts it, current battery problems point to the end of the "silicon road map." As computers shrink to the molecular level, the whole architecture of portable devices needs to change. "The end of the silicon road map will show that there have to be other ways of doing things. At some point, it will become economically viable to invest in radical new strategies," he says. Sooner or later, solutions like nanograss are going to look awfully good.

A hundred years ago, just down the road from Krupenkin's lab in northern New Jersey, Thomas Edison struggled to mass-produce batteries that would be safe and reliable. Reportedly, he was so stymied by uncooperative chemistry that he once asked a psychic to tell him the best chemistry for a storage battery. In a prickly comment to a colleague at General Electric in 1900, he said, "I don't think nature would be so unkind as to withhold the secret of a good storage battery if a real earnest hunt for it is made. I'm going to hunt."

The hunt is still on.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Port Hope on April 05, 2007, 18:14:19
Peak oil=intervention in Iraq & Iran
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: SeaKingTacco on April 07, 2007, 19:06:55
Didn't really bother to read the last 14 pages, did you?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Port Hope on April 12, 2007, 18:11:29
Guilty as charged!
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 31, 2007, 13:33:20
Here is an idea for extracting some of the heat energy which is mostly wasted in internal combustion engines. There is a lot of R&D to do to make this idea work (or we could build cheap "throw away" engines for this purpose); interesting thinking:

http://www.popsci.com/popsci/technology/c1609351d9092110vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.html

Quote
INVENTION AWARDS
Six Strokes of Genius

Dan Carney

Name: Steam-o-Lene Engine
Inventor: Bruce Crower
Cost to Develop: $1,000
Time: 1.5 years
Prototype | | | | | Product

Bruce Crower's Southern California auto-racing parts shop is a temple for racecar mechanics. Here's the flat eight-cylinder Indycar engine that won him the 1977 Louis Schwitzer Award for racecar design. There's the Mercedes five-cylinder engine he converted into a squealing supercharged two-stroke, just "to see what it would sound like," says the now half-deaf 77-year-old self-taught engineer.

Crower has spent a lifetime eking more power out of every drop of fuel to make cars go faster. Now he's using the same approach to make them go farther, with a radical six-stroke engine that tops off the familiar four-stroke internal-combustion process with two extra strokes of old-fashioned steam power.

A typical engine wastes three quarters of its energy as heat. Crower's prototype, the single-cylinder diesel eight-horsepower Steam-o-Lene engine, uses that heat to make steam and recapture some of the lost energy. It runs like a conventional four-stroke combustion engine through each of the typical up-and-down movements of the piston (intake, compression, power or combustion, exhaust). But just as the engine finishes its fourth stroke, water squirts into the cylinder, hitting surfaces as hot as 1,500°F. The water immediately evaporates into steam, generating a 1,600-fold expansion in volume and driving the piston down to create an additional power stroke. The upward sixth stroke exhausts the steam to a condenser, where it is recycled into injection water.

Crower calculates that the Steam-o-Lene boosts the work it gets from a gallon of gas by 40 percent over conventional engines. Diesels, which are already more efficient, might get another 5 percent. And his engine does it with hardware that already exists, so there's no waiting for technologies to mature, as with electric cars or fuel cells.

"Crower is an innovator who tries new ideas based on his experience and gut instincts," says John Coletti, the retired head of Ford's SVT high-performance group. "Most people won't try something new for fear of failure, but he is driven by a need to succeed." And he just might. Crower has been keeping the details of his system quiet, waiting for a response to his patent application. When he gets it, he'll pass off the development process to a larger company that can run with it, full-steam.

Copyright © 2005 Popular Science
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on May 31, 2007, 15:45:33
My first concern with that one would be the effect of the repeated rapid cooling on the structural integrity of the piston, block and head.  Life expectancy of those would seem to be likely to be shorter and the prospect of catastrophic failure that much more interesting.

PS - on a side note - have already run some numbers on a Double Double fuelled idea.  Still running numbers.  Enjoy the rides.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 01, 2007, 00:29:15
My first concern with that one would be the effect of the repeated rapid cooling on the structural integrity of the piston, block and head.  Life expectancy of those would seem to be likely to be shorter and the prospect of catastrophic failure that much more interesting.

I can think of all kinds of other things which would go wrong as well (there are very sound reasons that cooling water is firmly excluded from the inside of the engine), but I can also think of some situations where a cheap engine with a limited life would serve a purpose, for example in a UAV or a race car. Most cars are owned for five years or less by one owner, and except for cars that are constantly cared for, most cars don't make it past their 10th birthday, while their engines can last for many decades. An engine which only lasts 5-10 years makes a certain amount of sense for the civi car market, as much as collecters might hate it.

Like I said, a very interesting idea and worth putting R&D money into.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on June 01, 2007, 00:44:30
http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6840290.html

Here's a reference to another system for burning water in an internal combustion engine.  Mix the water and the fuel and add an emulsifier.   It would take away the thermal shock.

I saw something about this on the telly some months previous when the price of gas first went up over the $1.00/l.  Apparently the "inventor" (I don't know if it was the holder of this patent) was getting a lot of legitimate interest.

I guess the idea is similar - the entrained water will expand when the fuel ignites adding pressure?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 01, 2007, 01:15:42
It does seem similar, the only difference being the steam generation takes place at the same time as combustion. On the other hand, it dosn't really extract the "waste" energy from the engine the way the "six cycle" idea does.

Thinking back, BMW proposed a steam system as well, but it used engine heat to drive a separate steam engine, which results in dead weight, time lag while the water is heating up and would probably be more of a hinderance in stop and go city driving: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,37017.msg312914.html#msg312914

I will observe this development with interest. It may fall victim to other forces (there was a buzz in the early to mid 1990's that 2 cycle engines might become prime movers since they have a much higher theoretical efficiency, but nothing ever came of that either....), or we might see it crop up in unexpected places.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 05, 2007, 15:02:50
It seems that there are some "back to the future" ideas that could be adapted to transportation. In the 1940's turbochargers were introduced to increase power output in aircraft by drawing on the waste energy in the exhaust to power a compressor. It occured to some designers that there was a lot of energy in the exhaust, and the energy spinning the turbine could be sent to the drive shaft and used to directly power the propeller as well.

While it wasn't quite that simple, "turbo-compound" engines did get developed and entered service after WW II (most notably in the "Super Constellation" aircraft) until superceded by jet engines. Now that there is a long development of turbochargers for car and truck engines, it seems possible to extend the concept of turbo compounding by using the turbine to extract exhaust energy and feed it back to the transmission. This uses well known existing technology in a somewhat new way, is available to the driver at almost all speeds and minimizes dead weight in the vehicle.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 11, 2007, 23:51:59
More long term difficulties ahead. You can do withut an SUV, but going without food is much more difficult. China, with far less arible land and far more people than North America will be hard hit indeed.

http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson070207.html

Quote
July 2, 2007
The Impending Food Fight
by Victor Davis Hanson
Tribune Media Services

While we worry about gas prices, the costs of milk, meat and fresh produce silently skyrockets. So like the end of cheap energy, is the era of cheap food also finally over?

Since the farm depression of the early 1980s — remember the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 — farmers have gone broke in droves from cheap commodity prices. The public shrugged, happy enough to get inexpensive food. Globalization saw increased world acreage planted and farmed under Western methods of efficient production. And that brought into the United States even more plentiful imported food.

Continued leaps in agricultural technology ensured more production per acre. The result was likewise predictable: the same old food surpluses and low prices. My late parents, who owned the farm I now live on in central California, used to sigh that the planet was reaching 6 billion mouths and so things someday "would have to turn around for farmers."

Now they apparently have. Food prices are climbing at rates approaching 10 percent per year. But why the sudden change?

There have been a number of relatively recent radical changes in the United States and the world that, taken together, provide the answer:

Modern high-tech farming is energy intensive. So recent huge price increases in diesel fuel and petroleum-based fertilizers and chemicals have been passed on to the consumer.

The public furor over illegal immigration has, despite all the government inaction, still translated into some increased border security. And with more vigilance, fewer illegal aliens are crossing the border to work in labor-intensive crops like fresh fruits and vegetables.

The U.S. population still increases while suburbanization continues. The sprawl of housing tracts, edge cities and shopping centers insidiously gobbles up prime farmland at the rate of hundreds of thousands of acres per year.

In turn, in the West periodic droughts and competition from growing suburbs have made water for farming scarcer, more expensive — and sometimes unavailable.

On the world scene, 2 billion Indians and Chinese are enjoying the greatest material improvement in their nations' histories — and their improved diets mean more food consumed than ever before.

The result is that global food supplies are also tightening up, both at home and abroad. America has become a net food importer. We seem to have developed a new refined taste for foreign wines, cheeses and fresh winter fruits even as we are consuming more of our corn, wheat, soybeans and dairy products at home.

Now comes the biofuels movement. For a variety of reasons, ranging from an attempt to become less dependent on foreign oil to a desire for cleaner fuels, millions of acres of farmland are being redirected to corn-based ethanol.

If hundreds of planned new ethanol refineries are built, the U.S. could very shortly be producing around 30 billion gallons of corn-based fuel per year, using one of every four acres planted to corn for fuel. This dilemma of food or fuel is also appearing elsewhere in the world as Europeans and South Americans begin redirecting food acreages to corn-, soy-, or sugar- based biofuels.

Corn prices in America have spiked. And since corn is also a prime ingredient for animal feeds and sweeteners, prices likewise are rising for poultry, beef and everything from soft drinks to candy.

There is currently more corn acreage - about 90 million acres are predicted this year — than at any time in the nation's last half-century. But today's total farm acreage is either static or shrinking; land for biofuels is usually taken from wheat, soybeans or cotton, ensuring those supplies grow tight as well.

In the past, the genius of our farmers and the mind-boggling innovation of American agribusiness meant that farm production periodically doubled. Indeed, today we are producing far more food on far fewer acres than ever before.

But we are nearing the limits of further efficiency — especially when such past amazing leaps in production relied on once-cheap petro-chemicals, fuels and fertilizers.

As in the case of oil, we've gone through these sudden farm price spikes before. My grandfather once told me that in some 70 years of boom-and-bust farming he only made money during World Wars I and II, and the late 1960s.

But this latest round of high food prices seems coupled to energy shortages, and so won't go away anytime soon. That raises questions critical to the very security of this nation, which may have to import as many agricultural commodities as it does energy — and find a way to pay for both.

The American consumer lifestyle took off thanks to low-cost fuel and food. Once families could drive and eat cheaply, they had plenty of disposable income for housing and consumer goods.

But if they can't do either anymore, how angry will they get as they buy less and pay more for the very staples of life?

©2007 Tribune Media Services
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on July 13, 2007, 01:26:03
An artificial creation this shortage.

People need food before fuel.  Trading acreage to create fuel rather than food is jus' plain dumb. 
Likewise it is dumb to divert liquid fuels like diesel to stationary uses.  Liquid fuels are still the best option for mobile gear like tractors and trucks.

For all other applications - electricity from large plants like that one that Dalton McGuinty just demolished at Lakeshore or those other ones at Pickering and Darlington.  He could have created a nice greenhouse complex and district heating system with that plant at Lakeshore - producing food in Toronto - close to the market - with all that useful CO2 that plant produced.

Bransom, Harper, Suzuki, Bush and Gore along with the UN will be creating a 3rd World Famine long before they CURE Global Warming or make the Mid-East stable.

The cure to the worlds ills.  Ship carbon from where it exists to where it is needed.  Make CO2 where it is needed to grow food.  CO2 sequestered when the food is eaten.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 22, 2007, 07:48:12
An interesting introduction to various reformulation schemes. Biofuels usually require work to be burned or otherwise used in everyday industrial processes, and the more work that gets put into transforming fuel, the less energy that is ultimatly available. The reformulation of natural gas to hydrogen is particularly horrible, it not only takes a vast amount of energy, but the resulting hydrogen gas has only a fraction of the energy of the natural gas used in the process.

http://www.euronet.nl/users/e_wesker/cho.html
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 26, 2007, 02:36:56
Solar energy seems attractive since the solar constant is 1400W/m2, but since it dosn't work at night, and has issues when there is weather, dust in the atmosphere, shading from trees, buildings etc. a realistic planning figure would be solar energy can suppliment about 1/3 of your energy needs without getting into things like solar power satellites beaming power from space.

Here is a place made in Canada solutions might be found:

http://www.capds.uwaterloo.ca/

Quote
The Center for Advanced Photovoltaic Devices and Systems (CAPDS) is a world-class R&D facility dedicated to all aspects of photovoltaic (PV) energy conversion. Located at the University of Waterloo, right at the heart of Canada's Technology Triangle Area, the CAPDS is a 14000 sq.ft. research facility with dedicated infrastructure for PV research supporting synthesis of electronic base materials, design and fabrication of advanced PV devices & modules, and testing & characterization of PV materials, devices & systems.  Backed by state-of-the-art infrastructure and expertise, the multi-faceted R&D at the CAPDS spans the entire spectrum of PV research, from base materials to modules, making it a unique facility that is capable of making a true impact on the quest for making PV an affordable energy alternative. This initiative is funded by the Canadian Federal Government, the Ontario Provincial Government, Industry, and by the University of Waterloo. The facility is expected to be fully operational by year 2007.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Benny on July 26, 2007, 23:18:33
Solar energy seems attractive since the solar constant is 1400W/m2, but since it dosn't work at night, and has issues when there is weather, dust in the atmosphere, shading from trees, buildings etc. a realistic planning figure would be solar energy can suppliment about 1/3 of your energy needs without getting into things like solar power satellites beaming power from space.
Which is why you have an interconnecting grid over a few thousand km. Local areas get shrouded in cloud, but whole continents don't. Same for wind power. Transmission losses at 330kV+ are tiny (most losses occur at local level), so moving power great distances isn't a problem. Solar power for Canada needn't be installed there, far better to have it in the desert areas of the US, sited near existing transmission lines.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Benny on July 26, 2007, 23:21:09
Enron also created artificial shortages in California to inflate the prices.  It is no coincidence that when Enron collapsed the blackouts in California ended.
Generators still do this here. Turbines are often rather conveniently out for maintenance during high demand periods to ensure the price goes up nicely. It isn't illegal either, and not much can be done about it besides limiting the amount of generation any one company can own, and stringent testing for collusion.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 28, 2007, 10:21:40
Which is why you have an interconnecting grid over a few thousand km. Local areas get shrouded in cloud, but whole continents don't. Same for wind power. Transmission losses at 330kV+ are tiny (most losses occur at local level), so moving power great distances isn't a problem. Solar power for Canada needn't be installed there, far better to have it in the desert areas of the US, sited near existing transmission lines.

Variable and intermittent power would cause severe voltage fluctuations on the grid. This sort of thing is thought to have led to a grid collapse and blackout in Germany (which is trying to get a large fraction of their energy from wind power), and will be a limiting factor everywhere else. You simply cannot dial a mutli megawatt base station up and dowm like a dimmer switch to account for voltage fluctuations elsewhere on the grid (and especially not with nuclear generators).

Long distance transmission is also inefficient since @ 33% of the generated power goes to waste heat generated in the wires and transformers.

You can't evade the Laws of Physics. Remember, they are watching!
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Benny on July 29, 2007, 20:15:54
Variable and intermittent power would cause severe voltage fluctuations on the grid. This sort of thing is thought to have led to a grid collapse and blackout in Germany (which is trying to get a large fraction of their energy from wind power), and will be a limiting factor everywhere else. You simply cannot dial a mutli megawatt base station up and dowm like a dimmer switch to account for voltage fluctuations elsewhere on the grid (and especially not with nuclear generators).

Long distance transmission is also inefficient since @ 33% of the generated power goes to waste heat generated in the wires and transformers.

No it won't. The fluctuations due to wind power, though large, are slow, and can be forecast. Generators other than base load, will turn on and off in a matter of minutes. There should always be at least one turbine on any grid spinning synchronously, without actually generating. This can be quickly brought into generation if needed. Voltage fluctuations are also compensated for by ohmic load. Those evil incandescent bulbs are great for this. If the voltage dips, they use less power.
33% is a huge figure for transmission losses. Where did you get it from? A normal transmission loss figure is 3-5% The highest losses I've ever heard of is 50%, which is on sub-transmission at peak load, on an overloaded line, but that's an extreme case where it was either take the losses, or load shed. And the 3-5% figure includes transformer losses, which are going to be there regardless of where your generation is. So sending it from a different source far away just isn't a problem as long as the transmission lines are there. Having various sources also protects from a spike in resource prices. There is an oil based generator near my work which has never operated because of the price spike shortly after construction, it now runs on natural gas. Wind always stays free.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 30, 2007, 10:29:42
Re: voltage fluctuations taking out the grid: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,37017.msg483867.html#msg483867
Full story: http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/issuesideas/story.html?id=7235a029-e0cb-479d-aeb6-ef19c4fc32f5

WRT energy losses through the electrical system, see the chart: http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,37017.msg422007.html#msg422007, from
http://www.jerrypournelle.com/images/2006/U.S.EnergyFlowTrends-2002-InExajoules-USEnFlow02-exaj.gif

Electrical system energy losses are given at 68%, (27.8 Exojoules of system losses divided by 40.3 Exojoules of input)

Overall, thermodynamic losses consumes 57% of the input, so it will be very important to find ways and means of reducing these losses. Since you can't evade the laws of physics, this needs to be done carefully. It is no good switching to some system to gain downstream efficiencies if you are using more energy and resources in manufacturing upstream. This is the real secret of hybrid cars as they are produced today, they are energy hogs when it comes to production. I suspect a Prius without its heavy and expensive battery pack, electric motor and complex transmission would be faster, cheaper and just as fuel efficient since there would be huge weight savings. Current PV cells have the same drawbacks of upstream expense to downstream savings.

edit to fix math
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Benny on July 30, 2007, 19:33:07
For the purpose of debating long distance transmission, that diagram is not exactly useful. It counts losses after customer delivery, during low voltage distribution, during generation, all of which are common losses regardless of which technology you use. Worst of all, a third of the 'losses' have nothing to do with electricity at all. The only valid figure for long distance transmission comparison would be losses at 132kV+, which is not included in that diagram. As long as you don't overload the lines, at 500kV you can push energy about 2000km at under 10% loss.
And 500kV lines are rarely overloaded as the conductor area is necessarily large due to corona effect.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Digger Hale on July 30, 2007, 23:10:09
Just for a tiny bit of background, Benny there works with all these power currents and electricity stuff. He doesnt wear glasses three inches thick, nor does he fill his pockets with colour coded pens, so i cant vouch for his overall nerdiness, but he does know what he's on about.
And its really quite interesting. I heard the same thing about wind farms losing heaps of the electrify that they create, your saying that its not as much as Coal plant owners and people who believe in Nuclear power would like us to think?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Benny on July 30, 2007, 23:48:02
Just for a tiny bit of background, Benny there works with all these power currents and electricity stuff.
Aaarrggghh, I've been outed!  (runs and hides in shadow)

nor does he fill his pockets with colour coded pens,
Fine, you won the pen stealing contest on saturday. Stop rubbing it in.

And its really quite interesting. I heard the same thing about wind farms losing heaps of the electrify that they create, your saying that its not as much as Coal plant owners and people who believe in Nuclear power would like us to think?
It's just not true. They 'lose' some by not generating it in the first place due to not harnessing all of the power that the wind has to offer, but as far as actual transformation and transmission losses they are exactly the same as everything else.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on August 01, 2007, 00:12:01
I must bow to your superior knowledge (and many pens!); but I must admit some of what you say does seem to be at varience to the other things I have read; and I am not a frequent follower of green or anti-technology writers either. Experience trumps second hand knowledge
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Benny on August 01, 2007, 00:57:39
It is all too common to see more than a little political input masqerading as environmental/engineering concerns. It can lead to some pretty stupid outcomes when the facts behind a project become distorted. This happens to some extent here, though there has only been one real example of political interference causing a stuff up. This was where a wind farm was stopped because someone calculated that every 20 years an endangered parrot might be killed by the thing. Mostly our engineers here are just left to do engineering, and the politicians stay out of it. Sounds like this is not the case where you are.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: retiredgrunt45 on August 05, 2007, 03:55:35
The bottom line is this. Most of us here will probably all be dead and buried before the oil is supposed to run out. If that's the case at all. Large oil companies keep a very tight leash on their geologists and their findings, so no one except for the few privy in the oil companies really knows how much oil is actually out there.

Speculation make a few very wealthy people even wealthier everyday and the rest of us are just along for the ride, happily handing our money to them at the pumps at the prices they dictate.

Like sheep to a wolves den. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

On a more serious note, the internal combustion engine as we know it today, has been around in some form or other since 1885 by Gottlieb Daimler, what is often recognized as the prototype of the modern gas engine. I think it has been perfected as far as it can possibly go. Even with newer and better electronic engine management systems being the only way to make and already obsolete piece of engineering any more efficient is likened to placing a Cray supercomputer into a 1960 Chevrolet and expecting it to run more efficiently. Never going to happen. The principal remains the same, the engine. The electronics's may be cutting edge, but can only do so much to take it past that 30% threshold that the most efficient I/C engine already runs at.  It's like squeezing a stone and expecting water.

It's time we moved on to another much more efficient form of propulsion and put the grossly inefficient internal combustion engine were it belongs, in a museum. Problem is we have been so busy trying to get more out of this engine that better systems have been placed on the backburner for years, most likely, because of a lack of economic incentive to do anything that involved taking money away from big oil producers. We all seen what happended to other "new ideas" that came along in the past, gobbled up and shelved.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Digger Hale on August 05, 2007, 04:10:49
+1 Retired Grunt, really well said and very true in my head.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: adaminc on August 06, 2007, 05:45:00
The future is going to be electric with battery or ultra-capacitor storage systems. I would prefer ultra-capacitors because of all the advantages over batteries, faster charge/discharge rates, better thermal stability, less weight.

I think there needs to be even more money dumped into both areas of storage research (batteries and capacitors), this is really the only big stigma in electronics, storage, its easy to generate large amounts of energy, but storing large amounts, and especially making it portable or mobile, is quite difficult, even large power generating facilities have troubles, usually they pump large amounts of water uphill for a later release to turn turbines, or more recently they are delving into the idea of pumping compressed air into underground caverns for later release to turn turbines.

I have heard of a very theoretical power system that uses a principle called the Beta Voltaic Effect to generate electricity using radioactive materials, no fusion or fission, the material is housed inside the "device", and using the natural breakdown of the radioactive material it captures the energy from the alpha and beta particles (and possibly gamma rays), that are shooting out from the radioactive material, in theory it would work very well, but it could just be another cold fusion kind of pipe dream, I'm no nuclear physicist so I couldn't really understand the technicalities of it, but this could be another area to look into.

As for electric motors, the future will probably be wheel hub motors for most vehicles, like PML's Hi-PA Drives, unless you get into very heavy vehicles like tanks, then well, I dont know what they would use.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on August 06, 2007, 10:55:02
There is actually a very easy to use, high density means of storing and transporting energy. The energy is available at all temperature ranges, is reasonably easy to access with many technologies, relatively non toxic and can be used by literally everyone (as daily experience has shown world wide for more than a century).

The secret: the chemical energy stored in the bonds between hydrogen and carbon, particularly long chains like C18 and above........the generic trade name for such magical substances is "hydrocarbons", but a related substance has almost the same material and energetic properties: coal.

Face it, the laws of physics has us in a pretty tight corner, and in order to be practical, usable and widely accepted, any competing development must at least match the conveinience and energy density of hydrocarbon fuels in thermal (internal combustion) engines. Ultracapacitors sound promising, although a car with electric engines in the wheels would have a very harsh ride (look up "unsprung weight" and see why engineers try to reduce it as much as possible). Trucks and utility vehicles coud benefit from the increased room, though.

The best way that I know of to combine the energy density of hydrocarbons with the "conveinience" of an electric vehicle would be using hydrocarbon fuels in a "Solid Oxide Fuel Cell", which can convert a much higher portion of the chemical energy into electricity. Mind you, waiting for the SOFC to warm up to 10000 C to achieve operating temperatures might not make it perform the way you are used to......

Sorry folks, no easy answers yet.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: adaminc on August 06, 2007, 15:45:12
There is already a BMW Mini with these wheel hub motors, its a P.O.C. (proof of concept), and I supposedly it rides almost the same, this is by the same company PML, and uses their Hi-PA drives, the highend ones which put out 550lb-ft of torque only weigh 25kg, not that heavy, although inorder to use them now the vehicle would probably get heavy from all the batteries you would need, i think the stigma is still in storage and not in drive systems.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on August 10, 2007, 23:09:42
Some more background on electricity generation in Canada. Note the high proportion of nuclear and thermal energy used:

http://greycanada.blogspot.com/2007/08/great-canadian-debate-nuclear-power

Quote
Great Canadian Debate: Nuclear Power

Instead of figuring out yet another forum right now, I am putting my reply here.

Sorry Frank, but you missed a lot. Nuclear power supplied 50% of Ontario's electricity needs in 2006. In Ontario, when the power went out on August 14, 2003, it was days until the nuclear plants could be slowly taken out of "safe mode." Increasing the number of reactors to 78% like France would make the recovery from another large blackout even worse.

Your assumption on the use of oil and gas is wrong. Over a quarter of all electricity generation in Canada comes from thermal power plants. Of that quarter, natural gas, diesel, Light Fuel Oil, and Heavy Fuel Oil amount to (20+0.5+8.2)=28.7%. So oil products are used to generate around 7 % of Canada's electricity. The other categories like Wood and Coal make up around 18% of the total both of which are plentiful outside of the middle east. In fact they have very little coal reserves.

The only argument you have left is green house gases and micro stations are being tested now that have zero emissions.

I am assuming "micro" in this context means micro hydro, which is OK for small scale and local needs.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on August 18, 2007, 06:49:49
Now here is this crazy machine, sent to me via email:

(http://i113.photobucket.com/albums/n221/slambo14/tata2.jpg)

(http://i113.photobucket.com/albums/n221/slambo14/tata1.jpg)

March 19, 2007 Many respected engineers have been trying for years to bring a compressed air car to market, believing strongly that compressed air can power a viable "zero pollution" car. Now the first commercial compressed air car is on the verge of production and beginning to attract a lot of attention, and with a recently signed partnership with Tata, India’s largest automotive manufacturer, the prospects of very cost-effective mass production are now a distinct possibility. The MiniC.A.T is a simple, light urban car, with a tubular chassis that is glued not welded and a body of fiberglass. The heart of the electronic and communication system on the car is a computer offering an array of information reports that extends well beyond the speed of the vehicle, and is built to integrate with external systems and almost anything you could dream of, starting with voice recognition, Internet connectivity, GSM telephone connectivity, a GPS guidance system, fleet management systems, emergency systems, and of course every form of digital entertainment. The engine is fascinating, as is and the revolutionary electrical system that uses just one cable and so is the vehicle’s wireless control system. Microcontrollers are used in every device in the car, so one tiny radio transmitter sends instructions to the lights, indicators etc

There are no keys, just an access card which can be read by the car from your pocket.

Most importantly, it is incredibly cost-efficient to run according to the designers, it costs less than one Euro per 100Km (about a tenth that of a petrol car). Its mileage is about double that of the most advanced electric car (200 to 300 km or 10 hours of driving), a factor which makes a perfect choice in cities where the 80% of motorists drive at less than 60Km. The car has a top speed of 68 mph.

Refilling the car will, once the market develops, take place at adapted petrol stations to administer compressed air. In two or three minutes, and at a cost of approximately 1.5 Euros, the car will be ready to go another 200-300 kilometres.

As a viable alternative, the car carries a small compressor which can be connected to the mains (220V or 380V) and refill the tank in 3-4 hours.

Due to the absence of combustion and, consequently, of residues, changing the oil (1 litre of vegetable oil) is necessary only every 50,000 Km.

The temperature of the clean air expelled by the exhaust pipe is between 0 - 15 degrees below zero, which makes it suitable for use by the internal air conditioning system with no need for gases or loss of power.

How does it work?

90m3 of compressed air is stored in fibre tanks. The expansion of this air pushes the pistons and creates movement. The atmospheric temperature is used to re-heat the engine and increase the road coverage. The air conditioning system makes use of the expelled cold air. Due to the absence of combustion and the fact there is no pollution, the oil change is only necessary every 31.000 miles.

At the moment, four models have been made: a car, a taxi (5 passengers), a Pick-Up truck and a van. The final selling price will be approximately 5.500 pounds.

The Company

"Moteur Development International" (MDI) is a company founded in Luxembourg, based in the south of France and with its Commercial Office in Barcelona. MDI has researched and developed the Air Car over 10 years and the technology is protected by more than 30 International patents and MDI is actively seeking licensees, with according to the company, 50 factories in Europe, America and Asiasigned already.

The Factory

It is predicted that the factory will produce 3.000 cars each year, with 70 staff working only one 8-hour shift a day. If there were 3 shifts some 9.000 cars could be produced a year.

The Tata Agreement

Tata Motors is India's largest automobile company, with revenues of US$ 5.5 billion in 2005-06. With over 4 million Tata vehicles on Indian roads, it is the leader in commercial vehicles and the second largest in passenger vehicles. It is also the world's fifth largest medium and heavy truck manufacturer and the second largest heavy bus manufacturer.

Tata has signed an agreement with MDI for application in India of MDI’s engine technology, and believes the engine is viable; its press statement described it as an efficient, cost-effective, scalable, and capable of other applications such as power generation.

The agreement between Tata Motors and MDI envisages Tata supporting further development and refinement of the technology, and its application and licensing for India.

MDI is a small, family-controlled company located at Carros, near Nice (Southern France) where Guy and Cyril Negre and their technical team have developed the engine technology and the technologically advanced car it powers.

Pretty hard to say an air powered car could hurt the enviroment.   
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: adaminc on August 18, 2007, 07:01:10
Thats amazing, I wonder if you could make a sportier version that went faster.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on August 18, 2007, 07:19:28
Here ya go  ;D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Roy Harding on August 18, 2007, 12:59:13
I build furniture.  And in doing so, I use a lot of tools.  Whenever possible, I opt for air powered tools.

I do so because there is only ONE machine doing all the work (the compressor).  Air tools need very little maintenance (clean 'em up and throw a drop of oil in once in a while), have fewer moving parts than their electric counterparts, and have a failure rate to die for.

I don't see why the concept couldn't be successfully morphed over to vehicles.  As far as hurting the environment goes - I suppose that depends upon the power source used to run the air compressor.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Aden_Gatling on August 18, 2007, 13:07:55
As far as hurting the environment goes - I suppose that depends upon the power source used to run the air compressor.
Exactly!  Out of sight, out of mind doesn't mean that the air is compressing itself (same deal with hydrogen, electricity or any other "zero pollution" solution).  There's no free lunch.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on August 19, 2007, 14:29:43
Reality check for advocates of alternative energy: these are the figures of merit to meet or exceed:

Quote
The makeup of both gasoline and diesel is different as well. Gasoline is typically C9H20, while diesel fuel is typically C14H30. The increase in carbon and hydrogen atoms is the reason the energy density of diesel is greater as well. On average, 1 gallon (3.8 L) of diesel fuel contains approximately 155x106 joules (147,000 BTU), while 1 gallon of gasoline contains 132x106 joules (125,000 BTU).

You need to compress a lot of air to match that!
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on September 10, 2007, 00:56:06
Alternative energy advocates need to be aware of the facts:

http://www.worldenergy.org/documents/stat2003en.pdf

Quote
The bulk of electric power cannot currently be stored in an economically feasible way. It has to be generated at the same time it is used, and electricity grids require power to be supplied at the rated frequency and voltage, free from harmonics, voltage surges and interruptions. A modern industrialised society depends heavily on stable and high quality power supplies to run industrial processes and information technology. There are, therefore, a number of operational aspects which have to be taken into account when specific energy targets are considered. For the deployment of renewables on a large scale, these include the intermittent nature of leading sources, the related problems of full integration with grids, low capacity factors and the need for back-up power.

When renewable energy targets are aimed at the reduction of GHG emissions, broad technical issues should be taken into consideration. For example, emissions per kilowatt-hour from conventional power stations are reduced by maximising their base-load operation; however, integration of some renewable generating capacities into the grid can increase frequency fluctuations, thus raising the overall emissions levels. Another issue, which in many cases is not fully taken into account, is back-up capacity to provide electricity at short notice, which most often relies on diesel or coal-fired generating units.

The big problem is many people want to do the right thing, but are not aware of the science. Politicians are particularly susceptible, since these schemes sound good, and offer a way to feed friends at the public trough without too much opposition. Saying ethanol and wind turbines are "Green" (to use two examples) makes for a good sound bite, demonstrating ethanol uses more energy to make than you ever get back or the pitfalls or wind turbines takes lots of time and effort.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Cheshire on September 11, 2007, 19:48:56
a_majoor...

Quote
You need to compress a lot of air to match that

If I was driving a Hummer maybe. But with these compact, fiberglass cars, the amount of energy needed to propell, you, your luggage, the car, and the compressed air are greatly reduced.

 
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Aden_Gatling on September 11, 2007, 21:12:53
a_majoor...

If I was driving a Hummer maybe. But with these compact, fiberglass cars, the amount of energy needed to propell, you, your luggage, the car, and the compressed air are greatly reduced.

 

But that same vehicle would consume far less fuel!
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on October 03, 2007, 13:32:37
A novel non thermal means of generating electricity. As far as I can understand this, it is similar to a fuel cell and would be ideal for laptops and other small scale applications (for now). Assuming there are no scaling issues (big if), these devices could be ganged together to produce electric power for larger scale applications as well.

http://www.neofuel.com/nanotech/index.html
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: MechEng on October 03, 2007, 14:59:34
I think the next 50 years will see us moving to depend more on Nuclear.  But Nuclear Energy cannot make up 100% of our energy.  Our Energy demands fluctuate throught the day and Nuclear powerplants are not very good at varing their output.  And it can take days to stop and restart a reactor.  Nuclear is good for base load electricity ~70% of our power.  Ontario already uses 50+% nuclear power. The rest will have to come from more variable sources of power (hydro electric, wind, solar, biomass).

In the future we I think we will see more solar and wind generation at our own homes.  This has two bennifits. 1. Green electricity 2. Less electrical transmission issues (i.e. 2003 Blackout).  Especailly since the components to do this are starting to come down in cost and are becoming more efficent.

For portable devices such as laptops, cars, power tools you will see a vast improvement in battery technology.
A123 Systems has developed a nanophosphate Li-Ion battery. 
http://www.a123systems.com/newsite/index.php#/technology/
It's safe (unlike the panasonic laptop batteries).  Dewalt is already using them in their cordless power tools. GM will be using this battery in the Chevy Volt Electric Car and in future hybrid vehicles.
These batteries are designed to last 10 years and work fine in hot and cold climates.

Electric motors are far more powerfull than Internal Combustion Engines and far more effecient.

If people think an electric car is slow.  Boy are you in for a suprise.
http://www.killacycle.com/
The motorcycle even got into an accedent and the battery was damaged but there was no fire and everything stayed safe.

Also for alternative fuels you have Ethanol and Biodiesel.  This would be a good intrm measure. There are now ways to produce these fuels without using crops.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulosic_ethanol
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algaculture (process that can make biodiesel and hydrogen)

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on October 03, 2007, 19:41:00
MechEng:

I agree with much of your posting but I am still not sold on "organic" energy sources.  The conversion processes are way to inefficient and slow and you always have to deal with the problem of expending energy to separate your "power source" from water which can make up more than 90% of your raw material (80% if it is an animal, 90% if it is an oil bearing plant, 95% if it is a leafy green or an algae).

We are much further ahead digging the carbon out of the ground from rich sources and recapturing it all for reuse later, than we are trying to capture carbon from air and trying to turn it into energy. 

You have gold in nuggets in the stream bed. You have gold in seams in the rock. You have gold in flecks in the mountain.

Which are you going to go after first.  Personally I would go after the placer gold in the river before I started to worry about demolishing and sieving mountains.  ;)

Coal fired plants and greenhouses - there is a successful combination.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: MechEng on October 03, 2007, 21:11:18
MechEng:

I agree with much of your posting but I am still not sold on "organic" energy sources.  The conversion processes are way to inefficient and slow and you always have to deal with the problem of expending energy to separate your "power source" from water which can make up more than 90% of your raw material (80% if it is an animal, 90% if it is an oil bearing plant, 95% if it is a leafy green or an algae).

We are much further ahead digging the carbon out of the ground from rich sources and recapturing it all for reuse later, than we are trying to capture carbon from air and trying to turn it into energy. 

You have gold in nuggets in the stream bed. You have gold in seams in the rock. You have gold in flecks in the mountain.

Which are you going to go after first.  Personally I would go after the placer gold in the river before I started to worry about demolishing and sieving mountains.  ;)

Coal fired plants and greenhouses - there is a successful combination.

I will agree that biofuels are not a long term solution but not for the reasons you listed.

There are already cellulostic ethanol plants up and running in the US producing ethanol cheaper and more efficient than crop based ethanol (cheaper than gasoline too).  And their are plans to build dozens of these plants in the near future.

http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20070927005865&newsLang=en

Biofuels should only be temporary to ween us off gasoline.

The problem is if you burn anything at high temperatures you don't just get CO2.  You get many other pollutants like Nitrous Oxides which are far worse than CO2.

And this is why burning coal is a bad idea.  Carbon recapturing is actually further away than most people think and is far from perfect.

Solar panels have made huge gains in becoming more efficient (but still have a ways to go).  But their are many other promising technologies on the horizon.

I personally can't wait to get my Chevy Volt in 2010.  GM has already signed the supplier contracts, selected the assembly factory and it has been officially on the production schedule for a year now.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on October 03, 2007, 23:40:34
WRT Nuclear energy, we need to look at more advanced systems. Very high energy density and high conversion efficiency will make nuclear energy more economical: http://gif.inel.gov/roadmap/pdfs/non-classical_reactor_systems.pdf

Of course, people need to realize nuclear is green..........
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on October 04, 2007, 21:52:14
I will agree that biofuels are not a long term solution but not for the reasons you listed.

There are already cellulostic ethanol plants up and running in the US producing ethanol cheaper and more efficient than crop based ethanol (cheaper than gasoline too).  And their are plans to build dozens of these plants in the near future........

..... Carbon recapturing is actually further away than most people think and is far from perfect.


Not much of anything is perfect - everything has a cost, and a risk.

As to the plans to build dozens of ethanol plants - those dozens of plant need either straw (which is currently left lying on the fields in order to stop the dirt blowing away), fresh green stuff (which is wet and needs space to grow - space that could be used for food crops or just to supply habitat for spotted and burrowing owls and Kemodi bears) or waste bark (which could be better employed being mulched and shipped to Afghanistan so that they can put a bit of carbon back into their environment and grow things). 

TANSTAAFL - everything has a price including your Chevy Volt - Even if you are operating it from a pedal-driven dynamo while watching reruns of the Nature of Things - You're going to get awfully hungry and won't some productive Green Space -

Of course, ethanol and pedalling would make an interesting mix.  ;)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: MechEng on October 05, 2007, 18:39:04
Not much of anything is perfect - everything has a cost, and a risk.

As to the plans to build dozens of ethanol plants - those dozens of plant need either straw (which is currently left lying on the fields in order to stop the dirt blowing away), fresh green stuff (which is wet and needs space to grow - space that could be used for food crops or just to supply habitat for spotted and burrowing owls and Kemodi bears) or waste bark (which could be better employed being mulched and shipped to Afghanistan so that they can put a bit of carbon back into their environment and grow things). 

TANSTAAFL - everything has a price including your Chevy Volt - Even if you are operating it from a pedal-driven dynamo while watching reruns of the Nature of Things - You're going to get awfully hungry and won't some productive Green Space -

Of course, ethanol and pedalling would make an interesting mix.  ;)

The volt has an electric only range of 62kms and would only use the ICE if I go further than that (very efficiently I might add).  My daily commute to and from work is only 40kms. And to recharge the Volt That is where far cleaner electricity comes in.  Currently Ontario only gets 18% of it's power from burning fossil fuels.  And in the future under current plans in 20 years it will be less than 5% (which will only be Natural Gas). http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/Page.asp?PageID=122&ContentID=6222
http://www.energy.gov.on.ca/index.cfm?fuseaction=english.news&body=yes&news_id=162

Now I don't think that ethanol is a long term solution.  But cars with an ICE will be with us for at least another 20 years. And Biofuels look like a good fuel to use in the transition.

There is no such thing as perfection.  Everything we do will have some impact on the environment around us.  But what people don't understand is we don't need perfection.  The environment has a certain capacity to clean up after us.  The problem is we are currently living beyond that capacity.  This is not about saving the environment.  Us humans do not have the power to completely destroy the environment.  But we do have the power to destroy ourselves. What we need to do Is find a way to live sustainably.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on October 05, 2007, 19:13:06
MechEng - I sense rapprochement here.

I think the only thing we are now really discussing is the scenario for dealing with the next 20 to 50 years.  I DON'T happen to think that we as a species, or the planet, is at risk.  I DO believe that there are always better ways to do things. 

Amongst my many lives I remember one of them lived as a 6 year old kid in London, being walked to school in the smog, not knowing if we were on the road or the pavement (street or sidewalk to you) and be very surprised to find a Big Red Double Decker bus approaching us.  I know what pollution looks like and I am glad we cleaned it up (perversely however I have an ongoing love of the smell of coal fires and diesel fumes while I find pine forests overpowering - go figure). Back to point.....

As you rightly state, the planet can handle a lot.  It is constantly experimenting on itself and leaving uninhabitable areas - deserts, oilsands, arsenical creeks, pitchblende and radon contaminated ground.....  So if we want to do something we can take our time and play a bit.

I would start off by saying that the fastest way anywhere is to start from the existing position and improve what we have - hence my preference for coal and scrubbers and biofilters (containerized or artificial peat bogs) and green houses and ponds and CaCO3 etc.  It is all known technology that has a track record and is relatively easy to implement.  If you are prepared to spend 100s of Billions on a completely new industry with unproven suppliers and a poorly developed infrastructure, why not consider 10s of Billions to get 80% of the way there faster.  (Aside from the novelty aspect).

The resulting plants will be at least as environmentally friendly as your new ethanol plants (just consider all that energy you are going to spend manufacturing all that lovely high-priced stainless steel equipment for the plants - how does that figure into your cost/benefit analysis?).

Actually I like the idea of electric cars.  Heck I am looking forward to the day I can whistle up my publicly funded pod and have it deliver me to my destination in one, direct, trip.  If they can run autopilots and GPS trackers and parallel my car for me then they can manage that.  A few buried magnets and a battery would do the trick for power management.   Then I can keep my gas-guzzling SUV for heading out to the flatlands (hills induce claustrophobia - and trees? ugh - nasty things that block the view).

But by all means - envisage an electrical future.  But hydrocarbons will continue to be the most stable method of storing usable energy for a long while.  And the Germans were making Diesel from Coal years ago.

Now figure out how to run a closed-cycle engine and rapidly pump out my "waste" carbon at the same time as you are pumping in my "fresh" hydrocarbons.  You can have my waste for regeneration to hydrocarbons, plant food or people. :)


Cheers.


Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: MechEng on October 05, 2007, 21:04:48
MechEng - I sense rapprochement here.

I think the only thing we are now really discussing is the scenario for dealing with the next 20 to 50 years.  I DON'T happen to think that we as a species, or the planet, is at risk.  I DO believe that there are always better ways to do things. 

We are not at risk in the next 20-50 years I agree.  But the more steps we make now the less we have to deal with in the future.

I agree we have to use what we have now to our benefit.

According to the Coal industry in the US the fastest they could get a commercially viable power plant to use clean coal technology is 2020.  Why should we wait that long when there are plenty of other commercially viable and cleaner sources of energy at our disposal now?

Now we are running out of oil.  Coal can be used to substitute (It's already used in South Africa).  But it too is far from clean.  Cellulosic Ethanol does not use crops for production.  It uses biomass waste products. And does not use much energy to produce compared to coal based fuels.

Algaculture uses Algae on wastewater treatment ponds to produce biodiesel and hydrogen.  Now this technology only recently became viable thanks to a huge breakthrough only a few months ago.  So it's a little ways off.  But there are now plans to implement this in 15 locations.

Now saying all this I don't see Coal as a clean alternative.  And I think electric cars are the future (for reasons previously stated).  But even if all the automakers stop selling ICE cars and started selling electric cars today it would take a while for ICE's to make their way out of society.  And I fell that non crop based biofuels would be the best alternative for this problem.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on October 05, 2007, 21:59:19
According to the Coal industry in the US the fastest they could get a commercially viable power plant to use clean coal technology is 2020.
Are we talking about high efficiency burners here - which I believe they are - or putting the types of scrubbers common at incinerator plants in Europe, being currently applied to western Canadian plants or intended for those that were destroyed for McGuinty's photo-op.

Quote
Why should we wait that long when there are plenty of other commercially viable and cleaner sources of energy at our disposal now?

How long do you think it is going take to get all those dozens of ethanol plants on line when China is sucking up all the available supply of industrial metals for the dozens of coal and hydro plants it is building.  You can't get a titanium heat exchanger without a two year delay.  And bundles of them - forget it.  Not to mention all the harvesting and transportation.  It will take you at least until 2020 to get your ethanol plants up to anything like a useful capacity.

Quote
Now we are running out of oil. 
 

Yes we are depleting the known resource.  No we are not running out.  Lots of time left yet before we get through current gas, current oil, heavy oil, tarsands and shale oil.  Then we can start working on oil from coal ( Which is actually hydrogenation of the coal, IIRC).

Quote
Coal can be used to substitute (It's already used in South Africa).  But it too is far from clean.

Stipulated.

Quote
Cellulosic Ethanol does not use crops for production.  It uses biomass waste products. And does not use much energy to produce compared to coal based fuels.

There are no biomass waste products.  That material is far too valuable where it is.  And if there is a surplus it would be better being transported to places like Afghanistan and Darfur where there is a deficit.  They need it to stabilize soils, hold water, provide humus and to degrade and create a local CO2 rich atmosphere that will support plant growth.  If you have surplus biomass give it to me and I will blow lovely warm CO2 rich coal stack air through it and feed lots of lovely bacteria until the bed is saturated then pack it up and ship it to Afghanistan to grow trees.

Quote
Algaculture uses Algae on wastewater treatment ponds to produce biodiesel and hydrogen.  Now this technology only recently became viable thanks to a huge breakthrough only a few months ago.  So it's a little ways off.  But there are now plans to implement this in 15 locations.
 

Algae are up to 95% water.  A ton of algae (2000 lbs - forgive me I am old and worked with Americans) contains 1900 lbs of water. It requires 1000 BTU to evaporate each lb. Therefore it requires 1,900,000 BTUs of energy to drive off the water.  One lb of Diesel contain 19,000 BTUs of heat.  Therefore to extract the combustible portion of the algae and generate something dry enough to throw into a burner you need to invest 1,900,000 /19,000 or 100 lbs of oil (10 imperial gallons or 12 US gallons or about 40 liters) to get the algae to a useable form.  And that assumes 100% energy conversions.  Reality is more like 70% all told.  But lets stick with the 10/12/40 numbers.

The 1 ton of algae will yield 100 lbs of matter roughly equivalent to wood or grass.  Dry wood has a calorific value of about 8,000 BTU.  Your ton of Algae with consequently yield 800,000 BTUs of heat.

So after you have invested surface, water, energy, capital, material and manpower in the growth of Algae you then have to invest 1,900,000 BTUs of heat in order to get 800,000 BTUs of heat.  You are in deficit.  And the more you do to the algae, to ferment it to produce a liquid fuel like ethanol, for example, the more you have to invest and the lower the return. Your deficit increases.

Biofuels are a way to use a surplus that has no other value, a waste.  They are a lousy method of fueling an economy and can be put to much better use feeding plants and animals which will ultimately feed humans.

Quote
Now saying all this I don't see Coal as a clean alternative.  And I think electric cars are the future (for reasons previously stated).  But even if all the automakers stop selling ICE cars and started selling electric cars today it would take a while for ICE's to make their way out of society.  And I fell that non crop based biofuels would be the best alternative for this problem.

Coal is NOT clean. It IS an alternative, and a good one.  Its waste stream is manageable with current technologies if society wishes to invest as much in coal as it is in the hare-brained notions of windfarms, tidal turbines and photocells.  All it would require is jacking the rates to the consumer - and there is already a lot of room between the 8 cents per kWh that I believe Ontario pays and the 25 cents per kWh that you will find in MANY adjacent American locations.

Electric cars are indeed a viable alternative for short hops by urbanites to the nearest Starbucks.  A golf cart would do as well.  They are absolute non-starters in most of Canada, including much of Suburbia.

There are, however, better ways to use the hydrocarbons than in the current generation of ICEs. But that is a whole other story.

Cheers sir.  :salute:
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Tiamo on October 06, 2007, 01:08:54
Speaking of electric motors, this is an interesting innovation taking advantage of electromagnetic motors to achieve better efficiency:

http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Axle_Corporation (http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Axle_Corporation)

The bike can travel around 180km on a single charge and reach speeds of 150km/hr , price wise it is the same as a scooter. The company is planning for a passenger vehicle as well. This is their YouTube demonstration http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trws3k9vq6M&mode=related&search (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trws3k9vq6M&mode=related&search)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on October 06, 2007, 01:46:51
The problem with implementing these schemes is best summed up by Steven Den Beste (who is unfortunately no longer blogging). The first issue is the capital cost to replace various systems. The turnover rate for capital intensive systems is measured in decades, even relatively low capital intensive items like cars or refrigerators (to name two fairly common energy hogs) can last decades. Even if you wanted to, you simply can't replace every unit with the new model right away. Aside from issues like production bottlenecks, most utilities or users are still paying for the old unit, and can't afford a new one. Saying "make the government pay" can only lead to massive economic distortions or inflation (or both), since you still can't afford to replace the old unit, but now you must fork over the cost anyway in taxes, or the State imposes economic controls to get the new item, or they print more money.

This makes the issue of economic payback important. If you are going to spend a thousand dollars on a high efficiency fridge, you expect to save lots of money. If electricity costs you, the consumer $.08/Kw/hr, then you will not see significant impact on your utility bills. I did some calculations based on the idea that a solar shingle array would be able to provide @ 1/3 of my energy requirements; the saving was in the neighbourhood of $500/year. The cost of the array and associated power conditioning equipment was @ $70,000, payoff would take decades.

This brings up the next issue, which is weighted averages. As you can see, even a 33% reduction in energy use was not much in my case, and even massive gains in one area (like light bulbs) does not translate into killer gains elsewhere.

These posts explains these concepts far better (and there are lots of other exciting tidbits throughout his archive as well): http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2004/06/NomeansNo.shtml
http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2002/09/Obscureenergysources.shtml
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: mountainliving on October 06, 2007, 03:03:07
I have never understood the batteries vs. fuel cells debate. What is the major difference? Don't both of them use chemistry to store and release energy? Since fuel cells appear to be technically challenging, why don't we use batteries now?

A Theory:
Oil owns the transportation sector of our economy. It doesn't want to compete with cheap power and that's exactly what battery powered cars would do. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that oil subsidizes the auto industry. 
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: MechEng on October 06, 2007, 15:56:55
Are we talking about high efficiency burners here - which I believe they are - or putting the types of scrubbers common at incinerator plants in Europe, being currently applied to western Canadian plants or intended for those that were destroyed for McGuinty's photo-op.

How long do you think it is going take to get all those dozens of ethanol plants on line when China is sucking up all the available supply of industrial metals for the dozens of coal and hydro plants it is building.  You can't get a titanium heat exchanger without a two year delay.  And bundles of them - forget it.  Not to mention all the harvesting and transportation.  It will take you at least until 2020 to get your ethanol plants up to anything like a useful capacity.
 
Electric cars are indeed a viable alternative for short hops by urbanites to the nearest Starbucks.  A golf cart would do as well.  They are absolute non-starters in most of Canada, including much of Suburbia.

There are, however, better ways to use the hydrocarbons than in the current generation of ICEs. But that is a whole other story.

Cheers sir.  :salute:

As for coal plants I'm talking about carbon and sulfur recapturing. And making them "so called clean" even though they still really won't be clean.

For ethanol it will take about 5 years to get these plants up and running.  And Cellulosic ethanol can use a variety of  waste products in general not just biomass.  In fact there is currently more ethanol being produced than being consumed right now and many of the crop based ethanol producers are at risk of going under.  Ethanol distribution has not kept up with ethanol production.  And the price of things like corn are putting pressure on crop based ethanol producers.

As for Algae based biofuels there are other ways to extract the water from algae other than expending energy for evaporation.  This is where many of the recent breakthrough's have been.

I don't see why there would be a big push to keep coal power in Canada.  Coal represents a small percentage of the power produced in most parts of Canada.  In Ontario Coal only represents about 15% of the power in the province.  And this could be easily be replaced with nuclear power which is just as economical if not more economical.

Wind power is not as expensive as you think.  On a small home scale it's about 11 cents/KWh on a large scale its about 7 cents/KWh.  And these numbers have been falling fast and show no signs of stopping.

Solar 5 years ago was 30 cents/KWh.  Today its 15 cents/KWh and also falling very fast.  Canadian tire is now selling solar powered home generators.

As for electric cars.  The Chevy Volt is expected to have a range of over 1000km's on 40L of gasoline when using the engine to regenerate the battery and an electric only range of 62kms.  I don't call that short range.

ICE's have an efficiency of ~25%.  Electric motors ~95+%.
Electric motors can go as high as 15000 RPM and have a virtually flat torque curve.  And don't require a transmission (Which gives ~20% efficiency loss).

The only issue to date with electric motors is not size or power.  But it is energy storage.  The next generation of batteries will solve this problem.  The Tesla Roadster electric car with rather primitive Li-Ion batteries has a range of 300kms. http://www.teslamotors.com/

The Chevy Volt and GM's e-flex system will use a small advanced Li-Ion battery that the car can use to go 62kms on electric only range.  And can be recharged by plugging into the wall at home.  It also has a small gas engine.  The gas engine does not power the wheels.  It is only used to recharge the battery and this is a big advantage.  ICE's are most efficient in a very narrow RPM range.  With the engine only used to recharge the battery it can be optimized to run at only one RPM.  It will be like getting highway mileage all the time except better.

Trains made by GM already use the E-flex concept.  Trains today use electric motors for their main source of propulsion and a diesel engine to recharge the battery.

City buses already use hybrid systems with a combination of electric motors and a diesel engine.

Sorry about the long blurb about electric motors but there is a lot of misconceptions about electric motors. I'm a mechanical engineer (hence my name) and my background is in the automotive industry.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: MechEng on October 06, 2007, 16:23:17
I have never understood the batteries vs. fuel cells debate. What is the major difference? Don't both of them use chemistry to store and release energy? Since fuel cells appear to be technically challenging, why don't we use batteries now?

A Theory:
Oil owns the transportation sector of our economy. It doesn't want to compete with cheap power and that's exactly what battery powered cars would do. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that oil subsidizes the auto industry. 


Well there is big research into both or a combination of both right now.  Currently both have issues.  But both are also very close to production ready.

Batteries:
Cost - They are current very expensive the Tesla Roadster retails for ~100K most of that cost is batteries.  The next generation of batteries will be cheaper.  The Li-Ion battery on the volt is expected to cost around 8000 dollars.  That might sound a lot.  But powering a car with electricity is far cheaper than using gasoline.  On a vehicle like the volt I would stand to save ~$90 a month on energy costs and I drive about 2000Kms a month.

Safety - Many older battery designs are not that safe.  I think everybody knows about the Exploding laptops with Li-Ion batteries.  Newer Li-Ion batteries are far safer.  New cathode and electrode chemistries have made them far safer.

Operating environment- many batteries performance degrade when operating at either very low or high temperatures.  Again new Li-Ion batteries actually work better a low temperatures and can function at temperatures as high as 200oC

Weight - Older batteries are heavy.  New Li-Ion batteries are light.

Durability and longevity - Older NiMH batteries only lasted about 5 years.  New advanced Li-Ion are good for about 10 years.

Fuel Cells:
Use hydrogen with oxygen (from air) to produce electricity (reverse electrolysis).

Cost -  Currently fuel cells are expensive.  They use a lot of rare earth metals to produce

Durability - Current generation fuel cells will only last about 80000 kms.

Hydrogen - Fuel cells need large bulky heavy hydrogen tanks on board.  Also hydrogen production is not very wide spread and most hydrogen today is very expensive and produced from fossil fuels.


I personally think battery technology will win out in the end.  But fuel cells are close.  The next generation of fuel cells are supposed to last ~160000 Km's and are becoming cheaper and more efficient.  And there are new and cheaper ways to produce hydrogen.

But batteries have the advantage of not needing new infrastructure to use (just plug in at home).  And battery technology in my opinion already exists to make a viable electric car.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: TCBF on October 06, 2007, 19:27:51
How do you keep the batteries from freezing in the winter?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: MechEng on October 06, 2007, 23:59:14
How do you keep the batteries from freezing in the winter?

A Li-Ion battery is made of a variety of metals and polymers so there is nothing to freeze.  It's already solid.  Older Li-Ion batteries did have liquid cathode and electrodes but new designs have eliminated this.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on October 07, 2007, 22:33:27
Batteries are not very high density energy storage media; consider the very limited range of the GM EV-1 with almost a ton of batteries, compared the the range of a car running on a tank of liquid hydrocarbons. (The short range of the GM "Volt" on battery power also requires a pretty hefty battery pack compared to the 1000km on a small fuel tank). Fuel cells run so long as there is fuel and oxygen, and SOFC (Solid Oxide Fuel Cells) run directly from hydrocarbons without reformulation. The downside of current SOFC's is they need to be heated to 10000C to start, which raises a lot of material science issues.

Fuel cells also do not deal with transients very well, so "blipping" the throttle or getting rapid bursts of power to accelerate will require some sort of auxiliary systems. Serial Electric vehicles like the "Volt"are simply a means of taking advantage of the high energy density of hydrocarbon fuels with an electric drive (and Ferdinand Porsche designed serial electric vehicles prior to WW II).
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: MechEng on October 08, 2007, 12:51:12
Batteries are not very high density energy storage media; consider the very limited range of the GM EV-1 with almost a ton of batteries, compared the the range of a car running on a tank of liquid hydrocarbons. (The short range of the GM "Volt" on battery power also requires a pretty hefty battery pack compared to the 1000km on a small fuel tank). Fuel cells run so long as there is fuel and oxygen, and SOFC (Solid Oxide Fuel Cells) run directly from hydrocarbons without reformulation. The downside of current SOFC's is they need to be heated to 10000C to start, which raises a lot of material science issues.

Fuel cells also do not deal with transients very well, so "blipping" the throttle or getting rapid bursts of power to accelerate will require some sort of auxiliary systems. Serial Electric vehicles like the "Volt"are simply a means of taking advantage of the high energy density of hydrocarbon fuels with an electric drive (and Ferdinand Porsche designed serial electric vehicles prior to WW II).

While I agree that battery technology has not reached the energy density of other fuels.  But it doesn't have too.  Because battery to electric motor operation is 3 times more efficient therefore the energy density of batteries needs to only be 1/3 of that of other fuels to become viable.  GM's EV-1 used battery technology that is 20 years old.

The battery in the volt though a fair size is not huge and it weighs less than 200lbs.  Newer polymer Li-Ion batteries are lighter and have far more energy density than previous generation batteries.
http://bioage.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/volt1.png

Now I'm not saying that fuel cells don't have a chance.  I personally think battery technology will win out.  There are some very promising battery technologies on the horizon.  And latest generation nanophosphate Li-Ion batteries are already a viable alternative.  But fuel cells are also very close.  GM's Gen 5 fuel cell that will be in the prototype phase next year is supposed to have a durability of 160000Kms and be significantly cheaper then their Gen 4 fuel cell system.

The Chevy Volt is built off of GM's E-Flex system which has the ability to adapt to different technologies.  So what ever is best in terms of cost benefit will win out.

This article is almost a year old.  But will at least give you an Idea what GM has planed for E-Flex.  And I think this is the future in the automotive industry.
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2007/01/the_volt_may_be.html

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on October 12, 2007, 16:13:02
Mechanical (i.e. flywheels and compressed gasses) and electrochemical reactions (batteries) have severe limitations in energy density (hence storage/range issues). Chemical energy is well known and hydrocarbons have the most advantages for day to day use.

Using some sort of nuclear reaction is the next step up; energy density is orders of magnitude beyond chemical energy, but there are several obvious disadvantages, particularly for mobile applications. If this idea is real and workable, then there may be nuclear jets and small scale distributed nuclear power in our future:

http://www.matus1976.com/features/isomer.htm

Quote
Nuclear Isomer energy storage and Quantum Nucleaonic Reactors

Nuclear Isomers are an exciting new development in the field of Nuclear physics. They are, essentially, a nuclear storage battery. Just as atoms can have electrons in excited states, atomic nuclei can have nucleons (protons and nuetrons) in excited states as well, but unlike atoms with electrons in excited states, the nucleons can remain in their excited states for extended lengths of time. The excited nucleons can randomly decay on their own, and have representative half-lifes as well. Not all atoms can have stable excited nucleons, and typically larger atoms are more likely to have longer half-lifes of the excited nucleons. But, the theory goes, the nucleons of an atom can be excited to higher energy levels by bombarding them with gamma rays, and then triggered to release their energy on demand by hitting them with lower energy photons, Ultra Violet or X-Rays. These would amount immensely dense energy storage devices, with power densities per unit wieght reaching a theorhetical limit near that of low end fusion reactions!

Best Batteries - 300 Wh/Kg
Fuel Cells (aluminum) - 4,000 Wh/kg
Isomer Nucleonic - 800,000,000 Wh/Kg
Fusion - 90,000,000,000 Wh/Kg

Developments in Isomers

021903 - 'Nuclear-powered' drone aircraft on drawing boards
The 'Nuclear-powered' could be considered a misnomer, as this effect is not necessarily nuclear but is also not chemical. The US Military is performing Feasibility studies on Quantum Necleonic Reactor powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. A nuclear UAV would generate thrust by using the energy of these gamma rays to produce a jet of heated air, using this power source, they conclude, could extend the UAV's flight time from hours to months.
from - http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993406


081301 - Physicists Challenge Reports of Accelerated Decay of Nuclear Excited State
Physicists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in collaboration with scientists at Los Alamos and Argonne national laboratories, have new results that strongly contradict recent reports claiming an accelerated emission of gamma rays from the nuclear isomer 31-yr. hafnium-178, and the opportunity for a controlled release of energy. They said "In other words, the X-ray irradiation did not decrease the time it takes for hafnium to decay; a result that Becker and the team claim is consistent with nuclear physics" The nucleonic excitation has nothing to do with the weak nuclear radioactive decay of the host atom. So I am not sure why it matters that the LLNL found that the X-Ray irradiation did not 'decrease the time it takes for hafnium to decay' It shouldn’t after all, it should, however, decrease the time it takes for the excited nucleons to decay to a non-excited state.
from - http://www.llnl.gov/llnl/06news/NewsReleases/2001/NR-01-08-05.html


May 1999 - Physics Web - Light plays tricks with nuclei
A good description of the expirement and of note - "...A single nucleus can hold up to several mega-electron-volts. This means that one gram of material could store several giga-joules of energy"
from - http://physicsweb.org/article/world/12/5/3

Links -

University of Texas at Dallas - ESSENTIAL FUNDAMENTALS OF QUANTUM NUCLEONICS
http://www.utdallas.edu/research/quantum/Tutorial.htm
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on October 14, 2007, 18:47:13
My response. And it is a long one. With no apologies for length or content.


As for coal plants I'm talking about carbon and sulfur recapturing. And making them "so called clean" even though they still really won't be clean.


Good.  We're talking about the same thing.

Quote
For ethanol it will take about 5 years to get these plants up and running.


It may take 5 years to get A Plant up and running.  You won't get "dozens" of plants up and running in 5 years. Just try organizing the fleets of cement trucks you will need.

Quote
And Cellulosic ethanol can use a variety of  waste products in general not just biomass. 


Biomass is any material which originated from a living organism.  Essentially it is any carbonaceous material from any plant or animal.  Cellulose is a carbonaceous material from a plant - any plant - all plants.  All cellulose is by definition "biomass".  There are other "biomass" sources - like living bugs or like dead fish, dead cows, dead people and excreta from all of the above  -  but none of them qualify as "cellulosic".  It is possible to use them with other foods to grow plants containing cellulose but the carbon in the cellulose comes from carbon sources like molasses and sugar.

Cellulose is Biomass. Ethanol from Cellulose, cellulosic ethanol, is ethanol from biomass. 

And the conversion process takes energy and the more you have to do, the more energy you have to put in, the less energy is available.

Quote
In fact there is currently more ethanol being produced than being consumed right now and many of the crop based ethanol producers are at risk of going under.  Ethanol distribution has not kept up with ethanol production.  And the price of things like corn are putting pressure on crop based ethanol producers.

Welcome to the world of economic subsidies and the law of unintended consequences.  Refer to a chap name of Adam Smith with respect to being able to plan an economy.

Quote
As for Algae based biofuels there are other ways to extract the water from algae other than expending energy for evaporation.  This is where many of the recent breakthrough's have been.

Perhaps you are thinking of filtering? The water won't free drain.

Ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis? First you have to chop things up really small then apply lots of pressure, lots of surface area and lots of time - and it still leaves you with water trapped in wet fibre and sugar trapped in water.  The wet fiber will not burn and the sugar needs to be separated from the water before it can be burnt.

Pressing? Energy intensive and achieves the same results.

Centrifugation? Marginally less energy intensive than pressing but achieves similar results.

Usually these processes are utilized in combination with each other, along with heating to disrupt cell structure or to provide the growing conditions for digestion, and multi-effect evaporators and dryers to achieve economical outcomes.  And the more the processes that are involved the more that has to be done, the more by-products produced that have to be sold or treated and the less product available for the primary stream.

Exotics like Supercritical Fluid Extraction or Molecular Distillation - don't get me started.  Those are still evaporative processes but really expensive ones that still require chopping big bits into little bits befor they can be processed.  More processing, more money, less product.  I had one plant many years ago that was designed to take half of the entire supply of cowhides from the Alberta kill and convert it in a pharmaceutical.  It required a massive building, three or four highly secretive and compartmentalized process rooms, one of which required my centrifuges (over 2 million just for the centrifuges) to produce a "product" measured in grams.  Think of that: Millions in investmet supported by grams of product from hundreds of tonnes of raw materials - which happened to be a form of biomass - which were mainly turned into unusable wastes.
But the value of the product was the only way to support the extremely expensive process.

I had a couple of prospective projects where the investor was being asked to convert their dead fish or dead chickens (and money) into ethanol using bugs.  The advantage was that much of the size reduction and cell denaturation had already been accomplished making meals and oils for feed.  The problem was that the conversion process was a sideline for the bugs in question. They still had to eat.  To make the process work the bugs had to be fed a steady diet of molasses or sugar.

Quote
I don't see why there would be a big push to keep coal power in Canada.


Because coal is the purest grade of carbon we have available on the planet.

Gasoline is Coal plus Hydrogen in the form of Benzene Rings

Sugars are Coal in the form of rings of 6 carbons, just like Benzene and Coal, with water stuck to it as Hydrogens and OHs.

Starch is Coal plus Water in the form of chains of the same sugars cellulose is made from but untwisted so that they become accessible for digestion

Cellulose is Coal plus Water in the form of chains of sugars strung together so that they are unavailable for animals to digest with the bugs and enzymes they have available to them.  Cow hire out the task.

Ethanol is nothing more than finely divide Coal plus water.  The 6 Carbon ring is busted into 3x 2 Carbon chunks and more water is added.

Methane/Natural Gas is just the most finely divide Coal available but with Hydrogen added.

So, to sum up, to achieve the energy available in coal from any other source one must first either remove Water or Hydrogen. 

Bound Hydrogen has the advantage that it at least Releases energy when removed from Carbon thus helping and greatly improves your energy balance. But it It also reduces the density of the fuel.  A little density reduction to convert the solid coal to the liquid benzene is a good thing because you actually gain a little on bulk density and a lot on convenience.  A large density reduction from solid to coal to a gas creates more problems as storage densities decrease and handling becomes more difficult.  You don’t have to worry about coal leaking past gaskets.

Ethanol requires the removal of water to generate energy:  CH3CH2OH or 2C+2H2+ H2O.

Breaking the two Carbons apart releases energy.
Busting off the Hydrogen releases more energy.
Removing the water REQUIRES energy.
(Of course this all assumes an Oxygen rich environment)

On balance the burning of Ethanol in an oxygen rich environment releases enough energy to get rid of its internal water and leaves a significant surplus.

But in order to get there you had to get rid of the water in the Glucose to make Ethanol.

Glucose equals C6H12O6 or 6C+0H2+ 6H2O versus 3x(2C+2H2+ H2O) or 6C+6H2+3H2O

Glucose has fewer energy rich Hydrogen bonds and more energy intensive OH bonds for an equivalent number of those high energy Carbon-Carbon bonds.

Starch and Cellulose contain still more water for each Carbon-Carbon bond and less Hydrogen.

Both of them are equally bio-available commercially be selecting the right bugs.

On the market starches and sugars are harder to come by than cellulose because plants create less and humans eat them.  Most animals can fend for themselves with cellulose.  Lions and tigers are another matter.

That makes cellulose the cheaper source of water-drenched carbon-bonds.

Cellulose and starch both bind water to those structural H and OH bonds.  That makes the Carbon still more water-logged and unavailable.  And the only way to remove that bound water is by heat.  Mechanical means like pressing and centrifugation will not get the job done. Period.

That bound water then binds to more water and somewhere  along the way the bonds become loose enough that some of the water becomes free draining ie when the force of gravity supplies enough energy to break those weak water to water bonds.

But sugar is very efficient at spreading itself around so as to associate itself with lots of water and dissolving  while cellulose is very efficient at creating structures that wrap around water and trap it.

All of which makes those Carbon-Carbon bonds harder to reach.

And all of which begs the question of where the Carbon comes from in the first place ---- Lessee, at 150 ppm how much air do I have to pass over a field or through a greenhouse to capture a tonne of Carbon from the air and convert it into plants which I can chop up, mechanically extract water, digest the cellulose to dextrose, ferment the dextrose to ethanol, distil the ethanol to thermally extract water and generate enough ethanol to give me the same energy equivalency as digging up a tonne of Coal?

Coal is carbon.  Wood is carbon.  Corn is carbon.  Sugarcane is carbon.  Bark, hay and straw are carbon. Algae are carbon. Cellulose, starch and sugars are carbon. Gasoline, diesel, natural gas, shale oil and tar sands are carbon. Heck, even proteins are carbon.  Bullsh*t is carbon.

Why is carbon such a valuable energy source? Because, if it is dry enough, it lights when you put a match to it.  It can be stored for an eternity until you need it and then it is immediately available to provide instant heat.

The same cannot be said for nuclear power, hydro power, wind, tidal or solar power.  Nor can it be said for energy stored in batteries or capacitors.

Coal stores for millennia and lights in seconds with no processing.

Quote
Coal represents a small percentage of the power produced in most parts of Canada.


Not true in Alberta or Saskatchewan and questionable in Manitoba and BC where despite their Hydro capabilities they buy energy from the Coal Fired plants of Alberta and Saskatchewan. (BC buys cheap “dirty” electricity from Alberta and then sells its “clean” hydro-electricity to California at a premium to help Governor Ahnuld meet his green commitments).

Quote
In Ontario Coal only represents about 15% of the power in the province.

And you are having trouble dealing with power surges resulting in more brown-outs and black-outs 

Quote
And this could be easily be replaced with nuclear power which is just as economical if not more economical.

It couldn’t be easily replaced with  nuclear power and it shouldn’t be “replaced” with nuclear.  Nuclear plants should be built.  But they should be built to meet the baseline power requirements.  The 80% of the market demand that doesn’t change or is predictable. The coal fired generators should be retained for the same reason that more people are keeping gasoline generators at home: to meet the unexpected (and the uneconomical peaks).

Quote
Wind power is not as expensive as you think.  On a small home scale it's about 11 cents/KWh on a large scale its about 7 cents/KWh.  And these numbers have been falling fast and show no signs of stopping.

See previous comments about Adam Smith and unintended consequences of subsidization.

One reactor at Darlington produces 850 MW of steam 24/7 for 365 days a year.  That is piped, along with the steam from the rest of the reactors to a group of turbines which also run 24/7.  When a turbine needs to be serviced it is enclosed. It is at ground level. It is accessible.

A Wind Turbine is nominally about 2 MW these days.  That means that you need 425 wind turbines to produce the power that one Darlington reactor does – if the wind is blowing.  Most wind farms anticipate that the right winds will only blow around 25 to 30% of the time – with no known schedule for availability.
That means that you have to build 3 to 4 windfarms of 425 turbines and site them in different areas and hope that at least one of the farms will be in a local weather system that provides usable wind while the other farms are idle.  That means anything from 1275 to 1700 turbines.  Scattered across the countryside. Stuck on the top of 100 meter poles.  Accessed by helicopters. With servicemen deployed by safety lines to elevated platforms then required to work in cramped quarters with the tools and parts that they bring with them.

Ever forgotten a tool or discovered that you needed an unanticipated part?

1700 turbines to service versus 1-3 turbines – and then there is life expectancy.

Quote
Solar 5 years ago was 30 cents/KWh.  Today its 15 cents/KWh and also falling very fast.  Canadian tire is now selling solar powered home generators.

Canadian Tire also sells Solar Showers for camping (a 5 Gallon plastic bag you hang in a tree). I don’t plan on using them at home either.

Quote
As for electric cars.  The Chevy Volt is expected to have a range of over 1000km's on 40L of gasoline when using the engine to regenerate the battery and an electric only range of 62kms.  I don't call that short range.

4 litres per 100 km is pretty good.  I like hybrids. 
62 km is impressive for a battery operated vehicle.  But it still qualifies as an urban runaround.

Quote
ICE's have an efficiency of ~25%.  Electric motors ~95+%.

Absolutely.  Hybrids good.

Quote
Electric motors can go as high as 15000 RPM and have a virtually flat torque curve.  And don't require a transmission (Which gives ~20% efficiency loss).

Absolutely again. Hybrids good.  Fewer moving parts, less service and maintenance.

Quote
The only issue to date with electric motors is not size or power.  But it is energy storage.  The next generation of batteries will solve this problem.  The Tesla Roadster electric car with rather primitive Li-Ion batteries has a range of 300kms. http://www.teslamotors.com/

And there you have it.   And back to the advantages of Coal.  Energy storage.  Diesel is a really good compromise. Lots of carbon and just enough lots of hydrogen to make storing and transporting  the coal Edit: and storing and transporting is easier in confined spaces.  It doesn't have the shelf-life of coal but it is sufficiently long to make it a marketable commodity.


Quote
The Chevy Volt and GM's e-flex system will use a small advanced Li-Ion battery that the car can use to go 62kms on electric only range.  And can be recharged by plugging into the wall at home.  It also has a small gas engine.  The gas engine does not power the wheels.  It is only used to recharge the battery and this is a big advantage.  ICE's are most efficient in a very narrow RPM range.  With the engine only used to recharge the battery it can be optimized to run at only one RPM.  It will be like getting highway mileage all the time except better.

Have I said I like Hybrids?

Quote
Trains made by GM already use the E-flex concept.  Trains today use electric motors for their main source of propulsion and a diesel engine to recharge the battery.

Becoming monotonous. Hybrids.

Quote
City buses already use hybrid systems with a combination of electric motors and a diesel engine.

Agreed.

Quote
Sorry about the long blurb about electric motors but there is a lot of misconceptions about electric motors. I'm a mechanical engineer (hence my name) and my background is in the automotive industry.

I am a Food Scientist with a background in thermo-coagulation, fermentations, digestions, separations, evaporation and drying as well as designing, installing and commissioning plants in diverse locations where you have to carry your own fuel, generate your own energy, provide for your own service (unless volcanoes, tidal waves, snowstorms or the runway not washing out permit the service man to land)  and, on occasion, make your own process water.  You might consider me as a chemical engineer that happened to specialize in food - the world's most complex mix of chemicals.

I have had just about every “alternative” solution in the book thrown at me over the years.  And none of them made economic sense…… And then there were Carbon Credits. ::)

Edited to tidy up some erroneous/confusing statements.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on October 14, 2007, 19:14:13
Actually if there is a "crime" associated with the burning of coal it is in letting that concentrated CO2 be released to become dilute and diffuse.  It should be contained and applied to suitable environments to generate biomass - certain types of which we lack, notably farmaceuticals, foods, feeds and fertilizers.  CO2 at 2000 ppm contained in a temperature controlled greenhouse (maybe just a big cellophane bag) with water, will be much more effectively converted to trees and food and stuff that it will be drifting over a desert at 150 ppm.

There's the third part of my three part solution for stationary energy requirements: Nukes, Coal and Greenhouses.

For mobile uses: Diesel Hybrids (and electric runabouts for urban commutes and local deliveries and electric trains for short-range inter-city transport like Edmonton-Calgary or on the Windsor Montreal Corridor)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on October 18, 2007, 16:41:51
Some more on ethanol derived from cellulose:

http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/magazine/15-10/ff_plant

Quote
On a blackboard, it looks so simple: Take a plant and extract the cellulose. Add some enzymes and convert the cellulose molecules into sugars. Ferment the sugar into alcohol. Then distill the alcohol into fuel. One, two, three, four — and we're powering our cars with lawn cuttings, wood chips, and prairie grasses instead of Middle East oil.

Unfortunately, passing chemistry class doesn't mean acing economics. Scientists have long known how to turn trees into ethanol, but doing it profitably is another matter. We can run our cars on lawn cuttings today; we just can't do it at a price people are willing to pay.

Despite the line that cellulosic ethanol yeilds 80% more energy than required to grow and convert it, there is nothing in this article (or anywhere else) that suggests there is an effective and economical means of breaking down the cellulose into sugars for fermentation. Lets face it, if there was such a natural enzyme like the researchers are looking for, trees and shrubs made out of wood would not exist, and the plants that did fill those ecological niches would have trunks and branches made out of silicon or diamond.....

In the mean time, there is a golden opportunity for people to cash in on R&D dollars in attempts to make this happen. But, there is another:

http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/magazine/15-10/ff_plant_4tech

Quote
Jay Keasling's mantra: "Ethanol is for drinking, not driving." Dismissing the current craze for the biofuel, he points out that it produces only 85 percent of the energy of gasoline, requires retrofitting car engines, and is incompatible with existing oil pipelines. That's why Keasling, a chemical engineer at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, is trying to create a better alternative — his 50-person team is building microbes that can turn cellulosic biomass, not into ethanol but into a fuel molecularly similar to gasoline. The results, he says, will have higher energy content than ethanol and will be easier to extract and distribute.  The approach is being explored by several other groups, including companies like Amyris Biotechnologies (which Keasling cofounded) and LS9 of nearby San Carlos; both have claimed success in the lab. The next challenge: producing the fuels in commercial-scale quantities.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on October 20, 2007, 23:39:10
Load leveling using UPS batteries the size of a bus. Before you run out to get some; sodium sulfur batteries run at the temperature of molten sulfur and any breach of the battery case would be an environmental disaster and health hazard:

http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/19584/?nlid=607

Quote
Fixing the Power Grid

Big batteries will fight blackouts and could make renewable power economically viable.
By Peter Fairley

Large-scale power storage is crucial to our energy future: the Electric Power Research Institute, the U.S. utility industry's leading R&D consortium, says that storage would enable the widespread use of renewable power and make the grid more reliable and efficient. Recent announcements by utility giant American Electric Power (AEP), based in Columbus, OH, suggest that grid storage technologies are finally ready for commercial deployment in the United States. Last month, AEP ordered three multi-megawatt battery systems and set goals of having 25 megawatts of storage in place by 2010, and 40 times that by 2020.

"That was a dream four or five years ago; now it is happening," says AEP energy-storage expert Ali Nourai.

The AEP system uses a sodium-sulfur battery about the size of a double-decker bus (see below), plus power electronics to manage the flow of AC power in and out of the DC battery. Though new to the United States, the system has been used at the megawatt scale in Japan since the early 1990s; the battery was produced by NGK Insulators of Nagoya, Japan.

Charging Charleston: The utility American Electric Power (AEP) deployed this huge sodium-sulfur battery as part of a demonstration project in Charleston, WV. The battery provides 1.2 megawatts of power for up to seven hours, easing the strain on an overloaded substation. Trouble-free operation since installation last year convinced AEP that such energy-storage technology is ready for active duty.
Credit: AEP

Nourai says that AEP and other U.S. utilities gained confidence in the economics and reliability of storage thanks to a demonstration project in Charleston, WV, where AEP installed a large battery system in June 2006. In Charleston, peak demand in both summer and winter had overloaded transformers at local substations, causing blackouts. Rebuilding the substations to accommodate more power could have taken as much as three years. Instead, AEP spent just nine months installing a battery system that charges when demand for electricity is low and can deliver up to 1.2 megawatts for seven hours when demand peaks.

Two of AEP's new projects are slightly larger two-megawatt, seven-hour battery systems designed to provide similar quick fixes in areas with power-reliability problems. A battery in Milton, WV, for example, will provide backup electricity for customers in areas prone to blackouts from a weak power line. "When there is a blackout, the battery will pick up as many people as it can and continue to feed them," says Nourai. "They will not even know there was a blackout." The battery will postpone Milton's addition of a new substation and a high-voltage transmission line by five to six years.

When AEP decides to make more permanent upgrades to substations or completes construction of a new power line--a process that can take five or six years--it will simply move the nearest backup battery to another choke point. "It can be lifted with a forklift and loaded onto a flatbed truck," says Nourai. "Within a week we can have it up and operational at another site in our system."

Richard Baxter, author of Energy Storage: A Nontechnical Guide and chair of a conference held last week in New York City on investing in storage, says that AEP's new projects are a "good litmus test" for the industry. "Storage technologies are emerging as a viable, commercial-level product," Baxter says.

The emergence of a grid storage market is drawing in new battery developers. These include Firefly Energy of Peoria, IL, which is using high-surface-area nanostructured electrodes to revive lead-acid technology, and lithium battery developer Altair Nanotechnologies, based in Reno, NV. In June, multinational utility AES agreed to buy an unspecified number of Altair's batteries; CEO Alan Gotcher says that Altair will deliver a one-megawatt, 15-minute prototype by the end of this year.

AEP, meanwhile, is exploring a potentially more transformative role for storage: turning the ever-shifting power output of renewable resources such as wind and solar power into steady, dependable energy. The company plans to connect its third two-megawatt battery system to a group of wind turbines at an as-yet undetermined site. Nourai says that the goal is to learn whether batteries can smooth out short-term fluctuations in power flow from the turbines. If they can, utilities should be able to absorb larger levels of wind power on their grids.

But Nourai says that AEP also wants to determine whether storing wind energy can boost its value. There are at least two ways that this could happen. Wind energy produced at night could be stored for delivery during peak hours of the day, when the price of electricity spikes. And if the power delivered by wind farms were more predictable, it would be more profitable. When an independent generator such as a wind-farm operator sells to power distributors, it must promise to deliver a certain amount of power at a certain hour. While the details vary greatly in different regional and national power markets, wind-farm operators can be penalized if they fail to meet their commitments because the wind didn't blow as hard as expected. Systems that store a fraction of a wind farm's output when the wind is blowing can eliminate most of this risk.

Nourai notes that Japanese utilities are already installing energy-storage technologies to make wind power more reliable and profitable, thanks to government incentives that cover one-third of the cost of the storage system, and to the wider spread between Japan's day and night electricity prices. Nourai believes that NGK, which can currently produce 90 megawatts' worth of sodium-sulfur battery systems per year, is considering constructing a second factory to meet the resulting demand. Meanwhile, a study completed this year by Sustainable Energy Ireland, Ireland's energy-policy agency, concluded that time-shifting storage projects might already be profitable in Europe.

However, an expert panel assembled by the Electric Power Research Institute last year judged that storage costs needed to drop below $150 per kilowatt-hour to make such time shifting economically attractive in the United States; a report issued by the institute this spring estimates that systems employing NGK's sodium-sulfur batteries cost $300 to $500 per kilowatt-hour. That cost differential has fueled recent interest in solar-thermal-power plants that capture renewable energy in the form of heat, which is easier to store than electricity. (See "Storing Solar Power Efficiently.")

Copyright Technology Review 2007.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Cheshire on November 06, 2007, 18:05:21
Compressed air.....nuclear......batteries???????

Come on guys. We are addicts. Oil addicts. We will do anything to get that fix. Pay any price to tap that reserve. We will go to the ends of the earth and back again to get that....high!

Maybe Oil Shale the solution??? It's like cocain....but more crack like in texture. :P

http://money.cnn.com/2007/10/30/magazines/fortune/Oil_from_stone.fortune/index.htm?postversion=2007103105
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 06, 2007, 22:55:26
Actually, oil shale is an order of magnitude more difficult to extract than oil sands (it is trapped in the pores of rock, after all)

For short term usage, Methane clathrate may be the answer. Methane (natural gas) is trapped in a matrix of ice under certain conditions, and it seems there are vast quantities available (see map).

Of course, eventually nuclear energy will become dominant, simply due to the high energy density and relatively simple technology involved. Nuclear Fusion is the next step, and finally Solar energy when we can do large scale work in space to access the Sun's energy 24/7 (sorry alternative energy fans). Not enough energy? Try this (http://laserstars.org/amateur/scifi.html)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Tiamo on November 06, 2007, 23:17:58
Now that oil prices are approaching $100 a barrell, and knowing that extaction cost for Oil in Alberta is hovering around $15-$30 at worst, I think it is becoming more economical to pursue the smaller oil wells that were never an option before.

I believe we have at least 50-100 years of sufficient oil supplies until we hit the half point of having consumed half the oil available on earth. Until that time, you never know what kind of alternative energy-efficient supply we may discover.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 09, 2007, 07:55:58
If this story is accurate, it will pull the rug out of oil prices for some time to come (although with negative effects on Alberta and the Canadian dollar)

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601086&sid=aDUvf7YVd8y8&refer=latin_america

Quote
Petrobras' Tupi Oil Field May Hold 8 Billion Barrels (Update6)

By Carlos Caminada and Jeb Blount
Enlarge Image/Details

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil's state-controlled oil company, said its Tupi field may contain as much as 8 billion barrels of oil and natural gas, an amount that could boost the country's reserves by 62 percent. The company's shares rose the most in more than nine years.

The announcement led a gain in the Brazilian stock market and boosted BG Group Plc and Galp Energia SGPS SA, partners in the field. The estimate for Tupi was made after a test well confirmed expectations, Petrobras, as the company is known, said today in a statement on its Web site. Tupi's total estimate would almost match that of Norway's 8.5 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, according to an estimate by BP Plc.

Brazil has proved reserves of oil and natural-gas equivalent to 14.4 billion barrels, Petrobras Chief Executive Officer Jose Sergio Gabrielli told reporters in Rio de Janeiro today. The oil at Tupi, located in the offshore Santos Basin, is a light grade, more valuable and cheaper to refine than the heavy crude that dominates Brazilian output.

``Tupi changes everything for Brazil and Petrobras,'' said Carlos Renato Nunes, an oil analyst with Sao Paulo-based brokerage Coinvalores CCVM who has a buy recommendation on Petrobras shares and doesn't own any. ``Tupi is not only huge, its light oil offers huge cost advantages.''

Nunes plans to increase his share-price estimates for Petrobras as a result of the find.

Petrobras' reserves of 13 billion barrels of oil and gas equivalent at the end of 2006 ranked fourth behind Exxon Mobil Corp., PetroChina Co. and BP, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

`Tiny Part'

The Tupi finding, which Petrobras estimates contains at least 5 billion barrels of oil and gas, is just a ``tiny'' part of a new oil province that the company believes is beneath existing fields, Gabrielli said. The potential new reserves may boost Brazil's oil reserves from the 17th biggest in the world to among the top 10, he said.

The Tupi field is in a region that lies about 250 kilometers (402 kilometers) off the coast of Rio de Janeiro in water as much as 3 kilometers deep. The oil rests a further 5 to 7 kilometers below the ocean floor.

Petrobras will be able to start producing from the field in five to six years, Gabrielli said. They may be able to start producing about 100,000 barrels a day from the field as early as 2010 or 2011, said Guilherme Estrella, Petrobras' exploration and production chief.

``That would only be a very small amount of the field's potential,'' Estrella said.

LNG, Power Generation

Petrobras is also studying plans to either liquefy or compress natural gas in the Tupi field aboard ships for transport to Brazil or use the gas to generate electricity on floating generating stations, Estrella said.

``This could make Brazil jump from an intermediate producer to among the world's largest producers,'' Dilma Rousseff, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's cabinet chief, said at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro.

As a result of the discovery, the government has removed 41 oil exploration blocks out of 312 up for sale later this month to reevaluate their potential, Rousseff said. All of the blocks in Brazil's Campos, Santos and Espirito Santo basins, the three most important in the country, have been pulled from the auction, she said.

``This allows us to reevaluate our resources without breaking any existing contracts,'' she said. ``When we are better aware of the potential, we will consider offering them at auction again.''

Shares Rise

Petrobras preferred shares, its most-traded class, rose 9.95 reais, or 14.2 percent, to 80.2 on the Sao Paulo stock exchange. That's the biggest gain since the stock climbed 18.2 percent on Sep. 15, 1998. The shares gained as much as 20 percent earlier today.

BG Group, with a 25 percent stake, gained 9.8 percent to 989 pence in London. Galp Energia, which holds 10 percent, posted its biggest one-day gain in Lisbon, rising 14 percent to a record close of 12.35 euros. The Bovespa Index climbed as much as 2.8 percent.

The Tupi oil is near Petrobras' main operations, so no major new installations will have to be built, Nunes said.

While it's possible to drill off some existing platforms, other big fields have experienced setbacks, said John Parry, an analyst at John S. Herold Inc. in Norwalk, Connecticut. BP Plc's Thunder Horse in the Gulf of Mexico has been delayed since 2005 because of storm damage and equipment failures.

By providing more light crude to Brazilian refineries, Tupi will free up more heavy crude, similar to Venezuelan oil, for Petrobras' refinery in Pasadena, Texas, Nunes said. Tupi may have enough oil to supply all U.S. needs for more than 14 months.

`Self-Sufficient Company'

Petrobras will have less need to export cheaper heavy crude and buy more expensive light crude to feed its refineries, which can't handle all the heavy oil the company produces.

``All that light crude has the potential of turning Petrobras from a net exporter of oil into a truly self-sufficient company,'' Nunes said. ``Their refineries can handle the oil and they'll be saved the losses on trading and costs of shipping to make fuel for Brazil.''

The field is three quarters the size of Kazakhstan's Kashagan field, which holds 12 billion barrels of recoverable crude and was the biggest find in the last 30 years.

``Even a 5 billion-barrel find number is the biggest find since Kashagan,'' said Andy Latham, vice president of exploration services at Wood Mackenzie Consultants Ltd. in London. ``This would be the number two for the past two decades for oil.''

Russia's Shtokman

There have only been a few gas discoveries in the past 20 years that would rival it, including the Shtokman field in Russia at 23 billion barrels of oil equivalent, and two other Russian finds in the 5 billion to 10 billion range, Latham said.

Tupi may also help reduce U.S. dependence on Venezuela, one of the U.S.'s main sources of imported oil.

``It punches a bit of a hole in Venezuela's bubble,'' Parry said. ``This certainly becomes a challenge to Venezuela, which is looking to get a Latin American coalition of countries together because Venezuela saw itself as the head honcho with the most reserves.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Carlos Caminada in Sao Paulo at at ccaminada1@bloomberg.net ; Jeb Blount in Rio de Janeiro at jblount@bloomberg.net
Last Updated: November 8, 2007 17:30 EST
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on November 09, 2007, 13:32:11
I think it might soften the Canadian Dollar and also, more importantly, strengthen the US dollar, but the Canadian Dollar is not flying unsupported against the US.  It is the US Dollar that has lost ground against all other holding currencies.  I am less concerned about the collapse of the Canadian Dollar directly than about the collapse of the US currency. 

As we, the West, continue to struggle to secure Eurasia it seems to me to become more imperative to make the effort to secure the Americas - we need the labour force, internal market and resources of that free trade area to be able to afford the anchoring Navy of the OECD (http://www.oecd.org/pages/0,3417,en_36734052_36761800_1_1_1_1_1,00.html) Navy.  The OECD is the organization with the most to lose IF the sea lanes are ever lost to the Centralizers.  It is their navies that will secure them and the US Navy is the Keystone.  Arthur Herman, Mahan, the Colomb brothers and Hakluyt have convinced me.  With the hemisphere and the US Navy as the key element of the 1000 ship navy then we can continue to support Scandinavia, Britain, Australia, all the island states - and have a shot at supporting coastal city states, like Hong Kong against the centralizers.

As well, as this article demonstrates - there are still riches to be found at sea.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: c_canuk on November 13, 2007, 15:34:58
if we want to get serious about kicking the fossil fuel habit we need to go all nuclear...

1) establish enough nuclear plants to take up the baseload. As new plants come online start taking fossil fuel plants offline but keep enough on standby for peak load and sudden demand events.

2a) start establishing additional nuclear plants to provide hyrdrogen to phase out transportation fuels by providing ICE gasoline to hydrogen conversion kits and hydrogen ICE engines in new vehicles eventually phasing in fuel cells

2b) establish an electric car support system... less likely as it would collapse the current fossil fuel transportation industry and dealing with spent batteries is an ecological nightmare. However this too could be fueled by hydrogen as remote refuelling stations could use a large bank of fuel cells connected to a hydrogen gas line for power to recharge electric vehicles.

3) continue to establish nuclear plants until there is enough to supply peak demand for power, and the non peak load is used to supplement the transportation hydrogen economy. Nuclear energy on this scale would be very cheap and surplus could be bled off in creating reserves of hydrogen or just burnt off until the plants could be throttled back.

this all depends on the development of a practical storage system for hydrogen... there are some nanotube and powder absorbtion systems that show promise but lack the funding and research to be viable at this time. if we dumped all the unfeasable non solutions the greenies are pushing like wind/solar/good feelings I'm sure the problem would be licked.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 18, 2007, 16:16:45
This kinetic energy recovery system sounds far more practical than hybrid electric systems in ordinary automobiles, since it seems smaller,lighter and less complex (being essentially an add-on to existing transmissions)

http://www.flybridsystems.com/index.html

Quote
Flybrid Systems LLP is an innovative engineering company taking a fresh look at hybrid vehicle technology.

The company has developed an entirely mechanical high-speed flywheel based energy storage and recovery system which meets the proposed 2009 Formula One regulations but which is also suitable for other racing formulae and for road vehicles.

The Flybrid device is powerful, small and light giving a better power to weight ratio than any existing automotive hybrid technology. This higher power makes it possible to store more energy during short braking periods dramatically increasing system effectiveness. The system is also very efficient with up to 70% of braking energy being returned to the wheels to drive the vehicle back up to speed. The device is readily recycled and relatively inexpensive to make as it can be made entirely from conventional materials.

From their Silverstone offices Flybrid Systems are pursuing the onward development of this technology for road vehicles. Computer simulations suggest that fuel consumption savings of up to 65% are possible for certain vehicle types and the promise of big reductions in CO2 emissions have already attracted strong interest from major car makers.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 18, 2007, 16:33:58
A different approach. I'm not sure how it will work (the time scale of moving mechanical parts i.e. the steam pistons mentioned is millions of times slower than the time scale of nuclear reactions.), but good on them for trying:

http://www.generalfusion.com/t5_general_fusion.php

Quote
General Fusion's Approach

General Fusion is using the MTF approach but with a new, patented and cost effective compression system to collapse the plasma.

GF will build a ~3 meter diameter spherical tank filled with liquid metal (lead-lithium mixture). The liquid is spun to open up a vertical cylindrical cavity in the center of the sphere (vortex). Two spheromaks (magnetized plasma “smoke ring”) are injected from each end of the cavity. They merge in the center to form a single magnetized plasma target. The outside of the sphere is covered with pneumatic rams. The rams use compressed steam to accelerate pistons to ~50 m/s. These pistons simultaneously impact the outside of the sphere and launch a spherical compression wave in the liquid metal. As the wave travels and focuses towards the center, it becomes stronger and evolves into a strong shock wave. When the shock arrives in the center, it rapidly collapses the cavity with the plasma in it. At maximum compression the conditions for fusion are briefly met and a fusion burst occurs releasing its energy in fast neutrons. The neutrons are slowed down by the liquid metal causing it to heat up. A heat exchanger transfers that heat to a standard steam cycle turbo-alternator to produce electricity for the grid. Some of the steam is used to run the rams. The lithium in the liquid metal finally absorbs the neutrons and produces tritium that is extracted and used as fuel for subsequent shots. This cycle is repeated about one time per second.

The use of low-tech pneumatic rams in place of sophisticated high power electrical systems reduces the cost of the energy delivered to the plasma by a factor of 10 making such a power plant commercially competitive. Because the fusion plasma is totally enclosed in the liquid metal, the neutron flux at the reactor wall is very low. Other fusion schemes struggle with a high neutron flux at the wall that rapidly damages the machine and also produces some radio-active material. Frequent robotic replacement of the then radio-active plasma facing components is a costly problem for many fusion machines.

General Fusion has patented this technology and believes that a reactor working on this principle could be built at a much lower cost than using the old magnetic and laser fusion approaches. Such a power plant would make fusion a commercially viable clean power source.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: tomahawk6 on November 18, 2007, 17:26:58
I dont think that fossil fuels are going to be depleted anytime soon. Certainly not in our lifetime. Thirty years ago we saw predictions of oil reserves being depleted by 2007, reserve estimates have actually increased. The bottom line is that no one knows how much oil is left and some experts think oil may be created by the planet itself. While reserves havent declined demand has increased and will continue to increase due to China and India.

In a world without oil Canada and the US are well placed to replace the middle east. Canada with its oil sands/coal/oil shale and the US with huge coal/oil shale reserves. The future looks very bright for north america. ;D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on February 20, 2008, 00:47:02
Interesting how the facts contradict the conventional wisdom:



Quote
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Gas And Asses
If you would like, you could consider the "Asses" in the title of this post to refer to an alternate method of transportation.

In a prior post I reviewed the trend for US crude supplied as it relates to recessions. This graph shows crude trends, and under normal circumstances, supply doesn't fall unless we enter a recession:

But gas is a different story, although consumption does drop for recessions. Here are some recession periods: (go to link to see all the graphs)


and:

and now:


There's an overall trend here it's easy to miss, so take a look at this:

Gasoline consumption in the US has been falling for years. All those who scream about Hummers and wasteful consumers may be discussing their neighbors, but they aren't discussing the US as a whole. For about 9 years gasoline consumption has been dropping, and in 2007 consumption was the lowest for ten years.

Gas consumption in the US is not price invariant at all. Sales of gas-efficient cars have been steadily increasing, and those fuel-efficient cars will stay on the road for years to come. It's likely that this trend has multiple causes, among which are real declining incomes for a large section of the population, a growing number of retirees who are not forced to drive to work, home workers, and sincere efforts to conserve by a portion of the population. It may also reflect a shift in jobs toward major urban areas in which mass transport is a viable option for more workers.

Regardless, the idea that gas taxes need to be raised to force conservation is a stunningly stupid one. It appears that current gas prices are causing conservation, and that wasteful consumption is restricted to portions of the population that can frankly afford to pay higher taxes without changing their habits. It also appears that US efforts to conserve are not going to affect world trends much - the growth is coming from other areas.

Keeping the overall trend in mind, it is even more remarkable that retail sales show such a growth of retail spending on groceries, gas and pharmaceuticals. The bottom line is that other types of consumption are being suppressed by high spending on necessities. The high spending on necessities is the product of declining real incomes in a large portion of the population, and high inflation for food and fuel.

So is it likely that the stimulus plan will generate much actual economic stimulus? I would say not. The bulk of the individual checks won't hit until May or so, and far more than half of that money will likely be used to pay down other debt or outstanding bills. If people are now using gift cards to buy groceries and gas, they are pushed hard enough to do the same with those checks. Probably it will be a windfall for credit card companies and utilities, but I doubt we'll see much of it in the stores. As the tax refund checks start to come back, we should see some discretionary spending this spring.

A large portion of inflation is coming from the high price of diesel fuel. I expect inflation to keep rising through at least the next few months.

Can government monetary policy do much to restrain inflation of the type we are seeing? I would argue not. There is increased world consumption of necessities, and those are the goods with rising costs. It's rather clear that if anything, US conditions are tight enough to restrain inflation by restraining reseller margins, but of course that has a natural limit.

// posted by MaxedOutMama @ 2/13/2008 10:49:00 AM
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: CBH99 on February 20, 2008, 01:21:51
I apologize if this was posted before, I didn't read through all 18 pages before hitting the 'reply' button.

There is a documentary out there called 'A Crude Awakening' - essentially a movie about oil & fossil fuels.  Its definately a good rental from your local Blockbuster, as it contains a ton of information & relays it in a very easy to understand method.  Some of the key commentators are past CEO's of oil companies & current CEO's of oil companies.

It really puts the whole issue of the world running out of oil in perspective, as well as the pro's & cons of the various alternative energy sources out there.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on February 20, 2008, 14:40:24
From the Economist:

http://www.economist.com/science/tq/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10715508

Quote
Ending a dammed nuisance

Feb 19th 2008
From Economist.com
A new generation of free-standing turbines will liberate hydroelectricity from its dependence on dams

IN TODAY’S green world, hydroelectric dams are often unwelcome. Though their power is renewable and, on the face of it, carbon-free, there are lots of bad things about them, too. Blocking a river with a dam also blocks the movement of fish upstream to spawn and the movement of silt downstream to fertilise fields. The vegetation overwhelmed by the rising waters decays to form methane—a far worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The capital cost is huge. And, not least, people are often displaced to make way for the new lake. The question, therefore, is whether there is a way to get the advantages without suffering the disadvantages. And the answer is that there may be.

The purpose of a dam is twofold. To house the turbines that create the electricity and to provide a sufficient head of water pressure to drive them efficiently. If it were possible to develop a turbine that did not need such a water-head to operate, and that could sit in the riverbed, then a dam would be unnecessary. Such turbines could also be put in places that could not be dammed—the bottom of the sea, for example. And that is just what is starting to happen, with the deployment of free-standing underwater turbines.

The big disadvantage of free-standing turbines is that they are less efficient in transforming the mechanical energy of water into electrical energy than turbines in dams are. They are also subject to more wear and tear than turbines protected by huge amounts of concrete. They can be hard to get at to repair and maintain. And the generators they run, being electrical machines, need to be protected from the water that surrounds the rest of the turbine.

A discouraging list. But in the past three decades computing power has become cheaper, helping developers to simulate the behaviour of water and turbine blades—something that is hard to do with paper, pen and formulas. Moreover, prototypes can be built directly from the computer model. All this has helped scientists and industry to solve the weaknesses inherent in free-standing turbines.

The first new design was by Alexander Gorlov, a Russian civil engineer who worked on the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. He later moved to America where, with the financial assistance of the Department of Energy, he produced the first prototype of a turbine that could extract power from free-flowing currents “without building any dam”. The Gorlov Helical Turbine as it is known, allows you to use any stream, whatever the direction of its flow. The vertical helical structure, which gives the device its name, provides a stability that previous designs lacked. It increases the amount of energy extracted from a stream from 20% to 35%. In addition, as the shaft is vertical the electric generator can be installed on one end above the water—without any need of waterproof boxes.

In 2001 Mr Gorlov won the Edison patent award for his invention, and the turbines have now been commercialised by Lucid Energy Technologies, an American company, and are being tested in pilot projects in South Korea and North America.

A second design is by Philippe Vauthier, another immigrant to America (he was originally a Swiss jeweller). The turbines made by his company, UEK, are anchored to a submerged platform. They are able to align themselves in the current like windsocks at an aerodrome so that they find the best position for power generation. As they are easy to install and maintain, they are being used in remote areas of developing countries, as well.

Finally, a design by OpenHydro, an Irish company, is not just a new kind of turbine but also a new design of underwater electric generator. Generators (roughly speaking) consist of magnets moving relative to coils. Why not have the magnets encapsulated in the external, fast moving part of a turbine? The turbine is then installed in an external housing, containing the coils. The result looks like an open-centre turbine contained within a tube. OpenHydro’s generators do not need lubricant, which considerably reduces the need for maintenance, and are said to be safer for marine life.

These new designs, combined with the fashion for extracting energy from the environment by windmills and solar cells, means money that previously shied away from the field is now becoming available. According to New Energy Finance, a specialist consultancy, investments in companies proposing to make or deploy free-standing turbines have risen from $13m in 2004 to $156m in 2007. Projects already underway include the installation by American Verdant Power of a tidal-turbine in New York's East River and pilot projects in Nova Scotia with UEK, OpenHydro and Canadian Clean Current.

And that, optimists hope, is just the beginning. Soon, many more investors will be searching for treasures buried in the ocean sea beds—or, rather, flowing above them.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 07, 2008, 10:45:30
An old idea gets recycled. While these plans will make only the smallest dent in the overall energy consumption figures, I still think these are good ideas because they provide an economic incentive to deal with difficult waste problems:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3492378.ece

Quote
The power of cow dung can be electric
Chris Ayres in Los Angeles

It's not so much green energy as brown power: a dairy farm in California said yesterday that it had found a new way to generate electricity for households — using a vat of liquid cow manure, 33ft deep and big enough to cover five football fields.

“When most people see a pile of manure, they see a pile of manure. We saw it as an opportunity for farmers, for utilities, and for California,” said David Albers, a partner in the Vintage Dairy, near Fresno, which has 5,000 cows and calls its new facility the Vintage Dairy Biogas project.

As cow manure decomposes it produces methane, a greenhouse gas more damaging than carbon dioxide. Scientists say that controlling methane emissions from animals such as cows will be hugely important in preventing climate change.

Methane can also be captured and treated to produce renewable gas, which can be used instead of coal to run electricity-generating plants — the excretion of a single cow can produce about 100 watts of power.

Although other farms in California already generate natural gas from cow dung, this marks the first time that it has actually been supplied via a pipeline to a utility company, PG&E Corp.

The pipeline will allow PG&E to generate power for about 1,200 homes a day in California's agricultural heartland.

The energy is certainly renewable — as long as no count is made of the energy consumed during the farming of the grain that is fed to the cows — but no one could call it clean.

In addition to being a partner in the Vintage Dairy, Mr Albers is also president of BioEnergy Solutions, the company that funded and built the so-called digester, which turns the cow faeces into gas and saves farmers the cost of disposing of the waste.

BioEnergy Solutions now intends to build digesters at other farms, ultimately generating enough gas to supply 50,000 homes.

The digester works by mixing the manure with microbes. This breaks down the faeces and the resulting gases are then captured.

At the Vintage farm, the digester prevents about 1,500 tons of methane gas from escaping into the atmosphere every year. It also helps to prevent groundwater pollution, a common side-effect of manure storage.

Mr Albers described PG&E as a customer and declined to give details of their agreement.

California's regulators — encouraged by the Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a recent green convert — have ordered PG&E and other utilities to make renewable energy at least 20 per cent of their electricity supplies by 2010.

PG&E expects to reach 14 per cent this year, thanks in small part to Mr Albers's vat of dung.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: ballz on March 07, 2008, 14:17:11
I can't say I read all 18 pages of this thread, I can't say I read all of the first page. I pretty much only read the initial post. But, I thought I would point out something about this paragraph:

The OPEC countries and especially Saudi Arabia have the largest reserves of oil.   Other nations, particularly Russia also have large reserves.   Canada doesn't have huge actual oil reserves, but our tar sands and oil put us in second place in the world after Saudi Arabia for being able to produce oil, even if the process is expensive.

True: Canada is the 2nd largest oil producer, next to Saudi Arabia
False: Canada doesn't have huge actual oil reserves

"It is estimated that there are 2.5 trillion barrels of oil trapped in the tar sands around Fort McMurray, Alberta. That far exceeds the reserves of even Saudi Arabia."
"Over the next 10 years another $87 billion is likely to be spent. By then, production will reach about 2 million barrels of oil each day. This is comparable to the major oil producers in the Middle East."

- Griffin, Ricky W., Ronald J. Ebert, and Frederick A. Starke. Business, Sixth Canadian Edition. Toronto, 2008.

So, if it were 10 years later from today, and these figures are anywhere near realistic, Canada would be staring 3422 years of producing oil from the largest oil reserve in the world. That's just one oil reserve in Alberta, up in Fort Mac. I don't know how big of a percentage of Canada's oil is estimated to be in Fort Mac, but regardless.... I think we're gonna be OK. This whole "the world is gonna run out of oil in 50 years" thing, I think thats a bit...well... wrong.

Someone may want to check my calculations though....2.5 trillion is a big number, could have easily messed up somewhere.
2.5 x 10(exponent 12) / 2 million = 1,250,000 days
1,250,000 days / 365.25 days per year = 3422.31 years

seems to work though.



Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: redleafjumper on March 08, 2008, 04:01:14
Ballz,

I don't disagree with your post except that my paragraph differentiates between actual oil reserves and the type of reserves as found in the tar sands - reading that whole sentence clearly shows that point.  Canada does have huge oil deposits; most are just trapped in the tar sands.  That situation requires a considerably different extraction process than merely pumping oil out of the ground.  Also while it has become a long thread, it is useful to read at least some of the subsequent posts.

Cheers,
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: ballz on March 08, 2008, 05:05:58
Ballz,

I don't disagree with your post except that my paragraph differentiates between actual oil reserves and the type of reserves as found in the tar sands - reading that whole sentence clearly shows that point.  Canada does have huge oil deposits; most are just trapped in the tar sands.  That situation requires a considerably different extraction process than merely pumping oil out of the ground.  Also while it has become a long thread, it is useful to read at least some of the subsequent posts.

Cheers,

I jumped the gun there, I thought you were speaking as if it was a disadvantage to have it in tar sands, or that it wasn't worth as much... The major point I was leading into was not about Canada's oil, or Saudi's oil, etc... My point is that we're not going to run out of oil in 50 years.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 08, 2008, 10:41:44
Trying to mandate a market will create all kinds of downstream problems

http://www.technologyreview.com/Biztech/20226/?nlid=921

Quote
The Mess of Mandated Markets
New federal biofuel standards passed last year will distort the development of innovative technologies.
By David Rotman

Few things prompt Washington policymakers to forget their professed belief in the efficiency of free markets faster than $100-a-barrel oil prices--or even the threat of them. In one of the most notable recent examples, as the price of crude oil edged toward the $100 mark late last year, the U.S. Congress passed, and President Bush quickly signed, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Among its various provisions, the energy bill prescribes a minimum amount of biofuel that gasoline suppliers must use in their products each year through 2022. The new mandates, which significantly expand the Renewable Fuels Standard of 2005, would more than double the 2007 market for corn-derived ethanol, to 15 billion gallons, by 2015. At the same time, the bill ensures the creation of a new market for cellulosic biofuels made from such sources as prairie grass, wood chips, and agricultural waste. The standards call for the production of 500 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel by 2012, one billion gallons by 2013, and 16 billion gallons by 2022.

Not surprisingly, the ethanol industry is very happy. The Biotechnology Industry Organization, a Washington-based trade association whose members include both large manufacturers and startup companies developing new cellulosic technologies, suggests that "this moment in the history of transportation fuels development can be compared to the transition from whale oil to kerosene to light American homes in the 1850s." The new push for biofuels, the trade association continues, is "larger than the Apollo project or the Manhattan project" and will require the construction of 300 biofuel plants, each with a capacity of 100 million gallons, at a cost of up to $100 billion.

In short, the federal government has legislated the growth of a sizable industry. The often stated aim of the biofuel standards is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil. And biofuels, particularly cellulosic ones, could arguably play a significant role in achieving both those goals (see "The Price of Biofuels," January/­February 2008). But quite apart from the value of ethanol and other biofuels, the creation of markets by federal law raises fundamental questions about the best way to implement a national energy policy. Can legislated markets survive economic conditions and policy priori­ties that change over the long term? And what role should the government play in promoting specific technologies?

Mandated consumption levels break the "one-to-one link" between market demand and the adoption of a technology, says Harry de Gorter, an associate professor of applied economics and management at Cornell University: "As an economist, I don't like it. Economists like to let the markets determine what [technology] has the best chances." The new biofuel mandates are "betting on a particular technology," he says. "It is almost impossible to predict the best technology. It is almost inevitable that [mandates] will generate inefficiencies." While de Gorter acknowledges that some economists might justify mandated markets as a way to promote a desired social policy, he questions the strategy's effectiveness. "Historically, there are no good examples of it working in alternative energy," he says.

One reason economists tend to be wary of mandated consumption levels is that they can have unintended consequences for related markets. Producing 15 billion gallons of conventional ethanol will require farmers to grow far more corn than they now do. And even with the increased harvest, biofuel production will consume around 45 percent of the U.S. corn crop, compared with 22 percent in 2007. The effects on the agricultural sector will be various and complex.

Perhaps most obvious will be the impact on the price of corn--and, indirectly, of food in general. Since it became apparent that the biofuel standards would become law, the price of corn has risen 20 percent, to around $5.00 a bushel, says Bruce Babcock, director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University. He expects that prices will probably stay around that level for at least the next three years. Because corn is the primary feed for livestock in this country, that means higher prices for everything from beef to milk and eggs. (Less than 2 percent of the nation's corn crop is eaten directly by humans; more than 50 percent feeds animals.) High corn prices could also make it harder to switch to cellulosic biofuels, because farmers will be reluctant to grow alternative crops. With the price of corn so high, says Babcock, "who is going to replace corn with prairie grass?"

At Purdue University, Wallace Tyner, a professor of agricultural economics, has calculated how different types of government policies, including the new mandated consumption levels, will affect the economics of corn ethanol. One of his most striking findings (though one that would surprise few agricultural experts) is that the fuel struggles to compete with oil on cost, in part because of extreme sensitivity to the commodity price of corn.

Because ethanol is generally blended with gasoline at a concentration of 10 percent, its market value is directly tied to the price of oil. But Tyner's analysis illustrates the complexity of the interplay between the markets for oil, corn, and ethanol. In the absence of government subsidies or mandates, according to his model, no ethanol is produced until oil reaches $60 a barrel. But with oil at that price, ethanol is profitable only as long as corn stays around $2.00 a bushel, which limits production of the biofuel to around a half-billion gallons a year. As oil prices increase, so does ethanol production. But production levels continue to be limited by the price of corn, which rises along with both the demand for ethanol and the price of oil (farmers use a lot of gasoline). Even when oil reaches $100 a barrel, ethanol production will reach only about 10 billion gallons a year if there are no subsidies; and even then, ethanol is profitable only if corn prices stay below $4.15 a bushel. If oil hits $120 a barrel, ethanol production will, left to market forces, reach 12.7 billion gallons--still more than two billion short of the federal mandate.

In other words, the federally mandated consumption levels mean ethanol will not, for the foreseeable future, be truly cost-­competitive with gasoline. Indeed, says Tyner, setting the ethanol market at 15 billion gallons will mean an "implicit tax" on gasoline consumers, who will have to pay to sustain the high level of biofuel production. When oil costs $100 a barrel, the consumer will pay a relatively innocuous "tax" of 42 cents per gallon of ethanol used (the additional price at the pump will usually be only a few pennies for blends that are 10 percent ethanol). But at lower oil prices, the additional cost of ethanol will be far more noticeable. If oil falls to $40 a barrel, the implicit tax for ethanol will be $1.05 a gallon--or $15.77 billion for all the nation's gasoline users. "If the price of oil drops substantially, is Congress going to say, 'We didn't really mean it'?" asks Tyner. "It gets really messy."

History provides a lesson about the messi­ness of predicting the market for an energy technology. Almost three decades ago, as the price of oil reached $40 a barrel and many experts worried that it was headed for $80 or even $100, President Jimmy Carter signed the Energy Security Act of 1980. As is the case today, the high price of oil was straining the U.S. economy, and the Middle East was unstable. One key provision of the 1980 legislation created the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation, which was meant to establish a domestic industry that produced liquid fuel from tar sands, shale, and coal. Despite the unknowns surrounding the economics of producing synthetic fuels on a large scale, engineers estimated that they could be produced for $60 a barrel. An initial production target was set at 500,000 barrels a day. But in the early 1980s, the price of oil fell to $20 a barrel. With no prospect of producing synthetic fuels at a price competitive with that of oil, the Synthetic Fuels Corporation was finally shuttered in 1986.

The corporation "didn't fail because of the technology," says John Deutch, who was undersecretary of energy in 1980 and is now an Institute Professor of chemistry at MIT. Rather, he says, it failed because "it focused on production goals, and that turned out to be a bad thing because the market prices went down." Deutch believes that instead of targeting specific production levels, government should participate in the development of alternative fuel technologies by helping to assess their economics and determine whether they meet environmental expectations.

The Synthetic Fuels Corporation and today's Renewable Fuels Standard differ in many ways. But the efforts behind them do reflect a common theme: the federal government's attempt to select a particular tech­nology and create a market for it. The "harsh reality" is that such measures "are unlikely to be effective over the long term," Deutch says. "And nowhere is this more obvious than in ethanol." He and other experts, such as de Gorter and Iowa State's Babcock, would prefer to see technology-neutral policies, such as a carbon or greenhouse-gas tax, that would allow the markets to choose the most cost-effective way of meeting political and environmental goals.

Besides creating the synthetic-fuels program, the 1980 energy bill also included a Biomass Energy and Alcohol Fuels Act, which provided $600 million to the Departments of Energy and Agriculture for research into biofuels made from cellulose or biomass. But that funding was slashed in subsequent years. And while the Energy Department is again aggressively funding research on biofuels, and the 2007 energy bill includes several measures supporting such work, overall federal funding for energy research and development has never fully rebounded from the cuts made during President Reagan's administration. It's one reason that, almost three decades after Jimmy Carter's energy bill, the United States still has no effective answer to high-priced imported oil. (Interpolation. The other reason is that in terms of physics and chemistry, there is no alternative to oil.)

Distorting the markets through federal mandates for biofuels won't help. What might: a well-considered federal policy that financially supports the development of promising new energy technologies and offers technology-neutral incentives for replacing petroleum.

David Rotman is Technology Review's editor.
Copyright Technology Review 2008.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 12, 2008, 11:37:07
Something like this (if it works as advertised) can provide a nice economic incentive to do something with garbage rather than landfilling. Ethanol is not an ideal biofuel, but if there is an inexpensive way to make it without burning food, then I'll buy that.

http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/20199/?nlid=925

Quote
Ethanol from Garbage and Old Tires
A versatile new process for making biofuels could slash their cost.
By Kevin Bullis

As he leads a tour of the labs at Coskata, a startup based in Warrenville, IL, Richard Tobey, the company's vice president of research and development, pauses in front of a pair of clear plastic tubes packed with bundles of white fibers. The tubes are the core of a bioreactor, which is itself the heart of a new tech¬nology that Coskata claims can make ethanol out of wood chips, household garbage, grass, and old tires--indeed, just about any organic material. The bioreactor, Tobey explains, allows the company to combine thermochemical and biological approaches to synthesizing ethanol. Taking advantage of both, he says, makes Coskata's process cheaper and more versatile than either the technologies widely used today to make ethanol from corn or the experimental processes designed to work with sources other than corn.

Tobey's tour begins at the far end of the laboratory in two small rooms full of pipes, throbbing pumps, and pressurized tanks--all used to process synthesis gas (also known as syngas), a mixture of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen. This is the thermo¬chemical part of Coskata's process: in a well-known technique called gasi¬¬fication, a series of chemical reactions carried out at high temperatures can produce syngas from almost any organic material. Ordi¬narily, chemical catalysts are then used to convert the syngas into a mixture of alcohols that includes ethanol. But making such a mixture is intrinsically inefficient: the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that go into the other alcohols could, in principle, have gone into ethanol instead. So this is where Coskata turns from chemistry to biology, using microbes to convert the syngas to ethanol more efficiently.

Down the hall from the syngas-¬processing equipment, Tobey shows off the petri dishes, flasks, and sealed hoods used to develop species of bacteria that eat syngas. The bioreactors sit at the far end of the room. Inside the bioreactors' tubes, syngas is fed directly to the bacteria, which produce a steady stream of ethanol.

Coskata's technology could be a big deal. Today, almost all ethanol made in the United States comes from corn grain; because cultivating corn requires a lot of land, water, and energy, corn-derived ethanol does little to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and can actually cause other environmental damage, such as water pollution. Alternative etha¬nol sources, such as switchgrass, wood chips, and municipal waste, would require far fewer resources. But so far, technology for processing such materials has proved very expensive. That's why Coskata's low-cost technique has caught the attention of major investors, including General Motors, which earlier this year announced a partnership with the startup to help deploy its technology on the commercial scale worldwide.

Sipping Ethanol

Combining thermochemical and biological approaches in a hybrid system can make ethanol processing cheaper by increasing yields and allowing the use of inexpensive feedstocks. But Coskata's process has another advantage, too: it's fast. Though others have also developed syngas-fed bioreactors, Tobey says, they have been too slow. That's because the bacteria are suspended in an aqueous culture, and syngas doesn't dissolve easily in water. Coskata's new bioreactor, however, delivers the syngas to the bacteria directly.
The thin fibers packed into the bioreactor serve two functions. First, they act as scaffolding: the bacteria grow in biofilms on the outside of the fibers. Second, they serve as a delivery mechanism for the syngas. Even though each fiber is not much bigger than a human hair, Tobey says, it acts like a tiny plastic straw. The researchers pump syngas down the bores of the hollow fibers, and it diffuses through the fiber walls to reach the bacteria. Water flows around the outside of the fibers, delivering vitamins and amino acids to the bacteria and carrying away the ethanol the bacteria produce. But the water and the syngas, Tobey says, never meet.
Coskata has also improved the last steps of the process, in which the ethanol is sepa¬rated from the water. Ordinarily, this is done using distillation, which is expensive and consumes 30 percent as much energy as burning the ethanol will release. Coskata instead uses a modified version of an existing technology called vapor permeation. Vapor permeation uses hydrophilic membranes to draw off the water, leaving pure ethanol behind. It also consumes half as much energy as distillation per gallon of fuel. Vapor permeation is difficult to use with most biological manufacturing processes, Tobey says, because biomass fed to the microörganisms washes out with the water and can clog up the system. But in Coskata's process, the bacteria feed only on syngas, not on biomass. So no extra filtration is required to make vapor permea¬tion work.

Better Bugs

Coskata continues working on its bacteria, trying to increase the amount of etha¬nol they can produce. The company now uses varieties of Clostridium, a genus that includes a species that make botulism toxin and another that processes manure on farms. Coskata has started building an automated system for screening new strains of Clostridium according to their ability to make ethanol. Along the way, it has had to develop techniques for protecting its bacteria from being exposed to oxygen; the bacteria are anaerobic, and oxygen kills them at about the same concentrations at which carbon monoxide kills humans. The automated system should allow the company to sort through 150,000 new strains a year, up from a few thousand now.

The researchers can go only so far by sorting through random variations, however. Eventually, Tobey hopes to begin manipu¬lating the microbes' genes directly, activating only those that improve ethanol production. Such engineering is fairly common now, but the Clostridium bacteria that Coskata uses haven't been studied much. So although Tobey knows what chemical steps the bacteria use to transform syngas into ethanol, he doesn't yet know the details of how genes regulate this process, and what role these genes play in the general processes that keep the bacteria alive. What's more, effective ways of manipulating the genes in these particular bacteria haven't yet been developed.

Even as Coskata continues to improve its microbes, it is planning to move the fuel production process out of the lab and scale it up to the commercial level. With the help of GM and other partners, the company will build a facility that's able to produce 40,000 gallons of ethanol per year. Coskata representatives say construction will begin within the year. The company's bioreactors should make it easy to adapt the technology to a larger scale, Tobey says; they can simply be lined up in parallel to achieve the needed output volumes. The next two or three years will reveal whether Coskata's process can start to replace significant amounts of gasoline with cheap ethanol.

Copyright Technology Review 2008.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: fraserdw on March 16, 2008, 19:50:45
All the oil there ever was, was created in a brief moment in time 7 million years ago when massive global warming hit the planet (via a "killer" asteriod).  Massive amounts of animal and plant matter were laid low and pressed under tons of ash and dust.  In order for new oil to be created guess what has to happen?  Most oil alternates right now cost 1.2 barrels of oil to make for each barrel they save!
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: George Wallace on March 16, 2008, 19:56:03
All the oil there ever was, was created in a brief moment in time 7 million years ago when massive global warming hit the planet (via a "killer" asteriod).  Massive amounts of animal and plant matter were laid low and pressed under tons of ash and dust.  In order for new oil to be created guess what has to happen?  Most oil alternates right down cost 1.2 barrels of oil to make for each barrel they save!

This is Gospel?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 17, 2008, 00:26:12
Simple geology will tell you this theory is crock: most oil and natural gas deposits are found in sedimentary layers dating over wide ranges of time (although generally speaking the deeper the deposit the older the deposit was formed). Coal was formed as far back as  400 million years ago (fossils preserved in the coal deposits are proof of this), and most oil is thought to have been formed between 10 and 160 million years ago.

Since the stuff in the oil sands is considered to be the remnants of a deposit up to 18 trillion barrels of hydrocarbons, I don't think asteroid strikes had a lot to do with it.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 23, 2008, 23:40:21
More metrics for the "Green" crowd to ponder:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=A1YourView&xml=/opinion/2008/03/23/do2303.xml

Quote
Wind power costs inflate

A further huge question mark has been raised over the Government's plan to build 7,000 offshore wind turbines round Britain's coasts, to help meet its EU target of 15 percent of our electricity from â renewables' by 2020.

The director of renewable generation for Centrica, our largest windfarm developer, last week revealed that the cost of this plan to create 33,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity has doubled in three years, from £40 billion to £80 billion.

But since, thanks to fluctuations in the wind, offshore turbines generate on average only 27.5 per cent of capacity, the actual power produced by these turbines would be only 9,000MW, putting its price at £8.8 million per MW.

The latest nuclear power station being built in Finland at a cost of £2.7 billion will produce 1600MW, 24 hours a day, representing £1.7 million per MW. In other words, six nuclear power stations could produce more electricity than all those windfarms for only a fifth of the price.

If Centrica really wants to help Britain keep its lights on, it could, for £80 billion, build 30 "carbon-free" nuclear power stations to generate 48,000MW of electricity, more than the average 47,000MW now produced by all Britain's power plants.

But since this would not count towards meeting our EU renewables target, to do anything so sensible would put us in serious breach of EU law.

Stand by for those lights to go out.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 01, 2008, 11:25:34
New engine design. The announced 27% improvement in fuel economy is very exciting, if it can be verified in independent testing. Some buses, m113's and the old AVGP series of vehicles used a two stroke engine (6V53 and 53T series if I recall) so the idea of powering large vehicles this way isn't fantastic at all:

http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/20494/?nlid=976

Quote
Nonelectric Hybrid Engines
A novel hybrid engine could slash fuel consumption.
By Duncan Graham-Rowe

A new kind of hybrid vehicle could offer reduced fuel consumption to consumers concerned about gas prices. Mechanical engineers in the United Kingdom have developed a novel kind of combustion engine that is able to switch between being a two-stroke and a four-stroke engine. The system, they say, can reduce fuel consumption by 27 percent.

The improved fuel consumption essentially comes from downsizing the engine, says Neville Jackson, technology director of Ricardo UK, an engineering firm in Shoreham-on-Sea that developed the new engine. "A smaller engine has less internal friction and delivers better fuel consumption," he says.

But small car engines, which are usually based on a four-stroke design, don't offer a lot of power. They can be particularly problematic when operated at low speeds with a high load, such as when accelerating uphill. Such conditions can even make a small engine stall if the driver doesn't downshift.

"Four strokes are most efficient at full throttle; with two strokes, it's the opposite," says Robert Kee, a mechanical engineer who specializes in combustion engines at Queen's University, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The difference between two- and four-stroke engines is that the latter carry out the four stages of air intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust in four strokes of a piston. A two-stroke engine, in contrast, does this in just two piston strokes.

Two-stroke engines are intrinsically simpler by design and have higher power-to-weight ratios at high loads and low speeds because they get twice as many power strokes per revolution. But traditional two-stroke engines require oil to be mixed in with the fuel, and therefore produce higher emissions. Because of this, they aren't typically used in cars. Instead, they're used for lightweight applications such as chainsaws, lawnmowers, and some motorbikes.

But now, researchers at Ricardo have developed a piston head that operates in both two- and four-stroke mode, and it can switch automatically between the two modes, depending on the needs of the engine. This allows a smaller engine to handle the low-speed, high-load conditions without stalling.

"This is an interesting concept," says Martti Larmi, head of the Internal Combustion Engine Laboratory at Helsinki University of Technology, in Finland.

The main challenge in building such an engine is perfecting the scavenging process, he says, when the residual gases from the previous combustion cycle are replaced with fresh air and fuel.

"You need some kind of pressure on the intake side to push out the gases that have already burned," says Larmi.

In a traditional two-stroke engine, the force of the fuel and air intake drives out the exhaust. Unfortunately, this process causes some unburned fuel to be lost as exhaust, resulting in higher emissions. Four-stroke engines force the spent fumes out of the cylinder through a cam-controlled valve using an upward stroke of the piston. During the following downstroke, fresh air and fuel are injected into the cylinder while the exhaust valve is closed.

Ricardo's engine, called 2/4SIGHT, uses valves like a four-stroke engine, but in two-stroke mode, the engine keeps both the intake and exhaust valves open at the same time so that the fuel and air in the cylinder are replenished each cycle, rather than every other cycle.

There has been a lot of interest in developing a low-emission two-stroke engine. But it's a difficult configuration to perfect because there is little time to get the fuel-air mix in and the exhaust out, says Larmi. "The danger here is that the fresh air intake can go directly out through the exhaust outlet," he says.

Ricardo is using a couple of tricks to get around this problem. First, the design of Ricardo's piston head uses reverse tumbling, a process in which the air intake is directed away from the exhaust valve, to reduce the chances of it flowing straight out of the cylinder. Ricardo has also swapped the cam-controlled valves for electro-hydraulic valves, which, along with the fuel injector, can be controlled by software.

Car manufacturers have showed an interest in building this sort of hybrid engine in the past, says Kee. "But there are a lot of challenges," he says. Indeed, both Toyota and Ricardo looked at this issue in the late 1980s and early '90s.

But in the past, the technology simply wasn't there. According to Ricardo, the only reason the company is able to make a viable system now is because of the software that controls the gas exchange and engine modes. "The engine's control system monitors driver demand," says Jackson. When more torque is required than would be possible in four-stroke mode, it switches, he says. However, the company will not reveal details about when, in the engine cycle, the mode is switched.

Ricardo's prototype, an adapted 2.1-liter V6 engine, has been tested by researchers at the University of Brighton and has been found to be able to produce the kind of performance one would normally expect from a three-to-four-liter engine. Based on the New European Driving Cycle, which is a standard performance test designed to gauge engine efficiency and emissions under typical car usage, the prototype has demonstrated fuel savings of 27 percent, and it reduces emissions by a similar amount. The next phase is to try to incorporate a prototype engine into a working vehicle, says Jackson.

Copyright Technology Review 2008.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 21, 2008, 00:03:16
The reason most plants are not configured this way is the cost/benefit ratio is very low individually. The capital costs to convert systems is probably too high (except in special cases), but new plants could be configured this way:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200805/recycled-steam.

Quote
by Lisa Margonelli
Waste Not

Forty years ago, the steel mills and factories south of Chicago were known for their sooty smokestacks, plumes of steam, and throngs of workers. Clean-air laws have since gotten rid of the smoke, and labor-productivity initiatives have eliminated most of the workers. What remains is the steam, billowing up into the sky day after day, just as it did a generation ago.

The U.S. economy wastes 55 percent of the energy it consumes, and while American companies have ruthlessly wrung out other forms of inefficiency, that figure hasn’t changed much in recent decades. The amount lost by electric utilities alone could power all of Japan.

A 2005 report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that U.S. industry could profitably recycle enough waste energy—including steam, furnace gases, heat, and pressure—to reduce the country’s fossil-fuel use (and greenhouse-gas emissions) by nearly a fifth. A 2007 study by the Mc­Kinsey Global Institute sounded largely the same note; it concluded that domestic industry could use 19 percent less energy than it does today—and make more money as a result.

Economists like to say that rational markets don’t “leave $100 bills on the ground,” but according to McKinsey’s figures, more than $50 billion floats into the air each year, unclaimed by American businesses. What’s more, the technologies required to save that money are, for the most part, not new or unproven or even particularly expensive. By and large, they’ve been around since the 19th century. The question is: Why aren’t we using them?

One of the few people who’s been making money from recycled steam is Tom Casten, the chairman of Recycled Energy Development. Casten, a former Eagle Scout and marine, has railed against the waste of energy for 30 years; he says the mere sight of steam makes him sick. When Casten walks into an industrial plant, he told me, he immediately begins to reconfigure the pipes in his head, totting up potential energy savings. Steam, of course, can be cycled through a turbine to generate electricity. Heat, which in some industrial kilns reaches 7,000F, can be used to produce more steam. Furnace exhaust, commonly disposed of in flares, can be mixed with oxygen to create the practical equivalent of natural gas. Even differences in steam pressure between one industrial process and another can be exploited, through clever placement of turbines, to produce extra watts of electricity.

By making use of its “junk energy,” an industrial plant can generate its own power and buy less from the grid. A case in point is the ArcelorMittal steel mill in East Chicago, Indiana, where a company called Primary Energy/EPCOR USA has been building on-site energy plants to capture heat and gases since 1996. Casten, Primary Energy’s CEO from 2003 to 2006, was involved in several proj­ects that now sell cheap, clean power back to the mill. (interpolation: you can see this isn't quite as easy as made out)

As a result of Primary Energy’s proj­ects, the mill has cut its purchases of coal-fired power by half, reduced carbon emissions by 1.3 million tons a year, and saved more than $100 million. In March, the plant won an EPA Energy Star award. Its utilities manager, Tom Riley, says he doesn’t foresee running out of profitable proj­ects anytime soon. “You’d think you might,” he says, “but you can always find more … Energy efficiency is a big multiplier.”

Casten wants to help everyone see such possibilities, so he’s been combining EPA emissions figures with Google Earth images to let investors “peer” into smokestacks and visualize the wasted energy. Recycled Energy Development recently received $1.5 billion in venture funding, which should enable it to expand its reach greatly. Casten gives a whirlwind tour of the targets: natural-gas pipelines, he says, use nearly a tenth of the gas they carry to keep the fuel flowing. Capture some of the heat and pressure they lose, and the U.S. could take four coal-fired power plants offline (out of roughly 300). Another power plant could be switched off if energy were collected at the country’s 27 carbon-black plants, which make particles used in the manufacture of tires. And so on through facilities that make silicon, glass, ethanol, and orange juice, until, Casten hopes, he has throngs of competitors. “I always thought that if we were successful, people would emulate us and I’d be happy at the end of the day. I just didn’t think it would take 30 years.”

Yet in fact, Casten still has few competitors, and the improvements he’s made remain rare in American industry. With pressure growing to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, the age of recycled steam may seem closer now than it has in the past, but because of a variety of cultural, financial, and—especially—regula­tory barriers, its arrival is no sure thing.

The first barrier is obvious from a trip through ArcelorMittal’s four miles of interconnected pipes, wires, and buildings. Steel mills are noisy, hot, and smelly—all signs of enormous inter­dependent energy systems at work. In many cases, putting waste energy to use requires mixing the exhaust of one process with the intake of another, demanding coordination. But engineers have largely been trained to focus only on their own processes; many tend to resist changes that make those processes more complex. Whereas European and Japanese corporate cultures emphasize energy-saving as a strategy that enhances their competitiveness, U.S. companies generally do not. (DuPont and Dow, which have saved billions on energy costs in the past decade, are notable exceptions. Arcelor­Mittal’s ownership is European.)

In some industries, investments in energy efficiency also suffer because of the nature of the business cycle. When demand is strong, managers tend to invest first in new capacity; but when demand is weak, they withhold investment for fear that plants will be closed. The timing just never seems to work out. McKinsey found that three-quarters of American companies will not invest in efficiency upgrades that take just two years to pay for themselves. “You have to be humbled,” Matt Rogers, a director at McKinsey, told me, “that with a creative market economy, we aren’t getting there,” even with high oil prices.

Some of these problems may fade if energy costs remain high. But industry’s inertia is reinforced by regulation. The Clean Air Act has succeeded spectacularly in reducing some forms of air pollution, but perversely, it has chilled efforts to reuse energy: because many of these efforts involve tinkering with industrial exhaust systems, they can trigger a federal or local review of the plant, opening a can of worms some plant managers would rather keep closed.

Much more problematic are the regu­lations surrounding utilities. Several waves of deregulation have resulted in a hodgepodge of rules without providing full competition among power generators. Though it’s cheaper and cleaner to produce power at Casten’s proj­ects than to build new coal-fired capacity, many industrial plants cannot themselves use all the electricity they could produce: they can’t profit from aggressive energy recycling unless they can sell the electricity to other consumers. Yet by­zan­tine regulations make that difficult, stifling many independent energy recyclers. Some of these competitive disadvantages have been addressed in the latest energy bill, but many remain.

Ultimately, making better use of energy will require revamping our operation of the electrical grid itself, an undertaking considerably more complicated than, say, creating a carbon tax. For the better part of a century, we’ve gotten electricity from large, central generators, which waste nearly 70 percent of the energy they burn. They face little competition and are allowed to simply pass energy costs on to their customers. Distributing generators across the grid would reduce waste, improve reliability, and provide at least some competition.

Opening the grid to competition is one of the more important steps to take if we’re serious about reducing fossil-­fuel use and carbon emissions, yet no one’s talking about doing that. Democratic legislators are nervous about creating incentives for cleaner, cheaper generation that may also benefit nuclear power. Neither party wants to do the dirty work of shutting down old, wasteful generators. And of course the Enron debacle looms over everything.

Technocratic changes to the grid and to industrial plants don’t easily capture the imagination. Recycling industrial energy is a solution that looks, well, gray, not green. Steel plants, coated with rust, grime, and a century’s worth of effluvia, do not make for inspiring photos. Yet Casten, pointing to the 16 heat-recycling contraptions that sit on top of the coke ovens at the East Chicago steel plant, notes that in 2004 they produced as much clean energy as all the grid-connected solar panels in the world. Green power may pay great dividends years from now. Gray power, if we would embrace it, is a realistic goal for today.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: tomahawk6 on April 23, 2008, 11:01:44
New oil find in Brazil.

From Stratfor.

The Geopolitical Diary:  Blue-Skying Brazil

Brazil is a rising power politically, economically and militarily. Not only is it South America’s largest country in terms of population, economic heft, military strength and land area, its geopolitical power is expanding while most of its traditional competitors — namely Argentina and Venezuela — are contracting.

But while Brazil is almost certain in the next few years to evolve into a regional hegemon — a step up from the region’s most powerful state — it is still difficult to see Brazil playing a leading role on the world stage. South America’s geography is too fractured for any power to control the whole space, and the continent is too remote from the world’s power centers — 7,000 miles from Buenos Aires to Brussels, more than 10,000 miles from Santiago to Singapore — for any of its powers ever to be a major global player.

Unless, that is, something changes. And for a few hours on Monday, it appeared that that something had indeed changed.

Initial reports from the Brazilian government asserted that a new oil find in the Carioca offshore block contains 33 billion barrels of crude. Within a few hours, however, an announcement that seemed to have global implications fizzled. By nightfall Petroleo Brasileiro, the state-influenced (and quite competent) national oil firm, had formally denied that test drilling had even reached the depth necessary to confirm or deny the presence of oil — much less a mammoth find.

Offshore region rich in oil
Brazil only began exploring the region in question in 2007, and it already has generated probable finds of at least 13 billion barrels of oil equivalent. Many, many more discoveries not only are possible, they are likely. What has been found to date already has doubled Brazil’s reserves.

This crude will not come online cheaply or quickly, however, and much uncertainty remains in these heady early days of exploration in Brazil’s ultradeep. But with potential discoveries of this size it is worth exploring a possible future.

Brazil has recently become self-sufficient in oil production — not counting the recent (and likely future) finds. And that got our analytical team thinking.

‘What if’ exercise
What would a world look like with a Latin American Saudi Arabia? How would things change on the global scene? At Stratfor we undertake what we term “blue sky” exercises from time to time, albeit typically in a much more compact geography and on a much shorter time line. These exercises help us think outside the tactical minutiae of day-to-day events, and prevent us from becoming too wed to our own predictions. It is not every day that something happens that can change global economic and political interactions on such a grand scale.

So rather than tightly edit our analysts’ responses to this question, here are some of their responses in the raw:

Should Brazil become a significant oil producer, global interest in Latin America will increase in proportion — not only from the United States, but also China, Russia, Europe and others. Competition for access to — and potentially control of — the resources, for security of the shipping routes, and for influence over the Brazilian government and energy companies also would rise. A resource-powerful Brazil, coupled with China’s labor, India’s tech and labor pool, and Russia’s energy and arms could also revive the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) concept, perhaps making it a more viable bloc of formerly second-tier players, and bringing some counterbalance to U.S. global hegemony.

Brazil is too far away from energy consumers like India and China to tap without great cost. The United States is a much closer consumer. In time this would lessen U.S. energy dependence on the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia — leaving that region for other energy consumers, like the aforementioned India and China. Such a shift largely would regionalize energy routes, leaving the United States looking at its own hemisphere for energy supplies, Europe to the former Soviet Union, and Asia to the Middle East (leaving Africa as a swing player). Though this may look like a more peaceable reality, it would be far from it, and could actually lead to more instability as no power would have much of an interest in stabilizing energy supplies going to other regions.

Canada’s tar sands hold anywhere from 800 billion to 1.2 trillion barrels of oil. Oil shale deposits in the U.S. Rocky Mountains are estimated at around 800 billion barrels. The success of tapping these deposits is uncertain, and technological and economic factors must play out, but in 15 to 20 years, substantial oil flows from Brazil, coupled with these potential new sources of North American oil (though more difficult to extract and expensive), and only moderate efficiency gains could guarantee almost complete energy independence for the entire Western Hemisphere.

A legitimate and proximate alternative oil source means the primary geopolitical motivation for immense U.S. investment in military operations in the Middle East begins to slowly evaporate. Though mastery of the world’s oceans remains a core geopolitical imperative for Washington, the disproportionate focus of the U.S. Navy on the Persian Gulf and the maintenance of the Strait of Hormuz becomes far less critical. Suddenly freeing the energy and capability the Pentagon would lead to a very robust and flexible — but far more evenly distributed — global U.S. naval presence. This could also be just the opening for the Navy, which in many ways has failed to re-evaluate its post-Cold War stance, to fundamentally remake itself for the 21st century.

The region with most to worry about from this development is the Middle East. From Washington’s view, getting oil from a relatively friendly and stable country to its south is far, far preferable than dealing with the chaos of the distant Middle East. Saudi Arabia and the other major Gulf powers will become distant not only from their biggest energy customer, but also from their biggest security guarantor. With a diminished U.S. interest in the Middle East, regional fault lines are more likely to erupt, spelling more instability for this already largely volatile region. Israel in particular has much to lose as it sees its regional security framework — which is built around having the United States deeply involved in the Middle East — weaken, and its alliance with the United States strained as a result
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 22, 2008, 16:08:01
Fuel cell technology advances some more. Liquid hydrocarbon fuels have high energy density and are reletively stable and easy to handle underr normal conditions (what do you think you are doing at the self serve gas station?), and alcohol based fuels have similar advantages. The energy density of a high energy battery isn't that great, but so long as fuel is flowing through the fuel cell, you have a current (and the energy density of the fuel is what counts).

http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/20813/page1/

Quote
More-Powerful Fuel Cells
A cheap polymer material increases the power output of methanol fuel cells by 50 percent.
By Katherine Bourzac

Methanol fuel cells have the potential to replace batteries as a lightweight power source for portable electronic devices. But fuel-cell materials are expensive, and fuel cells that consume methanol are inefficient. In particular, the membranes used in methanol fuel cells are expensive and waste fuel. Now researchers at MIT have developed a cheap membrane material that increases the power output of methanol fuel cells by 50 percent.

The energy density of a methanol fuel cell "compares to the best high-energy-density batteries," says Robert Savinell, a chemical engineer at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, who was not involved in the research. And because they weigh less than batteries, methanol fuel cells are a promising power source for portable electronics. For the military, tanks of methanol for refilling fuel cells would be lighter than extra batteries that would have to be carried on long missions. The energy density of methanol fuel cells could also be an advantage in portable consumer electronic devices such as laptops and iPods. But commercialization of methanol fuel cells has been limited because of their price: they require a thick internal membrane made of an expensive polymer. And even with this expensive material, they use fuel inefficiently.

To overcome these limitations, Paula Hammond, a chemical engineer at MIT, has made a fuel-cell membrane out of layers of polymers whose electrochemical properties can be precisely tuned to prevent fuel waste. Indeed, says Savinell, Hammond has solved a problem that chemists have been trying to overcome for years.

Methanol fuel cells have two compartments separated by a membrane. On one side, methanol is stripped of protons and electrons. The protons are carried through the membrane to the other compartment, where they are combined with oxygen to form water. The electrons, which can't cross the membrane, are forced into an external current that can be used to power electronic devices.

Because water is being created inside the fuel cell, the membrane is wet. Methanol, which is very soluble in water, is absorbed by conventional fuel-cell membranes and can cross over to the other side. This wastes fuel and makes the cathode, the oxidizing end of the cell, work harder. "Everyone's concerned about methanol crossover," says Merlin Bruening, a chemist at Michigan State University. Researchers have tried many different approaches to improving methanol fuel-cell membranes, but all have entailed trade-offs. "The challenge is to maintain stability and conductivity [to protons]," while decreasing methanol crossover, says Bruening.

Hammond synthesizes fuel-cell membranes using a technique called layer-by-layer assembly. She starts with a very thin membrane of the polymer used in conventional fuel cells. She dips it into a water solution of a positively charged polymer, then into one of a negatively charged polymer; the process is repeated until many layers are built up. The result, explains Hammond, is "a polymer backbone that resists the permeation of methanol" while still conducting protons.

The resulting 100-nanometer-thick membrane conducts two orders of magnitude less methanol than conventional, 50-micrometer-thick membranes do. And fuel cells incorporating it have a greater power output.

Hammond says that methanol is a better candidate to power portable fuel cells than hydrogen because it's a liquid and not nearly as flammable. "It's a dense power source that's safe to carry around," she says.

Savinell says that Hammond's work could have applications beyond methanol fuel cells. By picking the right polymers and varying assembly conditions including pH, says Savinell, "you can customize and optimize [the films] for any application." Layer-by-layer films might be used to improve the conductivity of hydrogen fuel-cell membranes and to increase the efficiency of ethanol fuel cells. Ethanol is safer than methanol but has similar drawbacks as a feedstock for fuel cells: ethanol seeps across the polymer membranes.

"The real promise is the power of the technology to make new materials," says Savinell. Hammond is now working on new fuel-cell membranes that contain none of the expensive conventional polymer.




Copyright Technology Review 2008.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 24, 2008, 00:54:36
The current energy crisis in the uS is the sole fault of the democrat led Congress.Gas prices have increased dramatically from 2006.Congress refuses to allow offshore drilling and drilling in Alaska.Finally just last week the Senate blocked development of Colorado's immense oil shale reserves thought to be 2-3 trillion barrels.They want to sue OPEC.They want alternative energy that isnt currently available.They have blocked nuclear power which is safe and clean energy.If we simply built more nuclear plants for power existing oil supplies would force a dramatic decline in oil prices.Until the politicians show some backbone towards the green lobby things will only get worse in the US at least.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 24, 2008, 12:35:00

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives2/2008/05/020589.php

Quote
With 94% of the world's oil supply locked up by foreign governments, most of which are hostile to the United States, the relatively puny American oil companies do not have access to enough crude oil to significantly affect the market and help bring prices down. Thus, Exxon Mobil, a small oil company, buys 90% of the crude oil that it refines for the U.S. market from the big players, i.e, mostly-hostile foreign governments. The price at the U.S. pump is rising because the price the big oil companies charge Exxon Mobil and the other small American companies for crude oil is going up.

This is obviously a tough situation for the American consumer. The irony is that it doesn't have to be that way. The United States--unlike, say, France--actually has vast petroleum reserves. It would be possible for American oil companies to develop those reserves, play a far bigger role in international markets, and deliver gas at the pump to American consumers at a much lower price, while creating many thousands of jobs for Americans. This would be infinitely preferable to shipping endless billions of dollars to Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 27, 2008, 16:37:16
You blend gasoline with a low energy fuel like ethanol and then wonder why fuel milage goes down?

http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/2008/Q2/mail519.html

Quote
Postal Services Flex Fuel Vehicles Uses More Gasoline than normal vehicles.

Jerry I saw this on a blog. I think it casts doubt on the flex fuel vehicle mandate you've been talking about. I don't think the future is in flexfuel vehicles. From what I understand a gasoline and an alcohol vehicle need to be designed differently (compression rations) in order to get the most out of their respective fuels.

While our Washington-based Pooh-Bahs of Pork
<http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/
democrat_senators_screw_upblame
_oil_company_executives/>  were witlessly pummeling oil company executives for the fact that there has been no increase in domestic oil available while international demand continues rising, Bloomberg reports that the US Postal Service has effectively demonstrated that the government’s ethanol mandates are not just a total bust, but actually counterproductive to the stated goal of less dependence on high-priced foreign oil.

May 21 (Bloomberg <http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=aj.h0coJSkpw>  )—The U.S. Postal Service purchased more than 30,000 ethanol-capable trucks and minivans from 1999 to 2005, making it the biggest American buyer of alternative-fuel vehicles. Gasoline consumption jumped by more than 1.5 million gallons as a result.

…A Postal Service study found the new vehicles got as much as 29 percent fewer miles to the gallon. Mail carriers used the corn-based fuel in just 1,000 of them because there weren’t enough places to buy it.

``You’re getting fewer miles per gallon, and it’s costing us more,’’ Walt O’Tormey, the Postal Service’s Washington-based vice president of engineering, said in an interview. The agency may buy electric vehicles instead, he said.


The experience shows how the U.S. push for crop-based fuels, already contributing to the highest rate of food inflation in 17 years, may not be achieving its goal of reducing gasoline consumption…

Lost in the debate over the fuel’s contribution to food scarcity is the possibility that the ethanol policy itself isn’t working, said David Just, an associate professor of economics at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. It may stimulate demand by making gas cheaper, he said, an argument supported by at least two U.S. government studies.

The Postal Service bought the ethanol vehicles to meet alternative-fuel requirements. The vehicles’ size and ethanol’s lower energy content lowered mileage, the agency said. It takes 1.33 gallons of E85 (85 percent ethanol) and 1.03 gallons of E10 (10 percent ethanol) to travel the same distance as with one gallon of pure gasoline, the Department of Energy says.

So, because of the high-cost government mandate to produce and use ethanol to reduce our use of oil, we wind up using more gasoline than before, and at a higher cost than before, too. Why am I not surprised?

It will be pitifully interesting to see just how much it will cost us, the taxpayers, to correct the problem created by our government trying to fix a problem created by the government in the first place. I wonder how much we spent to buy all those ethanol Postal Service vehicles that were supposed to save us gas and money?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: daftandbarmy on May 28, 2008, 20:53:06
"The big losers are countries that not only have to import oil but also are heavily industrialized relative to their economy." Hmmmm.... who would that be I wonder?

THE GEOPOLITICS OF $130 OIL

By George Friedman

Oil prices have risen dramatically over the past year. When they passed $100 a barrel, they hit new heights, expressed in dollars adjusted for inflation. As they passed $120 a barrel, they clearly began to have global impact. Recently, we have seen startling rises in the price of food, particularly grains. Apart from higher prices, there have been disruptions in the availability of food as governments limit food exports and as hoarding increases in anticipation of even higher prices.

Oil and food differ from other commodities in that they are indispensable for the functioning of society. Food obviously is the more immediately essential. Food shortages can trigger social and political instability with startling swiftness. It does not take long to starve to death. Oil has a less-immediate -- but perhaps broader -- impact. Everything, including growing and marketing food, depends on energy; and oil is the world's primary source of energy, particularly in transportation. Oil and grains -- where the shortages hit hardest -- are not merely strategic commodities. They are geopolitical commodities. All nations require them, and a shift in the price or availability of either triggers shifts in relationships within and among nations.

It is not altogether clear to us why oil and grains have behaved as they have. The question for us is what impact this generalized rise in commodity prices -- particularly energy and food -- will have on the international system. We understand that it is possible that the price of both will plunge. There is certainly a speculative element in both. Nevertheless, based on the realities of supply conditions, we do not expect the price of either to fall to levels that existed in 2003. We will proceed in this analysis on the assumption that these prices will fluctuate, but that they will remain dramatically higher than prices were from the 1980s to the mid-2000s.

If that assumption is true and we continue to see elevated commodity prices, perhaps rising substantially higher than they are now, then it seems to us that we have entered a new geopolitical era. Since the end of World War II, we have lived in three geopolitical regimes, broadly understood:

·                     The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, in which the focus was on the military balance between those two countries, particularly on the nuclear balance. During this period, all countries, in some way or another, defined their behavior in terms of the U.S.-Soviet competition.

·                     The period from the fall of the Berlin Wall until 9/11, when the primary focus of the world was on economic development. This was the period in which former communist countries redefined themselves, East and Southeast Asian economies surged and collapsed, and China grew dramatically. It was a period in which politico-military power was secondary and economic power primary.

·                     The period from 9/11 until today that has been defined in terms of the increasing complexity of the U.S.-jihadist war -- a reality that supplanted the second phase and redefined the international system dramatically.

With the U.S.-jihadist war in either a stalemate or a long-term evolution, its impact on the international system is diminishing. First, it has lost its dynamism. The conflict is no longer drawing other countries into it. Second, it is becoming an endemic reality rather than an urgent crisis. The international system has accommodated itself to the conflict, and its claims on that system are lessening.

The surge in commodity prices -- particularly oil -- has superseded the U.S.-jihadist war, much as the war superseded the period in which economic issues dominated the global system. This does not mean that the U.S.-jihadist war will not continue to rage, any more than 9/11 abolished economic issues. Rather, it means that a new dynamic has inserted itself into the international system and is in the process of transforming it.

It is a cliche that money and power are linked. It is nevertheless true. Economic power creates political and military power, just as political and military power can create economic power. The rise in the price of oil is triggering shifts in economic power that are in turn creating changes in the international order. This was not apparent until now because of three reasons. First, oil prices had not risen to the level where they had geopolitical impact. The system was ignoring higher prices. Second, they had not been joined in crisis condition by grain prices. Third, the permanence of higher prices had not been clear. When $70-a-barrel oil seemed impermanent, and likely to fall below $50, oil was viewed very differently than it was at $130, where a decline to $100 would be dramatic and a fall to $70 beyond the calculation of most. As oil passed $120 a barrel, the international system, in our view, started to reshape itself in what will be a long-term process.

Obviously, the winners in this game are those who export oil, and the losers are those who import it. The victory is not only economic but political as well. The ability to control where exports go and where they don't go transforms into political power. The ability to export in a seller's market not only increases wealth but also increases the ability to coerce, if that is desired.

The game is somewhat more complex than this. The real winners are countries that can export and generate cash in excess of what they need domestically. So countries such as Venezuela, Indonesia and Nigeria might benefit from higher prices, but they absorb all the wealth that is transferred to them. Countries such as Saudi Arabia do not need to use so much of their wealth for domestic needs. They control huge and increasing pools of cash that they can use for everything from achieving domestic political stability to influencing regional governments and the global economic system. Indeed, the entire Arabian Peninsula is in this position.

The big losers are countries that not only have to import oil but also are heavily industrialized relative to their economy. Countries in which service makes up a larger sector than manufacturing obviously use less oil for critical economic functions than do countries that are heavily manufacturing-oriented. Certainly, consumers in countries such as the United States are hurt by rising prices. And these countries' economies might slow. But higher oil prices simply do not have the same impact that they do on countries that both are primarily manufacturing-oriented and have a consumer base driving cars.

East Asia has been most affected by the combination of sustained high oil prices and disruptions in the food supply. Japan, which imports all of its oil and remains heavily industrialized (along with South Korea), is obviously affected. But the most immediately affected is China, where shortages of diesel fuel have been reported. China's miracle -- rapid industrialization -- has now met its Achilles' heel: high energy prices.

China is facing higher energy prices at a time when the U.S. economy is weak and the ability to raise prices is limited. As oil prices increase costs, the Chinese continue to export and, with some exceptions, are holding prices. The reason is simple. The Chinese are aware that slowing exports could cause some businesses to fail. That would lead to unemployment, which in turn will lead to instability. The Chinese have their hands full between natural disasters, Tibet, terrorism and the Olympics. They do not need a wave of business failures.

Therefore, they are continuing to cap the domestic price of gasoline. This has caused tension between the government and Chinese oil companies, which have refused to distribute at capped prices. Behind this power struggle is this reality: The Chinese government can afford to subsidize oil prices to maintain social stability, but given the need to export, they are effectively squeezing profits out of exports. Between subsidies and no-profit exports, China's reserves could shrink with remarkable speed, leaving their financial system -- already overloaded with nonperforming loans -- vulnerable. If they take the cap off, they face potential domestic unrest.

The Chinese dilemma is present throughout Asia. But just as Asia is the big loser because of long-term high oil prices coupled with food disruptions, Russia is the big winner. Russia is an exporter of natural gas and oil. It also could be a massive exporter of grains if prices were attractive enough and if it had the infrastructure (crop failures in Russia are a thing of the past). Russia has been very careful, under Vladimir Putin, not to assume that energy prices will remain high and has taken advantage of high prices to accumulate substantial foreign currency reserves. That puts them in a doubly-strong position. Economically, they are becoming major players in global acquisitions. Politically, countries that have become dependent on Russian energy exports -- and this includes a good part of Europe -- are vulnerable, precisely because the Russians are in a surplus-cash position. They could tweak energy availability, hurting the Europeans badly, if they chose. They will not  need to. The Europeans, aware of what could happen, will tread lightly in order to ensure that it doesn't happen.

As we have already said, the biggest winners are the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Although somewhat strained, these countries never really suffered during the period of low oil prices. They have now more than rebalanced their financial system and are making the most of it. This is a time when they absolutely do not want anything disrupting the flow of oil from their region. Closing the Strait of Hormuz, for example, would be disastrous to them. We therefore see the Saudis, in particular, taking steps to stabilize the region. This includes supporting Israeli-Syrian peace talks, using influence with Sunnis in Iraq to confront al Qaeda, making certain that Shiites in Saudi Arabia profit from the boom. (Other Gulf countries are doing the same with their Shiites. This is designed to remove one of Iran's levers in the region: a rising of Shiites in the Arabian Peninsula.) In addition, the Saudis are using their economic power to re-establish the relationship they had with the United States before 9/11. With the financial institutions in the United States in disarray, the Arabian Peninsula can be very helpful.

China is in an increasingly insular and defensive position. The tension is palpable, particularly in Central Asia, which Russia has traditionally dominated and where China is becoming increasingly active in making energy investments. The Russians are becoming more assertive, using their economic position to improve their geopolitical position in the region. The Saudis are using their money to try to stabilize the region. With oil above $120 a barrel, the last thing they need is a war disrupting their ability to sell. They do not want to see the Iranians mining the Strait of Hormuz or the Americans trying to blockade Iran.

The Iranians themselves are facing problems. Despite being the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, Iran also is the world's second-largest gasoline importer, taking in roughly 40 percent of its annual demand. Because of the type of oil they have, and because they have neglected their oil industry over the last 30 years, their ability to participate in the bonanza is severely limited. It is obvious that there is now internal political tension between the president and the religious leadership over the status of the economy. Put differently, Iranians are asking how they got into this situation.

Suddenly, the regional dynamics have changed. The Saudi royal family is secure against any threats. They can buy peace on the Peninsula. The high price of oil makes even Iraqis think that it might be time to pump more oil rather than fight. Certainly the Iranians, Saudis and Kuwaitis are thinking of ways of getting into the action, and all have the means and geography to benefit from an Iraqi oil renaissance. The war in Iraq did not begin over oil -- a point we have made many times -- but it might well be brought under control because of oil.

For the United States, the situation is largely a push. The United States is an oil importer, but its relative vulnerability to high energy prices is nothing like it was in 1973, during the Arab oil embargo. De-industrialization has clearly had its upside. At the same time, the United States is a food exporter, along with Canada, Australia, Argentina and others. Higher grain prices help the United States. The shifts will not change the status of the United States, but they might create a new dynamic in the Gulf region that could change the framework of the Iraqi war.

This is far from an exhaustive examination of the global shifts caused by rising oil and grain prices. Our point is this: High oil prices can increase as well as decrease stability. In Iraq -- but not in Afghanistan -- the war has already been regionally overshadowed by high oil prices. Oil-exporting countries are in a moneymaking mode, and even the Iranians are trying to figure out how to get into the action; it's hard to see how they can without the participation of the Western oil majors -- and this requires burying the hatchet with the United States. Groups such as al Qaeda and Hezbollah are decidedly secondary to these considerations.

We are very early in this process, and these are just our opening thoughts. But in our view, a wire has been tripped, and the world is refocusing on high commodity prices. As always in geopolitics, issues from the last generation linger, but they are no longer the focus. Last week there was talk of Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) talks between the United States and Russia -- a fossil from the Cold War. These things never go away. But history moves on. It seems to us that history is moving.

This article can be forwarded or reposted but must be attributed to Stratfor.

 

Copyright 2008 Strategic Forecasting, Inc.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 29, 2008, 13:43:09
The long awaited commercial use of waste cellulose to make ethanol comes closer to reality. Using things like corn stalks, sawdust and other "leftovers" makes sense, it does not impact on food supplies, and most of this stuff gets dumped in the landfill otherwise. The key is how much energy is needed to break down the cellulose so fermentation can begin, ethanol from waste might still be a boondoggle in terms of energy inputs/energy output.

If the ethanol can be used to power the farm economy (particularly as raw material for fertilizer and pesticides that are currently petrolium based), then this would probably have a bigger payoff than simply using it as fuel (since ethenol is actually a low energy fuel to begin with).

http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/20828/?nlid=1099

Quote
Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Opens

A 1.4 million gallon demonstration-scale plant will use waste biomass to make biofuel.
By Kevin Bullis
A biorefinery built to produce 1.4 million gallons of ethanol a year from cellulosic biomass will open tomorrow in Jennings, LA. Built by Verenium, based in Cambridge, MA, the plant will make ethanol from agricultural waste left over from processing sugarcane.

The new Verenium plant is the first demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States. It will be used to try out variations on the company's technology and is designed to run continuously. Verenium wants to demonstrate that it can create ethanol for $2 a gallon, which it hopes will make the fuel competitive with other types of ethanol and gasoline. Next year, the company plans to begin construction on commercial plants that will each produce about 20 to 30 million gallons of ethanol a year.

Until now, technology for converting nonfood feedstocks into ethanol has been limited to the lab and to small-scale pilot plants that can produce thousands of gallons of ethanol a year. Since these don't operate continuously, they don't give an accurate idea of how much it will ultimately cost to produce cellulosic ethanol in a commercial-scale facility.

Almost all ethanol biofuel in the United States is currently made from corn kernels. But the need for cellulosic feedstocks of ethanol has been underscored recently as food prices worldwide have risen sharply, in part because of the use of corn as a source of biofuels. At the same time, the rising cost of corn and gas have begun to make cellulosic ethanol more commercially attractive, says Wallace Tyner, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. A new Renewable Fuels Standard, part of an energy bill that became law late last year, mandates the use of 100 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels by 2010, and 16 billion by 2022.

So far, however, there are no commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants in operation in the United States, although a number of facilities are scheduled to start production in the next few years. The Department of Energy is currently funding more than a dozen companies that will be building demonstration- and commercial-scale plants. One of these, Range Fuels, based in Broomfield, CO, plans to open a commercial-scale plant next year. It will have the capacity to produce 20 million gallons of ethanol and methanol a year.

Verenium will use a combination of acid pretreatments, enzymes, and two types of bacteria to make ethanol from the plant matter--called bagasse--that's left over from processing sugarcane to make sugar. It will also process what's called energy cane, a relative of sugarcane that's lower in sugar and higher in fiber. The high fiber content allows the plants to grow taller, increasing yield from a given plot of land.

Cane bagasse largely consists of bundles of cellulose that are surrounded by hemicellulose. Cellulose is made of long chains of glucose, a six-carbon sugar of the type usually fermented to make ethanol from sources such as corn. Hemicellulose, however, is made of five-carbon sugars, which typically can't be fermented using the same organisms as glucose. One of the things that makes Verenium's process novel, says John Malloy, the company's executive vice president, is its ability to ferment sugars from both cellulose and hemicellulose.

The process begins when the cane is ground up and cooked under high pressure with a mild acid to hydrolyze the hemicellulose and separate it from the cellulose. The five-carbon sugars in hemicellulose are then fermented using genetically modified E. coli. The cellulose is broken down with enzymes and fermented with another type of bacteria called Klebsiella oxytoca. This bacteria does double duty, since it also produces enzymes that break down cellulose, reducing the amount of enzymes from outside sources by 50 percent. The dilute ethanol produced from fermentation of both types of sugar is then distilled to make fuel.

In addition to opening the demonstration plant, Verenium is also starting to grow energy cane and to work with local farmers to ensure a steady stream of material for its planned commercial plants. Short term, the company says that it can rely on leftover bagasse from sugar production, but eventually it will draw on energy cane grown specifically to make ethanol. Provisions in the Farm Bill, which was recently passed by the United States Congress, will help by providing farmers with incentives to plant energy crops, says Carlos Riva, Verenium's CEO. The incentives are important because it takes two to three years for energy cane, a perennial plant, to become established and reach ideal production levels. As a result, farmers will need to start planting the crops next year, before commercial plants are built and there is a market for these crops.

The opening of the demonstration plant, and the current construction of a number of other demonstration- and commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants, marks a turning point for the industry, Riva says. The development of improved enzymes and fermentation organisms means that no further scientific breakthroughs are needed to make cellulosic ethanol commercially successful, he says. "There's been a tremendous amount of background work in science and technology development," he says. "We've learned so much about the process that the really important thing now is to start to deploy the technology at a commercial scale."

Copyright Technology Review 2008.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on May 30, 2008, 13:08:00
Thucydides - I am still no fan. 

It is going to take a lot to convince me that we can find a hyper-efficient process to convert low grade energy supplies into higher grade energy supplies that are still of less energy carrying content than supplies that currently exist in the ground (natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear).  Those materials are the result of processes that may or may not be efficient but have the advantage of incredible lengths of time, operating under conditions of temperature and pressure that are highly energetic themselves and hard to reproduce ...... and that were not subject to environmental controls.  Whoever put them where he or she did, did a lousy job of containment.  ;)

As to the Stratfor article:

I think he has got the underlying premise wrong.

The Cold War was a period of balance between two competing powers.  Prices went up and down.  Wars and oil crises came and went.  Military conflict was more common than economic conflict but that was probably because the "Communists" fundamentally failed to understand economics - or at best chose to ignore economics as an aberration.

Since the Fall of the Wall in 1989 even the Russians, or at least Vladimir Putin, has discovered that there is more clout in the Market Place than the Battle Field.  America's strength through World War 1 and 2 as well as the Cold War, was based on its economic strength.  It outproduced its competitors in both war and peace and established the Dollar as the world's currency.  However, in doing so it lost control of that currency.  It could now be played by speculators - as George Soros did with the UK Pound.  And if a private individual can make the Pound vulnerable how likely is it that a foreign government could make the Dollar vulnerable.

Commodity prices aren't going up, any more than oil went up in 1973.  The dollar is going down, as it did in 1973.  The world used to work on the gold standard, which was abolished by governments, and the Dollar became the defacto trading standard for governments.  In the "real world" though there is still a gold standard operating.  The ratio between gold and oil doesn't change nearly as much as the ratios of Dollar vs Oil or Gold.

My sense is that since the end of the Cold War Governments have eschewed military conflict and decided, along with many private players, to take on the US hegemony where it hurts.... in the pocketbook.  And because that is not seen as being as threatening as military conflict many "Allies" and citizens of friendly countries feel quite free to take on the Mighty and Evil Dollar, especially since it represents the interests of those Robber Barons at Exxon, Conoco......

Meanwhile, low level military/police actions continue as they always have, and continue as a drain on those countries engaged in them..... thus exacerbating their problems and leaving those on the sidelines in a continually strengthening position while the others drain their treasuries.

The current war is not being fought over the Treaty of Westphalia.  It is being fought over Bretton Woods.  The internationalists have found a vehicle that permeates physical boundaries and that armies are valueless against.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 01, 2008, 00:09:38
Kirkhill, I agree that ethanol is not the answer, but if there is a process that can eliminate waste (sawdust, agricultural wastes etc.) and produce a useful product at the same time, then it is worth looking into. Ethanol can be used for lots of other purposes besides burning it in engines and boilers (I am thinking of a use right now!  ;D).

WRT your point about the premise of the war, I am in agreement up to a point, but what is the cause and what is the effect? Is the disruption of the international order a deliberate attempt to target the West in an asymmetric manner or is a result of the dysfunctional nature of socialist economics we have adopted causing the disruption? (I would say a bit of "a" and a bit of "b".....). Given the rather primitive economic levers that many of the supposed enemies have, it is easy to see the effect is more of Lilliputians trying to tie down Gulliver with thousands of threads than a coordinated attack, although it is dangerous if it gets out of hand.

Our cultural strength is that "we" still have the entrepreneurial energy to go in all kinds of unexpected directions, frustrating dictators, mad mullahs and "progressives"; our non-military line of defense.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on June 01, 2008, 14:38:07
Ethanol is always a welcome addition to my internal economy.  ;)

I agree with you on cause and effect.  I don't think there is a direct causality but I do think that there are those who choose to use the economy to their own strategic advantage.  Much in the same manner that you might choose to anchor a position's flank on a swamp.  You didn't create the swamp.  You can't control the swamp.  But you can use the swamp to your tactical advantage and you can modify the swamp by channelling water and building causeways and you can enhance the effect of the swamp with barbed wire, mines and fire positions.

There is, in my opinion, a strong body of people that yearn for order and that believe if only one person or group, with whom they agree, were in charge then they could live a peaceful life and never have to struggle again. (Perversely they seem to live for struggle).  These people are generally of the socialist religion, which is authoritarian in nature and internationalist by proclivity - believing that religion and nationalism are the causes of conflict. (But this is old ground for us).

The point is, as George was driven to wonder about Fifth Columnists, that there are in fact ideological Fifth Columnists in all societies.  They work with like-minded individuals across and through borders to bring about the change that they desire.

Many of them believe the US must be restrained, that individuality is a disease, that the US dollar must be destroyed and that no war can be allowed to be seen as being successful.  The latter is particularly true of the stooges that invested so much of themselves in creating the political defeat of the US in Vietnam.

Imagine the internal conflicts they would have if, as earnest American youngsters they had struggled to decide to defeat the US in Vietnam because they had been conditioned to believe they were doing good by preventing they evil of war, only to discover that there are greater evils and that their efforts had made the world they hoped to improve a worse place......And now, no longer young with the opportunity to "fix" things they are like John Knox who signed all his letters "With one foot in the grave" and have to face the fact that their opportunity is behind them.  That must be a disconcerting, if not frightening thought. 

Hard to admit a lifetime of being wrong.

Those people cannot allow the US to be seen to win a counter-insurgency war in Iraq and Afghanistan, just as they couldn't allow it to be seen that dominoes did indeed fall in South East Asia.  To allow those realities to be perceived would be to admit that they were wrong and that they created misery for untold millions.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: muskrat89 on June 08, 2008, 20:51:05
Good piece from Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/05/AR2008060503434.html

Quote
At $4, Everybody Gets Rational
   

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, June 6, 2008; Page A19

So now we know: The price point is $4.

At $3 a gallon, Americans just grin and bear it, suck it up and, while complaining profusely, keep driving like crazy. At $4, it is a world transformed. Americans become rational creatures. Mass transit ridership is at a 50-year high. Driving is down 4 percent. (Any U.S. decline is something close to a miracle.) Hybrids and compacts are flying off the lots. SUV sales are in free fall.

The wholesale flight from gas guzzlers is stunning in its swiftness, but utterly predictable. Everything has a price point. Remember that "love affair" with SUVs? Love, it seems, has its price too.

America's sudden change in car-buying habits makes suitable mockery of that absurd debate Congress put on last December on fuel efficiency standards. At stake was precisely what miles-per-gallon average would every car company's fleet have to meet by precisely what date.

It was one out-of-a-hat number (35 mpg) compounded by another (by 2020). It involved, as always, dozens of regulations, loopholes and throws at a dartboard. And we already knew from past history what the fleet average number does. When oil is cheap and everybody wants a gas guzzler, fuel efficiency standards force manufacturers to make cars that nobody wants to buy. When gas prices go through the roof, this agent of inefficiency becomes an utter redundancy.
ad_icon

At $4 a gallon, the fleet composition is changing spontaneously and overnight, not over the 13 years mandated by Congress. (Even Stalin had the modesty to restrict himself to five-year plans.) Just Tuesday, GM announced that it would shutter four SUV and truck plants, add a third shift to its compact and midsize sedan plants in Ohio and Michigan, and green-light for 2010 the Chevy Volt, an electric hybrid.

Some things, like renal physiology, are difficult. Some things, like Arab-Israeli peace, are impossible. And some things are preternaturally simple. You want more fuel-efficient cars? Don't regulate. Don't mandate. Don't scold. Don't appeal to the better angels of our nature. Do one thing: Hike the cost of gas until you find the price point.

Unfortunately, instead of hiking the price ourselves by means of a gasoline tax that could be instantly refunded to the American people in the form of lower payroll taxes, we let the Saudis, Venezuelans, Russians and Iranians do the taxing for us -- and pocket the money that the tax would have recycled back to the American worker.

This is insanity. For 25 years and with utter futility (starting with "The Oil-Bust Panic," the New Republic, February 1983), I have been advocating the cure: a U.S. energy tax as a way to curtail consumption and keep the money at home. On this page in May 2004 (and again in November 2005), I called for "the government -- through a tax -- to establish a new floor for gasoline," by fully taxing any drop in price below a certain benchmark. The point was to suppress demand and to keep the savings (from any subsequent world price drop) at home in the U.S. Treasury rather than going abroad. At the time, oil was $41 a barrel. It is now $123.

But instead of doing the obvious -- tax the damn thing -- we go through spasms of destructive alternatives, such as efficiency standards, ethanol mandates and now a crazy carbon cap-and-trade system the Senate is debating this week. These are infinitely complex mandates for inefficiency and invitations to corruption. But they have a singular virtue: They hide the cost to the American consumer.

Want to wean us off oil? Be open and honest. The British are paying $8 a gallon for petrol. Goldman Sachs is predicting we will be paying $6 by next year. Why have the extra $2 (above the current $4) go abroad? Have it go to the U.S. Treasury as a gasoline tax and be recycled back into lower payroll taxes.

Announce a schedule of gas tax hikes of 50 cents every six months for the next two years. And put a tax floor under $4 gasoline, so that as high gas prices transform the U.S. auto fleet, change driving habits and thus hugely reduce U.S. demand -- and bring down world crude oil prices -- the American consumer and the American economy reap all of the benefit.

Herewith concludes my annual exercise in futility. By the time I write next year's edition, you'll be paying for gas in bullion.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: CBH99 on June 08, 2008, 21:22:07
If I had more time, I'd find the article that relates to this.....will find it later on.

HOWEVER.....anybody heard of a concept called "overunity" engines??  "overunity generators"??  Basically, the concept of "overunity" is an engine/generator that produces more power than it consumes, in theory providing an unlimited source of power.

An Australian inventor (who's name I will find later, when I find some related articles) -- invented an Electromagnetic Overunity Engine, that could generate power indefinately.

It had no moving parts that caused friction.  Essentially, it was powered by 2 oppositely charged magnets, that could keep the engine running indefinately.  Quite a genius design, I'll post more when I'm not at work.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Bert on June 08, 2008, 22:43:15
Good piece from Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/05/AR2008060503434.html

But instead of doing the obvious -- tax the damn thing...

Want to wean us off oil? Be open and honest. The British are paying $8 a gallon for petrol. Goldman Sachs is predicting we will be paying $6 by next year. Why have the extra $2 (above the current $4) go abroad? Have it go to the U.S. Treasury as a gasoline tax and be recycled back into lower payroll taxes.

I remember decades ago a geography teacher of mine discussing oil as a finite resource. 
Easy to get to oil would be gone by 2030-ish so he said.  In the early 1990s, I read
something by Gwynne Dyer speculating the impact of if and when each Chinese or East
Indian family are able to buy a car.  The impacts of pollution and supply/demand of oil
all had consequences in a growing global economy. 

These issues may not have been something the average Canadian would think about over the
years but the consequences and even the timing of things would have been known
by various means. 

"Taxing the damn thing" to me is just the thing a government would do if it were
dealing with the price of oil and the consequences of pollution as a crisis. 
Completely side-swiped by global demand and peak oil.  You'd think the government
would have some foresight, investigate the alternatives, and shown a bit of
leadership.  Or is market place driven solutions and taxes better?

I applaud the initiatives of the Californian government and the "hydrogen highway"
concept as an example.  At least that government is providing a direction of
sorts and involved in possible solutions.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 14, 2008, 01:02:10
Like famine, energy crisis can also be self induced by uncaring or incompetent governments. Ontario will be heading down the same road soon:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1025586/FUEL-CRISIS-Forget-warnings-panic-pumps-Thanks-decades-government-neglect-Britain-set-lose-nearly-half-electricity-years.html#

Quote
Mail Online
   
FUEL CRISIS: Forget warnings of panic at the pumps. Britain is set to lose nearly half its electricity in six years

By Christopher Booker
Last updated at 11:39 PM on 10th June 2008

Time running out for our power network? Our capacity will almost be halved in six years

Every day we hear that Britain is facing a 'fuel crisis'. The world oil price breaks records every week. The cost of petrol and gas soars. Foreign suppliers of gas and oil are holding Britain to ransom and charging exorbitant prices. The average family, we are told, faces fuel bills of £1,500 a year.

Yet all this pales into insignificance compared with the real energy crisis roaring down on Britain with the speed of a bullet train as, within six or seven years, we stand to lose 40 per cent of all our existing electricity-generating capacity.

Thanks to decades of neglect and wishful thinking by successive governments - and now the devastating impact of a directive from Brussels - we are about to see 17 of our major power stations forced to close, leaving us with a massive shortfall.

Even after 2010, the experts say our power stations cannot be guaranteed to provide us with a continuous supply, meaning that we face the possibility of power cuts far worse than those which recently - largely unreported - blacked out half-a-million homes.

By 2015, when the power stations which meet two-fifths of our current electricity needs have gone out of business, we could be facing the most serious disruption to our power supplies since the 'three-day week' of the 1970s.

But the impact of such power cuts on the Britain of today would be far more damaging than they were in the time of Edward Heath 35 years ago.

Compared with then, our dependence on continuous electricity supplies is infinitely greater - thanks, above all, to our reliance on computers.

We are no longer talking just about factories shutting down or lighting our homes with candles. Without computers, our entire economy would grind to a halt.

Scarcely an office, shop, bank or hospital in the land would be able to function. Our railway system would be immobilised. Road traffic would be in chaos as traffic lights ceased to operate and petrol stations closed down.

Yet this is the scale of the catastrophe which may be facing us, thanks to the failure of government to give Britain a proper energy policy.

Scaremongering? Just look at the hard facts. At the moment, to meet Britain's peak electricity demand, our power stations need to provide a minimum 56 gigawatts (GW) of capacity.

Ten gigawatts, nearly a fifth, comes from our ageing nuclear power stations, all but one of which are so old that over the next few years they will have reached the end of their useful working life.

On top of that, however, we shall also have to shut down nine more major power stations - six coal-fired, three oil-fired - forced to close by the crippling cost of complying with an EU anti-pollution law, the so- called Large Combustion Plants directive.

This will take out another 13GW of capacity, bringing the total shortfall to 22GW - a staggering 40 per cent of the 56GW we have today.

Waking up at last to the scale of the abyss that is yawning before us, our Government - not least Prime Minister Gordon Brown - has realised the only way to avert this disaster must be to build as fast as possible at least 20 new power stations, gasfired, coal-fired or nuclear.

Part of the cause of this crisis was that, for more than two decades, we went for gas-fired power stations, in the days when we still had abundant supplies of cheap gas from the North Sea.

But that is fast running out. Within 12 years, we shall have to import 80 per cent of our gas, at a time when world prices are soaring - and it would be folly to become over-dependent for our energy on countries as politically unreliable as Mr Putin's Russia, where gas is produced.

Building new coal-fired stations might have made more sense if we hadn't closed down most of our own coal industry, and if this didn't now involve the colossal extra costs imposed by the new EU rules.

As we saw from the recent response to a proposed new coal-fired plant in Kent, any mention of coal-burning has the green lobby screaming up the wall.

As the Government itself has belatedly recognised, by far the most sensible way to try to fill the gap would be to build a new generation of nuclear power stations. But how on earth is this to be done?

There are only a handful of companies equipped to build these nuclear power plants, and countries all over the world are queuing up to place their own orders.

Until October 2006, the British Government itself owned one such firm, Westinghouse, but in an act of supreme folly we sold it to Toshiba in Japan for a knockdown &pound;2.8 billion - and it has 19 new orders on its books already.

Our best hope, it seems, is the state-owned French company EDF (Electricit&Egrave; de France), which has recently been bidding to buy British Energy, owner of almost all our existing nuclear power stations.

These would provide the most obvious sites on which to build new ones.

France, of course, went for nuclear energy in a big way just when we were retreating from it - having been world leader for 20 years - and currently derives 80 per cent of its electricity from 58 nuclear power stations.

But with such a worldwide demand for new nuclear power, what chance is there that even EDF could provide enough reactors to meet our needs, when building each new one might take ten years or more?

Yet another reason why we have allowed this mindbogglingly serious crisis to creep up on us has been the obsession of those who rule us - both in London and in Brussels - with 'renewable' energy.

Incredibly, we are 'obliged' by the EU, within 12 years, to generate no less than 38 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources - such as tens of thousands of wind turbines - when currently only 4 per cent comes from renewables, with wind farms providing barely 1 per cent.

As our Government privately recognises, we have no hope of achieving even a fraction of that target (we would anyway need to build a mass of new conventional power stations simply to supply back-up when the wind is not blowing).

Whichever way it is looked at, Britain is threatened by what, thanks to years of dereliction and misjudgment, has become arguably our most serious potential crisis of modern times.

Politically, the blame for this astounding mess lies in all directions - with the Tories, with Labour, with Brussels, with those smugly shortsighted 'environmentalists'.

But all that matters now is that we put the need to avert this disaster right at the top of our national political agenda.

We need to get on with solving as terrifying a problem as our politicians have ever faced.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 20, 2008, 18:44:10
Oil seems to be everywhere you look........

http://nextbigfuture.com/2008/06/north-dakota-bakken-oil-increasing-5000.html

Quote
North Dakota Bakken oil increasing 5000-7000 barrels per day each month, Saskatchewan's Bakken oil increasing too
 
The state (North Dakota's) Industrial Commission reports that North Dakota oil wells pumped an average of 150,578 barrels a day in April. The previous high of 147,774 barrels a day was set in August 1984. North Dakota reported 5700 more barrels of oil per day in March, 2008 March production was 143738 bopd versus February 138013 bopd.

Crescent Point Energy Trust (TSX:CPG.UN) is increasing its Bakken oil in Saskatchewan, Canada spending by $200-425 million. Crescent Point is raising its production guidance by five per cent and its distributions to investors by 15 per cent.


The Calgary-based trust said Monday the increases were due to "significant growth" in its southeast Saskatchewan Bakken resource play, better-than-expected drilling and production results in its core areas, and higher than anticipated commodity prices.

The capital budget is being increased by 89 per cent to advance development at Bakken and add production at a rate of about $25,000 per barrel of oil equivalent.

Crescent Point now expects to exit 2008 with production greater than 37,500 boe per day, and is upwardly revising its 2008 average production forecast by five per cent to 36,250 boe daily.

From the Business Week article:

North Dakota surpassed Kansas in 2006 to become the eighth-largest oil-producing state in the nation, and soon will surpass Wyoming to become seventh among oil-producing states, said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

North Dakota produced 45 million barrels of oil last year, up about 5 million barrels from 2006, Ness said.

Production this year likely will exceed the record of 52.6 million barrels set in 1984, said Lynn Helms, the director of the state Department of Mineral Resources.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: SeaKingTacco on June 22, 2008, 22:56:38
It is everywhere- it is just oil companies have been forbidden to look for it in places like most of the North American continental shelf (Around the Queen Charlottes is supposed to be especially juicy- it apparently seeps from the ground naturally in Haida Gwaii- wouldn't drilling for it sort being like cleaning it up  >:D)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: George Wallace on June 22, 2008, 23:06:47
It is everywhere- it is just oil companies have been forbidden to look for it in places like most of the North American continental shelf (Around the Queen Charlottes is supposed to be especially juicy- it apparently seeps from the ground naturally in Haida Gwaii- wouldn't drilling for it sort being like cleaning it up  >:D)

Of course, that would relieve pressure on the Continental Plates and Vancouver Island and California would slide under the ocean.   >:D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: TCBF on June 23, 2008, 13:57:46
Of course, that would relieve pressure on the Continental Plates and Vancouver Island and California would slide under the ocean.   >:D

- So, what's the downside?

 :D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: George Wallace on June 23, 2008, 14:01:33
- So, what's the downside?

 :D

None.  It would make your trip to that sandy ocean beach a much shorter drive.    ;D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GAP on June 23, 2008, 14:48:49
- So, what's the downside?

 :D

A few less Beach Bunnies.....having to hang your legs over the rockies to dip your toes in the Pacific.....minor things....
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 01, 2008, 01:04:04
Looking at alternative energy, with real numbers:

Sustainable Energy– without the hot air

http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/sustainable/book/tex/cft.pdf
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Duke_The_Patriot on July 02, 2008, 20:56:50
I was just thinking if countries might declare war on us for our tar sands. I highly suggest civilians of today to join the reserves to get training and be prepared for what may be an inevitable event.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: aesop081 on July 02, 2008, 22:23:17
I was just thinking if countries might declare war on us for our tar sands.

We're doing a good job as it is selling the stuff at a discounted rate.......no need to invade us for it.

Quote
I highly suggest civilians of today to join the reserves to get training and be prepared for what may be an inevitable event.

Hum, yeah........ok
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 02, 2008, 22:54:01
Ottawa kills two birds with one stone. This system was proposed by a number of candidates during the last municipal election here in London; alas they were not elected and our "progressive" city council seems to believe that clear plastic garbage bags and intrusive inspections of the contents (plus the blue and green boxes) is the way to go... ::)

http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/21029/?nlid=1184

Quote
Garbage In, Megawatts Out

Ottawa will build the first gasification facility in North America to make energy from waste.
By Peter Fairley

This week, city counselors in Ottawa, Ontario, unanimously approved a new waste-to-energy facility that will turn 400 metric tons of garbage per day into 21 megawatts of net electricity--enough to power about 19,000 homes. Rather than burning trash to generate heat, as with an incinerator, the facility proposed by Ottawa-based PlascoEnergy Group employs electric-plasma torches to gasify the municipal waste and enlist the gas to generate electricity.

A few waste-to-energy gasification plants have been built in Europe and Asia, where landfilling is more difficult and energy has historically been more costly. But PlascoEnergy's plant would be the first large facility of its kind in North America. The company's profitability hinges on its ability to use a cooler gasification process to lower costs, as well as on rising energy and tipping fees to ensure strong revenues.

PlascoEnergy's approval marked the latest in a string of positive developments for waste gasification projects in recent weeks. Last month, Hawaii okayed $100 million in bonds to finance a waste-to-energy plant using plasma-torch technology from Westinghouse Plasma, based in Madison, PA, that is already employed in two large Japanese waste processing plants. Meanwhile, Boston-based competitor Ze-gen reported the successful ramp-up of a 10-metric-ton-per-day pilot plant in New Bedford, MA, that uses molten iron to break down waste.

Most gasification plants work by subjecting waste to extreme heat in the absence of oxygen. Under these conditions, the waste breaks down to yield a blend of hydrogen and carbon monoxide called syngas that can be burned in turbines and engines. What has held back the technology in North America is high operating costs. Plasma plants, using powerful electrical currents to produce a superhot plasma that catalyzes waste breakdown, tend to consume most of the energy they generate. As a result, the focus of plasma gasification plants has been to simply destroy hazardous wastes. "There was really no thought of being able to produce net power," says PlascoEnergy CEO Rod Bryden.

PlascoEnergy started looking at gasification for municipal solid waste five years ago, when it determined through simulation that cooler plasma torches could do the job. "The amount of heat required to separate gases from solids was much less than the amount being delivered when the purpose was simply to destroy the material," says Bryden. PlascoEnergy tested the models on its five-metric-ton-per-day pilot plant in Castellgali, Spain (jointly operated with Hera Holdings, Spain's second largest waste handler). In January, the company began large-scale trials in a 100-metric-ton-per-day demonstration plant built in partnership with the city of Ottawa.

Here's how it works. First, bulk metals are removed, and the rest of the shredded waste is conveyed to a 700 ºC gasification chamber. Most of it volatilizes to a complex blend of gases and rises toward a plasma torch operating at 1200 ºC--well below the 3000 to 5000 ºC used with hazardous wastes. The plasma reduces the complex blend to a few simple gases, such as steam, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen, plus assorted contaminants such as mercury and sulfur; subsequent cleanup systems remove the steam and mercury and scrub out the soot before the syngas is sent to an internal combustion engine generator.

The waste that doesn't volatilize forms a solid slag and drops to the bottom of the gasification chamber. The slag is then pushed to another plasma torch, which drives off remaining carbon in the slag before the slag is cooled and vitrifies. The resulting glass can be blended into asphalt road surfacing or cement.[/b]

Under its deal with Ottawa, PlascoEnergy will cover the estimated $125 million that it takes to build the plant, which could be operating within three years, while the city will pay only standard tipping fees--on the order of $60 per metric ton.

Ze-gen plans to avoid the challenge of handling complex municipal wastes by focusing first on an easier-to-handle feedstock: construction and demolition wood wastes. The company has filed seven patents on its molten metal gasification technology and waste-to-syngas process, but the equipment itself is standard for the steel industry, which uses molten iron to catalytically drive off impurities from ore. Ze-gen's pilot plant processes wood waste using a standard electrically heated steel-industry crucible full of molten iron.

Ze-gen CEO Bill Davis estimates that a full-size plant just slightly bigger than PlascoEnergy's commercial plant will produce enough syngas to create 30 megawatts of electricity, but he says that the syngas is also of sufficient quality to be used in other applications. As examples, he cites synthetic gasoline, diesel production, and refinery applications.


Copyright Technology Review 2008.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: hauger on July 03, 2008, 10:46:18
HOWEVER.....anybody heard of a concept called "overunity" engines??  "overunity generators"??  Basically, the concept of "overunity" is an engine/generator that produces more power than it consumes, in theory providing an unlimited source of power.

An Australian inventor (who's name I will find later, when I find some related articles) -- invented an Electromagnetic Overunity Engine, that could generate power indefinately.

It had no moving parts that caused friction.  Essentially, it was powered by 2 oppositely charged magnets, that could keep the engine running indefinately.  Quite a genius design, I'll post more when I'm not at work.

What?  I'm guessing you're pulling legs here.  If not, maybe take a peek at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_motion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_motion) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_energy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_energy).  I'm hoping you didn't mail the guy a cheque for #$29.95 for a copy of plans to build your own "overunity" engine.

********************
On another note, I see three possible solutions to the current $145/bbl oil problem.

Solution # 1: Put the "speculators" up against the wall.  Most people I run into that try not to believe in peak oil tend to blame the "speculators" and ignore declining US inventories and the fact that eventually the "speculators" have to actually SELL the oil to someone for $145/bbl (hence supply & demand).  Anyways, buying the logic, the solution is to put the "speculators" against the wall and then instantly begin enjoying $40 oil all over again!

Solution # 2: Lots and lots of little technological/societal changes.  For example, how's about electric runabouts for city dwellers with maybe Butanol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butanol_fuel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butanol_fuel)) for rural dwellers.  Algae Diesel for the 18 wheel truckers and train turbines (and maybe even for aviation).  Hydrogen plans for sucking money from suckers who believe it's the future.  Light rail for commuters and heavy rail fro long distance shipping (vise the current 18 wheelers travelling cross country).  Nuke powered really, really big super-duper tankers for ocean shipping, and the general acceptance that cheap, plentiful energy is gone and the best you can hope for is price stable and supply stable sources.  ***side note:  I've read a bunch of posts spewing about nuclear fusion as potentially cheap and clean.  The cheap is REALLY up for debate, and the clean, well, maybe look it up.  The thing with fusion is every now and again you have to abandon the plant thanks to heavy neutron bombardment making the thing nasty-radioactive).

Solution # 3:  Okay, sit up and pay attention here.  The oil problem might SEEM like a tough nut to crack, but the reality is it's so easy to crack it's almost silly.  About 1,321,416,800 km away is the planet Saturn and the moon Titan, and like a gift from god it holds more easily accessable hydrocarbons than the entire Earth (http://www.universetoday.com/2008/02/13/titan-has-hundreds-of-times-more-liquid-hydrocarbons-than-earth/ (http://www.universetoday.com/2008/02/13/titan-has-hundreds-of-times-more-liquid-hydrocarbons-than-earth/).  The gameplan here is to simply bomb up on the shuttle and pick up a load for shipping back to Earth.  The tech exists today, look at the probes we've already sent.  Eventually (in the near future), you pile a bunch of engineers into a locked room with unlimited coffee and snack food and don't let them out till they come up with a way to sink a fat pipe on Titan that'll maintain geosynchronous orbit and sucks the good from Titan to us users here on Earth.  Try not to think of the global warming problem that *might* come from burning vast amounts of extra-planetary carbon here on Earth.


Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 03, 2008, 11:05:40
I like the way you think, but don't forget you need to include the energy costs to get to and from Saturn in your calculations. I don't think extra terrestrial hydrocarbons will be a bargin at $1,000,000/bbl  ;). If you are going to harvest Helium3 then I'm in.

Personally, I think the real answer will be lots of little changes (Solution #2).
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 06, 2008, 00:20:56
The market provides its own solutions:

http://www.joesherlock.com/blog.html

Quote
Doomed Unionists: Be glad you're not a United Auto Worker.

Douglas A. McIntyre of 24/7 Wall St. reports, "The UAW's members have become prisoners of the economic war, used now as galley slaves rowing a fleet of doomed ships of into the hellish center of an oil-crazed war between OPEC and the US dollar. All of them will drown shackled to their ships.

It was supposed to be different. The union cut a deal to save some jobs and take control of its own pension and retirement packages. A part of the consideration meant to fund those pools was to come in the form of car company stock.

Now, the industry is falling apart, and the UAW has no chance to get out."

Doug concludes: "The UAW cannot escape responsibility ... they were a sea lamprey attached to the big car companies, living off the success of their hosts. They showed no alarm when Detroit moved almost its entire production cycle to SUVs and pick-ups. The top auto executives will not lose their jobs, but the workers on the assembly line will."

The top guys always wear parachutes. Golden ones.

Summer Sag: Car sales were generally dismal for June. According to Autodata, the overall market fell 18.3 percent. It was the worst June for the industry in 17 years.

Chrysler was the worst - down 36%. The Dodge Durango was off 67 percent, Chrysler Aspen down 49% and Jeep Commander dropped 68%. And Chrysler's cars led the slump, falling 49%, while trucks slid "only" 30%. Poor car sales relative to gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks indicate just how dismal Chrysler's non-truck offerings really are. These data forecast a Chrysler Death Spiral. Chapter 11 may be just around the next turn. Dead man's curve, maybe?

FoMoCo's sales dropped 28.1% overall. Truck sales were down 36%. Big SUVs are dead - the Expedition was off 59.8 percent, the Explorer was down 52.0%. The Taurus dropped 54% - a no-confidence indicator for the dull-as-ditchwater model formerly known as the 500. But Fusion sales were up 18.4%. Ford is hurting because it still has too many trucks and SUVs in its portfolio, representing almost 65% of sales.

On a happier note, Honda sales were up 13.8 percent. The Fit was up 101%, Accord up 55%, and Civic up 23%. Honda had two of the top five selling cars in the US during June, the Civic and Accord. Car sales make up 69% of Honda's offerings; truck and SUV represent only 31% of sales.

Toyota sales were down a surprising 21.5%; big sedans like the Avalon and Lexus LS460 were off over 42%. Even the Camry was down 10.8%. Corolla sales up 15.5% but the Yaris was down 7.5%. Sales of the budget Scion brand were up only 5.6%. Lexus sales were off by 30% - much worse than competitors BMW (down 17%) or Mercedes (no change). Toyota's mix is similar to Honda - car sales 65.6%; truck, van and SUV sales 34.4% - and, therefore, should be a winner. But the June sales numbers indicate otherwise. Toyota claimed it didn't have enough of its fuel-efficient Prius, Corolla or Yaris cars at dealerships to keep up with demand.

GM's sales dropped only 18.2 percent for the month, helped by a big month-end blowout sale. All brands were down but Hummer took the cake with a whopping 59+% drop. Saab was down by 57%; Buick was off by almost 42%. Looking at specific models, Caddy CTS sales were up 16%, Chevy Cobalt sales were up almost 22% (although the little Aveo was down by almost 20%), Malibu sales were up 73+% (mostly at the expense of Impala sales), Pontiac G6 was up 34.2% and the Saturn Aura sedan was up 25.6%. In the SUV world, Cadillac SXR sales were up by 12%, Saturn Vue was up 24.8% and Chevy Equinox sales increased by an inexplicable 45.9%.

Nissan sales declined 17.7 percent overall, with trucks off 37.9%. The gas-hungry Titan pickup and Pathfinder SUV models were down by over 71% each.

All of the above numbers are not adjusted for 'selling days' - an antiquated concept, since so many dealers are now open for business seven days a week and consumers gather decision-making information 24/7 on the net.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on July 08, 2008, 01:36:35
Hah.  Looks good on them.

Quote
Now, the industry is falling apart, and the UAW has no chance to get out."
Doug concludes: "The UAW cannot escape responsibility ... they were a sea lamprey attached to the big car companies, living off the success of their hosts.


That is a great statement.  But I doubt people will clue in to how useless and counter productive the CAW/UAW are until they successfully drive all the auto jobs out of North America. 
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 22, 2008, 22:42:44
T. Boone Pickens steps up with his plan:

http://www.pickensplan.com/theplan/
http://www.pickensplan.com/share/
http://push.pickensplan.com/

In a nutshell, he claims that a giant investment in windpower can generate up to 20% of US electrical energy demand, and free up natural gas that is currently burned in electrical generators (usually peak load generators) for use as a transportation fuel.

You have to give the guy credit; he certainly thinks big (and seems to have the chops to push this in a big way). On the other hand, large scale supply by irregular sources like wind has the potential to destabilize the grid unless an equally massive system of load leveling devices is attached to the grid. (Come to think of it, using batteries, giant flywheels or even more exotic devices to store power generated in off peak times and release it to the grid at peak demand might actually be more sensible and technically feasible).

Converting cars to natural gas is feasible (although a bit of a chore), I would suggest municipal and government fleets are probably a better first step WRT converting to natural gas power from an infrastructure perspective.

Best of luck to Mr. Pickens!
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 25, 2008, 18:33:03
Brazillian ethanol, by the numbers:

http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/2008/Q3/mail528.html#Wednesday

Quote
Brazilian ethanol  

Dear Jerry,

RE: Ethanol and Brazil, there seems to have been a little confusion in the discussion with your correspondent "Charlie" in Mail for July 19, 2008. "Charlie" wrote:

"Re Venezuela: they have a population of about 26 million, in an area roughly twice the size of California. According to the US Census bureau, California has a population of roughly 36 million people; so, very roughly, Venezuela has about 1/3rd the population density of California."

Your reply correctly identified Brazil as the country that has switched most of it's automobile and truck transportation to ethanol fuel. "Charlie's" numbers may be correct of Venezuela, but they are not the numbers for Brazil.The actual numbers for Brazil, from the CIA World Factbook:

(https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/
the-world-factbook/geos/br.html) 

gives Brazil's population as about 192 million. The land area of Brazil is roughly equal to that of the USA. Their economy is about 2 trillion dollars, and their "motorization" rate is about 200 cars per thousand population. Their labor force is 99 million, or about half of the total population. Unemployment is about 9 per cent. The United States numbers respectively are about 14 Trillion dollars and 800 cars per thousand population. USA employment is roughly proportionally equal to that of Brazil, though with about half the rate of unemployment in the USA as compared to Brazil.

Based on a population of 192 million. these numbers give Brazil about 40 million automobiles and trucks. America, population about 300 million, has about 240 million cars and trucks; six times as many as Brazil.

Three-quarters of the fuel used by those Brazilian vehicles is ethanol, produced almost exclusively by fermentation of sugar produced in Brazil from Brazilian sugar cane.

With a thriving domestic oil industry, Brazil is a net exporter of petroleum.

So Brazil, with an economy about one-sixth of the USA. and also one-sixth the number of cars and trucks in the USA, runs those cars and trucks without imported oil. One-sixth as large of an economy for Brazil as the USA, and one-sixth as many cars as the USA. So it seems that if the USA scales up the Brazilian effort by a factor of six, and "Voila!" the USA is free of OPEC. No?

No.

You need a semi-tropical to tropical climate to grow sugar cane effectively. This rules out all but the southernmost states and Hawaii as candidates for sugar cane production.. Most USA cane is groan in Hawaii, Louisiana and Floria, about 3.7 million aces. Brazil uses about 35 million acres for cane production. To match their effort, you'd need about 220 million acres in cane. There's probably not enough good land with proper climate for sugar cane in the USA.

So we can use corn? You need to use twice as many acres in corn to get the same amount of ethanol as sugar cane gets you per acre.(You get about300 gallons of Ethanol per corn acre, about 600 gallons per acre of sugar cane.) So you'll need twelve times the Brazilian acreage devoted to sugar cane production to equal their effort by using corn. That works out to about 440 million acres. Thats roughly 670,000 square miles. Imagine a million farms, each of 500 acres (that's a fair piece of land for a family to farm), and each one covered with corn (leaving 60 or so acres for a house, outbuildings and roads). A million such farms, just for ethanol.

By the way, growing corn is hard, dirty work, even with air-conditioned tractors and combines. My family did it for generations, and I have personal experience. It's tough. If you own 500 acres of good corn land, you can sell it for about half a million dollars, move to town, buy a house for a hundred thousand, and retire. So you really need to make a good living or really love hot, hard and dirty work if you decide to grow corn.

In Brazil they pay workers 200 dollars a month to harvest sugar cane by hand. Each worker must manually cut with a machete seven to eight TONS per workday to earn that 200 dollars.

Try finding ANYone in the USA to do that sort of work at even ten times that pay. I would not grow corn for $2000.00 a month, much less harvest sugar cane.

You can read about all this at:

http://www.gronabilister.se/file.php?
REF=39461a19e9eddfb385ea76b26
521ea48&art=376&FILE_ID=20060511084611.pdf 

Also, before you harvest sugar cane by hand, you first burn the cane to soften the plants for cutting. This releases so much smoke and flying cinders that the workers must wear special wire mesh goggles to protect their eyes. I can imagine what OSHA and EPA would make of that practice.. The process at American cane plantations is likely mechanized and thus avoids all this, but of course THAT costs money and fuel.

Oh, and when you burn the cane fields, you release Carbon Dioxide. A lot. How's that gonna fly with the Greens?

It gets worse. it was a military dictatorship in the seventies and eighties that decreed Brazil's switch to ethanol from gasoline. That's decree as in "Do this or you go to jail without trial, and ho Habeas Corpus."

Then again, increasingly, our Congress acts much like a junta, only with less efficiency and accountability. Who knows?

Bottom line: Brazil is indeed a special case. In spades. The USA could throw out environmental regulations, worker safety, import cheap labor from countries to the south (well, at least we have that part of the infrastructure set up and "working"!) and then scale up what Brazil has done by a factor of six. I's technically feasible. It's not gonna happen.

As you pointed out, given enough energy, we can do anything the laws of physics don't forbid. Give me enough electricity, and I can make ethanol or anything else that is physically possible. It's all just physics. (Do remember that Chemistry is a special case of Physics, and Biology in turn a special case of chemistry. EVERYthing is Physics.) This means nuclear power plants CAN indeed provide fuel for nonautomotive, trucks, ships and aircraft. With enough energy you can sling molecules of every variety into any combination possible.

With enough "cheap" energy you can use "inefficient" reactions to produce fuel or anything else you need. Wealth is energy, energy is wealth,:they're one and the same thing.

Sorry to go on at such length about this, but you know how important all of this is, and clarity is vital to rational discussion.

Many thanks, and thrive!

Petronius
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 29, 2008, 13:51:44
From the Economist:

http://www.economist.com/specialreports/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11565685

Quote
The power and the glory
Jun 19th 2008
From The Economist print edition

The next technology boom may well be based on alternative energy, says Geoffrey Carr (interviewed here). But which sort to back?
Illustration by Ian Whadcock
EVERYONE loves a booming market, and most booms happen on the back of technological change. The world’s venture capitalists, having fed on the computing boom of the 1980s, the internet boom of the 1990s and the biotech and nanotech boomlets of the early 2000s, are now looking around for the next one. They think they have found it: energy.

Many past booms have been energy-fed: coal-fired steam power, oil-fired internal-combustion engines, the rise of electricity, even the mass tourism of the jet era. But the past few decades have been quiet on that front. Coal has been cheap. Natural gas has been cheap. The 1970s aside, oil has been cheap. The one real novelty, nuclear power, went spectacularly off the rails. The pressure to innovate has been minimal.

In the space of a couple of years, all that has changed. Oil is no longer cheap; indeed, it has never been more expensive. Moreover, there is growing concern that the supply of oil may soon peak as consumption continues to grow, known supplies run out and new reserves become harder to find.

The idea of growing what you put in the tank of your car, rather than sucking it out of a hole in the ground, no longer looks like economic madness. Nor does the idea of throwing away the tank and plugging your car into an electric socket instead. Much of the world’s oil is in the hands of governments who have little sympathy with the rich West. When a former head of America’s Central Intelligence Agency allies himself with tree-hugging greens that his outfit would once have suspected of subversion, you know something is up. Yet that is one tack James Woolsey is trying in order to reduce his country’s dependence on imported oil.

The price of natural gas, too, has risen in sympathy with oil. That is putting up the cost of electricity. Wind- and solar-powered alternatives no longer look so costly by comparison. It is true that coal remains cheap, and is the favoured fuel for power stations in industrialising Asia. But the rich world sees things differently.

In theory, there is a long queue of coal-fired power stations waiting to be built in America. But few have been completed in the past 15 years and many in that queue have been put on hold or withdrawn, for two reasons. First, Americans have become intolerant of large, polluting industrial plants on their doorsteps. Second, American power companies are fearful that they will soon have to pay for one particular pollutant, carbon dioxide, as is starting to happen in other parts of the rich world. Having invested heavily in gas-fired stations, only to find themselves locked into an increasingly expensive fuel, they do not want to make another mistake.

That has opened up a capacity gap and an opportunity for wind and sunlight. The future price of these resources—zero—is known. That certainty has economic value as a hedge, even if the capital cost of wind and solar power stations is, at the moment, higher than that of coal-fired ones.

The reasons for the boom, then, are tangled, and the way they are perceived may change. Global warming, a long-range phenomenon, may not be uppermost in people’s minds during an economic downturn. High fuel prices may fall as new sources of supply are exploited to fill rising demand from Asia. Security of supply may improve if hostile governments are replaced by friendly ones and sources become more diversified. But none of the reasons is likely to go away entirely.

Global warming certainly will not. “Peak oil”, if oil means the traditional sort that comes cheaply out of holes in the ground, probably will arrive soon. There is oil aplenty of other sorts (tar sands, liquefied coal and so on), so the stuff is unlikely to run out for a long time yet. But it will get more expensive to produce, putting a floor on the price that is way above today’s. And political risk will always be there—particularly for oil, which is so often associated with bad government for the simple reason that its very presence causes bad government in states that do not have strong institutions to curb their politicians.

A prize beyond the dreams of avarice
The market for energy is huge. At present, the world’s population consumes about 15 terawatts of power. (A terawatt is 1,000 gigawatts, and a gigawatt is the capacity of the largest sort of coal-fired power station.) That translates into a business worth $6 trillion a year—about a tenth of the world’s economic output—according to John Doerr, a venture capitalist who is heavily involved in the industry. And by 2050, power consumption is likely to have risen to 30 terawatts.

Scale is one of the important differences between the coming energy boom, if it materialises, and its recent predecessors—particularly those that relied on information technology, a market measured in mere hundreds of billions. Another difference is that new information technologies tend to be disruptive, forcing the replacement of existing equipment, whereas, say, building wind farms does not force the closure of coal-fired power stations.

For both of these reasons, any transition from an economy based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable, alternative, green energy—call it what you will—is likely to be slow, as similar changes have been in the past (see chart 1). On the other hand, the scale of the market provides opportunities for alternatives to prove themselves at the margin and then move into the mainstream, as is happening with wind power at the moment. And some energy technologies do have the potential to be disruptive. Plug-in cars, for example, could be fuelled with electricity at a price equivalent to 25 cents a litre of petrol. That could shake up the oil, carmaking and electricity industries all in one go.

The innovation lull of the past few decades also provides opportunities for technological leapfrogging. Indeed, it may be that the field of energy gives the not-quite-booms in biotechnology and nanotechnology the industrial applications they need to grow really big, and that the three aspiring booms will thus merge into one.

The possibility of thus recapturing the good times of their youth has brought many well-known members of the “technorati” out of their homes in places like Woodside, California. Energy has become supercool. Elon Musk, who co-founded PayPal, has developed a battery-powered sports car. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, have started an outfit called Google.org that is searching for a way to make renewable energy truly cheaper than coal (or RE<C, as they describe it to their fellow geeks).

Vinod Khosla, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, is turning his considerable skills as a venture capitalist towards renewable energy, as are Robert Metcalfe, who invented the ethernet system used to connect computers together in local networks, and Mr Doerr, who works at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley’s best-known venture-capital firms. Sir Richard Branson, too, is getting in on the act with his Virgin Green Fund.

This renewed interest in energy is bringing forth a raft of ideas, some bright, some batty, that is indeed reminiscent of the dotcom boom. As happened in that boom, most of these ideas will come to naught. But there could just be a PayPal or a Google or a Sun among them.

More traditional companies are also taking an interest. General Electric (GE), a large American engineering firm, already has a thriving wind-turbine business and is gearing up its solar-energy business. The energy researchers at its laboratories in Schenectady, New York, enjoy much of the intellectual freedom associated with start-up firms, combined with a secure supply of money.

Meanwhile, BP and Shell, two of the world’s biggest oil companies, are sponsoring both academic researchers and new, small firms with bright ideas, as is DuPont, one of the biggest chemical companies. Not everyone has joined in. Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest oil company not in government hands, is conspicuously absent. But in many boardrooms renewables are no longer seen as just a way of keeping environmentalists off companies’ backs.

Some people complain that many existing forms of renewable energy rely on subsidies or other forms of special treatment for their viability. On the surface, that is true. Look beneath, though, and the whole energy sector is riddled with subsidies, both explicit and hidden, and costs that are not properly accounted for. Drawing on the work of people like Boyden Gray, a former White House counsel, Mr Woolsey estimates that American oil companies receive preferential treatment from their government worth more than $250 billion a year. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations-appointed group of scientific experts, reckons that fossil fuels should carry a tax of $20-50 for every tonne of carbon dioxide they generate in order to pay for the environmental effects of burning them (hence the fears of the power-generators).

So the subsidies and mandates offered to renewable sources of power such as wind turbines often just level the playing field. It is true that some subsidies amount to unwarranted market-rigging: examples include those handed by cloudy Germany to its solar-power industry and by America to its maize-based ethanol farmers when Brazilian sugar-based ethanol is far cheaper. Others, though, such as a requirement that a certain proportion of electricity be derived from non-fossil-fuel sources, make no attempt to pick particular technological winners. They merely act to stimulate innovation by guaranteeing a market to things that actually work.

If the world were rational, all of these measures would be swept away and replaced by a proper tax on carbon—as is starting to happen in Europe, where the price arrived at by the cap-and-trade system being introduced is close to the IPCC’s recommendation. If that occurred, wind-based electricity would already be competitive with fossil fuels and others would be coming close. Failing that, special treatment for alternatives is probably the least bad option—though such measures need to be crafted in ways that favour neither incumbents nor particular ways of doing things, and need to be withdrawn when they are no longer necessary.

The poor world turns greener too
That, at least, is the view from the rich world. But poorer, rapidly developing countries are also taking more of an interest in renewable energy sources, despite assertions to the contrary by some Western politicians and businessmen. It is true that China is building coal-fired power stations at a blazing rate. But it also has a large wind-generation capacity, which is expected to grow by two-thirds this year, and is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of solar panels—not to mention having the largest number of solar-heated rooftop hot-water systems in its buildings.

Brazil, meanwhile, has the world’s second-largest (just behind America) and most economically honest biofuel industry, which already provides 40% of the fuel consumed by its cars and should soon supply 15% of its electricity, too (through the burning of sugarcane waste). South Africa is leading the effort to develop a new class of safe and simple nuclear reactor—not renewable energy in the strict sense, but carbon-free and thus increasingly welcome. These countries, and others like them, are prepared to look beyond fossil fuels. They will get their energy where they can. So if renewables and other alternatives can compete on cost, the poor and the rich world alike will adopt them.

That, however, requires innovation. Such innovation is most likely to come out of the laboratories of rich countries. At a recent debate at Columbia University, which The Economist helped to organise, Mr Khosla defended the proposition, “The United States will solve the climate-change problem”. The Californian venture capitalist argued that if cheaper alternatives to fossil fuels are developed, simple economics will ensure their adoption throughout the world. He also insisted that the innovation which will create those alternatives will come almost entirely out of America.

As it happens, he lost. But that does not mean he is wrong. There are lots of terawatts to play for and lots of money to be made. And if the planet happens to be saved on the way, that is all to the good.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GAP on July 29, 2008, 15:11:27
Really good article...thanks..
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on August 08, 2008, 00:36:22
Quote
The great oil bubble has burst
By Martin Vander Weyer
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 08/08/2008

Bad news from the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline - an installation that may not normally draw much of your attention, but which is a throbbing artery of global energy supply, carrying vital oil supplies from Central Asia towards a tanker terminal on the Turkish coast. On some remote, sun-baked plain of Anatolia, an explosion sparked a fire earlier this week, temporarily cutting the flow through the pipeline.

But guess what? Here's the good news: the oil price did not zoom upwards in response, not a blip, barely a flicker. Actually the price of a barrel of crude has been falling: from a peak of $145 in early July, it came down to $117 and was trading yesterday at $120. That's almost a 20 per cent drop in little more than three weeks.

   
A return to relatively normal oil prices would take the sting out of inflation
If the trend continues into September at anything like the same rate of descent, most of the inflationary spike of the past 12 months will miraculously have been sliced away. This is a dramatic reversal, and it is worth trying to work out why it is happening and what it means.

Just possibly, it means that what investors refer to in shorthand as the great "oil up" story has finally revealed itself not as the fundamental reflection of scarce supply that its adherents liked to claim, but as a simple, speculative bubble that was always going to burst.

The market's conviction that oil prices were set on an unstoppable upswing was underpinned by a set of mantras to be chanted daily before breakfast by anyone hoping to make money by following the crowd: insatiable demand from China; indolent Opec sheikhs unwilling to open the supply taps; that nasty Vladimir Putin playing political hardball with Russia's oil and gas resources; those mad Iranian mullahs hell-bent on nuclear conflict; and beyond all these, the looming threat of "peak oil", the inevitable moment when Mother Earth's carbon-fuel gauge starts pointing towards empty.

One way or another, said the fundamentalists, the only destination for oil prices in the medium term was somewhere north of $200 a barrel. And hooray to that, chorused the green lobby, because it may be the only thing that will ever make us wake up to the need to stop cooking the planet with carbon emissions.
 ...


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/08/08/do0801.xml

Impact story - reduction of tax revenues to Canadian governments (and reduction of McGuinty's envy)

On the other hand I believe that the author is missing a bigger impact on the price of oil - the rising popular perception that Iraq is stabilizing.  In an earlier post on Iraq I suggested that one of the reasons for the continuing effort to destabilize the Islamic Crescent was to make the southern supply of oil to Europe more problematic and thus boost both the value and attraction of Putin's Northern Hydrocarbons.

I believe that both Putin and the Market are starting to see Southern Hydrocarbons as a viable alternative.  I expect to see the Turkish pipeline completion to be announced shortly and the Kazakhs announce new negotiations on supplying oil to Europe via a Caspian pipeline.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on September 10, 2008, 16:18:25
Speculators are to blame for the recent swings in oil prices. How do we protect ourselves against the influx or outflow of mad monies?

http://news.yahoo.com/story//ap/20080910/ap_on_go_co/oil_speculation

Quote
Study links oil prices to investor speculation
   
By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 10 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Speculation by large investors — and not supply and demand for oil — were a primary reason for the surge in oil prices during the first half of the year and the more recent price declines, an independent study concluded Wednesday.

The report by Masters Capital Management said investors poured $60 billion into oil futures markets during the first five months of the year as oil prices soared from $95 a barrel in January to $145 a barrel by July.

Since then, these investors have withdrawn $39 billion from those markets as prices have retreated dramatically, the report said. Oil traded at about $102 a barrel Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

"We have clear evidence the fund flow pushed prices up and the fund flow pushed prices down," said Michael Masters of Masters Capital Management, calling the amount of money moving into oil futures markets by large institutional investors in the early part of the year "way off the scale."

Masters said its analysis shows investors "began a massive stampede for the exits" on July 15 and that this caused the price decline.

"These large financial players have become the primary source of the dramatic and damaging volatility seen in oil prices," concluded the report.

The report was released Wednesday by House and Senate sponsors of bills to put additional curbs on oil market speculation and comes in advance of a report on oil market speculation expected possibly this week by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. The commission regulates commodity markets.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a sponsor of an anti-speculation bill, said the Masters report challenges CFTC claims to date that supply and demand forces — and not excessive speculation — has driven up oil prices.

"This analysis illustrates that when oil speculators poured large amounts of speculative money into oil markets, prices skyrocketed just as they were hoping ... And when the speculative money got pulled out, prices tumbled," she said.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said he wants to know "how oil speculators were able to drive prices up and down while the CFTC was asleep at the switch."

An interagency task force, led by the CFTC, concluded in an interim report last July that "fundamental supply and demand factors" influence the oil markets and that the data "does not support the proposition that speculative activity has systematically driven changes in oil prices."

Senate critics of the regulatory agency charged that report was based in flawed evidence.

"The CFTC has its head in the sand," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee.

Stupak said the Masters report shows that that oil prices soared when speculators poured money into future markets even as the federal Energy Information Administration was forecasting supply would exceed demand.

Congress for months has been considering various measures aimed at curbing oil market speculation, but those efforts have been thwarted amid disputes over other energy issues from taxing oil companies to new offshore drilling.

Legislation before the Senate would put limits on the amount of oil certain traders, interested only in speculation, would be allowed to purchase in futures markets and give new authorities and staff to the CFTC to regulate oil markets.

(This version CORRECTS SUBS 3rd graf to correct price, $102 sted $1.02. Moving on general news and financial services.)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on September 15, 2008, 23:23:09
More numbers:

http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/suncor_energy_and_canadian_oil_sands/message/3609

Quote
The magnitude of the energy problem becomes apparent when you compare the energy that you can get per $1 of gasoline vs. the energy you can get per $1 for solar. We'll first run the numbers for gasoline and then do the same for solar. The numbers below are
rounded/approximations, but they should convey the magnitude of the differences.

If you fill up your car with gasoline, the pump delivers about 4 gallons per minute. Thus it takes about 15 seconds per gallon. If you
use $3 per gallon for the cost of gasoline, then it takes 5 seconds to pump 1/3 of a gallon of gasoline which costs you $1. One gallon of
gasoline has the energy content of about 120,000 BTUs (BTU = British Thermal Unit. Also the energy content per gallon varies slightly.)
Thus, using gasoline, it takes about 5 seconds and $1 to pump 40,000 BTUs into your car.

Next we calculate how long you would have to have a solar panel in place in order to get a similar amount of energy per 1$ spent. We
will only consider the initial capital cost of the solar panel and ignore installation costs, repair costs, cost of land for placement
of the panel, opportunity costs for the up front capital that has been used (cost of money), dust/dirt that accumulates on the panels
and has to be washed off, etc.

A 200 watt solar panel costs about $1,000. (For example, see http://www.solarhome.org/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=1181 ). This of course does not include installation costs, auxiliary equipment, etc. to tie the panel into existing electrical systems.

The panel will only generate 200 watts when it directly faces the sun. In early morning or late afternoon hours you get very little
useful power. (A tracking system will increase this somewhat, but this adds to the cost and will require more land area for your solar
panels.) Also, if it is cloudy, your solar panel will not help a whole lot. For calculation purposes, we will assume that you average
the equivalent of 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. Thus your daily energy generation per panel is 200 x 4 = 800 watt-hours per day.

1000 watt-hours equals 1 kWh (kilowatt-hour). Your solar panel will generate 0.8 kWh per day. (If your electric rate is $0.10 per kWh,
then your $1,000 solar panel will deliver $0.08 worth of electricity per day.) 1 kWh is the equivalent of 3413 BTUs. Your solar panel will
deliver about 0.8 x 3413 = 2,730 BTUs per day. You spent $1,000 for your panel. Thus your energy return per $1 spent is just 2.73 BTUs
per day.

Finally, we can calculate how long your solar panel has to be in place so that the energy return per $1 from your solar panel adds up
to the 40,000 BTUs that you got in 5 seconds from gasoline. We just divide 40,000 by 2.73 to find out that it will take 14,652 days which
is a tad over 40 years. It takes only 5 seconds to get the same amount of energy per $1 spent for gasoline.

We ignore the length of time it takes to "fill-er-up" with gasoline when we make a typical trip to the grocery store to buy food. What
happens if it takes 40 years to fill up your electric vehicle with enough energy for one round trip to the grocery store? How about the
trucks that deliver food to the grocery store? We assume that there will be some magic solution that will allow us to continue life as
per usual. If you run the numbers, it looks like we are not even close to "a solution".

If/when the price of gasoline goes up by a factor of 10 (to $30 per gallon), does that make any difference in the viability of solar?

Now what?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: muskrat89 on October 07, 2008, 14:33:49
I received this in an e-mail today:
Quote
Subject: Fwd: OIL IN USA
> GOOGLE it or follow this link. It will blow your mind.
> http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1911
>
> The U.S. Geological Service issued a report in April ('08) that only
> scientists and oilmen knew was coming, but man was it big. It was a
> revised report (hadn't been updated since '95) on how much oil was in
> this area of the western 2/3 of North Dakota; western South Dakota; and
> extreme eastern Montana ... check THIS out:
>
> The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since Alaska 's
> Prudhoe Bay , and has the potential to eliminate all American dependence
> on foreign oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates it
> at 503 billion barrels. Even if just 10% of the oil is recoverable... at
> $107 a barrel, we're looking at a resource base worth more than $5.3
> trillion.
>
> 'When I first briefed legislators on this, you could practically see
> their jaws hit the floor. They had no idea.' says Terry Johnson, the
> Montana Legislature's financial analyst.
>
> 'This sizable find is now the highest-producing onshore oil field found
> in the past 56 years,' reports The Pittsburgh Post Gazette. It's a
> formation known as the Williston Basin , but is more commonly referred
> to as the 'Bakken.' And it stretches from Northern Montana, through
> North Dakota and into Canada . For years, U.S.oil exploration has been
> considered a dead end. Even the 'Big Oil' companies gave up searching
> for major oil wells decades ago. However, a recent technological
> breakthrough ha s opened up the Bakken's massive reserves... and we now
> have access of up to 500 billion barrels. And because this is light,
> sweet oil, those billions of barrels will cost Americans just $16 PER
> BARREL!
>
> That's enough crude to fully fuel the American economy for 41 years
> straight.
>
> 2. [And if THAT didn't throw you on the floor, then this next one should
> - because it's from TWO YEARS AGO, people!]
>
> U.S.Oil Discovery- Largest Reserve in the World!
> Stansberry Report Onli ne - 4/20/2006 Hidden 1,000 feet beneath the
> surface of the Rocky Mountains lies the largest untapped oil reserve in
> the world is more than 2 TRILLION barrels. On August 8, 2005 President
> Bush mandated its extraction.
>
> They reported this stunning news: We have more oil inside our borders,
> than all the other proven reserves on earth. Here are the official
> estimates:
>
> -8-times as much oil as Saudi Arabia
> -18-times as much oil a s Iraq
> -21-times as much oil as Kuwait
> -22-times as much oil as Iran
> -500-times as much oil as Yemen- and it's all right here in the
> Western United States .
>
> HOW can this BE? HOW can we NOT BE extracting this!? Because the
> democrats,environmentalists and left wing republicans have blocked all
> efforts to help America become independent of foreign oil.
>
> James Bartis, lead researcher with the study says we've got more oil in
> this very compact area than the entire Middle East -more than 2 TRILLION
> barrels. Untapped. That's more than all the proven oil reserves of crude
> oil in the world today, reports The Denver Post.

Sorry for not editing out the carrots  :-[  Anyway, I checked out the link, and sure enough...
http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1911

Quote
Reston, VA - North Dakota and Montana have an estimated 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil in an area known as the Bakken Formation.

A U.S. Geological Survey assessment, released April 10, shows a 25-fold increase in the amount of oil that can be recovered compared to the agency's 1995 estimate of 151 million barrels of oil.

Related Podcasts
 
3 to 4.3 Billion Barrels of Oil in North Dakota and Montana
 
 Download directly | Details

 
or subscribe by e-mail.
 
Technically recoverable oil resources are those producible using currently available technology and industry practices. USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources.

New geologic models applied to the Bakken Formation, advances in drilling and production technologies, and recent oil discoveries have resulted in these substantially larger technically recoverable oil volumes. About 105 million barrels of oil were produced from the Bakken Formation by the end of 2007.

The USGS Bakken study was undertaken as part of a nationwide project assessing domestic petroleum basins using standardized methodology and protocol as required by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 2000.

The Bakken Formation estimate is larger than all other current USGS oil assessments of the lower 48 states and is the largest "continuous" oil accumulation ever assessed by the USGS. A "continuous" oil accumulation means that the oil resource is dispersed throughout a geologic formation rather than existing as discrete, localized occurrences. The next largest "continuous" oil accumulation in the U.S. is in the Austin Chalk of Texas and Louisiana, with an undiscovered estimate of 1.0 billions of barrels of technically recoverable oil.

"It is clear that the Bakken formation contains a significant amount of oil - the question is how much of that oil is recoverable using today's technology?" said Senator Byron Dorgan, of North Dakota. "To get an answer to this important question, I requested that the U.S. Geological Survey complete this study, which will provide an up-to-date estimate on the amount of technically recoverable oil resources in the Bakken Shale formation."

The USGS estimate of 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil has a mean value of 3.65 billion barrels. Scientists conducted detailed studies in stratigraphy and structural geology and the modeling of petroleum geochemistry. They also combined their findings with historical exploration and production analyses to determine the undiscovered, technically recoverable oil estimates.

USGS worked with the North Dakota Geological Survey, a number of petroleum industry companies and independents, universities and other experts to develop a geological understanding of the Bakken Formation. These groups provided critical information and feedback on geological and engineering concepts important to building the geologic and production models used in the assessment.

Five continuous assessment units (AU) were identified and assessed in the Bakken Formation of North Dakota and Montana - the Elm Coulee-Billings Nose AU, the Central Basin-Poplar Dome AU, the Nesson-Little Knife Structural AU, the Eastern Expulsion Threshold AU, and the Northwest Expulsion Threshold AU.

At the time of the assessment, a limited number of wells have produced oil from three of the assessments units in Central Basin-Poplar Dome, Eastern Expulsion Threshold, and Northwest Expulsion Threshold.
The Elm Coulee oil field in Montana, discovered in 2000, has produced about 65 million barrels of the 105 million barrels of oil recovered from the Bakken Formation.

Results of the assessment can be found at http://energy.usgs.gov
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on October 08, 2008, 00:24:19
If the size of the oil find is true, then there are many potential effects, not all of them nice:

1. The global price of oil will nose dive as the US no longer imports oil. This is good news where it cuts the financial arteries of places like Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, it also cuts the financial arteries of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, with terrible consequences for Canada.

2. The sudden influx of wealth and royalties could potentially be used to eliminate a large portion of the US debt. Pigs might fly as well. Look for vast inflationary bubbles as governments pour the royalties into their own pet projects and vote buying. And you thought the sub prime bubble was bad when the government blew about half a billion into the housing market? Now imagine what sort of damage they can do with trillions of dollars!

3. Strategically, the US can undermine Russia by offering oil at better prices and conditions to the EU. Combined with the overall reduction of oil revenues, this could hasten the collapse of Russia as their financial arteries are cut, then tied off as the EU market is closed off to them.

4. Cheap energy is the foundation of modern economies, so the underlying US economy can still hum along so long as the politicians don't induce too many shocks to the system.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 05, 2008, 20:04:00
Technology gives new life to internal combustion:

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/21620/?nlid=1479&a=f

Quote
A Fuel-Sipping Engine
An engine from Lotus and Continental Powertrain consumes 15 percent less fuel.
By Rob Edwards
A research project in the UK has developed a gasoline engine that it claims can reduce fuel consumption by 15 percent without losing power.

The key to the new design is the way in which fuel and air are separately introduced into the engine cylinders. By experimenting with different regimes for directly injecting fuel while varying the opening and shutting the air inlet valves, the researchers say they have achieved the major breakthrough in performance--and developed a "concept-car engine" that is gaining interest from big auto makers.

The aim of the project, a collaboration between two leading car engine development companies, Lotus Engineering and Continental Powertrain, and two universities, Loughborough and University College London, is to reduce losses caused by the engine throttle. In conventional engines, the throttle is kept partially closed except during full acceleration, obstructing the flow of air and reducing the pressure and density of the air that enters the cylinder. This forces the engine to work harder to pull air into the cylinder. That wasted energy can be saved by controlling the mass of air that enters the cylinder not with the throttle, but by varying the timing of valve openings at each cylinder. This also enables engines to be made smaller and more efficient.

Such adjustments aren't possible with conventional variable-valve engines, which use mechanical controls that restrict their operation. But Lotus Engineering has developed a hydraulic system that it says enables "complete control" of the timing, duration, and lift of the valves. The researchers concluded that the best configuration of valves was four for each cylinder, two for air intake and two for exhaust. According to the company's principal engineer, Graham Pitcher, engine output could be controlled by closing one intake valve and slightly opening the other.

Another important difference from previous designs is that the fuel injector is positioned centrally in the head of the cylinder, rather than in the side. This enables fuel and air to mix better, though it means that the injector is located at the hottest part of the engine and so requires improved water flow to keep it cool. An added benefit of better combustion is lower amounts of unburnt fuel in the exhaust, resulting in fewer hydrocarbon emissions.

Lotus Engineering and Continental Powertrain have already adopted the technology in a low-carbon concept car. A three-cylinder, 1.5-liter engine based on the combustion concept has been fitted to the Opel Astra and shown to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent compared to the Astra's standard, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. At the same time, the concept car produces a 36-percent increase in torque and a 14-percent increase in power output.

According to Geraint Castleton-White, power-train leader at Lotus Engineering, the outcome is a car that emits 140 grams or less of carbon dioxide per kilometer. In 2007, cars sold in Europe averaged 158 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer; proposed legislation in the European Parliament would require cars to meet standards of 130 grams per kilometer by 2012.

"We have had tremendous interest from manufacturers around the world and the concept will be in production in the future," says Castleton.

The prototype engine is more cost effective than other direct-injection, "lean burn" engines, because it avoids the need for expensive equipment to trap nitrogen oxides, he says.

John Heywood, professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, isn't surprised by the improvements. "There has been a nearly linear improvement in performance of internal combustion engines over the last couple of decades or so," he points out. "We need to pursue all possibilities that look promising." But he suggests there are other potential ways of increasing engine efficiency, such as reducing friction, which might end up being more cost effective. "There are questions over the long-term market attractiveness of variable-valve technology," he says.

Copyright Technology Review 2008.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 13, 2008, 20:49:02
Just because tree huggers don't like coal doesn't mean everyone is against it....

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE4AB2QB20081112?sp=true

Quote
Dirty coal to remain world's top power source: IEA

By Nao Nakanishi

LONDON (Reuters) - Coal, the dirtiest source of fuel, will remain the world's main source of power until 2030 and nuclear will lose market share, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.

Expectations of slower economic growth have led the IEA to downgrade its 2030 world electricity demand forecast to 23,141 terawatt hours (TWh), but the share of coal generated power would rise to 44 percent by 2015 from 41 percent in 2006.

It would stay at that level to 2030.

"Globally, coal-based electricity is projected to rise ... to almost 14,600 TWh by 2030, giving rise to significant increases in associated CO2 emissions," the Paris-based agency said in its World Energy Outlook.

Most of the growth was expected in non-OECD countries, such as China, which the IEA expected soon to become the world's biggest electricity consumer. Its demand for power doubled between 2000 and 2006.

The IEA urged stronger policies for carbon capture and storage (CCS), saying the world was likely to make only a minor contribution in the period.

"Market mechanisms alone will not be sufficient to achieve the demonstration program on the scale required. Another challenge is financing the necessary CO2 transport infrastructure," it said.

Despite a global nuclear renaissance sparked by efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change, the IEA expected nuclear's share in power generation to drop to 10 percent by 2030 from 15 percent in 2006.

"Over the past few years, a large number of countries have expressed renewed interest in building nuclear power plants," it said. "Few governments, however, have taken concrete steps to build new reactors."

CHINA IN THE LEAD

As of the end of August, China topped the list of countries with nuclear power plants under construction, with 5,220 megawatts (MW), followed by India at 2,910 MW and Korea at 2,880 MW.

On a brighter note, the IEA predicted the share of renewable energy to rise to 23 percent by 2030 from 18 percent in 2006.

"Higher fossil fuel prices, increasing concerns over energy security and climate change are expected to encourage the development of renewable energy for electricity," the IEA said.

The agency said high prices would constrain growth in gas-fired generation, although it remained attractive due to lower capital costs and shorter construction time. Its market share was likely to fall slightly from 20 percent.

Looking into per capita electricity demand around the world, the IEA saw a gloomy outlook for some non-OECD countries, despite overall anticipated strong growth.

"A large number of people living there are not expected to have access to electricity even in 2030. India and Africa have the highest number of people in this category," it said.

Per capita electricity consumption in non-OECD countries was likely to rise to almost 2,400 kilowatt hours (kWh) by 2030, but the IEA saw it rising only to 671 kWh in Africa from 518. It would rise to 4,776 kWh in China from 1,788 in 2006.

(Editing by Peg Mackey and Barbara Lewis)
[/quuote]
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 20, 2008, 12:12:51
For people who like home grown solutions:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hNwf_8JU416aSA2gSNppRRwGqwYwD94GT39OC

Quote
'Rules of the road' set for oil shale drilling
By DINA CAPPIELLO – 2 days ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — Companies looking to tap the U.S.'s vast oil shale resources now have rules to live by.

The Bush administration on Monday issued final rules setting parameters for oil shale development on public land. The regulations give companies a steep discount in royalties they pay to the federal government in the first five years of production.

The announcement by the Interior Department comes months after Congress — pressured by the White House and Republicans to increase domestic energy — failed to renew a ban on issuing final oil shale regulations. Officials said leasing was five to 10 years away.

Up to 800 billion barrels of oil — enough to displace oil imports for 100 years — is locked within fine-grained rock known as oil shale in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 21, 2008, 17:27:59
Converting waste heat into energy:

http://www.technologyreview.com/business/21701/?nlid=1527&a=f

Quote
Friday, November 21, 2008
Electricity from Waste Heat
Ener-G-Rotors' system harvests energy at lower temperatures.
By Jennifer Kho

Factories, data centers, power plants--even your clothes dryer--throw off waste heat that could be a useful source of energy. But most existing heat-harvesting technologies are efficient only at temperatures above 150 °C, and much waste heat just isn't that hot. Now Ener-G-Rotors, based in Schenectady, NY, is developing technology that can use heat between 65 and 150 °C.

The company replaces the turbine in a typical electrical generator with a device called a gerotor, which it claims to have made "near frictionless." "If this works, it's so huge," says Bob Bechtold, president of Harbec Plastics, one of Ener-G-Rotors' potential customers. "I've been dreaming about the concept of using [low-temperature waste heat] ever since I first knew what it was about . . . It's all about using what we have more completely."

Ener-G-Rotors' technology is based on the Rankine cycle, in which heated fluid flowing through a tube heats a pressurized fluid in a second tube via a heat exchanger. The second tube is a closed loop; the so-called working fluid flowing through it (a refrigerant with a low boiling point, in the case of Ener-G-Rotors) vaporizes and travels into a larger space called an expander. There, as the name would imply, it expands, exerting a mechanical force that can be converted into electricity.

Instead of turning a turbine, the expanding vapor in Ener-G-Rotors' system turns the gerotor, which is really two concentric rotors. The inner rotor attaches to an axle, and the outer rotor is a kind of collar around it. The rotors have mismatched gear teeth, and when vapor passing between them forces them apart, the gears mesh, turning the rotor.



The company claims that the rotor design is far simpler than that of a turbine, making it potentially easier and cheaper to manufacture, as well as more durable. And the company says that it has invented a proprietary way of mounting the rotor on rolling bearings that makes its movement nearly frictionless.

Reducing the friction means that the rotor turns more easily, so the gas doesn't need to exert as much force to generate electricity. That's why the system can work at lower temperatures, which impart less energy to the gas.

The company expects to convert 10 to 15 percent of low-temperature waste heat into electricity, delivering a payback in two years or less in most cases, says CEO Michael Newell. Ener-G-Rotors plans to both sell systems to customers outright and operate its own systems and sell power.


Ener-G-Rotors initially plans to target industries, such as chemicals, paper, oil, and food, that use plenty of energy and also release a tremendous amount of waste heat, Newell says. Later, the company also hopes to participate in solar-thermal and geothermal projects, and to target consumers with a one-kilowatt system.

The company is installing its first beta unit, a five-kilowatt system, in a combined heat-and-power plant at Harbec Plastics. It is also installing betas at a steam plant for New York utility Consolidated Edison and at a landfill-gas-burning plant for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Edward Ecock, manager of research and development for gas and steam at ConEd, says that Ener-G-Rotors' system is more efficient than others that he's seen. In a power plant that uses steam generators, it could have the added benefit of reducing the amount of water needed to cool the steam condensation and cutting additional sewage costs for getting rid of the extra water, he says.

Low-temperature waste-heat technologies "really are where the industry is going," says Mark Taylor, an analyst at research firm New Energy Finance. "This potentially could be applied to every coal plant, every nuclear-power, every natural-gas plant. Steel, anything that makes heat--anything."

If the betas pan out, Ener-G-Rotors plans to expand to a 50-kilowatt demonstration, which is much smaller than the scale that most of its competitors are targeting. Newell says that the company is hoping the smaller size will open up a market for smaller industrial waste-heat streams.

But first, the betas need to pan out. "If it's not economical, we won't want to go to the 50 kilowatts," Ecock says.

Ener-G-Rotors also needs money. It has raised "a few hundred thousand" in grants and angel funding and is now seeking $5 million for the first tranche of a $20 million venture-capital round.

And it will face plenty of competition as the market heats up, Taylor warns. A crop of companies, including larger players such as United Technologies, which makes aircraft, aerospace systems, and air conditioning, and smaller companies such as ElectraTherm, are also pursuing low-temperature technologies--and they already have systems installed.

Still, Newell is confident that his company can stand out.

"Our technology is more efficient and simpler than anything else out there right now," he says. "There aren't many technologies that are going to work here. And we think we have the lowest cost of any of the technologies out there."

Copyright Technology Review 2008.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 17, 2008, 10:57:18
The ultimate energy source (for now) may be a lot closer than generally thought, one nuclear fusion project is moving very close to breakthrough. Of course there may still be some unresolved issues in the physics that prevent it from working, but an exciting prospect none the less:



Quote
Fusion we can believe in?
Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 6:30 PM by Alan Boyle

Working on a shoestring budget, researchers have found no reason why a low-cost approach to nuclear fusion won't work.

President-elect Barack Obama's pick for energy secretary has said he's aware of the approach, known as inertial electrostatic confinement fusion or Polywell fusion - and although it's probably not on his radar screen right now, it just might show up in the future.

For decades, scientists have been trying to figure out how to harness the power of the nuclear reaction that sets the sun ablaze. Fusion involves smashing the nuclei of lighter elements together to produce heavier elements, plus an excess burst of energy. The sun turns hydrogen into helium. Thermonuclear bombs do something similar with different isotopes of hydrogen.

The mainstream approaches to commercial fusion would involve heating up plasma inside a doughnut-shaped magnetic bottle known as a tokamak, or using lasers to blast tiny bits of deuterium and tritium. The former approach is being followed for the $13 billion international ITER project, and the latter would be used by multibillion-dollar experiments such as the National Ignition Facility in the U.S. or HiPER in Britain.

Then there's the $1.8 million (yes, million) project that's just been wrapped up at EMC2 Fusion Development Corp. in Santa Fe, N.M. The experiment, funded by the U.S. Navy, was aimed at verifying some interesting results that the late physicist Robert Bussard coaxed out of a high-voltage inertial electrostatic contraption known as WB-6. (The "WB" stands for Wiffle Ball, which describes the shape of the device and its magnetic field.)

An EMC2 team headed by Los Alamos researcher Richard Nebel (who's on leave from his federal lab job) picked up the baton from Bussard and tried to duplicate the results. The team has turned in its final report, and it's been double-checked by a peer-review panel, Nebel told me today. Although he couldn't go into the details, he said the verdict was positive.

"There's nothing in there that suggests this will not work," Nebel said. "That's a very different statement from saying that it will work."

By and large, the EMC2 results fit Bussard's theoretical predictions, Nebel said. That could mean Polywell fusion would actually lead to a power-generating reaction. But based on the 10-month, shoestring-budget experiment, the team can't rule out the possibility that a different phenomenon is causing the observed effects.

"If you want to say something absolutely, you have to say there's no other explanation," Nebel said. The review board agreed with that conservative assessment, he said.

The good news, from Nebel's standpoint, is that the WB-7 experiment hasn't ruled out the possibility that Polywell fusion could actually serve as a low-cost, long-term energy solution. "If this thing was absolutely dead in the water, we would have found out," he said.

If Polywell pans out, nuclear fusion could be done more cheaply and more safely than it could ever be done in a tokamak or a laser blaster. The process might be able to produce power without throwing off loads of radioactive byproducts. It might even use helium-3 mined from the moon. "We don't want to oversell this," Nebel said, "but this is pretty interesting stuff, and if it works, it's huge."

The idea is still way out of the mainstream, however. In his new book about the frustrating fusion quest, "Sun in a Bottle," Charles Seife says that WB-7 and similar contraptions, known generically as fusors, aren't good candidates for power-generating fusion - even though they've attracted "something of a cult following."

"The equations of plasma physics strongly imply that fusorlike devices are very unlikely ever to produce more energy than they consume," Seife writes. "Nature's inexorable energy-draining powers are too hard to overcome."

Nebel is well aware of the naysayers. In fact, that's one reason why he's being so circumspect about the results of the WB-7 experiment. When I mentioned that he'd probably like to avoid the kind of controversy and embarrassment that came in the wake of 1989's notorious cold-fusion claims, Nebel laughed and added, "That's well-put."

Despite the skepticism, Nebel and his colleagues have already drawn up a plan for the next step: an 18-month program to build and test a larger fusor prototype. "We're shopping that around inside the DOD [Department of Defense], and we'll see what happens," he said.

Nebel said some private-sector ventures are also interested in what EMC2 is up to, and that may suggest a backup plan in case the Pentagon isn't interesting in following up on WB-7.

For the time being, Nebel said his five-person team is getting by on some small-scale contracts from the Defense Department (including these three). "I've got enough to cover the people we've got, and that's about it," he said. "What we're doing with these contracts is trying to get prepared for the next step."

He's also waiting to see what the Obama administration will bring. Will the White House support EMC2's low-cost, under-the-radar fusion research program alongside ITER and the National Ignition Facility? "We just don't know," Nebel said.

Obama's team has at least one person who knows about Polywell fusion: Nobel-winning physicist Steven Chu, who will be taking over the Energy Department. A year and a half ago, Chu gave a talk at Google about future power sources and was asked about the technology (about 61 minutes into the YouTube video).

Chu responded that he had been discussing the concept with the folks at Google. "So far, there's not enough information so [that] I can give an evaluation of the probability that it might work or not," he said. "But I'm trying to get more information."

If Chu is still interested in more information, Nebel is in a position to tell him about it.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 29, 2008, 00:24:57
A Canadian project moves much closer as well. All the mechanical gadgetry makes this a little dubious to me, but then again, I am not an engineer.

http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/2008/12/steampunk-fusion.html

Quote
Steam Punk Fusion

The picture you see above is a steam driven fusion reactor. I know what you are thinking. This is some kind of joke. It is no joke. General Fusion has a design that I think has an outside chance of working.

I was discussing it with some of the boys at Talk Polywell and I'd say it has no fundamental flaws.

Popular Science also gives some of the details of the machine and its inventors. The drawing at the top of the page shows a schematic of the machine that has 200 pistons. Now to give you some idea of the scale here is a picture of one of the pistons.
Steam Punk Fusion Piston

Huge sucker huh? Now imagine 200 of them all firing away at the rate of once a second. When the piston hits (and yes it will hit) the end of the cylinder it will be going about 250 mph and it will induce a shock wave into a sort of ball of liquid lithium and lead. But first two rings of counter rotating plasma will be shot into the middle of the rotating metal and then all the steam (yeah steam) driven pistons will fire and hit the molten metal with a timing of better than one microsecond.

Can it be done? My rough calculations at the above Talk Polywell link say yes. Not easy, but possible. So would I put money on it? Not me. But I'm an IEC Plasma Fusion type of guy. However, if the idea excites you (a steam driven fusion reactor) I'd say it has as much a chance of working as anything being done now. Definitely worth a shot. And besides how many of your friends can say they are investing in a steam driven fusion reactor? It has got to be worth some bucks just for the conversation starter value alone.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 29, 2008, 00:37:06
And going low tech:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/27/world/europe/27house.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink&pagewanted=all

Quote
No Furnaces but Heat Aplenty in ‘Passive Houses’
Rolf Oeser for The New York Times

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Published: December 26, 2008

DARMSTADT, Germany — From the outside, there is nothing unusual about the stylish new gray and orange row houses in the Kranichstein District, with wreaths on the doors and Christmas lights twinkling through a freezing drizzle. But these houses are part of a revolution in building design: There are no drafts, no cold tile floors, no snuggling under blankets until the furnace kicks in. There is, in fact, no furnace.

In Berthold Kaufmann’s home, there is, to be fair, one radiator for emergency backup in the living room — but it is not in use. Even on the coldest nights in central Germany, Mr. Kaufmann’s new “passive house” and others of this design get all the heat and hot water they need from the amount of energy that would be needed to run a hair dryer.

“You don’t think about temperature — the house just adjusts,” said Mr. Kaufmann, watching his 2-year-old daughter, dressed in a T-shirt, tuck into her sausage in the spacious living room, whose glass doors open to a patio. His new home uses about one-twentieth the heating energy of his parents’ home of roughly the same size, he said.

Architects in many countries, in attempts to meet new energy efficiency standards like the Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design standard in the United States, are designing homes with better insulation and high-efficiency appliances, as well as tapping into alternative sources of power, like solar panels and wind turbines.

The concept of the passive house, pioneered in this city of 140,000 outside Frankfurt, approaches the challenge from a different angle. Using ultrathick insulation and complex doors and windows, the architect engineers a home encased in an airtight shell, so that barely any heat escapes and barely any cold seeps in. That means a passive house can be warmed not only by the sun, but also by the heat from appliances and even from occupants’ bodies.

And in Germany, passive houses cost only about 5 to 7 percent more to build than conventional houses.

Decades ago, attempts at creating sealed solar-heated homes failed, because of stagnant air and mold. But new passive houses use an ingenious central ventilation system. The warm air going out passes side by side with clean, cold air coming in, exchanging heat with 90 percent efficiency.

“The myth before was that to be warm you had to have heating. Our goal is to create a warm house without energy demand,” said Wolfgang Hasper, an engineer at the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt. “This is not about wearing thick pullovers, turning the thermostat down and putting up with drafts. It’s about being comfortable with less energy input, and we do this by recycling heating.”

There are now an estimated 15,000 passive houses around the world, the vast majority built in the past few years in German-speaking countries or Scandinavia.

The first passive home was built here in 1991 by Wolfgang Feist, a local physicist, but diffusion of the idea was slowed by language. The courses and literature were mostly in German, and even now the components are mass-produced only in this part of the world.

The industry is thriving in Germany, however — for example, schools in Frankfurt are built with the technique.

Moreover, its popularity is spreading. The European Commission is promoting passive-house building, and the European Parliament has proposed that new buildings meet passive-house standards by 2011.

The United States Army, long a presence in this part of Germany, is considering passive-house barracks.

“Awareness is skyrocketing; it’s hard for us to keep up with requests,” Mr. Hasper said.

Nabih Tahan, a California architect who worked in Austria for 11 years, is completing one of the first passive houses in the United States for his family in Berkeley. He heads a group of 70 Bay Area architects and engineers working to encourage wider acceptance of the standards. “This is a recipe for energy that makes sense to people,” Mr. Tahan said. “Why not reuse this heat you get for free?”

Ironically, however, when California inspectors were examining the Berkeley home to determine whether it met “green” building codes (it did), he could not get credit for the heat exchanger, a device that is still uncommon in the United States. “When you think about passive-house standards, you start looking at buildings in a different way,” he said.

Buildings that are certified hermetically sealed may sound suffocating. (To meet the standard, a building must pass a “blow test” showing that it loses minimal air under pressure.) In fact, passive houses have plenty of windows — though far more face south than north — and all can be opened.

Inside, a passive home does have a slightly different gestalt from conventional houses, just as an electric car drives differently from its gas-using cousin. There is a kind of spaceship-like uniformity of air and temperature. The air from outside all goes through HEPA filters before entering the rooms. The cement floor of the basement isn’t cold. The walls and the air are basically the same temperature.

Look closer and there are technical differences: When the windows are swung open, you see their layers of glass and gas, as well as the elaborate seals around the edges. A small, grated duct near the ceiling in the living room brings in clean air. In the basement there is no furnace, but instead what looks like a giant Styrofoam cooler, containing the heat exchanger.

Passive houses need no human tinkering, but most architects put in a switch with three settings, which can be turned down for vacations, or up to circulate air for a party (though you can also just open the windows). “We’ve found it’s very important to people that they feel they can influence the system,” Mr. Hasper said.

The houses may be too radical for those who treasure an experience like drinking hot chocolate in a cold kitchen. But not for others. “I grew up in a great old house that was always 10 degrees too cold, so I knew I wanted to make something different,” said Georg W. Zielke, who built his first passive house here, for his family, in 2003 and now designs no other kinds of buildings.

In Germany the added construction costs of passive houses are modest and, because of their growing popularity and an ever larger array of attractive off-the-shelf components, are shrinking.

But the sophisticated windows and heat-exchange ventilation systems needed to make passive houses work properly are not readily available in the United States. So the construction of passive houses in the United States, at least initially, is likely to entail a higher price differential.

Moreover, the kinds of home construction popular in the United States are more difficult to adapt to the standard: residential buildings tend not to have built-in ventilation systems of any kind, and sliding windows are hard to seal.

Dr. Feist’s original passive house — a boxy white building with four apartments — looks like the science project that it was intended to be. But new passive houses come in many shapes and styles. The Passivhaus Institut, which he founded a decade ago, continues to conduct research, teaches architects, and tests homes to make sure they meet standards. It now has affiliates in Britain and the United States.

Still, there are challenges to broader adoption even in Europe.

Because a successful passive house requires the interplay of the building, the sun and the climate, architects need to be careful about site selection. Passive-house heating might not work in a shady valley in Switzerland, or on an urban street with no south-facing wall. Researchers are looking into whether the concept will work in warmer climates — where a heat exchanger could be used in reverse, to keep cool air in and warm air out.

And those who want passive-house mansions may be disappointed. Compact shapes are simpler to seal, while sprawling homes are difficult to insulate and heat.

Most passive houses allow about 500 square feet per person, a comfortable though not expansive living space. Mr. Hasper said people who wanted thousands of square feet per person should look for another design.

“Anyone who feels they need that much space to live,” he said, “well, that’s a different discussion.”

A version of this article appeared in print on December 27, 2008, on page A1 of the New York edition.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on January 05, 2009, 23:24:14
Since we need to get rid of garbage anyway, this offers a chance to get some "value added" benefits out of garbage disposal. The end of ineffective "Blue Box" programs is a financial benefit for hard pressed civic budgets as well. I am somewhat dubious of the numbers, but even if it is close it is worth looking at:

http://www.erwingerrits.com/?p=637

Quote
Ottawa company Plasco Energy Group has a patent-pending WTE (Waste to Energy) system called Plasma Gasification (I’ve written about them before here and my subsequent brush with fame). From the Plasco site:

    The MSW stream enters the conversion chamber where the waste is converted into a crude syngas using recycled heat. The crude syngas that is produced flows to the refinement chamber where plasma torches are used to refine the gas into a cleaner syngas, known as PlascoSyngas. This is sent through a Gas Quality Control Suite to recover sulphur, remove acid gases and segregate heavy metals found in the waste stream. The result is a clean, energetic PlascoSyngas created from the conversion of waste with no air emissions.

    PlascoSyngas is used to fuel internal combustion engines that efficiently generate electricity. Waste heat recovered from the engines is combined with waste heat recovered from cooling the PlascoSyngas in a Heat Recovery Steam Generation (HRSG) unit to produce steam. The steam can either be used to generate additional electricity using a turbine (combined cycle generation), or it can be used for industrial processes or district heating (cogeneration).

    The solid residue from the conversion chamber is sent to a separate high temperature Carbon Recovery Vessel (CRV) equipped with a plasma torch where the solids are melted. Plasma heat is used to stabilize the solids and convert any remaining volatile compounds and fixed carbon into crude syngas. This additional crude syngas is fed back into the conversion chamber. Any remaining solids are then melted into a liquid slag and cooled into small slag pellets. The slag pellets are an inert vitrified residue sold as construction aggregate.

So what?

In my view, we can use this process across Canada to:

   1. Stimulate the economy
   2. Reduce polluting landfill sites
   3. Cancel all costly and non-working recycling programs
   4. Reduce our dependency on oil and coal
   5. Reduce CO2 and methane emissions (if that’s important to you)
   6. Create new jobs
   7. Generate more power cleanly

Show me some numbers!

Canada uses about 530B KWh a year (2006 est.) of electricity, generated by the following:

    fossil fuel: 28%
    hydro: 57.9%
    nuclear: 12.9%
    other: 1.3% (2001)

Lets take out the hydro and nuclear/other portion of this number, since they are clean, renewable and profitable energy sources. Let’s focus on fossil fuel energy alone:

    28% of 530B KWh = about 150B KWh.

Plasco can generate 1.2 MWh = 1200 KWh from every tonne of waste converted:

    150B KWh / 1200 = 125 MT of waste required to generate 150B KWh.

    125 MT per year, that’s 342,000 tonnes per day. To process that amount of garbage, Plasco needs to build 342,000 / 400 tonnes/day plants (average size) = 855 average sized plants across Canada.

In other words, in order to retain the status quo in energy production, and to completely eliminate fossil fuel burning to generate energy, we need to build 855 Plasco plants across this nation to process 342,000 tonnes of garbage a day.

Fine, but do we have enough garbage?

Total solid waste production in Canada was 30.4 MT  in 2005 (latest figures available), so not only will we process ALL available garbage generated in Canada today (including all recyclables), we will also start digging into our existing landfill sites at a tune of about 100 MT a year.

The Ottawa Carp Road Landfill site currently holds about 10,000,000 cubic metres of garbage @ 150Kg a cubic meter, makes 15MT of garbage. There are about 800 -10000 (the number varies and is hard to track down) of these landfill sites across Canada, making for (minimum) 800 x 15MT = 12,000 MT or (maximum) 10,000 x 15MT = 150,000 MT available garbage for plasma gasification.

At a required usage of 100 MT/yr, the existing landfills will be emptied in 12,000 MT / 100 MT= 120 years (for 800 sites), or 150,000 MT / 100 MT = 1500 years (for 10000 sites), and that is not counting the new garbage that will be generated in that amount of time, so suffice to say, there’s fuel enough.

So how much is all of this going to cost?

A Plasco plant operates at zero cost to the tax payers. In addition, we will save money by cancelling all current money-losing recycling programs across the country. Plasco is completely funded by private donations and operational revenues. The tipping fee is $40/tonne, about the same as a landfill would charge. Revenues are generated by selling electricity to the power company, and selling the other by-products of the process: potable water, commercial salt, construction aggregate and sulfur agricultural fertilizer . They need, however, a significant investment for each plant to be built.

Is this where the stimulus package comes in?

Yes, a $30B Economic Stimulus package (as currently proposed in the upcoming budget) would provide the needed 855 plants with a start-up capital of over $35M each, more than half of what is needed for initial start up, or we can build 400 plants with full financing. Rather than giving (or “loaning” money to companies who will not be able to pay it back) money to GM/Chrysler/Banks/Credit Cards(!) we can invest the money in a nation-wide garbage to energy strategy, and come out with the following results:

    * create new jobs
    * cancel costly and money-losing (and polluting) recycling programs that don’t work
    * reduce and eliminate costly and polluting landfill sites
    * reduce CO2  & methane (24 MT/yr) from elimination of coal burning plants & landfill sites
    * alternative energy source - less reliance on oil & coal
    * generate power in a energy hungry world

You’re beating a dead horse: we already know all this!

Yes, we do, but governments don’t. And that is where the sad part comes in: governments don’t seem to be on board. In Ontario, environmental laws prohibit permanent installations of this sort: simply because current environmental laws are based on tests done in the early eighties. Back then, testing was done on garbage incinerators (and they would literally burn garbage with no effort to clean up the process) and the emissions were deemed to be too high (no kidding). There have not been any testing done since. Plasco’s unique Plasma Gasification process WITH NO EMISSIONS still falls under “Garbage Incineration” and as such is deemed to be too polluting. Plasco can only get a “testing facility” license from the Government of Ontario and as such will not be able to run on full capacity any time soon. I am sure similar practises are going on across this country.

Governments need to get on board and realise these new technologies not only “help reduce garbage” but also create jobs, clean up the air, generate more power, stop ground pollution, and lessens our reliance on fossil fuels.

Time has come to fast track these technologies, make the laws compatible, pour some ’stimulus’ money into it, and get goin’!
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on January 08, 2009, 10:46:13
So where is this oil coming from anyway? n interactive map from Technology Review:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/editors/22474/

Quote
Map Reveals a Web of Oil Imports
A new interactive map unveils the details of an oil addiction.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
By Kevin Bullis
Credit: Rocky Mountain Institute

For an illuminating look at the web of oil imports that we depend on, check out this interactive Google Maps-based infographic (http://move.rmi.org/files/oilmap/RMI_Oil_Imports_Final_large.html) at the Rocky Mountain Institute, an organization that promotes technology for energy efficiency.

The map features a timeline starting in 1973. As a cursor moves along the timeline (click the "play" button to automate the cursor's movement, or control the movement yourself by clicking and dragging the cursor), the world map above it changes, showing how much oil is flowing to the United States, and from which countries. Changing a setting (under "Map Units" in the left column, select "Dollars") shows how much money is flowing out of the United States, and to where. You can select a specific oil crisis (buttons below the timeline) to see the segment of the timeline related to that crisis.

You can also click a button (left column, "ANWR") to see the size of the potential oil flow from the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. When oil consumption was low in the late 1980s, after the oil crisis of that era triggered a massive drop in consumption, it looks substantial. But in 2008, it looks vanishingly small.

One of the most salient things illustrated by the map is just how long oil prices stayed low after the oil crisis of the late 1970s: long enough for people to forget the lessons of that crisis and start buying big, heavy cars again, and get truly addicted to oil.

(tech trouble today: fo to link to see map)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: E.R. Campbell on January 08, 2009, 11:10:50
Here is the map (http://move.rmi.org/files/oilmap/RMI_Oil_Imports_Final_large.html).

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on January 15, 2009, 23:00:06
This seems to be about the ultimate DIY solution:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/editors/22496/?nlid=1690

Quote
A Dirt-Bag Fuel Cell
A simple microbial fuel cell could offer reliable power in the developing world.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
By Kristina Grifantini

A startup that is striving to bring energy to countries that lack reliable power has developed a remarkably simple new microbial fuel-cell design: grain bags, stuffed with metal and dirt. Lebônê, a startup based at Harvard University, has already shown how to make fuel cells from buckets full of wastewater, with a graphite cloth as the anode and chicken wire as the cathode. In this setup, bacteria extract electrons from organic waste at the anode to generate small amounts of power--enough to charge, say, a flashlight or cell phone.

A contact at the company tells me that the bags work pretty much the same way, but they should be even easier to make and more portable than the bucket design. What's more, owners can bury the bags in the yard, so that they are undisturbed and out of the way. They can even link several of the bags together--in series or in parallel--to increase the voltage or the electrode area, respectively.

The bags are fairly ubiquitous across Africa, according to the startup. "They're very familiar to the people there, so it's a natural material to use for something that we want to get widespread acceptance for," says CTO Aviva Pressner. The team is still testing the best materials to use, and it reports that a graphite anode and aluminum cathode combination works well. With funding from a World Bank grant, Lebônê plans to deploy several hundred bags in Namibia this summer and thousands more in 2010.

Tags: fuel cells, microbial fuel cell
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on February 16, 2009, 00:34:00
A look at wind farms:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU9MHNL9AQk

And Premier McGuinty wants to force these things on Ontario regardless of their efficiency or what the local people think
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on February 28, 2009, 00:20:11
The Obama administration plays political theater instead of energy independence:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/energy/23033/?nlid=1815

Quote
Energy Plans Revealed in Obama's Budget Outline

Renewable energy and high-speed rail win; Yucca Mountain project loses.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
By Kevin Bullis

President Obama's budget outline offers some glimpses into what the future holds for energy.

Department of Energy

The stimulus bill allocated $39 billion to the Department of Energy--nearly double last year's budget for the DOE. But that's not all the DOE is getting: the budget outline provides for an additional $34 billion, which will include money for renewable energy, smart-grid projects, and demonstrating technology for capturing and trapping carbon-dioxide emissions.

Nuclear Energy

Of particular note for the nuclear industry is that money for the Yucca Mountain waste program is being scaled back "while the Administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal." The controversial program is the result of a promise from the federal government to provide storage for nuclear waste. It's not surprising that the program is getting the ax: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is from Nevada, where Yucca Mountain is located.

Here's what Reid had to say today: "I have worked for more than two decades with help from our state's leaders and thousands of Nevadans to stop Yucca Mountain. President Obama recognizes that the proposed dump threatens the health and safety of Nevadans, and millions of Americans. His commitment to stop this terrible project could not be clearer."

Transportation

The budget will provide additional support for high-speed rail: "To provide Americans a 21st Century transportation system, the Administration proposes a $1 billion-a-year high-speed rail State grant program, in addition to the $8 billion provided in the recovery Act."

Climate Change

One of the biggest potential incentives for increased renewable energy would be a price on carbon-dioxide emissions. The budget outline provides some details about Obama's plans for a cap-and-trade system for reducing such emissions "14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and approximately 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050." Emissions allotments will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to fund alternative energy and help poor people who will be affected by the higher energy prices that such a program would cause. The cap-and-trade plan is not part of the budget, but it will be next on Obama's agenda after the budget is passed.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 02, 2009, 20:23:32
Back to technology. If this sort of battery proves to be practical, the more practical use is to even out power production and consumption. Baseload systems can be run at max power and efficiency, storing electrical energy in these batteries during off peak hours and discharging them during peak demand. Alternatively, customers can charge up during off hours and avoid paying peak hour rates...

Not to sure I would want to use this in a mobile application though

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/22116/

Quote
TR10: Liquid Battery
Donald Sadoway conceived of a novel battery that could allow cities to run on solar power at night.
By Kevin Bullis

Without a good way to store electricity on a large scale, solar power is useless at night. One promising storage option is a new kind of battery made with all-liquid active materials. Prototypes suggest that these liquid batteries will cost less than a third as much as today's best batteries and could last significantly longer.

The battery is unlike any other. The electrodes are molten metals, and the electrolyte that conducts current between them is a molten salt. This results in an unusually resilient device that can quickly absorb large amounts of electricity. The electrodes can operate at electrical currents "tens of times higher than any [battery] that's ever been measured," says Donald Sadow­ay, a materials chemistry professor at MIT and one of the battery's inventors. What's more, the materials are cheap, and the design allows for simple manufacturing.

The first prototype consists of a container surrounded by insulating material. The researchers add molten raw materials: antimony on the bottom, an electrolyte such as sodium sulfide in the middle, and magnesium at the top. Since each material has a different density, they naturally remain in distinct layers, which simplifies manufacturing. The container doubles as a current collector, delivering electrons from a power supply, such as solar panels, or carrying them away to the electrical grid to supply electricity to homes and businesses.

As power flows into the battery, magnesium and antimony metal are generated from magnesium antimonide dissolved in the electrolyte. When the cell discharges, the metals of the two electrodes dissolve to again form magnesium antimonide, which dissolves in the electrolyte, causing the electrolyte to grow larger and the electrodes to shrink (see above).

Sadoway envisions wiring together large cells to form enormous battery packs. One big enough to meet the peak electricity demand in New York City--about 13,000 megawatts--would fill nearly 60,000 square meters. Charging it would require solar farms of unprecedented size, generating not only enough electricity to meet daytime power needs but enough excess power to charge the batteries for nighttime demand. The first systems will probably store energy produced during periods of low electricity demand for use during peak demand, thus reducing the need for new power plants and transmission lines.

Many other ways of storing energy from intermittent power sources have been proposed, and some have been put to limited use. These range from stacks of lead-acid batteries to systems that pump water uphill during the day and let it flow back to spin generators at night. The liquid battery has the advantage of being cheap, long-lasting, and (unlike options such as pumping water) useful in a wide range of places. "No one had been able to get their arms around the problem of energy storage on a massive scale for the power grid," says Sadoway. "We're literally looking at a battery capable of storing the grid."

Since creating the initial prototypes, the researchers have switched the metals and salts used; it wasn't possible to dissolve magnesium antimonide in the electrolyte at high concentrations, so the first prototypes were too big to be practical. (Sadowa­y won't identify the new materials but says they work along the same principles.) The team hopes that a commercial version of the battery will be available in five years.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 06, 2009, 17:11:01
Canada will be sitting pretty:

http://www.dobmagazine.nickles.com/printer.asp?article=profiler%2F090112%2FPRO2009_JC0002.html

Quote
The Saskatchewan Advantage
Technology Unlocks Bakken Potential In Saskatchewan
By Elsie Ross

For more than 100 years, the endless prairie of southeastern Saskatchewan was identified with agriculture: the vast wheat fields which helped to feed a hungry world.

Today, thanks to new technologies, that once-quiet corner of the province is helping to meet the insatiable global demand for a different commodity: sweet light crude oil, which at 41 degrees api is about as good as it gets.

In the past four years, the Bakken formation has become synonymous with Canada's hottest new oil play and has rejuvenated service centres such as Estevan and Weyburn. And while the Saskatchewan government acknowledges it could see a reduction in activity with the recent collapse in the price of oil, it is still optimistic about the prospects for next year.

"It clearly is an exceptional find and there is definitely opportunity yet," said Bill Boyd, Saskatchewan's energy and resources minister. The high-quality oil combined with high oil prices and success with new technology set off a land sale buying binge in the southeast over the past two years. Bonus payments to the province soared over the first 10 months of 2008 to $876 million on 443,023 hectares of rights sold in the southeast, up from $180 million over the same period in 2007 and only $73 million in 2006.

Another 172 parcels in southeastern Saskatchewan were on offer in the December 8 Crown land sale and it was likely many of those were prospective for the Bakken, he suggested.

The Saskatchewan government also has been noticing that the reach of the play has been expanding, primarily to the west and south. That isn't surprising as the earliest Bakken development was in the Montana and North Dakota portions of the Williston Basin, which extends north into southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba.

Considered an extensive regional resource play, the Bakken is a "tight" oil play with the oil contained mostly in siltstone and thin sandstone reservoirs with low porosity and permeability that require extensive fracture stimulation before yielding their treasure.

A recent (April 2008) United States Geological Survey assessment estimated that the Bakken formation in Montana and North Dakota holds between three and 4.3 billion bbls of undiscovered, technically-recoverable oil - up from the agency's 1995 estimate of 151 million bbls. How much of that is economical to recover will be known over time.

With an estimated 25% of the 500,000- square-kilometre Williston Basin in Saskatchewan, there could be an estimated 25 billion to 100 billion bbls of Bakken oil in place in the province, according to Ed Dancsok, director of the geology and petroleum lands branch for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources. The big question mark, though, is whether the Bakken is evenly distributed throughout the basin, he acknowledged.

The first commercially successful Bakken wells were established in 2000 at the Elm Coulee oilfield in Richland County, Montana, and within three years the state's oil production had doubled. The story is similar in North Dakota where the Bakken continues to attract strong interest from operators. By the end of 2007, about 105 million bbls of oil had been produced from the Mississippian-aged Bakken.

In Saskatchewan, Bakken wells at Viewfield were drilled in 2004 by Bison Resources Ltd. The company was acquired by Mission Oil & Gas Inc., which was in turn acquired by Crescent Point Energy Trust, currently one of the three major players in the Bakken (along with TriStar Oil & Gas Ltd. and Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd.).

Advances in horizontal well techniques that offer maximum exposure to the reservoir, coupled with the application of new fracturing and completion technologies, have been the key to unlocking the economics of the Bakken. Petrobank pioneered the use of the Packers Plus StackFrac system, which has become the industry standard in the Canadian Bakken.

"I'd say the single biggest thing has been the whole StackFrac concept, which is the driving force behind placing the proppant and the frac fluid in exactly the right spot and in exactly the right proportions in the exact right pressure that maximizes the hole you have open," John Wright, Petrobank's chief executive officer, said in a recent interview with Nickle's New Technology Magazine. "The impact on the economics is suddenly we could drill wells and complete them essentially for the same capital investment that we used to be making but they came out at much better initial flow rates and, in particular, much lower initial water cuts."

As of mid-October, Saskatchewan had 1,050 wells capable of producing in the Bakken. Of these, the vast majority (979) have been drilled since October 2004. Over the first eight months of 2008, the Bakken accounted for about 8.6 million bbls (an average of 35,250 bbls a day) of Saskatchewan's oil production of 105.7 million bbls (approximately 434,000 bbls a day).

In 2007, operators drilled 292 Bakken wells (269 horizontal and 23 vertical). To mid- November of this year, about 600 wells targeting the Bakken had been drilled. Although a breakdown isn't yet available, the vast majority would have been horizontal wells, according to a government spokesman.

Operators such as TriStar, with current production from the Bakken of more than 4,700 BOE per day, are continuing to focus on improving potential primary recovery factors in the play. In the second and third quarters of this year, the company drilled several shorter horizontal wells (approximately 600 metres compared to 1,400 metres for full-length horizontals), while continuing to fracture stimulate the wells using the same number of fracs as full-length wells. This technique reduces the inter-fracture distance and increases effective reservoir contact per metre of horizontal wellbore. Early production results from these shorter length wells are very encouraging with initial production very similar to what would be expected from longer-length horizontal wells, according to the company.

TriStar has drilled 10 (6.5 net) of the shorterlength wells with the oldest on production for more than eight months.

TriStar's current oil reserve booking is based on a recovery factor of 1.1% of the estimated net total original oil in place. Achieving a primary recovery factor of 12.5% consisting of four wells per section at current average reserve engineer bookings would yield up to 70.5 million bbls of additional recoverable oil to its current booked reserves, the company has calculated.

TriStar has set a $285-million budget for 2009, of which two-thirds will be spent in southeast Saskatchewan including $165 million for the Bakken. Spending will include construction of key infrastructure to support the company's significant development plans for the area. TriStar has more than 235 (155 net) sections of development and exploration lands on which it has identified more than 813 (549 net) Bakken drilling locations.

Crescent Point's Bakken technical team conservatively expects over time it could achieve a 15% recovery factor on primary production, based on detailed simulation work that suggests up to 19% recovery with infill drilling at eight wells per section. Crescent Point, with its privatelyheld offshoot Shelter Bay Energy, holds about 600 sections of land in the play, making it the largest landholder in the Bakken.

Another option is enhanced recovery with water or carbon dioxide (CO2) floods. Crescent Point is in the early stages of determining how best to apply water and/or CO2 flooding to the formation with the objective of increasing its recovery rate to as much as 25-30%.

While the major players staked out their claims fairly early, the Bakken also is seeing a growing number of smaller companies eager to get in the game. Medicine Hat-based Reece Exploration Corp. is exploring the edges of the play, to the west and north of the heart of the play at Viewfield.

In the third quarter, it drilled two (one net) wells with the final exploratory well drilled in its Montmartre play currently undergoing testing. Reece's first delineation well was drilled in the Bemersyde area (near its first successful Bakken exploratory well), and initial test results are positive.

The company acquired an additional 1,920 (960 net) acres of land in the October land sale, increasing its land position in the Bemersyde play to 7,680 (3,840 net) acres. Additional delineation wells are planned to establish the pool extent after all testing and fracturing is complete and production has been established for the existing wells.

Reece has also participated in Bakken wells in the Forget field and is part of a four-well project in the Stoughton area. Another new entrant, privately-held Wild River Resources with partner TriAxon Resources Ltd., is working on the new Greater Flat Lake play, just north of the United States border at 15-14-01-16 W2M. "We think we've got a relatively significant discovery that will extend a new Bakken play over a township and a half to two townships," said Neil Roszell, Wild River's president and chief executive officer. "We're quite encouraged by this one."

Vancouver-based Ryland Oil Corporation has recently begun the transition from Bakken exploration to development following a multi-well drilling program in the Roncott area. Its first Bakken well has come on production at rates of 90 bbls of oil per day to 120 bbls a day with a current oil cut of 45%. The company has also conducted an evaluation program of the Bakken to the southeast and has identified a number of areas in which it will continue to focus its drilling.

TriAxon has farmed in on Ryland's land and is to begin drilling the first of three earning wells, the Hoffer 13-33-1-14 W2M horizontal well in the southeast corner of Ryland's acreage, by mid-December.

And while the Bakken still accounts for only about eight per cent of Saskatchewan's oil production, Boyd is confident it has nowhere to go but up as operators continue to find new ways to increase recovery rates and newcomers continue to push the boundaries of the play. "Absolutely, it's great for the province," he says.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 09, 2009, 23:44:30
Synthetic photosynthesis, the ultimate solution. No word on the efficiency (and remember plants have a very low conversion efficiency):

http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/006019.html

Quote
Nanotubes For Photocatalysis Produce Methane

A cheap synthetic system that works better than plant photosynthesis for producing hydrocarbons from carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight might some day provide a great source of energy. Toward that end some Penn State researchers have advanced the state of the art for light-driven methane generation using titania nanotubes. I love to see this kind of advance.

    Dual catalysts may be the key to efficiently turning carbon dioxide and water vapor into methane and other hydrocarbons using titania nanotubes and solar power, according to Penn State researchers.

    Burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal release large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Rather than contribute to global climate change, producers could convert carbon dioxide to a wide variety of hydrocarbons, but this makes sense to do only when using solar energy.

    "Recycling of carbon dioxide via conversion into a high energy-content fuel, suitable for use in the existing hydrocarbon-based energy infrastructure, is an attractive option, however the process is energy intense and useful only if a renewable energy source can be used for the purpose," the researchers note in a recent issue of Nano Letters.

    Craig A. Grimes, professor of electrical engineering and his team used titanium dioxide nanotubes doped with nitrogen and coated with a thin layer of both copper and platinum to convert a mixture of carbon dioxide and water vapor to methane. Using outdoor, visible light, they reported a 20-times higher yield of methane than previously published attempts conducted in laboratory conditions using intense ultraviolet exposures.

This is still a laboratory-level advance. Industrial field use is still years away. But it is the sort of advance that could eventually provide a way to suck large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Further enhancements to make longer chain hydrocarbons could yield synthetic hydrocarbon liquids for transportation.

One of the advantages of a synthetic replacement for photosynthesis is the ability to operate for a larger fraction of the year. March 21 and September 21 are halfway points between the shortest and longest days of the year. In the northern hemisphere March 21's photons drive far less photosynthesis than September 21's photons because plants are still in frozen state in the more northern areas (with a similar pattern in the southern hemisphere with swapped dates for spring and fall starts). The late winter and early spring photons could be harnessed sooner in a synthetic system that didn't require plant growth to create areas for capturing the photons. Also, a synthetic system could cover ground which currently can't support much plant life.

A synthetic system built to float far out to sea could absorb photons and do synthesis over area of the ocean that are too nutrient poor to support much microbial life. While such installations are too expensive today in the future nanoassemblers will drastically reduce the cost of construction of massive floating solar collecting synthetic hydrocarbon production ships.

Update: To clarify: Methane is a far more potent atmospheric warmer than carbon dioxide. So a synthetic methane synthesizer with a big leak in it would warm the planet. In fact, if one wanted to, say, prevent an ice age then synthetic methane producers with their output vented to the atmosphere would be one way to do it. On the other hand, if one's photochemical hydrocarbon synthesizer produced longer chain liquid hydrocarbons (gotta be longer than Hank Hill's propane in order to remain liquid) then the atmospheric warming risk would be eliminated. Since the longer chain hydrocarbons are far more desirable for transportation a method for generating them would be ideal.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KingKikapu on March 10, 2009, 16:00:19
Fusion still has a long way to go. 

There are generally two types of reactors:
Both of these methods have problems with energy collection and Tritium recycling.  Neutron flux turns the reactor cores brittle and useless (not to mention the entire area is then highly radioactive), so Tokamaks must also get around the issue of interchangeable cores and housings, or find a material that can handle heavy neutron bombardment (easier said than done). 

Lasers must also be hardy enough to withstand the intense thermal and neutron fluxes associated with fusion.  A bigger issue with laser systems is problems with timing all of the lasers to pulse at the same instant with the same intensity for maximum collapse.  If they are not coordinated, you will get non symmetrical implosions which will botch the ignition. The system has to run at ultrafast speeds- so fast that it is impossible to measure the pulse through traditional methods, and must be coordinated through an elaborate system of interferometric autocorrelators (tricky given the harsh environment).    The fuel pellets must also be incredibly spherical: any deviation and the trial is toast. 

As you can see, this isn't exactly a walk in the park.  By comparison, fission is a breeze.  Even dancing angels on the head of a pin doesn't even come close to the accuracy/timing necessary to pull this off.  Fortunately, optics and magnetic field manipulation have come a long way, but I can't really say which system will even be commercially viable; there's a lot of problems left to address.

Expect to wait several decades before seeing commercial fusion reactors.  Anybody who tells you otherwise is cookoo.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on March 12, 2009, 19:37:50
If ten years ago someone told me that I would be able to fit a thousand full length movies into a doodad the size of my wallet, I would have thought them cuckoo.  Technology is advancing on a logarithmic curve it would seem. 
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KingKikapu on March 12, 2009, 21:33:13
If ten years ago someone told me that I would be able to fit a thousand full length movies into a doodad the size of my wallet, I would have thought them cuckoo.  Technology is advancing on a logarithmic curve it would seem.

Ten years ago you could do that.  Granted, it would cost you, but magnetic storage devices (Even large platter drives) are nothing new.  This isn't about miniaturizing current tech either.  This is far, far, far more complicated.

P.S.: Logarithmic advancement would probably be a bad thing.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 12, 2009, 23:58:43
Many types of fusion reactors are possible in theory besides Tokamacs and laser Inertial Confinement. A company called EMC2 (http://www.emc2fusion.org/) seems furthest along with a process called Inertial Electrostatic Confinement, but others exist as well, such as Canada's own General Fusion (http://www.generalfusion.com). I suspect there will be a real surprise that does not come from a government lab.

As for technological advancements, we are advancing exponentially in many areas. There are lots of possibilities, good, bad and in between (and even good and bad might be situational). Technology is a tool, the intention is with the user.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KingKikapu on March 13, 2009, 03:25:27
Many types of fusion reactors are possible in theory besides Tokamacs and laser Inertial Confinement. A company called EMC2 (http://www.emc2fusion.org/) seems furthest along with a process called Inertial Electrostatic Confinement,

You are right; there is more than the two ways I mentioned to yield fusion.  To be fair, I said they were the most common ways.  I also didn't mention Magnetized Fusion Targetting which probably has an even larger following than IEC.  Unfortunately IEC has a truly spotted history.  To say that it has definitively produced net power (experimentally or theoretically) yet would be generous.  The polywell also lacks any peer-reviewed scientific literature to support its claims. Until it can do so (experimentally or theoretically), I will remain highly guarded.

With regards to EmC^2 specifically: they have a very suspect history.  And when I say "they", I really mean "that one dead guy" because it was just one dude and he died last year.  To be fair, the work was picked up in late 2007 by someone who seems to be playing the game straight.  I can't say the same for his predecessor: almost all of the man's research is self-citing, he ignores peer review criticisms in respectable journals (even though he wasn't completely gagged by NDA's), and he failed to secure funding by 2006, which made his research dead in the water.  Here's where I get a little miffed though: he took to promoting that he was the recipient of the International Academy of Science Outstanding Technology of the Year award (2006).  The problem I have with that is it was from a fake International Academy of Science.  So he loses funding at the end of FY05 and then in 2006 he suddenly happens to win a bogus award from a bogus institution that he happens to be a paid member of and then goes on an press spree to promote it?  ???  At first glance, that can look pretty bad. 

For the record, the real IAS is a fellowship; you have to be invited in and they don't do tech awards either.  If there's one thing I can't stand, it's scientists with questionable integrity.  Time will tell if the new guy can play by the rules a bit better.  He is working under some seriously strapped financials though.  You may think I'm being Mr. negative, but if it works, I will be just as ecstatic as the next dude.  Probably more actually.  I'm not gonna deny though that I have some lingering doubts.



Quote
...others exist as well, such as Canada's own General Fusion (http://www.generalfusion.com).
I suspect there will be a real surprise that does not come from a government lab.

I have a few friends that work with D-wave and they let me on to this company a while ago.  I am really interested in how their next reactor will fare.  If that one succeeds in breaking even, then we'll have something to write about.  Los Alamos is doing a ton of research on these smaller MFT reactors as it is relatively cheap to fund. Fortunately for General Fusion they have lots of friends in high places, so they should have a lot more money than the 1.3 million that EMC^2 was given.  Still, this is new tech and the nuclear regulatory bodies are pretty strict with the whole experimental reactor thing. 

I'm expecting slow progress.  Funding, theoretical hurdles and strict regulatory requirements make me think two decades minimum before anything remotely resembling a serviceable reactor rears its head.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 24, 2009, 11:52:23
I remain sceptical (extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof), but it is always worth keeping an open eye:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20090323/sc_livescience/newhopeforcontroversialcoldfusionpowersource

Quote
New Hope for Controversial 'Cold Fusion' Power Source
         
LiveScience.com Livescience Staff

livescience.com – Mon Mar 23, 2:56 pm ETIf cold fusion can be made to work, it could power the world cheaply on a virtually limitless supply of seawater. But scientists don't even know if it's possible.

Now a new study has produced evidence for the existence of low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR), the new name for the controversial process labeled "cold fusion" two decades ago.

Fusion is the energy source of the sun and other stars. It occurs when atomic nuclei are combined. Today's nuclear plants employ fission, the splitting of nuclei. Scientists have been striving for decades to tap fusion to produce electricity from an abundant fuel called deuterium that can be extracted from seawater. Fusion would not come with the radioactive byproducts of fission.

At a meeting of the American Chemical Society, the scientists described today what they claim is the first clear visual evidence that LENR devices can produce neutrons, subatomic particles that scientists view as tell-tale signs that nuclear reactions are occurring.

In all, 30 papers on the topic will be presented at the meeting this week as part of a 20th anniversary nod to the first description of cold fusion.

Today's announcement was not just a birthday wish, however.

"Our finding is very significant," said chemist Pamela Mosier-Boss of the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego, Calif. "To our knowledge, this is the first scientific report of the production of highly energetic neutrons from an LENR device."

The consensus 20 years ago was that fusion would require sophisticated new nuclear reactors able to withstand temperatures of tens of millions of degrees.

Then came first report on cold fusion, presented in 1989 by Martin Fleishmann and Stanley Pons. They claimed to achieve nuclear fusion at comparatively "cold" room temperatures - in a simple tabletop laboratory device termed an electrolytic cell. But other scientists could not reproduce their results, and the whole field of research declined.

Some scientists persisted, however, seeking solid evidence that nuclear reactions can occur at low temperatures, as explained in a statement today from the American Chemical Society. One of their problems involved extreme difficulty in using conventional electronic instruments to detect the small number of neutrons produced in the process.

In the new study, Mosier-Boss and colleagues inserted an electrode composed of nickel or gold wire into a solution of palladium chloride mixed with deuterium or "heavy water" in a process called co-deposition. A single atom of deuterium contains one neutron and one proton in its nucleus.

Researchers passed electric current through the solution, causing a reaction within seconds, according to the statement. The scientists then used a special plastic, CR-39, to capture and track any high-energy particles that may have been emitted during reactions, including any neutrons emitted during the fusion of deuterium atoms.

At the end of the experiment, they examined the plastic with a microscope and discovered patterns of "triple tracks," tiny-clusters of three adjacent pits that appear to split apart from a single point. The researchers say that the track marks were made by subatomic particles released when neutrons smashed into the plastic.

Importantly, Mosier-Boss and colleagues believe that the neutrons originated in nuclear reactions, perhaps from the combining or fusing deuterium nuclei.

"People have always asked 'Where's the neutrons?'" Mosier-Boss said. "If you have fusion going on, then you have to have neutrons. We now have evidence that there are neutrons present in these LENR reactions."

They cited other evidence for nuclear reactions including X-rays, tritium (another form of hydrogen), and excess heat. Meanwhile, Mosier-Boss and colleagues are continuing to explore the phenomenon to get a better understanding of exactly how LENR works, which is key to being able to control it for practical purposes.

Mosier-Boss points out that the field currently gets very little funding and, despite its promise, researchers can't predict when, or if, LENR may emerge from the lab with practical applications. The U.S. Department of the Navy and JWK International Corporation in Annandale, Va., funded the study.

Video - Powerful New Solar Energy Collector
Power of the Future: 10 Ways to Run the 21st Century
The Energy Debates: Nuclear Power
Original Story: New Hope for Controversial 'Cold Fusion' Power Source

LiveScience.com chronicles the daily advances and innovations made in science and technology. We take on the misconceptions that often pop up around scientific discoveries and deliver short, provocative explanations with a certain wit and style. Check out our science videos, Trivia & Quizzes and Top 10s. Join our community to debate hot-button issues like stem cells, climate change and evolution. You can also sign up for free newsletters, register for RSS feeds and get cool gadgets at the LiveScience Store
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 01, 2009, 11:54:57
Green jobs are going to save us all right......

http://brainwaveweb.com/forum/showthread.php?p=108675&#post108675

Quote
It has been a while since there has been a discussion of energy policy so I thought I would throw this out in hopes of getting Bob to focus a Diavlog along this line.

It seems that Spain, President Obama's favorite example of countries doing energy po0licy correctly, has just come out with a study looking at how well their policy is working. It has some really interesting data. To highlight just a couple of the salient points.

Quote:
2. Optimistically treating European Commission partially funded data1, we find that for every renewable energy job that the State manages to finance, Spain’s experience cited by President Obama as a model reveals with high confidence, by two different methods, that the U.S. should expect a loss of at least 2.2 jobs on average, or about 9 jobs lost for every 4 created, to which we have to add those jobs that non-subsidized investments with the same resources would have created. 

Quote:
7. The study calculates that since 2000 Spain spent €571,138 to create each “green job”, including subsidies of more than €1 million per wind industry job. (Interpolation, the generally accepted figure for creating a full time job through priovate investment is @ $50,000, lov\wer by a factor of 10

Quote:
8. The study calculates that the programs creating those jobs also resulted in the destruction of nearly 113,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy, or 2.2 jobs destroyed for every “green job” created 

Quote:
14 The price of a comprehensive energy rate (paid by the end consumer) in Spain would have to be increased 31% to being to repay the historic debt generated by this rate deficit mainly produced by the subsidies to renewables, according to Spain’s energy regulator. 

I haven't gotten past the executive study yet but it looks to be interesting reading.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 08, 2009, 02:24:26
After the oil sands are gone, we can go for the oil shale:

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/22403/?nlid=1931

Quote
A Cheaper Way to Draw Oil from Shale
A new heater cable lowers the cost of separating oil-like fluid from rock.
By Tyler Hamilton

A new ceramic-composite material that can withstand high temperatures and constant exposure to moisture could provide an economical way to unlock America's vast oil-shale deposits.

U.S. oil-shale resources hold three times as much crude oil as the whole of Saudi Arabia. But unlike with the gushing fields of the Middle East, extracting oil from shale is like trying to squeeze juice out of frozen lemons. Traditionally, the shale has been surface mined like coal and heated until an oil-like substance called kerogen turns to liquid and oozes out. But this is an expensive, energy-hungry, and carbon-intensive approach that, like much of the extraction happening in Canada's controversial oil sands, is also devastating to the local environment.

More recently, companies such as Royal Dutch Shell have developed ways to tap the oil in situ, by drilling boreholes that are thousands of feet deep and feeding into them inch-thick cables that are heated using electrical resistance and that literally cook the surrounding rock. The kerogen liquefies and gradually pools around an extraction well, where the oil-like fluid can easily be pumped to the surface.

The process involves no mining, uses less water than other approaches, and doesn't leave behind man-made mountains of kerogen-sapped shale. And according to a Rand Corporation study, it can also be done at a third of the cost of mining and surface processing. One technical hitch, however, lies with the heater cable employed. The most common cables used today are insulated with a layer of magnesium oxide, which can deform, degrade, and ultimately short out over time under intense heat, constant exposure to moisture, and the occasional shifting of rock at great depths. Replacement and maintenance can be costly.

Handling such extremes requires "a combination of properties not currently available on the market," says Joe Culver, an official with the Department of Energy (DOE), which considers oil shale vital to America's energy security. In Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah alone, deposits equate to more than 800 billion barrels of recoverable crude.

Composite Technology Development of Lafayette, CO, set out to tackle the cable insulation challenge using a woven ceramic-fiber tape that gets wrapped around copper wiring. The ceramic insulation is a composite material that consists of ceramic fibers and an inorganic ceramic matrix that binds the fibers together. "It's our secret sauce," says executive vice president Mike Tupper, explaining that the fibers can also come braided or in the form of cloth, depending on the application.

The wrapped wire is heated to 150 °C until a resin in the tape hardens the insulation, but the insulation remains flexible for shipping and installation. It's then heated on site to 500 °C, turning it into a solid, durable ceramic coating.

As part of a recent demonstration project under a DOE program, Composite Technology successfully tested its insulated cables for more than 5,000 hours at temperatures ranging from 760 to 850 °C. At these high temperatures, "it has stable electrical properties," says Tupper. "It's not affected by the environment, and it doesn't degrade."

Tupper adds that the cables can also operate under a wide range of voltages and temperatures, and can be manufactured in virtually any length. "There are similar types of materials out there, but we've developed a way to make something that would perform the same way but at a fraction of the cost," Tupper says. "That makes the economics work for the oil and gas industry." He adds that Shell has already evaluated the technology and is showing strong interest.

But even with this breakthrough, some question the wisdom of using electricity to heat up rock just to squeeze more oil out of the planet. Shell claims that its process produces three to seven units of energy for every one unit that's needed for the process.

"Assuming this cable worked, what does that give you?" asks Clement Bowman, a former top scientist at Imperial Oil, who helped lead the development of Canada's oil sands. "Electricity is a high-end electrical product, and using it to recover low-end energy products like kerogen or bitumen will always carry an economic penalty."

Copyright Technology Review 2009.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 12, 2009, 00:49:47
General Fusion update:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/03/general-fusion-research-update.html

Weird as steam driven fusion reactors sound in concept, they have raised @ $7 million in investment funding, so there is the possibility of real progress.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 16, 2009, 08:11:58
More formerly SF concepts coming to the fore:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/energy/23381/?nlid=1955

Quote
Startup to Beam Power from Space
One California utility is taking Solaren Corporation's space-based solar-farm proposal seriously.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
By Kevin Bullis

A startup is trying to generate power in space for use on Earth--an old idea that's never been tried, mostly because it's too expensive, but also because people are concerned that it will fry birds in flight.

One of the biggest long-term challenges with solar power is that it doesn't work well when it's cloudy, and it stops working altogether at night. Most proposed solutions have to do with storing energy from the sun, but a more exotic way around this problem, first proposed in the late 1960s, involves putting the solar panels in space where the sun is always shining. The power would then be beamed to Earth in the form of some sort of electromagnetic waves, likely lasers or microwaves, to a ground-based station that could then deliver power to customers over existing transmission lines. The government has spent $80 million over decades to investigate this approach, but so far no pilot plants have been built.

Now Solaren Corporation, a startup based in Manhattan Beach, CA, is trying to get the idea off the ground. It's working with the California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), which intends to enter into a power-purchase agreement with the company. If the agreement is approved by regulators, starting in 2016, the utility will purchase 200 megawatts of power from Solaren at an undisclosed price--that is, if the startup can get a system into space and working by then. The company has already selected a site in California for the receiving station; it hasn't said exactly where, but it will be close to a PG&E substation and won't require long-distance transmission lines.

Solaren hasn't released many details about the system. CEO Gary Spirnak says that it's conceptually the same as communications satellite technology: it uses solar panels to generate electricity, which gets sent to Earth in the form of radio waves, which are received by antennas on Earth. In a Q & A published by PG&E, he said that the design is "a significant departure from past efforts," so it will be economically feasible. The first system will reportedly be able to generate 1,000 megawatts--about the size of many conventional power plants. The company will need to raise billions of dollars to construct the plant. Right now, it only has 10 employees.

According to a 2007 report (PDF) from the federal government's National Security Space Office, space-based solar is now technically feasible as a result of advances in solar cells and robotics for construction, among other things. But the designs that it considered would be far too expensive for providing the sort of general-purpose, base-load power that Solaren intends to sell. Instead, the government office recommended that the first systems be developed to beam power to troops at forward military bases, since the military can afford to pay a premium. Right now, such bases have to pay an order of magnitude more for their electricity than most customers do. The power could also be used to make synthetic fuels to offset diesel and jet fuel that can cost $20 a gallon in a war zone.

Even then, the report was skeptical about the economic success of the first space-based power plants. The rocket launches alone could be a big problem: the report estimated that building just one power plant would require 120 launches, while the United States only launches about 15 a year (as of 2007). "Even with the [Department of Defense] as an anchor tenant customer at a price of $1-2 per kilowatt hour . . . when considering the risks of implementing a new unproven space technology and other major business risks, the business case for [space-based solar power] still does not appear to be close in 2007 with current capabilities (primarily launch costs)," the report said. (Interpolation: building and launching rockets on an assembly line basis will drive down costs a lot, even with existing technology)

Solaren claims to have addressed these launch costs with its new design. It reportedly can build its first power plant with only four or five launches.

Another common concern is safety. Will beaming down massive amounts of power harm birds or airplanes that cross the path of a beam? Or what if the beam isn't aimed properly and sends its power into the middle of a city? According to the government report, these concerns are unfounded. In the system that it analyzed, the intensity of the beam would be "approximately [one-sixth] of noon sunlight," with the power absorbed over a wide array of antennas. "Because the microwave beams are constant and conversion efficiencies are high, they can be beamed at densities substantially lower than that of sunlight and still deliver more energy per area of land usage than terrestrial solar energy," which by comparison only generates electricity about a quarter of the time, the report said. The intensity would be less than the intensity of microwaves allowed by appliance standards to leak out of microwave ovens. If the beam were to wander over a city, the results would be "anticlimactic," the report said.

But even if Solaren can raise the money it needs and convince people that the system is safe, it could still face opposition from other governments around the world--for example, many governments will be concerned that it could be used as a weapon. "The complexity of negotiating any type of international legal and policy agreements necessary for the development of [space-based solar power] will require significant amounts of time (5-10 years)," the report said.

In the end, because of the many obstacles to the technology, the report recommends that the government build a pilot plant to demonstrate the technology, suggesting that only the government has the resources to make it happen. Later, once the technology is proven and costs for launches come down, it could be economically viable. Solaren seems to think that it's found ways around these problems. It will be interesting to see what they come up with. For now, it's hard to see the agreement with PG&E as more than clever marketing for the company and the utility.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 19, 2009, 23:19:37
More solutions are coming as market forces inspire natural ingenuity. Now we will see if the forces of market demand and economic imperatives can be trumped by political posturing. (Prediction; this administration will throw up roadblocks while India and China commercialize it):

http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=914

Quote
Human ingenuity beats the neo-Malthusians yet again

OK, this is big news. A research team has worked out a way to nearly triple the efficiency of the Fischer-Tropsch process.

This means cheap synthetic hydrocarbons from coal are on the horizon. It probably sinks shale oil and biofuels for good - which is a good thing, as biofuel demand has been driving food prices higher. Potentially, it could make the U.S. - which has huge coal reserves - independent of foreign oil sources for the forseeable future.

Now watch for it: I [predict that the so-called “environmental movement” will scream in horror at this prospect, and we will learn yet again that they are mostly about enforcing eco-puritan poverty on us all rather than doing anything actually useful about actual ecological problems.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 20, 2009, 20:42:45
New news on Polywell fusion devices:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/04/inertial-electrostatic-bussard-fusion.html

Quote
Inertial Electrostatic (Bussard) Fusion Gets $2 million in Funding



Department of Defense (DoD) released its EXPENDITURE PLAN for the projects to be funded with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ($7.4 billion) and $2 million of it is going to fund Inertial Electrostatic Fusion. [H/T IECfusiontech.blogspot.com

    There is a pdf of the plan. On pdf page 166 there is a small item under the heading Domestic Energy Supply/Distribution. It is as follows:

    Plasma Fusion (Polywell) Demonstrate fusion plasma confinement system for shore and shipboard applications; Joint OSD/USN project. 2.0 [million]

Introduction to Bussard Fusion

This site has covered IEC (Bussard) Fusion many times. Bottom line is that it is one of the most promising technologies for achieving cheap, clean and non-controversial energy within ten years. Success would alter energy production, the world economy, propulsion of ships and other vehicles and enable inexpensive access to space.

    IEC fusion uses magnets to contain an electron cloud in the center. It is a variation on the electron gun and vacuum tube in television technology. Then they inject the fuel (deuterium or lithium, boron) as positive ions. The positive ions get attracted to the high negative charge at a speed sufficient for fusion. Speed and electron volt charge can be converted over to temperature. The electrons hitting the TV screen can be converted from electron volts to 200 million degrees.

    The old problem was that if you had a physical grid in the center then you could not get higher than 98% efficiency because ions would collide with the grid. The problem with grids is that the very best you can do is 2% electron losses (the 98% limit). With those kinds of losses net power is impossible. Losses have to get below 1 part in 100,000 or less to get net power. (99.999% efficiency)

    Bussard system uses magnets on the outside to contain the electrons and have the electrons go around and around 100,000 times before being lost outside the magnetic field.

    The fuel either comes in as ions from an ion gun or it comes in without a charge and some of it is ionized by collisions with the madly spinning electrons. The fuel is affected by the same forces as the electrons but a little differently because it is going much slower. About 64 times slower in the case of Deuterium fuel (a hydrogen with one neutron). Now these positively charged Deuterium ions are attracted to the virtual electrode (the electron cloud) in the center of the machine. So they come rushing in. If they come rushing in fast enough and hit each other just about dead on they join together and make a He3 nucleus (two protons and a neutron) and give off a high energy neutron.

    Ions that miss will go rushing through the center and then head for one of the grids. When the voltage field they traveled through equals the energy they had at the center of the machine the ions have given up their energy to the grids (which repel the ions), they then go heading back to the center of the machine where they have another chance at hitting another ion at high enough speed and close enough to cause a fusion.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KingKikapu on April 20, 2009, 21:56:39
I hope they can build their full scale polywell for 2 million.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 29, 2009, 11:05:03
Methane Hydrates, another potential source of hydrocarbon energy:

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 07, 2009, 10:42:54
Roll out the barrel.......

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/04/electro-thermal-dynamic-stripping-oil.html

Quote
Electro Thermal Dynamic Stripping Oil Recovery Could Unlock 400 Billion More Barrels of Oil in Alberta at $26/Barrel


A field test was performed from Sept 2006 to August 2007 and the recovery and performance exceeded expectations. The recovery factor was over 75%, energy used per barrel was 23% less than anticipated and peak production rates were better than expected.

ET Energy's Electro Thermal technology could be used to pump out 600 billion barrels of Alberta's oil sands bitumen. That's more than triple the Alberta government's best guess at what's currently recoverable from the oil sands, and enough to satisfy total global demand for twenty years.

Saudi Arabia has 260 billion barrels of oil reserves, so the additional 421 billion barrels would be close to double the oil in Saudi Arabia.

    In coming weeks, the company will hit the road to raise $150-million to commercialize its technology.

    That technology isn't much to look at — just a few well heads and large tanks sitting on a windswept field south of Fort McMurray. A series of electrodes dangle in each well. When they are turned on, they pass a current through the earth — like electricity through a stove element — and heat it up. The result: The bitumen, which is normally locked in sand as hard as rock, begins to flow — like molasses in a microwave. No huge mines needed, no greenhouse gas-spewing steam projects required.

    In a place accustomed to prying bitumen from the earth using monstrous shovels and vast quantities of steam, this pilot project is a bold attempt to reshape the environmental and financial costs of the oil sands.

    In other parts of Alberta, companies are using radically different techniques: Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd. is studying how to free bitumen using underground combustion, while Laricina Energy Ltd. is mixing steam with solvents, which dramatically cuts the amount of natural gas used to extract bitumen from deeper oil sands. At universities and provincial research bodies, scientists are studying how microbes could be used in bitumen upgrading, and examining the effectiveness of new techniques inside specially modified medical CT scanners.

    E-T has stumbled in its attempts to apply the technology to the oil sands (it has worked dozens of times in environmental remediation applications). In its second major test, it managed to produce oil from only one of four wells. Its problems ranged from electrical cables that were accidentally severed by surface equipment, to the design of its electrodes. In total, E-T has produced less than 3,000 barrels of oil.

    Yet the potential prize for success is huge. E-T's technology, for example, could help open up carbonate oil, a huge hydrocarbon resource that is so tricky to produce that virtually no one has tried. And Petrobank believes its process, which uses a controlled underground burn to intensely heat oil sands and make them flow, can be used in a huge variety of heavy oil fields around the world. Like E-T's process, it requires virtually no water and uses dramatically less energy.

Even repressive "Cap and Trade" regimes will not be able to cripple the economy if the underlying energy source is cheap enough and abundent enough.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: PanaEng on May 07, 2009, 18:21:12
I like Petrobank's technology better - and has been producing for a while now. For ET technology you need a source of electricity (lots of it presumably) which will probably require the use of some of the oil and makes it a more complex process. Interesting to see how they work it out.

cheers,
Frank
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: SeaKingTacco on May 07, 2009, 20:38:04
This is where a Nuclear reactor or five in Northern Alberta/Saskatchewan suddenly begin to make sense.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KingKikapu on May 09, 2009, 14:49:56
The only problem there is power transmission becomes an issue.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 21, 2009, 14:54:18
Look at the end of the article, we have the potential to be sitting pretty and pay off a large fraction of the national debt through increasing oil sales (and neither India or China are interested in Kyoto or "cap and trade" if the US isn't interested):

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/05/bakken-and-oilsands-update.html

Bakken and Oilsands Update
 
Petrobank's canadian oil production averaged 22,085 barrels per day (bpd), up 59 per cent from 13,889 bpd in the first quarter of 2008. Petrobank credited the gains to its Bakken properties in southeast Saskatchewan that account for more than 85 per cent of its production and reserves. The Bakken remains profitable for Petronbank at today's prices--bench-mark oil prices briefly hit a six-month high of $60 US a barrel in New York before settling at $58.85, up 35 cents on the day.

Petrobank's oilsands vice-president Chris Bloomer said the company is ready to proceed with a 100,000-barrel-a-day commercial project at May River, immediately south of Whitesands.

Bloomer predicted the fireflooding technique could unlock 70 to 80 per cent of the existing oil in place in Saskatchewan -- some 20 billion barrels -- compared with seven per cent using existing heavy oil techniques.

Petrobank has four projects currently underway to develop and commercialize the THAI and Capri oil recovery processes.

-The Dawson project will be Petrobank's first application of THAI™ in a more conventional heavy oil reservoir and will be an important step in the expansion of THAI™ as a heavy oil application that can be broadly applied in Canada and internationally.
- White sands project
- May River project
- Sutton (in Saskatechewan)


Output from Canada’s oilsands could rise to as much as 6.3-million barrels a day by 2035, a nearly fivefold increase above current levels, according to energy consultancy IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) in a study called Growth in the Canadian Oil Sands: Finding a New Balance.



To reach the theoretical level of 6.3 million barrels a day, the study assumes strong economic growth and robust oil prices over the long-term. If the global economy stagnates and oil prices remain weak, it is projecting daily production of 2.3 million barrels a day by 2035. That is still about one million barrels a day above current levels.

The numbers show just how important Canada’s oil will become to the United States, as the study predicts that Canada would account for 37 per cent of U.S. oil imports if production is ramped up to 6.3 million barrels a day. It was just 19 per cent in 2008.[/yellow]
[/quote]
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GAP on May 21, 2009, 15:02:33
What I don't understand is why they don't consider Hydro power, especially with the North Sask River reasonably close....the capital costs are about the same, there's already a precedent regarding native rights/partial ownership (manitoba), transmission lines need to be install whichever is developed.....etc., etc......
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 22, 2009, 00:10:37
What I don't understand is why they don't consider Hydro power, especially with the North Sask River reasonably close....the capital costs are about the same, there's already a precedent regarding native rights/partial ownership (manitoba), transmission lines need to be install whichever is developed.....etc., etc......

 >:DHey there, no using logic and fiduciary duties when proposing government projects! >:D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KingKikapu on May 23, 2009, 00:20:26
Canada is a power transmission nightmare.  Our situation is far more difficult than Europe or the US.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on May 23, 2009, 02:36:53
Canada is a power transmission nightmare.  Our situation is far more difficult than Europe or the US.
And why would that be?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KingKikapu on May 23, 2009, 03:13:12
And why would that be?
Widely separated population centres create a myriad of resistive losses in DC power transmission, and there are physical limits to the voltages that you can transmit at before all sorts of corona effects rear their ugly heads.  Everything becomes a trade off.

Snap, crackle, pop.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on May 23, 2009, 11:20:55
Gotcha.  Thanks for the explanation.
(dare I ask what a "corona effect" is?)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GAP on May 23, 2009, 11:32:57
Gotcha.  Thanks for the explanation.
(dare I ask what a "corona effect" is?)

Occurs when the shipments from Mexico get stopped at the US border for security reasons...... :)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KingKikapu on May 23, 2009, 13:38:49
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_discharge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_discharge)

In particular, check out the Problems Caused by Coronal Discharge section. 
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on May 28, 2009, 00:21:48
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_discharge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_discharge)

In particular, check out the Problems Caused by Coronal Discharge section.

Thanks for the info brother!   :salute:
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 14, 2009, 14:47:32
The greatest issues for electric cars or generating electrical energy through intermittent low density power sources (AKA Green energy) is the storage of electrical energy. Nothing comes close to the energy density of hydrocarbon fuels in any practical form (imagine a self serve station dealing in super compressed hydrogen gas or cyrogenic liquid hydrogen at -200 C....), but the energy density of batteries is so low as to be laughable. Even the GM Volt only proves the point, having a battery pack weighting almost a ton to go 40 miles, and a miniscule fuel tank that can take it 300 miles.....

Help may be on the way:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/06/ultimate-specific-energy-for-batteries.html

Quote
Ultimate Specific Energy for Batteries, Ultracapacitors

A comparison of practical and theoretical specific energy limits for various battery technology. Others predict higher practical and theoretical levels.

The determination of the theoretical maximum capacity of a Lithium-air battery is complex, and there isn’t a flat statement of fact in the Handbook of Batteries , Third Edition as are many more well developed chemistries. To provide the most accurate value for the maximum capacity, BD asked Dr. Arthur Dobley to provide an expert opinion, which we quote as follows:
“Specific capacity:
* For lithium metal alone 13 kWh/kg.
* For the lithium and air, theoretical, 11,100 Wh/kg, not including the weight of oxygen, and 5,200 Wh/kg including the weight of oxygen. This was checked by calculation and agrees with K.M. Abrahams publication ,JECS 1996.
* For the Lithium air cell, practical, 3,700 Wh/kg, not including the weight of oxygen, and 1,700 Wh/kg with the weight of oxygen. These numbers are predictions and are made with the presumption that 33% of the theoretical energy will be obtained. The battery industry typically obtains 25% to 50% of the theoretical energy (Handbook of Batteries). Metal air batteries are higher in the range. Zinc-air is about 44% (Handbook of Batteries, 3rd Ed. pg 1.12 and 1.16 table and fig).

We selected a conservative 33%. You may quote these numbers above and make any comments with them. The theoretical numbers are similar to the numbers in the ECS 2004 abstract. ( The difference is due to mathematical rounding.)

PolyPlus Battery Company is developing novel lithium/air batteries with unprecedented energy density, rivaling that possible for hydrocarbon fuel cells. The technology is based on proprietary encapsulated water stable lithium metal enabling the practical realization of unique galvanic couples such as Li/Air and Li/Water batteries. The theoretical specific energy of lithium metal/aqueous couples is greater than 10,000 Wh/kg and commercial batteries are expected to exceed 1000 Wh/l and Wh/kg.

IBM is starting research on lithium air batteries as well.

Only a handful of labs around the world, including those at PolyPlus Battery, in Berkeley, CA, Japan's AIST, and St. Andrews University, in Scotland, are currently working on lithium-air batteries. Lithium metal-air batteries can store a tremendous amount of energy--in theory, more than 5,000 watt-hours per kilogram. That's more than ten-times as much as today's high-performance lithium-ion batteries, and more than another class of energy-storage devices: fuel cells. Instead of containing a second reactant inside the cell, these batteries react with oxygen in the air that's pulled in as needed, making them lightweight and compact.

Metal Air Batteries estimated specific energy:

Polyplus has approached the challenge of the Lithium metal electrode with a coating of a glass-ceramic membrane, sealing the Lithium from an aqueous catholyte. The resultant structure exhibits very small self discharge, ordinarily a large contributor to cell failure. Test cells have produced 0.5 mAh/cm2 for 230 hours exhibiting approximately 100% Coulombic efficiency.

A production oriented cell construction with double sided lithium anode, solid electrolyte and double sided air/cathode is anticipated to have 600 to 1000 Wh/kg energy density.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KingKikapu on June 15, 2009, 23:12:04
The energy density in hydrocarbons may be relatively high, but the vast majority of it goes to waste.

Break even fusion will be the holy grail of power generation.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on June 16, 2009, 09:32:10
Waste heat is a result of the laws of thermodynamics, and thus there is nothing we can do about it in this universe. Obviously if you can perfect a means of extracting the energy from hydrocarbons without going through a thermodynamic cycle like the Carnot cycle, then efficiency will increase. SOFC fuel cells are probably the closest technology to date, now we are talking practical extraction of 40-50% of the energy avalable in hydrocarbon fuels.

High energy density allows you to extract a lot of usable energy even when (as in a car) up to 66% of the energy is flowing out the tailpipe and radiator. Low energy density means you need a ton of batteries to go 40 miles.

Even with nuclear fusion, much of the energy will go to "waste heat" turning water to steam, any thermal energy plant can only get a maximum of @ 40% of the available energy regardless of the heat source (cow dung or nuclear fusion). There are some direct conversion schemes that are theoretically possible with nuclear fusion, but depend on using exotic reactions like 3He+3He or p+11B, which are far more difficult to initiate than D+D, and may not be technically possible for years to come.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Brasidas on June 16, 2009, 09:43:06
There are some direct conversion schemes that are theoretically possible with nuclear fusion, but depend on using exotic reactions like 3He+3He or p+11B, which are far more difficult to initiate than D+D, and may not be technically possible for years to come.

Let alone the fact that helium-3's rare enough that the only schemes I've seen in fifteen years of reading about it involve mining it in outer space. It's cool, but...
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KingKikapu on June 16, 2009, 23:42:48
High energy density allows you to extract a lot of usable energy even when (as in a car) up to 66% of the energy is flowing out the tailpipe and radiator. Low energy density means you need a ton of batteries to go 40 miles.

Even with nuclear fusion, much of the energy will go to "waste heat" turning water to steam, any thermal energy plant can only get a maximum of @ 40% of the available energy regardless of the heat source (cow dung or nuclear fusion). There are some direct conversion schemes that are theoretically possible with nuclear fusion, but depend on using exotic reactions like 3He+3He or p+11B, which are far more difficult to initiate than D+D, and may not be technically possible for years to come.

I think we can both agree that hydocarbon energy density is ludicrously low compared to nuclear fusion.  Even if you had to distribute that energy via some sort of cell system, it would still prove to be a more sustainable approach.  That said, it's gonna be a ***** to find a cycle of reactions that simultaneously have low Z, high reaction cross sections, and probably use multiple chains.  Not an easy combo.

What will be interesting to see is if those high efficiency nanomaterials that directly convert radiation into electricity ever live up to their hype.  Couple that with a clean gamma source and we're sitting pretty.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: zipperhead_cop on July 11, 2009, 21:14:23
Here's something that would make gas stations look a bit more seedy:

Forget gas, batteries — pee is new power source
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31805166/

Scientists can create cheap hydrogen from urine for use in fuel cells
By Eric Bland

updated 5:34 p.m. ET, Wed., July 8, 2009
Urine-powered cars, homes and personal electronic devices could be available in six months with new technology developed by scientists from Ohio University.

Using a nickel-based electrode, the scientists can create large amounts of cheap hydrogen from urine that could be burned or used in fuel cells. "One cow can provide enough energy to supply hot water for 19 houses," said Gerardine Botte, a professor at Ohio University developing the technology. "Soldiers in the field could carry their own fuel."

Pee power is based on hydrogen, the most common element in the universe but one that has resisted efforts to produce, store, transport and use economically.

Storing pure hydrogen gas requires high pressure and low temperature. New nanomaterials with high surface areas can adsorb hydrogen, but have yet to be produced on a commercial scale.

Chemically binding hydrogen to other elements, like oxygen to create water, makes it easier to store and transport, but releasing the hydrogen when it's needed usually requires financially prohibitive amounts of electricity.

By attaching hydrogen to another element, nitrogen, Botte and her colleagues realized that they can store hydrogen without the exotic environmental conditions, and then release it with less electricity, 0.037 Volts instead of the 1.23 Volts needed for water.

One molecule of urea, a major component of urine, contains four atoms of hydrogen bonded to two atoms of nitrogen. Stick a special nickel electrode into a pool of urine, apply an electrical current, and hydrogen gas is released.

Botte's current prototype measures 3x3x1 inch and can produce up to 500 milliwatts of power. However, Botte and her colleagues are actively trying to commercialize several larger versions of the technology.

A fuel cell, urine-powered vehicle could theoretically travel 90 miles per gallon. A refrigerator-sized unit could produce one kilowatt of energy for about $5,000, although this price is a rough estimate, says Botte.

"The waste products from say a chicken farm could be used to produce the energy needed to run the farm," said John Stickney, a chemist and professor at the University of Georgia.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: TCBF on July 12, 2009, 12:15:15
-... and what produces urine? BEER!!

- Whoever in the past said that we coudn't drink our way out of a problem...

- Full Disclosure: I no longer drink.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: George Wallace on July 12, 2009, 12:47:45
-... and what produces urine? BEER!!

- Whoever in the past said that we coudn't drink our way out of a problem...

- Full Disclosure: I no longer drink.

Yer in a world of hurt then.  It'll take you longer to produce a tank of ______________












Then again, you could be a real good buddy and be the Designated Driver on Friday to your friends in the Mess and ask for payment in _______________ in lieu of cash....  >:D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 12, 2009, 15:11:02
Working the ultimate energy source for the biosphere, photosynthesis:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/07/project-to-re-engineer-photosynthesis.html

Quote
Project to Re-engineer Photosynthesis in Rice

An ambitiuos project to re-engineer photosynthesis in rice, led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) through a global consortium of scientists, has received a grant of US$11 million over 3 years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As a result o research being conducted by this group, rice plants that can produce 50% more grain using less, fertilizer and less water are a step closer to reality.

Currently, more than a billion people worldwide live on less than a dollar a day and nearly one billion live in hunger. Over the next 50 years, the population of the world will increase by about 50% and water scarcity will grow. About half of the world’s population consumes rice as a staple cereal, so boosting its productivity is crucial to achieving long-term food security.

Photosynthesis, the process by which plants use solar energy to capture carbon dioxide and convert it into the carbohydrates required for growth, is not the same for all plants. Some species, including rice, have a mode of photo-synthesis (known as C3), in which the capture of carbon dioxide is relatively I inefficient. Other plants, such as maize and sorghum, have evolved a much more efficient form of photosynthesis known as C4.

According to IRRI scientist and project leader Dr. John Sheehy, in tropical climates the efficiency of solar energy conversion of crops using the so-called C4 photosynthesis is about 50% higher than that of C3 crops. Given the demands from an increasing population, combined with less available land and water, adequate future supplies of rice will need to come in large part through substantial yield boosts and more efficient use of crop inputs.

“Converting the photosynthesis of rice from the less-efficient C3 form to the C4 form would increase yields by 50%,” ; said Dr. Sheehy, adding that C4 rice would also use water twice as efficiently. In developing tropical countries, where billions of poor people rely on rice as their staple food, “The benefits of such an improvement in the face of increasing world population, increasing food prices, and decreasing natural resources would, be immense,” he added.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 12, 2009, 15:49:39
Improving the efficiency of the refining process will increase the amount of usable product out of the same amount of input:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/07/rive-technology-working-to-increase-oil.html

Quote
Rive Technology Working to Increase Oil Refining Efficiency 7-9% by 2011

Holey catalyst: Rive Technology is designing a zeolite catalyst with pores larger than those found in conventional zeolites, which are widely used in petroleum and petrochemical production. The larger pores allow the catalysts to handle a wide range of compounds. Credit: Rive Technology

Rive Technology will help refiners increase production of transportation fuels and process less desirable crudes with its innovative catalyst technology. Mesopores (>4 nanometers) in zeolite enable larger molecules to be cracked. Petroleum refiners would obtain a higher yield of desirable products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and propylene, and less of undesirable products like heavy cycle oil and coke.

"By the end of the year, we hope to have hit upon the optimum mix of these things," says Dougherty. "We hope to be in commercial refineries in the second half of 2011." The plan is to license the recipe to commercial manufacturers of petroleum catalysts, such as BASF or W.R. Grace.

Rive’s proprietary catalyst – RiveCat – is focused on the most important conversion process in the refinery – fluid catalytic cracking (FCC). The FCC process converts or “cracks” the long-chain hydrocarbons found in crude oil into smaller, more valuable molecules such as those that comprise transportation fuels.

RiveCat is more accessible to the bulky hydrocarbon molecules found in FCC feedstock, allowing more of the feedstock to get “cracked”, especially when processing low quality crudes. As result, refiners produce a more valuable slate of products from a barrel of crude and increase throughput in the refinery, leading to higher profit margins. Refiners are also able to purchase cheaper, lower quality crudes and process them economically.

Refiners can utilize RiveCat without significant capital investment or changes in operating conditions, allowing them to immediately improve refining yields and profits.


MIT Technology review has details.

Andrew Dougherty, vice president of operations at Rive, says that the catalyst could increase the proportion of petroleum processed by as much as 7 to 9 percent.

The company's technology is based on zeolites--tiny pore-studded particles made of a mix of aluminum, oxygen, and silicon that are a mainstay of the petroleum and petrochemical industries. Heated and mixed in with crude petroleum, zeolites act as a catalyst, breaking apart the complex hydrocarbon molecules of crude into simpler hydrocarbons that make gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and other desirable products in the process known as fluid catalytic cracking. By making zeolites with pores larger than those in conventional ones, Rive hopes to create catalysts that handle a higher proportion of hydrocarbons.

Typically, the openings of pores in zeolites are less than a nanometer wide, which limits the range of hydrocarbon that can get into the porous catalysts. But Javier Garcia Martinez, a cofounder of Rive and now a professor at the University of Alicante, in Spain, came up with a way to control the size of the openings while working as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT's Nanostructured Materials Research Laboratory. He mixes the constituents of the zeolites in an alkaline solution, then adds a surfactant--a soaplike liquid. The surfactant makes bubbles, and the zeolites form around the bubbles. Then he burns away the surfactant, leaving behind zeolites with openings two to five nanometers wide--big enough to let in larger hydrocarbon molecules. By varying the chemistry of the surfactant, Garcia Martinez can control the size of the pore openings.

Dougherty also sees Rive's zeolites being used in hydrocracking, a refining technique that employs high-pressure hydrogen to create a low-sulfur diesel. Hydrocracking is a small market, but with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency trying to reduce sulfur emissions, it's a growing one, he says. With its ability to choose pore size, the company might also make catalysts for processing tar sands, which contain extremely dense petroleum. Further down the road, the material might also be used to process biofuels, according to the company.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 29, 2009, 11:29:03
Another biofuel scheme. Once again, we need to see how this actually scales up:

http://www.technologyreview.com/business/23073/A Biofuel Process to Replace All Fossil Fuels

Quote
A startup unveils a high-yield process for making fuel from carbon dioxide and sunlight.
By Kevin Bullis

A startup based in Cambridge, MA--Joule Biotechnologies--today revealed details of a process that it says can make 20,000 gallons of biofuel per acre per year. If this yield proves realistic, it could make it practical to replace all fossil fuels used for transportation with biofuels. The company also claims that the fuel can be sold for prices competitive with fossil fuels.

Joule Biotechnologies grows genetically engineered microorganisms in specially designed photobioreactors. The microorganisms use energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into ethanol or hydrocarbon fuels (such as diesel or components of gasoline). The organisms excrete the fuel, which can then be collected using conventional chemical-separation technologies.

If the new process, which has been demonstrated in the laboratory, works as well on a large scale as Joule Biotechnologies expects, it would be a marked change for the biofuel industry. Conventional, corn-grain-based biofuels can supply only a small fraction of the United States' fuel because of the amount of land, water, and energy needed to grow the grain. But the new process, because of its high yields, could supply all of the country's transportation fuel from an area the size of the Texas panhandle. "We think this is the first company that's had a real solution to the concept of energy independence," says Bill Sims, CEO and president of Joule Biotechnologies. "And it's ready comparatively soon."

The company plans to build a pilot-scale plant in the southwestern U.S. early next year, and it expects to produce ethanol on a commercial scale by the end of 2010. Large-scale demonstration of hydrocarbon-fuels production would follow in 2011.

So far, the company has raised "substantially less than $50 million," Sims says, from Flagship Ventures and other investors, including company employees. The firm is about to start a new round of financing to scale up the technology.

The new approach would also be a big improvement over cellulose-based biofuels. Cellulosic materials, such as grass and wood chips, could yield far more fuel per acre than corn, and recent studies suggest these fuel sources could replace about one-third of the fossil fuels currently used for transportation in the United States. But replacing all fossil fuels with cellulose-based biofuels could be a stretch, requiring improved growing practices and a vast improvement in fuel economy.

Algae-based biofuels come closest to Joule's technology, with potential yields of 2,000 to 6,000 gallons per acre; yet even so, the new process would represent an order of magnitude improvement. What's more, for the best current algae fuels technologies to be competitive with fossil fuels, crude oil would have to cost over $800 a barrel says Philip Pienkos, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. Joule claims that its process will be competitive with crude oil at $50 a barrel. In recent weeks, oil has sold for $60 to $70 a barrel.

Joule's process seems very similar to approaches that make biofuels using algae, although the company says it is not using algae. The company's microorganisms can be grown inside transparent reactors, where they're circulated to ensure that they all get exposed to sunlight, and they are fed concentrated carbon dioxide--which can come from a power plant, for example--and other nutrients. (The company's bioreactor is a flat panel with an area about the size of a sheet of plywood.) While algae typically produce oils that have to be refined into fuels, Joule's microorganisms produce fuel directly--either ethanol or hydrocarbons. And while oil is harvested from algae by collecting and processing the organisms, Joule's organisms excrete the fuel continuously, which could make harvesting the fuel cheaper.

David Berry, one of the company's founders and a board member, says the organism they use was selected and modified to work well in a bioreactor, and the bioreactor was designed with the specific organism in mind. He adds that the company carefully considered issues such as the organism's response to heat, and the reactor was built to keep the heat within bearable limits. Overheating has been a problem with bioreactors in the past.

The company will likely face many challenges as it attempts to scale up its process. Other companies, such as Green Fuels, have failed to produce biofuels economically in bioreactors because of the high cost of the reactors compared to the amount of fuel produced. Another challenge is keeping the microorganisms producing fuel at a steady rate. Algae populations can bloom and grow so quickly that they outrun the supply of nutrients or sunlight, leading to a collapse of the population, says Jim Barber of Barber Associates, who was formerly CEO of Metabolix, which produces chemicals from renewable resources. "You get a burst and then they all die off," he says.

Joule Biotechnologies will also face stiff competition. It is not the only company developing photosynthetic organisms that excrete fuel. Synthetic Genomics, which recently announced a research partnership with ExxonMobil, has developed organisms that excrete fuel, as has Algenol, which recently announced a partnership with Dow.



Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on August 11, 2009, 12:35:55
Like I said near the beginning of this thread, the end of oil does not mean the end of energy, simply that economic pressures will result in a changeover to something new. In the 1500's, for example, England was rapidly approaching "Peak Forest" as demand for wood rapidly outstripped the supply of forests. (For Elizabethan Englishmen, the regeneration time of a forest was equal to about two or three generations, so forests were effectively non renewable). England turned to coal to replace charcoal and wood as heating fuels.

In the mid 1800's, the United States was experiencing "Peak Whale", as demand for whale oil outstripped the supply of whales, but Americans turned to fossil fuels to replace whale oil.

Looking over the thread, I notice that new process and devices that use current energy sources more efficiently are being spurred by market forces, new supplies of traditional oil are coming on stream in response to higher prices and alternatives are also becoming viable as demand increases (new processes for oil sands, shale oil, bio oils and methane hydrates will provide hydrocarbon energy for centuries to come), and of course, new technologies make nuclear fission power more affordable and nuclear fusion  energy rapidly approaching feasibility at long last. Almost none of these factors are driven by governments or bureaucracies (the market for SUV's was effectively killed in one month last sumer when oil rose past $170/bbl, not due to government regulations or CAFE standards, which take a decade or more to flow through the economy due to capital turnover [i.e. old cars still stay on the road despite new standards])

Maybe what we really need to ask is "what will life be like with vast amounts of cheap energy?"

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/08/mr-fusion-scenario-what-if-there-is.html

Quote
Mr Fusion Scenario : What if there is cheap and abundant Nuclear Fusion Power ?
What if Nuclear Fusion Power became cheap and abundant ?

Note: several technologies that could work out for providing commercial nuclear fusion would not lead to cheap and abundant nuclear fusion. They would have power that is about the same price as current 3rd generation nuclear fission. The regular ITER project is such a system. For low cost and more availability, there needs to be factory mass produced nuclear fusion generators. There are designs for factory mass produced deep burn (burn most of the fuel) nuclear fission which could be cheaper than many forms of nuclear fusion. Cheap nuclear power needs to be as common as small planes. Production volumes need to be a few thousand per year or more.

How it could happen and how cheap could the energy be?

1. Lawrenceville Plasma Physics succeeds as they have described A Focus Fusion reactor would produce electricity very differently. The energy from fusion reactions is released mainly in the form of a high-energy, pulsed beam of helium nuclei. Since the nuclei are electrically charged, this beam is already an electric current. All that is needed is to capture this electric energy into an electric circuit. This can be done by allowing the pulsed beam to generate electric currents in a series of coils as it passes through them. This is much the same way that a transformer works, stepping electric power down from the high voltage of a transmission line to the low voltage used in homes and factories. It is also like a particle accelerator run in reverse. Such an electrical transformation can be highly efficient, probably around 70%. What is most important is that it is exceedingly cheap and compact. The steam turbines and electrical generators are eliminated. A 5 MW Focus Fusion reactor may cost around $300,000 and produce electricity for 1/10th of a cent per kWh. This is fifty times less than current electric costs. Fuel costs will be negligible because a 5 MW plant will require only five pounds of fuel per year. [About 40 million kWh per year from a 5 MWe plant and 5 MWe is equal to 6705 horsepower]

2. Inertial electrostatic confinement (bussard/IEC) fusion is targeting commercialization at 2-5 cents per kWh.

However, many people can make the simple fusor technology which is being scaled up. Material and components costs go up, but future manufacturing capability (nanofactories) and superconductor technology could make the full commercial scale IEC fusion reactors cheap. A 100 MWe reactor for $6 million would be comparable to the Focus Fusion reactor scenario. The hobbyist nature of the simple fusor suggests that even though the high power systems would involve a lot more safety issues and costs, reasonably skilled and dedicated teams of engineers would be able to replicate any IEC fusor success.

3. DARPA had a funded project for Chip-Scale High Energy Atomic Beams.

Develop 0.5 MeV [mega electron-volt] proton beams and collide onto microscale B-11 target with a fusion Q (energy ratio) > 20, possibly leading to self-sustained fusion. (Interpolation; this means a fully functional fusion powerplant capable of powering a car or light truck would be about the size of a deck of cards or pack of cigarettes including associated systems.)

There is progress towards a 1 meter long 10 GeV particle accelerator using plasma wakefield technology

If the distance and power were linear, then a 1 millimeter long system would generate 10 MeV particles. You would then need to work out miniturizing the Laser system and the targets. Laser technology is advancing quickly and better targets could be made from advancing nanotechnology.

Cheap and Abundant Access to Space

IEC fusion at the 2 cents per kWh level would be providing $27/kg access single stage access to orbit.

This kind of single stage to orbit ship would still cost $2-5 billion. High availability of cheap graphene, carbon nanotube or diamondoid or nanofactory capability would greatly reduce the costs and simplify the production of the spaceship because of superior materials and manufacturing.

Easy access to space with a lot of high powered ships and equipment means easy space mining.

One NASA report estimates that the mineral wealth of the asteroids in the asteroid belt might exceed $100 billion for each of the six billion people on Earth.

Fully developing the capabilities of nuclear fusion and nanofactories and accessing these resources in the solar system is the end of scarcity scenario.

Also, use the mundane singularity technology like cement jet printing buildings.

Nuclear Bombs and Weapons would be Easy

If you have a nuclear fusion generator then you can generate a lot of neutrons. With a lot of neutrons you can transmute uranium isotopes.

Non-electric uses for nuclear fusion.

If you have fusion powered transportation around the solar system, then you can make all kinds of kinetic energy weapons. ie bombarding things with accelerated asteroids.

So What Would Be Safe ?

Live in the cheap mobile fusion spaceships.

Have ones big enough for a few tens of thousands of people or move around in fleets.

Use metamaterials (invisibility) or at least alter the albedo (space camoflage) to make them harder to spot. (The solar system is a big place, we are still spotting objects bigger than Pluto at about the distance of Pluto.)

Initially the hard to spot spaceships would be like nuclear missile submarines now, your deterrent force, but eventually a large fraction of the population would be mobile in the solar system for commerce and for safety. There would also be less strategic purpose in going after those people who were still on Earth.

In the long range scenario with nanofactories and cheap fusion, then you could not just manufacture big ships with rotating sections for gravity and carrying plenty of supplies but you would have manufacturing capability and resources to make decoy/redundant ships/colonies. The fully capable redundant ships would also be places to move to if for some reason some of the primary ships were damaged.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on August 24, 2009, 19:45:36
Using ultracapacitors to replace or supplement batteries:

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/23289/

Quote
Ultracaps Could Boost Hybrid Efficiency
Recent studies point to the potential of ultracapacitors to augment conventional batteries.
By Kevin Bullis

Energy storage devices called ultracapacitors could lower the cost of the battery packs in plug-in hybrid vehicles by hundreds or even thousands of dollars by cutting the size of the packs in half, according to estimates by researchers at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, IL. Ultracapacitors could also dramatically improve the efficiency of another class of hybrid vehicle that uses small electric motors, called microhybrids, according to a recent study from the University of California, Davis.

The use of ultracapacitors in hybrids isn't a new idea. But the falling cost of making these devices and improvements to the electronics needed to regulate their power output and coordinate their interaction with batteries could soon make them more practical, says Theodore Bohn, a researcher at Argonne's Advanced Powertrain Research Facility.

Although batteries have improved significantly in recent years, the cost of making them is the main the reason why hybrids cost thousands of dollars more than conventional vehicles. This is especially true of plug-in hybrids, which rely on large battery packs to supply all or most of the power during short trips. Battery packs are expensive in part because they degrade over time and, to compensate for this, automakers oversize them to ensure that they can provide enough power even after 10 years of use in a vehicle.

Ultracapacitors offer a way to extend the life of a hybrid vehicle's power source, reducing the need to oversize its battery packs. Unlike batteries, ultracapacitors don't rely on chemical reactions to store energy, and they don't degrade significantly over the life of a car, even when they are charged and discharged in very intense bursts that can damage batteries. The drawback is that they store much less energy than batteries--typically, an order of magnitude less. If, however, ultracapacitors were paired with batteries, they could protect batteries from intense bursts of power, Bohn says, such as those needed for acceleration, thereby extending the life of the batteries. Ultracapacitors could also ensure that the car can accelerate just as well at the end of its life as at the beginning.

Reducing the size of a vehicle's battery pack by 25 percent could save about $2,500, Bohn estimates. The ultracapacitors and electronics needed to coordinate them with the batteries could cost between $500 and $1,000, resulting in hundreds of dollars of net savings.

Ultracapacitors would also make it possible to redesign batteries to hold more energy. There is typically a tradeoff between how fast batteries can be charged and discharged and how much total energy they can store. That's true in part because designing a battery to discharge quickly requires using very thin electrodes stacked in many layers. Each layer must be separated by supporting materials that take up space in the battery but don't store any energy. The more layers used, the more supporting materials are needed and the less energy can be stored in the battery. Paired with ultracapacitors, batteries wouldn't need to deliver bursts of power and so could be made with just a few layers of very thick electrodes, reducing the amount of supporting material needed. That could make it possible to store twice as much energy in the same space, Bohn says.

Ultracapacitors could also be useful in a very different type of hybrid vehicle called a microhybrid, says Andrew Burke, a research engineer at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. As designed today, these vehicles use small electric motors and batteries to augment a gasoline engine, allowing the engine to switch off every time the car comes to a stop and restart when the driver hits the accelerator. A microhybrid's batteries can also capture a small part of the energy that is typically wasted as heat during braking. Because ultracapacitors can quickly charge and discharge without being damaged, it would be possible to design microhybrids to make much greater use of an electric motor, providing short bursts of power whenever needed for acceleration. They could also collect more energy from braking. According to computer simulations performed by Burke, such a system would improve the efficiency of a conventional engine by 40 percent during city driving. Conventional microhybrids only improve efficiency by 10 to 20 percent.

In both plug-in hybrids and microhybrids, ultracapacitors would offer improved cold weather performance, since they do not rely on chemical reactions that slow down in the cold. "In very cold weather, you have to heat the battery, or you can't drive very fast--you'd have very low acceleration," Bohn says. In contrast, ultracapacitors could provide fast acceleration even in cold temperatures.

Mark Verbrugge, director of the materials and processes lab at GM, says that of the two uses for ultracapacitors, it will be easier to use them in microhybrids. In this case, he says, ultracapacitors would simply replace batteries, since they store enough energy to augment the gasoline engine without the help of batteries. In plug-in hybrids, which require much more energy, ultracapacitors would need to be paired with batteries, and this would require complex electronics to coordinate between the two energy storage devices. "By and large, you never want to add parts to a car," he says. "You want the simplest system possible" so that there are fewer things to go wrong.

For ultracapacitors to be practical in microhybrids, Verbrugge says, the cost of making them has to decrease by about half, which may be possible because many parts of the manufacturing process for large ultracapacitors aren't yet automated. But to justify the added complexity in plug-in hybrids, he says, the entire system would have to cost significantly less than using batteries alone.

The researchers at Argonne have already taken steps toward proving that ultracapacitors can provide these savings, having shown that they reduce the heat stress placed on batteries by a third. They are continuing to test ultracapacitors to demonstrate that they can make batteries last longer, which would allow automakers to use smaller batteries and save money.

Copyright Technology Review 2009.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on September 02, 2009, 20:12:30
Alberta's heavy oil and oil sands are about to get lots of competition from new light oil production:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/09/iraqs-rumaila-oil-field-could-double.html

Quote
Iraq's Rumaila Oil Field Could Double Iraq Oil Production and a Big Oil Find in the Gulf of Mexico

Business Week reports on the BP (British Petroleum) project to modernize the Rumaila oil field to nearly double its production and restore Iraq's power in OPEC.

A lot of the underproduction of "easy oil reserves" is in Iraq and Nigeria. Brazil, Russia, China, United States, Kazakhstan and Canada have key oil megaprojects that are non-OPEC over the next 5 years. Saudi Arabia continues to develop large fields, but OPEC production is held back as part the control of oil prices. New Oil production technology (like THAI/Capri and electrothermal stimulation) are key to unlocking vast oilsand reserves and further improvement of multistage wells are needed for the economic development of Bakken oilfields.

    Rumaila, is a monster, producing 960,000 barrels per day now—nearly half of Iraq's current output. The winners, BP (BP) and China's CNPC, plan to bring the field to plateau production of 2.85 million barrels per day within six years. That would make it one of the most prolific fields in the world. However, the companies may have deliberately made high estimates so as to try to win the contracts.

    BP also thinks it understands Rumaila well, having originally discovered the field in the 1950s and having worked on it with the Iraqis during the past five years. BP also thinks Rumaila closely resembles the giant Samatlor field in western Siberia, which it has successfully managed through its TNK-BP Russia subsidiary. Finally, through CNPC the partners will have access to a Chinese supply chain to bring in the low-cost equipment needed, including onshore drilling rigs. An Iraqi state company will have a 25% stake, while BP and CNPC will share a 75-25 split of the rest.

    The top production targets bid by the international oil community on the six Iraqi oil fields on offer add up to 8.2 million barrels per day. If achieved, that level of output would put Iraq in a rarefied league with Saudi Arabia as a major oil exporter. Potential is one thing, of course, and actual production is another.

2. BP announced today a giant oil discovery at its Tiber Prospect in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

    The well, located in Keathley Canyon block 102, approximately 250 miles (400 kilometres) south east of Houston, is in 4,132 feet (1,259 metres) of water. The Tiber well was drilled to a total depth of approximately 35,055 feet (10,685 metres) making it one of the deepest wells ever drilled by the oil and gas industry.

    BP Plc, Europe’s second-largest oil company, “giant” discovery at the Tiber Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico that may contain more than 3 billion barrels, after drilling the world’s deepest exploration well.

    The latest discovery will help BP, already the biggest producer in the Gulf of Mexico, boost output in the region by 50 percent to 600,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day after 2020.

FURTHER READING
Oil megaprojects list at wikipedia.

The Rumaila project is not included on the oil megaprojects list at this time.

Vankor Field in Russia came online August, 2009 and is to produce 60 thousand barrels per day in 2009 and 220 thousand barrels per day in 2010 and 315 thousand barrels per day in 2011.

Brazil, Russia, China, United States, Kazakhstan and Canada have key oil megaprojects that are non-OPEC over the next 5 years.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on September 19, 2009, 00:34:45
And even more oil. At this rate we should be seeing oil priced around .50/litre

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/09/evidence-three-forks-formation-is.html

Quote
Evidence Three Forks formation is Separate from Bakken Which Would Mean a Lot more Oil

Testing done in the Bakken shale area found a "stacked play," meaning one oil formation is on top of another, which could allow more oil to be recovered at a lower cost in a smaller area with less environmental damage, said Continental Resources Hamm said the testing showed two distinct formations. He said the Three Forks well initially fetched 140 barrels daily. The Bakken well fetched about 1,200. State officials said in July that production results from 103 wells in the Three Forks-Sanish formation show some wells recovering more than 800 barrels a day, considered "as good or better" than some in the Bakken, where the record is thought to be more than 4,000 barrels a day.

    State geologist Ed Murphy called Continental's findings interesting but said more wells are needed before researchers know for sure the characteristics and potential of the Three Forks formation.

    The company's tests and other promising results from Three Forks wells have fueled speculation that the formation could add billions of barrels to government reserve estimates.

    Continental, which is marking 20 years in North Dakota, also trademarked the process of drilling multiple wells from one pad, the area cleared for drilling machinery. It plans to drill two wells into the Bakken and another two into the Three Forks from one pad, which means the well site's footprint will be cut from 20 acres to six acres, Hamm said.

    The company estimates its ECO-Pad process will cut drilling and well completion costs, which run as high as $7 million in the Bakken, by about 10 percent. The process could be in place by the end of the year.

The company also plans to use a single drill rig that can be moved to different sites on a pad, which will require only one road and fewer power lines, pipelines and other infrastructure, he said.

Seeking Alpha has the transcript of the August 2009 conference call for continental resources.

    This test was very important to us and I believe we did (inaudible) is stacking two laterals and established not even with unrealistically tight spacing the Middle Bakken and Three Forks/Sanish reservoirs are separate and need be developed individually. Consequently in terms of testing we have seen what we effectively need to see. So given the extensive number of wells that we and others have completed across playing both zones, as I said earlier, Continental is now transitioning into the developmental mode with a staggered drilling pattern that we will use to harvest the two reservoirs.

    The most effective way to drain these two tanks so to speak is to drill north south oriented Middle Bakken well and then step over to about 660 feet east or west and drill Three Forks/Sanish well in the same orientation and then step over another 660 feet and drill the next Middle Bakken well working your way out across play. We think this development plan dovetails very well with the ECO-pad concept that the NDIC approved this last week. Continental has developed an innovative new approach for drilling multiple wells around the same old drilling pad specifically the two Middle Bakken and two Three Forks/Sanish wells per ECO-pad.

    The key advantages we think are very apparent. We drilled four wells from one ECO-pad minimizing the environmental impact. One ECO-pad will have about 70% less space as the surface footprint area than four conventional drilling pads. Instead of four pads, basically we use about 5 acres each up there for (inaudible) drilling platform and therefore we will be drilling four wells sequentially from a single 6-acre ECO-pad.

    The NDIC granted ECO-pads an exemption from setback requirements on section [ph] property lines. We'll be drilling fence to fence from 1280 acreage spacing unit to the next, instead of leaving about 1100 feet or more untouched rock between these two 1200 acre space units. So we will be utilizing all the reservoirs within our space unit.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on October 20, 2009, 20:12:35
Attempting to take energy from literally "nothing". Of course tampering with the fundimental structure of the Universe and Space/Time might not be such a good idea in the long run.....

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=darpa-casimir-effect-research

Quote
Research in a Vacuum: DARPA Tries to Tap Elusive Casimir Effect for Breakthrough Technology
DARPA mainly hopes that research on this quantum quirk can produce futuristic microdevices

By Adam Marcus


Named for a Dutch physicist, the Casimir effect governs interactions of matter with the energy that is present in a vacuum. Success in harnessing this force could someday help researchers develop low-friction ballistics and even levitating objects that defy gravity. For now, the U.S. Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a two-year, $10-million project encouraging scientists to work on ways to manipulate this quirk of quantum electrodynamics.

Vacuums generally are thought to be voids, but Hendrik Casimir believed these pockets of nothing do indeed contain fluctuations of electromagnetic waves. He suggested, in work done in the 1940s with fellow Dutch physicist Dirk Polder, that two metal plates held apart in a vacuum could trap the waves, creating vacuum energy that, depending on the situation, could attract or repel the plates. As the boundaries of a region of vacuum move, the variation in vacuum energy (also called zero-point energy) leads to the Casimir effect. Recent research done at Harvard University, Vrije University Amsterdam and elsewhere has proved Casimir correct—and given some experimental underpinning to DARPA's request for research proposals.

Investigators from five institutions—Harvard, Yale University, the University of California, Riverside, and two national labs, Argonne and Los Alamos—received funding. DARPA will assess the groups' progress in early 2011 to see if any practical applications might emerge from the research. "If the program delivers, there's a good chance for a follow-on program to apply" the research, says Thomas Kenny, the DARPA physicist in charge of the initiative.

Program documents on the DARPA Web site state the goal of the Casimir Effect Enhancement program "is to develop new methods to control and manipulate attractive and repulsive forces at surfaces based on engineering of the Casimir force. One could leverage this ability to control phenomena such as adhesion in nanodevices, drag on vehicles, and many other interactions of interest to the [Defense Department]."

Nanoscale design is the most likely place to start and is also the arena where levitation could emerge. Materials scientists working to build tiny machines called microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) struggle with surface interactions, called van der Waals forces, that can make nanomaterials sticky to the point of permanent adhesion, a phenomenon known as "stiction". To defeat stiction, many MEMS devices are coated with Teflon or similar low-friction substances or are studded with tiny springs that keep the surfaces apart. Materials that did not require such fixes could make nanotechnology more reliable. Such materials could skirt another problem posed by adhesion: Because surface stickiness at the nanoscale is much greater than it is for larger objects, MEMS designers resort to making their devices relatively stiff. That reduces adhesion (stiff structures do not readily bend against each other), but it reduces flexibility and increases power demands.

Under certain conditions, manipulating the Casimir effect could create repellant forces between nanoscale surfaces. Hong Tang and his colleagues at Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science sold DARPA on their proposal to assess Casimir forces between miniscule silicon crystals, like those that make up computer chips. "Then we're going to engineer the structure of the surface of the silicon device to get some unusual Casimir forces to produce repulsion," he says. In theory, he adds, that could mean building a device capable of levitation.

Such claims emit a strong scent of fantasy, but researchers say incremental successes could open the door to significant breakthroughs in key areas of nanotechnology, and perhaps larger structures. "What I can contribute is to understand the role of the Casimir force in real working devices, such as microwave switches, MEMS oscillators and gyroscopes, that normally are made of silicon crystals, not perfect metals," Tang says.

The request for proposals closed in September. The project received "a lot of interest," Kenny says. "I was surprised at the creativity of the proposals, and at the practicality," he adds, although he declined to reveal how many teams submitted proposals. "It wasn't pure theory. There were real designs that looked buildable, and the physics looked well understood."

Still, the Casimir project was a "hard sell" for DARPA administrators, Kenny acknowledges. "It's very fundamental, very risky, and even speculative on the physics side," he says. "Convincing the agency management that the timing was right was difficult, especially given the number of programs that must compete for money within the agency."

DARPA managers certainly would be satisfied if the Casimir project produced anything tangible, because earlier attempts had failed. Between 1996 and 2003, for example, NASA had a program to explore what it calls Breakthrough Propulsion Physics to build spacecraft capable of traveling at speeds faster than light (299,790 kilometers per second). One way to do that is by harnessing the Casimir force in a vacuum and using the energy to power a propulsion system. The program closed with this epitaph on its Web site: "No breakthroughs appear imminent."

One of many problems with breakthrough propulsion based on the Casimir force is that whereas zero-point energy may be theoretically infinite, it is not necessarily limitless in practice—or even minutely accessible. "It's not so much that these look like really good energy schemes so much as they are clever ways of broaching some really hard questions and testing them," says Marc Millis, the NASA physicist who oversaw the propulsion program.

The DARPA program faces several formidable obstacles, as well, cautions Jeremy Munday, a physicist at California Institute of Technology who studies the Casimir effect. For starters, simply measuring the Casimir force is difficult enough. These experiments take many years to complete, adds Munday, who recently published a paper in Nature (Scientific American is part of the Nature Publishing Group) describing his own research. What's more, he says, although several groups have measured the Casimir force, only a few have been able to modify it significantly. Still, Munday adds, the exploratory nature of the program means its goals and expectations are "quite reasonable."

Tang is pragmatic about his efforts, given the unlikelihood that Casimir force will ever provide much energy to harness. "The force is really small," he says. "After all, a vacuum is a vacuum."

Yet sometimes the best science can hope for is baby steps. "To come up with anything that can lead to a viable energy conversion or a viable force producing effect, we're not anywhere close," Millis says. "But then, of course, you don't make progress unless you try.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: krustyrl on October 20, 2009, 20:48:44
"But what does it all mean, Basil.?"   (Austin Powers)    ???
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 16, 2009, 23:18:44
More oil from Sask and North Dakota:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/11/north-dakota-oil-production-projected.html

Quote
North Dakota Oil Production Projected to be 350,000 Barrels of Oil Per Day in 2010

Forbes reports that North Dakota's oil production is expected to approach 350,000 barrels next year, an increase of more than 50 percent, because of a major pipeline expansion and the anticipated startup of a shipping terminal near Stanley (SXE) that will be able to haul 60,000 barrels a day by rail to refineries near Cushing, Okla.

The latest statistics for North Dakota oil production are for Sept, 2009. They report 238,003 barrels of oil per day. Production has been increasing by 5,000 to 10,000 barrels of oil per day each month. If this trend is continuing then November, 2009 production would be 248,000-258,000 barrels of oil per day and would be in the range of 255,000-265,000 barrels of oil per day at the end of 2009.

Bakken oil production (Sask, ND, Montana) would be in the 500,000 barrel of oil per day range in 2011-2012 and onwards.

The 500,000 bpd is over 3 times what was coming from the Bakken two years ago and double the estimate of whether Bakken could move the needle for US production.

465,000 bpd from Montana and ND would be 14 million barrels of oil per month.

US production of oil is 162 million barrels per month.

So over 8% of US oil production.

The oil production technology for the Bakken is still improving and they are talking about possibly getting to 30% of the oil in place. 400 billion barrels of oil in place. That would be 120 billion barrels. So the 6-8 billion barrels of reserves talk is a snapshot.

167 billion barrels of oil in-place in the North Dakota portion of the Bakken and not including Three Forks Sanish oil.

It also combines with Gulf of Mexico oil for the USA.

Eventually offshore drilling in California would be allowed (if oil problems became more serious) and currently off limits Alaska oil.

Saskatchewan is producing 65,000 barrels of oil per day from its part of the Bakken

    Analysts have calculated that Bakken plays will break even with oil at about $30 (U.S.) a barrel. That calculation is part of the reason why valuations in the area have been high. Crescent Point, for example, paid $142,643 (Canadian) per producing barrel of oil equivalent for TriAxon – double the average for Canadian energy transactions this year.

    Saskatchwan oil companies have yet to find a way to wring more than about 20 per cent of the oil from the ground. New techniques are promising – underground water injections, for example, could boost recovery rates to over 30 per cent – but the Saskatchewan plays retain technological risk. Crescent Point, for example, has told investors it has the potential to more than double its reserves – and risk that new ground won't be as productive.

    North Dakota's current production now exceeds 238,000 barrels a day, which ranks the state behind only Texas, Alaska and California. The state's output supplies about 2 percent of the nation's domestic crude oil output.

    If oil prices stay above $60 a barrel and contemplated oil transportation projects become reality, the state could be producing 400,000 barrels of oil daily within five years, said Lynn Helms, director of the state Department of Mineral Resources.

Canadian Business reports: Billionaire oilman Harold Hamm believes North Dakota's oil reserves are double the federal government's estimates.

He said the U.S. Geological Survey's estimate of 4.2 billion barrels of oil in the Bakken shale formation could be "100 percent off."

    Hamm is the chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Resources Inc., an independent oil and gas company based in Enid, Okla. His company was one of the first to tap the Bakken formation in North Dakota's oil patch 20 years ago.

    The Bakken formation encompasses some 25,000 square miles in North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. About two-thirds of the acreage is in western North Dakota.

    Hamm also said he believes domestic reserves are growing, and not just in North Dakota.

    More expansion being planned by the pipeline companies Enbridge Inc. ( ENB ) and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (EPL ) LP would allow another boost that could put the state's daily production at 400,000 barrels, Helms said.

Recovery Rate and Well Differences Between Saskatchewan and North Dakota Bakken

From Bakken Discussion Group

    A typical Bakken section is generally recognized by third party reserve evaluators as containing approximately 4.0 mmbbls of original- oil-in-place with proved plus probable reserve recovery estimated at 12.5%. PetroBakken's internal assessments, based on ongoing strong production performance combined with increased well density and frac intensity is ultimately expected to increase reserve recovery to up to 22.5%. PetroBakken will control 440 net sections of land, with an estimated ultimate recovery factor of 22.5%, the potential recoverable resource could approach 400 mmbbls.

Recovery rate estimates in North Dakota have been about 1-2%.

    The increased recovery rate seems to be based upon "using multi-leg horizontal drilling technology that reduces inter-well distance between horizontal legs from 400 metres to 200 metres". Currently in North Dakota the smallest horizontal drilling unit is 640 acres. If the ND oil companies downsize to the point where there is a horizontal leg every 200 meters, then that would result in something like 7 wells per 640 acres. Reducing interwell distance could allow recovery rates of 22.5% vs the something like 10% currently being advertised. The economics of one well that costs $5 million and recovers 10% is a lot different than the economics of 7 wells costing $35 million and recovering 22.5%.

    The bakken is much closer to the surface in Canada such that it is cheaper to drill each one of those wells.

    The Canadian bakken is a different animal, with decent intergranular porosity and permeability, more like a conventional reservoir and much shallower.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on November 27, 2009, 15:28:16
Destroying energy rather than creating it:

http://www.minyanville.com/articles/corn-ethanol-biofuels/index/a/24400

Quote
Overhyped Products: Corn Ethanol
Scott Reeves  Sep 28, 2009 8:40 am 
   
There’s just one problem with corn-based ethanol: It takes 29% more fossil energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than the ethanol release when burned as fuel.

The disparity between energy input and output makes ethanol the triumph of politics over logic.

Uncle Sam mandates the use of ethanol as a fuel additive and pushes it as an alternative of imported oil. Politicians of both parties have long promoted ethanol as a way to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported oil.

At a public forum in 2007, President Bush made the standard case for ethanol:
 
“First of all, I'm guilty on promoting ethanol. And the reason is, is because I think it's in our interests to diversify away from oil. And the reason why it's -- I know that's hard for a Texan to say. But the reason why we've got to diversify away from oil is that we end up with dependency on oil from certain parts of the world where people don't particularly like us...             
And so, I promoted ethanol, and still believe it's important for the future.”

Last March, California Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she supported increasing the ethanol-to-gasoline blend rate to 15% from 10% in an effort to reduce dependence on oil imports. “It seems to me we should be able to do that,” Pelosi told reporters after addressing the National Farmers Union in Washington.

What seemed like a foolproof business plan fell flat with investors, who did the math and concluded that corn-based ethanol makes no long-term sense.

VeraSun and Pacific Ethanol (PEIX) have been pounded. Cascade Investment, a firm owned by Microsoft (MSFT) chairman Bill Gates, sold its 21% stake in Pacific Ethanol in 2007.

Ethanol isn’t fancy or magical. It’s an alcohol produced by a distilling process similar to that used to make hard liquor. Blending ethanol with gasoline allows oil companies to boost octane more cheaply than additional refining.

Despite the hype, ethanol doesn’t produce a net energy gain because corn production requires large amounts of fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides. The manufacture and application of these chemicals consumes large amounts of energy. The corn must be harvested and hauled to production plants to be distilled into alcohol, which requires more energy. Then the ethanol must be distributed to users by rail and truck. After all that, it’s time to think about the air pollution and wastewater created by ethanol production plus the potential problem of chemical-laden runoff from the cornfields.

Increasing acreage devoted to corn won’t tip the balance in ethanol’s favor because the new land is likely to be less productive than land already cultivated, increasing the cost of production -- especially fertilization. The use of additional energy needed to make marginal land productive would be so great that a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concludes that ethanol production expansion would boost greenhouse gas emissions above current levels.

Using alcohol as a fuel isn’t new. Nicholas Otto, the German inventor best known for developing the internal combustion engine, used ethanol as the fuel for one of his engines in 1876.

What’s new is the unintended consequence of a federal energy program. The Clean Air Act of 1990, designed to reduce air pollution by replacing MTBE with ethanol, instead shovels money to favored companies such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), a diversified agricultural company.

“The Archer Daniels Midland Corporation has been the most prominent recipient of corporate welfare in recent US history,” James Bovard wrote in a report for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, DC. “ADM [has] lavishly fertilized both political parties with millions of dollars in handouts and in return [has] reaped billion-dollar windfalls from taxpayers and consumers.”

Ethanol made from cellulose, the fibrous material found in plants, contains less energy than fuel derived from corn. If forest or grassland is cleared to plant crops used to make ethanol, it’s usually done by burning off existing vegetation. This releases large amounts of carbon dioxide.

Some say the problem could be resolved, at least in part, by using agricultural waste as the feedstock for ethanol or by growing grass on marginal land that won’t support commercial crops. But that will require new technology because only sugars and seeds can now be distilled efficiently into alcohol. Chevron (CVX) is working with major universities in an effort to develop plants that make better feedstock for cellulosic ethanol and to improve processing methods.

Oil now provides about 40% of the world’s total energy and from 2000 to 2007, the developing world accounted for 85% of the growth in world demand, the Wall Street Journal reports. Oil will be increasingly important in China and India. This means money will continue to flow to some unsavory characters and manic price swings will persist. Last year, the price of a barrel of oil ranged from $147.27 in July to $32.40 in December. Such fluctuations make it difficult to plan and invest in alternative fuels.

Ethanol supporters say subsidies are needed to level the playing field. But US oil subsidies total about $1 billion a year, or six to eight times less than ethanol subsidies.

For now, politics trumps the market. In March 2008, the US Energy Information Administration estimated that US ethanol production capacity was 7.2 billion gallons per year with an additional 6.2 billion gallons of capacity under construction.

In 2007, the US consumed 6.8 billion gallons of ethanol and 500 million gallons of biodiesel. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 expanded the Renewable Fuels Standard to require that 36 billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels be blended into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel by 2022.

So, don’t expect an outbreak of rationality in Washington anytime soon -- especially as long as the Iowa caucus comes first in the presidential nomination process and farm states can swing the election or determine which party holds the majority in Congress.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 05, 2009, 13:04:46
The ultimate in personal empowerment: www.nextbigfuture.com/2009/12/compact-proton-beam-accelerators-and.html

The article on today's page talks about compact fusion generators. Given the nature of what they are proposing (microscopic fusion reactors engraved on a chip) I could see a realized device with thousands of parallel units, control systems and so on being about the size of a laptop, and evolving to iPhone size from there (remember, I'm talking about the complete device with all the associated systems. Tha actual fusion reactions would take place in an area the size of a laptop CPU or cell phone sim card).

Mr Fusion would not work on old banana peels, but other than having to find a supply of Boron fuel and a compact ion source to get started, something like this would keep you pretty self sufficient in energy regardless of what you do. Seeing that energy use is a key indicator of national and personal wealth, being able to access huge amounts of electrical energy in cheap, portable and compact form would boost GDP and personal income by an order of magnitude.
 
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 19, 2009, 09:01:12
More Canadian oil plays in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Smart investors might look at these plays, especially if "green" fanatics are trying to shut down the Alberta tar sands:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/12/cardium-and-viking-oil-plays.html

Quote
Cardium and Viking Oil Plays

Multistage horizontal drilling is opening previously ignored section of the Cardium Pembina oil reserve

Pembina, with an estimated 7.8 billion barrels of original oil in place, is Canada's largest conventional onshore oilfield. Despite extensive secondary recovery through waterfloods, less than 1.4 billion barrels has been produced. The scale of the remaining prize continues to draw plenty of interest

The new Cardium oil play in Alberta is rapidly approaching the stature of Saskatchewan’s famous Bakken play.

    Both the Bakken and the Cardium are “tight” or “unconventional” plays, where the oil is hosted in a rock, as opposed to a more porous, and usual sand formation.

    They were well known but uneconomic zones until a few years ago, when advancements in horizontal drilling and fracing technologies allowed them to be exploited. The Bakken is ranked by most Canadian analysts as the most profitable oil play in the country now, with Cardium as #2.

    With the Cardium in particular, there is very little geological risk. It has been drilled through thousands of times to get to the oil in the more porous, productive zone below it. The market loves these low risk plays that are very “repeatable” – each new well is likely to produce just as the one before it.

    Thirdly, these new technologies are continually improving the economics in these formations. Four years later, companies are still increasing production from Bakken wells, and increasing the overall amount of oil recovered from the formations. The Cardium is a younger play, only a year old, and as management teams tweak the way they drill and frac these wells, it may one day get even closer to Bakken economics.

The Viking oil play in Southwest Saskatchewan stands at approximately 6 billion barrels, implying that the play is second only to the Cardium in OOIP among non-oil sands resources. Similar to the Cardium, the Viking is a legacy oil pool that has been developed since the 1950s with older technology, and that now stands to be rejuvenated by virtue of advancements in horizontal multi-stage fraccing techniques.

Mid-Continent shale may have as much as 500 billion barrels of oil. Bakken Shale oil production alone may reach 500,000 barrels per day in 2011. The Three Forks is rumored to contain just as much oil as the Bakken.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 22, 2009, 23:51:29
More alternatives:

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/ff_new_nukes/all/1

Quote
Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke

The thick hardbound volume was sitting on a shelf in a colleague’s office when Kirk Sorensen spotted it. A rookie NASA engineer at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Sorensen was researching nuclear-powered propulsion, and the book’s title — Fluid Fuel Reactors — jumped out at him. He picked it up and thumbed through it. Hours later, he was still reading, enchanted by the ideas but struggling with the arcane writing. “I took it home that night, but I didn’t understand all the nuclear terminology,” Sorensen says. He pored over it in the coming months, ultimately deciding that he held in his hands the key to the world’s energy future.

Published in 1958 under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Commission as part of its Atoms for Peace program, Fluid Fuel Reactors is a book only an engineer could love: a dense, 978-page account of research conducted at Oak Ridge National Lab, most of it under former director Alvin Weinberg. What caught Sorensen’s eye was the description of Weinberg’s experiments producing nuclear power with an element called thorium.

At the time, in 2000, Sorensen was just 25, engaged to be married and thrilled to be employed at his first serious job as a real aerospace engineer. A devout Mormon with a linebacker’s build and a marine’s crew cut, Sorensen made an unlikely iconoclast. But the book inspired him to pursue an intense study of nuclear energy over the next few years, during which he became convinced that thorium could solve the nuclear power industry’s most intractable problems. After it has been used as fuel for power plants, the element leaves behind minuscule amounts of waste. And that waste needs to be stored for only a few hundred years, not a few hundred thousand like other nuclear byproducts. Because it’s so plentiful in nature, it’s virtually inexhaustible. It’s also one of only a few substances that acts as a thermal breeder, in theory creating enough new fuel as it breaks down to sustain a high-temperature chain reaction indefinitely. And it would be virtually impossible for the byproducts of a thorium reactor to be used by terrorists or anyone else to make nuclear weapons.

Weinberg and his men proved the efficacy of thorium reactors in hundreds of tests at Oak Ridge from the ’50s through the early ’70s. But thorium hit a dead end. Locked in a struggle with a nuclear- armed Soviet Union, the US government in the ’60s chose to build uranium-fueled reactors — in part because they produce plutonium that can be refined into weapons-grade material. The course of the nuclear industry was set for the next four decades, and thorium power became one of the great what-if technologies of the 20th century.

Today, however, Sorensen spearheads a cadre of outsiders dedicated to sparking a thorium revival. When he’s not at his day job as an aerospace engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama — or wrapping up the master’s in nuclear engineering he is soon to earn from the University of Tennessee — he runs a popular blog called Energy From Thorium. A community of engineers, amateur nuclear power geeks, and researchers has gathered around the site’s forum, ardently discussing the future of thorium. The site even links to PDFs of the Oak Ridge archives, which Sorensen helped get scanned. Energy From Thorium has become a sort of open source project aimed at resurrecting long-lost energy technology using modern techniques.

And the online upstarts aren’t alone. Industry players are looking into thorium, and governments from Dubai to Beijing are funding research. India is betting heavily on the element.

The concept of nuclear power without waste or proliferation has obvious political appeal in the US, as well. The threat of climate change has created an urgent demand for carbon-free electricity, and the 52,000 tons of spent, toxic material that has piled up around the country makes traditional nuclear power less attractive. President Obama and his energy secretary, Steven Chu, have expressed general support for a nuclear renaissance. Utilities are investigating several next-gen alternatives, including scaled-down conventional plants and “pebble bed” reactors, in which the nuclear fuel is inserted into small graphite balls in a way that reduces the risk of meltdown.

Those technologies are still based on uranium, however, and will be beset by the same problems that have dogged the nuclear industry since the 1960s. It is only thorium, Sorensen and his band of revolutionaries argue, that can move the country toward a new era of safe, clean, affordable energy.

Named for the Norse god of thunder, thorium is a lustrous silvery-white metal. It’s only slightly radioactive; you could carry a lump of it in your pocket without harm. On the periodic table of elements, it’s found in the bottom row, along with other dense, radioactive substances — including uranium and plutonium — known as actinides.

Actinides are dense because their nuclei contain large numbers of neutrons and protons. But it’s the strange behavior of those nuclei that has long made actinides the stuff of wonder. At intervals that can vary from every millisecond to every hundred thousand years, actinides spin off particles and decay into more stable elements. And if you pack together enough of certain actinide atoms, their nuclei will erupt in a powerful release of energy.

To understand the magic and terror of those two processes working in concert, think of a game of pool played in 3-D. The nucleus of the atom is a group of balls, or particles, racked at the center. Shoot the cue ball — a stray neutron — and the cluster breaks apart, or fissions. Now imagine the same game played with trillions of racked nuclei. Balls propelled by the first collision crash into nearby clusters, which fly apart, their stray neutrons colliding with yet more clusters. Voilè0: a nuclear chain reaction.

Actinides are the only materials that split apart this way, and if the collisions are uncontrolled, you unleash hell: a nuclear explosion. But if you can control the conditions in which these reactions happen — by both controlling the number of stray neutrons and regulating the temperature, as is done in the core of a nuclear reactor — you get useful energy. Racks of these nuclei crash together, creating a hot glowing pile of radioactive material. If you pump water past the material, the water turns to steam, which can spin a turbine to make electricity.

Uranium is currently the actinide of choice for the industry, used (sometimes with a little plutonium) in 100 percent of the world’s commercial reactors. But it’s a problematic fuel. In most reactors, sustaining a chain reaction requires extremely rare uranium-235, which must be purified, or enriched, from far more common U-238. The reactors also leave behind plutonium-239, itself radioactive (and useful to technologically sophisticated organizations bent on making bombs). And conventional uranium-fueled reactors require lots of engineering, including neutron-absorbing control rods to damp the reaction and gargantuan pressurized vessels to move water through the reactor core. If something goes kerflooey, the surrounding countryside gets blanketed with radioactivity (think Chernobyl). Even if things go well, toxic waste is left over.

When he took over as head of Oak Ridge in 1955, Alvin Weinberg realized that thorium by itself could start to solve these problems. It’s abundant — the US has at least 175,000 tons of the stuff — and doesn’t require costly processing. It is also extraordinarily efficient as a nuclear fuel. As it decays in a reactor core, its byproducts produce more neutrons per collision than conventional fuel. The more neutrons per collision, the more energy generated, the less total fuel consumed, and the less radioactive nastiness left behind.

Even better, Weinberg realized that you could use thorium in an entirely new kind of reactor, one that would have zero risk of meltdown. The design is based on the lab’s finding that thorium dissolves in hot liquid fluoride salts. This fission soup is poured into tubes in the core of the reactor, where the nuclear chain reaction — the billiard balls colliding — happens. The system makes the reactor self-regulating: When the soup gets too hot it expands and flows out of the tubes — slowing fission and eliminating the possibility of another Chernobyl. Any actinide can work in this method, but thorium is particularly well suited because it is so efficient at the high temperatures at which fission occurs in the soup.

In 1965, Weinberg and his team built a working reactor, one that suspended the byproducts of thorium in a molten salt bath, and he spent the rest of his 18-year tenure trying to make thorium the heart of the nation’s atomic power effort. He failed. Uranium reactors had already been established, and Hyman Rickover, de facto head of the US nuclear program, wanted the plutonium from uranium-powered nuclear plants to make bombs. Increasingly shunted aside, Weinberg was finally forced out in 1973.

That proved to be “the most pivotal year in energy history,” according to the US Energy Information Administration. It was the year the Arab states cut off oil supplies to the West, setting in motion the petroleum-fueled conflicts that roil the world to this day. The same year, the US nuclear industry signed contracts to build a record 41 nuke plants, all of which used uranium. And 1973 was the year that thorium R&D faded away — and with it the realistic prospect for a golden nuclear age when electricity would be too cheap to meter and clean, safe nuclear plants would dot the green countryside.

The core of this hypothetical nuclear reactor is a cluster of tubes filled with a fluoride thorium solution. 1// compressor, 2// turbine, 3// 1,000 megawatt generator, 4// heat exchanger, 5// containment vessel, 6// reactor core.
Illustration: Martin Woodtli

When Sorensen and his pals began delving into this history, they discovered not only an alternative fuel but also the design for the alternative reactor. Using that template, the Energy From Thorium team helped produce a design for a new liquid fluoride thorium reactor, or LFTR (pronounced “lifter”), which, according to estimates by Sorensen and others, would be some 50 percent more efficient than today’s light-water uranium reactors. If the US reactor fleet could be converted to LFTRs overnight, existing thorium reserves would power the US for a thousand years.

Overseas, the nuclear power establishment is getting the message. In France, which already generates more than 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, the Laboratoire de Physique Subatomique et de Cosmologie has been building models of variations of Weinberg’s design for molten salt reactors to see if they can be made to work efficiently. The real action, though, is in India and China, both of which need to satisfy an immense and growing demand for electricity. The world’s largest source of thorium, India, doesn’t have any commercial thorium reactors yet. But it has announced plans to increase its nuclear power capacity: Nuclear energy now accounts for 9 percent of India’s total energy; the government expects that by 2050 it will be 25 percent, with thorium generating a large part of that. China plans to build dozens of nuclear reactors in the coming decade, and it hosted a major thorium conference last October. The People’s Republic recently ordered mineral refiners to reserve the thorium they produce so it can be used to generate nuclear power.

In the United States, the LFTR concept is gaining momentum, if more slowly. Sorensen and others promote it regularly at energy conferences. Renowned climatologist James Hansen specifically cited thorium as a potential fuel source in an “Open Letter to Obama” after the election. And legislators are acting, too. At least three thorium-related bills are making their way through the Capitol, including the Senate’s Thorium Energy Independence and Security Act, cosponsored by Orrin Hatch of Utah and Harry Reid of Nevada, which would provide $250 million for research at the Department of Energy. “I don’t know of anything more beneficial to the country, as far as environmentally sound power, than nuclear energy powered by thorium,” Hatch says. (Both senators have long opposed nuclear waste dumps in their home states.)

Unfortunately, $250 million won’t solve the problem. The best available estimates for building even one molten salt reactor run much higher than that. And there will need to be lots of startup capital if thorium is to become financially efficient enough to persuade nuclear power executives to scrap an installed base of conventional reactors. “What we have now works pretty well,” says John Rowe, CEO of Exelon, a power company that owns the country’s largest portfolio of nuclear reactors, “and it will for the foreseeable future.”

Critics point out that thorium’s biggest advantage — its high efficiency — actually presents challenges. Since the reaction is sustained for a very long time, the fuel needs special containers that are extremely durable and can stand up to corrosive salts. The combination of certain kinds of corrosion-resistant alloys and graphite could meet these requirements. But such a system has yet to be proven over decades.

And LFTRs face more than engineering problems; they’ve also got serious perception problems. To some nuclear engineers, a LFTR is a little … unsettling. It’s a chaotic system without any of the closely monitored control rods and cooling towers on which the nuclear industry stakes its claim to safety. A conventional reactor, on the other hand, is as tightly engineered as a jet fighter. And more important, Americans have come to regard anything that’s in any way nuclear with profound skepticism.

So, if US utilities are unlikely to embrace a new generation of thorium reactors, a more viable strategy would be to put thorium into existing nuclear plants. In fact, work in that direction is starting to happen — thanks to a US company operating in Russia.

Located outside Moscow, the Kurchatov Institute is known as the Los Alamos of Russia. Much of the work on the Soviet nuclear arsenal took place here. In the late ’80s, as the Soviet economy buckled, Kurchatov scientists found themselves wearing mittens to work in unheated laboratories. Then, in the mid-’90s, a savior appeared: a Virginia company called Thorium Power.

# Uranium-Fueled Light-Water Reactor
# Fuel Uranium fuel rods
# Fuel input per gigawatt output 250 tons raw uranium
# Annual fuel cost for 1-GW reactor $50-60 million
# Coolant Water
# Proliferation potential Medium
# Footprint 200,000-300,000 square feet, surrounded by a low-density population zone
# Seed-and-Blanket Reactor
# Fuel Thorium oxide and uranium oxide rods
# Fuel input per gigawatt output 4.6 tons raw thorium, 177 tons raw uranium
# Annual fuel cost for 1-GW reactor $50-60 million
# Coolant Water
# Proliferation potential None
# Footprint 200,000-300,000 square feet, surrounded by a low-density population zone
# Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor
# Fuel Thorium and uranium fluoride solution
# Fuel input per gigawatt output 1 ton raw thorium
# Annual fuel cost for 1-GW reactor $10,000 (estimated)
# Coolant Self-regulating
# Proliferation potential None
# Footprint 2,000-3,000 square feet, with no need for a buffer zone

Founded by another Alvin — American nuclear physicist Alvin Radkowsky — Thorium Power, since renamed Lightbridge, is attempting to commercialize technology that will replace uranium with thorium in conventional reactors. From 1950 to 1972, Radkowsky headed the team that designed reactors to power Navy ships and submarines, and in 1977 Westinghouse opened a reactor he had drawn up — with a uranium thorium core. The reactor ran efficiently for five years until the experiment was ended. Radkowsky formed his company in 1992 with millions of dollars from the Initiative for Proliferation Prevention Program, essentially a federal make-work effort to keep those chilly former Soviet weapons scientists from joining another team.

The reactor design that Lightbridge created is known as seed-and-blanket. Its core consists of a seed of enriched uranium rods surrounded by a blanket of rods made of thorium oxide mixed with uranium oxide. This yields a safer, longer-lived reaction than uranium rods alone. It also produces less waste, and the little bit it does leave behind is unsuitable for use in weapons.

CEO Seth Grae thinks it’s better business to convert existing reactors than it is to build new ones. “We’re just trying to replace leaded fuel with unleaded,” he says. “You don’t have to replace engines or build new gas stations.” Grae is speaking from Abu Dhabi, where he has multimillion-dollar contracts to advise the United Arab Emirates on its plans for nuclear power. In August 2009, Lightbridge signed a deal with the French firm Areva, the world’s largest nuclear power producer, to investigate alternative nuclear fuel assemblies.

Until developing the consulting side of its business, Lightbridge struggled to build a convincing business model. Now, Grae says, the company has enough revenue to commercialize its seed-and-blanket system. It needs approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission — which could be difficult given that the design was originally developed and tested in Russian reactors. Then there’s the nontrivial matter of winning over American nuclear utilities. Seed-and-blanket doesn’t just have to work — it has to deliver a significant economic edge.

For Sorensen, putting thorium into a conventional reactor is a half measure, like putting biofuel in a Hummer. But he acknowledges that the seed-and-blanket design has potential to get the country on its way to a greener, safer nuclear future. “The real enemy is coal,” he says. “I want to fight it with LFTRs — which are like machine guns — instead of with light-water reactors, which are like bayonets. But when the enemy is spilling into the trench, you affix bayonets and go to work.” The thorium battalion is small, but — as nuclear physics demonstrates — tiny forces can yield powerful effects.

Richard Martin (rmartin@newwest.net), editor of VON, wrote about the Large Hadron Collider in issue 12.04.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on December 29, 2009, 00:22:12
Wearable solar cells! Just the thing to have on when cought in a sudden shower!:

http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/006816.html

Quote
Microphotovoltaic Cells Could Embed In Clothing

Very small solar cells open up the possibility of many applications.

    Sandia National Laboratories scientists have developed tiny glitter-sized photovoltaic cells that could revolutionize the way solar energy is collected and used.

    The tiny cells could turn a person into a walking solar battery charger if they were fastened to flexible substrates molded around unusual shapes, such as clothing.

Such cells could be placed on irregular building shapes, vehicle surfaces, and surfaces where conventional PV can't attach.

    Sandia lead investigator Greg Nielson said the research team has identified more than 20 benefits of scale for its microphotovoltaic cells. These include new applications, improved performance, potential for reduced costs and higher efficiencies.

    “Eventually units could be mass-produced and wrapped around unusual shapes for building-integrated solar, tents and maybe even clothing,” he said. This would make it possible for hunters, hikers or military personnel in the field to recharge batteries for phones, cameras and other electronic devices as they walk or rest.

The much lower use of silicon should cut costs since silicon is a major portion of the cost of silicon-based PV. This suggests these cells might be able to compete on cost versus the cheaper CdTe and CIGS thin film PV that is currently underselling silicon PV on price.

    “So they use 100 times less silicon to generate the same amount of electricity,” said Okandan. “Since they are much smaller and have fewer mechanical deformations for a given environment than the conventional cells, they may also be more reliable over the long term.”

The conversion efficiency is pretty high - higher than the cheap thin films.

    Offering a run for their money to conventional large wafers of crystalline silicon, electricity presently can be harvested from the Sandia-created cells with 14.9 percent efficiency. Off-the-shelf commercial modules range from 13 to 20 percent efficient.

New discoveries for making better solar cells keep getting announced by research labs while a growing assortment of PV makers compete with new approaches for cutting manufacturing and installation costs. Some day PV is going to become a cheap way to generate electricity.

By Randall Parker at 2009 December 26 08:08 PM  Energy Solar

The true down side of such applications is a large fraction of the PV cells will be shaded by the wearer, so a fairly compled control softwear will be required to regulate the variable energy output of your T shirt (e-shirt?).
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on January 16, 2010, 15:46:36
No oil indeed:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/commentary/the-mythical-assertion-of-fossil-fuel-scarcity/article1431898/#

Quote
Neil Reynolds
The mythical assertion of fossil fuel scarcity
We have at least enough to run till 2050 at a minimum, more probably through 2080 and perhaps through 2100

Neil Reynolds

Published on Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 12:00AM EST
 
Last updated on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010 3:49AM EST
 
Born to an English coal miner's family in 1930, energy economist Peter Odell came by his lifelong interest in carbon fuels naturally. At 80, as professor emeritus of international energy studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, he's still interested.

Writing this month in the European Energy Review, a Netherlands-based trade magazine, Prof. Odell uses his first post-Copenhagen podium to assure people that the world will never use up its global endowment of crude oil - and that we'll consume at least twice as much of it in the 21st century as we did in the 20th.

As befits an academic who has studied oil economics for decades, Prof. Odell is an acknowledged (though often controversial and occasionally eccentric) global authority on the industry. He calculates that 1.5 trillion barrels of oil have been added to the world's proven reserves since 1971 - the year in which the U.S. hit "Hubbert's Peak" - but only 800 billion barrels have been consumed. He insists that carbon emissions have caused no significant harm so far and are very unlikely, given technological advances, to do so in the future.

He calculates that China's increase in emissions every day exceed Denmark's celebrated reductions for an entire year. He remains sympathetic (but not committed) to the notion of Russian and Ukrainian theorists that oil is a renewable, self-perpetuating resource. He thinks China will one day buy Exxon, and Russia will one day buy Shell. He predicts that the best days for North Sea oil are still ahead (with 30 billion barrels left to go).

In his most recent comments, he sets out to de-mythologize the popular but dubious belief that there is an inherent scarcity in the world's carbon fuel resources. In fact, Prof. Odell says, there is no need to foreswear carbon fuels any time in the foreseeable future - which, by his reckoning, takes us safely through 2050 at a minimum, more probably through 2080 and perhaps through 2100.

He concedes that production of conventional oil will peak around 2050 but insists that the cause will be a global preference for natural gas, not a scarcity of oil. Even in 2100, he says, oil will supply 20 per cent of the world's energy, natural gas another 20 per cent.

"The oft-heard notion that we are 'about to run out of fossil fuels' is quite simply a myth," he writes. "Nor is it true to say that hydrocarbon production is about to 'peak' any time soon. At least for the first half of the 21st century carbon energy demand limitations will bring no more than modest pressure to bear on the eminently plentiful and generally profitable-to-produce flows of coal, oil and natural gas that are available."

His argument continues: "To begin with, the world's presently known coal reserves of some 6,300 gigatons are equal to a nominal close-to-1,000 years' supply. ... Total [coal] use over the [next] 100 years will be of the order of about 700 gigatons ... constituting about 11 per cent of the commodity's resource base." (One gigaton is the measure of an explosive force equal to one billion tons of TNT.) (Interpolation: a Gigaton is equal to one billion tons mass in this context, not explosive yeild)

As for conventional oil, he says, annual production will rise slowly in the next generation - to about 4.5 gigatons in 2030. Current known reserves of recoverable oil now exceed 200 gigatons.

By conservative calculations, Prof. Odell says, non-conventional oil production (oil sands, shale) will increase rapidly throughout the century, reaching five gigatons a year by 2080. Total production in the entire century will reach 265 gigatons, he writes.

Over the 21st century as a whole, he says, 1,660 gigatons (of oil-equivalent energy) will be produced and used - compared with a cumulative total in the 20th century of 500 gigatons. In other words, the world will use three times as much energy in the 21st century as it did in the 20th. This threefold increase will primarily reflect "the bountiful nature of the world's endowment of carbon fuels."

Any significant reduction of carbon emissions in this century, Prof. Odell says, is highly improbable, a conclusion anticipated (he argues) by the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto required reductions in carbon emissions from a 1990 base - when 3.5 gigatons of oil-equivalent carbon energy was consumed. Instead, by 2005, 4.7 gigatons was consumed. "In marked contrast to this 1.2 gigaton ... rise in carbon energy use," he says, "use of renewables increased by less than 0.2 gigatons oil equivalent. Of this ... 83 per cent was accounted for by nuclear power - a pseudo-renewable energy source."

As for emissions, Prof. Odell warns that the biggest risk ahead arises from the abrupt closing down of oil production or gas production infrastructure. Without prudent management of drill sites and pipelines, a kind of wildfire release of CO{-2} could occur, releasing vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. He rates this risk at a tick above zero.

Oh yes. Prof. Odell believes production costs for oil will run between $10 (U.S.) and $40 a barrel (inflation adjusted) through the next 25 years - meaning that the quoted price in the years ahead should "remain modest" at roughly $50 a barrel. He could be wrong, of course. But he could be right. In retrospect, optimists often are.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on January 24, 2010, 14:07:18
And to think the McGuinty government in Ontario considers wind turbines the great whitle hope:

http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2010-01/wind-turbines-leave-clouds-and-energy-inefficiency-their-wake

Quote
Wind Turbines Leave Clouds and Energy Inefficiency in Their Wake Downstream wind turbines can lose up to 30 percent of their power
By Jeremy Hsu
Posted 01.22.2010 at 4:13 pm 9 Comments

Turbine Contrails: Clouds form in the wake of the front row of wind turbines at the Horns Rev offshore wind farm near Denmark.  Aeolus

Clouds stream in the wake of wind turbines arrayed at the Horns Rev offshore wind farm in this stunning photo. But David MacKay, a physicist at the University of Cambridge in the UK, sees the image as illustrating the common problem of back-row wind turbines losing power relative to the front row.

Downstream wind turbines may lose 20 percent or even 30 percent of their power compared to their fellows in front, according to a study on wake effects at Horns Rev that MacKay highlights on his blog. The paper also emphasizes that different wind directions make it practically impossible to gauge an overall "steady state" for large wind farms, unless researchers can sample wind speeds and directions at multiple points throughout the array.

This shows that wind energy may represent a highly visible form of alternative energy, but certainly not one without its quirks and controversies. Still, better technology can squeeze more juice out of each gust, and cooperative energy-sharing efforts can help offset the fickle nature of wind power,

Readers seeking more info on the energy revolution might also look at MacKay's book, Sustainable Energy -- Without the Hot Air. The work has received rave reviews from the likes of Science magazine and The Economist, and it's available for free digital reading here.

[via David MacKay and Dong Energy]
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on January 27, 2010, 20:44:50
If oil is unavailable for import, then the United States can turn to it's massive caol deposits for liquid fuel. This new technique promises to be more cost effective than previous attempts to turn coal to liquid fuel (The writer belongs to the Church of Man Made Global Warmingtm, which explains the constant references to Carbon Dioxide).:

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/24405/?nlid=2689

Quote
Cleaner Jet Fuel from Coal

A new process could allow Air Force jets to run exclusively on domestically produced biomass and coal.
By Kevin Bullis

The Air Force is testing a jet fuel made from coal and plant biomass that could replace petroleum-based fuel and emit less carbon-dioxide compared to using conventional jet fuels. The fuel is made with a process developed by Accelergy, based in Houston, using technology licensed from ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company and the Energy and Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota.

Other recently tested experimental biofuels for jets have required that the aircraft still use at least 50 percent petroleum-based product to meet performance requirements, particularly for the most advanced military jets. But the Accelergy process produces fuels that closely resemble petroleum-based fuels, making it possible to do away with petroleum altogether. Because of this, the new process could help the Air Force meet its goal of using domestic, lower-carbon fuels for half of its fuel needs by 2016. Although the first products will be jet fuels, the process can also be adapted to produce gasoline and diesel.

The fuel has passed through an initial round of testing, including lab-scale engine tests, and is on track to be flight-tested in 18 months, says Rocco Fiato, vice president of business development at Accelergy.

Turning coal into liquid fuels is nothing new, but such processes have been inefficient and produced large amounts of CO2 emissions. Accelergy's approach is different because it uses "direct liquefaction," which is similar to the process used to refine petroleum. It involves treating the coal with hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst. Conventional technology for converting coal to liquid fuels breaks the coal down into synthesis gas, which is mostly carbon monoxide with a little bit of hydrogen; the hydrogen and carbon are then recombined to produce liquid hydrocarbons, a process that releases carbon dioxide. Because the Accelergy process skips the need to gasify all of the coal--which consumes a lot of energy--before recombining the hydrogen and carbon, it's more efficient and produces less carbon dioxide. "We don't destroy the molecule in coal. Instead we massage it, inject hydrogen into it, and rearrange it to form the desired hydrocarbons," says Timothy Vail, Accelergy's president and CEO.

The hydrogen for Accelergy's process comes from two sources--coal and biomass. Accelergy gasifies a portion of the coal they use--about 25 percent of it--as well as cellulosic biomass, from sources such as plant stems and seed husks, to produce syngas. The company then treats the syngas with steam. In this reaction, carbon monoxide reacts with water to form hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Using biomass reduces the net carbon-dioxide emissions, since the biomass absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere as the original plants grew.

The technology also uses biomass in another way. The company processes seed crops, such as soybeans or camelina, which contain large amounts of oil. After extracting that oil (which leaves behind cellulosic materials that are gasified), the oil is processed to remove oxygen atoms, forming long chains of straight hydrocarbon molecules. These are then treated to make the straight molecules into branch-like molecules that remain liquid at lower temperatures, making them useful in jet fuel.

The use of biomass reduces net carbon dioxide emissions, but so does the fact that direct liquefaction is more efficient than conventional gasification, says Daniel Cicero, the technology manager for hydrogen and syngas at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), in Morgantown, WV. In gasification, only about 45 percent of the energy in the coal is transferred to the fuel produced. Accelergy claims efficiencies as high as 65 percent using direct liquefaction. Yields of fuel are also higher. Gasification methods produce about two to 2.5 barrels of fuel per ton of coal. Direct liquefaction produces over three barrels per ton of coal, and adding the biomass brings the total to four barrels per ton of coal.

All told, Fiato says, gasifying coal to produce liquid fuel produces 0.8 tons of carbon dioxide per barrel of fuel, while Accelergy's process produces only 0.125 tons of CO2 per barrel. That makes it competitive with petroleum refining, especially the refining of heavier forms of petroleum. (The fuels produce about the same amount of carbon dioxide when they're burned.)

In addition to reducing carbon emissions compared to conventional coal to liquids technology, a key advantage of the process is the ability to make high-quality jet fuels. The direct liquefaction of coal produces cycloalkanes, looped molecules that have high energy density, giving airplanes greater range. They are also stable at high temperatures, allowing them to be used in advanced aircraft.

One drawback to the process is that it costs more than refining petroleum. Indeed, Cicero says that an NETL study of coal and biomass to liquid fuels technology suggests it would not be competitive until petroleum prices stay above $86 to $93 a barrel. (The study was based on conventional gasification processes.) He says that supplying fuel to the Air Force could sustain one or two small Accelergy plants, but to move beyond this would require a price on carbon-dioxide emissions of about $35 a ton.

Copyright Technology Review 2010.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on January 31, 2010, 16:17:45
Distributed small scale nuclear power, faster, cheaper and more reliable:

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/when-it-comes-to-nuclear-power-companies-should-think-small/

Quote
When It Comes to Nuclear Power, Companies Should Think Small

Posted By Will Collier On January 30, 2010 @ 12:00 am In . Column2 01, Environment, Money, Science, Science & Technology, US News, Uncategorized | 23 Comments

A few months ago, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted permission [1] for initial site work to begin on new nuclear reactors in the United States for the first time since the 1970s. Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the gigantic Southern Company, plans to build the two new reactors at its Vogtle nuclear plant, near Augusta.

At first glance, I was all in favor of new nuclear construction. Among other reasons, it’s high time we stopped determining energy policy on the basis of a bad Jane Fonda movie. But as a Georgia Power customer — who’s already on the hook [2] for part of the bill for the new facilities — I’m scratching my head a bit over both that price tag, and over the rationale for going back to the old model of massive, complex, and hugely expensive power plants.

The planned Votgle upgrade is estimated to cost around $14 billion, and each reactor will produce around 1250 megawatts of electricity (MWe). The new reactors will be added to two existing units which were completed during the 1980s.

The cost of those two original units, estimated at the time to be around $660 million, skyrocketed to nearly $9 billion in the wake of the post-Three Mile Island regulatory blizzard. That jump in costs, which was typical for the industry, effectively ended new nuclear plant construction for a generation.

As time passed and 70’s anti-nuclear hysteria ebbed, power companies around the country have petitioned the NRC for permission to build new reactors. Some 16 applications have been filed [3] since 2007, with more anticipated.

All the current NRC applications have one thing in common: they’re for large-scale power plants, technically improved but functionally not dissimilar from the reactors of the 1970s. Today, Jane Fonda is a punchline, Real People is long since off the air, and disco is blessedly still dead, but the big electric companies remain stuck in the ‘70s as far as their strategic planning is concerned.

While political conservatives generally look favorably upon nuclear energy, the economics remain daunting. In a now-famous paper for Reason [4], Jerry Taylor of Cato said nuclear power “is to the Right what solar is to the Left: Religious devotion in practice, a wonderful technology in theory, but an economic white elephant in fact.” Taylor referenced industry studies showing nuclear electricity costing four to five times as much per kilowatt hour than coal or gas plants, and noted the massive subsidies and loan guarantees handed out to power companies as undermining the cost rationale for nuclear power.

All of which makes me wonder, again: this is the 21st century — why are we looking at huge, multibillion-dollar facilities in the first place? It’s not like other options don’t exist.

Take for instance the Hyperion Power Module [5], or HMP. Developed at, and then spun off from, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Hyperion is marketing the diametric opposite of the power companies’ massive and complex facilities. Hyperion’s reactor is a relatively tiny device, about the size of a dinky Smart Car [6].

Unlike large-scale plants requiring 24/7 monitoring by a small army of engineers and technicians, an HPM contains no moving parts, and is intended to operate for years with no human interaction to speak of. Hyperion reactors are actually intended to be buried underground during their service lives, with no hands-on maintenance at all between refueling cycles, which occur every 7-10 years.

Of course, a single Hyperion unit is hardly the equivalent of a Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, two of which are planned for the Votgle facility. One HPM generates only 25 MWe, while a massive AP1000 churns out an appropriately massive 1250 MWe or so.

But nobody ever said you have to buy just one. If we assume that a single new AP1000 costs about $7 billion  for 1250 MWe (which is not entirely fair as “sticker prices” go, since the $14 billion estimate for the Votgle plant upgrade includes financing costs as well as actual production), that works out to about $5.6 million per MWe.

A single HPM currently lists for $50 million [7] (and I should note here that this is already twice the price Hyperion promised [8] in its initial 2008 press releases). At 25 MWe per unit, we’re looking at $2 million per MWe, a little more than a third of the unit price of power from an AP1000.

Hyperion says its reactors aren’t intended to replace large-scale generation plants, but the engineer in me wonders, why not? HPMs are built on an assembly line, and Hyperion already has over 100 orders for them. Picking up my calculator again, I figure that in order to equal the output of one AP1000 reactor, I’d need to buy 50 HPMs.

At $50 million per unit (how about a bulk discount?), that would cost $2.5 billion. Now, I don’t have that kind of cash laying around myself, but you don’t need to be an accountant to see that $2.5 billion is a lot less than $7 billion. And that doesn’t count the untold millions I’d have to spend on the aforementioned army of maintainers for the AP1000 — although either way, you’d need a sizable team of regular power plant workers to maintain the actual power turbines.

I’m sure that these simple, back-of-the-envelope numbers don’t reflect anything like every detail of big vs. small in nuclear power, but a Hyperion or similar small-scale reactor would have to get a heck of a lot more expensive to cost as much as big, traditional plants.

There would also be other benefits, in that you wouldn’t have to locate the entire power apparatus out in the middle of nowhere. Hyperion-style reactors can’t melt down, and are designed to be buried in small plots. Why not use that easy portability to distribute your power plants all over the place? Put a couple near your city’s main hospital, a couple more in your industrial zone, with single units scattered around the suburbs and residential cores, and you’ve got a redundant system that’s far less susceptible to, say, blackouts during bad weather, as opposed to running power across hundreds of miles of transmission lines.

So, Georgia Power, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, et al — why aren’t you thinking small?


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com

URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/when-it-comes-to-nuclear-power-companies-should-think-small/

URLs in this post:

[1] granted permission: http://southerncompany.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=1947

[2] already on the hook: http://savannahnow.com/node/712724

[3] 16 applications have been filed: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/nuc_reactors/reactorcom.html

[4] In a now-famous paper for Reason: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9740

[5] Hyperion Power Module: http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/index.html

[6] Smart Car: http://www.smartusa.com/smart-car-fortwo.aspx

[7] currently lists for $50 million: http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/about_invest.html

[8] the price Hyperion promised: http://gizmodo.com/5083522/backyard-nuclear-reactors-now-in-production-cost-25-million-each
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on February 06, 2010, 00:38:32
While I can't claim to fully understand this, it seems to be a means of using biological process to strip CO2 and H2O into CO and H2 in a low energy and temperature version of the Fischer–Tropsch process. The link includes a short video which explains(?) this further:

http://www.carbonsciences.com/01/technology.html

Quote
CO2-to-Fuel Technology

Carbon Sciences is developing a breakthrough technology to recycle CO2 emissions into fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel. Innovating at the intersection of chemical engineering and bio-engineering disciplines, we are developing a highly scalable biocatalytic process to meet the fuel needs of the world.

The fuels we use today, such as gasoline and jet fuel, are made up of chains of hydrogen and carbon atoms aptly called hydrocarbons. In general, the greater the number of carbon atoms there are in a hydrocarbon molecule, the greater the energy content of that fuel. For example, gasoline has hydrocarbons with 7 to 10 carbon atoms and jet fuel has 10 to 16 carbon atoms. Hydrocarbons are naturally occurring in fuel sources such as petroleum and natural gas. To create fuel, hydrogen and carbon atoms must be bonded together to create hydrocarbon molecules. These molecules can then be used as basic building blocks to produce various gaseous and liquid fuels.

Due to its high reactivity, carbon atoms do not usually exist in a pure form, but as parts of other molecules. CO2 is one of the most prevalent and basic sources of carbon atoms. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most stable molecules. This means that it may require a great deal of energy to break apart CO2 and extract carbon atoms for making new hydrocarbons. This high energy requirement has made CO2 to fuel recycling technologies uneconomical in the past. However, Carbon Sciences is developing a proprietary process that requires significantly less energy than other approaches that have been tried. Also, with the global demand for fuel and price of oil projected to rise continuously in the foreseeable future, the economics have changed in favor of certain innovative lower energy approaches, such as Carbon Sciences' breakthrough technology.

Breakthrough Biocatalytic Process

Some of the known approaches for CO2 to fuel recycling include (1) direct photolysis which uses intense light energy to break off the oxygen atoms in CO2, and (2) chemically reacting carbon dioxide gas (CO2) with hydrogen gas (H2) to create methane or methanol. Both of these conventional engineering approaches require immense energy due to high pressure and high temperature chemical processes. For certain applications such as military and space, the high cost of these technologies may be justifiable. However, we do not believe these approaches will be economically viable in creating transportation fuels for global consumption.
 
By innovating at the intersection of chemical engineering and bio-engineering, we have discovered a low energy and highly scalable process to recycle large quantities of CO2 into gaseous and liquid fuels using organic biocatalysts. The key to our CO2-to-Fuel approach lies in a proprietary multi-step biocatalytic process. Instead of using expensive inorganic catalysts, such as zinc, gold or zeolite, with traditional high energy catalytic chemical processes, our process uses inexpensive, renewable biomolecules to catalyze certain chemical reactions required to transform CO2 and water (H2O) into fuel molecules. Of greatest significance, our process occurs at low temperature and low pressure, thereby requiring far less energy than other approaches.

The energy efficient biocatalytic processes we are exploiting in our technology actually occur in certain micro-organisms where carbon atoms, extracted from CO2, and hydrogen atoms, extracted from H2O, are combined to create hydrocarbon molecules. Our breakthrough technology allows these processes to operate on a very large industrial scale through advance nano-engineering of the biocatalysts and highly efficient process design.

Highly Scalable CO2-to-Fuel Recycling Plant
 
The Carbon Sciences CO2-to-Fuel technology includes a complete plant level process that takes CO2 from a large emitter, such as a power plant, and produces usable fuels as the output.

The complete process includes the following major components:

1.CO2 Flue Gas Processor - Purification of CO2 stream to remove heavy particulates.

2.Biocatalyst Unit - Regeneration of biocatalysts for the CO2 recycling process.

3.Biocatalytic Reactor Matrix - The primary and largest part of the plant where mass quantities of biocatalysts work in a matrix of liquid reaction chambers, performing the multi-stage breakdown of CO2 and its transformation to basic gas and liquid hydrocarbons. These reactors are inexpensive low temperature and low pressure vessels. The number of reactors determines the size and output capacity of the plant.

4.Filtration - The liquid solutions are filtered through membrane units to extract liquid fuels. Gaseous fuels are extracted through condensers.

5.Conversion and Polishing - The output of the Filtration stage contains low hydrocarbon fuels. These hydrocarbons can then be further processed into higher fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel.

The Carbon Sciences CO2-to-Fuel process can be configured to produce a variety of hydrocarbon fuels by customizing the Conversion and Polishing stage and biocatalytic formulation.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on February 12, 2010, 10:22:19
Here comes the sun:

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/24521/?ref=rss&a=f

Quote
Efficient Solar Cells from Cheaper Materials
IBM researchers have greatly increased the performance of a novel thin film solar cell.
By Kevin Bullis

Researchers at IBM have increased the efficiency of a novel type of solar cell made largely from cheap and abundant materials by over 40 percent. According to an article published this week in the journal Advanced Materials, the new efficiency is 9.6 percent, up from the previous record of 6.7 percent for this type of solar cell, and near the level needed for commercial solar panels. The IBM solar cells also have the advantage of being made with an inexpensive ink-based process.

The new solar cells convert light into electricity using a semiconductor material made of copper, zinc, tin, and sulfur--all abundant elements--as well as the relatively rare element selenium (CZTS). Reaching near-commercial efficiency levels is a "breakthrough for this technology," says Matthew Beard, a senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who was not involved with the work.

The IBM solar cells could be an alternative to existing "thin film" solar cells. Thin film solar cells use materials that are particularly good at absorbing light. The leading thin film manufacturer uses a material that includes the rare element tellurium. Daniel Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, says the presence of tellurium could limit the total electricity such cells could produce because of its rarity. While total worldwide electricity demand will likely reach dozens of terawatts (trillions of watts) in the coming decades, thin film solar cells will likely be limited to producing about 0.3 terawatts, according to a study he published last year. In contrast, the new cells from IBM could produce an order of magnitude more power. (Interpolation: that means we could see a total of 3 Tw when the sun is shining using this technology on every available surface. Solar really is a niche market)

The new cells could also have advantages compared to cells made of copper indium gallium and selenium (CIGS), which are just starting to come to market. That's because the indium and gallium in these cells is expensive, and while the selenium used in the IBM cell is rarer than indium or gallium, its cost is a tenth of either.

A new ink-based manufacturing process solves some of the key challenges to making efficient CZTS cells. A common approach to making any type of high-quality solar material is to dissolve a precursor substance in a solvent. This isn't possible with the CZTS cells because the zinc compounds required in the new cells aren't soluble. To get around this, the researchers used a combination of dissolved materials and suspended particles, creating a slurry-like ink that could then be spread over a surface that's been heat-treated to produce the final materials. The particles prevent the material from cracking and peeling as the solvent evaporates.

The IBM researchers are also investigating ways to improve the efficiency of the new solar cells, with the goal of reaching about 12 percent in the laboratory--high enough to give manufacturers confidence that they could be mass produced and still have efficiency levels of around 10 percent, says David Mitzi, at IBM Research, who led the work. Beard recommends targeting 15 percent efficiency in the lab, and Mitzi says this should be possible by improving other parts of the solar cell besides the main CZTS material, or by doping the semiconductor with other trace elements (which is easy with the ink-based process).

What's more, commercial cells will likely use different materials for conducting electrons. The experimental cells used indium tin oxide, which is limited by the availability of indium. But Mitzi says several other conductors could work as well.

One key next step is to completely replace the selenium in the solar cells with sulfur. For the record-efficiency cell, the researchers replaced half of the selenium used in a previous experimental cell. If all of the selenium could be replaced, the cells could, in theory, supply all of the electricity needs of the world. (Provided there are suitable means for storing and redistributing power for use at night or on cloudy days.)

The new type of solar cell will have several competitors, Beard says. For example, non-crystalline silicon is cheaper to make than crystalline silicon, and the efficiency of the resulting cells is improving. Researchers are also finding ways to use less expensive grades of crystalline silicon, and large-scale production has decreased the overall cost of producing such cells, making it difficult for new solar materials to gain a foothold.

Copyright Technology Review 2010.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on February 24, 2010, 21:53:18
More coal to oil conversion:

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Environment/2010/02/22/pf-12980701.html

Quote
Scientists find way to make cheap gas from coal
By QMI AGENCY
   
It could be a boon for the Canadian prairies.

Researchers in Texas say they have found a way of cutting the cost of producing gasoline by two thirds, taking advantage of the lowest grade of coal available - one that is abundant beneath the Canadian prairies.

A new refining process being perfected at the University of Texas at Arlington can turn the low-cost lignite coal, also known as brown coal, into oil at a fraction of the cost of importing crude oil from abroad.

“We're improving the cost every day,” Rick Billo, the school's dean of engineering, told a local television station.

“We started off some time ago at an uneconomical $17,000 a barrel. Today, we're at a cost of $28.84 a barrel.”

As the price of crude oil continues to skyrocket – now overing near $80/barrel - being able to produce a barrel of oil at less than half of that price is an attractive proposition, especially for Canadian producers.

According to the Coal Association of Canada, there are major deposits of lignite coal in Southern Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba, though only the Saskatchewan deposits are currently being mined.

Lignite was the source of up to 70% of Saskatchewan's electricity last year.

The University of Texas hopes to license their technology in the next few months and start building the first micro-refineries to produce the cheaper oil in the next year.

Germany, Russia and the U.S. are currently the world's leading producers of lignite coal.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Hull.Down on March 01, 2010, 00:45:44
One of the more interesting articles I read about the oil issue a few years ago were two articles from the 1960's and 1920's.

Both articles had announced that the world would run out of oil in the next 10 years.

It seems people are predicting running out of oil and global warming for the last 100 years.

It's a big planet, we'll find more.

Who knows maybe we'll "make" fossil fuels in the next 100 years.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 03, 2010, 17:40:55
More on super efficient engines. The thing to note about this technology is it may be availabel to retrofit to existing engines, which has interesting downstream effects. Imagine if every military vehicle had this sort of fuel injection system; the projected gain is 25% increase in fuel economy for diesel engines. This means you could reduce the amount of fuel needed in the AOR by 25%, which equals a further reduction in the amount of truck traffic needed to carry the fuel, which translates to additional savings. (fewer convoys, fewer armoured or patrol vehicles on the road as escorts etc.)

Well worth a follow up:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/03/transonic-supercritical-fuel-injection.html

Quote
Transonic Supercritical Fuel Injection Could Improve Gasoline Engines by 50-75 Percent

Transonic Combustion, based in Camarillo, CA, has developed a gasoline fuel injection system that can improve the efficiency of gasoline engines by 50 to 75 percent, beating the fuel economy of hybrid vehicles. A test vehicle the size and weight of a Toyota Prius (but without hybrid propulsion) showed 64 miles per gallon for highway driving. The company says the system can work with existing engines, and costs about as much as existing high-end fuel injection.

Transonic Combustion uses supercritical-state fuel to radically shift the technological benefits of the automotive internal combustion engine This technology was featured at the ARPA-E Innovation summit and has DOE funding.

    TSCi Fuel Injection achieves lean combustion and super efficiency by running gasoline, diesel, and advanced bio-renewable fuels on modern diesel engine architectures. Supercritical fluids have unusual physical properties that Transonic is harnessing for internal combustion engine efficiency. Supercritical fuel injection facilitates short ignition delay and fast combustion, precisely controls the combustion that minimizes crevice burn and partial combustion near the cylinder walls, and prevents droplet diffusion burn. Our engine control software facilitates extremely fast combustion, enabled by advanced microprocessing technology. Our injection system can also be supplemented by advanced thermal management, exhaust gas recovery, electronic valves, and advanced combustion chamber geometries.


Fuel efficiency improvements enabled by advanced combustion technologies of 50% or more for automotive engines (relative to spark-ignition engines dominating the road today in the U.S.) and 25% or more for heavy-duty truck engines (relative to today’s diesel truck engines) are possible in the next 10 to 15 years



Our fuel system efficiently supports engine operation over the full range of conditions – from stoichiometric air-to-fuel ratios at full power to lean 80:1 air-to-fuel ratios at cruise, with engine-out NOx at just 50% of comparable standard engines. Our real-time programmable control of combustion heat release results in dramatically increased efficiency.

Along with operating on gasoline, our technology can efficiently utilize fuels based on their chemical heat capacity independent of octane or cetane ratings. Thus, economical, highly functional mixtures of renewable plant products can be utilized which are not practical in either conventional spark or compression ignition engines. In dynamometer testing on current engine architectures, our technology has successfully run on gasoline, diesel, biodiesel, heptane, ethanol, and vegetable oil. Recently our engineers achieved seamless operation alternating between several different fuels on one of our customer’s engines in our Camarillo test facilities.


Supercritical Fuel Injection

Automotive Engineering International Feature - Supercritical fuel injection and combustion

    Recent work by Mike Cheiky, a physicist and serial inventor/entrepreneur, is focusing on raising not only the fuel mixture’s pressure but also its temperature.

    Cheiky's aim, in fact, is to generate a little-known, intermediate state of matter—a so-called supercritical (SC) fluid—which he and his co-workers at Camarillo, CA-based Transonic Combustion believe could markedly increase the fuel efficiency of next-generation power plants while reducing their exhaust emissions.

    Transonic’s proprietary TSCi fuel-injection systems do not produce fuel droplets as conventional fuel delivery units do, according to Mike Rocke, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. The supercritical condition of the fuel injected into a cylinder by a TSCi system means that the fuel mixes rapidly with the intake air which enables better control of the location and timing of the combustion process.

    The novel SC injection systems, which Rocke calls “almost drop-in” units, include “a GDI-type,” common-rail system that incorporates a metal-oxide catalyst that breaks fuel molecules down into simpler hydrocarbon chains, and a precision, high-speed (piezoelectric) injector whose resistance-heated pin places the fuel in a supercritical state as it enters the cylinder.

    Company engineers have doubled the fuel efficiency numbers in dynamometer tests of gas engines fitted with the company’s prototype SC fuel-injection systems, Rocke said. A modified gasoline engine installed in a 3200-lb (1451-kg) test vehicle, for example, is getting 98 mpg (41.6 km/L) when running at a steady 50 mph (80 km/h) in the lab.

    The 48-employee firm is finalizing a development engine for a test fleet of from 10 to 100 vehicles, while trying to find a partner with whom to manufacture and market TSCi systems by 2014.

    “A supercritical fluid is basically a fourth state of matter that’s part way between a gas and liquid,” said Michael Frick, Vice President for Engineering. A substance goes supercritical when it is heated beyond a certain thermodynamic critical point so that it refuses to liquefy no matter how much pressure is applied.

    SC fluids have unique properties. For a start, their density is midway between those of a liquid and gas, about half to 60% that of the liquid. On the other hand, they also feature the molecular diffusion rates of a gas and so can dissolve substances that are usually tough to place in solution.

    To minimize friction losses, the Transonic engineers have steadily reduced the compression of their test engines to between 20:1 and 16:1, with the possibility of 13:1 for gasoline engines.


Patents

Thus far 3 patents (#7444230, #7546826, #7657363) have been issued to Transonic from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office related to our technology, with another 14 patents pending.

Patent 7444230 - Fuel injector having algorithm controlled look-ahead timing for injector

    The present invention provides an injector-ignition fuel injection system for an internal combustion engine, comprising an ECU controlling a heated catalyzed fuel injector for heating and catalyzing a next fuel charge, wherein the ECU uses a one firing cycle look-ahead algorithm for controlling...


Application number: 12/464,790 - INJECTOR-IGNITION FOR AN INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE

    The present invention provides a heated catalyzed fuel injector that dispenses fuel substantially exclusively during the power stroke of an internal combustion engine, wherein ignition occurs in a fast burn zone at high fuel density such that a leading surface of the fuel is completely burned...

 
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 25, 2010, 01:49:50
CANDU reactors are old technology and seem to have only one use left: recycle old nuclear fuel. (More modern designs do not use the heavy water moderator of the CANDU, and some designs don't use water at all):

http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/03/china-loading-used-light-water-nuclear.html

Quote
China Loading Used Light Water Nuclear Reactor Fuel Into CANDU Heavy Water Reactor


The first re-use of nuclear fuel in a Candu reactor has started at Qinshan nuclear power plant in China.

    Over the next six months, another 24 of the 'natural uranium equivalent' (NUE) bundles will be used in two of the reactor's fuel channels. If successful over a one-year trial, this practice could help China get more energy from its imported uranium and reduce stocks of highly-radioactive used nuclear fuel at the same time.

    To make this first batch of NUE fuel, Qinshan managers collaborated with AECL, the Nuclear Power Institute of China and China North Nuclear Fuel Corporation. Fuel that had previously been used was processed to recover unspent uranium and this was mixed with some depleted uranium to achieve a mix with the same overall characteristics as natural uranium. Technical challenges in doing this included the highly-radioactive nature of the used fuel and achieving the right blend of depleted uranium and the recovered stocks still enriched up to around 1.6%.

    A report late in 2009 suggested that China should build another two Candu reactors as part of a used fuel managment strategy.

    A program in South Korea has pursued similar goals for some time. Dupic (Direct Use of PWR fuel in Candu) envisages the used fuel pellets from PWR fuel being broken up, heated to drive off radioactive fission products and then reformed for use in Candu fuel. Using Candu reactors in a similar way is also under investigation in Ukraine.

Canada Atomic Energy of Canada needs this to work for any meaningful future for its reactors and the company. The only other business for the makers of CANDU would be supporting the legacy fleet of reactors until they are decommissioned. This would provide them with a unique capability and niche service for extending uranium supplies. This would last until there were other better ways to extend uranium with better deep burn reactors.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on March 29, 2010, 12:08:40
Yet more ways to make synthetic fuels from biomass:

http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/24891/?nlid=2851&a=f

Quote
From Biomass to Chemicals in One Step
A startup's catalytic process converts biomass directly into components of gasoline.
By Katherine Bourzac

An early-stage company spun out of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, plans to commercialize a catalytic process for converting cellulosic biomass into five of the chemicals found in gasoline. These chemicals are also used to make industrial polymers and solvents. Anellotech, which is seeking venture funding, plans to build a pilot plant next year.

Anellotech's reactors perform a process called "catalytic pyrolysis," which converts three of the structural molecules found in plants--two forms of cellulose and the woody molecule lignin--into fuels. Ground-up biomass is fed into a high-temperature reactor and blended with a catalyst. The heat causes the cellulose, lignin, and other molecules in the biomass to chemically decompose through a process called pyrolysis; a catalyst helps control the chemical reactions, turning cellulose and lignin into a mix of carbon-ring-based molecules: benzene, toluene, and xylenes.

The global market for this group of chemicals is $80 billion a year and growing at a rate of 4 percent a year, says Anellotech CEO David Sudolsky. "We're targeting to compete with oil priced at $60 a barrel, assuming no tax credits or subsidies," he says. The company's founder, George Huber, says his catalytic pyrolysis process can create 50 gallons of the chemicals per metric ton of wood or other biomass, with a yield of 40 percent. The other products of the reaction include coke, used to fuel the reactor.

"The advantage of pyrolysis is that it uses whole biomass," says John Regalbuto, an advisor to the Catalysis and Biocatalysis Program at the National Science Foundation. On average, lignin accounts for 40 percent of the energy stored in whole biomass. But because it can't be converted into sugars the way cellulose can, lignin can't be used as a feedstock for fermentation processes such as those used by some biofuels companies to convert sugarcane into fuels.

Pyrolysis is also different from gasification, another process for using whole biomass. Gasification results in a mixture of carbon and hydrogen called syngas, which can then be used to make fuel. Pyrolysis, by contrast, turns biomass into liquid fuels in a single step. And while gasification can only be done economically at a very large scale, says Regalbuto, catalytic pyrolysis could be done at smaller refineries distributed near the supply of biomass.

Pyrolysis is an efficient way to use biomass, but it's difficult to control the products of the reaction, and it's difficult to get high yields. The keys to Anellotech's process, says Huber, are a specially tailored catalyst and a reactor that allows good control over reaction conditions. Huber's group at UMass, where he is a professor of chemical engineering, was the first to develop a catalytic process for converting biomass directly into gasoline, and Anellotech's processes are based on this work.

So far, Huber has developed two generations of a reactor in the lab. In tests, the group starts with sawdust waste from a local mill. The ground-up biomass is fed into a fluidized bed reactor. Inside, a powdered solid catalyst swirls around in a mixture of gas heated to about 600 ºC. When wood enters the chamber, it rapidly breaks down, or pyrolyzes, into small unstable hydrocarbon molecules that diffuse into the pores of the catalyst particles. Inside the catalyst, the molecules are reformed to create a mixture of aromatic chemicals. The reaction process takes just under two minutes.

The company would not disclose details about the catalyst, but Huber says one of its most important properties is the size of its pores. "If the pores are too big, they get clogged with coke, and if they're too small, the reactants can't fit in," says Huber. The company's catalyst is a porous silicon and aluminum structure based on ZSM-5, a zeolite catalyst developed by Mobil Oil in 1975 and widely used in the petroleum refining industry. Sudolsky says that it can be made cheaply by contractors. Anellotech's reactors are very similar to those used to refine petroleum. But the company's reactors are designed to ensure rapid heat transfer and fluid dynamics that ensure that the reactants enter a catalyst before they turn into coke.

Stefan Czernik, a senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's National Bioenergy Center in Golden, CO, cautions that the process has so far only been demonstrated on a small scale, and the complexity of these reactors could mean a long road ahead for scaling them up. "It is not easy to replicate at a large scale the relationship between the chemical reaction and heat transfer as it's done in the laboratory," he says.

After demonstrating the process at a pilot plant next year, Anellotech hopes to partner with a chemical company to build a commercial scale facility in 2014. Sudolsky says the company will either license the catalytic pyrolysis process to other companies or build plants distributed near biomass sources, since transporting biomass is not economically viable.

Copyright Technology Review 2010.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 05, 2010, 00:50:42
Another approach:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/04/dense-plasma-physics-update-great-month.html

Quote
Dense Plasma Physics Update - A Great Month for Focus Fusion

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics reports good progress in March, 2010.

At the beginning of March, good shots (those without pre-firing and with pinches) were a bit under 50% of the shots we fired. Since mid-month, we have increased that to 90% good shots. The two time-of-flight neutron detectors have produced more evidence that we are already duplicating the high ion energies achieved with higher currents in the Texas experiments. In our best shots, ion energies were measured in the range of 40-60 keV (the equivalent of 0.4-0.6 billion degrees K). The electron beam carried about 0.5 kJ of energy and the plasmoid held about 1 kJ of energy, nearly half that stored in the magnetic field of the device. So, this is evidence that a substantial part of the total energy available is being concentrated in the plasmoids and transferred to the beams.

    We found that the control shots (with the magnetic coil turned off) were increasingly producing more neutrons (up to about 10 times) as the control shots in the beginning of our testing. It turns out the steel flanges that attach the vacuum chamber to the inner lower bus plate and the bus plate itself were both becoming permanently magnetized. This provides additional (though unintended) evidence that the predicted angular momentum effect is working. In the future, we may find it necessary to replace the flanges and bus plate with those made from non-magnetic alloys, but that will have to wait for now.

    On March 18, Lerner gave an invited presentation on the DPF to an audience of physicists and engineers at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the nation's largest fusion lab. The Princeton physicists responded with interest and some friendly questions. The atmosphere was one of collaboration, not competition.

    Finally, we received enough investment money to carry us through the end of summer, with additional funding pledged. This means we are almost halfway to our goal of raising $900K in this capital drive.

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics had eight objectives for their two year research program This work seems to show good progress on four of the eight objectives.

Advancing dense plasma focus fusion to about break even energy would enable a radical advance to fusion spaceplanes and rockets

If Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP) achieves the full success, then a Focus Fusion reactor would produce electricity very differently. The energy from fusion reactions is released mainly in the form of a high-energy, pulsed beam of helium nuclei. Since the nuclei are electrically charged, this beam is already an electric current. All that is needed is to capture this electric energy into an electric circuit. This can be done by allowing the pulsed beam to generate electric currents in a series of coils as it passes through them. This is much the same way that a transformer works, stepping electric power down from the high voltage of a transmission line to the low voltage used in homes and factories. It is also like a particle accelerator run in reverse. Such an electrical transformation can be highly efficient, probably around 70%. What is most important is that it is exceedingly cheap and compact. The steam turbines and electrical generators are eliminated. A 5 MW Focus Fusion reactor may cost around $300,000 and produce electricity for 1/10th of a cent per kWh. This is fifty times less than current electric costs. Fuel costs will be negligible because a 5 MW plant will require only five pounds of fuel per year. [About 40 million kWh per year from a 5 MWe plant and 5 MWe is equal to 6705 horsepower]
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 05, 2010, 07:22:08
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail is more on the topic:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/you-can-turn-off-the-lights-or-collect-solar-energy-in-space/article1520485/
Quote
You can turn off the lights – or collect solar energy in space
Strategic prize: Space-based satellites can tap ‘an inexhaustible reservoir' of clean, renewable energy by 2050 or earlier

Neil Reynolds

Thursday, Apr. 01, 2010
Anyone can do their part for the planet – as millions of people did for an hour last month by turning off the lights. The trick is to do it without resorting to darkness.

For the moment, Japan leads the way with its ambitious program to collect solar energy in space, convert it into electromagnetic microwaves and deliver it wirelessly to precise locations on Earth. This transmission technology will do to terrestrial power lines what cellphones did to telephone poles. Funded in part by a consortium of 16 corporations (led by Mitsubishi Electric), Japan expects its prototype space-based power station to provide electricity to 300,000 Tokyo homes by 2030.

In the end, though, the United States won't be far behind – and, for competitive reasons, probably will surpass Japan in the pursuit of space-based solar power. Ostensibly at least, Tokyo lacks the military motivation of Washington – although, as a resources-bereft country, Japan must ensure its energy supply from somewhere else simply to survive.

For its part, the U.S. Defence Department's National Security Space Office (NSSO) adopted space-based energy as a strategic priority in 2007. President Barack Obama's 2010 budget, which essentially cut lunar adventures to fund economy-class spaceships, can be interpreted as a prerequisite investment in space-based energy: A power station in space, 36,000 kilometres or more above Earth, will require 120 launches (of maintenance crews) a year.

With its unclassified assessment of space-based solar power, the NSSO remains an accessible source of information on the relevant science and technology. For a bureaucratic organization in a military hierarchy, the NSSO compiled its report in a uniquely collaborative way – at no cost. The agency simply created an access-controlled website and invited the world's leading scientists to participate – and 170 did. The NSSO report reflects the scientific consensus.

The strategic prize, the NSSO concludes, is obvious: Space-based satellites can economically tap “an inexhaustible strategic reservoir” of clean, renewable energy by 2050 or earlier.

The military importance, it notes, is also obvious: “For the [Department of Defence] specifically, beamed energy from space … has the potential to be a disruptive game-changer on the battlefield.” With wireless technology, space-based solar power could deliver electricity across an entire theatre of war – right down to the individual soldier. It could dramatically reduce the chance of international conflict arising from energy shortages, and it could provide on-demand energy for humanitarian purposes in disaster zones. In short, the NSSO says, it could enable the U.S. military “to remain relevant” for the 21st century.

“The basic idea is very straightforward,” the NSSO says. “Place very large solar arrays into an intensely sunlit Earth orbit. Collect gigawatts of electrical energy and electromagnetically beam them to Earth.” The electricity could be delivered to either conventional electrical grids or directly to consumers. It could also be used to manufacture synthetic hydrocarbons.

Spread an array of solar collectors over a single square kilometre, the NSSO says, and you can collect a supply of energy – every year – “equal to the energy contained in all of the known recoverable conventional oil reserves on Earth today.”

This amount of energy “indicates that there is enormous [energy] potential for … the nations who construct and possess an SBSP capability.” One of the countries that has expressed its interest in acquiring such a capability, the NSSO says, is Canada.

Although complicated, the delivery of space-based energy would not be much more heroic than “the construction of a large modern aircraft carrier, a skyscraper or a large hydroelectric dam.” A single solar-power satellite would be 15 times the size of the International Space Station (344 metric tonnes). In comparison, the Great Pyramid at Giza has a mass of 5.9 million metric tons.

Although the space beam would require a sizable target on Earth, this receiver would be based in a desert – perhaps in South Dakota or sub-Saharan Africa. With its abundant supply of energy, though, these desert zones would be transformed into lush agricultural land. (The NSSO compares the intensity of the space beam to the heat thrown off by a campfire.)

The NSSO expresses considerable curiosity why environmentalists appear obsessed with much more difficult terrestrial energy sources that can't be as efficiently or as cleanly produced as space-based power – which, it says, would produce (on a “lifecycle” basis) one-60th of the carbon emitted by fossil fuels.

You would think that environmentalists would be thrilled to join forces with the Pentagon. As Thomas Edison put it in 1931: “I'd put my money on the sun and on solar energy.”


The business of transferring electrical power as ’beamed power’ is old hat. Canadians were doing it, the hard way, from earth to 'space,' 25+ years ago with a test vehicle called SHARP (http://www.friendsofcrc.ca/Projects/SHARP/sharp.html) (Stationary High Altitude Research Project).
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: S.M.A. on April 09, 2010, 17:18:49
From last week:

Globe and Mail link (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/texas-university-has-eureka-moment-for-coal-to-gas/article1502823/)


Quote
Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) announced last month that they have developed a clean way to turn the cheapest kind of coal - lignite, common in Texas - into synthetic crude. "We go from that [lignite coal] to this really nice liquid," Brian Dennis, a member of the research team, said in describing the synthetic crude that can be refined into gasoline.

Assuming that these Texas folk are correct, this advance in technology could represent a historic moment in energy production - for Canada as well as for the United States. Canada has huge reserves of lignite coal in Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan (which already gets 70 per cent of its electricity from this common coal) - not to mention in Nova Scotia.

The Texas researchers, who worked on the project for about 18 months, expect the cost to drop further. "We're improving the cost every day. We started off some time ago at an uneconomical $17,000 a barrel. Today, we're at ... $28.84 a barrel," Rick Billo, UTA's dean of engineering, told an Austin television reporter.

Texas lignite coal sells for $18 a tonne. The coal conversion technology uses one tonne of coal to produce 1.5 barrels of crude oil. One barrel of crude produces 42 U.S. gallons of gasoline. In other words, $18 worth of coal yields 63 gallons of gasoline: 0.28 cents a gallon.


(...)

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Chris Pook on April 09, 2010, 21:26:20
Cougar Daddy and E.R.

you're both taking me back to 1970 and science fiction.

E.R. - Did  you ever read Larry Niven (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ringworld)?

And Cougar Daddy - the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth was every bit as entertaining even though it was spoonfed to us the same way Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth was.

The same logical fallacy in both cases.  If you continue doing what you're doing dire things will happen.  The ONLY solution is to do as I tell you.....

One imagination vs 6,000,000,000 imaginations (more when you include those that have died and those that have been born since 1972).

I just can`t get overly scared about much of anything anymore .... except perhaps sheep and shepherds.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GAP on April 09, 2010, 21:48:57
Am I not looking at this right or can someone not do math?

Quote
Texas lignite coal sells for $18 a tonne. The coal conversion technology uses one tonne of coal to produce 1.5 barrels of crude oil. One barrel of crude produces 42 U.S. gallons of gasoline. In other words, $18 worth of coal yields 63 gallons of gasoline: 0.28 cents a gallon.

forget it.....I can't read.... ::)
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: George Wallace on April 09, 2010, 21:51:46
Factor in the transportation to Refinery, costs of refining, storage, transport of finished product and then unionized labour and then what is the cost?
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GAP on April 09, 2010, 21:52:32
Factor in the transportation to Refinery, costs of refining, storage, transport of finished product and then unionized labour and then what is the cost?

and carbon footprint....
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: George Wallace on April 09, 2010, 21:54:53
Then we let the Provincial governments bring in their HST/PST/GST and other environmental taxes and such......  >:D
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: GAP on April 09, 2010, 22:01:56
$6.00/liter gas....
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 10, 2010, 01:36:00
Looking over the thread, I see literally dozens of initiatives to produce oil or an oil substitute (Bakken and other unconventional oil plays, means to improve the yield of the tar sands, bio-oil from plants, algae and bacteria, oil from biomass, oil from coal etc.)

Having multiple sources of "crude" allows market mechanisms to work, bidding the price of the feedstock down. As noted, regulatory failure in the form of government interventions can force the price up, but then again there are many means reported on this thread on how to reduce the use of c-18 hydrocarbons (gasoline and diesel fuel) through high efficiency engines, behaviour modification and substitution, activities which will be spurred on by high prices caused by shortages or regulatory failure.

Bottom line, so long as there is a demand for inexpensive energy, there will be lots of people trying to supply it to the market.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on April 18, 2010, 01:54:53
I guess they havn't been reading this thread!

http://green.autoblog.com/2010/04/15/u-s-military-warns-of-oil-production-shortage-by-2015/

Quote
U.S. military warns of oil production shortage by 2015

by Nik Bristow (RSS feed) on Apr 15th 2010 at 7:49PM


The U.S. military thinks we're one step closer to peak oil, the point at which oil demand will forever outstrip oil supply, and therefore we're one step closer to fighting over the last rusting cans of gasoline like so many scraps of meat. On the plus side, we're also one step closer to finally equipping our cars with superchargers and massive gas tanks rigged with explosives a la Mad Max and his archetypal peak-oil sled, "the last of the V-8 Interceptors."

The U.S. Joint Forces command has issued a Joint Operating Environment report that states that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and that there could be serious shortages by 2015. From the report:

    By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day, While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India.

The Joint Operating Environment report didn't go quite as far as saying it was time to start dressing in leather, eating canned dog food and carrying sawed-off shotguns, but it didn't exactly paint a rosy picture of what post-2015 America could look like. "One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their nations by ruthless conquest," the report points out. Ruthless conquest? They might as well say "massive oiled-up dudes wearing hockey masks and riding around the desert on tractors."

We're not sure where the U.S. Joint Forces command got their numbers from, but their conclusion does seem to jibe with a peak oil assessment by a Kuwaiti study and an estimate by Richard Branson's energy taskforce, all of which means we're off to practice our welding skills.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 09, 2010, 10:26:42
The fact that a huge supply of relatively cheap oil lies within the borders of the CONUS gives me hope that there will be something avalable to get the US and North American economy going again sometime in the future:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/05/prediction-of-one-million-barrels-per.html

Quote
Prediction of one million barrels per day from Bakken Oil Field by 2020

David Hobbs, IHS, Cambridge Energy Research Association (CERA), is forecasting that by the end of the decade, production in the Bakken will be one million barrels a day

    "The potential production is far greater than anyone would have admitted to even a couple years ago. The rate at which innovation is changing the unit costs to bring it into the attractive oil prices - will ensure that activity keeps on going." Hobbs' forecast is based on the acreage that's available and the number of wells that can be drilled on that land. (speaking at Williston Basin Oil Conference in Bismarck)

    70-80 rigs a year can drill 1,000 wells a year... And Hobbs also watched as production rates in the Bakken have reached higher levels with the help of new technology..

    In addition he says the Bakken could out perform what he's predicting because he may have underestimated the improvements in technology

In February, 2010 there was 261,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota Oil. There was 65,000 barrels per day from Bakken Oil in Saskatchewan and about 50,000 barrels per day from Bakken oil in Montana.

Underneath most of the Bakken oil field is the Three Forks Formation which doubles the amount of recoverable oil.

North Dakota oil production has been predicted to be 350,000 barrels per day at the end of 2010 and in the 400,000 barrel per day range for 2011-2012
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 21, 2010, 23:53:51
The art of saving fuel through reduction in friction. Airforce and Navy brass should be very interested in these techniques:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/05/sharkskin-paint-to-lower-fuel.html#more

Quote
Sharkskin Paint to lower the fuel consumption of airplanes and ships and Hydrophobic ferns could also lower drag for ships
 
1. Sharkskin inspired paint made with Nanoparticles reduce drag and lower fuel consumption. If the paint were applied to every airplane every year throughout the world, the paint could save a volume of 4.48 million tons of fuel. The team was able to reduce wall friction by more than five percent in a test with a ship construction testing facility. Extrapolated over one year, that means a potential savings of 2,000 tons of fuel for a large container ship. The nanoparticles which ensure that the paint withstands UV radiation, temperature change and mechanical loads, on an enduring basis. Paint is applied as the outermost coating on the plane, so that no other layer of material is required. It adds no additional weight, and even when the airplane is stripped – about every five years, the paint has to be completely removed and reapplied – no additional costs are incurred. In addition, it can be applied to complex three-dimensional surfaces without a problem."

    The next step was to clarify how the paint could be put to practical use on a production scale. The solution consisted of not applying the paint directly, but instead through a stencil. This gives the paint its sharkskin structure. The unique challenge was to apply the fluid paint evenly in a thin layer on the stencil, and at the same time ensure that it can again be detached from the base even after UV radiation, which is required for hardening.

2. The hairs on the surface of water ferns could allow ships to have a 10 percent decrease in fuel consumption.

    The plant has the rare ability to put on a gauzy skirt of air under water. Researchers at the University of Bonn, Rostock and Karlsruhe now show in the journal Advanced Materials how the fern does this. Their results can possibly be used for the construction of new kinds of hulls with reduced friction. The skirt of air layer prevents the plant from coming into contact with liquid. And that even with a dive lasting weeks.

    Up to now with container ships more than half of the propulsion energy is lost through friction of the water at the hull. With an air layer this loss could be reduced by ten percent according to the researchers' estimate. Since ships are huge fuel guzzlers, the total effect would be enormous. "Probably one percent of the fuel consumption worldwide could be saved this way," is Professor Barthlott's prognosis. "Surfaces modelled on the water fern could revolutionize shipbuilding," Professor Dr. Alfred Leder from the University of Rostock concurs.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on May 25, 2010, 01:18:00
While this technology has a specific application in the article, the idea of spooling up high energy density flywheels and releasing the energy in short, controlled pulses has other military applications such as powering railguns or laser weaponry.

The same technology would make wind generators a viable part of the energy infrastructure, the energy could be collected at any time but released during peak demand (rather than irregular intervals whenever the wind happens to blow):

http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/05/designing-building-and-using-larger.html#more

Quote
Designing, Building and Using Larger Flywheels

The U.S. Navy is presently pursuing electromagnetic launch technology to replace the existing steam catapults on current and future aircraft carriers.

    The present EMALS design centers around a linear synchronous motor, supplied power from pulsed disk alternators through a cycloconverter. Average power, obtained from an independent source on the host platform, is stored kinetically in the rotors of the disk alternators. It is then released in a 2-3 second pulse during a launch. This high frequency power is fed to the cycloconverter which acts as a rising voltage, rising frequency source to the launch motor. The linear synchronous motor takes the power from the cycloconverter and accelerates the aircraft down the launch stroke, all the while providing "real time" closed loop control.

    The introduction of EMALS would have an overall positive impact on the ship. The launch engine is capable of a high thrust density, as shown by the half scale model that demonstrated 1322 psi over its cross section. This is compared to the relatively low 450 psi of the steam catapult. The same is true with energy storage devices, which would be analogous to the steam catapult's steam accumulator. The low energy density of the steam accumulator would be replaced by high energy density flywheels. These flywheels provide energy densities of 28 KJ/KG. The increased densities would reduce the system's volume and would allow for more room for vital support equipment on the host platform.

    The EMALS offers the increased energy capability necessary to launch the next generation of carrier based aircraft. The steam catapult is presently operating near its design limit of approximately 95 MJ. The EMALS has a delivered energy capability of 122 MJ, a 29% increase. This will provide a means of launching all present naval carrier based aircraft and those in the foreseeable future.

The so-called Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, is now under development in a shore-based test facility at Lakehurst naval air station in New Jersey. However, according to May 12, 2010 reports, the test mass-driver installation suffered serious damage earlier this year in a mishap blamed on a "software malfunction". Apparently the "shuttle" - which moves along the catapult track to accelerate a plane to flying speed - went the wrong way in a test shot and smashed into important equipment. The accident has delayed the shore-based testing by several months. It had been planned to commence launching aircraft - as opposed to test loads - this summer, but that will not now happen until autumn. The next US supercarrier, CVN 78, aka USS Gerald R Ford, is now under construction and intended to join the fleet in 2015. Navy officials confirmed last year that it is now too late to amend the ship's design and revert to steam catapults: EMALS must be made to work or the US Navy will receive the largest and most expensive helicopter carrier ever.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 01, 2010, 09:57:38
Of course, simply being more efficient works wonders. I was rather astonished to discover that a Diesel engine has a theoretical efficiency of 75%.

Of course, when Rudolf Diesel made these calculations, the state of the art was nowhere near the ability to extract that amount of energy; apparently his calculations called for a 52:1 compression ratio and used the long cylender throw to extract energy from the @ 20000C flame front at TDC to @ 200oC at BDC. I'm not sure that anything like that could even be built today .

Still, given that most medium duty engines are only at the 35 to 40% mark, there is a long way to go, and lots of room to move.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: KingKikapu on July 01, 2010, 21:38:01
Still waiting on viable fusion.  It's gonna take several years to get there, but it'll beat the pants off the vast majority of the proposals identified on this thread.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 10, 2010, 02:49:56
For people who use open flame to cook, a high tech stove that can produce electricity, and utilize thermal energy to make ice.  More versatile than a Coleman stove!

http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/07/thermo-acoustic-generator.html

Quote
Thermo-Acoustic Generator

There is a development project for using sound based generators that are over 18% efficient at converting heat to electricity. The target is to mass produce the units starting in 2012.

* Target of 100-150 Watts electrical thermo-acoustic generator (stove, fridge, electricity) for £20 in 1 million quantities with half the wood and no smoke
* weight: 10-20kg
* 1.6 kWth for cooking and 0.75 kWth for simmering.
- Fuel: consumption 1 kg/hour, wood, dung and other bio-mass.
* fuel is placed inside the stove and burned. The fire heats compressed air that has been pumped into specially shaped pipes located inside the stove's chimney and behind the stove. The heated air begins to vibrate and produce sound waves. Inside the pipes, the noise is 100 times louder than a jet taking off. But because the pipes are stiff and do no vibrate, the sound waves have nowhere to go. So outside the pipe, people hear only a faint hum.

* The sound waves vibrate a diaphragm located at the end of the pipe. The diaphragm is attached to a coil of metal wires that sit inside a magnet. As the wire coil vibrates — about 50 times per second — it generates an electrical current, which is captured by wires and converted to the proper voltage.
* The stove has electrical sockets, where the homeowner can plug in, for example, a mobile phone for charging. Or she can sell the electricity as a phone-charging service.
* For refrigeration, the heated, compressed air is sent through a different part of the pipe, where sound waves cause the air to expand. As it expands, it cools to a temperature that can produce ice. It takes about two hours of stove use to produce enough ice that will keep the fridge cold for 24 hours. But homeowners have the option of producing more ice to sell for income.

* Across the world, two billion people use open fires as their primary cooking method. These fires have been found to be highly inefficient, with 93 per cent of the energy generated lost. And when used in enclosed spaces, smoke from the fires can cause health problems.

In August 2009 a propane fueled Score stove produced 19.5 Watts of power. This allowed it to power lights and simultaneously charge a mobile phone.

The ice that is produced could be placed into the 5-6 day commercial coolers. A constant supply of ice would enable the coolers to constantly keep food cold. The thermo-acoustic generator would be very useful for camping or for survival situations.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 10, 2010, 04:12:54
And a totally different proposal, with the huge bouns of harnessing market power! I am a bit sceptical of the price of full fuel flexibility being only $100/unit (methanol is pretty corrosive, and the entire fuel system and all seals and gaskets need to be made of different materials in response), and Diesel engines are still far more efficient (can Diesel engines run on Methanol? Yes in theory, but very practical problems exist, such an engine would probably be single fuel only)

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jul/2/open-standards-for-auto-fuel/print/

Quote
ZUBRIN: Open standards for auto fuel
Let the market decide - oil, ethanol or methanol

By Robert Zubrin

4:45 p.m., Friday, July 2, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen of the left and the right: Let's be realistic. There is no chance whatsoever that the U.S. political system will either: A) Pass carbon or gas taxes sufficiently punitive to compel Americans to curtail their driving substantially, or B) Support rapid expansion of offshore drilling for the foreseeable future.

Therefore, if neither conservation nor production is in the cards, how can we hope to deal with our nation's dangerous and ever-growing dependence on foreign oil?

Here's my answer: We need to cure our cars of their oil addiction. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault is not in ourselves, but in our cars; we are made underlings.

Let's stop the guilt-ridden breast-beating and place the blame where it belongs. We are not addicted to oil. Our cars are addicted to oil. They are like a tribe of people who, because of some unfortunate flaw, can only eat one kind of food, say herring. Thus, if the herring merchants combine to rig up the price of their product to $100 per pound, the tribesmen have no choice but to submit. They would be far better off if they could become omnivores, capable of eating steak, ice cream, corn, eggs, apples, etc., as the power to use such alternatives would make them immune from herring-cartel extortion.

Our four-wheeled servants have the same problem; they can only drink one kind of fuel. Unfortunately, because we are the ones who must foot the bill for their singular habit, their problem is our problem. We need to cure them.

Fortunately, such a cure is at hand. The technology exists to make cars that are fully flex-fueled, able to run equally well on gasoline, ethanol or methanol, in any combination. If installed at the time of manufacture, the inclusion of this feature adds only about $100 to the cost of a typical car. The benefits of making such a childhood immunization against oil addiction a standard requirement for all new autos sold in the U.S. would be profound.

Were it the rule that only oil-addiction-immunized cars could enter the U.S. market, foreign carmakers would waste no time in switching over their entire lines to flex fuel. Thus, not only Japanese cars sold in America, but also those sold in Japan and everywhere else would be omnivores, as would nearly all other cars sold in any serious way internationally. Within a very few years, there would be tens of millions of cars in the U.S. endowed with the capacity for fuel choice, and hundreds of millions more internationally. Under those conditions, gasoline would be forced to compete at the pump against both methanol and ethanol made from any number of potential sources all over the world. This would put a permanent competitive constraint against future rises in the price of oil. Such a constraint is vitally needed, as without it, current $75-per-barrel recession oil prices could easily explode under conditions of economic recovery to levels of $150 per barrel or more, thereby aborting the recovery itself.

While ethanol can make a significant contribution - it has replaced 7 percent of the gasoline used in the U.S. and more than 50 percent in Brazil - the real key here is compatibility with methanol, which can be made in limitless quantities from anything that either is or once was a plant, including coal, natural gas, recycled urban trash or any kind of biomass, without exception. Its current price on the international market is $1 per gallon, equivalent in energy terms to gasoline at $1.90 per gallon - without any subsidy. If we cure our cars so they can drink this fuel, we will protect ourselves from extortion by the oil cartel, forever.

A bill has been introduced in Congress to do exactly that. Known as the Open Fuel Standards (OFS) Act, it has truly bipartisan support, with its Senate version (S.B. 835) sponsors including such liberals as Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat; moderates such as Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican; and conservatives such as Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, and Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican. Similarly, its House version (H.R. 1476) supporters run the political spectrum from Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, to Rep. Bob Inglis, South Carolina Republican. Under the bill's provision, by 2012, 50 percent of all new cars sold in the U.S. will need to be fully flex-fueled, with the number rising to 80 percent by 2015.

With a stroke of a pen, Congress can break the power of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to tax the world. The OFS bill will not cost the Treasury a dime, and it will protect the nation from hundreds of billions of dollars of potential losses because of future petroleum price increases. Those reluctant to support it need to answer the question: In whose interest is it that Americans lack fuel choice? In whose interest is it that our cars remain addicted to oil?

Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and the author of "Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil" (Prometheus Books, 2007).
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 12, 2010, 11:01:23
The upside is US oil shale can probavly be processed using the same methods. The downside is this will cut the legs from global demand, with the negative impact on Alberta/Saskatchewan in particular and Canada's oil export industry in general. Still, inexpensive energy is the true key to prosperity:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/07/china-has-catalyst-to-convert-shale-oil.html#more

Quote
China has a Catalyst to Convert Shale Oil Directly into Transportation Fuel
 
Greencarcongress.com - China has identified a catalyst—NiMoW—for the hydrotreating of the diesel distillate fraction from Fushun shale oil to produce a product that can be directly used as a transportation fuel.


In China, reserves of oil shales account for about 500,000 billion tons. It is distributed mainly in Fushun, Liaoning province, Huadian, Jilin province, and Maoming, Guangdong province... However, the shale oils produced from oil shales contain a considerable amount of heteroatomic compounds, especially unsaturated hydrocarbons, which may cause many troubles, such as, instability of fuel during its transportation or storage...Catalytic hydrotreating may be considered as the only convenient way to remove heteroatomic compounds from shale oil. However, many papers showed that severe process conditions were needed during catalytic hydrotreating of shale oils. The concentrations of heteroatomic compounds in shale oils could be reduced, but they were still too high to be used as a transportation fuel. Denitrogenation was more difficult than desulfurization for shale oils.


That quote from the article is probably some kind of typo (500,000 billion= tons ?). It is difficult to nail down a clear estimate of the oil shale in China. One issue is the huge difference between proven reserves or economically developable at the time. Below are some other estimates.

Wikipedia lists China's oil shale at 32 billion tons.

There was an estimate of 3.3 trillion barrels of oil shale in world. 2.6 trillions barrels oil shale in the USA.

World Energy Council - Between 2004 and 2006 China undertook its first national oil shale evaluation, which confirmed that the resource was both widespread and vast.


According to the evaluation, it has been estimated that a total oil shale resource of some 720 billion tonnes is located across 22 provinces, 47 basins and 80 deposits
.

Energy & Fuels Journal - Catalytic Hydrotreating of the Diesel Distillate from Fushun Shale Oil for the Production of Clean Fuel



Because of high contents of nitrogen, sulfur, and unsaturated hydrocarbons in shale oil, its potential use as a substitute fuel is limited. In this paper, catalytic hydrotreating of the diesel fraction (200−360 °C) from Fushun shale oil was preliminarily investigated in a fixed-bed reactor. Hydrotreating experiments were carried out using various available commercial catalysts, including CoMo/Al2O3, NiW/Al2O3, and NiMoW/Al2O3, at different conditions of temperature, hydrogen pressure, liquid hourly space velocity (LHSV), and ratio of hydrogen/feedstock. The results showed that the NiMoW catalyst was most active for heteroatom removal, in comparison to other catalysts. Under relative mild conditions, it was possible to produce clean diesel from a Fushun shale oil distillate. The produced oil had low contents of sulfur, nitrogen, and alkene, reduced density, and increased cetane number, and it could be used as a more valuable fuel.
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: S.M.A. on July 12, 2010, 13:38:19
Business Week link (http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-07-04/saudi-king-seeks-wise-oil-use-not-output-ban-sfakianakis-says.html)

Quote
Saudi King Seeks Wise Oil Use, Not Output Ban, Sfakianakis Says
July 04, 2010, 4:39 AM EDT
 

July 4 (Bloomberg) -- King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, holder of the world’s largest crude-oil reserves, encouraged using the fuel wisely to protect the interests of future generations, rather than a ban on exploration, an analyst said.

The monarch told Saudi scholars studying in Washington that he had ordered all oil exploration to cease “in order to keep the earth’s wealth for our sons and grandsons,” state-owned Saudi News Agency reported yesterday.

“The King’s statement shouldn’t be perceived as a message that Saudi Arabia is stopping its capacity expansion projects but rather that Saudi Arabia has to be mindful of the future needs of the country and be cognizant of its usage wisely and prudently to support future generations,” said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Riyadh-based Banque Saudi Fransi.


Saudi Arabia, the largest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, boosted oil output capacity to 12.5 million barrels a day last year to meet future global demand. State-owned Saudi Aramco plans to invest more than $120 billion in the next six years on crude oil and petrochemical projects, Chief Executive Officer Khalid al-Falih said Jan. 31.

“Even though Saudi Aramco’s conventional crude oil reserves are the largest in the world, at slightly more than 260 billion barrels, we operate an extensive and aggressive exploration program to ensure we will have the petroleum resources to meet domestic and world demand for many years to come,” Aramco said last month in its 2009 annual review.

Aramco, the world’s largest state-owned oil company, is drilling a record number of wells to find more hydrocarbons resources, Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said in December.

Aramco plans to drill 45 to 50 oil exploration wells in 2010, Abdulla al-Naim, vice president for exploration, said in December.

Saudi officials have begun to issue notices against expanding domestic energy use. Saudi Arabia’s demand will rise to 8.3 million barrels a day of oil equivalent in 2028 from 3.4 million barrels in 2009 unless the kingdom becomes more efficient, Aramco’s al-Falih said in April. The increase in demand may be cut by 50 percent through improved energy efficiency, he said.

--Editors: Claudia Carpenter, Leon Mangasarian

To contact the reporter on this story: Ayesha Daya in Dubai adaya1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Voss at sev@bloomberg.net
Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on July 20, 2010, 20:14:10
The reason electric cars will not make a dent in the market unless or until energy storage issues are resolved. In the here and now, directly harnessing the high energy density of hydrocarbon fuels using a fuel cell is the only practical method, batteries with that sort of energy density simply don't exist, and current electrochemical theories sharply limit the amount of energy batteries can hold in theory:

http://american.com/archive/2010/july/the-automobiles-forgotten-secret

Quote
The Automobile’s Forgotten Secret
By Ralph Kinney Bennett
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The automobile’s potential is its greatest secret—an open secret and yet, it often seems, a forgotten one. The big SUV in my garage may occasionally make a 10-mile trip to Walmart or 2-mile run to the volunteer fire station when the siren sounds. But it has the potential—the size, the power, the range—to take me, my friends, and our bicycles over the mountain to a distant bike trail, or 1,100 miles with a load of furniture and books to my son’s house in Florida.

A century ago, the gasoline-powered automobile revolutionized personal mobility. It did it so profoundly and swiftly as to make it a routine aspect of our daily lives. Wide-ranging mobility is so normal that many people, particularly in the anti-car crowd, have forgotten its importance. On whatever day you may happen to read this, Americans will travel 11 billion miles in their cars, going to work or to lunch with friends, shopping, visiting the doctor or dentist, picking up materials for a home project, transporting kids to soccer or a pet to the vet—compacting into a few hours tasks which, had they even been contemplated before the automobile, would have taken carefully planned days or weeks.

A century ago, the gasoline-powered automobile revolutionized personal mobility.This marvelous potential, whether we use it a little or a lot, is woven deeply and invisibly into the fabric of our economy and of our lives. We Americans do not buy cars merely to get from point A to point B. We do not buy cars to meet average 20- to 40-mile-per-day travel expectations. We buy them with the idea that they can take us where and when we want to go, day or night, good weather or bad. What’s more, we buy them for their potential to carry not just ourselves but our families, friends, poker cronies, softball teammates, dogs and cats, antiques, tools, fishing rods, Avon deliveries, picnic lunches, easels and paints, Salvation Army donations, church bazaar cookies, saddles and tack, groceries, vacation paraphernalia, and whatever else we may dream of with some degree of comfort and safety across town or country. And, oh, yes, we might be dragging a boat or a couple of dirt bikes or a pony trailer behind us as well.

This powerful potential is at the crux of replacing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs). Can EVs ever develop the potential that ICE cars routinely deliver? This is not merely an issue of range, but range plus the sheer reserve power to carry real-life loads, deal with emergencies, and finesse the unexpected detour or delay.

Because of motorcars’ potential, Americans continue to embrace the most articulate, the most useful, versatile, and satisfying means of personal transport ever devised.Take, for instance, the case of the celebrated and much-anticipated (coming to the United States in December) Nissan Leaf EV, with its projected range of 100 miles. This car has been touted as a breakthrough on range for a “decent”-sized EV with seating for five. We cautioned recently that its 100-mile range might not be realistic. Now, one of Nissan’s top engineers has warned that the Leaf’s range may be reduced by as much as 40 percent under what most drivers think of as typical driving conditions. Hidetoshi Kadota, the Leaf’s chief engineer, says, for instance, that if you are driving in heavy traffic on a cold day and using your heater you should expect your range to drop to about 62 miles. And that is predicated on your driving at about 15 miles per hour. At higher speeds the range will presumably drop more.

If you happen to be driving on a very hot day, using your air conditioner, you should expect a range of 70 miles—if you keep your speed under 50 mph. But on a really nice day, when you don’t need either your heater or your air conditioner, you may be able to drive more than 130 miles in your Leaf, provided you cruise at a steady 38 mph. Kadota’s estimates not only contemplate speeds the vast majority of drivers would find laughably unacceptable, they are also apparently based on the Leaf with a single driver. No passengers. No noticeably heavy cargo.

One of Nissan’s top engineers has warned that the Leaf’s range may be reduced by as much as 40 percent under what most drivers think of as typical driving conditions.This is not the potential most Americans expect in their cars. While in some quarters it may be exciting to contemplate even a theoretical 100-mile range, let’s put that in a little perspective. Here’s a headline from Motor World, January 15, 1914: “Ford To Build That Long Looked For Electric Car.” A subhead notes that the car “Will Employ Special 100-mile Edison Battery.” The article reveals that the great Thomas A. Edison “has been developing a battery especially for the purposes of the Ford electric and has succeeded so well that a 400-pound battery, capable of operating 100 miles without recharging, is assured.”

Well, history tells us nothing was assured about Edison’s battery or the Ford electric, which was never built. It is sobering to consider that after almost a century Nissan—with its $18,000 lithium-ion “sandwich” battery pack that weighs 660 pounds—is promising the same range that had been “assured” with the Edison battery, back before the First World War.

The electric car industry of a century ago seemed instinctively to admit—without quite admitting—that it could not offer the potential of its gasoline-powered rival. Go back and review automobile advertising between 1900 and 1920. Ads for electric cars tended toward pictures of light, elegant, glassed-in carriages pulled up to a city curb with a stylishly clad lady at the tiller. Ads for gasoline cars tended toward roaring “touring” cars on the open road to somewhere, laden with passengers and with a raffish, goggle-bedecked man hunched over the huge steering wheel.

The early EV makers quietly offered “odorless” and “noiseless” transport to milady’s hair dresser, the department store, or garden club. The ICE makers offered power, glamour, and the limitless adventure epitomized in one of the most famous auto ads of all time, written for the 1923 Jordan Playboy, a two-seater roadster which was shown in blurred silhouette roaring “somewhere west of Laramie" with a “broncho[sic]-busting, steer-roping girl” at the wheel. Sure, it was a masterpiece of Madison Avenue hyperbole, but it spoke to the truth of the motorcar’s potential (not to mention that ineffable something that makes us love or hate our cars).

We Americans do not buy cars merely to get from point A to point B.Because of this potential, Americans continue to embrace the most articulate, the most useful, versatile, and satisfying means of personal transport ever devised.

Now the Obama administration is backing a Congressional effort to dole out $6 billion more in subsidies to promote EVs through more battery research, building of home charging devices, and tax credits for EV buyers. The government has already poured $2.8 billion into battery research, begun doling out $25 billion in loans to auto makers for EV programs, and continues with $7,500 tax credits to EV purchasers. This is accompanied by vast and vague promises to wean us off our “petroleum dependency.”

These efforts may create a firmer niche for EVs in the American auto marketplace. In other words, we will be creating, at great public expense, another entitlement—a second or third “short trip” car for those who can afford it or simply can’t afford to miss those attractive tax rebates. But EVs will never supplant or even significantly augment ICE cars until and unless they can come near to matching the full potential that gasoline- or diesel-fueled cars have promised and delivered for more than a century.

Ralph Kinney Bennett writes the Automobility column for THE AMERICAN.

Title: Re: A scary strategic problem - no oil
Post by: Thucydides on August 09, 2010, 17:50:43
How not to save oil:

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/the-gm-volt-fascism-strikes-the-auto-industry/

Quote
The GM Volt: Fascism Strikes the Auto Industry

Corporatism produces one of the worst cars ever built, and citizens pay for it with their taxes and their liberty.
August 8, 2010 - by Jeff Perren   

Yet another example of crony capitalism rolls off the assembly line soon, in the form of the GM Volt — an electric hybrid that’s absurdly overpriced and woefully underperforms.

It’s set to sell for $41,000, and travels an underwhelming 40 miles before needing a charge (340 miles when the gas engine is invoked, defeating the basic purpose). It seats four, uncomfortably (thanks to the battery pack down the middle).

But there’s more to the story than just a poorly designed, expensive car subsidized with taxpayer money.

Not satisfied with violating bondholders’ rights during bankruptcy proceedings, Obama twisted GM’s arm into producing the car, despite a lack of projected demand to justify the investment economically. As is usual in such arrangements, Obama added some large carrots to the stick. According to the New York Times:

Quantifying just how much taxpayer money will have been wasted on the hastily developed Volt is no easy feat. Start with the $50 billion bailout (without which none of this would have been necessary), add $240 million in Energy Department grants doled out to GM last summer, $150 million in federal money to the Volt’s Korean battery supplier, up to $1.5 billion in tax breaks for purchasers and other consumer incentives, and some significant portion of the $14 billion loan GM got in 2008 for “retooling” its plants, and you’ve got some idea of how much taxpayer cash is built into every Volt.

Whether the American taxpayers get their money’s worth out of the investment, which they won’t, is beside the point. The precedent has been set for a massive public-private partnership in the auto industry, which can easily spread to other industries (and already has). Granted, Chrysler gets partial credit for that precedent, owing to its $1.5 billion loan in 1980. Giving credit where it’s due, Chrysler’s loan did get paid back. But several things are different now that raise the Volt fiasco to a new level.

First, there’s no Lee Iaccoca in charge at GM. Second, that loan wasn’t made contingent on satisfying a quixotic “green” dream. To the contrary, Chrysler was forced to abandon continued development of a turbine engine as a precondition for obtaining the loan. Third, Congress’ 1979 bill required that Chrysler raise the money privately (though the Feds co-signed the note). Fourth, the amount was “only” $1.5 billion, a large sum even then, but not onerous to the public Treasury. (More importantly, the common view that in the end all worked out hunky dory back then is simply a myth.)

The most important difference, however, is this: in 1980, the government did not become a major stakeholder in the company. There was oversight, and arm-twisting, to be sure. But the Feds did not then take a 61% ownership stake in the company, despite influential economist John Kenneth Galbraith encouraging it. (After an upcoming stock sale, the govenment’s stake in GM is expected to be reduced to below a controlling share.)

And that 61% stake, not to put too fine a point on it, is fascism [6].

Soft fascism, but the squishy kind inevitably leads to the more robust variety. Even the former is ruinous for prosperity and freedom.

One of the chief characteristics of fascism is this sort of public-private “partnership [7].” A business is still nominally private, but its fortunes are controlled lock, stock, and executive compensation barrel by the government. In essence, under that arrangement, there’s no important difference between public and private; executives become civil servants in disguise. And that’s a fundamental shift — just the sort Obama had in mind during the campaign — from the normal way of doing business even in mixed-economy America.

Onerous regulations that distort market signals are impractical. Putting a heavy thumb on the scale [8] in favor of unions is wrong. Both lead to bad business outcomes and large-scale injustices; both violate the right of voluntary trade and hobble efficiency. But unfair and costly as those are, they don’t amount to a wholesale blending of government and private enterprise. That is what the semi-nationalization of the auto industry has done, and the Volt is how badly that scheme always turns out.

The fact that it will lose money is far from the worst effect. To envision the endpoint of this philosophy, one need only look to Italy during the ’20s and ’30s [9], when dissent was outlawed and opposition newspapers shuttered. Even in the milder version in America during the Wilson administration [10], dissidents were jailed, books burned, forms of free speech banned, and conscription instituted. In short, freedom shrank.

Sure, it’s just a car, and GM’s management invited the Feds into the boardroom. But history shows it’s not a long trip from the senior “partner” dictating compensation policy to Yellow Shirts bashing heads in the streets. Anyone who believes that liberal fascists [11] will stop at throttling “the rich” (as if that were OK) can find a roadmap there.

When government gets in bed with business, citizens lose a lot more than money.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com

URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/the-gm-volt-fascism-strikes-the-auto-industry/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://pajamasmedia.com/eddriscoll/files/2010/08/Obama-VW-Lemon-Parody-8-6-10.jpg

[2] New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/opinion/30neidermeyer.html?_r=2

[3] a quixotic “green” dream: http://pajamasmedia.com../../../../../blog/obamas-solar-energy-fantasy

[4] required that Chrysler raise the money privately: http://uspolitics.about.com/od/economy/a/chryslerBailout.htm

[5] a myth: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/1983/07/The-Chrysler-Bail-Out-Bust

[6] fascism: http://pajamasmedia.com/eddriscoll/2010/08/06/new-for-2011-the-chevy-volts-wagen/

[7] public-private “partnership: http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2009/04/obama_and_the_reawakening_of_c.html