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[P]
High Oil Prices Might Be A Blessing In Disguise

By adimovk5 in Technology
Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 07:06:56 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

The absolute price of oil has reached a new high. The growth of the economies in China, India and the rest of Asia are increasing the demand for oil. There are production problems in Venezuela (strikes and sabotage), Norway (strikes), Nigeria (civil war), Iraq (sabotage) and Russia (internal politics). Hurricane Ivan and other hurricanes this year disrupted production in the Gulf of Mexico and transportation of oil in the Atlantic.

In the next decade Eastern Europe will also require more oil to feed its growing economies. The price of crude oil has led to prices of above $55 a barrel and lifted heating oil to a record and natural gas to a 20-month high. Though prices may eventually fall a bit, they are likely to remain higher than we were once accustomed.

However, all is not gloom and doom.


After the oil embargo of the 70's, the OPEC nations and in particular Saudi Arabia returned to a policy of price control. The princes of Saudi Arabia carefully managed the price of oil. Their goal was a high enough price to bring weath to the royal family. However, it was equally necessary to keep the prices low enough that competition would not develop. The princes of Saudi Arabia accomplished this by increasing or decreasing the supply of oil on the market. This practice has come to an end, not because of a change of policy but due to an increase in world demand and decrease in supply. The House of Saud can no longer produce enough oil to satisfy world demand.

Why does this make me optimistic?

An increase in the price of oil will cause great short-term hardship to all the industrialized economies. It will also throw the emerging economies into recession or depression. However, the increase in prices also undoes the second half of Saudi planning. Alternative energy and technology become affordable at the higher pricepoint.

With Oil trading in the $50 range, more alternative energy projects are being funded worldwide. Many of these projects were not feasible when oil was trading in the $30 range, but as it passed $40 a barrel, wind projects started to make sense and with oil now over fifty, solar projects are beginning to appear in greater numbers.

Yahoo Finance, 14 Oct 2004

For years, scientists and inventors have labored to bring down the costs of oil alternatives. The prices had come down but only enough to encourage the most dedicated adopters.

Though still expensive compared to commercial power, solar costs have fallen about 90 percent since the '70s. When today's $4.50-per-watt cost for solar reaches the "magic number" of $2 per watt, it will be cheaper than commercial power, Mr. Perez predicts. At that point, demand could skyrocket, he says.

Christian Science Monitor, 12 Feb 2004

Instead of solar prices falling to the "magic number". Oil prices have risen to create a new "magic number". Doubling oil prices has almost the same same effect as halving solar prices. Increases in oil prices make solar power more competitve.

The same applies to other alternative energy sources such as wind, hydrogen, hydro, geothermal, biomass, tidal, and biodiesel. Each increase in prices increases the viability of other energy sources. It may not be necessary for the other source to be cheaper, just cheap enough.

Nuclear alternatives also exist. Pebble bed reactors seem to offer more safety than the old commercial nuclear power plants, but they still have a few design flaws that are being worked out. Instead of fission, some nuclear advocates are pinning their hopes on cold fusion which may be available in the near future but is now a dream.

As the gap between oil and the alternatives shrinks, more entrepreneurs will be willing to take the leap of faith that increases research and development. Trial and error will spark new improvements. Eventually someone will take us to the next level, the one that seems impossible now. A similar leap made sound wireless. Another sent men to the moon and back. Who knows where future inventors might lead us?

A microchip that can transform heat into electric current is now working on a lab bench at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US. Its inventors say it could harness heat from a car's engine and provide power for its electronics, charge laptop batteries by recycling heat from the computer's microprocessor, or simply bask in the baking desert sun generating electricity.

NewScientist.com, 05 Feb 2002

The rise of alternative technology would quickly return the Arab world to its pre-1908 power levels. They would still be important as crossroads for trade but their significance would be much diminished. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see the populations lose their grips on their oil funded colonial territories and dissolve into smaller nations.

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Poll
How high will oil go in this decade?
o It will return to the 30s. 1%
o It will fall back to the 40s. 5%
o It will remain in the 50s. 8%
o It will climb into the 60s. 84%

Votes: 73
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Yahoo
o The absolute price of oil has reached a new high
o China
o India
o Venezuela
o Norway
o Nigeria
o Russia
o Hurricane Ivan
o lifted heating oil to a record and natural gas to a 20-month high
o oil embargo of the 70's
o OPEC
o The House of Saud can no longer produce enough oil to satisfy world demand
o Yahoo Finance, 14 Oct 2004
o Christian Science Monitor, 12 Feb 2004
o alternativ e energy sources
o biodiesel
o Pebble bed reactors
o commercial nuclear power plants
o design flaws
o being worked out
o cold fusion
o NewScienti st.com, 05 Feb 2002
o pre-1908
o population s
o Also by adimovk5


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High Oil Prices Might Be A Blessing In Disguise | 235 comments (221 topical, 14 editorial, 9 hidden)
OMG, micro economics; wack wack wack (2.33 / 6) (#6)
by the77x42 on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 01:06:41 AM EST

Look, the only time big oil is going to change is when the world runs out of oil. And face it, it's already too late. The amount of time and money it takes to convert the DISGUSTING amount of oil required to do anything in a capitalist society far exceeds the time until we run out of oil.

Think of how much oil it takes for air travel or car travel. Can you imagine rebuilding all the airplanes in the world to run on something other than fuel? Is that even possible? What about the millions of cars all over the world? Does everyone have to buy a new car? It's too late. The only way to correct the problem is to have a fundamental shift in the way individuals live their lives. Sorry, no more air travel, and no more driving downtown in your SUV. Until you reach the individual and get them to be conservationists on that level, not a single thing is going to be done to any dent in the problem of consumption.

Come out with all the cool technologies you want, wait until the oil is almost gone, but you are forgetting about people's preferences. No one wants to change unless they are forced. And while so many executives are making a killing on destroying our planets resources, change is nowhere close. Alas, the bottom of the well is only a decade or two away. Better get cracking fifteen years ago.

Have fun being an optimist when oil runs dry; I'll have my gun ready with a single shot.


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

no (none / 1) (#9)
by Polverone on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 02:12:06 AM EST

biodiesel
Fischer-Tropsch synthesis
WW II Germany
embargoed South Africa

The industrialized nations of today mostly earned that title before oil became such a prominent power source. I don't know why people imagine that the end of oil as affordable fuel will mean a future like Mad Max or cold, dark feudalism. 1900 was a far cry from today but also a far cry from 1400. I don't know why people imagine it will bring anarchy either. If millions could starve to death in China and the former USSR without the government falling apart, I don't see why high oil prices and fuel shortages will shred today's industrialized nations, whose leaders I'm sure can be just as ruthless as the old communist leaders if it's a matter of national survival.

When oil is needed badly enough, it can be synthesized starting from coal. WW II Germany and South Africa didn't have decades to react to oil shortages, yet they managed to synthesize enough liquid hydrocarbon fuels to power at least essentials like military and medical vehicles. Yes, this is expensive. But WW II Germany and (white) embargoed South Africa are even further from 1900.

I predict that during the next 100 years, climate change will be a greater problem than high fuel prices for at least 90 of them. Coal does nothing good for the atmosphere, but it's abundant and will be used when other options become too expensive. I used to think of biodiesel as a hippie pipe dream ala the "hydrogen economy," but after more extensive research I believe that it and other biomass-derived fuels will also make a significant contribution to the post-oil energy landscape.

Peak Oil is the new Y2K Bug as far as end-of-the-world predictions go.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Why anarchy will ensue (none / 0) (#11)
by the77x42 on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 03:21:57 AM EST

Because people don't want to give up their SUVs or their airplane trips. In nations like the US or Canada where oil consumption is HUGE, people are already generally happy with the way their oil-driven possessions influence their life. Ask them to give it up and you'll have a war on your hands. Just think about Americans and gun control.


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
Soccer moms are going to revolt (none / 1) (#12)
by morkeleb on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 04:25:11 AM EST

Because they can't afford to pay $10/gallon of gas or take that vacation to Hawaii with their orthodontist husband? I say bring it on!


"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry." - Emily Dickinson
[ Parent ]

Yes (none / 1) (#55)
by egeland on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 01:35:26 AM EST

But I suspect it's going to be more because of their starving children, when they can't afford that $100 loaf of bread to feed them, rather than having to forgo the Hawaiian vacation...

Start your vegetable gardens now, people..

--
Some interesting quotes
[ Parent ]

People whose idea of "hardship"... (none / 0) (#37)
by Polverone on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 04:00:11 PM EST

...is being forced to abandon SUVs and Hawaiian vacations will have the will and ability to destroy their governments? Ha ha.

Believe it or not, guns have become far more tightly controlled since 1930, both throughout the US as a whole and in various localities, and I've yet to hear of a single armed rebellion over it.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

They won't have much choice. (none / 0) (#60)
by Empedocles on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 03:02:53 AM EST

Shrinking supply will gradually drive the price beyond the means of the majority of people. While I can't give you a timeline, you're not going to wake up one day and suddenly realize that gas is $30 a gallon.

---
And I think it's gonna be a long long time
'Till touch down brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home

[ Parent ]
not exactly (none / 0) (#165)
by fateswarm on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 09:33:50 AM EST

IMO you are too of a pesimist mainly because you don't undestand how the economy works. Sure it could be the end of the world tomorrow if a dozen of oil producing lunatics siezed oil production or a comet fell on the earth but as things are now, it's nearly impossible to reach a point of chaos (because 'anarchy' is also a nice political idea that should not be confuced with chaos as.. always happens) and this is because the oil industry knows exactly what is going on and they will not let themselves dissappear from the market in a day of doom. In fact it is well known that a) The oil reserves of the planet are not in a danger of shortage, but in a danger of high cost. The oil reserves that are cheap to drill are few therefore the oil becomes expensive. The time of "zero oil" will actually never come. Only - maybe - times of very expensive oil that would make its use nearly into the zero margin. b) The oil industry is the first to transfer its profits to a biodiesel industry or a hydrogen industry because it is actually the first one to be concerned about this. In fact BP changed its name recently from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum to emphazise the fact that it also sells alternative energy like solar panels(I've personally seen a solar panel with the BP mark on it). c) And in general, all the big industries are both clearly aware of the oil reserves and trust me, they will find ways to sell with oil or not. PR my friend, oil hungry SUV today, "ultra super fast greenpeace and thin cool ecology super car" tomorrow. There is nothing they can not sell and satisfy the consumers hunger. And mind you, I'm not a US citizen, this happens to the rest of the world. have fun, -fs

[ Parent ]
i agree (none / 0) (#13)
by the sixth replicant on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 04:50:00 AM EST

the time period from being an oil dependent economy to an non-oil one (i won't even try and guess what the alternatives could be) is going to be a minimum of 25 years (if we have a world wide Manhatten-like project) upto 200 years. During that time period both oil and the alternative will be very expensive. Period. This will drive up costs, high unemployment, high inflation, huge instability in the Middle East (which would make what we have now like a picnic). Together with an environment that won't be able to handle any more pollution, a world that 1 in 6 can't get clean drinking water and an aging population in the West (where most of these new(ish) technologies will need to be developed) things are not looking up during this period.

Of course, we will get out of it. We will use some new energy source but the cost to get there mighty be worse than WWI + influenza pandemic and I don't really want my children to have to go through that.

What's the answer: I really don't know, but I guess starting now by cutting, maybe, 20% of energy use might make it less painful for future generations but will make the above scenario come sooner for us. It's a vote winner :)

Ciao

[ Parent ]

You forgot to mention running out of water, food (none / 0) (#225)
by Jacques Chester on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 09:32:08 PM EST

nt.

--
Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
[ Parent ]
Actually... (none / 0) (#19)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 09:10:52 AM EST

They already plan on that, once their financial manipulations reduce us all to serfs. Oh, I mean reduce the 10% of us who are left, to serfs.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]
change (none / 1) (#47)
by adimovk5 on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 09:03:54 PM EST

.....but you are forgetting about people's preferences. No one wants to change unless they are forced.....

I believe all change follows a bell curve. First come the initial adopters who are willing to try something different. Then a larger group follows who see the initial adopters and like what they see. More follow until the adopters have become a majority. Each new adopter lowers the costs for everyone. Next come those who always wait and follow the crowd. Finally a few stragglers reluctantly join.

On one end there will always be those who refuse to adopt until they die. At the other end, there are explorers who relentlessly chase after every new thing.

Some people are eager to change. Some people are resistant but few people must actually be forced to change.

[ Parent ]

Moron or troll? (none / 0) (#71)
by vryl on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 09:46:13 AM EST

Anyone remember horses?  New technology supplants old.

Or have I been trolled?

[ Parent ]

you missed my point entirely (none / 0) (#89)
by the77x42 on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 11:56:50 AM EST

we're not talking about a new mode of transportation, we are talking about a new fuel source. this mean replacing the millions of cars that people cherish and can't live without. you can still ride horses with you want, but when there's no oil, you won't be able to drive your car. Better start forking over the big bucks now....


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
"Can't Live Without" (none / 0) (#91)
by virg on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 12:14:58 PM EST

> this mean replacing the millions of cars that people cherish and can't live without.

As crude oil becomes more scarce, it'll become more expensive. This will drive people to reanalyze what they can and cannot "live without", leading to a fundamental change in how people use crude oil. Some will (like the '70s US) replace their vehicles with something more fuel-efficient, and some will learn to do without them. In any case, simple economics will drive the change, since the depletion of crude oil won't happen overnight.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
*sigh* you missed the point yet again. [nt] (none / 0) (#141)
by the77x42 on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 08:33:41 PM EST




"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
*sigh* No, I Didn't. (none / 1) (#170)
by virg on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 10:23:49 AM EST

I'm sorry you seem to be so sad about my disagreeing with your prediction, but it's based on an error, so it's a bad prediction. I'm very aware that you think that we've gone so far along the "oil economy" line that we won't be able to change before the oil runs out and worldwide mayhem will result. The problem is that you're wrong. Oil, like any energy source, is used because it's cheaper than the alternatives. There are plenty of other ways to generate power, but currently none of them can realistically do so at the price of petroleum. As the stores of petroleum run lower, the price for it will rise. As the price rises, other energy sources will become more economical to pursue. You'll be surprised how few people will protest having a nuclear reactor generate their power when the cost of oil-fired plant operations push the price of electricity sky-high.

Bitch all you want about the end of civilization, but I've heard this refrain before. Near the time of the American Civil War, doomsayers were talking about how the wood burned in the U.S. would lead to complete depletion of timber reserves, with resultant horrors. Suddenly, digging coal out of the ground became more economical, and people moved to coal. When coal reserves started getting more costly near 1900, some folks found it more economical to try to pump oil out of the ground instead. Now, as oil begins to run low, people will start to move to something else. If I knew what it was, I'd make a fortune, but I don't yet know. Still, the end of civilization due to energy depletion has come and gone time and again, and you're just as wrong about your predictions this time as they were last times. People adapt much more readily than they revolt. That's the one thing that's never changed.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
I'm all for was you propose (none / 1) (#174)
by the77x42 on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 01:51:51 PM EST

and I think most people will. The problem is going to be with 1) cars 2) airplanes. Converting those is going to be a BITCH.

We used to have 'clean air' hydrogen buses in our community, but they are long gone in favour of their diesel counterparts. Speaking of buses, we have mandatory bus passes at our university. This means you must purchase them if you are a student (they are included in your fees). The are a fraction of the cost of a regular bus pass. However, you know what? Most kids still drive up to school. Even my neighbours who live on bus routes. When gas is 90 cents/litre here (up from about 70 last year) they are still driving and paying $10/day for parking.

The point is that people LOVE their cars and there is no way you are going to be able to convince them to sell them and go to a different alternate BEFORE the oil runs out or BEFORE the oil hits astronomical prices. My other point is that this will not happen because there is no way oil companies are going to jack up the prices so people stop buying it while they are still making tonnes of money.

Gas it at its highest price ever, and people are still buying SUVs and flying all over the place. Changes need to be put into place TODAY if people want to keep on having individual transportation in 20 years.

Your economics is flawed in this case. There are some things economics can't explain... like, why do people pay inflated prices for popcorn in movie theaters?


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]

Economics of the Situation (none / 1) (#181)
by virg on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 05:47:35 PM EST

> Speaking of buses, we have mandatory bus passes at our university. This means you must purchase them if you are a student (they are included in your fees). The are a fraction of the cost of a regular bus pass. However, you know what? Most kids still drive up to school. Even my neighbours who live on bus routes. When gas is 90 cents/litre here (up from about 70 last year) they are still driving and paying $10/day for parking.

This speaks to my side of the argument. Sure, the bus pass is mandatory, and cheap. But driving has advantages that still outweigh riding the bus. Gas at 90 cents a litre isn't high enough to offset that. Wait until it hits 1.40 a litre, and the bus will see more use. The demand for public transportation increases every time the price of private transport goes up, historically. It may not yet reach the flash point in your particular community, but every time the numbers are run, the price of gasoline and the demand for bus/train services are tied together.

> The point is that people LOVE their cars and there is no way you are going to be able to convince them to sell them and go to a different alternate BEFORE the oil runs out or BEFORE the oil hits astronomical prices.

See above. Convincing some takes more economic pressure than others, but the mere fact the demand for gas decreases as price increases shows that people will eventually give them up. If you doubt that, take a good look at the average gas mileage of a car today versus twenty years ago. The recent burst in SUVs is due to factors other than gas prices (safety is a big reason, whether it's justified or not) but eventually the price will convince people that it's just not worth it, and they'll switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles, just like they did in the '70s U.S. when gas shortages convinced many to give up their big American cars for "rice boxes" from Japan.

> Gas it at its highest price ever, and people are still buying SUVs and flying all over the place. Changes need to be put into place TODAY if people want to keep on having individual transportation in 20 years.

This is just more doomsaying. I heard exactly this in the '70s, and for exactly the same reasons. Changes will be put in place when the price allows it to occur. Until then, economic pressure will maintain what we have now. Economics works on both sides of the curve. There are a lot of oil reserves sitting idle because they're not currently worth extracting. As the value of oil rises, these reserves will become viable, which slows the whole "we'll run out of oil" problem down. In the meantime, the cost of that oil will be driving people to adopt alternate energy sources, which will slow the fall even more. Eventually, I suspect the equilibrium will end up much like the coal market of today, where there's a demand for it, but not much compared to other forms of energy, and the cost makes it not so attractive.

> Your economics is flawed in this case. There are some things economics can't explain... like, why do people pay inflated prices for popcorn in movie theaters?

Perhaps your economics has difficulty with this concept, but mine contains a law of supply and demand which explains it just fine. People demand popcorn during movies, and the theater forbids outside food, so they hold a monopoly on popcorn production. Since they're the only supplier, they can charge a much higher price than they could if moviegoers could buy it elsewhere. Don't they have price-fixing where you live?

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
unfortunately (none / 0) (#182)
by the77x42 on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 06:56:35 PM EST

Now we must get into a debate about the evidence. I've heard reports that there is only enough oil left until 2015. Let's assume it's 2020. That's 15 years from now. Do you think that there are going to be advances in the airline industry that permit fuel-efficient airplanes within 15 years? People are going to have to substitute out of them sooner or later, so what are their options: boats or bridges. In 15 years, sure, the technology for efficient air travel might be there, but it's nowhere near the time required to replace all the fleets of airplanes around the world. Now think of what else you need to replace: cars, factories, buses, heating, transportation trucks, etc.

Call this all 'doom and gloom' if you want, but there is no way that we are going to be living in such a wasteful society in 15 years. Growth needs to be curbed, people need to consume less, or some magic efficient fuel source is going to have to be brought into the mainstream. With governments such as ours promoting the EXACT OPPOSITE, all three seem to be unlikely.

The supply of oil is dangerously low. The demand is increasing with population growth and the cost is increasing with the demand. THIS MEANS NOTHING. The supply is going to run out, and no matter how high the cost gets, people the majority of people are not going to substitute out of it because they see it as a basic human necessity to drive their gas-guzzling POS or fly in their 747's to go to business meetings.

It's pointless to argue with economists, I know, but I wouldn't just be sitting on my high horse claiming everything is going to be fine...


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]

Alternatives to petroleum (none / 0) (#190)
by MrMonkeyMagic on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 12:01:19 AM EST

I'm from Norway and here we've got plenty of oil and natural gas, and also plenty of hydroelectric plants. Norway is the world's 3rd largest exporter of petroleum and petroleum derivatives in the world after Saudi Arabia and Russia. Because of this, we are filthy rich. We are good at "creating" energy, and, barring the USA, we are the world's best at consuming energy, per capita, from what I've read. It gets cold during winter.

We've always known our energy resources are going to run out. Norwegian oil-reserves peaked in 1990, and our natural gas-reserves may peak in 5 - 10 years, though production extensions are expected to come in the form of new technologies which will enable the oil rigs to squeeze even more oil out of every nook and cranny in our seabed. We also know that our hydroelectric plants won't be able to meet our soaring energy needs when that happens. It's going to get even colder during winter if we do not find an alternative source of energy. (We do have lots of trees, though.)

With this in mind, we Norwegians have turned our attentions towards the sea - several types of wave-powered turbines have been developed over the last decade; everything from small "cabin" models through seabed-positioned turbine fields, which would utilize the tidal currents, and could rival our traditional hydroelectric power stations in terms of energy production, may one day soon become a reality. These types of petroleum alternatives may be quite viable, and if so, would help keep us warm and rich.

However, we are no nearer a solution as to what to do without gasoline to tank our cars with than anyone else.

Infrastructurally speaking (sic), Norway has an abhorrently under-developed rail system running along the coast of our oddly-shaped country. The only thing we have more of than fish, trees and oil, is mountains - and domestic flights are extremely expensive. Sailing north or south, though quite possible, would take forever, and is hazardous. Norway runs on cars, and cars run on our poor highroads. Bio-diesel, hydrogen and even plain old alcohol is naturally seen as the solution to our problem, without anyone actually having any idea as to when, how and at what cost this paradigm is about to become a reality. We may be well and truly fcuked if we don't find a solution soon, but we Norwegians are confident that we will do so! Perhaps fish-oil... or even trees! We lived without petroleum-lined wallets before the 70-ies, and we will be able to live without them again. Heaven forbid we should have to change anything about our standard of living, no?

The morale of this story? Stay up-beat! Don't focus on the negative! Never give up! Never surrender! And don't let the fire go out!


--

no, there is no hand
to pet the lonely hearted
the monkey is blind


[ Parent ]
well (none / 0) (#198)
by the77x42 on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 01:30:03 AM EST

I hate to break it to you, but Europe is generally 10-15 years ahead of North America in every respect.

World oil reserves peaked in the 70's and little has been done since to solve the problem.


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]

Unfortune Telling (none / 0) (#203)
by virg on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 12:11:17 PM EST

> Now we must get into a debate about the evidence. I've heard reports that there is only enough oil left until 2015. Let's assume it's 2020. That's 15 years from now.

I've heard reports that it'll last until 2050. Let's assume that both reports are wrong, and split the difference. That's 2032. That's 27 years from now. Changes the picture quite a bit, no? Still, that's not what's really important in this case. More below.

> Do you think that there are going to be advances in the airline industry that permit fuel-efficient airplanes within 15 years? People are going to have to substitute out of them sooner or later, so what are their options: boats or bridges. In 15 years, sure, the technology for efficient air travel might be there, but it's nowhere near the time required to replace all the fleets of airplanes around the world. Now think of what else you need to replace: cars, factories, buses, heating, transportation trucks, etc.

Actually, yes I do think that advances in aircraft fuel efficiency will permit fuel-efficient planes then, since such tech allows fuel-efficient planes now. One can build a 747 that runs on alcohol or hydrogen right now, using today's technology, for about the same price as a GasA plane. It's just not worth it to do so, since the fuel costs more these days. When the fuel becomes more comparable economically, refitting a 747 with alcohol engines is a three-week endeavor. Replacing factories happens all the time (heck, there are many coal burning, wood burning and nuclear power plants already out there). Other vehicles have the same economies as aircraft. Where biodiesel trucks don't cost a lot more to operate than diesel trucks, there are already biodiesel trucks running. Rising oil prices will make more of these "today's tech" operations profitable, so businesses will move to them.

> Call this all 'doom and gloom' if you want, but there is no way that we are going to be living in such a wasteful society in 15 years. Growth needs to be curbed, people need to consume less, or some magic efficient fuel source is going to have to be brought into the mainstream. With governments such as ours promoting the EXACT OPPOSITE, all three seem to be unlikely.

What governments promote is realistically irrelevant in terms of a commodity that's becoming scarce. Governments can control costs to some degree, but ultimately the amount of oil pumped out of the ground determines the price. All of the things you suggest will need to happen to lessen the impact that decreasing supplies of petroleum will have, and all three will indeed happen as it becomes viable to do so. However, it's not governmental control that will drive it. The cost at the gas pump goes farther toward convincing people to conserve than anything the government can or should do to affect it.

> The supply of oil is dangerously low. The demand is increasing with population growth and the cost is increasing with the demand. THIS MEANS NOTHING.

Beg pardon? You make a statement like this as though it defends your argument, when all it does is show that your prediction ignores economic factors in the depletion of oil reserves. That's nonsensical.

> The supply is going to run out, and no matter how high the cost gets, people the majority of people are not going to substitute out of it because they see it as a basic human necessity to drive their gas-guzzling POS or fly in their 747's to go to business meetings.

Boy, you seem to like condescending toward the average person, and you seem to like ignoring how costs affect purchasing decisions. You think people won't substitute out a different way of moving around if gas gets to be $10.00 a gallon? The simple fact is that, as oil reserves fall off, the price of gasoline will rise to the point where average folks can't afford it, no matter how much they think they have a right to travel. At that point, they'll change their behavior, because their bank account will require the change. As the cost of travel rises, people will substitute just fine (look at how businesses are pushing toward teleconferencing to save on travel costs, for example).

Also, you seem to think that the supply of oil will simply stop when the last reserve runs out, like a spigot when the tank runs dry. That's not how oil production works at all. What will happen is that the easy oil reserves will stop producing, and producers will move to progressively more costly methods of extraction, and to progressively lower-producing fields. This will make for a fairly smooth price curve moving upward over the next few decades, allowing people and businesses time to jump off the curve after riding it as far as is economically feasible.

> It's pointless to argue with economists, I know, but I wouldn't just be sitting on my high horse claiming everything is going to be fine...

It's pointless to argue with economists when you have a bad understanding of economics as it applies to your argument. You have a misunderstanding of the economics of commodities, and your knowledge of energy technologies is out of date. You need to correct these deficiencies in your arguments before they'll hold any water.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
*sigh* (none / 0) (#206)
by the77x42 on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 01:15:32 PM EST

I do understand economics -- I am an econ student. But just because I don't agree with it doesn't mean I'm ignorant of it.

In the past 27 years (if you think 2050 is viable) gas prices have doubled. What do we see? More cars on the road than ever before and more airplanes making more flights. Suppose gas got to $5/L. What do you think would happen?

  • Since it's a 'cost of living' employers would raise wages?
  • More people take the bus?
  • More fuel efficient cars?
  • More people move into the city?
Whatever they choose, the support structure isn't there. I guess if you think 15 - 25 years is enough time to build up those structures, then go on being happy, but if they are to be effective, they should be in place now. I've already seen the failure of fuel-efficient buses, I've already seen the cost of rent in the city skyrocket, I know that employers couldn't give a shit about the cost of living, and I know that certain interest groups have a vested interest in making sure fuel efficient cars never reach the market. Even if they did, that's all the more water over the dam. There is still too much energy consumption regardless, and this is why I suggest curbing growth would be an altogether more justifiable means of slowing down the destruction of the planet. That of course, combined with alternate fuel sources that are PROMOTED by the government so people have an incendive to do the reasearch. 15 - 25 years isn't that long at all...


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
You Can Keep Your *sigh* to Yourself (none / 0) (#207)
by virg on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 01:57:23 PM EST

> I do understand economics -- I am an econ student. But just because I don't agree with it doesn't mean I'm ignorant of it.

Why does it matter if you're an econ student? My degree is in economics, and you don't seem to think that gives me any leg to stand on. I'm arguing on the basis of your argument, not your credentials.

> In the past 27 years (if you think 2050 is viable) gas prices have doubled. What do we see? More cars on the road than ever before and more airplanes making more flights.

I would suspect that someone trained in economics would not posit that gas prices are the main economic factor in the increase in demand for transportation, but then what do I know? Perhaps it's proof that gas prices aren't the only reason people drive cars. While gas prices are low (relative to the other costs/benefits of driving), rising costs won't have much effect on demand for cars. I even mentioned one of these other factors (safety) earlier. However, if the price of gas becomes a significant part of the cost of owning a car, demand for gas-guzzling cars will fall. As proof of that posit I present the predominance of small Japanese cars that took over the market in the U.S. the last time gas prices rose drastically.

> Whatever they choose, the support structure isn't there. I guess if you think 15 - 25 years is enough time to build up those structures, then go on being happy, but if they are to be effective, they should be in place now.

Again, you present that people should start spending more money and/or changing the way they live without any motivation other than saying the sky is falling. Considering there's very little agreement on exactly how much oil there is, and it costs more today, right now, to change to something else, I must ask you, "how's that working for you?" I'm guessing you're not signing many people up at this point, and that's because the things you suggest are costly in economic and non-economic terms, but there's no obvious benefit unless they already believe your story. Buying a more fuel-efficient car involves buying a new car. Not driving in a good portion of the U.S. is not realistic. Sure, the auto manufacturers worked to put the U.S. into the situation where owning a car is nearly always a necessity, but that is the way the U.S. is right now, and your proposition to ride the bus isn't going to win over anyone who doesn't have a bus to ride. What will happen, because it's the most feasible solution for most people, is that they will start to conserve on their own. People who have trouble affording gasoline will make efforts to drive less. They'll carpool. They'll make the conservation effort when that effort becomes easy (that is, never) or when it becomes necessary.

> I've already seen the failure of fuel-efficient buses...

Public transportation in the U.S. fails most often because owning a car isn't significantly more expensive and is much more convenient. When the fuel for the car becomes a much larger part of the cost of owning a car, the convenience factor falls off fast. Note that virtually every major city in the U.S. has a heavily-used public transportation system, which one would expect because owning a car in the city is expensive (not just for gas) and not very convenient.

> I've already seen the cost of rent in the city skyrocket...

Rent in the city skyrockets because of convenience factors. Ownership of an automobile is only a part of that. Besides, if driving becomes a whole lot more expensive, high rent in the city will still be cheaper, and when it gets to be enough of a margin, people will start to relocate. It's what drove them all out of the city in the first place.

> I know that employers couldn't give a shit about the cost of living...

Employers give a shit about what affects the bottom line. If they can't get workers because they don't pay enough for those workers to get to work, then they'll move to workers who can, or they'll find a way to get the workers there. There are farm owners that still pay truckers a fee to go get workers because after a certain distance it doesn't matter how much you pay, you'll come up short if you don't fetch the help.

> I know that certain interest groups have a vested interest in making sure fuel efficient cars never reach the market.

This is true, but the simple fact is that when gas prices rise enough, the power wielded by such groups will drop off considerably. Auto makers in the '70s thought the same way, but when demand got high enough, all the tariffs they could muster didn't stop people from switching.

> There is still too much energy consumption regardless, and this is why I suggest curbing growth would be an altogether more justifiable means of slowing down the destruction of the planet.

To justify this line of reasoning, you need to prove that the destruction of the planet will result (a point up for debate in many places), whether switching to a more expensive energy source now instead of waiting until oil rises to meet that other form holds any benefit over waiting, and why curbing growth (as opposed to conservation efforts or investigating new technology) is the best way to address the problem. Simply saying, "it's best to curb growth" isn't nearly good enough, as proven by the ineffectiveness of that argument to date.

I am quite far from being a "smoke means progress" sort, but you wanted to make this an economic argument, and you didn't do a good job of it. The fact that I agree with your premise that the world uses too much energy, and yet I'm still able to blow your argument out of the water, is evidence that you need to dig more deeply.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
this is your simple misunderstanding (none / 0) (#220)
by the77x42 on Sat Oct 30, 2004 at 07:18:14 PM EST

You are assuming that I am trying to make an economic argument... I'm not. I'm trying to argue against what an economist would say (I know that either you assholes (all economists in general are assholes, this isn't something that you've personally led me to believe) think you can save the world, or else say everything will be fine -- I beg to differ). Anyway, as it turns out, I'm making a weak conservationalist argument. If you look back at my first post I made the claim that people preferences for driving are too high for market forces to be able to do anything about change. Couple this with the fact that governments are unwilling to change and you have my argument. That's it. Go over and check the evidence again I suggest, I have the distinct feeling that you are misinterpreting my argument.


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
Of course! (none / 0) (#224)
by Jacques Chester on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 09:29:24 PM EST

Why didn't we see it before! You, a single economics student, know people's preferences better than they do, to the level of divining the intent of the teeming millions. You deserve worship, not arguments!

--
Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
[ Parent ]
Economy of Words (none / 0) (#227)
by virg on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 12:08:20 PM EST

> You are assuming that I am trying to make an economic argument... I'm not.

Well, you are indeed making an economic argument. Your quote...
Anyway, as it turns out, I'm making a weak conservationalist argument. If you look back at my first post I made the claim that people preferences for driving are too high for market forces to be able to do anything about change. Couple this with the fact that governments are unwilling to change and you have my argument.
...specifies that economic pressure is too weak to influence driving preferences. I presented what happened in the '70s, when the rising cost of gasoline drove people to make changes in their vehicle choices and driving habits, as a rebuttal. History says that your assumption is wrong, and that economic factors can indeed put enormous pressure on peoples' preferences. Since your argument bases on this incorrect assumption about the strength of the economic factors, your argument fails. Saying that discounting economic factors makes your argument non-economic doesn't make it so.

Again, I don't want to present the idea that economic factors are the sole savior of the world's energy problems, and I've argued often (even on this very site) about how the market is far from infallible. But your argument is way over the edge of reality, on the basis of an assumption that has been disproven often in the real world. There is a coming energy crisis. The oil economy is in for a very bumpy ride, and not a very pleasant one. However, it's not going to go so far as to have vehicles abandoned for lack of fuel by the roadside and widespread rioting. Fortunes will be made and lost, but the average energy consumer will not be pushed to the brink of disaster as you seem to want to believe.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
prices have ways to go (2.50 / 2) (#8)
by khallow on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 01:42:20 AM EST

Instead of solar prices falling to the "magic number". Oil prices have risen to create a new "magic number". Doubling oil prices has almost the same same effect as halving solar prices. Increases in oil prices make solar power more competitve.

Solar cells require significant energy to produce relative to their expect lifetime output. Oil prices go up, then that cases some rise in energy prices as well.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

not hugely significant (none / 0) (#10)
by Delirium on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 02:37:02 AM EST

These days solar cells have around a 30-year lifetime and take about 3 years to generate power equal to the power it took to manufacture them. Of course, in the short term that's still significant as an up-front cost, but over 30 years it's not enormous.

[ Parent ]
if they get used that long (none / 1) (#14)
by khallow on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 05:37:28 AM EST

These days solar cells have around a 30-year lifetime and take about 3 years to generate power equal to the power it took to manufacture them. Of course, in the short term that's still significant as an up-front cost, but over 30 years it's not enormous.

Alternately, the costs are upfront (and correlate for the time being with oil prices) and there's large risk that the cells won't be used for their entire lifespans. My pessimism will not be denied! :-)

OTOH, 3 years to break even isn't bad. That's a big improvement over the old days.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Also starting to consider full life cycle (none / 0) (#35)
by xria on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 01:52:49 PM EST

Nice to see they are also looking at ways of making newer PV cells safe to dispose of, or look at ways of recycling them.

http://www.eere.energy.gov/solar/panel_disposal.html

Some of the early advocates when most PV cells had some nasty stuff in them were being a bit two-faced complaining about nuclear, when the waste from solar energy at the time would have to be heavily treated before disposal.

[ Parent ]

Same power output? (none / 0) (#53)
by jeremyn on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 11:57:55 PM EST

Do these new solar cells still operate at the same energy output after the first year or two or thirty, or do they degrade over time?

[ Parent ]
Think most still degrade some (none / 0) (#54)
by xria on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 12:54:58 AM EST

There are some interesting ones coming along though, MIT are supposedly looking into self repairing cells that actually use chlorophyl and some proteins etc. I think its one of those technologies that could turn out to be quite big in the end, as it becomes more economic a lot more research will be put into it. Of course its unlikely to be able to more than a minor producer overall unless some significant efficiency gains are made.

[ Parent ]
Solar cells not always relevant (none / 0) (#103)
by Eccles on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 02:58:26 PM EST

Solar power need not use solar cells at all, just aim parabolic mirrors at pipes filled with liquid to power steam turbines. Or if you do use solar cells, again use mirrors to focus a larger area of light onto a strip of cells.

[ Parent ]
three sources of salvation (2.50 / 12) (#15)
by circletimessquare on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 05:38:39 AM EST

  1. pebble bed reactors. they don't melt down. no china syndrome, no 3 mile island, no chernobyl, no silkwood. but of course, all the nimby's who wouldn't let these things be built would apparently rather ship their children to falluja to protect oil than build a completely safe pebble bed reactor. meanwhile, china is investing heavily in this technology. so while the us wears itself down fighting islamonazi wackjobs sitting on top of their precious oil, places like china will enjoy air pollution free totally safe pebble bed reactor power. because the morons in the west don't understand the science, but know how to yell loudly and chain themselves to train tracks to prevent uranium shipments. stupid fucks.
  2. biodiesel. during the last oil crisis in the late 1970s, the us started a program that culminated in algae ponds producing diesel at good yields. the program was of course trashed in the early 1990s, but the data is still there, and some scientists have even sequenced the genome of the biodiesel producing algae to increase yields. this is pure gold. remember, diesel himself demonstrated his engine running it on peanut oil. of course, we are talking about increases in air pollution here by going all gonzo for biodiesel, but emission standards and catalytic converter tech should scrub most of that.
  3. fusion. always the pie in the sky. fusion is the holy grail of energy needs. but of course, as you well know, we don't have much to go on right now. however it is a fact that some genius, hopefully in this century, will forever place his name alongside the likes of einstein and newton by figuring out how to get fusion working.
boondoggles:
  1. hydrogen. what BULLSHIT. i don't understand what the fucking point of hydrogen is. yes, clean emissions. but do people understand the energy conversions required to make hydrogen? what is the fucking point of turning gas or coal or sugar or ANY energy medium into hydrogen, therefore burning MORE energy and making MORE pollution, just so your car smells nice. hydrogen, if you understand the science and the costs of converting from one energy medium to another, is a laughable waste of time.
  2. solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, wave, etc.: in certain locations, these things are fucking great. i had the pleasure of visitng the largest geothermal electricity plant in the world, in leyte in the philippines. it's a giant electric plant that supplies electricty as far north as manila, in the middle of the fucking rainforest (where it is always raining, btw, because of all the steam). you don't get much environmentally friendly than that! in manhattan, they are building a turbine field in the east river to harness tidal energy. awesome! but, these sources of energy are always fringe, always tiny, always exotic. they will never be the meat and potatoes of energy needs. like solar: if you understood that problems in energy needs is more about storage and converting between energy mediums than about the actual source, you realize something like solar can never scale. put those solar panels on the roofs of homes in arizona though! feed it back to the grid: have the power plant pay you instead of vice versa! but again, not the meat and potatoes, because converting it, and storing it, and the finicky nature of the weather, means that solar will always be fringe. do the math.


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

nuclear power (3.00 / 3) (#16)
by five volt on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 06:03:31 AM EST

We also need more unenriched uranium reactors around. Good for poor countries who can mine the fuel but can't afford enrichment facilities.

--
Ruthlessness kicks ass.
[ Parent ]

Hydrogen (2.50 / 4) (#17)
by b1t r0t on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 08:36:10 AM EST

You forgot to mention the storage problems of Hydrogen. As a gas in tanks, it's BIG. It's hard to get enough hydrogen to fuel a vehicle without having a tank large enough to turn your vehicle into a two-seater. Hydrides and other ways of storing hydrogen in a smaller form might help, but they're not here now.

And there's one more way to make hydrogen: electrolysis. If you can get a source of clean electricity, you can make clean hydrogen. Let's have more nuclear power plants already. And it would be really nice if we could get fusion to work.

-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.
[ Parent ]

man you don't get it (1.42 / 7) (#18)
by circletimessquare on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 08:55:41 AM EST

why convert it to hydrogen?

every time you convert energy, ANY form of energy, from one form to another, you lose orders of magnitude of the energy:

heat->motion->chemical->electrical->whatever

each step, of any energy conversion process, loses massive amounts of energy!

the whole point of any energy storage is to have AS FEW OF THESE CONVERSION STEPS AS POSSIBLE

so when you go nuclear->electric, you've wasted lots of energy

and when you go nuclear->electric->hydrogen, you've wasted a couple of order of magnitudes more!

WHY DON'T PEOPLE GET THIS!

converting ANY evergy source to hydrogen therefore is, literally, a waste, a MASSIVE waste

it defeats the whole point of green energy and then some!


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Massive waste? (3.00 / 3) (#21)
by wiredog on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 09:28:28 AM EST

Depends on what you're conserving. Nuclear->electric->hydrogen is far more environmentally friendly than burning hydrocarbons.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
not orders of magnitude. (3.00 / 5) (#25)
by moppet on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 09:49:31 AM EST

The carnot efficiency of a heat engine with temperatures like that of an internal combustion engine is around 35%. That's the absolute maximum you can get obeying the laws of thermodynamics. In reality losses reduce that and running at less than full load reduce it very significantly, to around 10%. A large power station can approach 50%.

Converting hydrogen to and from electricity is on the order of 90%. Then transmitting it to the wheels is 70-80%. You still lose that energy in the transmission of a normal car, but also in an electric car you can regenerate the energy used in braking.

As a rough calculation,
Hydrogen     .5 x .9 x .9 x .7 = 28%
Petrol       .1 x .7           =  7%

Refining oil uses lots of energy, not sure how much. But it's significant.

[ Parent ]

Figures for "well-to-wheel" efficiencies (none / 1) (#85)
by joib on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 11:21:59 AM EST

Your figure for the efficiency of the hydrogen option is way over-optimistic.

Similarly, while otto engines lose efficiency at part power, I don't think it's as bad as 10 % at part load.

See here.

[ Parent ]

sure, it was only a rough example (none / 0) (#212)
by moppet on Sat Oct 30, 2004 at 12:51:34 AM EST


The point I was trying to make is that converting electricity to hydrogen and back again is way better than the 'order of magnitude' quoted by the parent poster. I'm assuming he's working in base 10 here ;)

What he was saying; 10% x 10% x 10% = .1%
Your figures;       70% x 66% x 50% = 23%

If that figure for 'liquefaction' is to do with storing H2 as a cryogenic liquid then I reckon it can easily be beat by metal hydride storage, just not right yet.

Also, we could use the waste heat from the power station if we weren't so lazy and careless.

I'm pretty sure otto engines _are_ hideously inefficient in the sort of applications they are used for though. You only get 25% at full power once warm. Will have to go away and do proper research :)

[ Parent ]

hydrogen (3.00 / 3) (#41)
by sunder on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 07:41:47 PM EST

The big deal about hydrogen is portability.

Around here (British Columbia), we have quite a few hydroelectric dams and plenty of spare electricity. This is great for running cities, but wasteful idiots will still want to drive around cars when oil is gone. A system of overhead wires will be harder to implement than simply making a hydrogen car.

[ Parent ]

Aaaargh! Noooooo.... (3.00 / 2) (#45)
by sudog on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 08:14:03 PM EST

Back to one-liners..  curse it..


[ Parent ]
You don't get it either (none / 0) (#50)
by b1t r0t on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 11:39:04 PM EST

Where did you get the idea I have any special love for hydrogen anyhow? I just said it wasn't quite as useless as you said it was. In other words, it sucked, but not so much.

Calm down a bit, ok? It's not like anyone's life is in immediate danger or anything. (Except maybe yours if you get a heart attack from all those kneejerk reactions.)

-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.
[ Parent ]

dude (1.00 / 4) (#112)
by circletimessquare on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 04:26:29 PM EST

i come here to expell my vitroile, it's my therapy

better here than in real life, no?

kuro5hin for me is catharsis, i'm quite agreeable in person

why the fuck should i care if i upset you? i'll never meet you

i'll begin caring what people think about me here when the fucking pope stops shitting in his diaper, ok?

so fuck you, and you're stupid hydrogen which wastes energy and pollutes more to create it

and suck my dick while you're at it, bitch

lol ;-P


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

fission energy (1.50 / 2) (#65)
by auraslip on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 07:42:54 AM EST

is practicly free
124
[ Parent ]
fusion energy (none / 1) (#79)
by Logi on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 10:28:13 AM EST

on the other hand, is theoretically free.
Logi Ragnarsson. Some day we all shall be out of scope.
[ Parent ]
so i love (none / 0) (#143)
by auraslip on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 08:54:53 PM EST


124
[ Parent ]
What do you suggest? (none / 0) (#69)
by Pxtl on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 09:13:57 AM EST

Nuclear powered cars? More hydrocarbon-burning vehicles? If you just remove Hydrogen from the chain, you get electric cars. Those suck. So Hydrogen is trading off a little energy efficiency for a metric assload of space/mass efficiency.

[ Parent ]
Considerations of Conservation (none / 0) (#90)
by virg on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 12:06:47 PM EST

> the whole point of any energy storage is to have AS FEW OF THESE CONVERSION STEPS AS POSSIBLE

Not correct. The end result of energy production is to produce usable energy within the necessary parameters while minimizing waste. This means wasting energy to put it in a more useful form is acceptable in the long run, as I show below.

> converting ANY evergy source to hydrogen therefore is, literally, a waste, a MASSIVE waste

Remember that useful energy is our goal. Using a reactor to create electricity is a good start, but electricity isn't portable, nor it is efficient to store it. Batteries are heavy, and any moving object that uses electricity (like a vehicle) expends a notable amount of its energy moving the batteries it has to carry, which is one of the reason electric cars aren't very energy-efficient. Converting electricity to hydrogen causes a loss of energy at conversion, but then the hydrogen can be transported to where it needs to go much more efficiently, which in the case of vehicles more than makes up for the energy loss in converting it in the first place. So, converting all of your electrical power to hydrogen would be foolish, but converting some of it does make energy sense.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
smacks forehead (none / 1) (#114)
by circletimessquare on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 04:31:08 PM EST

converting to batteries and then to electricity and then to motion wastes a LOT less energy

converting to hydrogen, then to heat, then to motion... do the fucking math you fucking moron!

fruitcake environmentalists who don't understand the science hurt the environment with their ignorance


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Doing The Math (none / 0) (#167)
by virg on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 10:10:15 AM EST

> converting to batteries and then to electricity and then to motion wastes a LOT less energy

converting to hydrogen, then to heat, then to motion... do the fucking math you fucking moron!


I've done the math, and it still comes out on hydrogen's side when it comes to vehicles. Assuming that converting to batteries means charging them, you then run the motor off the battery. While this is efficient in terms of energy transfer, the total energy needed to move the vehicle is important, in that it requires a lot of batteries to move a vehicle. Those batteries are heavy these days, and the batteries need to move with the vehicle, so a good chunk of your electric potential gets wasted moving the batteries that allow you to move the vehicle in the first place. In real-life electric cars, this is a huge problem in terms of "fuel" economy, in that you must carry a huge number of batteries to give the vehicle an acceptable range and power curve, and there's a point after which adding more batteries doesn't add much range because of the added weight. Hybrid gas-electric cars go a long way toward fixing that, by using an on-board charger driven by a gasoline engine to keep the battery charged, so you don't need (literally) a ton of batteries to drive the car. This is because gasoline is much, much lighter per joule of energy potential than an electric battery.

Now, going back to my context. Using electricity to create free hydrogen may not be as efficient as driving a car motor off of electricity, but once you've made the hydrogen, it's very light for its energy potential, so you can pump it into a vehicle, and that vehicle can weigh far less than an electric vehicle, so less power is needed to move it. Less power needed means less fuel spent, and the savings in energy not spent moving a big pile of batteries makes up for the energy loss to make up the fuel in the first place. If the same electricity that will move a vehicle with one passenger 100 miles can make enough hydrogen to move a vehicle with one passenger 120 miles, you've got a net gain. In real life experiments, hydrogen has proven to be more energy efficient in this way than fully electric vehicles.

Frankly, I think that the "hydrogen economy" has been seriously overplayed by its adherents, and I think that it has some serious limitations in practice, but it does have the numbers over electric cars for the time being. New battery technology may change that, but for now it's ahead in the race.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Better energy storage (none / 1) (#101)
by jolly st nick on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 02:47:22 PM EST

In the short term, the best energy storage medium is the petroleum we don't use when we use a renewable energy source. It's not like we're going to be getting so much energy from renewables anytime in the next decade or maybe even two that we have to design systems around converting energy already in the form of electricity into a storable form.

As long as the fossil fuel plant are capable of producing the difference between peak load and the net capacity of renewable but non-storable sources (such as wind power), we can reduce our dependency upon fossil fuels by adding sources like wind power into the mix.

[ Parent ]

caveats (2.20 / 5) (#20)
by moppet on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 09:22:38 AM EST

1. Fission power is hideously expensive. Building all the containment, maintaining a plant which is so appallingly toxic to both humans and robots, dismantling it with those same conditions all cost lots and lots of money. The true cost is hidden by state subsidies designed to pay for weopons grade plutonium. No commercial company is in the least bit interested in building and operating a fission plant without massive support from the state. It's just not profitable.

If all the money spent bailing out fission power had been spent on PV, we'd all have panels on our roofs that cost little more than roof tiles giving us all our electric and maybe powering our cars too.

2. Converting the overproduction in food grain to fuel would serve two purposes. First, it would end the screwed up way that US and EU are subsidising grain exports which wreck less developed nations which have mainly agricultural industries and cause massive poverty worldwide. Second, it cycles carbon out of the atmosphere instead of releasing carbon which has been sequestered naturally over millions of years. However, I have heard that there won't be anywhere near enough. We'd have to significantly curb our car use if we wanted to be able to rely on it exclusively.

bd 1. The advantage of hydrogen is that you can generate the energy in an efficient way, store it, and then use it in an efficient way. Car engines only operate at optimum efficiency for a fraction of the time they are running.

Petrol particularly only gives good efficiency at full load, which means you have to have a massively oversized engine to get good acceleration but which is producing 20% of its rated power at cruise speeds, unless you cruise at 150mph, in which case air drag sucks all the energy away. Also, they're much worse for short journeys (like in cities) because of all the fuel that gets burnt to heat up the engine.

By contrast, a coal power station is nearly always running at full power, at best efficiency. And you can build huge scrubbing filters to take out the nastiest waste products.

[ Parent ]

Fission power (3.00 / 4) (#57)
by five volt on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 02:04:23 AM EST

Hmm, I suppose Canada designed the CANDU reactor so they could make plutonium? It's true that the reactor can do (heh) it, but Canada has no nuclear weapons. Would Ontario Power Generation Inc. have built a quarter of its power with CANDUs if it hurt their bottom line? Oh right, they're SECRETLY MAKING BOMBS. The costs of running a nuclear plant do not make it unprofitable. Although irritating the ignorant hippies is a praiseworthy goal, that's not why businessmen do it. Containment is actually quite easy, provided you don't cheap out to the extreme, like Chernobyl reactor 4. The facts about radiation lead to a view which is somewhere between the the modern fear and the 1950s' love.

--
Ruthlessness kicks ass.
[ Parent ]

good lord, save us from the fruitcakes (1.33 / 3) (#122)
by circletimessquare on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 04:52:09 PM EST

  1. talk to japan and france and canada, tell them about your "hideous expense" with nuke power... i know some people there who really know what the fuck they are talking about who might disagree with you, rather than what some propaganda pamphlet told you... and you state that solar energy will function like it does in arizona everywhere... (snicker)
  2. i agree with you 100% on everything you say, but...
there is NO FUCKING ADVANTAGE TO HYDROGEN

it WASTES ENERGY

WHICH POLLUTES MORE

do you fucking get it?

hydrogen is a joke- i thought the whole point was to pollute less and waste less energy, right? so why convert ANYTHING to hydrogen??!!

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

No. (none / 1) (#24)
by Ward57 on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 09:38:45 AM EST

Converting energy from one form to another can have very varying conversion rates. Coal-> electricity (instance of chemical->heat->mechanical->electricity) is about 25% efficient in power stations. Electric motors (electricity->rotary mechanical motion) are more like 90%.

[ Parent ]
Yes. (none / 1) (#82)
by joib on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 11:02:12 AM EST


Coal-> electricity (instance of chemical->heat->mechanical->electricity) is about 25% efficient in power stations.

About 40 % with 1970 level powerplant technology. Today, ultra-supercritical coal power plants or ones based on gasification and combined cycle are something around 50 %.


Electric motors (electricity->rotary mechanical motion) are more like 90%.

Apples and oranges. You have to produce the electricity somehow before you can use it. And slightly more expensive electric motors easily reach 95 %.

[ Parent ]

Biodiesel carbon neutral (3.00 / 3) (#33)
by Nursie on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 01:10:27 PM EST

Biodiesel is polluting, as all diesel is. However the carbon that it uses is carbon that is currently active in the cycle, not carbon that has been underground for millions of years.

Biodiesel does not add to the carbon in the cycle.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
actualy cleaner (none / 1) (#34)
by Altus on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 01:32:31 PM EST


than conventional diesel... depending on where you get your diesel.

diesel in the US have large amounts of sulfur in it.  from what I understand this is not the case in europe where the sulfur levels are regulated to be lower.

although of course it still pollutes... but it doesnt have to be as bad as many people think it is.

"In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women..." -H. Simpson
[ Parent ]

good point! (nt) (none / 0) (#120)
by circletimessquare on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 04:41:43 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Thank god! You're not posting in one-liners! (3.00 / 4) (#44)
by sudog on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 08:12:53 PM EST

Hey, thanks for posting non-eye-killing one-liners! Yay!


[ Parent ]
i tried (none / 0) (#119)
by circletimessquare on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 04:41:13 PM EST

but the fucking scoop engine automatically turned my post into some sort of fucking html list

sorry for disappointing you ;-P


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

temporary boondoggles (2.00 / 2) (#46)
by adimovk5 on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 08:18:06 PM EST

Thank you for your suggestions.

.....but do people understand the energy conversions required to make hydrogen?.....

Yes, that's the case for making hydrogen today. However, science and technology may yield new methods that are less wasteful than current conversion methods.

.....solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, wave, etc.....

Each area will need to take advantage of the energy that is most effective for that region. As with hydrogen, new developments will make the alternatives more viable as the user base increases.



[ Parent ]

circletimessquare is right. (none / 0) (#84)
by joib on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 11:10:32 AM EST


Yes, that's the case for making hydrogen today. However, science and technology may yield new methods that are less wasteful than current conversion methods.

That's very doubtful. Hydrogen is the lightest element in the universe. It's no trivial task to pack lots of hydrogen in a small space. If you think about it, mother nature already does it pretty much optimally with hydrocarbons.

Also, see my k5 article about the problems with the hydrogen economy, and what could be done instead.

The real problem is how to produce electricity in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. Once we solve that problem and change our current electricity generation infrastructure, taking synthetic hydrocarbons into use for the transportation sector is small potatoes (and a much more sensible option than the "hydrogen economy").

[ Parent ]

Modern nuclear reactors (none / 0) (#52)
by jeremyn on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 11:51:13 PM EST

All properly run nuclear reactors (eg. not plants run by undertrained and tired Soviet bloc engineers) have safety procedures to stop meltdown being caused by anything short of almost every control rod spontaneously disappearing into thin air. And even then, without the explosion of the containment domes that encircle competently designed nuclear reactors (eg. Nine Mile Island, NOT Chernoboryl), it'd only kill a few technicians.

No Western country is ever going to have a serious nuclear incident. That won't stop the Greenpeace idiots stopping shipments of uranium of course. Whether it's in graphite which absorbs neutrons and is used in nuclear fuel containers anyway or not. In fact, more people would be killed in the event that an eco-terrorist group like the ELF attacks a fuel shipment or power plant than in any leak from the same.

[ Parent ]

The point is that (none / 1) (#73)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 10:07:44 AM EST

there are several reactor designs that are intrinsicly safe rather than depending on the reaction times of trained operators.

I'll tell you why I don't listen. I can only read so much of your stupid a-- b--- s--- before I lose all faith in the future of humanity and start sort
[ Parent ]
And possibly (none / 0) (#99)
by jolly st nick on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 02:39:46 PM EST

and possibly have simpler, less expensive designs, since failsafe is easier to attain?

[ Parent ]
Generally, yeah. (3.00 / 2) (#106)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 03:22:34 PM EST

People have been experimenting with passively cooled intrinsicly safe designs for a couple of decades now, but I don't think any have been built to a commercial scale because of the fear and, of course, the waste problem.

Pebble bed is one, I remember another design that required a heavily doped coolant so that, if the coolant drained out the reaction stopped because the power rods were too far apart to sustain the reaction otherwise. A third design used little sealed reactors that were never refueled - you build it with the fuel installed, fire it up and when it's done you haul it to the disposal site (oops, there's that waste problem again) - but the good news is that because they're sealed you don't have to worry about bad guys using them to breed weapons grade fuel.

I'll tell you why I don't listen. I can only read so much of your stupid a-- b--- s--- before I lose all faith in the future of humanity and start sort
[ Parent ]

So much for reaction times (none / 0) (#152)
by jeremyn on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 02:39:09 AM EST

Well, if the Chernoboyrl engineers had been properly trained, had trustworthy monitoring instruments, and had reaction times of less than say, 15 minutes or so there would have been no disaster. Especially given the immense amount of information on the safe and proper operation of a nuclear plant accumulated since then, nuclear power is safe.

[ Parent ]
the other point is (none / 0) (#96)
by Gnateoj on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 02:06:42 PM EST

the argument against nuclear plants is what to do with the rods after they are 'used up'. the quickest solution is to leave them in pools of water, but for all intents and purposes not exactly a feasible way of taking care of the waste product.


* * * * *

for the love

[ Parent ]
oh fuck you (1.00 / 4) (#117)
by circletimessquare on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 04:36:19 PM EST

pebble beds make sense because the very tech prevents a meltdown

i'd rather depend upon that then some fucking homer simpson behind the control panel as my insurance that nothing will meltdown

humans are fallible, always

so when it comes to contemporary nuclear tech, i'm with the greenpeace frutcakes

believe me: those fruitcakes are WAY better than "nothing can ever go wrong, i promise" assholes like you


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Homer Simpson? (none / 0) (#150)
by jeremyn on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 02:24:55 AM EST

That's why you always have properly trained technicians, not Homer, with failsafes if they go postal. Do you seriously believe that any company or government owning a nuclear power plant is going to let some idiot sit on his ass while the reaction gets further and further out of control?

[ Parent ]
do i really believe that? (none / 0) (#156)
by circletimessquare on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 03:31:01 AM EST

yes

the only thing that matches mankind's ability to rise to impossible challenges is his ability to fail miserably at the most incredibly foolproof bullshit

that you trust people to be the failsafe rather than tech which has the failsafe built in doesn't speak very highly of your wisdom or real life experience


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Of course then there's the US. (none / 0) (#176)
by wumpus on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 02:44:43 PM EST

Which puts the energy supply in the hands of such giants of competance and ethics as Ken Lay. Who needs correct design and competant technitians when you have the President and most of the rest of the government in your pocket.

Wumpus

[ Parent ]

hydrogen (none / 0) (#74)
by levsen on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 10:11:54 AM EST

Someone put it real nicely on this web site the other day: Hydrogen is an interface like electricity. Programmers will understand this concept.Don't forget practical concerns when thinking about new energy sources, not everytime electricity comes out the problem is solved. Electricity is very hard to store. Yes you lose when you convert it to hydrogen and back, but at least you can store hydrogen in a car or what.
This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
[ Parent ]
hydrogen is a pipe dream (none / 0) (#81)
by joib on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 10:55:59 AM EST


Hydrogen is an interface like electricity.

Yes, but not a particularly good one.


Don't forget practical concerns when thinking about new energy sources, not everytime electricity comes out the problem is solved.

No, but usually it is. As an "interface", electricity is incredibly good. It can be relatively cheaply transported long distances with small losses. Every friggin thing in society can be made to run cheaply with electricity from the grid, lights, heating, motors, computers etc.


Electricity is very hard to store.

Yes, that's about the only bad thing about electricity as an "interface". Batteries suck.


Yes you lose when you convert it to hydrogen and back, but at least you can store hydrogen in a car or what.

Actually, you lose quite a lot, but an even bigger problem is that as an energy storage medium, hydrogen doesn't suck much less than batteries.

For a longer description of some of the problems with the hydrogen economy, see my k5 article, and the references in it.

The bottom line, unfortunately not explained in my article, is that once mankind figures out to produce electricity cheaply in an enviromentally friendly way (solar, wind, fusion etc.) and replaces current electricity generation infrastructure, the problem of powering the transportation sector (that obviously can't be connected to the grid) is a by comparison small problem. And no, hydrogen is not the solution to that particular problem.


[ Parent ]

Two points in favor of better interface (none / 0) (#208)
by levsen on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 02:54:16 PM EST

As an "interface", electricity is incredibly good. It can be relatively cheaply transported long distances with small losses.

No. Hydrogen beats electricity (= batteries) way way for storage in a car when considering energy per volume or energy per weight.

It is practically impossible to produce sun-based electricity in Africa (where there is a lot of sun) and consume it in Europe, any transmission line will leak the energy on its way. You can fill a tanker with hydrogen and ship it around the world.

This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
[ Parent ]

Missing the point (none / 0) (#210)
by joib on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 05:12:03 PM EST


No. Hydrogen beats electricity (= batteries) way way for storage in a car when considering energy per volume or energy per weight.

Yes, just as I wrote in my previous post. Specifically, I wrote "...as an energy storage medium, hydrogen doesn't suck much less than batteries."

The important things to keep in mind are

1. Most of the energy consumed by society is NOT consumed by the transportation sector, i.e. they can get electricity directly from the grid without batteries.

2. For the transportation sector, hydrocarbons beat hydrogen in almost every concievable way. The question for a fossil-free transportation sector is not how to achieve the mythical "hydrogen economy", but how to produce synthetic hydrocarbons.


It is practically impossible to produce sun-based electricity in Africa (where there is a lot of sun) and consume it in Europe, any transmission line will leak the energy on its way.

Why do you think that? Modern high voltage power grids can transmit lots of power over VERY long distances with VERY small losses. For example, high voltage DC transmission lines, often used for undersea cables, have losses of about 4 % per 1000 km. In total, the transmission losses are about 7-8 % in the USA and EU.


You can fill a tanker with hydrogen and ship it around the world.

Yes, of course you can design such a thing, but why? The losses would be huge. Electrolysis is about 70 % efficient, liquefication 66 %, the best fuel cells about 60 %. Thus the total efficiency would be 28 %. For that matter, for the cost of such a hydrogen infrastructure you could equally well take into use other star trek technology, such as superconducting intercontinental electricity grids, thus reducing long distance losses even further.


[ Parent ]

pebble bed (none / 1) (#80)
by Nyarlathotep on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 10:34:26 AM EST

What kind of waist does it produce?  A proper cost evaluation includes disposal and externalities.  In this case, the cost of digging a big hole, and liability insurance.

The government should not be paying for these things (unless you live in a place where the government runs the reactors in the first place).  I've been under the impression that removing government subsadies for disposal completely kills the cost effectiveness of nukes.  Of course, maybe that will change with the defeat of the nimbys in Nevada.

Personally, I think wind and solar are hands down the best for one simple reason: they can take full advantage of mass production, a think humans are really really good at.  Solar is even produced with a photographic process, and could experence a limited period of Moore's law in price.  Nukes can't due to this due to their size.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]

solar, wind... never the meat and potatoes (none / 1) (#115)
by circletimessquare on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 04:32:12 PM EST

do the math

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
doing the math (none / 0) (#128)
by Nyarlathotep on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 05:39:35 PM EST

I'm sure that current solar cells are expencive and whatever, but lets talk about fundamental sources of energy.  These should be:

Direct solar (solar cells)
Indirect solar (biomass, and wind)
past acumulated solar (oil)
rotational (harvest with a space elivator)
geothermal
atomic

So what your telling me is that indirect solar, in the form of biomass, in inherently superior to direct solar?  Forgive my disbelief.  Maybe you know something about the chemical reactions involved in solar cells which I do not know, but that just means we are using the wrong chemical reaction.  You lose over half of your energy every time you change forms, so asymptotically a direct conversion ought to be the most bang for your buck.. maybe it takes 40 years of research to get there, but it should get there.

BTW, direct solar may include bioengenering plant cloroplasts to live on a sheat of glass, and produce fuel, but one might be able to do this better with just the chemical reaction, and no cloroplasts.

Among all forms of indirect solar energy, wind has the uniq property that it collects solar from all over the world, so there is a *chance* that you can get more bang for your buck by building wind mills in the right places.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]

Do the real math (none / 0) (#185)
by ttfkam on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 08:41:17 PM EST

Start with the Solar Constant.  The equivalent of no more than 1.367kW per square meter.  That's all the energy coming from the sun.  You can't exceed that.  Not with plant photosynthesis.  Not with photovoltaics.  Nothing can create energy from nothing.

Now figure out how much land area is required to fulfill all our energy needs from electrical to combustible (fossil fuels) assuming a 100% energy conversion rate.  I believe your target electrical production is about 3.848 trillion kilowatt-hours and somewhere in the ballpark of 20 million barrels of oil per day.  Feel free to estimate for natural gas as well.

Now recalculate based upon the fact that we aren't even *close* to 100% efficiency even before the cost of manufacture for infrastructure is taken into account.

Oh yeah!  And don't forget that states depending on other states for the majority of their energy (wind and geothermal comes to mind here) are subject to something I like to call Enron-syndrome.

Let us know what your math comes up with.  Minimal rounding errors preferred.

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]

Don't just dig a big hole! (none / 1) (#126)
by Polverone on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 05:29:50 PM EST

Turn the waste into glass, seal it in casks, and keep in a well-marked and well-monitored spot that remains accessible. The waste that we're throwing away today has a LOT of usable energy generation potential left if it's recycled. Today, worries about plutonium refinement and proliferation risks outweigh the environmental and economic good of recycling fuel instead of throwing it away. A few decades down the road, I imagine we will view that waste as a rich resource.

The reason governments need to subsidize waste disposal is (at least partly) because they make it so expensive in the first place. I think the expense comes more from security than safety concerns; nobody cares if Mom and Pop Recyclers take care of 100 tons of arsenic-bearing or mercury-bearing wastes, but only behemoths like Fluor and Bechtel are considered suitable to handle a few pounds of plutonium-bearing waste. 100 tons of arsenical wastes are more dangerous, but (apparently) less frightening, and of course fissionable materials always have extra layers of bureaucracy and expense attached because they can be used to make highly destructive weapons.

The technology needed to protect human health against accidental exposure to nuclear wastes in the environment is little more sophisticated than that needed to protect against accidental exposure to other toxic chemicals. Providing rock-solid protection against deliberate attacks on or thefts from storage facilities is quite a bit more expensive. Having all the work done by the same DOE/DOD contractors that have been sucking at the public teat for 50 years with little competition is even more expensive.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

risks (none / 0) (#138)
by Nyarlathotep on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 07:35:29 PM EST

<i>The reason governments need to subsidize waste disposal is (at least partly) because they make it so expensive in the first place. <i><p>

Well *ideally* the government charges should be similar to the insurance costs.  I realize this is not true due to DOE contractors, but if you ran a fully private unregulated power plan and said "Hey, I want you to insure me against liability due to enviromental damages, health risks, terrorists stealing it, etc."         If terrorists use dangerous stuff you made, it is your liability trail.. you can't just make dangerous stuff and expect the public to foot the bill.<p>

No matter what your precautions were, your insurance guy would charge you an arm and a leg.  He is going to take all the public scare as an excuse to charge you more.  Even if the public is deluded about the risks.. you still get to pay more.  Ideally, that price should be passed on to the consumers of the electricity.<p>

Your first point is that you can gamble with only buying 50 years worth of insurance, and reinvesting all the money you save into developing useful applications.. which is sound medium risk plan.<p>

Of course, if you ran a fully private unregluated power plan, you'd probably just suck up all the risks yourself, and declare bankrupsy if it went pear shapped.  Which is why corperate financial liabilities would need to be passed on to the stock holder, and onto assets they gave away near it all going to pot.<p>

Of course, I'm not an absolutist libertarian, I just think that people should run the numbers properly and see how all the money would get spent in such a system.. and I think it would all go to the people taking the risks.  Energy producers would pay for the nimbys in either cash or "percieved risk" and the consumers would pay in cash.<p>

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]

people prefer diffuse risks (none / 0) (#148)
by Polverone on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 02:05:18 AM EST

I know I'm preaching to the choir saying something like this on k5, but nuclear really is the better option. Hydro power offers similar catastrophic risks (broken dam vs. breached reactor or crude nuke made from stolen fuel/waste) and coal has worse chronic effects (radioactive materials, fine particulates, and CO2 added to the atmosphere). But hydro and coal are old and familiar and nuclear is still new and scary after 50 years. So, yes, it is right and good that nuclear power should have negative externalities included in the price, but its competitors should too yet they don't, at least not to the same extent.

Hopefully pebble bed reactors and similar advanced designs will offer yet safer, cheaper power without the massive up-front costs of building a 1970s style pressurized light water reactor. Waste storage is still a problem. Forget the Free State Project, I need to convince thousands of YIMBYs (Yes, In My Back Yard!) to move to Nevada and get a national waste repository going.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

electricity (none / 0) (#222)
by oohp on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 07:45:05 AM EST

You're only thinking in terms of electricity and things moving your car (heh, SUV). Solar energy is pretty cool when it comes to heating water for domestic use or heating your home.

[ Parent ]
Solar (none / 1) (#22)
by wiredog on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 09:31:05 AM EST

Works great if you live in a desert. Not so good in the Northeast US.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

Wind (none / 1) (#27)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 10:12:49 AM EST

Considering how close you are to DC, you must have an unlimited supply of that.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Not really (none / 0) (#28)
by wiredog on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 10:20:15 AM EST

It works better in mountain passes. Lots of wind farms in the Sierra Nevada and Rockies, but the Appalachians don't lend themselves to that. Or to hydropower. And it's too cloudy for solar. So we're stuck with burning hydrocarbons or splitting atoms.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
Wind (2.60 / 5) (#31)
by tyrithe on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 01:01:07 PM EST

Surprised... Put a few good sized turbines right in the exit from Congress... A lot of good wind blows around in/out of there.

[ Parent ]
Huh?! (none / 0) (#40)
by codejack on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 07:12:40 PM EST

Or to hydropower.
Yea, TVA doesn't do any hydropower, does it?


Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
that's not in the northeast, dawg (none / 0) (#58)
by llimllib on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 02:12:56 AM EST

I just kinda wanted to say dawg. But the first part is true.

Peace.
[ Parent ]
I never said it was (none / 0) (#102)
by codejack on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 02:50:10 PM EST

But people say "Appalachians," when they mean Northeast, and it makes them say stupid stuff like "There is no hydropower in the Appalachians."


Please read before posting.

[ Parent ]
When did they move Tennessee (none / 1) (#72)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 10:05:07 AM EST

to the north eastern US?

Sorry, I've lived in PA my whole life. Dad tried to put in a solar water heater in the 70's, it was a bust. The area where I live (between the Appalachians and the sea) is littered with DOA wind mills - they never generated enough power.

And the mountains are too low in this part of the chain to make hydro effective. Not enough PE in the water, you see.

I'll tell you why I don't listen. I can only read so much of your stupid a-- b--- s--- before I lose all faith in the future of humanity and start sort
[ Parent ]

Actually (none / 0) (#186)
by ttfkam on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 08:44:35 PM EST

Photovoltaics are more efficient when not heated excessively.  High desert perhaps?

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
England is doing it (none / 0) (#199)
by cavemankiwi on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 07:51:08 AM EST

Check BBC article here. Not sure how much of this is gov subsides. But if it works in notoriously rainy Manchester (even by UK standards) then I can't see a reason for it not being workable in the NE of the USA

[ Parent ]
Works great in Vermont (none / 0) (#230)
by dnight2 on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 11:57:53 AM EST

I lived in Rutland, VT for 12 years with a solar-heating system. Panels on the roof moved heated glycol through a loop, heating a 1000 gallon storage tank that heated/pre-heated the incoming water and baseboard oil-fired firnace water lines.

We used 1/4 tank of oil (~50 gallons) a *year*. Our neighbors did 1.5 to 2+ tanks a year.

[ Parent ]

Oil prices aren't that high (2.33 / 6) (#23)
by moppet on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 09:35:11 AM EST

If you compare with what they were at the height of the 70s oil crisis the equivalent is something like $80 per barrel today.

People these days have things way too easy and start complaining whenever things get slightly more difficult. The cost of driving somewhere is non trivial, yes, but compare it with a train ticket and it's cheap.

Depends where you are. (3.00 / 3) (#32)
by Nursie on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 01:06:39 PM EST

In the UK it is much cheaper for me to get the train to work than it is for me to drive, in pure daily petrol costs. When you factor in insurance and servicing then the comparison gets even worse.

The only thing that keeps me driving is the fact that the train takes longer.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
Taxes (none / 0) (#51)
by b1t r0t on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 11:44:09 PM EST

That's because a significant portion of what you pay at the pump in the UK goes to taxes. In the USA, it's only about 38 or so cents per gallon, most of which goes to road construction and maintenance, not trying to change people's behaviour by making it too expensive to drive.

-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.
[ Parent ]
Right (none / 0) (#61)
by bml on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 03:39:34 AM EST

Because that would be very bad. Keep it flowin'!!

The Internet is vast, and contains many people. This is the way of things. -- Russell Dovey
[ Parent ]
Not even. (none / 1) (#77)
by Nursie on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 10:25:03 AM EST

At one third of the petrol price - roughly the US level - it would cost me maybe one pound a day in fuel.
Add on insurance at about one pound fifty a day.
Add on servicing at about fifty pence a day.
We're already up at three pounds, without factoring in the cost of the car or road tax. It's three pounds eighty for me to get an unlimited travel pass round the relevant areas of London (zones 2 to 6 for those in the know).
Now if I bought a season ticket it would cost considerably less per day.

The travel time on the train really is the only thing keeping me driving - even in the fantasy world where we have US petrol prices.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
problem is you still need the car (none / 1) (#214)
by moppet on Sat Oct 30, 2004 at 07:38:27 AM EST

Where I live people pretty much have to have a car for getting about as there aren't that many bus routes. You can't use the bus or train to get back from a friend's house in the middle of nowhere at 3am.

You need a car to get to a lot of the big shops which are often out of the town centre. Yes, you can get stuff delivered. But all in all it's a major life changing choice, and most people don't have a good reason for switching.

London depsite it's residents gripes about the transport problems, has very good public transport. Most provincial towns dont' have anything like as good public transport because so many people use cars for everything. Also a lot of modern housing estates are designed principally with the car in mind (many dead end roads, very low density housing making it a long walk to get anywhere).

[ Parent ]

inflation (none / 0) (#43)
by adimovk5 on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 08:09:55 PM EST

If you compare with what they were at the height of the 70s oil crisis the equivalent is something like $80 per barrel today.

Thanks. I added a new link at the start. I forgot to factor in inflation. MotorMachineMercenary gave me a good link in post#38.

[ Parent ]

Driving is cheap only to those who don't count $ (none / 0) (#228)
by ConsoleCowboy on Sat Nov 06, 2004 at 06:46:08 PM EST

The cost of driving somewhere is non trivial, yes, but compare it with a train ticket and it's cheap.

If you factor just the cost of gas, maybe. Let's do a breakdown of the variable cost associated with driving. All price in Canadian $, coming from my real-world experience. All distance in kilometer, as the mile is a relic of the Imperial system people here don't use anymore.

  • Amortizing : The price ticket of my Mazda Protege was 18K$ (I leased, but let's pretend I bought for the sake of this argument). This is by no mean a luxury car. I assume if I drive it for 200K km, I could fetch about 2K$ for it. That mean it will have costed me 16K$, or 0.08$ per km. We don't even take into account such hard-to-pin variable as financing fees (interest) or the depreciation of dollars.
  • Gas : I do about 600 km with a 40 litre tank. It's not the most efficient car around, but certainly not an SUV either. Right now, gas sell for 0,89$/l around here, and I don't expect it to go down anytime soon. At 15 km/l, that is close to 0.06$/km.
  • Maintenance : I spent around 2000$ in the first 100km of my car on various maintenance : 12 oil change at 25$ a pop (300$), two sets of tire at about 350$ each (up here in Canada, good snow tire is a must in winter), a few hundreds in periodic maintenance (timing belt at 96K km, alignement, brake, etc) plus a few bucks on various nick-nack such as car wash. That is 0.02$/km on maintenance.

The variable cost of driving my car, that is those that are proportionnally reflected by my driving, are 0,16$/km. And I am driving a cheap car. And this is a very optimistic figure that does not take into account non-proportionnal variable such as financing fees, insurance, license, etc.

Let get to your train ticket example. Let's pretend I have 800 km to drive to go somewhere. That is 128$ in variable cost related to my car. That is cheap compared to a train ticket ... how ? Now, imagine I was driving an SUV.

Let's look at another way to break down cost. For the variable cost, we will assume I drive a reasonnable 2000 km per month, since my four years lease include 100K km. My monthly fee would be:

  • Lease : 305$
  • Gas : 120$
  • Insurance : 55$ (yes, it's very cheap up here in Quebec)
  • Maintenance : 40$
  • Other (mostly license fee) : 20$

Total : 540$

Compared to my rent (360$) or the price of my bus pass (58$), this is FUCKING INSANE !!!

Yeah, it's cheap to drive. And ignorance is bliss.


:wq
[ Parent ]
I vote for the Dukes of Hazzard solution. (2.50 / 2) (#26)
by The Honorable Elijah Muhammad on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 10:00:02 AM EST

genius.


___
localroger is a tool.
In memory of the You Sad Bastard thread. A part of our heritage.
Wow. That was obscure. (none / 0) (#36)
by Mr.Surly on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 03:16:54 PM EST



[ Parent ]
I dunno, I was watching it the other night. (none / 1) (#39)
by The Honorable Elijah Muhammad on Tue Oct 26, 2004 at 07:10:01 PM EST

It was inspirational. A couple of good ol' boys doing their part to keep the "ay-rabs" from getting their country by the balls.

Beautiful.


___
localroger is a tool.
In memory of the You Sad Bastard thread. A part of our heritage.
[ Parent ]
Poll write-in: It will keep climbing, forever. (none / 1) (#56)
by egeland on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 01:39:03 AM EST

Google for "Peak Oil" for the fun info...

--
Some interesting quotes
A story of a euro and a moron. (2.60 / 5) (#62)
by Surial on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 05:40:24 AM EST

Moron passes some sweeping tax breaks that causes a major crash of the dollar vs. the euro.

Oil is bought about 50/50 in dollars and euros. The ones buying in euros have to convert to dollars first, but the point would be that they still buy half the product on the market.

Hence the ACTUAL oil price lies somewhere between what someone paying with euros wants to shell out vs. someone paying with dollars.

Because the oil price is measured in dollars, which currently suck vs. euros, oil price goes up.

Voila.

Current exchange rate: 1 EUR buys over 1.25 USD.

Assuming the 50/50 is roughly correct, you need to nock a full 12.5% *OFF* of the oil price and check out the price.

12.5% off of the current high price means that, while still quite expensive, it's nowhere near the lonely heights some think it's at.

A barrel of  Brent is about 52 dollars. However, it's 'just' 41.6 euros.

about 3 years ago, 1 EUR bought only 0.9 USD instead of the 1.25 it does now. I'm not sure what the brent price was then, but let's say it was 37 USD. It would be 41.11 EUR then.

Actual price change for europeans: Jack.

The funny thing is, european newspapers are all over the doomsaying about the oil price - and they invariable show charts and quote prices and such in Euros. The dumasses. The lack of simple economics - heck, simple common sense, about this oil price stuff is sometimes simply astounding. Then again, you know how it goes. high oil prices = scary news. No big change = damn, we're going to have to run another article about the local wooden shoe dancing contest.

--
"is a signature" is a signature.

Price of crude oil wrong (3.00 / 2) (#76)
by joib on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 10:18:36 AM EST

Historically, the price of crude oil has hovered at around $20 per barrel, not $37 as you assume.

See e.g. da figure.

So yes, crude oil has gotten a lot more expensive in Europe too. The thing that prevents a huge price hike in Europe is that over here various taxes on fuels are so high that the crude price is a much smaller fraction of the pump price compared to the situation in the US.

[ Parent ]

I hope, that (1.50 / 2) (#64)
by dimaq on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 07:14:19 AM EST

that mineral oil prices would go high enough and stay there long enough for vegetable (e.g. rapeseed) oil to cost the same per joul of energy or kilometre of road gone by a diesel engine without any fuel taxes or agricultural subsidies.

Then the oil price will stop at that level.

Anyone has a number of barrel price for that? I was told that at the current levels of taxes and subsidies vegetal oil is already cheaper in some countries, but I'd like to see similar without political influence.

In the end growing plants for fats is quite similar to drilling for oil because both essentially derive the energy from the sun. Of course, vegetable fats need growing now and mineral were grown before, hence the price difference. Growing vegies on mass scale has an added advantage of being able to control amount of carbon in the atmosphere, nearly for free.

doesn't need to be veg... just non-pollluting (none / 1) (#66)
by hype7 on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 08:55:29 AM EST

and non-Arab would be nice, too ;) Let the stinking Arabs sink back into the quagmire they deserve, instead of propping them up with all the Western $$$

[ Parent ]
non-polluting... how exactly? (none / 0) (#155)
by dimaq on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 03:30:15 AM EST

I guess there are 3 main types of pollution related to oil:
. carbon dioxide and global warming
. sulpher, nitrogen oxides, carbon dust and health risks
. secondary, like dirt from tire wear or oil spills

the difference with vegetable oil is that growing these plants would trap exactly as much carbon dioxide from the air as burning the resultant fuel would emit. therefore no contribution to global warming over terms longer than 1 year.

[ Parent ]

Seems likely. (none / 0) (#67)
by Pxtl on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 09:07:37 AM EST

Oil prices are getting high enough that extensive tar sands reserves are becoming viable sources (normally too expensive to harvest). Expect to see more Canadian oil on the market. What this means is that the oil prices won't go down, but they'll remain stable at this high-but-not-lethal price for a long time, giving alternatives plenty of time to gain a foothold before the Malthusian "oil crash".

[ Parent ]
if they build a TDP system (none / 0) (#70)
by modmans2ndcoming on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 09:45:32 AM EST

then tar sand is no more expensive to harvest than the cost to dig and move it.

[ Parent ]
Overestimation of real market. (none / 1) (#68)
by dxh on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 09:11:56 AM EST

1) Its not THAT EXPENSIVE: Oil prices were more expensive in the early 1980's than today..and I don't remember anyone starting to panic back then.  In fact it was more than $65 (in 2004 dollars) for a couple of years.

2) Higher prices will eventually increase supply.  There is a TON of oil that has been discovered and is known about in our own US oil supply BUT is has not been extracted yet because it was just simply cheaper to import it than go thorugh the expense of getting it out of the ground here.   It was cheaper just to leave it in the gound for the last few decades because oil from the middle east was so cheap.  If oil prices go up a little there will be an oil boom in the US using newer technologies for more efficent extraction. *stock tip: RIG

Oil prices will have to go up MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH more than this to give any of these predictions much of a chance to come true.

yes, in shale (none / 0) (#83)
by mattw on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 11:05:24 AM EST

We had an oil processing industry to get oil from shale, but in the era of cheap exports after the crisis from the late 70s died down, that industry could no longer be profitable and died off.

That said, there's still 2.6 trillion barrels of oil in shale worldwide, 2.1T of which are in the U.S, and the largest deposit of which is in western Colorado. I looked into this a few months ago as prices were rising, and I seem to recall calculating that the oil in the domestic shale was sufficient to satisfy current domestic oil needs for something like 240 years, by which time I'm sure the planet will be like 130 degrees and underwater from the carbon dioxide.

That said, we really need clean alternative sources, so I'm not a proponent of cheap gas or cheap oil. I'm glad the supply is being pressured. It's time for everyone to slap solar panels on their roofs, and people who can to take advantage of geothermal, hydroelectric and wind power. (I'm looking into custom building a house right now, and plan solar panels)


[Scrapbooking Supplies]
[ Parent ]

Notice this... (2.71 / 7) (#75)
by thefirelane on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 10:14:30 AM EST

other alternative energy sources such as wind, hydrogen, hydro, geothermal, biomass, tidal,

One of these things is not an energy source, can you spot it?



Yup, Hydrogen.

-
Prube.com: Like K5, but with less point.
This too... (none / 1) (#78)
by doconnor on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 10:26:53 AM EST

One of them is not alternative. Hydro has been widely used for 100 years and is very much a mainstream energy source.

[ Parent ]
Well, (none / 1) (#86)
by ambrosen on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 11:25:04 AM EST

it's alternative to fossil fuel, and is indirect solar like most other cited alternative sources. (This article unusually mentions geothermal and tidal, which are predominantly energy left over from the formation of the solar system, although geothermal is mainly nuclear)

--
Procrastination does not make you cool. Being cool makes you procrastinate. DesiredUsername.
[ Parent ]
Uh.. (3.00 / 2) (#98)
by awgsilyari on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 02:31:53 PM EST

Almost none of them are "energy sources" if you want to be pedantic about it.

Wind is driven by the sun. The energy is actually "solar power."

Hydrogen is made by splitting water from energy that comes from somewhere else.

Hydroelectric is also solar energy -- the sun evaporates water, lifts the vapor high into the air, and carries it to the mountains where it falls as rains and runs downhill.

Geothermal -- Comes from two main sources: radioactive decay, and the heat released during the gravitational collapse of the Earth during it's formation. I think this is the closest to being a real "energy source" of all the things on the list. It certainly is not solar in origin.

Biomass -- Biomass is really just a battery for storing solar energy.

Tidal -- This energy comes from the kinetic energy of the moon in its orbit. This is another true energy source which does not depend on the sun.

Anyway, the point is, don't pick on hydrogen for not being a "real" energy source. The entire concept of a real energy source is sort of silly, anyway. A source implies that energy is somehow created. It isn't, it simply flows and changes forms.

--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

Semantics.... (none / 0) (#129)
by thefirelane on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 05:40:37 PM EST

I realize what you're saying, it is just silly though. You should realize what everyone here is saying when they say `energy source'... they mean `something not man-made from which we can extract energy'. Oil, geothermal, solar, all fit this criteria. Hydrogen, on the other hand, is made* by man, then moved somewhere, and the energy is released. It is an energy storage and transport mechanism. Saying Hydrogen is an energy source is akin to saying Duracell batteries are an energy source.

*Obviously, the hydrogen is not `made', but a concentration of pure hydrogen must be gathered and produced through man-made mechanisms.

-
Prube.com: Like K5, but with less point.
[ Parent ]
That doesn't make sense (none / 1) (#130)
by awgsilyari on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 06:05:06 PM EST

You're giving a contingent definition.

Suppose that tomorrow somebody discovers a plant which exhales hydrogen. Does that suddenly make hydrogen an "energy source" because there is a natural source?

What if we never discovered the plant, but, nevertheless, it exists? Now, you are basing the definition of an "energy source" on whether or not we know of the existence of a specific species of plant, which I think is ridiculous.

If I take 3 liters of manmade hydrogen and mix it with 3 liters of plant-produced hydrogen, is the resulting mixture an energy source, or not an energy source?

--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

I'm inclined to agree: compare biomass, hydrogen (none / 1) (#137)
by DragonDave on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 07:31:28 PM EST

Compare Biomass and Hydrogen, for example: Biomass: in order for biomass to be a sustainable source, we need to be replanting trees in suitable locations to harness the solar power. (A significant amount of biomass used at the moment *isn't* being harvested sustainably.) Biomass requires inputs of solar energy, water, and human intervention. Hydrogen: lets consider a setup where a solar cell electrolyses water to create hydrogen. It requires inputs of solar energy, water, and human intervention. It's more a question of whether or not we could have used the energy more usefully at an earlier stage: the electricity could have been used directly, in the latter example: and this all boils down to energy losses. I don't see us moving onto a hydrogen economy, myself. I see bio-ethanol as being the way forwards: it has a high energy density (ie: lots of energy for its weight, like petrol), it's carbon neutral (burning it reemits the CO2 absorbed during growth), and revitalises rural economies.

[ Parent ]
there are some pretty big advantages to using H2 (none / 0) (#144)
by demi on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 08:58:34 PM EST

...not the least of which is how simple and universal it would be to use as an energy transport medium. Consider the US Military's migration to JP8 as a universal fuel. Everything from fighter jets to cooking stoves use it. With fuel cells and a perfect (!) hydrogen infrastructure you could extend H2 to cover pretty much everything that requires electrical or hydrocarbon-derived power. Because H2 can be stored temporarily while electricity cannot, you could design power systems for better off-peak efficiency, less transmission loss, and more elasticity.

That's the pretty side of the argument. The boondoggle side of it is when you require that remnants of the old, wasteful infrastructure remain, operating at a fraction their former capacity...

[ Parent ]

Uhm, Energy Density? (none / 1) (#202)
by geekmug on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 12:10:52 PM EST

Only problem is that you need about 3000x as much H2 as you do [name any petrol derivative] to get the same amount of energy. Your only saving grace is to say "that's why we compress it" but where'd you get the energy to compress it from anyways? Even still, Liquid H2 is at least half as energy dense as [name any petrol derivative]. The fact that hydrocarbons can be at STP and still have more energy/volume is pretty difficult to defeat.

Advocates of H2 always quote the energy/mass which is substantially higher (I read 3x somewhere and don't care to confirm that) which is great, but real world uses boil down to energy/volume which is substantially lower.

http://xtronics.com/reference/energy_density.htm
-- Why reinvent the square wheel?
[ Parent ]
well that is what a fuel cell is for (none / 0) (#204)
by demi on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 12:37:48 PM EST

High surface area electrodes and porous hosts can pack in quite a lot (10-40x fill factor) of H2 per unit volume at atmospheric pressure. Of course making an efficient H2 storage matrix is a lot more complicated and expensive than having a PET gas tank. So you're right that fundamentally the energy density is much lower but compression/liquefaction isn't the only way to mitigate the difference. There are some logistical advantages over petro as well, aside from the dependence of foreign suppliers: synthesis of H2 is a cleaner, simpler, albeit more energy-intensive, process than crude oil refinement. You can build hydrogen electrolysis plants today in places where environmental regulations would unequivocally forbid having a chemical plant.

There will never be a substitute for petroleum - we will always need it, even if there were no more cars, planes, or ships. Our plastics, pharmaceuticals, and other synthetic materials utterly depend on it. If the wells run dry we will have to reform it from coal. It is no longer possible for our society to be independent of oil, but just burning our hydrocarbon resources is a stupid waste. All global warming hysteria aside, it's pretty important to get on the ball WRT alternative energy infrastructure.

[ Parent ]

it's not a rigorous definition (none / 0) (#142)
by demi on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 08:44:37 PM EST

Nobody is talking about thermodynamics here. By a political/economic definition, hydrogen and to a lesser extent biomass are not energy sources because they require significant energy inputs to harness work from them. They are essentially energy storage media, something that you can't call wind, wave, oil, etc., unless you take a more absolute frame of reference that is irrelevent for the purposes of this discussion.

If I take 3 liters of manmade hydrogen and mix it with 3 liters of plant-produced hydrogen, is the resulting mixture an energy source, or not an energy source?

Well that is very similar to how biodiesel is sold today. In most cases you buy a formulation of 15-85% BDE with the balance being petro-derived diesel. For the purposes of a policy debate, neither the manmade or agricultural H2 is an energy source since growing the plants would most likely require energy inputs. If these hydrogen producing plants naturally grew and produced gas at a high enough rate that you could just attach a tap to them (which is pretty much how it is done in Saudi), then I would call them an energy source.

[ Parent ]

Clarification (none / 1) (#132)
by rantenki on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 06:31:02 PM EST

Hydrogen IS an energy source. The problem is that in order to make use of it, using current technology, we need to use ANOTHER energy source to generate it.

This is a problem, since there are always conversion inefficiencies involved when moving from one energy source to another. The other energy sources are as close to a direct conversion as possible.

Conjecture about unknown direct hydrogen sources are pleasant fantasies, but unproductive.

As an added strike against it, hydrogen doesn't have compelling advantages against the other "alternative energy sources". The only reason it gets such good press is the theoretical "only water from the tailpipe" argument. The CO2 or CO are just emmitted at a different stage though (at the refinery where they convert real world natural gas to hydrogen).

Yes I know that you can crack hydrogen from seawater, but you need to put in more joules of energy to crack it than you can ever extract again, and that electricity is (in most cases) generated by Coal/Gas turbines/other environmentally unsmurfy methods. Combined with hydroelectric power, hydrogen is a possibility, but so are electric cars (and we know how popular those are). You are really just trading bulky, heavy, hazardous high pressure gas cylinders from bulky, heavy, hazardous battery systems.



[ Parent ]
Oil Price shocks are what killed Keynesianism (1.00 / 3) (#87)
by cryon on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 11:31:56 AM EST

Probably many K5ers do not even remember, but 30 years ago, America was a lot like western Europe is now. We had a bit of a plush welfare state going. In some states, eg. CA, you could collect unemployment as a college student for up to a year. College students did not pay that much to go to school. It was next to nothing. The Labor Market was not flooded in those days. Help wanted signs were up on every block. When is the last time you saw a Help Wanted sign in a window? That was called KEYNESIANISM. Look it up if you do not know what it means. THen the oil price rises came along. Europe dealt with it by ramping up public transportations and building nuke power plants. But the American leaders went another direction--they went to neoliberalism. Now, after 30 years, Europe is still mostly Keynesian (except the UK, which is still somewhat Keynesian, but much more neoliberal than 30 years ago). But continental Europe is still Keynesian--they still pay unemployment benefits for years, they have universal healthcare funded by taxes, not user fees, they still have welfare paid to any type of person who needs it, their college students pay little or nothing. Anyway, what it looked like to me was that the Powers That Be used (or even precipitated) the Oil Price Shocks as an excuse to discard Keynesianism. Just a theory...
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

wow (none / 0) (#88)
by emmons on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 11:55:48 AM EST

You don't have a clue about Keynes' theory. The current tax cuts and defecit spending is an example Keynesianism. What we were beginning to have 30 years ago and Europe has today (but is scaling back) is socialism.

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]
wrong (none / 0) (#92)
by cryon on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 01:10:34 PM EST

Bush is cutting taxes to the rich and using deficit spending to make war. Tax cuts to the rich and deficit spending to make war is NOT Keynesian. THat is supply side/trickle down. It is basically Reaganomics. See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaganomics
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

[ Parent ]
Oh yeah? (none / 0) (#133)
by cameldrv on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 06:43:19 PM EST

What is the MPC of the average dollar-weighted person that got a tax cut under Bush?

[ Parent ]
and we didn't land on the moon (none / 1) (#157)
by circletimessquare on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 03:45:03 AM EST

and jfk was killed by freemasons

and zionists planned 9/11

and fdr knew about pearl harbor beforehand

and... any other paranoid schizophrenia i didn't cover?


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Cold fusion? (none / 1) (#93)
by malglico on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 01:28:54 PM EST

Crackpot?
Does anyone here know?

Crackpot? (none / 0) (#135)
by DragonDave on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 07:12:06 PM EST

Seems about as legit as I can check out; the e-journal is linked to from the Durham University library catalogue. The Durham catalog doesn't confirm that it has a print version, but the website claims it does. The article and journal are also listed on the ISI Web of Knowledge (an index of all journal articles, not available without being in university.) However, it seems that I can't get to the actual journal article, since the registration only allows the last three months of articles to be read, and their sign-up procedure is longwinded, invasive and particularly non-standard. Notably, the writer of the journal paper does not refer to cold fusion or other. He just leaves the discussion at "Based on the heat and the products, we hypothesize that some unique reaction occurs on the cathode surface." Also, a great number of scientists are pinning their hopes in the medium-long term (ie: more than two decades) on hot fusion power; JET and ITER are paving the way for hot fusion being the method of energy generation for the latter twenty-first century.

[ Parent ]
observation (2.00 / 2) (#94)
by reklaw on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 01:40:56 PM EST

If we accept the theory in this article, then shouldn't concerned environmentalist types be trying to disrupt oil supplies in order to help bring the oil price up to that 'magic number'? Maybe we should be thanking people who blow up oil pipelines, eh?
-
I don't think so (none / 0) (#97)
by awgsilyari on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 02:25:14 PM EST

That would be like saying it's okay to kill people because the world is overpopulated. Yes, in a grim sense it would be a good thing if a lot of people suddenly died off, but that doesn't mean we should willfully do it.

--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]
thats what we are doing (none / 0) (#107)
by overtoke on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 03:41:40 PM EST

We are willfully living our lives with the knowledge that our actions will kill a lot of people suddenly.

The people in the world that are destroying oil pipelines are not thinking about 'oil use'  they are thinking about their very lives.

They want the companies and everything that involves (ie - the military) to leave their country and stop killing their people.

You can't blame the people blowing up the oil pipelines (iraq, south america). They are struggling for their lives.

And the United States does not do a single thing to help the situation. If we did, the first thing we would do is stop repairing the pipelines.  

Remedy the situations that cause a person to have the desire or feeling they need to defend themselves.

If 'terrorists' did not feel threatened then they would no longer exist...  hello poverty...

Vote Kerry.   Bush creates global terrorism.

[ Parent ]

Absolutely ... (none / 0) (#124)
by cdguru on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 05:15:14 PM EST

If 'terrorists' did not feel threatened then they would no longer exist...

However, our presence on the face of the planet is a threat. How? The US and to a lesser extent the EU have an economic model that exists to grow. Growth within our own borders is limited, so McDonalds is going to open stores in Baghdad. Maybe not next week, but it is going to happen. We are going to make movies and put them on television channels with either dubbing or subtitles so the Arab folks can watch them. We are going to export our way of life and our culture - it is how Western economies work. I don't see any way of getting around that.

This is a threat to the types of extremists that become terrorists. Therefore, we either shut down our economies or we are a threat. Bush or Kerry, it doesn't matter - we are a threat to these people and will continue to be so.

[ Parent ]

The skinny on TDP & the new face of Nuclear... (none / 1) (#95)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 01:43:04 PM EST

Calling all alt.energy geeks...

What's the real skinny on Thermal Depolymerization? You know, that revolutionary turkey guts into oil process? Solid information on the process is pretty hard to come by and there seem to be quite a few skeptics, but Changing World Technologies and ConAgra seem to have progressed further along the commercialization process in the last couple of years than has been achieved by any other form of alternate energy over the last 30.

Re: nuclear

Chemical and Engineering News ran an article a couple of months back which was very informative about the current and future state of the world's nuclear production facilities.

Also, the US is developing a rather nifty lead-cooled fast reactor design which is small, cheap, portable, and entirely self contained. The SSTAR is intended for deployment in regions where energy demands can't justify the considerable expense of building a full scale reactor. It is also intended to address proliferation concerns by removing the need for domestically developing the infastructure necessary to manage and sustain a complete or even partial nuclear fuel cycle. Also, it is suggested that such lead-cooled fast reactors might turn out to be the most economical source of hydrogen for use in fuel cells.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


Thermal Depolymerization (none / 1) (#105)
by joib on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 03:14:26 PM EST

My understanding is that "thermal depolymerization" is just the brand name that changing world tech. uses for a process otherwise known as "hydrothermal upgrading". Google and ye shall find.

[ Parent ]
Ha. (2.00 / 3) (#100)
by cdguru on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 02:46:09 PM EST

OK, so you would like it if we all decided to be less "polluting". Yes, it would be nice. But, it isn't going to happen in the US and probably not to a significant extent in Western Europe, Japan or China. The rest of the world probably doesn't matter.

Let's review some basics:

  • Energy density of gasoline compared to batteries, hydrogen or just about anything else is such that range and maximum speed suffer significantly unless you are talking about very large vehicles with room for all the energy storage. Take a 4-passenger car and you aren't going to get 300 to 400 mile range with hydrogen, you will be lucky to get 150. And that probably isn't at 60 MPH/100 KPH. This kind of change means massive changes in social structure, work patterns, and the economy in the US.
  • Usage of wind and solar for decentralized electricial generation can grow, but it isn't going to grow much outside of rural areas. Cities are going to have massively centralized electrical generation. Apartment buildings, office buildings and the like are not conducive to energy usage patterns that allow for wind and solar generation.
  • Coal is prevalent in the US and it can be used for producing liquid fuels that rival gasoline in energy density. This by itself is going to mean any conversion away from such liquid fuels will face strong economic pressure.
  • Most of the world's population has been living in the same places for 1000 years - the places just got bigger and denser. Except in the US (and perhaps China - I don't really know) where we have built entire new cities in the last 100 years. Heck, we have built new, large cities in the last 50 years. Places that would not exist without automobiles and were designed with the automobile as the sole means of transportation.
What this means is that replacing the automobile in the US isn't going to happen anytime soon, unless it is also personal, independent transportation. The country has been built over the last 100 years around the idea of such vehicles and it would take a massive conversion to eliminate the requirement.

Nuclear is a non-starter. Nobody wants to hear that 48 people died from Chernobyle - everyone knows that millions of people died. Everyone knows that thousands died from Three Mile Island. It has become simpler and cheaper to shut down a nuclear plant near a city where the electricity is needed than it is to keep it operating - even when the idled facility must still be manned and guarded 24 hours a day. The difference is just that the reactor isn't turned on and the turbines aren't spinning - nothing else has changed. But, the public outcry has been such that it is financially impossible to operate a nuclear plant. No new plants are going to be built in the US, ever.

Now we come to the primary point here. Regardless of what energy source is used, there will still be unsustainable (over a long period of time) side effects. Waste products that are produced in such quantities as to prevent them from biologically degrading. Heck, at the current population levels it will soon become impossible to deal with the garbage and human waste from larger cities. What do we do now? Bury it and hope nobody comes and digs it up. Can't burn it for energy, can't change it into other forms, can't do anything with it. We have the opportunity to decide between retreating from where we are today to have "sustainable" energy use and waste production. Or, we can recognize that growth means we are going to run out of resources and living space on the planet.

If we choose "sustainability" and "one Earth" policies for the future, please consider the last time energy use byproducts and other waste could be biologically degraded without exponential growth. This means that the waste products are degraded and absorbed by natural processes at a rate greater to or equal to the rate of their production. I think you will find it was sometime before 1940, probably earlier than 1900. We are talking about a maximum sustainable population of around 50 to 100 million people. With 100 million people we can comfortably live within the bounds of what natural processes can deal with in terms of waste and energy use byproducts. The only problem is how we get to 100 million people on the planet. Just think about it for a few minutes. If we killed a million people a day, every day, for twenty years we would have a chance of reaching that population level then. Then, we could live comfortably within sustainable limits.

Hm. (none / 0) (#104)
by sfritz on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 03:04:10 PM EST

Funny, he didn't use the word polution.

[ Parent ]
BZZT Wrong answer (none / 1) (#145)
by godix on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 09:13:10 PM EST

Nobody wants to hear that 48 people died from Chernobyle - everyone knows that millions of people died. Everyone knows that thousands died from Three Mile Island.

Chernobyl has a lot lower fatality rate than that. There were only 30 direct deaths. While no rate is given for radiation caused illness there is a figure of 1800 thyroid cancer cases, FAR less than your 'millions' claimed. (source)

As for Three Mile Island, there were exactly zero deaths direct deaths from that. Later research shows no significant change in the disease or death rate of the surrounding area, hardly suprising considering the plant did NOT spew out radiation.

I'm not saying nuclear is the answer, it's clearly only useful as a centralized power source rather than a localized transportable source. However lets stick to reality here, thousands harmed by Chernobyl isn't the same as 'millions of people died' and NO ONE dead from Three Mile Island isn't the same as 'thousands died'.


- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]

Everyone knows (none / 0) (#159)
by lookout on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 06:03:06 AM EST

Try to read 'everyone knows' as 'everyone "knows"'.

I think the poster was being hyperbolically sarcastic, blaming the decline of interest in nuclear energy on the media-hype-induced angst of the public at large who have serious difficulties of understanding anything that references numbers for which the absolute value of the 10-based logarithm of their absolute value exceeds 1.


[ Parent ]

You get it. (none / 1) (#158)
by lookout on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 04:12:23 AM EST

Higher prices for oil are not a blessing in disguise. If anything they will make it even more difficult to research and implement long term solutions.

The world population has grown fivefold from about 1.2B in 1860 when the first oil wells were started to 6B now.

It should be fairly obvious that the primary enabler for that growth has been the availability of lots of cheap and reliable energy, in the form of fossil fuel and nuclear fission. Technology has simply provided us with the means to obtain the energy and use it in a practical way.

Unfortunately alternative energy will never be abundant, cheap, and reliable on the enormous scale required to keep our current world ticking, simply because the current population is not sustainable. Save all you will, obtain all the sustainable alternative energy you can get, no way it will be enough.

The inevitable result is that, which cheap oil gone, the population will have to wind down to previous levels. I think that your 100M number is on the low side though and that we can manage 200-500M.

Unfortunately time has run out to start the wind down in a gentle way. So, coming soon to a theater near you: disasters, starvation, disease and slaughter.

My only hope is on pies in the sky in the form of lucky and unpredicted scientific breakthroughs.


[ Parent ]

gasoline fuel cell (none / 0) (#215)
by moppet on Sat Oct 30, 2004 at 10:43:01 AM EST

What I've been thinking for some time, is if you could take the high energy density of gasoline and combine it with the efficient conversion that you get with fuel cells. There are methanol powered fuel cells available now, so it might not be a huge step to stretch them to use the most readily available fuel; if the necessary research was done of course!

Combining a low output fuel cell (say 1-2kW) with some Ni-Cd or Pb-S batteries would give you the transient power you need to get up to speed at the same time as the range to cruise 100 miles to work and back and the ability to refuel anywhere.

Maybe it's a pipe dream, but I think that's what we should be trying to develop.


[ Parent ]

assuming current profligate energy consumption (none / 0) (#218)
by moppet on Sat Oct 30, 2004 at 02:08:39 PM EST

There are so many ways of reducing energy use, but we are stuck with a system that _encourages_ wastefulness. Following the supply and demand logic we maximise consumption for the good of the economy.

Many peoples around the world live happily on 1/10th the energy usage of the US/EU. Those that aren't happy because of poverty, starvation etc. could be massively improved with minimal energy input. These problems are mostly political, not a result of thermodynamics.

1. We shouldn't need to each of us drive 100s of miles to work and back each day. Either we go by bus or train or we work a sensible distance from home, or at home. Drive small cars or motorbikes instead of SUVs. Get groceries delivered instead of driving to the supermarket.

2. Switch off computers, lights, air conditioners, heating, cookers, etc when not in use and use more sensibly. Build houses in higher densities to conserve energy (an apartment has 1-4 external walls compared to a detatched house with 5). Use waste heat from power stations for heating.

3. Eat less meat and more veg. Don't need to be totally vegetarian, but feeding animals grain and them eating the animals is far more wasteful than eating the grain. No more McDonalds for lunch. Then we get fit into the bargain.

4. Buy stuff which is well made and lasts for many years rather than flashy stuff which falls apart as soon as the guarantee runs out. Keep our cars running for longer before scrapping them and buying new ones. Have legal minimum standards for durability of goods (say minimum of 5 years).

5. Stop business people from flying to meetings around the world. Make them use netmeeting or email instead. Also take holidays in our own countries.

6. Stop insisting 'developing' countries follow the broken wasteful models of the western industrialised nations. E.G. Don't encourage the Chinese to start buying cars instead of bicycles. Stop trying to emulate the US.

Most of these are not encouraged by governments as they would reduce the amount of money being churned around in an economy (GDP) and hence reduce the apparent health of the economy.

Fundamentally, we have a problem in that the capitalist system requires about 90% employment and there simply is not enough work to go round, assuming everyone works their asses off (which all companies insist on in order to stay competitive). So we make up stuff to do, like making trashy goods which wear out quickly so we can use up more labour making more of them.

[ Parent ]

economics alone can and will force change (none / 0) (#219)
by Polverone on Sat Oct 30, 2004 at 03:40:33 PM EST

As energy prices climb, energy-intensive practices will naturally become more expensive. The government doesn't need to do anything to encourage efficiency if predictions about the energy future are correct; people will scramble for efficiency (lower costs) on their own.

I can't imagine the frothing lawyer-feed that would result if all goods sold in the US were required to last 5 years. Would everyone be forbidden to buy plane tickets, or only evil business travelers? What a nightmare.

Fortunately, I can't imagine such regulations ever taking hold in the US. I would be on the lookout for laws working in the other direction, though. Imagine that energy becomes more expensive and so do crops; I can imagine congressmen from certain states working to ensure that crop-fed meat animals remain affordable (i.e. tax-subsidized), in which case the economic signals sent by rising energy prices are muted, and the system doesn't self-correct as well as it should.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Duh. (none / 1) (#108)
by smithmc on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 03:56:42 PM EST


Inflation alone will drive oil prices into the $60s. Even if oil were to drop back to $50 today, a 3.1% inflation rate would cause it to reach $60 by 2010, and that's not accounting for any increase in scarcity. If we leave the current price at $55, it will hit $60 with only a 1.5% rate of inflation.

Cost of alternatives will not stay fixed (2.50 / 2) (#127)
by kaol on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 05:38:33 PM EST

If the cost of alternative energy sources was fixed, then sure, they'll get economically viable as oil's price rises. Eventually. But as they are now, exploiting those alternative sources still requires good old oil. If oil's price rises, so will the price and the operating costs of a photovoltaic array or a wind turbine.

Alternative sources will still have to actually get efficient and usable enough on their own, not just stand by idle and watch oil fail.

All energy sources are not created equal, either. Oil has a very high energy density. Few other things can be used as a fuel nearly as well as oil. Alternative energy sources' viability isn't simply a matter of price, something has to fill in the role that oil has now too or the society will have to change in a major way.

Worst case scenario of that change is a dieoff, like they had one on the Easter Island. Resource depletion is not a joke. I'll let everyone pick their preferred amount of doom and gloom, though.

more realistic scenario (2.00 / 2) (#180)
by CAIMLAS on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 05:40:28 PM EST

a more realistic scenario, provided a reliable, efficient, renewable alternative energy source isn't found/made, is that the world powers go to war with each other for the remaining oil, likely converging on the oil fields themselves, culminating in a world war of biblical proportions: ie, Armageddon.

There would likely be a period of build-up prior to the conflict in which there are shortages of power, heat, and food in many parts of the world due to lack of energy and transportation. Those that still remember how to survive (hunters, fisherman, farmers/ranchers, and particularly the trappers), will survive. Still there will be others that will have creative solutions to the problems they're facing, and join forces with the others that are competent. Everyone else will die, likely fighting amongst themselves for the last scrap of bread. Disease and sickness will be prevailant, as there would be little or no expensive antibiotics due to the collapse of infrastructure. There will be rampant crime, and people will trade seemingly priceless items for moderate quantities of necessities: food, clean water, and fuel.

After the event, possibly somewhere between 5 and 9 years from the start of the collapse, humanity will have either gone extinct, or reduced to well below an industrial society level, with scattered clusters of several hundred people forming their own dis-associated societies. People would remember the disaster as a cultural whole, recording the affair in whatever way they possibly can for future generations, so that the same mistakes are not made.

Society would recover over a period of hundreds or thousands of years, taking into account  the fallacy of their ancestors. There would be wars, death, famine, and cultural change, but they would likely take into account the devistation of their ancestors. They would have a more pragmatic approach to energy and fuel (possibly using only renewable resources by preference, even if it means a lower quality of life) - possibly even reaching as far as their outlook on the renewability of plant and animal resources.

Over time, such policies would be forgotten by people that marginalize the views of their fathers, and don't have the perspective of experience to aid them in their choice. The cycle would then begin again, just as it has before.
--

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

Cycle? (none / 0) (#216)
by thejeff on Sat Oct 30, 2004 at 01:05:40 PM EST

There isn't likely to be another cycle. Survivors may, over hundred or thousands of years, would rebuild a civilization, but there will be no more oil to use. Not even very much accessible coal. Without those resources, getting past the early industrial age will not be possible. I don't know if a stable early industrial society without fossil fuels is possible, or what it would look like. Without cheap energy, I don't see a way to build the infrastructure for nuclear power or even widespread electricity.

I also doubt people would, after the first few generations, learn any lessons from the devastation. Those who exploit resources will have a short term advantage over those who don't and thus will expand faster and be able to control the others.

[ Parent ]

It will stay "fixed enough" (none / 0) (#191)
by Polverone on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 12:15:26 AM EST

I can see how the prices of PV cells and wind turbines can rise as energy prices in general rise. It certainly takes energy to manufacture and transport these devices. Why do you think the operating costs will rise, though? If I install a wind turbine and then oil doubles in price, why will my turbine grow more expensive to operate?

The only things that I can't really imagine running on anything but liquid hydrocarbon fuels are heavier-than-air aircraft. They really need the high energy density. Everything else can make do with less. I see mining and agricultural equipment as prime targets for conversion to lower-performance energy storage media. Since they work over a limited range, a refueling or recharging station will always be nearby. For specialty applications (like aircraft or vintage automobiles) I imagine that coal-derived synthetic fuels will get used.

There's so much slack built into our current practices that I think "dieoff" is very unlikely in the industrialized world. We could suffer 80% crop reduction and still stuff our faces because we currently feed so many crops to food animals. We could suffer 800% gasoline price increases and still drive cars because today's average car (in the US, at least) is so much less efficient than the most efficient known designs.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Um... (2.50 / 2) (#134)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 07:08:45 PM EST

House of Fahd, not Saud. Also, oil would have to go up in cost by a factor of nearly ten to make most "alternative energy" sources that don't secretly rely on fossil fuels in one way or another price-competitive.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Every little bit counts (none / 0) (#139)
by theantix on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 07:45:22 PM EST

However, in addition to what you say: because of sunk costs for infrastructure like pumping stations and vehicles, the price of alternative fuels has to be much lower than oil, not just equal or slightly cheaper.  The fact is, without government intervention it will be a very long time before alternative fuels are feasible in the open marketplace.

On the other hand, having more expensive gas will still have benefits.  It will increase the cost/benefit ratio of alternative transit such as LRT which should reduce traffic.  Additionally, average fuel economy will go up as the commodity will be considered more valuable.  This should lead to a slightly cleaner local environment without any need to switch to alternate fuels.

--
You sir, are worse than Hitler!
[ Parent ]

Er... (none / 0) (#183)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 07:12:44 PM EST

Government intervention? Yeah, that'd work really well. If by "work really well" you mean "be grossly insufficient for the task at hand or else destroy the entire world economy."

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
How do you figure? (none / 0) (#179)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 04:30:20 PM EST

King Fahd is, in name if not in practice, the reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fahd is, in turn, the elder patriarch of the Saud clan, the ruling dynastic line which rose to prominence around 200 years ago when they conquered Mecca and Medina and displaced the Hashemite dynasty. House of Saud indentifies the ruling dynasty of their eponymously titled kingdom in much the same way as the House of Windsor identifies the reigning British dynasty.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Nope (none / 0) (#184)
by trhurler on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 07:15:50 PM EST

The Brits retain the name "House of Windsor" because they're mindless traditionalists trying to show off their "oldness" rather than because it is technically correct. A house is named after its current head, and this has been the way things are done for as long as records exist. It certainly is the way European kings did things, back when they were actually monarchs and not figureheads leftover from an era better swept into history's dustbin.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
I'm not saying you're wrong (none / 0) (#192)
by Battle Troll on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 12:19:17 AM EST

But I'm used to hearing about the Lancasters, Bourbons, Plantagenets, and so forth, not the 'House of Louis XIV' or the 'House of Richard III.' Do you have a citation?
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 0) (#196)
by trhurler on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 01:19:48 AM EST

Nobody names a house after his first name. Yes, you hear about those names. Notice that there are a LOT of such names. They didn't all start with revolutions, you know. As for a cite, um... I learned that stuff a long time ago. No idea.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Mindless traditionalists? (none / 0) (#209)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 03:57:36 PM EST

That goes without saying. We are discussing an institution who's sole claim to legitimacy is tradition, no?

In any case, I seem to recall the appelation "house of <patronym>" being used as I described it in English literature going back to at least the mid 18th century. Whether such usage was common prior to that time, I really can't venture. The OED could probably tell us, but I don't have ready access to a copy.

Nonetheless, the history of the phrase is less important than the fact that it is in keeping with the common usage in contemporary english. House of Saud is, at least in the context of contemporary english, the correct way of phrasing things.

No doubt, it's probably rather different in Arabic. As I understand it, Arab cultures still commonly employ a rather complex system of patronymics--one of the reasons we have such a hard time tracking terrorists by name--rather than the simplified surname used for last couple of hundred years in European cultures.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Speculation (1.66 / 3) (#146)
by theGirlShirl on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 11:33:54 PM EST

I find it hard to belive that any of the factors outlined in the intro can explain the stupendous rise in oil over the last 6 months. These things were being blamed a year ago when the price was $30 per barrel.

It's commodity traders who are doing the most to increase the price of oil. Traders make money by buying a commodity (in this case oil, but right now it could be copper, zinc or many of the other raw materials at or near record prices) then trying to sell it at a higher price. With enough traders all doing the same thing, the supply of oil (on paper anyway) does become more scare, pushing prices up. The higher price of oil becomes a self-fulfilling prohpecy. This is the very definition of a bubble.

Traders love a bubble. Stocks, bonds, property, they don't care, so long as the perpetual money machine keeps going. I'm sure none of them are pointing out conditions are no worse for oil stocks than they were 12 months ago.

At some point, real supply and demand for oil will re-allign these prices. Most people who knew about these things were saying last year oil should be about $40 by the end of this year. The question is now will it slowly adjust or come crashing back to earth? It will probably depend on how much higher those greedy bankers can push it.

You are in denial. (none / 1) (#169)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 10:22:10 AM EST

India and China are importing a lot more oil than they were a year ago. A lot more. In China's case, a full third more.

And because both countries are still a long way from being as modern/industrialized as Europe or America, their demand for oil is going to keep growing.

Yesterday a retired Saudi oil minister said that the US is dreaming if they think OPEC can solve this problem with a turn of the spigot - he thinks there's no more capacity to be found, anywhere in the world, and that US estimates of global oil reserves are wildely overstated.

Oil supplies are finite, but our thirst for it is not. Unless someone suddenly discovers vast new fields under Camden, New Jersey, I think the Oil age just peaked.

I'll tell you why I don't listen. I can only read so much of your stupid a-- b--- s--- before I lose all faith in the future of humanity and start sort
[ Parent ]

Feasibility (1.75 / 4) (#151)
by Kasreyn on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 02:37:48 AM EST

They were perfectly feasible before oil hit 50 dollars a barrel. They were no more or less "feasible" than they are now, unless some major technological development in them has occurred that I wasn't aware of. What's changed is now the greed machines who run the first world's energy infrastructure are profiting less from oil. The slop is getting kind of low in the trough and hard to get at, so they're lifting their snouts and finally beginning to sniff around. That's all.

I'm sure the billions who live in countries where the primary heat source in winter is oil and the daily wage is under a dollar, will be thrilled that the First World is finally starting to give a shit. Of course, it's too late for THEM, but hey - at least we kept our eye on efficiency! Who knows, maybe the results will even come soon enough to save their children.


-Kasreyn

P.S. There were a great many leaps that actually made space travel possible; IMO chief among them were advances in computing, chemicals, and rocketry.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Your implication (none / 0) (#166)
by labradore on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 09:46:16 AM EST

Yes, feasibility is a short and medium-term economic decision, not social or political. Ergo: high-priced renewable energy is more feasible an alternative than it used to be. Somehow it is the fault of the richer nations and peoples that there are poorer nations and peoples? Get over it. Life isn't fair. Do your part to help the ones you care about, but quit whining. You sound as if you think you're better than the rest of us work-a-day first-worlders because you're the one pointing out the unfairness.

[ Parent ]
If no one decried injustice, (none / 1) (#197)
by Kasreyn on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 01:25:14 AM EST

it would never be corrected.

I'm not going to "get over it" until everyone everywhere has a warm place to live with enough light to read by. Of course, being a work-a-day first-worlder, there's little I can do. I try to live as energy-efficiently as possible myself.

And yes, I do feel I am better (on at least one issue) than someone driving a Hummer, unless they have a legitimate fear that they might need to, say, use their vehicle to ram some wrecked cars out of the road on their way home from the Publix. But since at least 99% of them aren't quite THAT delusional, they have simply decided on fuel inefficiency as their particular brand of potlatch, which revolts both my reason and my sense of morality.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
The magic numbers (3.00 / 2) (#153)
by jd on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 03:13:09 AM EST

The British Government did a study, under Mrs. Thatcher's regime, to study whether it was better to invest in nuclear power or alternative energy. The study showed nuclear power to be a good deal cheaper. Then it was discovered that the Nuclear industry had been the ones doing the study. It was also discovered that the figures for alternative energy had been changed to make it a tenth of what it should have been.

Alternative energy has been viable for some considerable time. The "Salter Duck" returns much more energy per unit of cost than a nuclear power station, under typical conditions. Nuclear power is horribly expensive. Alternative energy tends not to be used (or used well, where it is) because it's seen as low-tech, doesn't generate masses of jobs or wealth, and politicians would rather be wearing radiation-proof gear next to a huge dome than rubber boots next to a water-borne dynamo.

what is "salter duck" ? (none / 0) (#173)
by hswerdfe on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 12:56:36 PM EST

what is "salter duck"?
--- meh ---
[ Parent ]
Quack quack! (none / 0) (#188)
by GenerationY on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 09:38:00 PM EST

Its a device for harnessing wave power. IIRC it floats (and thus bobs in waves) and turns this into a rotary motion within which generates electricity.

[ Parent ]
Salter's Duck (none / 0) (#221)
by oohp on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 07:01:04 AM EST

http://www.mech.ed.ac.uk/research/wavepower/index.html

[ Parent ]
Just to clear up a factual error.... (2.91 / 12) (#154)
by clockpenalty on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 03:20:13 AM EST

Ehhh... Civil War in Nigeria? What Civil War? No Civil War here, friend- not unless I'm somehow able to post on K5 without access to my eyesight or hearing.

Know what? We haven't had a civil war for the last...ah.... forty or so years? Think the only one we ever had was in '66- had less to do with oil than with tribal differences. (This *is* West Africa after all)

Asari Dokubo is just another in a long line of criminals (I believe they are known as 'terrorists' these days) trying to blackmail the government into legalizing his Oil bunkering business by threatening multinational Oil companies. No surprises there. The Oil companies in the delta region are used to this nonsense- However Dokubo's unusually large force commanded more attention than usual, prompting international News agencies to spin the whole thing into a 'Civil War'

Not the all of Africa is submerged in a huge bloodbath, as most westerners seem to think. Someone gets shot by the police here- it makes headline news. Nigeria is a nation plagued by corrupt officials and rampant conmen, but NOT gun-toting maniacs. People here are too addicted to their illicit wealth (or the promise of it) to risk it all for some crackpot ideology or misguided religious belief.

Nigeria's real 'contributions' to the worldwide increase in oil prices are: a labor strike that occurred two weeks ago, and another one set to begin on Monday. I, for one, look forward to what most of us here consider a public holiday....



+1 Informative. (none / 0) (#168)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 10:17:30 AM EST

Nothing better than a first hand account.

I'll tell you why I don't listen. I can only read so much of your stupid a-- b--- s--- before I lose all faith in the future of humanity and start sort
[ Parent ]
Restless natives (none / 1) (#172)
by Gerhard on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 11:36:50 AM EST

Yes, I do believe the losing is are known as 'terrorists' these days.
While Nigeria is not engaged in a civil war there is a lot of civil unrest thru out the country for a multitude of reasons (Money and religon being the big ones). Nigeria is in no risk of outright civil war but the natives do become restless from time to time).

[ Parent ]
Nigeria (civil unrest) ? (none / 0) (#223)
by adimovk5 on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 07:50:43 PM EST

Thank you for taking the time to correct me. I shouldn't have called what was happenning in Nigeria "civil war". Would you call it "civil unrest" or is it even less than that?

Crime and Ethnic Unrest

Political and ethnic strife in the Niger Delta region, including violence, kidnapping, sabotage and the seizure of oil facilities, often disrupts Nigerian oil production. Several acts of vandalism occured between May and July 2004, including: a serious fire at a Shell oil well in May caused by fuel theives; a major oil spill in June caused by thieves using drills and hacksaws on an 18-inch pipeline in Imo state; a second June spill in Bayelsa state causing damage to farmland and streams; and a deadly fire that killed 10 villagers "scooping" oil from a vandalized pipeline in Agbani in late July. Local communities are claiming millions of dollars in compensation for environmental damage that results from the pipeline vandalism, as well as recourse for the numerous deaths resulting from fuel-theft-related accidents.

Illegal fuel siphoning to supply a thriving black market for fuel products has increased the number of oil facility explosions and fires in recent years. The most serious disaster was the October 1998 Jesse fire in which over 1,000 people died. In March 2004, the NNPC announced that losses from vandalism and theft since mid-2003 were around 145,000 bbl/d, down from the 386,000 bbl/d announced in 2003. Based on current crude oil prices, fuel theft equates to a loss for Nigeria of about $2 billion per year. Illegal oil siphoning and subsequent black market refining and sales are said to fund the activities of local militia groups in the Niger Delta and to provide funds for arms purchases.



[ Parent ]
Cold fusion is a fraud (none / 1) (#160)
by paugq on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 08:32:21 AM EST

Anyone with a little knowledge of Physics knows "cold fusion" is a scam. It violates Themodynamics Laws and nobody has been able to reproduce Fleischmann and Pons' results in a controlled experiment.

There is a very good book explaining the cold fusion scam, written by the President of the American Physical Society, Robert L. Park: Voodoo Science.



aint necessarily so... (none / 0) (#161)
by mreardon on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 08:53:51 AM EST

http://www.share-international.org/archives/Science-tech/sci_chunveil.html

[ Parent ]
You missed two points (none / 0) (#164)
by paugq on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 09:13:59 AM EST

1. The experiment of Fleischmann and Pons produced too little neutrons, so it WAS flawed (intentionally or unintentionally, but it was FOR SURE failing). They said they obtained 10 Watts of power with only 40000 neutrons being emitted. That's too low.

2. Yes, the experiment of Fleischmann and Pons produces cold fusion. It's true. But it produces VERY LITTLE energy: 8 to 10% of income energy goes out. Only a few deuterium cores fuse. This is NOT cold fusion as Fleischmann and Pons (and their followers) exposed: they said they obtained an efficiency of 140%.

So, YES, there is A BIT of cold fusion, but it has NO use. It would be useful if you could get an efficiency bigger than 100%, and that is impossible.

Thermodynamics laws are the most tested physics laws and everybody has lost its battle against them.


[ Parent ]

Yes. (none / 0) (#187)
by famanoran on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 08:56:52 PM EST

And it used to be that the world being flat was one of the most tested laws of the world. Go away and find something else to stuff your closed mind into.

[ Parent ]
What's thermodynamics have to do with cold fusion? (none / 0) (#193)
by Polverone on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 12:28:32 AM EST

You believe that hot fusion happens, right? Why would a controlled, low-density fusion reaction violate thermodynamics any more than a thermonuclear weapon, a star, or a fission reactor?

I'm not claiming that cold fusion happens as described by Fleischmann and Pons or at all, but I don't see how thermodynamics permits its easy dismissal the way it would for (say) a purely mechanical "perpetual motion machine."
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Total Nonsense (none / 0) (#217)
by easy on Sat Oct 30, 2004 at 02:01:40 PM EST

Anyone with a little knowledge of Physics knows "cold fusion" is a scam. It violates Themodynamics Laws and nobody has been able to reproduce Fleischmann and Pons' results in a controlled experiment.

It seems as though you know as much about physics as I do about ancient egyptian embalming techniques -- zero. Nuclear fusion -- wether "hot" or "cold" -- doesn't violate any of the laws of thermodynamics -- in particular the 2. law of thermodynamics which I pressume you are referring to. I guess you are confusing "cold" fusion (researchers prefer the name Low Energy Nuclear Reactions = LENR for obvious reasons) with phenomena generally referred to as overunity phenomena/devices which obviously violate the laws of thermodynamics.

Reproducibility is the major problem no doubt. But contrary to your statement, several researchers have been able to reproduce both the Pons-Fleischmann experiment and other similar experiments (the PF experiment is just one of many possible experimental setups). Quite ironically some of the experiments made after the announcement of PF that initially contested the results turned out to be "fudged" (i.e. the MIT experiment). This may be one of the reasons the DoE recently deceided to reevaluate its position in regard to LENR (the decision is still pending).

The issue at hand is actually a fundamental law of Electrophysics: the Coulomb Barrier. The problem is that this barrier can usually only be overcome at very high temperature/pressure. There are ways to reduce this barrier (i.e. Muon-Catalyzed Fusion), but these have proven to be economically unfeasable.

Yes, the experiment of Fleischmann and Pons produces cold fusion. It's true. But it produces VERY LITTLE energy...
So, YES, there is A BIT of cold fusion, but it has NO use.

WTF ??? The question isn't wether it happens "a bit" or wether "it produces very little energy" (this doesn't make any sense at all since the same rules apply to "cold" and "hot" fusion in regard to energy balance). The only issue at hand is wether or not the phenomenon exists. Any engineering/technical aspects can obviously only be debated once the existence of said phenomena has been proven.

The experiment of Fleischmann and Pons produced too little neutrons, so it WAS flawed (intentionally or unintentionally, but it was FOR SURE failing).

I'll just rephrase that statement: "The experiment of Fleischmann and Pons produced too little neutrons" according to current theory -- which would make either the experiment or the theory faulty. And according to the basic principles of scientific research empirical results take precedence over theoretical results.

I would suggest that you polish up your knowledge on Nuclear Fusion and Cold Fusion.

easy



[ Parent ]
Very good book? (none / 0) (#213)
by Gruntathon on Sat Oct 30, 2004 at 02:00:10 AM EST

I havent read Voodoo Science myself, but I have read a few various excerpts on the web. It struck me to be as what most Kuro5hiners would refer to as a troll.

It's section on cold fusion seemed to be particularly full of bs.

As for violating the law, thermodynamic laws arent immutable forces of nature, they are simply descriptions of phenomena under particular conditions.

Hell, my understanding of thermodynamics would suggest that fusion DOES occur at any temperature, at rates so puny as to make the reaction unnoticable.

I'll admit that cold fusion sounds like complete tripe, but if someone reckons they can pull it off, good luck to them!

__________
If they hadn't been such quality beasts (despite being so young) it would have been a nightmare - good self-starting, capable hands are your finest friend. -- Anonymous CEO
[ Parent ]
Oh shit (none / 0) (#233)
by paugq on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 02:08:45 PM EST

Oh shit, that review was written by a pro-Fleischmann&Pons reviewer. What did you expect? He is reviewing a book that tells he is totally wrong!

[ Parent ]
Author Coolly Indifferent to Human Suffering (none / 1) (#171)
by pel on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 11:26:37 AM EST

Quote:
"Why does this make me optimistic? An increase in the price of oil will cause great short-term hardship to all the industrialized economies. It will also throw the emerging economies into recession or depression."
Because widespread hardship, recession and depression are desirable things. Now there's a well-thought out plan.

It's nice to see how the author brushes aside the effects of such a situation:

  1. Inflation, because the sustained higher price of oil increases the cost of shipping and energy, whose increased costs increase prices practically everywhere
  2. Political Turmoil in Countries with "Emerging Economies," because recession and depression in those areas is a good for stability. Not.
  3. Widespread Instability in the Middle East, because depriving the Saudi royal family of their only staying power effectively dethrones them
Not to say the unknown outcome of the ripple effect of these occurring in temporal proximity to each other.

This whole business of "a little human suffering" for the sake of solar panels and windmills sure seems like an elitist pursuit to me.

Let them eat cake!

The problems (none / 0) (#189)
by kahako1 on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 11:43:12 PM EST

You describe some of the potential consequences of the increase in oil prices. You criticize them as the unintended consequences of an "elitist pursuit." But what is the real elitist pursuit? A continued dependance on oil?

The facts are demand is outpacing supply and will continue to do so. That is what is driving oil prices up. I think is is a good idea to examine other sources of energy. If it takes higher prices to drive change then so be it. Condemning the change because of the problems with the old system is misinformed.

IMO a true elitist pursuit will be to buy a shiny new NaviStar CXT. That'll show them elitist, liberal, environmental wackos. They won't use some global energy crises and the suffering of poorer people to push some outlandish alternative (is that gay) energy on me.


"... always look on the bright side of death..." - Eric Idle
[ Parent ]

It's not purely for the sake of windmills (none / 0) (#194)
by Polverone on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 12:39:50 AM EST

It is widely believed that the use of oil as a primary energy source is contributing to changes in the Earth's climate by releasing CO2 into the atmosphere faster than it can be absorbed. In the most dire scenarios, these changes may lead to a large rise in sea levels and changing of precipitation and growing conditions so that large areas of inhabited land are permanently flooded and millions starve or can no longer reliably access clean water.

The widespread adoption of non-fossil energy could slow or even stop this feared scenario. Of course there are quite a few skeptics who think that humans have little to do with climate change, but if the skeptics are wrong, reducing CO2 emissions is far from an elitist pursuit.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Oil burning isn't the only source of CO2!!! (none / 0) (#232)
by cdguru on Tue Nov 23, 2004 at 07:01:51 PM EST

If we want to seriously address the balance of energy use vs. waste products, we need to look at the whole picture, not just the SUV. Sure, it is easy to point to the fat, sloppy American with an H2 and say BAD! but that isn't the whole problem by a long shot.

Currently, most of the western world is using energy and other resources at a rate that far exceeds the ability of natural processes to absorb these waste products. CO2 is one such waste product, and it comes out from everything from your home furnance to tilled farmland.

For example, there are something like 50 million individual furnaces in the US today for central heating. These run at least six months of the year something like 4-5 hours a day (spaced over 24 hours). This is spewing a tremendous amount of CO2 and CO into the atmosphere. Human waste (sewage) is also way past the point of being able to dump it somewhere and not having to worry about it. Large cities try to process it biologically, but this only reduces the magnitude of the problem somewhat - we're still hauling it off somewhere that people do not see and dumping it.<p<Since we no longer incinerate waste from cities, we bury it or dump it in the ocean. Much of this waste is not biodegradable, and even it if was, it is produced at a rate much faster than it could possibly degrade. Recycling is touted as the "answer" for much of this, but most recycling consists of separating trash into different disposal techniques where it is eventually combined into the same landfill - it isn't being "recycled", it is being discarded by the recycler. There are a few substances which are actively being recycled, but they account for so little waste volume that is makes little or no difference.<p>No, the problem is a combination of lifestyle and population. There were no problems of this magnitude with a total population of 50 million people or less, and this is a reasonable target "carrying capacity" for the planet - if we are going to assume that there are no other resources available for use and no other living space. We could forseeably live with several hundred million people on the entire planet, but they would be living in conditions that calling them substandard would be generous.

No matter how you figure it, you either need outside input into the process or you need to balance the entire ecology as a sealed system. If the latter is the choice, we are going to be living in a sea of our waste products in a pretty short period of time. The sensible alternative is to see the requirement for outside inputs and begin using them. The only other alternative is start planning on how to get down to a "sustainable" 50 million people on the planet as soon as possible so that the waste products do not accumulate faster than natural processes can deal with them.

[ Parent ]

It only depends on when you want to suffer (none / 1) (#211)
by slippytoad on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 11:12:56 PM EST

This whole business of "a little human suffering" for the sake of solar panels and windmills sure seems like an elitist pursuit to me.

You can suffer a little bit now, for the sake of not suffering a whole fuck of a lot later.

It's really simple. Like a diet. You diet to suffer a little bit today, in order that you don't suffer even more tomorrow, when diabetes claims your life one limb ad a time.

What does a diet require? Self control. It's a hard concept to sell to the American public. Look at how hard we try to find "easy" diets that don't require any actual sacrifice on our part.

If we're not willing to suffer a little bit now to upgrade our energy infrastructure, we will suffer a lot when we fall off the oil cliff. Houses will go unheated, groceries undelivered . . . people will starve and freeze to death in quantities unimaginable if we do not find alternate energy sources.
If I were the al Qaeda people right now I would be planning a lot of attacks in the next few days and weeks -- John "Bring 'em On" McCain
[ Parent ]

the alternative will be coal (none / 1) (#177)
by massivefubar on Thu Oct 28, 2004 at 02:53:57 PM EST

I do have some feelings of "gloom and doom" because I believe an important alternative energy source (if not the most important alternative energy source) will be, as it always has been, coal. A re-visit to "Night Falls on the Cumberlands" is probably all you need to read to become very depressed about coal's effects on life and landscape.

Fusion is a joke. When I was a child four decades ago, we were only 30 years away from practical nuclear fusion power plants. Now we're only 50 years away. When the most talented people of several generations have worked on a project without results, we must begin to suspect that we are going wrong somewhere.



Conservation (none / 0) (#195)
by John Thompson on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 12:44:13 AM EST

Why no mention of conservation? There are plenty of ways we could improve energy conservation, which would serve to both make less dense energy sources more attractive and buy us more time to work on alternative energy sources. Rushing headlong into fantasies like hydrogen powered cars (not for at least 30 years) or fusion (yeah, right) without addressing conservation is just plain foolish. We can't stake our future on pipe-dreams, especially when there are existing practical alternatives available. Maybe not everybody will get to drive their own personal SUV to the corner store whenever they want a candy bar, but it's either that or risk having your great-grandchildren plow their fields with ox-drawn plows and a life expectancy of 45 years. If we run out of affordable energy before we have developed a sustainable alternative; well, that's all folks. We be back at a 17th century society within a couple generations.

Oil price going high or value of USD going low? (none / 1) (#200)
by Maljin Jolt on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 08:43:42 AM EST

Considering two facts:

1. The price of oil is fixed to US dollar just by sheer power of an empire, which even started a war to prevent a migration of major market player to euro.

2. Contrary to the press media FUD, nor accessibility nor consumption nor practical usability of oil as a resource did not change in global scale during several past years.

Conlusively, more correct perception of current economic reality may be the unsustainably high value of dollar is the real cause of relative oil price increase.

Going to Iraq Was a Rational Decision (none / 1) (#205)
by PunkAssBitch on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 12:58:20 PM EST

Given that 1) the US has the most energy dependent economy on the planet, and 2) the Middle East has greatest supply of the highest density energy source that we know how to use, attempting to control Iraq could possibly be seen as a rational decision.  Not the only possibility, probably not the best, certainly not the most humane, but not completely irrational given a very short time horizon.

Here's what's not so rational.

Finding some other source of energy that is cleaner, renewable, and which doesn't require resource wars would be nice, but finding such a source is understood to be a challenging and expensive venture, at least if one considers that we haven't been able to get very close yet.  Nonetheless, I don't think that many people would doubt that it is indeed possible.  Given that energy is such an important national security issue, it's interesting to ask the question of how hard the US is trying as a nation to find a real alternative to oil.

There is no specific answer, but some broad spending comparisons might provide a hint.  Last year, the entire US economy (private, government, univeristy, non-profit) spent around $280B on R&D (that's applied and basic research) on all topics.  Around $55B of that was basic research, $33B of which was from Uncle Sam.  On the other hand, the US will soon have spent $225B  on an effort to control a vital energy source, that effort being the Iraq war.

Many of us would feel pretty confident that investing a fraction of what Iraq will cost into funding private/public/university basic research (say, $40B per year) in alternate energy certainly wouldn't hurt a nation that prides itself on innovation, and just might well produce a serious answer to the question of energy independance.  No gurantees, but it sure seems like a reasonable gamble.

So, here's where the question of rationality rears its head.  Given that protecting oil is quite expensive, that it is likey to get much more expensive as supplies peak and demand rises, and that it requires a lot of ugly violence, is the US doing enough to hedge its bets in this area?

The answer does not appear to be a resounding "yes," but rather an uncomfortable "maybe."  Neither presidental candidate has made much noise on the topic.  A quick review of the Democratic party's platform turns up a couple of pages on alternate energy, while another review of the Republican platform reveals a whopping 5 words (if you include "and") sandwiched in between some talk of terrorism.

This war may have been avoidable, a topic many have debated, and which we'll continue to debate.  But, whatever the case, I would like to see an investment today to make this the last war over energy any country must undertake.  I'm sure there will be many other things to fight about, but we have the power to take a solid shot at making energy not be one of those things.

Prediction (none / 1) (#229)
by xria on Thu Nov 11, 2004 at 06:32:43 AM EST

Significant progress towards alternate energy sources to Oil are unlikely to occur while someone whose family's wealth is largely oil based, and most of his cabinet is from an oil background, and much of his funding is from the oil industry or its magnates.

The change from coal/steam to oil took decades as its not cheap to convert over, overall demand is looking to grow rapidly, and existing oil stocks are becoming more concentrated in a small area of the world. The longer it takes to find a truly viable alternative the more painful its going to get, so it seems very unfortunate that exactly the wrong person is in charge of the economy using 25% of all oil in the world at this time.

[ Parent ]

The Trillion Barrel Tar Pit (none / 0) (#226)
by coljac on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 10:37:48 PM EST

Wired had an article a little while ago about a new way of producing oil from tar pits or "heavy oil". Apparently the extraction and refinement is very difficult, but is becoming increasingly feasible and the reserves of this stuff are huge, especially in Canada. If this pans out it could extend the oil age by quite a few years.



---
Whether or not life is discovered there I think Jupiter should be declared an enemy planet. - Jack Handey

New energy resource is badly needed. (none / 0) (#231)
by computao on Sat Nov 20, 2004 at 05:09:34 AM EST

Or another sort of energy. Such as solar energy. Why use such amount of gasoline.
BBE8 DOTCOM
Alternate Energy...... (none / 0) (#234)
by Stormzeye on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 02:59:17 PM EST

Anyone here think fuel cells will actually become feasible? If so that would be a death blow to the oil companies and the oil princes of the world. Of course this means that the technology will never be allowed to enter the market......

hybrids then fuel cells (none / 0) (#235)
by adimovk5 on Tue May 24, 2005 at 07:00:21 PM EST

I think hybrids will be first. The hybrid car offers range and affordability now. Hybrids have both a gas engine and fuel cells. Once the automotive industry adopts hybrids on a large scale, there will be many fuel cells on the road. There will be an increase in competition to produce cells with more power, less cost, lighter weight and better recharges. Fuel cells will then have a chance to dominate the market.

[ Parent ]
High Oil Prices Might Be A Blessing In Disguise | 235 comments (221 topical, 14 editorial, 9 hidden)
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