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The Hydrogen Economy - Green Nirvana or a Pipe Dream?

By joib in Technology
Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 07:14:28 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

The hydrogen economy has been hailed as the one true way forward, the thing that will propel mankind into a future where we live in harmony with nature, with pollution but a distant memory. For once, environmentalists and big business seems to be on the same track. However, significant challenges, perhaps even insurmountable, still lie ahead before the hydrogen economy can become a reality. But do we actually have a choice; are there any alternatives to the hydrogen economy?


Introduction

The reason to change our current fossil-fuel based energy economy towards a renewable energy economy are many. The environmental problems of fossil fuels are well-known, from smog and acid rain to global warming. A second major problem is that soon we have exhausted most of our oil resources. While we actually won't run out of oil anytime soon, the real problem is that once oil production starts to decline while demand keeps growing, we will certainly see severe price shocks. The third major problem is strategic; the world is more or less dependent on the Middle East, a powder keg just waiting to explode, for oil. All in all, there are plenty of very good reasons to reduce our dependence on oil; the sooner the better.

However, there are many formidable issues that have to be resolved before the hydrogen economy can become a reality. The main problems affect production, storage as well as the final use of the hydrogen to produce electricity (and heat).

Production of hydrogen

As we have all heard H2 (i.e. hydrogen), while being the most abundant element in the universe, is not found in elemental form here on earth. Thus we must produce it in some way, i.e. hydrogen is not an energy source but rather a carrier. One way to produce hydrogen is via electrolysis of water, a process requiring lots of electricity. It's also possible to thermally "crack" water with solar or nuclear power directly, without first producing electricity. While producing hydrogen from water with environmentally friendly power sources is possible, currently the big winners in this game seems to be Big Oil. Currently it's much cheaper to produce hydrogen from fossil fuel sources than by some other way. Producing hydrogen from fossil fuels will result in carbon dioxide emissions (to my knowledge there exists no reformation process where the byproduct is elemental carbon instead of carbon dioxide), probably even more than the status quo because of inefficiencies occurring further down the chain in the storage and transportation of the hydrogen. Environmentalists tend to call hydrogen produced from fossil fuels "black hydrogen" as opposed to "green hydrogen".

Storage and transportation of hydrogen

Storing hydrogen in a compact way is a tricky problem, to say the least. Elemental hydrogen has the lowest density of any material in the universe. Trying to cram it together is like trying to circumvent basic physics; it just doesn't work. Liquefying the hydrogen consumes about a third of the energy stored in the hydrogen, and still the energy density of the resulting liquid hydrogen is only about one fourth of that of gasoline! Compressing the hydrogen to the proposed 800 bar standard consumes almost as much energy as liquefying it, and is a safety concern (catastrophic tank rupture, anyone?). Again, for comparison gasoline has a energy density about 20 times that of high pressure hydrogen. Various other schemes like metal hydrides, borates and carbon nanotubes don't achieve that impressive energy densities either, are currently quite expensive and also typically require lots of energy to either fill the tank or retrieve hydrogen from it.

Because storing hydrogen is so difficult, it has been proposed to use pipes to deliver the gas to consumers, just like natural gas today. This is certainly possible for stationary applications, but again the small size of hydrogen might cause problems. Because hydrogen is so small, leakage from pipes will certainly increase. Some researchers have claimed that hydrogen leakage might contribute to global warming. Others have disputed the claims made in the article, so it's still too early to tell whether this effect might be significant.

The problems relating to the storage and transportation of hydrogen is described in more detail here.

Using the hydrogen

The purpose of producing, transporting and storing hydrogen is ultimately of course to use it in some productive way. Fuel cells hold much promise for producing electricity from hydrogen, and much effort is expended in improving them. While fuel cells aren't limited by the Carnot efficiency of heat engines, practical fuel cells to replace internal combustion engines are still a long way off for a large variety of reasons I won't go into here.

So, are we doomed without the hydrogen economy?

For the reasons outlined in the introduction, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is of paramount importance. But again, because of problems related to the production, storage and use of elemental hydrogen, the elemental hydrogen economy looks very expensive. Fortunately there is a sensible alternative to reach the goals described in the introduction.

Let's start by assuming that the energy carrier of this economy will still be hydrogen. Despite the problems described above hydrogen still has many desirable properties: it can be produced from almost any energy source, and it's not polluting as such. Next we turn our attention towards storing and transporting the hydrogen. Optimally, we want the hydrogen stored as a liquid at normal temperature, as liquids are easy to store and transport. When figuring out how to store the hydrogen, it doesn't take long to arrive at hydrocarbons, which are liquid at normal temperatures and contain a high hydrogen mass fraction. Yes, burning hydrocarbons produces carbon dioxide but lets worry about that later.

Next we must choose a suitable length for the carbon chains in our hydrogen carrier. Lets choose an average length of about 16 carbon atoms, i.e. diesel fuel. Why diesel, and not gasoline, you might ask? Choosing the carbon chain length is a compromise. The shorter the chain, the more volatile the fuel is, and the lower the flash point is. Make the chain longer, and the fuel becomes safer to handle. Another bonus of lengthening the chain is that the energy density increases, the energy density of diesel is about 20% higher than for gasoline. On the other hand, make the chain too long and you get the sort of heavy fuel oil used by ships, where you must heat the pipes to be able to pump the fuel, which clearly is impractical for smaller scale usage. Thus we arrive at diesel oil as the optimal chain length.

Another big advantage of diesel over gasoline is that with today's technology (i.e. internal combustion engines), diesel engines are much more efficient than gasoline engines. Modern diesel engines, with electronically controlled high-pressure direct fuel injection (e.g. common rail and similar approaches) have provided an order of magnitude reduction in particulate and NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions, the traditional problem areas for diesel engines. Particulate traps and NOx catalytic converters will bring another order of magnitude reduction in a couple of years.
Yes, diesel engines are more expensive to manufacture than gasoline engines (OTOH, they tend to last much longer too). Where I live (Northern Europe) diesel cars currently tend to cost about 20-25 % more than a comparable gasoline car, while the diesel versions have a fuel consumption about 25 % lower than the gasoline versions. As fossil fuel resources dwindle and the fuel price goes up, diesel cars become more attractive because of the better mileage. Also, for hybrid cars the price difference between diesel and gasoline is probably lower since in a hybrid you get away with a smaller engine, and the electrical part of the system with motors and batteries add to the cost anyway.

The bio/synthetic diesel economy

So now we have come up with a nice way to store hydrogen (as diesel), but so far it looks quite much like fossil fuel. While changing from the current crop of gasoline powered cars to, diesel electric hybrid cars would reduce fuel usage significantly, we still need to produce diesel by some other way than by getting it from fossil sources. There are two major ways to do this. One is to produce it from biomass, i.e. we get biodiesel. The other is to produce it by adding environmentally friendly produced hydrogen to industrial carbon dioxide emissions, i.e. we get synthetic diesel.

Currently biodiesel is made mostly from vegetable oils, but it is possible to produce it from any kind of biomass with the help of e.g. pyrolysis, Fischer-Tropsch synthesis or perhaps even thermal depolymerization, if that turns out to not be a hoax. The question is thus to find a plant that grows as fast as possible and is cheap to harvest. Hemp has been proposed as a good choice for biomass production, but will certainly face political opposition.

Further in the future, synthetic diesel may be a practical opportunity. Splitting carbon dioxide and adding hydrogen to produce diesel consumes massive amounts of energy, so this option may not be practical until the stationary energy generation infrastructure has moved away from fossil fuels.

Conclusions and time line

The advantages of the hydrogen economy, i.e. solving the environmental issues with fossil fuels and independence of dwindling oil reserves and the volatile nations that sell most of it, can be achieved much cheaper with an energy economy based on biomass based or synthetic diesel. Another major advantage of this is that no major infrastructure investments are needed for the storage and transportation of the fuel, as the current energy infrastructure is well equipped to handle it. As Bio/synthetic diesel production ramps up it can be blended with petroleum diesel, providing a smooth transition away from fossil fuels. Similarly, in the future when fuel cells equipped with (internal or external) reformers become more competitive than diesel engines, the transition to fuel cells is smooth because they can use the same fuel.

A time line for changing towards a sustainable energy economy could look something like the following (with the proper government support in form of research money and tax incentives):

  • Near term: Hybrid vehicles, powered by ultra-modern diesel engines equipped with regenerative particle traps and NOx catalytic converters, allow a huge reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. This is in fact already possible with technology available today. Biodiesel production increases. Intensive research into efficient biomass production and diesel production from said biomass.
  • Middle term: Biodiesel production increases rapidly as oil imports decrease. Synthetic diesel production getting started.
  • Long term: Fuel cells (able to use diesel either directly or by first producing hydrogen with an external reformer) become cost competitive and start to replace diesel engines. All major industrial carbon dioxide sources are utilised to produce synthetic diesel. Independence from fossil fuels is finally achieved.

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Poll
Do you think the hydrogen economy is a practical alternative?
o Yes 20%
o No, I think a bio/synthetic hydrocarbon model is better 25%
o No, fossil fuel resources are infinite 5%
o I'm waiting for Mr Fusion 49%

Votes: 55
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o oil resources
o contribute to global warming
o here
o diesel fuel
o biodiesel
o synthetic diesel
o thermal depolymerization
o Hemp
o Also by joib


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The Hydrogen Economy - Green Nirvana or a Pipe Dream? | 285 comments (245 topical, 40 editorial, 0 hidden)
Diesels are no magic bullet (2.83 / 6) (#2)
by CoolSpot on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 03:00:31 PM EST

Another big advantage of diesel over gasoline is that with today's technology (i.e. internal combustion engines), diesel engines are much more efficient than gasoline engines. Modern diesel engines, with electronically controlled high-pressure direct fuel injection (e.g. common rail and similar approaches) have provided an order of magnitude reduction in particulate and NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions, the traditional problem areas for diesel engines. Particulate traps and NOx catalytic converters will bring another order of magnitude reduction in a couple of years.

Diesel engines are also more difficult to manufacture. Diesel engines have higher compression rates than gasoline engines and must have better seals and more precise machining. Diesels add more to the cost of the vehicle, in most cases a significant amount.

There are no silver bullets (none / 1) (#4)
by joib on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 03:40:46 PM EST

Yes, diesels are more expensive to manufacture (OTOH, they tend to last much longer too). I just checked, and where I live diesel versions tend to cost about 20-25 % more than a comparable gasoline car. The diesel versions had a fuel consumption about  25 % lower than the gasoline versions. Where I live diesel is about 80 c/liter and gasoline is about EUR 1.10/liter, and additionaly we have a "diesel tax" on diesel cars which is about EUR 500 /year. All in all, it turns out that if you drive more than something like 20000-30000 km per year a diesel car is cheaper. This of course depends heavily on how your country taxes various fuels etc. so it's no universal comparison by any means.

Anyway, as fossil fuel resources dwindle and the fuel price goes up, diesel cars become more attractive because of the better mileage. Also, for hybrid cars the price difference between diesel and gasoline is probably lower since in a hybrid you get away with a smaller engine, and OTOH the electrical part of the system with motors and batteries add to the cost.

So I stand by my point that diesel would be a better choice than gasoline. You are of course entirely correct that diesel is no silver bullet; neither are fuel cells, for that matter. However, it's an incremental improvement that can be made without huge expenses.

Anyway, I'll put some of this info into the article.

[ Parent ]

agreed, (none / 0) (#10)
by CoolSpot on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 05:34:00 PM EST

But as hybrids become both cheaper and more common, the advantages of diesel become less and less (in the US anyway). I would pay a similar price-premium for a hybrid car as I would get similar mileage. Diesel in the US is a little bit cheaper than gasoline, but the price doesn't fluctuate as much so occasionally it is more expensive.

[ Parent ]
Hybrid diesel? (none / 0) (#28)
by ttfkam on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 12:03:01 AM EST

Hybrid technology is not intimately tied to the type of fuel.  I would think that a diesel hybrid is just as viable as a gasoline one.  Which of course would leave you with an even more efficient vehicle than a gasoline-based hybrid.

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 ]
I Have Wondered (none / 0) (#81)
by Lagged2Death on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 01:44:10 PM EST

...why I haven't heard of anyone taking a diesel-hybrid approach. It does sound like a good idea.

Here in the US, Toyota is pushing its Prius hybrid as being not an economy car, but as an ecology car - green and clean. I guess diesels have a ways to go yet in that regard, so that might be part of the reason.

Also, don't most hybrids shut the engine off altogether (rather than idling) when the car is stopped? Diesel engines at least used to be harder to start than gas ones; maybe that's a factor.

Or maybe it's something more mundane, like the Japanese companies on the cutting edge of hybrid tech not having much experience with diesels. Or maybe putting both technologies into the same car is just too pricey.

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]

The US Army has it (none / 0) (#205)
by Stickerboy on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 09:22:33 PM EST

Prototypes for a diesel/electric hybrid have been built for both the Humvee multipurpose truck series and the FMTV 5-ton truck series.

Advantages for mass-produced versions will include the ability to run quietly when they need to, and having to transport 20-30% less fuel for these vehicles.

[ Parent ]

Diesel Locomotives (none / 0) (#209)
by loualbano on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 12:22:43 AM EST

Diesel Locomotives have been this way for a long time. howstuffworks.com

[ Parent ]
in the UK (none / 0) (#59)
by Cackmobile on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:00:03 AM EST

diesel cars get a tax break so they are almost the same as the petrol version

[ Parent ]
Too many simple sentences (none / 3) (#7)
by debacle on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 04:24:14 PM EST

It doesn't flow well.

It tastes sweet.
Everything you need to know (3.00 / 4) (#12)
by Fon2d2 on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 05:40:05 PM EST

I only briefly skimmed your article but I think I get the gist of it. You are absolutely correct about the synthetic bio/diesel economy. I've been following the developments in hydrogen and ethanol as much as possible. There is a lot of misinformation that passes around. One book I recommend against reading is Jeremy Rifkin's "The Hydrogen Economy". Several chapters complaining about fossil fuels. One chapter proclaiming the greatness of hydrogen. And virtually no straightforward analysis or scientific data on the viability of a hydrogen economy. In essence, a complete waste. Instead, read this paper:

http://www.pacificsites.net/~dglaser/h2/General_Articles/hydrogen_economy.pdf

Basically it comes somewhat to the same conclusion. Hydrogen is not a viable energy carrier for most applications. It will have its uses though. Much better to keep using hydrocarbons whether they be from synthetic or biological sources. Removing the carbon atoms takes away most of the energy density and makes the molecules too light to be practically dealt with. The paper proposes a methanol energy economy.

When you think about it, hybrid cars running on diesel type fuel made from ethanol is still a huge step forward from where we're currently at.


Enhanched version of that paper (none / 0) (#14)
by joib on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 06:26:43 PM EST

I actually linked to a longer version of that paper in my article (check the "here" and "synthetic diesel" links, they both point to that same article).

And yes, I found the article very interresting and it provided much of my inspiration for my own article.

[ Parent ]

Sweet (none / 0) (#62)
by Fon2d2 on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:21:47 AM EST

It's been a long time since I found that paper. I didn't realize it'd been improved upon. The URLs are different so in my cursory glance through your article, I never even noticed. It's a great paper in my opinion and it puts the hydrogen economy firmly in the pipe dream camp. I hope this is a growing trend in the internet: short concise papers on important but vauge issues with lots of scientific analysis and sources cited. I really like that.

[ Parent ]
It's the hydrogen ECONOMY for a reason (none / 3) (#24)
by chuhwi on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 10:23:02 PM EST

It's the hydrogen ECONOMY. This is because it involves hydrogen not as an energy source but as a medium for storing energy. It may or may not revolutionize the storage of energy, but it will not in of itself eliminate the need for an energy source in the first place.

Yes, and that's the point. (none / 0) (#32)
by Ryan Singer on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 12:51:32 AM EST

By having such a good way of easily storing decent amounts of energy, we can simply take them from our Nuclear power plants. Atomic power is much more clean and effecient then Liberals give it credit for, in fact, it is the best modern way to satisfy our power needs.-Ryan

[ Parent ]
talk about a staw man. (none / 0) (#113)
by joschi on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 07:39:41 PM EST

i don't find a lot of liberals arguing that atomic energy is exactly "dirty" in the traditional sense... unless they are idiots... the issue with atomic enery is clearly saftey of the plant itself from catastrophic failure (how many years have we had nuclear power and we've already had at least *2* off the top of my head), not to mention terrorist attack. plus you have to deal with the security/stability/safe storage of the expended material for multiple millenia... i think its perfectly reasonable to raise alarm bells at the idea that we can hold our own society together well enough to keep this stuff safe, without even begining to think about natural causes of concern over many thousands of years.

[ Parent ]
Nukes have more advantages than disadvantages (none / 0) (#138)
by kcbrown on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 02:24:57 AM EST

the issue with atomic enery is clearly saftey of the plant itself from catastrophic failure (how many years have we had nuclear power and we've already had at least *2* off the top of my head)

Lessee...the worst nuclear power plant catastrophe, Chernobyl, was also about as bad as it can ever get: the core itself was exposed to the outside world and tons of radioactive debris was spilled over the area.

And the total number of dead? In the hundreds, perhaps. There may be a few thousand that will die prematurely from radiation-induced ailments, but that's it as far as I know. Deaths that occur decades after exposure when the people involved are relatively old don't count for much, because everyone dies from something and it's only a matter of time.

And that's from a reactor that was about as badly designed as they come, built by people whose ability to build well was probably limited by the political system they were operating under, and an accident that happened as a result of the operators intentionally turning off the safety systems.

And that's as bad as it gets. Truly modern designs are essentially inherently safe: do anything to screw them up and they immediately shut down, not because of any active safety systems but because the laws of physics won't let anything else happen. If there's anything you can rely on, it's the laws of physics. The laws of physics just don't fail.

That said, there will always be some danger from the use of nuclear power. Whether or not there is danger involved isn't the question, the question is just how much there is relative to the alternatives. Given the overall safety record of nuclear power and factoring in the safety of modern designs, it is hard to rate nuclear power as any less safe than any other significant method of generating power, particularly those that are currently in use today.

Nuclear waste is much easier to deal with than other forms of waste in some respects, more difficult in others. It has the advantage of being highly localized, which means we can exert much more control over what happens to it than most other types of waste. It has the disadvantage of being radioactive. But guess what? The uranium that went into the fuel rods was also radioactive. Finding locations to store radioactive material isn't the problem many claim it is: if nothing else, we can store the waste where we found the uranium, and perhaps mix it with something to reduce the amount of escaping radiation. The end goal is to cause the radiation density of the waste to be roughly the same as the radiation density of the uranium ore that the fuel was manufactured from. If that means that it has to be spread thinner than so be it.

But we shouldn't even bother trying to dispose of nuclear waste that hasn't been reprocessed yet: such waste has a lot of energy potential left in it, and failure to reprocess it is both less efficient and more dangerous.

As for terrorist attacks -- please. We have stockpiles of nuclear weapons that might also come under terrorist attack, and those are far more dangerous than a nuclear plant (especially one of modern design) can ever be. Yet those opposed to nuclear power don't seem to be losing sleep over this. If people are that concerned about the security of nuclear plants then I suggest we protect them with the same diligence that we protect our nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Finally, there's no such thing as a risk-free world, so the only fair way to evaluate any option is to compare the risks and benefits of one option against others. Considering the cleanliness of the power a nuclear plant generates versus the other commonly-used methods, and considering that the hazard posed by the use of nuclear plants is present only if something goes wrong while the hazard posed by the use of most other conventional power generation methods is always present no matter how well things go, it seems clear to me that nuclear power is at least as good an option as any other, and likely much better in the long run. We just have to be smart about it, e.g. by using modern designs and by dealing with the waste intelligently.

[ Parent ]

Stop being honest.. (none / 0) (#147)
by ajduk on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:06:12 AM EST

If you point out a way to slow down global warming, increase energy independance and make electricity cheaper, the FBI (as a subsidary of Exxon) will turn up at your front door tonight..

But we shouldn't even bother trying to dispose of nuclear waste that hasn't been reprocessed yet: such waste has a lot of energy potential left in it, and failure to reprocess it is both less efficient and more dangerous.

Not only should we be looking at reprocessing, but breeding fuel as well. This gives us an energy supply lasting several hundred years even with year-on-year increases.

Plus (and this is my personal idea), the real 'waste' - the Fission products with half lives circa 30 years - should not be regarded as such. Instead, we should make them into nuclear batteries, thus giving us even more energy from the same fuel, and an economic incentive to safeguard them.

The radiation release from Coal fired plants exceeds that from nuclear ones by a factor of around 50 in any given year; coal based pollution kills about 1,000,000 people a year. And yet this is regarded as 'safe'..

[ Parent ]

Breeder reactors (none / 0) (#152)
by joib on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:26:33 AM EST

Not only should we be looking at reprocessing, but breeding fuel as well. This gives us an energy supply lasting several hundred years even with year-on-year increases.

IIRC, with a once-through cycle (i.e. just bury the waste), known uranium resources will last a few hundred years. Add U235 and Pu recycling (MOX fuel) and you can add perhaps another hundred years. MOX fuel is produced in at least France, UK and Japan I think. Now, with breeding it's a totally different story. With breeder reactors currently known uranium and thorium resources will last something like 7000 years.

[ Parent ]

True, but (none / 0) (#159)
by ajduk on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 06:39:52 AM EST

Try adding a 3% per year increase in demand/usage. After all, if the whole world is going to live like the US does now..

[ Parent ]

Dude (2.50 / 4) (#27)
by Verbophobe on Tue Feb 24, 2004 at 11:50:14 PM EST

Any internal combustion engine produces HNO3 (that stuff that makes acid rain), because, at high temperatures (like those found in combustion engines), N2, found naturally in the air, reacts with O2, also found in the air, to produce NO2, like this:

N2 + 2O2 -> 2NO2

NO2 then reacts with water vapour to make HNO3:
2NO2 + 2H20 -> 2HNO3 + O2

HNO3 is, of course, a gas, and, when it gets dissolved in rainwater, it releases H+ in it which makes it acidic. So an internal hydrogen combustion engine would still release this pollutant, perhaps even more so than an octane engine, because hydrogen's combustion is much more energetic, and therefore tends to create more HNO3.

Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration

No problem (none / 0) (#38)
by mumble on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 04:52:15 AM EST

While it is true that an internal _combustion_ engine produces, in the end, nitric acid, that is not a problem if we use hydrogen as the fuel rather than biodesiel. Why? Because all the plans I have seen for hydrogen engines rely on fuel cells not combustion. The only "waste" they produce is pure water. All nice and clean. You could drink it.

And the article missed a great big technology - ethanol as an energy source. Very cheap to produce from sugar cane, amongst other sources. And it has already been adopted in some South American country - I think Brazil. The tech is already out there!

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[ Parent ]

The problem with biodiesel (none / 0) (#73)
by Eccles on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:30:55 AM EST

The problem with biodiesel is the immense quantity of biomass needed to replace fossil fuels.  Plants are quite inefficient at converting solar energy to plant energy, and then the conversion from plant material to fuel is less than 100% efficient.  Consider how much land is devoted just to feeding humans.  Admittedly, in this country we feed much of our plant material to cows, pigs, etc. which we then eat, thus increasing the acreage needed to feed us quite a bit, but our cars, homes, etc. use many times more calories than we do.  I think my back-of-the-envelope calculations indicated we'd need as much farmland to grow fuel for our cars alone as we currently need to feed people.  That's a lot of land, a lot of erosion, a lot of environmental impact.

Solar and wind plants are much more efficient at turning solar power into energy in terms of the energy produced for a given amount of energy supplied.

[ Parent ]

good points. (none / 0) (#174)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:25:46 PM EST

Consider how much money we pay farmers not to grow food on perfectly good land?

-Chris

[ Parent ]

Actually... (none / 0) (#208)
by Eccles on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 11:42:18 PM EST

...we pay them to vote Republican.

[ Parent ]
Yeah (none / 2) (#83)
by Verbophobe on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 02:09:04 PM EST

But fuel cells cost way too much simply because of the rarity of the catalysts needed for the spontaneous reaction.  You need lots of platnium, gold and aluminium to acheive a reasonable rate of spontaneous reaction.

Moreover, please don't say things like "pure water. All nice and clean. You could drink it" because:

  1. It makes me want to slap people (i.e.: you) in the face.
  2. You could drink mercury too.  It would just kill you.
  3. Pure water is actually quite bad for the body because it desalinates you quite quickly.  Tap water and mineral water contain a relatively normal amount of salts in solution to keep your body well.  On the flip side, mineral water contains so much salts in certain cases that drinking it exclusively over long periods could kill you.
  4. Internal combustion also produces pure water.  The amount of HNO3 produced is almost negligeable.  However, millions of cars producing millions of moles of it over a few hundred years really fucks up the atmosphere.


Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]
My reply (none / 0) (#114)
by mumble on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:07:27 PM EST

"But fuel cells cost way too much simply because of the rarity of the catalysts needed for the spontaneous reaction"

Yes. That is currently a problem, but there are lots of smart people working on it, and I assume a solution will be found. It is not as if it violates a law of physics or something. And in my book, if it doesn't violate a law of physics then in some, undetermined time in the future, it will be possible.

"It makes me want to slap people (i.e.: you) in the face."

Umm.... OK. Ouch. :)

"You could drink mercury too. It would just kill you"

I think it is obvious that I was implying it was SAFE to drink, not just that it is possible. Not sure why you read it otherwise, unless you are just being difficult. Besides, I am not sure that mercury is that toxic in the short term. Long term it makes you go mad like the mad hatter(they used mercury in the process of making (felt?) hats). I think you would just throw up or something.

"Pure water is actually quite bad for the body because it desalinates you quite quickly."

If I recall my chemistry correctly, then you are wrong. I assume the process you are talking about is osmosis, except it works in the other direction than what you have stated. In osmosis, water moves across a barrier so that it tries to equalize the concentration of salts on both sides of the barrier. The result is that the cells absorb water, trying to lower their concentration of salts. I do not know whether this process is lethal to cells or not.

I will add that I have never been warned not to drink pure(eg. distilled) water as it is harmful. Got a google link to show otherwise??

"Internal combustion also produces pure water. The amount of HNO3 produced is almost negligeable"

I don't know how much HNO3 an internal combustion engine produces, but it is all the other stuff it produces that would stop me breathing/drinking from the exhaust of an internal combustion engine. Stuff like, SO2(source of acid rain and sulfuric acid), tiny particulates(eg, pm10 - I think), often coated in carcinogens and just the right size to go deep into the lungs, benzene and a host of other carcinogens.

All in all, I would happily drink from the exhaust of a fuel cell, if it even needed one, but would not go anywhere near the exhaust of an internal combustion engine. The high temperatures in an internal combustion engine produce too many uncontrolled side reactions. Fuel cells produce electricity, and water.

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[ Parent ]

Water (none / 0) (#176)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:35:17 PM EST

Your body needs salt and water in a particular balance to function properly.  Dilute the body with too much water (hyponatremia?) and you die.  Brain swells, lose cognitive ability (drunk as a skunk).  Too much salt, the same thing happens.  The body is a wonderful machine...

:-)

[ Parent ]

water (none / 0) (#179)
by fenix down on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:53:26 PM EST

Unfortunately he doesn't explain it very well, but he's a doctor that looks like Santa Claus, so I trust him.

[ Parent ]
Mostly wrong (none / 0) (#141)
by dn on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:19:33 AM EST

You could drink mercury too. It would just kill you.
Hg0 (metallic mercury) is not absorbed particularly well by the GI tract.
Pure water is actually quite bad for the body because it desalinates you quite quickly.
Most municipal water supplies come from lake water, which has a salt content near rain, which is practically distilled water. It's harmless, in reasonable quantities.

    I ♥
TOXIC
WASTE

[ Parent ]

Bleh (none / 0) (#227)
by Verbophobe on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 01:37:07 AM EST

  1. I'm talking about Hg2+(aq), you fool!
  2. Lake water touches soil, rocks, etc, which salinates it with minerals.


Proud member of the Canadian Broadcorping Castration
[ Parent ]
Lower the temperature... (none / 0) (#63)
by marcmengel on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:23:58 AM EST

The improvement there is that hydrogen burns cooler than most fossil fuels. While this doesn't remove the HNO3 production, it can reduce it quite a bit.

Of course, internal combustion engines tend to be constructed to run at high compression == high temperature to gain efficiency, so you'd probably have to do some serious work to fix this with them.

[ Parent ]

Source? (none / 0) (#91)
by DaChesserCat on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 03:29:52 PM EST

The improvement there is that hydrogen burns cooler than most fossil fuels.
Got a source for that statement?

About a year ago, I read Hydrogen World View by Roger Billings. It details his experiments with running ICE's on hydrogen. If anything, hydrogen tends to burn HOTTER than petroleum fuels. One of the problems he had was the fact that, an engine which produced relatively little Nitric Oxide emissions on gasoline (this is the topic of a parent post) was producing considerably more on hydrogen. When the combustion temperature goes over 700 F, Nitric Oxide formation is much greater. Gasoline was nudging that range, but rarely going over; the engine was designed to do that. Hydrogen was EASILY going over. They found that they had to inject water into the intake stream to cure the problem. The water would help cool the intake air and the engine (gasoline does this; the misted fuel actually helps cool the engine, causing some of the fuel to go ahead and vaporize, which improves the fuel mixture). The water mist would also go ahead and vaporize/boil during combustion. In the process, it would absorb some of the energy, keeping the temperature down. The expansion resulting from the boiling (going from liquid to gas typically involves expansion) helped make up for the reduced power from the reduced peak temperature.

Incidentally, they also improved the efficiency of the engine in the process. It takes roughly one kilogram of hydrogen to give you the same amount of energy as a gallon of gasoline. After adding the water injection, they got about 10-12% more mileage per kilo H2 than they had been getting from gasoline.

While in college, he participated in a competition to make cleaner-burning, alternative energy vehicles. He converted a new Volkswagon Beetle (this was early '70's) to run on hydrogen, with the water injection. Not only did it run beautifully on hydrogen gas, the exhaust was CLEANER than the intake air. The engine added no pollutants whatsoever, and it also finished burning any traces of carbon monoxide or unburned hydrocarbons which came in with the intake air.

If you get the chance, read his book. It was entertaining, informative and relatively light reading. I read the whole thing in one evening.

Trains stop at train stations Busses stop at bus stations A windows workstation . . .
[ Parent ]
Hydrogen combustion (none / 0) (#143)
by dn on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:37:12 AM EST

When the combustion temperature goes over 700 F, Nitric Oxide formation is much greater. Gasoline was nudging that range, but rarely going over; the engine was designed to do that.
You say it yourself: gasoline engines are usually designed to run cool, specifically to reduce NOX production. That's a choice, you can also design 'em to run extremely hot. I once saw a stock car run with a red hot exhaust pipe. (I think it was a mistake, but it sure was impressive during a night race.) I once had a car catch on fire when it had a couple of bad spark plugs that were dumping way too much unburned gasoline into the exhaust.
Hydrogen was EASILY going over. They found that they had to inject water into the intake stream to cure the problem.
High performance gasoline engines do the same thing, to decrease temperature and increase performance.

    I ♥
TOXIC
WASTE

[ Parent ]

At this stage, we'd be better served by solar. (2.25 / 4) (#37)
by Kasreyn on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 03:10:35 AM EST

Of course, I believe if we could use hydrogen as a clean fuel, it would be the ultimate fuel source, barring discovering a way to create antimatter for less energy cost than the gains for annihilating it. But our technology is nowhere near ready, it seems. More research should be funded.

A minor nitpick:

As we have all heard H2 (i.e. hydrogen), while being the most abundant element in the universe,

Actually, isn't H2 molecular, not elemental, Hydrogen? H is Hydrogen. O is elemental Oxygen, while O2 is the stuff we breathe and call Oxygen. Wish you'd caught this in edit, but I'll probably still FP you.

One way to produce hydrogen is via electrolysis of water, a process requiring lots of electricity. It's also possible to thermally "crack" water with solar or nuclear power directly, without first producing electricity.

Both of these methods cost more power (at least now) than you can get back out of the result, so they're not viable for energy production. Yet. Interestingly, the electrolysis of water is featured in the fabulous sci-fi novel "The Flying Sorcerers" by Larry Niven and David Gerrold (of Star Trek's Tribbles fame), in which a futuristic space explorer stranded on a primitive, superstitious planet advances the level of primitive technology enough to develop the hydrogen balloon he needs to get un-marooned.

Environmentalists tend to call hydrogen produced from fossil fuels "black hydrogen" as opposed to "green hydrogen".

To all the people who call me an environmentalist like it's a dirty word when I rant about global warming: You're thinking of kooks, not environmentalists. [points at "black hydrogen" morons] Those are kooks, and they give us normal environmentalists a bad name. The next time you need to define the term "kook" to a preadolescent, look no farther than those people who feel the need to apply their blind prejudices to a MOLECULE that had the political incorrectness to be chemically bound in one substance rather than another. [rolls eyes]

Another major problem I see, whether we eventually settle for hydrogen, antimatter, fusion, or some other energy production scheme, is how developing nations will afford the cost to go over to this power supply. Won't they have to go through the same stages of fossil fuel dependance? But wait - if there's no fossil fuel LEFT by then (let's say, a really powerful nuclear nation invades the various deserts it's under, plunders much of it, and leaves...), then how will those nations ever afford to build a hydrogen/antimatter/fusion/your dream technology here economy? Hmm.


-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.
Hmm (none / 1) (#40)
by joib on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 06:01:20 AM EST

>As we have all heard H2 (i.e. hydrogen), while being the most abundant element in the universe,

Actually, isn't H2 molecular, not elemental, Hydrogen? H is Hydrogen. O is elemental Oxygen, while O2 is the stuff we breathe and call Oxygen.

Well yes you're correct, I should have used molecular hydrogen instead of elemental hydrogen to mean hydrogen not bound to some other element. That doesn't of course change the fact that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, regardless if it's in a molecular form, bound to hydrocarbons etc.

Both of these methods cost more power (at least now) than you can get back out of the result

Well that's kind of expected isn't it? Otherwise you'd have a "perpetuum mobile" which would violate the second law of thermodynamics, which only really serious kooks believe is possible. ;-)

But you touch on the point that while currently fossil fuel is the price setter for essentially any energy, in a renewable energy economy electricity will probably be the price setter. Let me quote myself answering to another post:

On a related note, I also think it's somewhat naive to expect that the hydrogen economy would mean a 1:1 replacement of fossil fuel with hydrogen. Consider that today we generate electricity with fossil fuels. Power plants + transmission networks have a net efficiency of something like 30-40 %. This means that electricity is at least 3 times more expensive than fossil fuel. However, in a fossil-free world, our main energy source would probably be wind, solar and nuclear power which all produce electricity as their output. Now if you use this electricity to produce hydrogen with say 90 % efficiency, then use a third of that energy to liqueify the hydrogen you see that in this fossil-free world hydrogen would cost about twice as much as electricity. Now if you'd use that hydrogen in a fuel cell (50 % efficient) to produce electricity, this electricity would be four times as expensive as what you'd get straight from the grid. This means that hydrogen (or any synthetic fuel) would only be used where grid power wouldn't be available, e.g. in the transportation sector.

About "black hydrogen", well yes it may be a stupid term, but it does convey the meaning that for any energy economy, what matters is the net emissions, not what happens to come out of the tailpipe of a car. If you produce hydrogen from fossil fuels, in the end you're in no better position than the status quo.

Another major problem I see, whether we eventually settle for hydrogen, antimatter, fusion, or some other energy production scheme, is how developing nations will afford the cost to go over to this power supply. Won't they have to go through the same stages of fossil fuel dependance? But wait - if there's no fossil fuel LEFT by then (let's say, a really powerful nuclear nation invades the various deserts it's under, plunders much of it, and leaves...), then how will those nations ever afford to build a hydrogen/antimatter/fusion/your dream technology here economy? Hmm.

I think that the situation of the developing nations could actually improve. Consider that they, by definition, are poor, so to import a certain amount of fossil fuel they need to fork over a bigger fraction of their income than what we do in the developed world. In a renewable energy world, the major energy sources are probably going to be wind, solar and nuclear. Nuclear is probably going to be out of the reach of poor nations, but wind and solar could be a perfect fit for them. Now for mobile applications (i.e. the target for the hydrogen economy or the synthetic hydrocarbon economy that my article was all about), at least in the near term the cheapest renewable source of hydrogen/biodiesel/synthetic hydrocarbon is going to be biomass. This could be a big opportunity for developing nations. Keep in mind that agriculture is one of the very few areas where the developing nations are able to compete on the global markets. Well, currently they aren't able to compete, thanks to the USA and EU who heavily subsidize their farmers. But that's another story.

[ Parent ]

The problem with wind and solar (none / 0) (#53)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:19:44 AM EST

One requires a steady supply of wind, the other a steady supply of sunlight.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
So that means (none / 0) (#54)
by Cro Magnon on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:34:14 AM EST

DC & Arizona are in good shape.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Not DC (none / 0) (#71)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:03:57 AM EST

Too much rain, and the wind isn't steady enough. The desert southwest is good for solar, other that the severe environmental degredation of paving the desert with solar panels. The mountain passes of the Sierra Nevada, in California, are good for wind turbines, except that those apparently tend to kill endangered birds.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
Not steady enough (none / 0) (#74)
by Cro Magnon on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:48:34 AM EST

I guess your right. I forgot about the Congressional recceses.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Why solar panels? (none / 0) (#119)
by astatine on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:41:29 PM EST

A solar boiler driving a steam turbine would do the trick just fine. There is some environmental degradation from mirror farms, but since we're talking net lifecycle effects of the process, the toxic manufacturing and disposal of solar cells is eliminated, and you might even be able to do better than the lousy 10% a good solar cell can pull.

Society, they say, exists to safeguard the rights of the individual. If this is so, the primary right of a human being is evidently to live unrealistically.Celia Green
[ Parent ]
You still need to pave the desert (none / 0) (#120)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:12:45 PM EST

only this time with reflectors. I've seen the installation in the Mojave. Impressive. Also big.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
size is relative... (none / 0) (#184)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 01:33:24 PM EST

Compared to the Mojave, that installation is a speck.

[ Parent ]
But... (none / 0) (#214)
by wiredog on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 08:52:05 AM EST

it doesn't put out that much power. Compared to the size of the grid, anyway.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
Au contraire (none / 0) (#67)
by Eccles on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:59:43 AM EST

The general objective of this discussion is the generation of liquid fuels from electricity.  While constant high wind and bright sunlight would be ideal, you can certainly generate liquid fuels as the wind and sun allow, and the plants simply sit idle (or focus on shipping, refinement, etc.) when conditions don't allow production.

Wind and solar must be supplemented if you're using them to supply power to the electric grid, but this is less of an issue for power plants.

[ Parent ]

A thought on biomass. (none / 0) (#78)
by Kasreyn on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 01:16:05 PM EST

Is there anything that suggests only plant matter would work, or would animal flesh work as well?

I'm imagining a future Milosevic or Hussein or Hitler, not only committing genocide on some internal ethnic minority in his nation, but also using them as a power source. -_-;;


-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 ]
solar (none / 0) (#56)
by Cackmobile on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:52:01 AM EST

if we crack it with solar its doesn't matter how much we use cause its all free.

[ Parent ]
+1 FP (none / 3) (#41)
by ShiftyStoner on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 06:35:32 AM EST

 All of our power should come from fusion, and hidrogen. Fision until fusion is a possible source of power. Then, all will go just fine. We just got to stick all the nuclear waste in drums, dont know what they should be made of but not metal, or a very small % of each container being made of metal. Then send them all to the sun.

 Of course using nuclear power to get them off earth and on their way to the sun. We can power space crafts with lite for fucks sake. Why is nasa still using fossil fuel.

 We should send a rocket to venus. That would look fucking kewl.  
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler

You really don't know physics, do you? (none / 1) (#57)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:53:04 AM EST

How will you generate the power to create the lasers to power your space ships with "lite"?

By the way, you misspelled "hydrogen", "fission", "cool" and "light". You also malformed the plural of "space craft". Hint in this context, "craft" is a collective noun.

Your denial of the basic laws of physics makes your sig look pretty funny.

--
"telling an obese person to just eat less is like telling an asthmatic to just breathe better."


[ Parent ]
Um. (none / 1) (#61)
by ShiftyStoner on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:16:25 AM EST

WTF are you talking about? With hydrogen or nuclear power...

 I never said we should not have any form of power on this plantet jackass. I didn't even say hydrogen should be the only source of power.

 These arn't my spaceships, this is what nasa should be doing with their spaceships. Fucking a, thinking you can power something without power isn't so much a lack of knowledge in physics as it is a lack in comman sence. But thinking the way you do is even worse than than thinking there is some magical laser out their.

 People like you are the reason I could care less about my bad spelling, as you prove it obviously has nothing to do with inteligance.

 Jesus christ you are fucking retarted. And that fucking sig, fuck me running.
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler
[ Parent ]

I refuse to believe you are seriouse. (none / 0) (#66)
by ShiftyStoner on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:44:33 AM EST

 You have to be a troll.

 Of course using nuclear power to get them off earth and on their way to the sun. We can power space crafts with lite for fucks sake. Why is nasa still using fossil fuel.

 Lucky for you I'll prety much respond to anything.

( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler
[ Parent ]

Umm, they aren't. (none / 0) (#185)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 01:41:04 PM EST

LOX + LH does not = fossil fuel.

Ammonium Perchlorate does not = fossil fuel either.

The LOX + Kerosene booster (pegasus, IIRC) are among the fuel hydrocarbon based boosters we have, and those are for specialized payloads only (they don't have the thrust for high-weight payloads).

Now if you had phrased your question: Why the Fsck doesn't NASA stop using chemical rockets? I think your answer would be: The baby boomers hate all things nuclear.  So getting a nuclear rocket will not happen.  Not this decade. Maybe not next decade.  Once kids stop being able to drive their urban assault vehicles (excursion, X5, explorer, blazer) around at their convenience for $1.50/gallon, then maybe we'll get some decent nuclear reform in this country.

Until then, save your breath.

[ Parent ]

Okay. (none / 0) (#210)
by ShiftyStoner on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 02:07:35 AM EST

 I thought they used fossil fuel in rockets. Still, lazer powerd rockets would be better, for the planet.

 Not nuclear powerd rockets, light powerd rockets, were the lazers are powerd from either nuclear or hydrogen power, or even solar. Then once in space rockets should be solar powerd. I think shooting nuclear waste at the sun would be better than barying it underground. Getting rid of some of those babey boomers problems with nuclear power. If our only means of gitting rid of the waste is barrying it, than I don't think we should be using nuclear power either.

 I'm no rocket scientist. I do know though that Spaceships can be, and aircrafts have been powerd by lazers. I don't think the're doing enough research on it. Regardless of how those lazers will be powerd. Their goal should be making all air and space travel lazer and solar powerd.

 I doubt it will happen in this decade, but they should already be doing it.  
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler
[ Parent ]

nothing like an ad hominem... (none / 0) (#103)
by joschi on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 05:33:32 PM EST

nothing like an ad hominem attack like "haha, you can't spell" to uplift the conversation.

[ Parent ]
well, I could have gone after him for profanity (none / 0) (#106)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 05:53:45 PM EST

but that would have been too easy.

Actually, I would have let them all slide except for referring to "light" as "lite". Anybody who does that, while pretending knowledge of actual physics, needs to be taken out back and smacked with a clue bat.

--
"telling an obese person to just eat less is like telling an asthmatic to just breathe better."


[ Parent ]
Hydrogen is a pipe dream (none / 3) (#49)
by Graymalkin on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 08:52:13 AM EST

I liked this article a lot because it didn't fall into the hydrogen hype trap. Proponents of the "hydrogen economy" seem to have trouble understanding basic chemistry. To them hydrogen is a magical fuel source just waiting for us to mine it from somewhere. Unfrotunately the reality of the situation is there's tons of hydrogen on the planet but little of it is easily accessible to us.

As I said in editorial comments, I think alcohol fuels were overlooked by the author. Ethanol and methanol are pretty easy to produce and like biodiesel offer a zero net carbon cycle and renewable supplies. They can also be used in conventional engines with only moderate modifications. Alcohol corrodes rubber tubing and seals so they need special lining. Ethanol and methanol don't burn quite as energetically as gasoline so timings and air/fuel mixtures need to be adjusted. These are relatively minor changes to an engine. There's also been several modern cars produced as flexible fuel vehicles, they sense the alcohol concentration in the fuel and adjust fuel richness and timings according to the amount of alcohol in the fuel. The parts susceptible to corrosion come pre-lined for using alcohol.

In many areas I think ethanol will come before biodiesel because it is a bit easier to produce. Biodiesel needs to be processed in order to be used in unmodified engines. This processing involves methanol and sodium hydroxide (lye). A lot of extra work is needed to keep this processing safe and as environmentally friendly as possible. Ethanol production needs a 55-gallon drum, a heat source, and a fractionating column. A farm growing an ethanol crop like corn could produce the fuel on-site. A food processing site could take discarded fruit, ferment and distill it, and then sell it as fuel alcohol. The mash left over from distilling corn is called distiller's dried grain (DDG) and can be used as livestock feed. DDG poured over ground up corn cobs makes pretty decent cattle feed.

I think Diesel and alcohol fuels have a place in the short and middle term as alternative fuels. Regardless of the fuel being burnt I agree with the article that hybrids will pave the way for hydrocarbon fuel cells. Hydrogen as an energy transport mechanism is a bit ridiculous. It is too much of a pain to transport and store to make it worth the effort. There's also the entrenched fuel distribution networks to think of. The tanks storing gasoline today could be storing biodiesel or fuel alcohol tomorrow. None of them would be well suited for storing hydrogen. The trucks carrying gasoline and diesel today could carry biodiesel and fuel alcohol tomorrow. Again, they would be of little use transporting hydrogen.

Ethanol and methanol (none / 0) (#52)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:16:44 AM EST

The problem with them is that it takes quite a bit of energy to produce them. Unless you use nuclear power plants to provide the energy it's more environmentally friendly, and cheaper, to use petroleum.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
Not sure if this is what you're talking about, (none / 0) (#60)
by Fon2d2 on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:12:08 AM EST

but I used to hear dirty rumors about negative net energy balance as well. Granted this may not be the most neutral of sources, but I've been seeing more and more talk about how ethanol is pulling its own.

[ Parent ]
Distillation energy (none / 1) (#69)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:01:41 AM EST

To make ethanol you first have to plant, grow, and harvest the grain/sugar/whatever, which takes energy. Then it has to be shipped, which takes energy. Then it has to be fermented and distilled. Just fermenting and distillation requires more energy than is produced by burning the resultant alcohol. And it still produces CO2 and other pollutants.

Now, if the distillery is nuclear powered you may be able to produce it less expensively that gasoline, but that leaves you with a nuclear waste disposal issue.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]

Not too far off (none / 0) (#88)
by DaChesserCat on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 03:05:42 PM EST

The last I heard was a 1.4:1 ratio.  That is, 1.4 units of energy out for every unit in.  People used to bash ethanol because the ratio (back in the '70's when people started SERIOUSLY applying quantitative measurements to the processes) was <1.0:1.  Efficiencies have improved, so it is now a winning proposition.  Also, some newer processes are on the horizon which can use "woody" or "cellulosic" feedstocks (not requiring something with a high carbohydrate content, like corn).  One of them is actually set up to use grass clippings.  Considering the fact that they won't be spending so much money/energy on cultivation, planting, fertilizing, and pesticide application, that is expected to put the ratio over 2.0:1.

One of the helpers in this is that you don't HAVE TO use distillation to make certain grades of ethanol, any more.  Filter the solids from the fluids, and you have a combination of ethanol (usually about 5%), water and traces of various oils and acids.  One stage of the sieve can catch the oils and acids (they have fairly complex molecules, which are rather large), and another (with different materials) can catch the ethanol (passing the water through).   The result:  a little bit of heat and a mild vacuum applied to the molecular sieve which caught the ethanol will cause it to release everything; this also "recharges" the sieve, making it ready for another cycle.  This uses less energy than distillation.

Arguably, this is more complex than a traditional fractioning column, but it's more efficient as well.  I'm looking forward to the day when they can get the whole thing down to a system which will fit in my garage, giving me 2-3 gallons a day from grass clippings.  The fuel won't be completely free (it will still take some electricity to run pumps, heat/recharge molecular sieves, etc.), but it stands to be significantly cheaper than petroleum.  And, I wouldn't have to buy it from some large corporation.  Freedom from corporations and the Middle East is, in my eyes, even more attractive than any savings from the whole thing.

Trains stop at train stations Busses stop at bus stations A windows workstation . . .
[ Parent ]

Takes much electricity to make sodium hydroxide. (none / 0) (#68)
by ti dave on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:00:52 AM EST

As in, a fucking lot of electricity.

Biodiesel is a losing proposition.

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
NaOH (none / 1) (#145)
by dn on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:54:14 AM EST

Not only does it take a lot of electricity, the chemical process is nasty. Even if they've gotten rid of the mercury, there's still all that chlorine.

Re. biodiesel, have you heard of the thermal depolymerization process? (Which was mentioned by the story.) The reactor itself is claimed to produce five times as much energy as it consumes. Even adding the energy for tilling and harvesting, it looks promising.

    I ♥
TOXIC
WASTE

[ Parent ]

Synthetic diesel vs. alcohol fuel (none / 1) (#72)
by joib on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:29:56 AM EST

When coming up with diesel as the "ultimate hydrogen carrier", I mainly concentrated on the end user. So what made the scales tip in favour of diesel was that it's the hydrocarbon with the highest energy density, while still being viscous enough to be easily pumped at normal temperatures. Another advantage of diesel is the safety factor, diesel has a high flashpoint so all kinds of accidents are less likely than with, say, gasoline. Finally, diesel engines are the most efficient engines available today.

Alcohol fuels, primarily methanol and ethanol, IMHO suffer from having a significantly lower energy density than diesel. Methanol additionally suffers from being very toxic.

You are of course correct in that what matters in the end is the total efficiency, so if ethanol production is more efficient than biodiesel production it would certainly be a better choice, at least in the near term, while there are still lots of spark ignition engines (e.g. gasoline engines) around.

While I'm no expert in petrochemical engineering, my impression is that with processes such as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, pyrolysis, thermal depolymerization, steam reformation and whatnot it is possible, given

1) A carbon source (any biomass),

2) A hydrogen source (some from the biomass itself, some produced by solar, wind or nuclear power),

3) Electricity, again produced from an environmentally friendly source such as wind, solar or nuclear,

to produce almost any hydrocarbon with quite a high efficiency. Perhaps biodiesel is the wrong term to describe this, as the term biodiesel seems to be closely related to the esterification of vegetable oils. So perhaps I should just have used synthetic diesel all the way through, even though in this case the carbon source is biomass.

Anyway, while I have no data to back this up, I guess that a synthetic diesel production process like the one above could be more efficient than fermenting ethanol (IIRC modern Fischer-Tropsch equipment are close to 90 % efficient). For one thing, you could use all the available biomass, while for fermentation a large fraction is left unused.

[ Parent ]

Synthetic Diesel (none / 0) (#162)
by Graymalkin on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 08:55:01 AM EST

Depending on the processes involved and the relative efficiency of the growing and harvesting process synthetic diesel of all makes might be entirely cheaper than fuel alcohol. I bring them up because they're the oft overlooked fuel alternative and are viable fuels for use in current SI engines. Distillation isn't as efficient as other methods of alcohol processing but it is the most low-tech which means the easiest to proliferate to marginally industrial areas.

Fuel alcohols can be made from crops largely used for feeding livestock. A farm growing corn as livestock feed could end up producing not only livestock feed but fuel alcohol. That can be used then to fuel the tractor that tills the field or the truck that carries the feed to market. What isn't used by the farm could be sold. Fuel alcohol farms would be similar to sticking solar panels on your roof. You can become self sufficient and even profitable when you produce more electricity (fuel) than you need/use.

Like getting diesel from thermal depolymerization (TD) of organic matter producing fuel alcohol from otherwise wasted organic matter could be very beneficial. Instead of ending up in landfills or coastal waters yard waste and sewage could be refined for use as fuel. Anything left over could be further processed to be turned into natural fertilizer or broken down into constituent parts (TD) for other uses.

I think the primary goal of biofuels is to close the energy cycle a bit. The energy stored up in the world's fossil fuels is really just stored up solar energy in a different form. It's taken billions of years for it to get stored up there. We use it as if the Sun had stopped sending energy in our direction for some reason. We currently use a teeny tiny little fraction of the energy washing over us every second. The more of that we use the less we need to pull out of the ground. It'd make a lot of sense to save that for a rainy day instead of using it all up now. Biofuels also have the added advantage of zero net carbon gain in the atmosphere. Every ton of carbon put into the atmosphere from biofuels was taken out of the atmosphere by the plant that was turned into said fuel. Taking carbon that has been out of the biosphere for (b|m)illions of years and stuffing it back in all of the sudden can't be the best of ideas no matter your political opinions of the matter.

[ Parent ]

There have been some recent Advancements . . . (none / 0) (#104)
by Dr Caleb on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 05:37:34 PM EST

It may be possible to crack ethanol into hydrogen using a Catalyzing process. This would allow use of a portable fuel cell, and the hydrogen could be cracked on the fly. Just fill up with Ethanol.

The best part of the process is no need for distillation. It works better with the fuel mixed with water, but as a stationary fuel cell, such as in a home.


Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Fuel Cells (none / 0) (#161)
by Graymalkin on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 08:28:12 AM EST

I would agree fuel cells would be the logical extension of biofuels. In the short terms where combustion engines are fairly cheap simply burning the diesel or alcohol makes a lot of sense. Mechanics get hands on training repairing electric drive vehicles and the end users could get used to driving said electric vehicles. The pick up on an electric car is a bit different from a combustion one and the driving style tends to be a bit different. An electric drive car handles differently than comparitively sized conventional drive cars. The hybrid grace period would also give insurance companies a data set needed for calculating insurance cost on such vehicles. There's a lot of small parts to the whole automobile industry and none of them necessarily like drastic change.

[ Parent ]
Various (none / 2) (#58)
by Cackmobile on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:55:38 AM EST

I think the solution will not be one thing but a combination of various technologies. For cars fuel cells or biodiesel. For house hold electricity wind and solar. I think is a travesty that the roofs(is that right) of every building in hot countries such as Oz are not covered in solar cells. Also we could build a lot of those bg towers they are building in the Oz desert.

Not anymore (none / 2) (#64)
by armonica on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:26:47 AM EST

Hydrogen was the darling of environmentalists until Bush announced an initiative for it. See http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/6073725.htm (Just look up hydrogen and ozone, optionally Bush or Nader. Nader bashed Bush I think the week after Bush announced the initiative at the national press club).

Funny how the environmentalist keep beating us over the head with expensive crap (like the fallacy of getting rid of Freon), then when we embrace it - they are against it. Sort of like no logging no matter what, even if it causes the forest to burn up. They seem very myopic.

In spite of what others have said about Diesel, it is viable and could replace gasoline in the US. We could make it all here in the US as well using a specific form of algae. I drive a Mercedes Turbo Diesel I purchased off of ebay (around $2000 for the car and to get it by inspection) and run it on mostly vegitable oil. You will leave me at a light with a gasoline car though. The Benz weighs in at nearly 2 tons, more than almost any other car and even most pickup trucks. 5 cylinder but it get around 27 MPG with standard diesel and I'm getting 29, sometimes 30 MPG with veggie oil. I have to clean and process the oil though. It is too acidic when I get it and full of food particles. I actually have 2 of them. One with 280,000 miles on it and the other with around 218,000 miles on it. Both still going strong and used daily.

questions (none / 0) (#99)
by speek on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 05:07:13 PM EST

How much does the veggie oil cost you /gallon, and am I understanding rightly that you are filling a car gas tank with peanut oil (or whatever)?

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Veggie oil (none / 1) (#198)
by armonica on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:04:07 PM EST

The oil is free, I get it from resturants. They have to pay usually $2 a gallon to get rid of it. I haul it for free. DO NOT put that oil in your tank... you WILL be sorry. You must process it first. I don't want to duplicate the excellent work out there already - briefly you have to clean it - get the food particles out. Next you have to make it neutral - not acidic and not basic (PH of 7), the oil is always acidic when you get it. I use Red Devil LYE to do that. Next you have a choice. You can run strait veggie or you can make biodiesel. Biodiesel is a pain in the ass because you have to transestherfy it and you end up with by products that you have to deal with. If you run strait veggie oil, you must heat it up first before ignition. That is so the diesel pump can pump it so the viscosity has to be much lower. Their are kits to do that with. I made my own fairly cheaply mostly from stuff at home depot and a propane torch. Just lash it into your engine coolant system with some valves, hoses and away you go! Be sure your oil has a filter before the engine. Try to get something that takes it down to 5 microns (and is heated if possible). Start the car, wait usually 5 minutes after you start driving and switch! Then 5 minutes before you get to where you are going, turn it back to diesel - unless you are stopping for a short period of time (buying diesel, getting coffee, etc... unless you live in Montana or something where it is very cold).

[ Parent ]
Oh yea... (none / 0) (#199)
by armonica on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:05:50 PM EST

Be sure to repeat this - NEVER use McDonalds oil. Their oil sucks for this purpose. You want something like canola, peanut, things like that.

[ Parent ]
you seem very myopic (none / 0) (#101)
by joschi on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 05:23:09 PM EST

find me one credible environmentalist who declares support for "no logging no matter what". what you are alluding to is the broad environmentalist oposition to the "healthy forests initiative" which indeed makes forest much less unhealthy by logging the larger fire resistant trees and not clearing out the problematic underbrush that builds up. environmentalists call for controlled burns.

[ Parent ]
Found a bunch of them (none / 0) (#194)
by armonica on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:52:21 PM EST

First off let me just say that I realize that most environmentalists want to do good and help. They care and that is a good thing. However many people donate to these environmental groups that have an interest in making things up to preserve their own existance. To this end they sometimes do very bad things including making up evidence as was proven in the Oregon case.

Some environmental groups do call for burning and clearing - great guys! Unfortunately when the park service goes to do it they seem to always get hit with a lawsuit - try the Sierra club amoung others. They are 800 Lb gorilla's and stop the effort cold for years. Maybe you are new to the movement? You should know better than to call me myopic. They block all kinds of logging efforts. This is very obvious just how full of it they are when they opposed the thinning of the Ponderosa Pines in Sedona AZ (STILL needs to be done by the way). They are growing up thin and spindly because they are very close together (they should be 40-50' apart) - they burned about 10 years ago to the ground. I wouldn't dare run on a horse through there now. I'd get hurt. You used to and with your arms fully out and not get hurt. Now they oppose thining them so we can have yet another fire. Members of GP often buy hunting permits (usually from California) as well so fewer of the hurds can be killed often leading to starvation of the animals. A very sick site to see if you have the displeasure. I hate to single out GP but a few of the guys doing it were very proud of what they were doing and proclaimed they were from GP. I said - ok, so you save 2 of them. They said they had buddies that were buying up what they could. Great guys. What do you do for an encore - beat yourself for driving an SUV?

This is but just one clear example, I could go on and on and on. Worse, I know some people who support them and they were totally unware of the harm they and other environmental groups are doing. They thought they were helping.

Another example was a prominent environmentalist group that tried to get some species put on the endangered species list in AZ. They were only considering data where that species has NEVER lived (due to altitude) - and got caught in court lying about it. Great guys - they wanted to say the were "saving" stuff. Save something that needs to be saved. Don't make stuff up!

Not all environmental groups are bad, it just seems like the big ones are. Some of them are very bad. At least with GP I don't think they will hunt me down and kill me but I could be wrong. The eco-terrorists (criminals using the environmental cause as an excuse to destroy things and kill) are out there. They should be hunted down like the mad dogs that they are and put in jail, for a long time. They hurt environmentalism a great deal when they destroy and kill.

[ Parent ]

Promises made, promises forgotten (none / 0) (#134)
by dachshund on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:48:20 AM EST

Hydrogen was the darling of environmentalists until Bush announced an initiative for it. See http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/6073725.htm

Many people bashed Bush's plan because in the same breath he released automakers from their previously agreed commitment to market more fuel efficient gasoline-powered cars. We paid millions (billions?) for this program, and received nothing for it.

Well, not nothing. We received a promise from the automakers that they would start working real hard on hydrogen powered vehicles, for delivery sometime around 2020. Unless, of course, they can get some future president to let them slide on that one too...

[ Parent ]

Do any research? (none / 0) (#192)
by armonica on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:15:50 PM EST

GM has been very comitted to hydrogen - see http://www.gm.com/company/gmability/environment/products/fuel_cells/ They have comitted to making 1 million cars, seems to me by 2005. (in a Gary Coleman voice ) Whatcha talkin' about?

Also, seems to me that I didn't see anything about the previous program. Maybe I didn't bother to read that part.

[ Parent ]

Research is definitely needed (none / 0) (#241)
by dachshund on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 11:39:55 PM EST

GM has been very comitted to hydrogen

Everyone's committed to doing basic R&D for hydrogen cars (especially if the US government is footing some of the bill.) At the same time, they all admit that commercially viable hydrogen-powered business is more than a decade away, maybe two. We don't even know how to practically generate and distribute Hydrogen yet-- this is flying car stuff. So there's not a whole lot of pressure on the vehicle manufacturers to do anything more than research.

Incidentally, the press release you link to does not represent an actual sales push-- it's a demonstration project.

Also, seems to me that I didn't see anything about the previous program

And you imply that I didn't do my research? This was in every newspaper in the country a little while back.

This is the first article that came up on Google. The initiative was called "FreedomCAR" and the payoff was the real-world commercial production of hybrid gas-electric vehicles with 80 MPG around about... now. We (meaning the taxpayer) shelled out over $1 billion for, essentially, nothing. The big American manufacturers claimed it was too hard to produce a real vehicle. Meanwhile two Japanese manufacturers (Honda & Toyota) have commercial hybrids on the retail market today and they have more orders than they can handle.

[ Parent ]

Oops: PNGV, not FreedomCar (none / 0) (#242)
by dachshund on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 11:44:21 PM EST

Got my program names mixed up. The previous program was called "Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles", the hydrogen program is called "FreedomCAR".

[ Parent ]
Hydrogen and transportation (2.75 / 4) (#65)
by henthorne on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:34:35 AM EST

The hydrogen economy as envisioned by big industry and big government only includes transportation so the masses will think there is something in it for them. No one living in a 1970s/1980s ranch house will EVER see any part of the hydrogen economy and everyone else under the current $100,000.00 salary range will never have it in thier homes. Little guys need not apply. On the other hand, we are quickly reaching a flipping point with transportation in both the cost of fuel and the density of traffic. When it takes an hour to drive 10 miles and costs thirty dollars to fill a 10 gallon tank, people will not drive cars. The "solution" to our fossil fuel use is simply to use mass transportation, and despite its past track record, people will return to the busses and carpools and trains when personal transportation threatens their income and personal time.

telecommuting (none / 1) (#77)
by shokk on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 12:52:43 PM EST

What about telecommuting as a solution? Why travel when all the tools of the virtual office are here now: VoIP, broadband, etc? Sure, there are manufacturing and service jobs where one needs to be physically present, but there are likewise many other jobs that do not, and that helps companies get rid of some of the massive physical plant infrastructure needed to run a business.
"Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart, he dreams himself your master."
[ Parent ]
Telecommuting (none / 0) (#123)
by cdguru on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:25:58 PM EST

Great for the 10% that are independent information workers, bad for those that have to coordinate their work with others. Really bad news for people that just don't have the self-discipline to work at home and need a boss.

[ Parent ]
Do no work, get no money. (none / 0) (#282)
by egeland on Mon May 24, 2004 at 01:34:52 AM EST

If work was more performance based, rather than showing up for a certain amount of time per day (yes, I know you're supposed to do work while you're there), then telecommuting would probably work for all office type jobs.


--
Some interesting quotes
[ Parent ]
leave it to tech (none / 0) (#285)
by shokk on Sun Jul 11, 2004 at 09:58:05 PM EST

For those that have to coordinate their work with others, face-to-face and phone - traditionally used in the office, can be a very bad way of doing things. Generally they are communication forms that leave no trace, so going back to a conversation for details is very difficult except for the very very few that take excellent notes. Blogs, web pages, and email help groups of people (both inside and outside the office) work better together as they can review threads of thought. For those that lack self-discipline, well, life is going to be hard on them.
"Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart, he dreams himself your master."
[ Parent ]
telecommuting... (none / 0) (#187)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 02:09:37 PM EST

And as a byproduct, freeing up all that office space creates great apartment space.   Condos, etc.

Something the Northeast DIRELY needs.


[ Parent ]

Mass transit vs. suburban development (none / 0) (#122)
by cdguru on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:24:09 PM EST

Unfortunately, most of the development that has been done in the last 30 years or so in the US has been done specifically in ways that cannot be served by mass transit efficently. Instead of building apartments, we've built large houses on little lots. Suburbs that have rules against parking on the street, so everyone has a garage, further reducing the density.

The end result is that you can drive to the train, but buses aren't very effective.

[ Parent ]

Finally an Amish Friendly World (none / 2) (#70)
by sllort on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:03:53 AM EST

In Pennsylvania, the Amish only use diesel tractors, because they don't have spark plugs.

You see, the fire comes from God.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.

Actually... (none / 0) (#97)
by marcmengel on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 04:31:49 PM EST

... the Amish I've met, use horses, which run on various bio-fuels (hay , oats, corn) very well.

They have no compunctions about using fire appropriately :-).

[ Parent ]

Please wonder onto an Amish Farm and look (none / 0) (#129)
by lukme on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:01:10 AM EST

at the 4 horse power plow the guy is using.

Just be sure to duck when that firearm is acidentally discharged in your direction.




-----------------------------------
It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
[ Parent ]
I spent two summers on an Amish farm in Penn. (none / 0) (#169)
by sllort on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 10:39:24 AM EST

They use diesel tractors because the fire comes from God. I am not making this shit up.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
Even better than anecdotal: (none / 0) (#172)
by sllort on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 10:58:38 AM EST

http://www.imperialdiesel.com/
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
The Amish around my college were more strict (none / 0) (#207)
by lukme on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 10:02:20 PM EST

they used horses for everything. I saw them plow their fields with them, I heard them at 7:00 am or earlier clip cloping though the campus on their way to church.

So what did your Amish employer think of using firearms?




-----------------------------------
It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
[ Parent ]
Strangely they weren't my employer (none / 0) (#217)
by sllort on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:24:43 AM EST

There's actually a strange arrangement which I will call "Amish Camp" though it has a different name, where middle class parents can send their hoodlum kids to "learn the value of a hard day's work" instead of having to do a hard day's work raising them.

I never saw a gun there and I wasn't allowed to bring mine, but take a good look at this link: http://www.imperialdiesel.com/ or this and grep for diesel.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]

The big advantage of bio-fuels (none / 2) (#75)
by jonnyd on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 12:00:21 PM EST

The big advantage of bio-fuels over synthetic fuels is energy related, as the author alluded to but didn't expand on. The process of creating hydrocarbon chains from water and CO2 (since H will come from water) requires energy. In synthetic fuel production this energy is produced in a power plant somewhere using whatever electricity generation technology is available. A good choice would be a renewable energy source such as wind, or solar, or possibly even nuclear (debateable). Burning hydrocarbons for energy is counter-productive. Creating infrastructure for massive solar power production or massive wind power production would be a major problem, but if we look at bio-fuels, the problem is solved for us.

The energy for hydrocarbon (or alcohol) production in bio-fuels comes from the sun. The acres and acres of corn you use to make ethanol are essentially giant solar collectors locking the suns energy into long sugar chains within the plants. Converting from sugar to alcohol is a low energy process, especially with the help of some more biological friends. Both synthetic production and bio-production recycle the CO2 release in burning their products so they are both inherently "clean" in that regard. So in the end it is hard to see any advantage to producing fuels synthetically unless there is a huge energy surplus lying around and growing space is at a premium (which it certainly IS NOT in the U.S.)
JD

Look At Lifecycle Costs and Externalities (none / 0) (#98)
by czolgosz on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 04:50:31 PM EST

Creating infrastructure for massive solar power production or massive wind power production would be a major problem, but if we look at bio-fuels, the problem is solved for us. The energy for hydrocarbon (or alcohol) production in bio-fuels comes from the sun. The acres and acres of corn you use to make ethanol are essentially giant solar collectors locking the suns energy into long sugar chains within the plants. Converting from sugar to alcohol is a low energy process, especially with the help of some more biological friends.
Another major input to biofuel is taxpayer dollars that allow the farmers to "cheaply" grow the biomass. And one needs to consider the environmental impact to the land under cultivation, of the energy used to grow the corn (those tractors and fertilizer plants don't run on sunlight), of conversion of sugars to alcohol, and of the combustion of alcohol in internal combustion engines.

It makes very little sense to look at costs and benefits unless you take into account the whole life cycle of the technology. A lot of the supposed benefit of the hydrogen economy, for example, is nothing but a shifting of costs and environmental problems to other parts of the lifecycle. After proper analysis, it may make sense to do this, but it looks a lot like the same old trick the nuclear industry used to play: claiming envionmental respectability and economic viability by getting someone else to pick up most of the tab or clean up the mess.

These number games matter, because they can divert resources away from investments and policies with longer time frames such as conservation, mass transit, zoning to discourage sprawl, and cogeneration projects.


Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? --Larkin
[ Parent ]
Where have all the engineers gone? (2.50 / 10) (#76)
by weirdling on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 12:42:19 PM EST

Hydrogen is a non-starter for many reasons, one of them being energy density.  No internal-combustion engine will ever be efficient on hydrogen due to its ridiculous heat cycle, but fuel-cells can be efficient on it.  Reformers are available to liberate hydrogen from various fuels, but the sad fact is that the large amounts of energy available in fossil fuels are due to carbon, not hydrogen.  Carbon fuels are energy dense.  Coal has a lot of energy per mass.  This is also why diesel outstrips gasoline in terms of miles per gallon.  Diesel has more carbon.

Anyway, the idea that we're running out of fossil fuels is absurd and irrelevant.  Absurd because known resources would last us around a hundred years at the current rate of growth of consumption and irrelevant because as fossil fuels become less prolific, some other energy source will be developed as it becomes comparatively more cost-effective.  In other words, as you point out, hydrogen is not a silver bullet.  A synthetic carbon fuel could be produced by reforming CO2 and H2O, and would accomplish nearly everything that H2 can accomplish with the added advantage of higher energy density.  And, for you global warming nutters, it would recycle its own carbon, as if it matters.

As you can probably guess, I'm of the opinion that global warming is ridiculous.  Or, more precisely put, anthropologic climate change is not happening.  First, the contribution to the environment caused by man is not even within an order of magnitude of that caused by a single volcano.  Second, if the system really were divergent, it would most certainly have diverged already.  However, geology shows us that it has always converged, even after the ice age.

As for bio-mass fuel, there is no discernible difference between bio-mass fuel and solar power.  As a matter of fact, all 'renewable' energy sources are solar based except tidal power.  Wave power comes from wind, which comes from convection caused by solar radiation.  Wind power is more direct.  Bio-mass is made of plants grown by solar radiation.  Bio-mass is also hideously inefficient.  While it is quaint and in vogue to think of natural processes as superior, the simple fact is that your average plant is less than 1% efficient in producing power.  In other words, grow a plant that yields a high oil yield (hemp isn't it; you need a seed like sunflower seed or something like that) then process that oil into bio-diesel and the resultant bio-diesel will have less than 1% of the energy the plant absorbed.  Alcohol is even less efficient but uses more of the plant, so it stays competitive.  Essentially, you'd have to annihilate the entire plant to achieve anything near useful efficiency, and that'd still be around 2-3%.  Compare with nearly 30% for the latest solar cells and you see why plants are next to useless for energy production.

Which brings us to the real reason people are so bullish on hydrogen: it can easily be produced with saltwater and electricity.  Saltwater is readily available and next to free while electricity is the result of those highly-efficient solar cells.  Electrolosis-produced H2 is very efficient comparatively to bio-mass, meaning that for a given area of production, solar cells and H2 make a reasonable efficiency rating, closer to 10% or so, 100-fold improvement...

The problem, of course, is that solar cells are a)expensive and b)energy intensive to manufacture.  They also wear out.  So, those expensive and efficient solar cells are actually a net energy loss right now.  Cheaper solar cells are energy gains, but the energy cost of manufacture eats into efficiency.  Also, the cost of such a system, even using normal solar cells, would be prohibitive.  A simple system to power a small RV with no airconditioning runs into the thousands of dollars.  To run an airconditioner for a reasonable period of time would require a system that wouldn't fit on the roof of the RV.

And that's another problem with solar energy: either you paper the country with solar cells in the hopes of getting enough energy to possibly meet the energy budget (still possible, but not for long and only if you paper every square inch, including oceans) or you accept a seriously lower energy budget to use bio-mass.  Remember that you have to grow all that bio-mass by hand rather than with diesel tractors because if you use the tractors, you've got a net loser already because it takes more fuel to cultivate that patch of land than the patch of land will ever produce.  Heck, you've got a net loser, anyway, because doing farming by hand without fertilizer (another huge energy cost) means that your yield will be hundreds of times lower than it would otherwise be, meaning serious loss in food production.  You'd be lucky to feed yourself and produce maybe 40 or 50 gallons a year of some sort of fuel, just enough to get to the market and trade your homemade bangles for someone else' homemade baubles.  Oh, and non-farmers will starve.

As for mass transit, it's a non-starter, too, except in certain very narrow situations.  First, if the town is simply too dense for proper roads, mass transit makes sense.  Short runs at low speeds are cost-effective and convenient because the conveyance can be operated at or near capacity, meaning that the efficiency actually shows up.  This almost never happens in the US.  The other case is a situation where one large metropolitan area needs rapid access to another.  Here, trains work well and are cost effective as long as the passenger load is high.  Japan is an excellent example.  However, train cost is largely in rail maintenance, which is related to the length of the track, so the metric that determines cost-effectiveness is passengers per track mile.  Japan and Europe run a lot of trains all the time with good passenger load on their tracks.  The US, however, has a routing nightmare, being neither long nor particularly logically laid out, meaning that we've got a lot of random directions to the next city and vast distances in between, meaning that, unless the entire population of Topeka, Kansas commutes to Dallas for work, there's no reason to build passenger rail between the two.  That's why we use airplanes, whose primary operating cost is measured by passengers per time in service, not distance of static route, so a given aircraft can handle any number of routes meaning it can handle the load for several routes and thus be much more cost-effective than rail.

A simple case study is a transit bus.  On a whim a while ago, I bought a transit bus, a GMC RTS-II-04, 1983 model, 597,000 miles on the odometer.  It was powered (I subsequently came to my senses and sold it) by a Detroit Diesel 6V92 T/A turbo-supercharged six-cylinder diesel that got about 330HP and 800 pound-feet of torque.  It also got all of 8MPG at 55MPH but around 3-4MPG as a transit bus with a lot of starts and stops.  My car gets 29MPG at 87MPH or around 17MPG with a lot of starts and stops.

Now, a common commute in a car may be half an hour and cover perhaps twenty miles.  In my car, that costs about 1.2 gallons of gasoline.  The same commute in a bus would run about an hour (starts and stops, remember) and cover twice the distance (they're going to a lot of different places): 10 gallons of diesel.  Diesel is something like 20% more powerful than gas, so that would be around 12 gallons of gas.  That's ten times the gas cost already.  However, consider that that bus will likely dead-head back because most people commute one way and you've got to energy-justify 24 gallons rather than 12.  Even if you let it run instead of stop and start, it'll still be around 16 gallons.  That's around 15 times as much fuel.  My experience on busses tends to indicate that they average fewer than 15 people on board most of the time.  Sure, the high-traffic routes average more (see first case above) but the average over the whole system is less than 15.  I'd guess around 10.  So, for a net loss in energy, you're wasting 40 minutes a day of everyone's time...

And, this analysis doesn't even touch on the question of salary for the driver and lost time for the users.  Just the driver alone will be receiving around $30k a year, which he will use to buy goods and services which themselves use energy, meaning that any true analysis has to take into account the energy he consumes as well as the energy the maintenance depot, managers, so on consume.  If those people were put to other uses rather than transportation, their energy would be better spent.

Anyway, the fact is that any modern economy is 90% energy at its heart, so something that is cheaper is almost invariably less energy-intensive, as well, so the fact that, without government subsidies, most mass-transit efforts would die tends to indicate that they are more energy-intensive than the alternative.

And, yes, I'm a libertarian.
I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.

Public Transit (3.00 / 5) (#79)
by Lagged2Death on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 01:30:15 PM EST

Carbon fuels are energy dense. Coal has a lot of energy per mass. This is also why diesel outstrips gasoline in terms of miles per gallon. Diesel has more carbon... Diesel is something like 20% more powerful than gas...

The only numbers I see after a little Googling put the difference closer to 8%. Do you have a source for this? I'm genuinely curious about this stuff. Of course, you really should take into account the grade of gas and diesel involved. And maybe convert that back to equivalent amounts of crude oil to see what your actual resource consumption is.

So, for a net loss in energy, [commuting via bus is] wasting 40 minutes a day of everyone's time...

You could look at this the other way around. Whereas driving to work is a time-consuming activity that requires all of my attention and at least some degree of skill and training, riding on the bus is much more akin to leisure time. I can read, listen to music, chat with the other riders, etc. Not as leisurely as not commuting at all, perhaps, but consider: 10 people making a half-hour commute by car every day for a week adds up to 50 man-hours completely down the drain.

And, this analysis doesn't even touch on the question of salary for the driver and lost time for the users. ...any true analysis has to take into account... the energy the maintenance depot, managers, so on consume.

Sure, but you're not considering the complete costs that the system of individual cars incurs either, from the additional road and parking lot construction and maintenance required by increased traffic, to insurance premiums due to higher accident rates, to the salaries of the traffic cops and EMS workers, to the price of the cars themselves, to the costs of maintaining and cleaning up after them. Indeed, whereas the cost of running a bus line is pretty much calculable, the cost of using cars as our primary mode of transport is so spread out, it's hard to even figure.

...without government subsidies, most mass-transit efforts would die [and this] tends to indicate that they are more energy-intensive than the alternative.

Well, I agree that for a host of reasons, mass transit doens't work very well in most of the US. Keep in mind, though, that other systems (roads, railroads, airports) wouldn't even exist without huge government subsidies, in the form of land grants, eminent domain, tax-funded development, tax abatements, etc. When the costs of transportation systems are hidden this way, the free market cannot act to choose the most cost effective one, so I wouldn't draw too many conclusions from a simple lack of profitability. Can you name any transportation sytem that would be profitable without government assistance?

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]

You must have some nice buses (none / 1) (#102)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 05:26:27 PM EST

"riding on the bus is much more akin to leisure time."

Riding on the bus was a bitch and a half for me and for most people I know.

Now the subway, that's pretty cool...

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#202)
by Lagged2Death on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 05:11:56 PM EST

I don't think I ever rode the bus in NYC, so I can't make a comparison. weirdling's original comment about under-utilized busses (10-15 passengers in a 40-50 passenger space) is pretty much spot on for the bus lines I've ridden on here in Ohio, except for certain lines at rush hour. Which can make the ride fairly pleasant - you get your choice of seat. I've done a lot of reading on busses.

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]
I never rode the bus in NYC either (none / 0) (#203)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 05:16:33 PM EST

Riding the bus in Westchester was enough to turn me off from ever riding public transit buses again if I can avoid it.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Horses (n/t) (none / 0) (#188)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 02:32:35 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Well (none / 0) (#191)
by Lagged2Death on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:01:17 PM EST

You might manage a profit selling horses, you might manage a profit selling saddles. But could the transportation itself - i.e., horse rental, or passage on horse-drawn vehicles - be offered profitably without some sort of government assistance? Even stagecoaches relied on roads, trails, military supression of angry Indians, etc.

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]
Bicycles (none / 0) (#200)
by Skwirl on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:13:39 PM EST

Can you name any transportation sytem that would be profitable without government assistance?
For most local transportation needs the bicycle is proven to be the most energy efficient machine in existence. I know people who have moved the contents of their entire home using bikes and I know a single mothers who rely solely on bikes.

--
"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]
Well (none / 0) (#201)
by Lagged2Death on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 05:00:53 PM EST

I like bikes, I think they were a great invention, and I wish they were more used, more respected, and that our cities were built to make them more practical. I used to commute to work via bike.

But I don't see where the profit comes in, at least not in the sense that a bus line or an air line is profitable. Sure a manufacturer of bikes or accessories makes a profit, but so does the manufacturer of busses or subway cars. Ford, Boeing and Trek aren't really in the transportation business, they're all just selling machinery.

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]

Public transport (none / 0) (#222)
by Cro Magnon on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 04:02:11 PM EST

You could look at this the other way around. Whereas driving to work is a time-consuming activity that requires all of my attention and at least some degree of skill and training, riding on the bus is much more akin to leisure time. I can read, listen to music, chat with the other riders, etc. Not as leisurely as not commuting at all, perhaps, but consider: 10 people making a half-hour commute by car every day for a week adds up to 50 man-hours completely down the drain.
I drive to work in about 30 minutes. It would take at least 90 on the bus! Each way! Sorry, but I've got better things to do with 2 hours a day.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Probably below the radar, but... (none / 0) (#283)
by weirdling on Wed Jun 23, 2004 at 02:12:37 PM EST

Actually, I should have said that diesel, as a system, is about 20% more efficient.  This is due to greater compression in the engine resulting in a more efficient heat cycle as well as greater energy density.  In other words, part of it is greater energy density, part is more efficient engines.

Alcohol can achieve greater efficiency per power than gasoline, but not greater efficiency per gallon for similar reasons in that alcohol formulations can be made that won't detonate at high compression ratios.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]

Excellent (2.50 / 4) (#82)
by ShooterNeo on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 01:48:46 PM EST

You're absolutely correct on all points as near as I can tell.  Solar (at least based on earth...spaced based solar could be a HUGE energy gain if the material came off the moon and the energy costs were reasonable, i.e. automated machines make the panels) is useless except for it's low maintenance cost.  SO....we need to break the problem into steps to solve it.  If solar panels won't work (and therefore all other indirect forms of solar), and burning carbon will run out eventually, all that leaves is nuclear.  

No problem at all, most of the safety fears are bullshit.  First, the waste, considered to be the biggest issue.  The thing is, MOST of the isotopes in even high level waste will be in stable forms in under a century.  Second, within a century, medical science should be able to treat cancer in all forms every time.  There is a treatment today that will do that, it'll just be a few more decades before it works for everyone.   It involves programming a custom virus that infects all the cells in a target areas and causes the ones that are cancerous (because they have one oncogene on or another, found via biopsy of the tumor) to self destruct.  It works, and has been used to cure rats without surgery or morbidity (only problem is the virus has to be designed for exactly that tumor, and there is some scarring and damage to healthy tissue at the moment for a technical reason i won't go into here.  At the glacially slow pace medical science advances, it'll be good enough to work in 20-30 years).  SO, the reality is within a century if you were to go up to one of the glass nuclear waste capsules and eat the contents, medical science could put you back together.  They wouldn't even be hot enough for thermal burns.  SO, Yucca mountain needs to hold together for just 100 years, a very feasible proposition.

Second, high voltage power can be transmitted long distance with fairly low losses, so the nuclear plants, of the latest safest design, can be all parked in lightly populated areas.  This would power most of our civilization.  What about transit?  Well, airplanes will still need a high density fuel...but we can greatly reduce our dependence on them, as well as fix the rest of the transit problem, by changing to a different system.  Rather than use buses, trains, cars, or any of the above, use individual automated vehicles similar to trains but completely automated, running on their own fenced in tracks, powered by electrified rails or overhead cables.  Sorta like trains except much smaller, with no driver, summoned by pushing a button on a cell phone, and going to every location in a city with high speed monorails for medium distance commutes (next city over).  Long distance would still use jets.  No human drivers would be required for the system, each car uses embedded dopplar radar on a chip for obstacle detection and braking control, and follows either a track or marks in the pavement.  No more individually human driven vehicles except for rural areas and offroad.  

MUCH cheaper overall than cars as : each vehicle is much simpler, with just a powerful electric motor, a couple circuit boards, and some power conversion circuitry...electric heat and A/C.  Fiberglass body panels, all alike.  Collisions and accidents should be extremely rare, as long as the track is protected by a fence and each vehicle has multiple redudant control and braking systems.  Electromagnetic brakes, so very low maintanence...a fraction of the cost new vehicles are costing our economy.  Higher speed...each car accelerates the instant the one in front starts to move (since it's controlled by a microcontroller with latency in the microseconds rather than 1/3 of a second like in humans) and brakes instantly as well.  So, the highest speed practical for a wheeled vehicle would be common....maybe 120-200mph, with 350+ when each car loads automatically onto a long distance monorail train.  Routing is planned by a central computer, which is aware of the destination of all vehicles so as to calculate a near optimum for each (and prioritizing...medical personal and cars on the way to a hospital get higher priority)  

Since the driver has no control (MAYBE an emergency stop button), they can engage in any activity desired while commuting.  Sleep, work, television/internet, sex, whatever.

The system would probably pay for its investment in under a decade...since each car would cost a fraction of the cost of a new vehicle (maybe 10k?), would need less maintenance, would make the entire economy more efficient (no more drivers...a few million workers no longer requiring energy and funds...do have to spend money to retrain them to needed tasks though).  Changing the current roads over to tracks for these vehicles might not cost as much as one would anticipate : only central corridors would have stations and these cars, and fewer lanes would be needed : to get from house/work to the station would at first require a walk of 500m or less probably.

Problems : enormous initial cost has to be borne up front, because an entire city would need to be converted over very rapidly, so commerce doesn't grind to a halt for very long.  No individual city could bankroll the up front cost : this would have to be a federal project, sorta like federal highways but bigger.  However, the feds are wasting the money on entitlements, which, while getting votes, involve giving large sums of money to people who won't improve the infrastructure or economy.  I'm not say we should leave the eldery in the cold, just that we can help them MORE for less of our resources if the country has higher technology and better infrastructure.  Instead, we are doing to opposite : building little new infrastructure and borrowing AGAINST the future.  This will have severe consequences.

This problem is solvable.

BIG PROBLEM : while track maintanence and vehicle fleets would be done by private firms who bid on the job (so each section is maintained by a different private firm, and there would be several brands of vehicles, so you could prefer a particular brand and get only that brand to pick you up...some brands would obviously have more luxury features), costs could easily spiral out of control as the government sucks for things like this.  

INTRACTABLE PROBLEM : CIVIL LIBERTIES : with transit solely in the hands of city governments, it would be trivial to make a given city a police state.  While it might not start like this, at any instant since the government controls the routing computers, they could route people they don't like to the police station or even internment camps, and make it so that biometrics and some kind of universal ID card is required to go ANYWHERE.  As it stands today, cops stopping motorists is the only way most suspects are every brought in (at least for most lesser crimes) : now, if you have a warrant, the state could automatically route you to police custody if you try to travel anywhere.  This means it would be impossible to even in theory violate any unjust laws without immeadiatly being punished.  Going anywhere would be monitored as well, destroying most privacy.  Today, everyone has their own car or truck and can get a gun in the back if they want one, giving them potentially far more ability to ignore The State if they choose to exercise it.

So...I think I just outlined how to solve the energy problem.  In short : nuclear plants provide the energy.  Reprocessing spent fuel would give enough energy using known uranium for at least 1000 years.  Its pretty much the ONLY way to give the entire world the energy hungry lifestyle Americans enjoy (though one would need to invest some of that nuclear energy into building collectors in space to solve man's energy woes permanently...or finally make fusion work).  Most everything is powered off the electric grid directly.  Ships don't need high density power (and actually you could connect all the continents except for Australia with high speed rails, powered from the grid) to the extent that cars and airplanes do.  Cars are powered right from the grid, and spacecraft as well (lasers are used to launch them into space, antimatter created using HUGE amount of electricity for long distance space travel).  For portable fuel, the same electricity is used to combined carbon and water to get one hydrocarbon or another  (depends on the application).

Fact is, this sort of investment is the Big Project America REALLY needs...NOT going to Mars.  Mars will involve building a lot of facilities...that won't make people on earth work much more efficiently.  Instead, those facilities will only be good for launching huge amounts of obscenely labor and energy and material expensive hardware....99% of it will be completely burned up or wasted in one way or another.  A fast transit system as described that REALLY works is a basically PERMANENT improvement that affects millions of people.  Going to mars would result in minimal tech advancement (SOME advancement, but MOST of the funds go to actually constructing the spacecraft and bureacracy and so forth) and a lot of thrown away money.  The masses will dream when they see the images and video from mars...and a lucky handful of men and women will get to go...but wouldn't you rather have a quicker trip to work that is REAL, freeing more time for the rest of your life?  Plus, faster commutes and less transit costs could improve the efforts of millions of technology workers, speeding up progress...a giant space project doesn't make their efforts more efficient, though it does give some scientists and engineers a job who might not otherwise have one at all.  Should put those same scientists and engineers to work on something that against benefits nearly everyone directly, rather than as an "offshoot".

Sure, the space program had a lot of "offshoots" from the money spent...but why do offshoots when you can go right for the goal?

[ Parent ]

Civil Liberties (none / 1) (#85)
by Lagged2Death on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 02:40:09 PM EST

INTRACTABLE PROBLEM : CIVIL LIBERTIES : with transit solely in the hands of city governments, it would be trivial to make a given city a police state. While it might not start like this, at any instant since the government controls the routing computers, they could route people they don't like to the police station or even internment camps, and make it so that biometrics and some kind of universal ID card is required to go ANYWHERE.

But the difference between your hypothetical scenario and the real world today is strictly a quantitative one. Governments do control the transit system (roads), and they do require a universal ID card (driver's license) to go anywhere.

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]

Hmm (none / 0) (#95)
by ShooterNeo on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 03:49:42 PM EST

I suppose...but as long as you don't do ANYTHING that might attract the attention of an officer (admittedly a fairly lengthy list), you won't be stopped and the I.D. won't actually be checked.  Admittedly a pretty slim difference as to do nearly anything (work any kind of on the books job, including nearly every job, rent any place to live, buy anything except with cash) you have to show I.D. which is verified in one form or another.  Heck, without I.D. sooner or later the tags on the vehicle will expire and you cannot get new ones with a warrant, you'll get arrested at the DMV, that's why a cop is there.  And without new tags, eventually cops will spot it, pull you over, and arrest you.  So I guess the quantitative difference is pretty small.  True, the system has dozens of holes in it, from fake I.D.s to fake tags and so forth, but a future system could be just as vulnerable, and they may harden the current system with biometrics and RFID even if a system I described is never built.

SO I suppose the problem isn't that big : ultimately, the state has the power anyway.  While a widespread rebellion might be possible with people owning their own cars...no...while a pickup truck may be powerful, the national guard has hundreds of armored vehicles and putting down any real rebellion is one of it's purposes.  

Believe it or not, I'm not a nut...I just try to analyze the relative power involved.  Umm...am I right on, can you conceptually visualize what I'm talking about?  This isn't sci fi...dopplar radars on a chip are new tech, but most of the system I described could probably have been made to work 20 years ago.  That doesn't mean it isn't an awesome idea, just that its time hasn't come.

[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#96)
by Lagged2Death on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 03:53:25 PM EST

...as long as you don't do ANYTHING that might attract the attention of an officer (admittedly a fairly lengthy list), you won't be stopped and the I.D. won't actually be checked.

I guess there are no sobriety checkpoints in your town.

Starfish automatically creates colorful abstract art for your PC desktop!
[ Parent ]

Costs of nuclear (none / 0) (#281)
by egeland on Mon May 24, 2004 at 01:10:50 AM EST

Not only are nuclear plants hugely expensive, both in money and energy terms, but once again, there's limited fuel available.
If you build enough nuclear power plants (and remember to decommission those old, dangerous plants, too) to power the developed world (let's ignore the ever-growing energy demand from developing countries for now), you would quickly deplete the available fissile materials.
No, nuclear is far from ideal.
In fact, most non-fossil fuels are flawed: http://www.hubbertpeak.com/youngquist/altenergy.htm

I do agree that spending huge amounts on going to Mars is a waste.
Most theories on the peak of cheap oil and thus cheap energy, predict that we've either hit peak already (around 2000-2004) or will peak in the next 3-8 years.
The Mars program will just be getting interesting, with some sort of launch or manned missions planned, when the effects of the peak will hit, and the program will need to be scrapped. Probably due to the fuel being needed to liberate another OPEC country from its WMD-wielding axis-of-evil-type dictator-who-was-the-best-friend-we-had-when-we-helped-him-get-power.
Another useless fight for depleting resources...

--
Some interesting quotes
[ Parent ]

you started out ok, and then pow.... (3.00 / 5) (#90)
by asolipsist on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 03:24:58 PM EST

"Or, more precisely put, anthropologic climate change is not happening.  First, the contribution to the environment caused by man is not even within an order of magnitude of that caused by a single volcano"

What the fuck are you talking about?

Gerlach (1991) estimated a total global release of 3-4 x 1012 mol/yr from volcanoes. Man-made (anthropogenic) CO2 emissions overwhelm this estimate by at least 150 times.

http://volcano.und.nodak.edu/vwdocs/Gases/man.html


[ Parent ]

thanks. (none / 0) (#100)
by joschi on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 05:18:23 PM EST

i'm sick of hearing people constantly throw out that tired old "single volcano" argument.

[ Parent ]
You lying environmentalist bastards make me sick (none / 2) (#149)
by dn on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:14:26 AM EST

The biggest volcano in the solar system is Olympus Mons, and Mars's atmosphere is almost pure CO2. QED.

    I ♥
TOXIC
WASTE

[ Parent ]

Beautiful example (none / 1) (#160)
by o reor on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 08:06:05 AM EST

of flawed logic. Or even no logic at all.

[ Parent ]
Flawed logic? (none / 0) (#235)
by dn on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 04:57:49 PM EST

And I suppose the moon isn't made of green cheese either.

    I ♥
TOXIC
WASTE

[ Parent ]

So that would be what? (none / 0) (#189)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 02:44:11 PM EST

4.5-6 x 10^13 moles/year?


[ Parent ]
You're reading too much into his statement (none / 0) (#223)
by RyoCokey on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 04:03:59 PM EST

He didn't say that a single volcano releases more CO2 than human activity. He said the contribution to the environment was more significant. I'm not sure where he's getting that claim, but it's not the one you attempted to rebutt. Volcanoes release a great deal of hazardous (but non-CO2) pollutants.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick
[
Parent ]
More cost-effective to use alternate sources? (none / 1) (#94)
by kaol on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 03:49:27 PM EST

Careful there. You say that once an energy source becomes scarce, it comes economically feasible to use another. Being economically feasible means that you get more money out of it than you have to put in it. In the case of energy sources this means that you get more money from selling that energy than you have to pay for it. But one part of the cost of producing energy is in fact the energy required to produce that energy! No amount of demand for energy can ever turn an energy sink into an source.

I wouldn't bet on technology solving everything either. You can't win against thermodynamics.

[ Parent ]

What kind of reasoning is that? (none / 1) (#105)
by claesh1 on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 05:43:19 PM EST

Absurd because known resources would last us around a hundred years at the current rate of growth of consumption and irrelevant because as fossil fuels become less prolific, some other energy source will be developed as it becomes comparatively more cost-effective.

What is absurd with thinking more than a hundred years into the future? Even if it would last us 1000 years, we better do think of alternatives now.

[ Parent ]

hopelessly misinformed (none / 2) (#110)
by hypno on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 06:42:06 PM EST

Your notions about volcanoes are amusing, as well as your ideas about mass transit.

As for mass transit, it's a non-starter, too

That would be why more people use public transportation than ever before then?
What planet are you from, again?

[ Parent ]

Some quibbles (none / 1) (#132)
by dachshund on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:34:55 AM EST

bsurd because known resources would last us around a hundred years at the current rate of growth of consumption and irrelevant because as fossil fuels become less prolific, some other energy source will be developed as it becomes comparatively more cost-effective.

The concern is that oil prices will not gradually tilt up in a comfortable manner. As production drops, there will be some panic as the industrialized economies attempt to stockpile and make deals with oil producers. During this period it is imperative that we have some solutions already in hand-- deployment alone could take decades, and fundamental technological advances don't always "happen" just because economic conditions dictate it.

As you can probably guess, I'm of the opinion that global warming is ridiculous ... First, the contribution to the environment caused by man is not even within an order of magnitude of that caused by a single volcano.

A few years ago highly uninformed people were claiming that volcanoes' contribution to the ozone hole far outweighed humanity's contribution. That worked for a little while, despite being scientific nonsense. Now it's fashionable to claim that volcanos produce more CO2 than humans. Which also appears to be false. I sometimes wonder whether people actually form beliefs based on the sort of inaccurate information they see on the net, or if they simply repeat this information to justify a belief system that they've adopted for non-scientific reasons?

So, those expensive and efficient solar cells are actually a net energy loss right now

Sure, except that this is not actually true. Many common PV cells pay back their production costs several times over, and newer technologies are achieving better results. This is a slow process that may someday lead to a truly practical solar cell-- problem is, this isn't the kind of technological advance that you can just hope will happen when the economic conditions start to tilt against fossil fuels. It's going to take many years of research buttressed by a (probably) government-stimulated market.

[ Parent ]

Energy Costs repaid in full? Excellent!! (none / 0) (#280)
by egeland on Mon May 24, 2004 at 12:43:39 AM EST

    Many common PV cells pay back their production costs several times over, and newer technologies are achieving better results.

All their production costs? I thought these high-efficiency cells were made from rare-earth materials, which require a lot of mining and refining? I hope you are right, so that we can get PV cells that can generate (or more correctly harness) enough energy to make more of these cells.
Maybe this will be the panacea we're looking for?

I read this site, and most of the links, and you might want to do so, too.


--
Some interesting quotes
[ Parent ]

Solar factual errors (none / 0) (#135)
by Eccles on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:50:22 AM EST

<I>The problem, of course, is that solar cells are a)expensive and b)energy intensive to manufacture.  They also wear out.  So, those expensive and efficient solar cells are actually a net energy loss right now.</i>
<BR><BR>
a) Stop using facts about the state of solar cells 20 years ago.  In any decent sunny area, they more than pay back the energy used to create them.  They aren't price-competitive with fossil fuels, admittedly.
<BR><BR>
b) You don't need a 1:1 ratio of cells to area if you use focussing reflectors, which of course any reasonable plant would use.
<BR><BR>
c) You can skip solar cells altogether, and still get solar power.  See
http://rhlx01.rz.fht-esslingen.de/projects/alt_energy/sol_thermal/powertower.html
or
http://www.enn.com/news/wire-stories/2003/01/01072003/reu_49293.asp
for some varieties.
<BR><BR>
d) Wind energy is indirect solar power, and is already proving reasonably cost-effective in some installations.

[ Parent ]
Okay, I'll bite... (none / 3) (#196)
by Skwirl on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:56:03 PM EST

And, this analysis doesn't even touch on the question of salary for the driver and lost time for the users. Just the driver alone will be receiving around $30k a year, which he will use to buy goods and services which themselves use energy, meaning that any true analysis has to take into account the energy he consumes as well as the energy the maintenance depot, managers, so on consume. If those people were put to other uses rather than transportation, their energy would be better spent.
Okay, that was a pretty good troll.
And, yes, I'm a libertarian.
Err, same diff. Whether or not man's emissions are on a scale to that of volcanoes is irrelivant, for instance, because manmade CO2 is a year-in, year-out and exponentially growing factor in the climate, (so is, ahem, deforestation) whereas the number of volcano eruptions per year should average out to the same amount of emissions that Earth's ecosystems have evolved to digest over millions of years. Of course, natural catastrophic climate change happens too, but if man if even inching the scales a little bit, considering that millions to billions of lives are in the balance, it might be a good idea to play it safe by trying to buy ourselves some more time by cutting down on the gross amount of waste in our culture.

If mass transit is as inefficient in certain environments as you suggest, then, when left unfettered to evolve to market forces, communities will organize themselves to make mass transit (and bicycling and car pooling, etc...) efficient, since the single occupant vehicle is a de facto inefficient form of transportation. It's obviously insanely inefficient for people to fucking commute from any city to any other city to work in the first place. It's a huge daily waste of time at the very least. The fact that people do so is a sign of inefficiencies in our economy and way of life. Free market forces are supposed to even these kinds of things out, remember? It doesn't take a libertarian genius to figure out that government subsidization of the national highway system artificially favors the single occupant vehicle and the annoying traffic and humongous casualty costs that follow with it.

Interestingly enough, you seem to make the point that Adam Smith's guiding hand will bring us a magic solution to dwindling oil resources, then you go ahead and shoot down all the obvious ones as "non-starters." So, uh, what happens if all the techs turn out to be non-starters. Economic forces can't exactly find an answer if one doesn't exist.

Someone else can go ahead and defraud all those the numbers you pulled out of your ass and point out stuff like exactly which entire countries that I can't recall are running their transportation infrastructure entirely on biodiesel right now.

--
"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]

we can already make synthetic diamonds (none / 2) (#80)
by modmans2ndcoming on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 01:34:20 PM EST

so I don't see why we willnot be able to make synthetic hydrocarbons, but I think that biomas conversion will actualy be the way we go.

energy to make diamonds is from fossil fuels [nt] (none / 0) (#117)
by Haunting Koan on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:22:21 PM EST

there ain't no text here, homie.

[ Parent ]
About Synthetic Diamond. (none / 0) (#127)
by lukme on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:51:39 PM EST

Synthetic diamonds are made by compressing stuff at high pressure and temperature. The tetrahedrad and octahedral presses that are used have a sample amount of maybe an inch by about 1/4 of inch in diameter (I am sure I will if I am off by even a slight amount). This would be so impractical to make oil that it is not even worth considering.

A better method would be to find things that you could use as a feed stock for a more traditional chemical plant.




-----------------------------------
It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
[ Parent ]
predictions (none / 1) (#84)
by Polverone on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 02:11:22 PM EST

Prediction 1: No nation in the next 40 years will use elemental hydrogen as an energy carrier for a significant proportion (say, more than 10%) of its energy needs. Even if angels inscribed on golden tablets the secret of converting nuclear fuel to hydrogen at 90% efficiency and left copies of said tablets on the desk of every engineer in the world, the H2 would need to be transformed for fuel use. Alcohols and hydrocarbons are usable, sure - H2 isn't.

Prediction 2: If biomass becomes a realistic source of energy, or even of the high-energy-density fuels desired for transportation, it will be either as a byproduct of inefficiencies in existing agriculture (i.e. ethanol from corn) or as one of the fruits of bioengineering.

Prediction 3: The end of cheap oil and gas will not mark the end of the fossil fuel era. Instead, coal will become the raw feedstock of choice for production of chemicals and fuels, at least in the US. Atmospheric accumulation of CO2 may be exacerbated by the inefficiencies of transforming coal into useful products (compared with transforming petroleum into useful products). On the other hand, these same inefficiencies and the corresponding rise in prices may spur economically-motivated conservation, which seems far more likely to be effective in the US than government-mandated conservation. Even if the Kyoto signatories are able to fulfill their pledges, I doubt that global CO2 emissions will significantly decrease in the next 40 years.

I breathe a mental sigh of relief, because I don't think the depletion of oil will trigger the collapse of the West. On the other hand, if global warming is manmade and the more extreme predictions of its effects are correct, extending the fossil-fuel era through the use of coal trades one disaster for another with some time lag in between.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.

I'm assuming you mean no "major" nation (none / 1) (#86)
by DaChesserCat on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 02:41:14 PM EST

As for prediction 1, Iceland is already well on its way to a Hydrogen Economy. In their case, they have an abundant supply of geothermal energy, which they are using to produce hydrogen. They currently have city busses running on the stuff, with private vehicles due for introduction in a couple years. Note: these will be Internal Combustion Engine vehicles running on hydrogen. Fuel cell vehicles are still to expensive.

Of course, they have the aforementioned abundant supply of energy, and they have a very small economy. Consequently, they're going to be a bit more agile in their adjustments than larger nations, like the US.

On Prediction 3, I have to agree. The "clean coal" crowd has been harping on this for some time. In the 1990's, DOE sponsored an investigation of the technology, which resulted in producing large amounts of energy, but NO AIRBORNE POLLUTANTS. The coal was partially oxidized, making Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen (a mixture commonly known as "synthesis gas," because it can be used to make many other industrial chemicals). The CO was put through another reaction, which made Calcium Carbonate. I think they burned the hydrogen in a gas turbine (high-volume fuel cells simply weren't available at the time). All of the other normal pollutants came out as liquid or solid compounds. Consequently, the coal-burning powerplant didn't have a smokestack.

Of course, if the process produces heat (the net carbon -> synthesis gas -> calcium carbonate reaction was exothermic) and hydrogen, that would take us right back to this article. Use the heat for a steam turbine or some other process, and sell the hydrogen or put it through a fuel cell.

Trains stop at train stations Busses stop at bus stations A windows workstation . . .
[ Parent ]
whoops! (none / 0) (#89)
by Polverone on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 03:22:01 PM EST

I'd forgotten about Iceland. I had actually heard of their geothermal power progress before. Molecular hydrogen is a terrible fuel when stored as such, because it is very difficult to contain completely, very low density, and difficult to use safely (since it is flammable over such a wide range of concentrations in air). As a high-pressure gas or as a cryogenic liquid, hydrogen presents many challenges in use as a fuel source, especially a fuel source for ordinary privately-owned vehicles or machines. Still, I guess if there's no fossil fuels or surplus biomass around, hydrogen looks more attractive. I don't think many countries will find themselves in a similar situation, but I could be wrong.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]
Among other obvious problems... (none / 0) (#87)
by RyoCokey on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 02:59:05 PM EST

One way to produce hydrogen is via electrolysis of water, a process requiring lots of electricity.

Where are we getting all this fresh water from? Or, if you plan on using seawater, what do you plan to do with the incredible amounts of salt produced?



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick
Huh? (none / 1) (#92)
by joib on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 03:30:58 PM EST

Where are we getting all this fresh water from? Or, if you plan on using seawater, what do you plan to do with the incredible amounts of salt produced?

  • Sell it.
  • Dump it into the sea. Because the hydrogen will eventually be recombined with oxygen to form water, which eventually will find it's way to the oceans, there will be no net increase in salinity.


[ Parent ]
Neither is viable (none / 0) (#93)
by RyoCokey on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 03:35:15 PM EST

Sea salt wouldn't be worth the money to haul it from the location. There were various desalinization projects that tried that and failed.

If you dump it into the sea, you'll kill all the sea life in a considerable area. That you aren't wiping out the entire ocean may be of some consolation, but not much.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick
[
Parent ]
shoot it into space! [nt] (none / 0) (#116)
by Haunting Koan on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:19:39 PM EST

no text, bitch!

[ Parent ]
If you can can afford the electricity... (none / 0) (#142)
by joib on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:36:34 AM EST

I guess that if you can afford the truly massive amounts of electricity needed to produce hydrogen from water, then you can also afford to spread the salt over a wide area of the ocean, thus avoiding locally high salt concentrations.

Consider that today, for example the US consumes about 20 million barrels of oil per day. A barrel is 42 gallons i.e. 20 million barrels is 20E6*42*3.784 ~= 3.2E6 m^3. To put it in a more intuitive way, that is about a volume of 320*100*100m. Now, if you'd replace all of this energy with hydrogen, and assuming that 1 liter of water gives an similar amount of energy in the form of hydrogen as 1 liter of oil (I have no idea but I assume it's in the same order of magnitude), you'd produce about 64000 m^3 of salt (assuming 2 % salinity) each day. That is about the carrying capacity of a medium to large size bulk carrier. So to satifisfy the energy needs of the US, two bulk carriers would be needed, one in port loading and the other making trips about 1 day long to dump the salt. In half a day (say 10 hours) a bulk carrier at 15 knots will travel about 280 kilometers. Assuming that the salt is dispersed during half the 20 hour voyage (we wouldn't want to dump it near the shore), it's still an absolutely mind-boggling volume of water the salt is mixed with. Sea current and diffusion will quickly even out the salt concentration.

Now, while two bulk carriers and their crews aren't exactly cheap, the cost of them is totally dwarfed by the cost of electrolysis anyway.

[ Parent ]

Bad assumption, but a nice effort (none / 0) (#221)
by RyoCokey on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 03:23:11 PM EST

While 1 Kg of Gasoline and 1 Kg of Hydrogen have fairly close energy values (13.3 KwH and 16.6 KwH respectively) given the weight of hydrogen in respect to oxygen, you'd need 4 Kg of Saltwater for each Kg of Hydrogen. Then, the electrolysis process is only 70% efficient at best, so you'd need to you'd need to up the energy consumption total by 30%, as you're adding an extra transport step. Sea water is by average, 3.5% saline, so that number would need to go up as well. That'd give you about: 499,200 m^3 salt, if your earlier calculations were otherwise correct, or roughly 16 bulk carriers (8 each way.)

Then, of course, you'd have to factor in extra electric transport (or hydrogen transport) costs caused by using technologies such as solar or wind power that have to be built far from population centers. As for environmental damage of dumping all that salt, I don't have a clue.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick
[
Parent ]
Sea water isn't the only source for hydrogen. (none / 0) (#261)
by tongpoo on Sun Mar 07, 2004 at 02:21:27 AM EST

Use rivers.

[ Parent ]
Regarding Hydrogen (none / 0) (#107)
by Corwin on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 06:22:41 PM EST

I stumbled across this link the other day which I found quite interesting. A hydrogen fuel conversion kit for existing vehicles, and talks about a hydrogen "generator" that you can stick in your garage for refueling that seperates hydrogen by solar or wind power. Too good to be true? We'll see. If it pans out, I'm getting one.

Alternatively, check out The Air Car for another pollution-free mode of transportation. Apparently these are already being built and sold in Spain. The vehicles run on compressed air, up to ten hours in city driving.

---
I'm in search of myself. Have you seen me anywhere?
But how much energy does it take to compress gas? (none / 0) (#186)
by PowerPimp on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 02:08:06 PM EST

I'll tell you: Lots and Lots. Air car=energy loser.
You'd better take care of me God; otherwise, you'll have me on your hands...
[ Parent ]
Perhaps so (none / 0) (#193)
by Corwin on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:19:01 PM EST

But their proposed service stations were air and/or water powered in order to run the compressors. You could still plug the car in to your garage outlet, which would ultimately (at this point) consume fossil fuel energies up the line if you were dead set on burning stuff, though. However, rivers won't stop flowing anytime soon, nor will the wind completely stop blowing. If we can make use of that as described on their website, I say go for it. I, for one, will be keeping an eye on these people to see how it turns out.

---
I'm in search of myself. Have you seen me anywhere?
[ Parent ]
Hydrogen via Methane (none / 0) (#108)
by fjnagy on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 06:23:52 PM EST

This only applies to stationary applications again but what about synthetic methane? I believe there are reactions for water plus CO2 plus (lots of) energy to produce methane. The methane could then be delivered via the existing natural gas infrastructure (natural gas is pretty much mostly methane). This would reduce some of the H2 leakage concerns. Yes, the CH4 is turned back into water and CO2 but if we started with atmospheric CO2 then there shou;d be no net effect. An additional possibly might be to investiage reactions which take CO2 plus H2O and energy and produce both methane and methanol/ethanol.

How do automotive batteries fit into all this? (none / 1) (#109)
by Kiyooka on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 06:35:31 PM EST

I remember hearing all about rechargable car batteries. They powered a car for a full day and were plugged in to recharge at night. These ran on electricity, which could come from non-fossil fuel electricity plants. Isn't this a clear doorway out of fossil fuels for cars?



No (none / 0) (#115)
by Haunting Koan on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:17:57 PM EST

Batteries aren't really a logical choice for a few reasons, two being:

1) Battery technology is peaked/peaking. There is a limit to how good a battery can be -- just look at the periodic table of elements. The current elements being used are optimal for the characteristics they need for energy storage (top left and bottom right).

2) As you said, the electricity needs to come from *somewhere* and that's most likely going to be a fossil fuel source.

[ Parent ]

Batteries (none / 0) (#151)
by dn on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:21:21 AM EST

There is a limit to how good a battery can be -- just look at the periodic table of elements.
Not really. There's nothing a priori that makes energy-dense batteries impossible. The real limit is that the better a battery gets, the more it starts to look like an electrically-detonated chunk of high explosive. I.e., not the sort of thing to carry around in your pocket.

    I ♥
TOXIC
WASTE

[ Parent ]

Well, (none / 0) (#154)
by ajduk on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:42:18 AM EST

Although battery electric cars will never be a complete solution, ranges of up to 200 miles should be feasable with known battery technology.

This in turn means that many short journeys - some commuting, school run, supermarket, etc (especially in Europe) could use electric cars. A typical two car household could use one electric car and one hybrid, and reduce fuel consumption by 50-70%.

[ Parent ]

Several problems (none / 0) (#182)
by NoBeardPete on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 01:31:14 PM EST

There are several problems with this. Most good batteries are very enviornmentally unfriendly. Disposing of them when they wear out is tough. I believe the processes used to make them aren't so hot either. Also, for people that don't reliably park in a garage, recharing is a problem. I live in a city. I typically end up parking on the street somewhere within a block or two of home. How is someone like me going to recharge his electric car?


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

Biodiesel sounds nice, but... (2.75 / 4) (#111)
by labradore on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 06:49:02 PM EST

How much fossil fuel is used to fertilize the "biomass"? The corn fields we grow today are more than 5 times denser than those we grew about 50 to 100 years ago (~130 bushels vs. 20 bushels per acre). The only way to grow fields with this density is by using lots of fertilzer in the form of fossil fuels. In fact, it usually takes about 1.2 gallons of oil to grow a bushel of corn on industrial farms (not counting tractor fuel, etc.). Perhaps hemp does not require the same kinds of fertilizers, but so far I haven't heard about what really goes into industrial diesel biomass production.

Fertilization and irrigation (none / 0) (#190)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 02:56:45 PM EST

There are irrigation and fertilization systems that work on water pressure.  I don't know if you've seen a modern factory farm, but the only tractors routinely used today are harvesters and the plows to till the soil.  Most fertilizers and water are distribution by giant chains of water hoses and sprayers, many of which never need to be moved; they work like a lawn sprinkler.

[ Parent ]
And this sprinkler system is powered by what? [nt] (none / 0) (#279)
by egeland on Mon May 24, 2004 at 12:09:55 AM EST



--
Some interesting quotes
[ Parent ]
could be anything (none / 0) (#284)
by ckaminski on Mon Jun 28, 2004 at 05:47:18 PM EST

From nuclear to windpower to coal or oil.  The point is that farming is not necessarily more oil-consumptive than the biomass it's creating will return to the marketplace.  

[ Parent ]
A modest proposal (none / 2) (#118)
by Haunting Koan on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 09:36:55 PM EST

These are days of trials and tribulations. The energy we once knew is vanishing from underneath our own feet -- leaving us to fall into a pit of darkness and a total dearth of television and the Internet. The answer, however, is clear:

We must make more energy.

The current amount of energy in the universe is appaling. I believe that if we started to just make more, there would be enough for everyone.

Thank you for your time.

P.S. What's the deal with less-than-100% efficiency? Aren't people smart?

Idiotic confusion of energy storage vs. energy? (none / 2) (#121)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 10:16:36 PM EST

Hydrogen is a moderately dense way to store energy that you've created somehow, and in the context of Captain Planet-watching hippies who understand very little science and want to return to candles (made from non-animal sources, no less) means a few windmills here and there.

How it can be compared and so easily confused with oil, is beyond me. Oil is energy sitting there beneath the ground, waiting to be claimed.

When we have some super-cheap (read: fusion) or super-clean (read: lord knows what) energy, even then, hydrogen is a far from perfect way to store it for all those VW-esque hippy cars that will buzz around at 35mph on the few highways that are left. My little hippy car, should I ever save up the $50,000 it will cost, will still likely be powered by some form of rechargeable battery.

You won't call this battery powered car a go in the vast battery economy machinery... if we call the economy in this fantasy era anything at all, it will be the fusion economy, the zero-point energy economy, or my favorite, the soylent green economy (where we burn hippies in converted coal plants). That we have an oil economy now, is because of oil's energy value, not because of it's energy storage value. Convenient though it is, that it stores itself so densely, that isn't what makes it most valuable to us. Even were it somehow transient, maybe evaporating through the walls of my exploding Ford gas tank in a few minutes... we would then burn it immediately (hopefully while I'm not in the Ford), and store the zap juice with some other method. Maybe a battery.

Maybe with your fabulous, mystical hydrogen.

If you feel the need to continue to speak about energy, even though you understand so little, please speak of fusion, magic crystals, or any of the other possibilities offered in that stupid "Ifinite Energy" magazine I see at the bookstore next to Circuit Cellar and Nuts And Volts.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

nitpick (none / 0) (#124)
by rpresser on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:17:45 PM EST

Oil is energy sitting there beneath the ground, waiting to be claimed.

Oil is a very dense way to store energy; the oil sitting beneath the ground waiting to be claimed is not itself energy, no more than hydrogen is. It is storing energy.  Your point could be better stated as "Oil represents oil, already stored for us by nature, waiting to be claimed."

The counterpoints are that it is not renewable, that it is already controlled by a huge faceless cartel, that it is nasty and polluting, etc., etc.

Hydrogen represents an opportunity for a new set of technologists to possible steal a part of the world's energy-use budget away from Big Oil. Part of the stealing strategy is to generate hype first.
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]

Um. (none / 0) (#128)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:52:26 PM EST

Hydrogen represents an opportunity for a new set of technologists to possible steal a part of the world's energy-use budget away from Big Oil. Part of the stealing strategy is to generate hype first.

How? Electricity from an oil-burning generator at some big power plant? The issue is where do you find/make energy. Hydrogen is another form of battery.. the issue is how you charge it up.

As for it being renewable or not, that is far from certain. The squished dinosaur guts theory of oil origination seems rather contrived to me. Faceless cartels? Can't argue that. Nasty and polluting?

Well, compared to what? If we put up windmills enough to even give us 1/4 the energy we use now, do you honestly see no problem with that? Even small installations have noticeable and detrimental effects on local weather. No reason to suppose that the problem doesn't get even bigger. Solar panels? Hmm, seems to me that I remember solar panel production requires all sorts of nasty chemicals. Not to mention that it would require sprawling even further into wilderness areas, just to meet any real sort of power production. Maybe we can dam up a few more rivers, or kill a few reefs with tidal power. You see, there are no clean sources of energy, and no one has any good numbers on which are worse/better than the others.

We honestly have a better chance of finding clean ways to burn oil, than we do of making the hippy energy sources actually work.

Push for fusion, tell your senators and representatives to spend some fucking money on research. When we have fusion power, no one will want to burn gasoline, ever again. Electricity (and whatever method is used to store it) will be so damn cheap, nothing will be able to compete.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

Re: Um. (none / 0) (#133)
by rpresser on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:36:34 AM EST

Good points mostly; I am somewhat swayed.  But on the nonrenewability of oil, I stand fast: whatever the origin, if we take it out from the ground and burn it, how is it going to get back there?

As for there being no clean sources of energy -- I would modify that to say that whatever energy sources we have, will be used in an unclean fashion, no matter how good the intention. That's the way humans do things...
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]

Non-renewable, true. (none / 0) (#163)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 09:22:18 AM EST

But depending on the original source, and just how far down it really is, there may be far more of it than is traditionally believed.

Personally, I dislike oil and fervently hope that my government starts spending more than token sums on fusion research.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

Yeah, right.. (none / 0) (#153)
by ajduk on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:35:41 AM EST

As for it being renewable or not, that is far from certain. The squished dinosaur guts theory of oil origination seems rather contrived to me.

And thomas gold's basic mistakes in Geology - even before he gets to the basic mistakes regarding the measured oxidation state of the mantle, and the slight problem that his predictions have been proven false, makes his hypothesis look like bull to me. But there again I'm just a petroleum geologist.

Oil does not, of course, come from dinosaurs. It comes from a certain class of algae which happen to use oil-filled sacs for bouyancy, turned into a small number of surprisingly thin rock formations during times of anoxic ocean floor conditions, and low external sediment input. $150 Billion (as spent by the oil companies of the world, who are desparate to find oil outside of OPEC) says I'm right.

[ Parent ]

Idiotic? Uh oh... (none / 0) (#144)
by joib on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:53:15 AM EST

I sort of assumed that the reader of the article would be educated enough to know that hydrogen is not an energy source. Now, for the benefit of those readers not aware of that fact, I even pointed it out in the article:

H2 (i.e. hydrogen), ..., is not found in elemental form here on earth. Thus we must produce it in some way, i.e. hydrogen is not an energy source but rather a carrier.

Now, I didn't go into details on how to produce energy in a fossil-free energy economy, as the topic of the article was the hydrogen economy and its alternatives (the synthetic diesel economy), i.e. how we are going to power mobile applications in said fossi-free energy economy.

Next time, read the article before calling people names and making yourself look like a fool.

[ Parent ]

hydrogen makes no sense to me, fusion does (1.60 / 5) (#125)
by circletimessquare on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:33:11 PM EST

hydrogen is a fuel source that requires massive amounts of energy to make... and that will come from where?

we need to master fusion now

not tomorrow, not in a decade, not in a century... now

given mankind's shortsightedness, we'll probably master fusion just as massive energy shortages threaten civilization itself and billions starve and fall into chaos

whatever you think of fusion, know these 3 things:

  1. a future energy pinch as we run out of fossil fuels is coming... undeniably so... not if, but when... simple supply and demand at work... dwindling supply, burgeoning demand as china and india mature economically, etc.
  2. hydrogen is more expensive than fossil fuels to make/ locate: it's not a viable alternative... why doesn't anyone understand that? all other discussion of hydrogen beyond that point is moot, duh
  3. to whomever masters fusion goes eternal immortal fame greater than jesus christ and einstein combined... that person will have saved mankind after all (and no more pollution to boot)
so you geeks, get in your basement labs and master fusion goddamnit! you don't need billions and a university cyclotron/ laser array/ magnetron... you simply need some physics and brains and determination and grit... where there is a will, there is a way... and there just isn't enough will right now


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

Keanu Reeves beat you to it [nt] (none / 1) (#126)
by Haunting Koan on Wed Feb 25, 2004 at 11:46:11 PM EST

u l00z

[ Parent ]
morgan freeman and big oil crushed him (nt) (none / 0) (#130)
by circletimessquare on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:23:01 AM EST



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

[ Parent ]
umm yeah (none / 3) (#131)
by aphex on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:32:50 AM EST

Bullshit,
I have worked in the plasma physics group at Los Alamos and am currently working on plamsa physics at a different lab. You need a lot more than brains and determination and grit. You actually need a terawatt of power in order to experiment and determine the behavior of plasma and then use these experiments to refine the hydrodynamic codes used to model plasma and fusion.

This is a very hard problem which will probably take decades if not 50 years to solve. The main problem is that funding for this research only comes from piggybacking off the national security conecerns ie. how is a nuke going to work in 20-30 years of storage if we need it without undeground testing. There is money for this reaserch but not for fusion energy which will reap rewards in 50 years if that.

[ Parent ]

one word: sonoluminescence (none / 0) (#136)
by circletimessquare on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 01:45:07 AM EST

how much money does it take to set up some ultrasonic generators in water? or another fluid?

the big problem is ensuring a perfectly spherical nature to the shockwave that propogates from bubble surface to center... someone out there smarter than you or i might reach an eureka moment someday where they find out how to do this... the temperatures required for nuclear fusion are there, it just requires someone with enough time and smarts (not money) to hit upon the magic:

http://www.sciam.com/askexpert_question.cfm?articleID=000950E3-6815-1C71-9EB7809 EC588F2D7&pageNumber=3&catID=3

"Given that controlled fusion is such an attraction because of our nearly inexhaustible source of hydrogen as fusion fuel and that existing devices designed to harness this energy are of enormous dimensions and costs, it would seem desirable to see if there is some mechanism to boost the energy density by another six orders of magnitude. There has been a glimmer of hope in this direction when it was determined that there are strong indications that the collapsing bubble can generate an imploding shock wave within the gas contained within the interior of the collapsing bubble. This imploding shock wave can compress the interior of the bubble's contents even more; indeed, William C. Moss and his colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have obtained theoretical estimates of the temperatures achievable with an imploding shock wave, and these values approach those required for nuclear fusion."

suck my dick, arrogant physics boy


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

[ Parent ]

Kitchen (or Slashdot) physics. (none / 0) (#258)
by michaelp on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 10:28:56 PM EST

The big problem is to get some useful power out of this kitchen physics experiment.

Even the folks researching sonoluminescence don't expect it will produce a useful power source anytime in the next century or two.

I bet you got all wet over the antigravity article too.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

it's not cold fusion asshole (none / 0) (#264)
by circletimessquare on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 11:21:12 PM EST

read the thread

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

[ Parent ]
Ha! (none / 0) (#265)
by michaelp on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 11:17:08 AM EST

since I said in the thread that sono wasn't cold, wtf are you blathering on about now?

Whats kitchen about it is the idea that it will be magically cheaper/easier/better than tokamak because it generates high pressure/temperature with sound and water rather than magnets and lasers.

You should change your nick to 'tempestinateapot'.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

sonoluminescence (none / 0) (#268)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 07:27:17 PM EST

read the fucking slashdot thread, fucktwit

it's the future

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

[ Parent ]

its another way to generate very high (none / 0) (#271)
by michaelp on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 02:05:01 PM EST

temperatures and pressures and tritium.

There is no evidence it will prove any more practical than tokamak fusion for producing power.

Which makes sense since the problem has not been finding out how to make high pressure and temperatures and tritium, it has been how to contain all that while producing some useful power.

The actual physicists on the /. thread and in your own linked articles pointed that out, why did you miss them?

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

see that big glowing yellow thing in the sky? (none / 0) (#273)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 02:48:08 PM EST

i wonder what all the physicists working on sonoluminescence think when they see it?

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

[ Parent ]
clearly you've been staring at it too long (none / 0) (#275)
by michaelp on Sun Mar 14, 2004 at 01:45:34 AM EST

if you can no longer tell sol's luminescence from sono's.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Wah. Wah. (none / 2) (#155)
by dn on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:56:59 AM EST

Thermonuclear fusion is just excessively hard. It's obvious from the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution—there aren't many particles in the high energy tail. If you thermalize your plasma, very few of the colliding pairs will have the activation energy for the reaction.
You actually need a terawatt of power in order to experiment and determine the behavior of plasma and then use these experiments to refine the hydrodynamic codes used to model plasma and fusion.
If you have to scale your machine up to the size of the Hoover dam, and build it out of weapons-grade unobtanium, you've probably left the path of wisdom.
You need a lot more than brains and determination and grit.
Fer chrissake, the D-D reaction only takes a piddly 100 keV or so; T-T only 10 keV. What we need is extreme levels of cleverness and physical insight. I say get all the Farsnworth fusor people, all the DoD free electron laser people, ten grams of LSD, and lock them in a hotel for a week.

    I ♥
TOXIC
WASTE

[ Parent ]

google on "Farnsworth fusor" (none / 1) (#137)
by alizard on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 02:23:15 AM EST

and get cracking.

For the rest of us, we do not know if the problems with respect to man-made fusion useful for actual working power plants can be solved this year, 5 years from now, or this generation.

We know how to build solar cells. We know where to put them where they can receive full sun 24/7/365 without having to worry about the weather. We know how to transport electrical energy via microwave.

It's called the Solar Power Satellite. Bush cut funding years ago. NASA estimated that a 250MW proof of concept can be built for $10B using yet-to-be-built extremely large launch vehicles. Judging from the latest price numbers from the Russians, it should be possible to build that proof of concept for 10x that.

Once the proof of concept is running, getting private sector funding shouldn't be all that difficult, the choice for the energy companies between being able to sell power forever without having to worry about where the oil is coming from and going out of business isn't all that hard to make.

For more information, click here.
"The horse is dead. Fuck it or walk away, but stop beating it." Juan Rico
[ Parent ]

do the math (none / 0) (#139)
by circletimessquare on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 02:44:27 AM EST

cost

power output under current technology

snore...

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

[ Parent ]

Good argument against fusion (none / 0) (#257)
by michaelp on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 10:03:10 PM EST

no matter how you spin it, fusion comes out 10x worse than SPS if you "do the math".

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
so do it, or shut up (none / 0) (#263)
by circletimessquare on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 11:20:31 PM EST

the fact is, fusion is cheaper

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

[ Parent ]
So is perpetual motion (none / 0) (#266)
by michaelp on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 11:23:37 AM EST

but it doesn't work either.

But cheaper per watt? Where are your numbers? So far trying to produce a watt of fusion power has cost hundreds of billions.

Meanwhile, orbital solar is producing power every day, the challenge there is in scaling up.

But we can make intelligent estimates about how much it will cost per GW, where with fusion you are producing sound and fury, not power.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

good god (none / 0) (#267)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 09, 2004 at 07:26:09 PM EST

sonoluminescence

read the slashdot thread, i need not justify the patently obvious to the intractable asshole: you

meanwhile, you champion building something the size of west virginia in space, the cost of which of getting up there is equivalent to it's own weight in gold... and the energy conversions of which (sunlight->electricity->microwave->electricity... 0.01% efficiency?) somehow doesn't enter your brain as rube goldberg enough, but as practical common sense!?

god i wish i had the same drugs you do, life would be so rosy

teehee

dimwit


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

[ Parent ]

If your mind wasn't so closed you wouldn't need (none / 0) (#270)
by michaelp on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 02:01:31 PM EST

to keep making circular arguments and trotting out your increasingly tattered strawmen over and over. Give them a break and respond to the actual arguments made rather than taking to your strawmen.

Efficiency has been shown to be ~80%. Why do you keep repeating your fantasy numbers when real numbers have been given to you? This is what puts you in the perpetual motion camp.

"sonoluminescence"

Sono what. The "Slashdot thread" along with real physicists point out that its different, not cheaper or easier, than tokamak fusion. You haven't made any argument that demonstrates how sonoluminencse might be cheaper or easier to get to work than tokamak fusion reactors.

So why do you keep repeating it like it is some majic bullet? Again, perpetual motion tactics.

"you champion building something the size of west virginia in space"

This is another pointless argument. When you take all the space needed to power the world with tokamak/sonomluminesnce fusion reactors, including safty corridors, waste disposal, cooling tank size, etc. you are talking about a huge amount of space and lots of material moved around also. Meanwhile, launch costs will come down as we do more of it, it's called 'economy of scale'. And lowering the cost of putting material in orbit has benefits far beyond just developing an unlimited power source.

I "champion" building on a technology that currently works for our future power needs, rather than wasting billions trying to do something we don't need to do.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

"Efficiency has been shown to be ~80%" (none / 0) (#274)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 11, 2004 at 02:51:30 PM EST

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

you're priceless!

do you even know what you are talking about?

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

[ Parent ]

Yes, because I read the article I linked too (none / 0) (#276)
by michaelp on Sun Mar 14, 2004 at 01:55:27 AM EST

where the ~80% number was referenced.

I mean it's not like this is new stuff, mr. squarepants.

84 % efficiency was attained in the demonstration of microwave power transmission in 1975 at the JPL Goldstone Facility. Power was successfully transferred from the transmitting large parabolic antenna dish to the distant rectenna site over a distance of 1.6 km. The DC output was 30 kW.

That was in 1975. As the Boeing aerospace engineer in the article I linked to previously pointed out, conversion efficiencies are higher with modern equipment.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

Um, wait a minute... (none / 0) (#177)
by ghjm on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:40:28 PM EST

250MW is 2.2 billion kilowatt-hours per year. One kilowatt-hour sells for about five cents. That's about $110 million a year on your $10 billion dollar investment. At a cost of capital of 5% this project would lose $390 million a year.

I don't see why private industry would want anything to do with this, even if it didn't require non-existant "extremely large launch vehicles." Particularly at a time when we can barely keep our current moderately large launch vehicles operating.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

We've heard this before... (none / 0) (#146)
by brain in a jar on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:56:02 AM EST

Ever see any of those adverts for nuclear power (fission) in the fifties. The promised us "limitless energy too cheap to meter".

What did we get in the end, power which was more expensive than fossil fuels and indeed more expensive than many renewables, owing to the costs of building maintaing and subsequently decomissioning nuclear power stations. Nuclear power has been and remains hugely subsidised, largely because a nuclear industry is necessary if you want to have nuclear weapons.

Fusion enthusiasts point to the plentiful amounts of deuterium available and say limitless energy. But compare this to fission. We aren't suffering from a uranium shortage now, if we wanted to we could build many more fission plants, which would provide us with a great deal of power and cut our CO2 emission to boot. The reason we aren't doing it is because of the risk from radioactive wastes (this tends to be overestimated by the public, but never mind that) and the cost of such a program.

Fusion suffers from most of the same problems as fission, with the additional problem that we won't be able to produce a significant amount of power from it any time soon. We are only just figuring out how to do it now, let alone getting ready to design and build large numbers of commercial plants.

Fusion might be the future, but right now it is a mirage envoked by people who don't want to face the hard decisions we have to make now, (remdinds me of a certain morality tale I heard lately).


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

HYDROGEN IS A MIRAGE!!! (none / 0) (#158)
by circletimessquare on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 06:05:43 AM EST

jesus christ, fusion is all we got

there is no other alternative to fusion

hydrogen is at best an expensive (more expensive than fossil fuels, temporary stop gap)

fusion is CHEAP if we can get the damn thing working (sonoluminescence?) and there is no radioactivity like with fission... fission's by products ar heavy metals which last eons, fusions' byproducts last a few hours

and it's funny you brought up fission: the new pebble bed reactor designs are safer than a cooking stove, no china syndrome or chernobyl even remotely possible the way they work

and expensive? what are oyus moking? compare what you get out of a fusion plant in terms of what you put in

and the pollution? where is the air pollution?

a couple of tons of acid rain and smog versus a drum of radioactive waste

granted, i hate that drum, it lasts for millenia, but it looks less nasty every day i see a gritty bnrown smog filled skyline

fission pebble bed reactors will probably be our future if we can't master fusion

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

[ Parent ]

Energy source vs. energy carrier (none / 0) (#170)
by joib on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 10:45:37 AM EST

jesus christ, fusion is all we got

In addition to wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, fission and various other sources, yes.

hydrogen is at best an expensive (more expensive than fossil fuels, temporary stop gap)

The hydrogen economy, or the synthetic diesel economy I advocated in the article, is mainly concerned with the transportation sector, where grid power isn't available. In this scenario, hydrogen/synthetic fuel is used as an energy carrier for cars, trucks, planes etc. The actual energy still has to be generated in some way.

fission's by products ar heavy metals which last eons, fusions' byproducts last a few hours

Huh? Fusion produces helium, which isn't a particularly unstable element. Also, in practice fusion will cause activation of the reactor, but that radiation will fade away to insignificant levels a couple of decades after the reactor is shut down.

and expensive? what are oyus moking? compare what you get out of a fusion plant in terms of what you put in

And back in the real world, we also have to worry about stuff like capital costs, maintenance etc. FYI, the actual fuel costs contribute only about 5 % of the cost of fission electricity today, while capital costs is something like 60 %. Given that fusion reactors so far look incredibly expensive, I find it hard to believe that they will produce cheaper electricity than fission.

[ Parent ]

oh god fuck me with a stick (none / 0) (#225)
by circletimessquare on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 06:00:31 PM EST

we need a cheap massive energy source

you haven't tackled cheap

you haven't tackled massive

in any of your suppositions

fusion isn't expensive, once we get the damn thing going

so let's get the damn thing going

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

[ Parent ]

Try going outside. (none / 0) (#216)
by ttsalo on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:07:55 AM EST

jesus christ, fusion is all we got

Yeah, except for that big yellow thing in the sky blasting the earth with over a kilowatt per square meter when it's up. But I guess you can't have seen that from under the bridge.



[ Parent ]

that big yellow thing? (none / 0) (#224)
by circletimessquare on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 05:57:56 PM EST

you mean that big fusion reactor?

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH ;-P


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

[ Parent ]

Yup (none / 0) (#248)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Mar 02, 2004 at 09:49:51 AM EST

And 93 million miles is about as close as we're likely to get to a fusion reactor.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
SO-NO-LUM-IN-ESC-ENCE (nt) (none / 0) (#253)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 08:03:51 AM EST



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

[ Parent ]
by-products of fusion (none / 1) (#171)
by aderusha on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 10:57:37 AM EST

i'm not an expert in energy production economics so keep in mind what follows is pure speculation.

i'd guess that by far the largest portion of the cost of current fission reactors is due to the harmful byproduct and the risks of failure in the production system.  leftover highly radioactive heavy metals with half-lives in the thousands of years in addition to the potential for a radioactivity-spewing reactor failure create a regulatory nightmare.  how do you balance the tiny risk of ten thousand people downwind losing their lives against their need for electricity.  well, one thing to do is to be extra-cautious about everything you do - and our nuclear powerplants are.  despite well-reported failures in the past and present days, the nuclear energy industry is probably the most safety-consious industry across the globe.  the kind of safety procedures required to handle the process itself and it's byproduct has to raise the cost of production enormously.

the risk is essentialy one of the radioactive nature of the byproduct and the high energy of the process.  fusion solves one of these problems, and mitigates much of the risk of the second.

fusion reactions do not result in any long lived radioactive byproducts.  the only reason current fusion weapons ("h-bombs") spread lethal amounts of radioactive metals is because they use fission to ignite the fusion process.  a self-sustaining fusion reaction wouldn't carry the risk of byproduct.  no transporting nuclear waste across the country, no hardend storage facilities.  

self-sustaining reactions aren't likely to have any likelyhood of "meltdown" (uncontrolled chain-reaction) as they would probably have controls on how much fuel is available for the reaction.  thus, failures would still be violent, but limited in scale.  if an explosive mass could not be produced by the reaction process, the chief failure would likely be a nasty fire.  even if a fusion explosion would be a potential failure mode, the risk could be mitigated by placing the reactor well away from populated areas.  as it wouldn't spread radioactive waste everywhere, the aftermath wouldn't be as difficult to clean up.

if you remove the risks associated with fission, i think fusion power could be made very cheaply indeed.  no worries about transporting reactive fuels, and no picketers at your front door about the potential danger of your plant.  couple this with the assumtion that any fusion reaction would release much more power than a given fission process.  i'd guess that fusion-based energy would be much cheaper indeed to produce.

[ Parent ]

thank you, intelligence at last (none / 0) (#212)
by circletimessquare on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 03:10:58 AM EST

ps: fusion does create radioactive by-products, but they are gone in a week, not a few millenia

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

[ Parent ]
and for mobility? (none / 0) (#237)
by teichos on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 07:22:07 PM EST

What about making this work in cars, trains, trucks, etc?? Any thoughts?

flames and modbombs are the most pathetic forms of flattery
[ Parent ]
what you didn't see back to the future? (none / 0) (#244)
by circletimessquare on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 04:39:38 PM EST

mr. fusion? ;-)

temporary storage in the form of batteries is probably best

what all these people advocating hydrogen aren't considering is the energy lost when you convert it to hydrogen, and the energy lost when hydrogen is converted to water

the most energetically efficient machine we know if, the mitochondria, waste's 50% of it's energy... a car engine, 75%

the more energy conversions you put between generating the energy, and have it moving a car, the more you waste

batteries represent the smallest trade off

converting to hydrogen represents a huge trade off

hydrogen is stupid


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

[ Parent ]

Fusion and hydrogen (none / 0) (#148)
by joib on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:07:41 AM EST

hydrogen is a fuel source that requires massive amounts of energy to make... and that will come from where?

Yes, that is a question worthy of serious consideration, but it's also not the topic of the article.

we need to master fusion now not tomorrow, not in a decade, not in a century... now

Well, if it were so easy it would already have been made. While the basic physics is well known, what remains is an extremely challenging engineering excercise. It will not be solved today, and not in the next decade either. No amount of wishful thinking will change that.

hydrogen is more expensive than fossil fuels to make/ locate: it's not a viable alternative... why doesn't anyone understand that? all other discussion of hydrogen beyond that point is moot, duh

As you said in your previous statement, simple supply and demand is at work. When the oil supply dwindles, and demand keeps growing, the price will go up. While hydrogen, and other synthetic fuels aren't currently able to compete with fossil fuels, at some point they will be able thanks to increasing fossil fuel prices.

[ Parent ]

Hydrogen prices will go up (none / 0) (#156)
by whazat on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 05:52:13 AM EST

As well. First off because they currently rely on a certain amount of (cheap) conventional fossil fuelsfor production. It will be interesting to see how expensve they become when they rely on their own product.

Also depending upon how quickly the alternative fuel supplies can be produced and or utilised there may be a significant period of time where there is insufficient production of fuels and so demand will outstrip supply and the price of H2 etc go up.

[ Parent ]

what a moron (none / 0) (#157)
by circletimessquare on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 05:59:06 AM EST

where do you think they get hydrogen from?

fossil fuels!

they will never compete!

you're an idiot!


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

[ Parent ]

You are confused and arrogant (none / 0) (#167)
by joib on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 10:28:07 AM EST

Yes, currently most hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, and as long as we're doing that it's of course impossible for hydrogen to be cheaper than fossil fuel.

However, it's possible to produce hydrogen from almost anything, e.g. biomass or water electrolysis (where the required electricity can come from e.g. nuclear power).

So, even in a totally fossil-free world we can produce hydrogen. Now, this doesn't mean that there would be a 1:1 replacement of fossil fuel with hydrogen. It's naive to think that. If electricity is used to produce hydrogen, then hydrogen will inevitably be more expensive than electricity. This will relegate hydrogen to only those applications where grid power isn't available, e.g. mainly the transportation sector (you can't put a nuclear reactor in every car, now can you?).

you're an idiot!

Whatever, I'm not that interrested in what you see when you look into the mirror.

[ Parent ]

An explanation of circletimessquare (none / 2) (#178)
by tetsuwan on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:50:48 PM EST

If you haven't noticed it yet, cts is a combination of 1/3 semi-independent thought, 1/3 cliches and 1/3 unprovoked insults.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

you're still a moron (none / 0) (#211)
by circletimessquare on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 03:08:25 AM EST

show me a COST EFFECTIVE way of making LOTS OF hydrogen

hint: the capitalized sections have escaped you

ps: i am arrogant, but i'm not confused

that's your job, moron

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

[ Parent ]

Oh? (none / 0) (#231)
by joib on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 04:02:19 AM EST

As was mentioned in
  1. The article itself,
  2. In an answer to your comment I posted,
  3. In the the comment you just answered to,
  4. In another comment answering your comment,
currently the cheapest way to produce hydrogen is from fossil fuels. However, in the future when fossil fuel resources dwindle and the price of fossil fuel thus skyrockets, other ways of producing hydrogen will eventually become cheaper.

Now, considering that this very simple point has been explained to you at least 4 times, and you still don't get it, I think everybody reading this particular subthread can make their own conclusions about who the moron is.

[ Parent ]

explain (none / 0) (#233)
by circletimessquare on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 11:56:35 AM EST

explain these other ways of making hydrogen becoming cheaper, making lots of hydrogen

they don't exist douchebag

jebus you're a dumb fuck


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

[ Parent ]

Pot, meet kettle (none / 0) (#168)
by Eccles on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 10:33:03 AM EST

where do you think they get hydrogen from?

At present, it's cheapest to extract it from natural gas. However, the premise of the original poster is that fossil fuel costs will rise. Combine this with anticipated greater efficiency in renewable energy sources, at some point it becomes cheaper to create hydrogen from electricity.

But just throw around insults. It makes you sound more intelligent.

[ Parent ]
You're arguing past each other (none / 1) (#240)
by michaelp on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 03:36:26 PM EST

fusion might be "another way to produce hydrogen".

It's just a dumb one that is getting way too much govt. funding while better solutions languish for lack of start-up costs.

As far as hydrogen being a great way to transport energy made from fossil fuels, fission, fusion, or solar, I doubt it will live up to it's hype.  

Physics suggests it's not going to be practical: it's too hard to store and transport the smallest atom, since you have to make your storage and tranportation appartus out of larger atoms, you are going to have spend alot of energy freezing and compressing it just to keep it from blowing away.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

Space based solar is a better option (none / 1) (#239)
by michaelp on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 03:27:08 PM EST

we'd be better off putting the research money currently being wasted trying to get a single new watt from fusion into developing orbital solar power stations.

Nice thing about space based solar is that we already know how to produce power that way. The main obstacle is cost to orbit, which means SBS is on hold as it's only real funding source is private industry investment. Meanwhile govt's are throwing their money away at the fusion fantasy.

If the govt's put their money into developing less expensive ground to orbit systems instead of fueling the fusion bubble, we'd likely see practical SBS in a decade (not to mention all the side benefits to space exploration).

Fusion might some day be practical, esp. with a good He3 source, but if you can ever get the thing to produce a watt more than you put in someday you're still faced with rebuilding your fusion reactor every few years as the metals rapidly get turned to radioactive swiss cheese from tritium bombardment.

However, if the investment currently being made in fusion was put into SBS instead, we'd likely never need ground based fusion to have an endless supply of inexpensive, concentrated energy.

The thing is, we already have a great fusion reactor that runs all the time and produces more energy than we'll likely ever need. It's just the transmission details we need to work out, and SBS is the best way to get concentrated power when we need it, where we need it.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

orbital solar? what a fucking lunatic (none / 1) (#245)
by circletimessquare on Mon Mar 01, 2004 at 04:42:42 PM EST

show me a problem with fusion, and i'll show you 10 with orbital solar

namely, the fucking cost of setting something up in space at current solar panel efficiency that produces enough electricity for our needs, and beams it down in such a way that little energy is lost and we don't fry the atmosphere with microwaves

you're insane, where and when are we going to be able to set up a solar array the size of west virginia in earth orbit, and be able to beam the energy down in such a way that we don't waste 90% of the energy converting to and from microwave

you're a fucking lunatic


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

[ Parent ]

You obviously didn't read the linked articles (none / 0) (#246)
by michaelp on Tue Mar 02, 2004 at 02:25:09 AM EST

before spouting off.

The nice thing about orbital solar is it already works, its just a matter of scaling up the technology.

As opposed to fusion, which doesn't work, maybe will never work, and even if it ever does work, it will still require a long time of scaling to achieve megawatt levels.

2nd, "where"? Are you afraid we might fill space up with something the size of west virginia? Isn't that a rather silly concern.

Anyway, at current technology a 5,000MW solar panel takes 10km by 5km of space. Compare this to the largest power station on Earth, which covers 350km^2 and produces 13,000MW.

a sps system "the size of West Virginia" could produce ~5 Terawatts at 1980s technology levels while total world energy consumption is ~14 TW.

As far as "frying the atomosphere with microwaves" the beauty of SPS is you can point many relatively low power beams at different places (something not covered in the Civ game where you seem to be getting your information). This allows power consumers to spread out, even be mobile.

Conversion loss of modern DC-Microwave is 80%, not bad at all, esp. considering the loss can easily be made up since you won't run out of either space or power (in the next 4-5billion years anyway).

you're a fucking lunatic

The lady doth protest too much.

For folks who aren't practicing their foghorn leghorn impressions, here is nice discussion of the technical challenges and how to meet them for space based solar. All alot more doable than fusion, esp. if the $ being dumped down the fusion drain were switched to SPS.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

"something the size of west virginia" (none / 0) (#247)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 02, 2004 at 03:38:48 AM EST

how much will it cost to build, get it up, and maintain?

you could probably give every small to large city on the planet a fusion generator, including r&d costs for the tech, for a smaller price by orders of magnitude

and i don't know what the heck you are smoking when you think you are going to beam terawatts of microwave radiation back to the earth at 80% (!?) efficiency without any effects on the atmosphere!

ha! you're funny ;-)

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

[ Parent ]

Learn some physics (none / 0) (#250)
by michaelp on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 12:41:24 AM EST

a) microwaves don't heat air, they act on fats, sugars, liquid water, and other solids. Orbital solar can also be transferred by various other means which also leave gaseous molecules pretty much alone.

In a microwave oven, the air in the oven is at room temperture, so there is no way to form a crust.

And of course the beams folks are proposing for SPS are much less concentrated than what fires iside your microwave oven. Were talking wide, low power beams here. At least those of us who are talking rather than foaming crazily at the mouth.

How is one supposed to take your advocay of fusion seriously when you have such silly ideas about physics? Why do you really like fusion since you obviously have no clue on the science involved (or science in general)?

B) you have no idea how much it might cost to build enough fusion reactors to power the entire earth, because you can't even get one started up.

Nor do you have an estimate how much it will cost to clean up the tritium blasted shells, since you can't even get one prototype going.

Meanwhile, one can make estimates about how much orbital solar will cost because the technology it is based on is proven: we know the efficiency of solar cells, the efficiency of microwave power transmission, and how to get things into orbit.

We just need to get people off this silly tokamak fusion trip and release the funds to make orbital solar work.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

ummmm...what about low net efficiency of PV? (none / 1) (#251)
by doktorrandom on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 01:14:21 AM EST

from what I've heard about the manufacture of PV panels, it requires 10x the power to manufacture them than they ever release. And how much coal fired power will it take to refine the rocket fuel?

[ Parent ]
The 5,000MW panel discussed above (none / 0) (#256)
by michaelp on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 09:57:55 PM EST

in the links to the discussion between aerospace engineers, (you did read those, right?) was ustilizing 1980s technology.

PVs are much more efficient today.

The argument seems rather moot when discussing fusion, where the efficiency will be measured in the high negative double digits for a long time.

One can put an actual cost/watt on space based solar today, and estimate that cost coming down as economy of scale reduces the cost to orbit.

Most of the long range proposals* for space based solar involve building robotic lunar factories to provide much of the material.

And of course, there are no space limits nor real estate costs limits on space based solar, which is one of the big problems with utilizing solar on the ground.

And how much coal fired power will it take to refine the rocket fuel?

Probably about as much as has already been used to build and power the explorations into fusion. A nice thing about SPS is there is an actual light at the end of a measurable tunnel.

*The silicon solar cells can be made from lunar or asteroidal silicon, as silicon is the second most abundant element on the Moon and likewise in many kinds of asteroids. Purification of silicon is easier in the vacuum of space, and better crystals grow in zero gravity (due to no convection currents). The glass cover over the solar cells could be silica glass (silicon dioxide) -- composed of the two most abundant elements on the Moon and likewise in many kinds of asteroids.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

hey fucktwit (none / 0) (#252)
by circletimessquare on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 08:02:45 AM EST

a) ever hear of a cloud? lol

b) http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/03/03/1833245&mode=nested

enough said

fuck off asshole

the cost of getting such a huge solar array up there, the cost of maintaining it, and the general HUGE amount of energy lost in transfering back to earth, makes that shit STOOOOOOPIIIIIIIIIID

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

[ Parent ]

Clouds pose little real problem (none / 0) (#255)
by michaelp on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 09:41:19 PM EST

there are plenty of places where there are very few clouds, and these places could receive nearly 24/7/365 power and ship it elsewhere.

Other places the beams can be turned on when there are few clouds and the energy stored in flywheels, converted to liquid fuels for shipping, batteries, etc.

Why is it you can't hold a conversation without spitting? Do you really think you are going to get rational people to value your opinion that way?

Sonluminescence means you don't need a huge magnet, you still need something to contain the liquid, you still have your container reduced to radioactive swiss cheese by tritium bombardment, and you still have to figure out how to produce a single watt of useful new power.

You're really seem to be just handwaving here "look, scientists found a new way to produce something that might be a slight bit of fusion using way more power than they could detect coming from the reaction, lets all rush over there and go 'oooooo'". Fusion researchers have been racing around pulling these little stunts for years, and for some reason every time the politicians throw them another few billion dollars.

the cost of getting such a huge solar array up there, the cost of maintaining it, and the general HUGE amount of energy lost in transfering back to earth, makes that shit STOOOOOOPIIIIIIIIIID

These points were all solidly refuted by the aerospace engineers in the discussion I linked you too. The stoopid one is the one who keeps crowing about things that have long been dealt with, you don't have any rational arguments, points, or answers, you can't even seem to understand your own, just keep repeating the same keywords like a dittohead.

What is in it for you personally, with fusion, circle? You're obviously not a physicist, engineer, or scientist, what do you stand to gain by having even more of your tax dollars poured down this 50 year old dry hole?

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

the beauty of fusion (none / 0) (#259)
by Burning Straw Man on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 02:20:33 PM EST

small, efficient fusion engines can replace every internal combustion engine, power submarines and deap-sea exploration, power space exploration, etc. Using orbital solar power, we tie ourselves to battery technology as well for all of these things.

Personally I don't have a preference over fusion or orbital solar, or even fission, as long as we get rid of coal and wood and gas power plants ASAP.

Probably we should pursue both technologies with full force (fusion and orbital solar). There may well be issues with massive orbital solar arrays which have really not been considered, for instance, what really does happen to the weather system of earch after 50 years of orbital solar power? And options in energy are by far preferable to dependence upon singular technologies.

So, rock on sonoluminescence, and rock on, orbital solar power. Until they get going, can we at least agree to shut down all the coal power plants and eliminate internal combustion engines powered on fossil fuels? Biodiesel-powered hybrids NOW. Fusion power later.

If I had a billion dollars to spend on energy research I would probably pursue (1) biodiesel-powered hybrid automobiles and (2) sonoluminescence before spending all of it designing half the launch system for the orbital solar array.
--
your straw man is on fire...
[ Parent ]

You would pursue sonoluminescence why? (none / 0) (#260)
by michaelp on Fri Mar 05, 2004 at 04:19:01 PM EST

because it sounds cool? No one has produced a single new watt that way, and the researchers involved in it don't seem to think it will prove any cheaper or more effective to get power that way than tokamak.

Just because it happens in a liquid rather than a magnetic field, you still most of the same problems with sonoluminescent fusion, tritium bombardment, extremley high temperatures (its not cold fusion), and getting some worthwhile % of the energy produced (if they can even produce any energy) out of the system.

spending all of it designing half the launch system for the orbital solar array.
--

The russians already have a fine launch system for getting started, and they could use the money (might be worth it just to keep their rocket scientist from seeking employment elsewhere).

Some of the long range analyses involve an orbital elevator system, which would provide a dramatic (like a few $/kilo) reduction in cost to orbit, which would have tremendous benefits across the board, not just for orbital solar.

One of the big problems we are facing is that the world economy is based on cheap oil. We can't produce enough food for the population without it. Westerners running their SUVs or Renaults on biodiesel or hydrogen won't help this much, we need lots of cheap power in the next century or millions to billions will die of starvation.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

Dumb (2.50 / 4) (#140)
by ekj on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:12:35 AM EST

Piping hydrogen to consumers is a dumb idea.

We already *have* a perfectly ok way to distribute large amounts of energy to stationary installations. It's called "electricity". Switching from distributing electricity to distributing hydrogen would provide no advantages whatsoever and a multitude of disadvantages such as;

  • More loss in transport.
  • Much more expensive transport.
  • Requires more energy to produce.
  • Requires expensive and fuel-cells or similar machinery in every home.
All this for no advantages what so ever. Dumb.

When it comes to energy, there are a number of distinct problems. hydrogen *may* help with some of them, but certainly not with all;

  • The energy must be *produced* somehow. Today this is done primarily by burning fossil fuels, which has various problems. hydrogen will do nothing to change this.
  • The energy must be *transported* to where it's needed. For stationary users, electricity is quite close to the ideal for this purpose. (yes, I know there's lossages in the net, but I've seen no suggestions for alternatives that are better.)
  • For certain uses, such as in autos the energy must be compactly *stored* onboard the vehicle. This is perhaps the biggest problem. Batteries of today suck. Royally. The energy-density is a few % of that in a simple plastic-tank filled with hydrocarbons, even for the fanciest of high-tech batteries. They take forever to reload, and have environmental problems in disposal. Hydrogen *migth* help here. But hydrogen *also* has low energy-density, it *also* requires more expensive tanks, and it migth turn out to have a number of unpleasant failure-scenarios.
If we could get away from hydrocarbons for energy-production, and use it only in moving vehicles, that in itself would be a huge step forward. We could probably do this by increasing spendings on renewable energy-sources, such as solar, wind, tides, and biomass, supplemented by more use if nuclear powerplants. There's no need (and very little use) for hydrogen to achieve this.

Way too many are blended by "creates only water on combustion", and conveniently forget that if the alternative is el, then that's kinda unimpressive as el creates nothing but waste heat on use.

Hydrogen practical only for transportation (none / 0) (#180)
by joib on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 01:01:53 PM EST

Let me start by repeating a comment I posted:

On a related note, I also think it's somewhat naive to expect that the hydrogen economy would mean a 1:1 replacement of fossil fuel with hydrogen. Consider that today we generate electricity with fossil fuels. Power plants + transmission networks have a net efficiency of something like 30-40 %. This means that electricity is at least 3 times more expensive than fossil fuel. However, in a fossil-free world, our main energy source would probably be wind, solar and nuclear power which all produce electricity as their output. Now if you use this electricity to produce hydrogen with say 90 % efficiency, then use a third of that energy to liqueify the hydrogen you see that in this fossil-free world hydrogen would cost about twice as much as electricity. Now if you'd use that hydrogen in a fuel cell (50 % efficient) to produce electricity, this electricity would be four times as expensive as what you'd get straight from the grid. This means that hydrogen (or any synthetic fuel) would only be used where grid power wouldn't be available, e.g. in the transportation sector.

So, I agree with you that in a future fossil-free world electricity, produced from renewable and nuclear energy sources, will be the thing we use for practically everything that needs energy. Only for applications where grid power wouldn't be available, mainly the transportation sector, we would have to figure out something else. As I explained in the article, for these gridless applications, using synthetic diesel is a much better choice than using pure hydrogen. And as you said, the energy density of batteries is so far behind hydrocarbons it's not even funny.

As for how to produce synthetic diesel (or pure hydrogen, if we are silly enough to go that route), the most promising methods today seem to be Fischer-Tropsch synthesis or HTU (i.e. thermal depolymerization) of biomass. Specifically, perennial crops seem to be preferred for biomass, as they put less strain on the environment than annal crops, and can achieve huge annual yields.

[ Parent ]

System Efficiency (none / 0) (#181)
by Alhazred on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 01:02:49 PM EST

Does anyone have figures on total system efficiency for various uses of hydrogen, gasoline, electricy, etc in various systems (IE transportation, industrial processes, domestic useage, etc)?

The only thing that will take the debate forward is FACTS. This is one area where the immutable laws of nature are pretty much the critical factors in the debate, and those should either not be in dispute or should be resolvable by research.

I have to agree with ekj, its hard to see how distribution of hydrogen for static use could compete with the electric power grid. It might make sense in certain specific instances, such as large power consuming industries which could be co-located with power producers, but even then its hard to say, other approaches might be even better in those situations.

As for automobiles, what is really all that wrong with gasoline? OK if you prefer, deisel. I see no necessary direct connection between hydrocarbon fuels and hydrogen. If we so chose we could make all our gasoline today from renewable energy sources and how much different would that be from using hydrogen?

What we need are good energy storage, distribution, and generation technologies, but it seems to me its the supply side that is most in need of addressing, and hydrogen has nothing to do with that, so at best its a peripheral part of any total solution.

Frankly I don't think the gating factors today are technological, they're political and financial.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]

Efficiencies (none / 0) (#232)
by joib on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 05:11:22 AM EST

Does anyone have figures on total system efficiency for various uses of hydrogen, gasoline, electricy, etc in various systems (IE transportation, industrial processes, domestic useage, etc)?

The "oil well to car tank" efficiency of gasoline and diesel is around 88 %, most of the losses come from refining. Then we burn that fuel in and engine about 25 % (gasoline) efficient, thus the total "oil well to wheel" efficiency is about 22 %.

Fossil fuel powerplants are around 30-40 % efficient, except combined cycle natural gas plants which are about 50 %. In this case I think the "oil well/coalmine/etc. to powerplant" losses are very small, mostly a couple of %, so we can forget that. Electricity distribution is close to 90 % in well designed systems, so grid power produced by fossil fuel is between 27 and 45 %. If we use that to power an electric car, I think the battery can be about 70-80 % efficient, electric motor and control system 90 %, so we have a "source to wheel" efficiency between 17 and 32%.

Now for a really bad example, consider a fuel cell car powered by liquid hydrogen produced by electrolysis where the electricity is produced by a coal plant. If the plant is 35 %, electrolysis at most 70 %, liquefication 66 %, fuel cell 50 %, electric motor 90 %. All in all we get a dismal 7 %. Ugh.

I have to agree with ekj, its hard to see how distribution of hydrogen for static use could compete with the electric power grid.

Look at my post below yours. You're entirely correct, hydrogen produced from renewable resources won't be able to compete with electricity.

If we so chose we could make all our gasoline today from renewable energy sources and how much different would that be from using hydrogen?

As I argued in the article, I think that would be a better choice than using pure hydrogen.

What we need are good energy storage, distribution, and generation technologies, but it seems to me its the supply side that is most in need of addressing, and hydrogen has nothing to do with that, so at best its a peripheral part of any total solution.

You're entirely correct, the main application of the hydrogen economy or the synthetic diesel economy I advocated is the transportation sector. As for the actual energy generation, I think only nuclear, wind and solar are capable of producing large amounts of energy for a fossil-free future. All of these produce electricity, so that "solves" the distribution issue. Electricity it is. As for transportation, I think the best/cheapest way would be to produce synthetic diesel from biomass.

Frankly I don't think the gating factors today are technological, they're political and financial.

In part, I think you're right. Well, solar and wind power aren't yet competetive and synthetic fuel technology could of course be improved, but the basic building blocks are already available. IMHO, it seems like the mythical hydrogen economy is just a smokecreen the powers to be use to promise customers that they're working on something better, while they keep selling gas-guzzling SUV:s.

[ Parent ]

thanks for the figures (none / 0) (#236)
by teichos on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 07:16:43 PM EST

But, what do you think is the way out? How are we going to have flying cars, like in "Attack of the Clones", for example?? Maybe that's silly, but how are we even going to get around the proposed fact that fossil fuel will be gone in 20 years or so?? It's not just an academic problem...

flames and modbombs are the most pathetic forms of flattery
[ Parent ]
Exactly (none / 0) (#262)
by Alhazred on Mon Mar 08, 2004 at 08:56:25 PM EST

We should stop wasting research effort on fuel cells and concentrate the money on effecient power generation technology, though I think you left out fusion which I believe is still a very viable alternative if properly funded.

Once we solve the power GENERATION crisis we will have plenty of time to deal with issues like tailpipe emissions from IC engines.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]

Fusion has been properly funded (none / 0) (#272)
by michaelp on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 02:11:45 PM EST

to the tune of billions/year since the 1950s!

Its just not a practical controlled power source, time we put those billions elsewhere.

Safe fission (pebble bed, light water, IFR, etc.) and orbital solar are both areas where those billions could be producing real gigawatts in a few years rather than maybe a kilowatt in a few decades.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

Fission is foolish (none / 0) (#277)
by Alhazred on Tue Mar 16, 2004 at 10:24:08 PM EST

For at least 3 reasons:

1 its too dangerous

2 the supply of uranium is actually quite limited unless you indulge in the use of breeder reactors

3 Do we REALLY need more weapons-grade (or in this day of terrorism gone rampant even non-weapons-grade) nuclear material circulating?

Sorry, I was once OK with fission, but I've LONG since lost faith in people's ability to manage it.

As for fusion, FAR more research has gone into burning coal, so its not really fair to say it has been properly funded, and most of the funding went to study reactor designs that could only be built by large defense contractor type organizations (ie it was wasted on govt pork).
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]

IFR reactors (none / 0) (#278)
by michaelp on Thu Apr 08, 2004 at 02:11:24 AM EST

the next step beyond breeders: they take weapons grade plutonium as well as waste from older reactors and burn off nearly all the radiation:

The IFR's fuel recycling recovers the fuel that is not burned in its first cycle in the reactor. That fuel is formed into new rods, placed in fuel cladding and returned to the reactor. This process is repeated until essentially all of the fuel is used to produce electricity.

Fuel recycling greatly reduces the amount of the radioactive wastes that must be buried in geologic repositories. After 300 to 400 years, IFR waste - the products of fissioning - are as safe as the natural ore the fuel came from.

The IFR uses a combination of metal fuel and a liquid sodium coolant rather than the ceramic oxide fuel and water coolant used in most existing reactors. The IFR combination uses the laws of nature and the basic properties of the materials to control the nuclear reactions and remove heat from the core.

IFR safety was demonstrated at the prototype facility in 1986 when researchers shut off power to the pumps that circulate coolant through the core. This would have caused a severe accident in most types of reactors. But the IFR prototype safely shut itself down in a few minutes without human or mechanical intervention.

http://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/designs/ifr/wastes.html

Which seems a better thing to do with the waste and weapons grade plutonium than try to keep it buried for a few thousand years.

Being afraid of fission seems a bit irrational, sorry. Are you also afraid of the alternatives? After all, coal and oil have done alot more harm to the environment than fission has, &  in the absense of any other viable alternatives in the forseable future, are going to keep on doing it for a long time to come...

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

Liked the article. (3.00 / 4) (#150)
by brain in a jar on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 04:17:09 AM EST

I thought a lot of your analysis was on the mark. You avoided the common mistakes people make on the subject (hydrogen as energy source, not store for example).

However, I think there is are a few things worth pointing out. Diesel engines do consume less fuel per distance travelled, but I'm not sure if this makes them more energy efficient. The difference may well be due to the higher energy content of the fuel, which is itself due to its higher carbon content. That said provided the carbon has been taken from the atmosphere and not from fossil fuels this is OK. The main problems with diesel types fuels as you point our are NOX and particulates, modern engines can reduce these, but particulates can also be avoided by using lighter fuels, eg. ethanol, propane, butane or some kind of synthetic gasoline. These fuels are likely to provide lower emissions and be easier to use catalytic converters with as they are intrinsically cleaner. Propane and butane can be burnt in normal gasoline engines and their energy densities are better than hydrogen.

However all this discussion of specific technologies misses some important points. For stationary energy sources we should be using electricity from renewables, rather than from fossil fuels. Also we should be reducing the demand for automotive fuels by improving public transport (which is frequently electric powered), and by using more fuel efficient vehichles (sorry Arnie a hydrogen Humvee is an insanity).

Reducing our demand for automotive fuels is essential because there is no perfect way of producing them. Producing them from biomass isn't particularly efficient, as the process itself uses fuel, and energy for fertilisers, agricultural land is itself an increasingly scarce resource. There are plenty of options for producing fuels but it is certain that they will all end up being more costly than fossil fuels. Our fundamental problem is that a car and truck based economy is hugely energy inneficient reardless of how the energy is produced and stored. This is the problem that nobody in the UK or US really wants to deal with.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.

Diesels really are more efficient than gasoline (none / 0) (#183)
by joib on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 01:31:19 PM EST

The main difference, as I understand it, is that the higher compression ratio of the diesel engine gives it a higher efficiency (consider that in a heat engine, you want to maximize the difference between the hot and cold sides). In a gasoline engine, you can't increase the compression that much without causing predetonation (knocking), but a diesel is only limited by the structural integrity of the engine itself.

However all this discussion of specific technologies misses some important points. For stationary energy sources we should be using electricity from renewables, rather than from fossil fuels. Also we should be reducing the demand for automotive fuels by improving public transport (which is frequently electric powered), and by using more fuel efficient vehichles (sorry Arnie a hydrogen Humvee is an insanity).

Yes you are correct, let me quote myself in another comment I made:

On a related note, I also think it's somewhat naive to expect that the hydrogen economy would mean a 1:1 replacement of fossil fuel with hydrogen. Consider that today we generate electricity with fossil fuels. Power plants + transmission networks have a net efficiency of something like 30-40 %. This means that electricity is at least 3 times more expensive than fossil fuel. However, in a fossil-free world, our main energy source would probably be wind, solar and nuclear power which all produce electricity as their output. Now if you use this electricity to produce hydrogen with say 90 % efficiency, then use a third of that energy to liqueify the hydrogen you see that in this fossil-free world hydrogen would cost about twice as much as electricity. Now if you'd use that hydrogen in a fuel cell (50 % efficient) to produce electricity, this electricity would be four times as expensive as what you'd get straight from the grid. This means that hydrogen (or any synthetic fuel) would only be used where grid power wouldn't be available, e.g. in the transportation sector.

So, I think that in a fossil-free future it will be inevitable that we will use electricity wherever grid power is available. Transportation would be the major exception to this, and this is where the hydrogen economy or the synthetic diesel economy I promoted comes in. The most promising method of producing synthetic diesel today seems to be Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of biomass, further into the future HTU (thermal depolymerization) might become attractive. It also seems that perennial crops like willow would be preferable to annal crops, as they require less fertilizer, damage the soil less and can produce very impressive yields. 20-30 tonnes/hectare/year of willow semms entirely possible without extraordinary effort, and used in a typically 50 % efficient (the rest can be used as electricity and heat in a so called "tri-generation" scheme) gasification -> Fischer-Tropsch process it would produce about 3000-4500 liters synthetic diesel/hectare/year. Quite impressive, IMHO.

[ Parent ]

Land (none / 0) (#195)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:54:51 PM EST

Are you kidding?  Farming is so out of style in this country that all the agrable (is that a word?) land in the northeast is being sold off and turned into wal*marts, super Stop&Shops, and tract housing.  We have more land for growing food today that is NOT growing food, than we did 20 years ago.

Thank you Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Argentina.  Love you!

-Chris

[ Parent ]

An interesting statistic... (none / 3) (#164)
by skyknight on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 09:28:20 AM EST

I was recently informed by someone of a fairly high rank that the military expends roughly 40% of its total fuel consumption just moving fuel around the world. My memory is probably failing me on the exact number, but I do know it was sufficiently phenomenal that my jaw dropped. I am sure, though, that it was a large two digit percentage less than 50%.

I can't help but wonder if we're hauling oil from the Middle East to the US, then shipping it back to the region to send military vehicles into the Middle East to secure more of the stuff. It sounds like a bit of a pyramid scam to me.

I wonder how the civilian fuel economy compares to the military in terms of shipping overhead.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
That wouldn't surprise me. (none / 2) (#165)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 09:34:37 AM EST

Look at the physics of space flight. Monstrous rocket. Tiny lander. Why? Weight of the fuel. You need more fuel just to lift the fuel, and so on.

--
"telling an obese person to just eat less is like telling an asthmatic to just breathe better."


[ Parent ]
I think halliburton is pretending to do just this (none / 2) (#238)
by michaelp on Sun Feb 29, 2004 at 02:44:50 PM EST

  1. load tanker in Iraq
  2. sail for America for 'special processing'
  3. turn tanker around out of sight of land
  4. sail back to Iraq and sell the oil to US Military
  5. Profit!


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
methane (none / 1) (#166)
by speek on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 09:36:26 AM EST

Apparently, about 1/3 of all the living biomass on this planet is busily creating and then eating methane. So much so that they worry about methane bubbles bursting, wrecking our climate. Maybe we could send down a pipe and get some of that.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

Unanswered questions: (none / 3) (#173)
by sasquatchan on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 11:23:01 AM EST

This comment was unfortunately editorial and only had one response I consider lacking.

Should everything move to a hydrogren based fuel source, there will be a dramatic increase in water vapor in the air (since water is the emissions/byproduct of burning hydrogen). Water vapor will condense into clouds, and clouds will reflect sunlight, keeping it from reaching the earth. This has effects on both plant growth and ground temps (global cooling, anyone?). So I'm really curious about what will happen.

The response to the comment just said that evaporation from oceans would overpower man-made vapor emissions. I don't know that I buy that response. Consider the facts about current industry/car/whatever emissions into the air -- billions of tons of CO2, NO/NO2, etc etc. Translate that all into water, and I think you'd give natual evaporation a run for its money, and what would the consequences be ? More rain, less sun, lower temps, odd weather patterns, ...?


-- The internet is not here for your personal therapy.

Water is a greenhouse gas, but... (none / 1) (#175)
by joib on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 12:30:13 PM EST

Consider that by burning hydrocarbons, mankind has succeeded in increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere from about the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm to 370 ppm, i.e. an increase of 90 ppm. Now, the concentraion of water in the atmosphere is between 1000 ppm and 40000 ppm, on average about 25 times higher than for the total CO2 concentration. While burning hydrocarbons also releases water in addition to CO2 and trace quantities of pollutants, essentially all of this water is from evaporation from oceans.

Water is a greenhouse gas, just like CO2, but the way things work out is that water doesn't typically stay in the atmosphere for very long before it rains down. Water, as opposed to CO2, is in an equilibrium, the athmosphere is somewhat saturated with water. If more water evaporates for some reason, pretty soon more water will also rain down.

How water vapour affects the climate is thougt to be via CO2; when CO2 concentration increases and the planet heats up, the equilibrium concentration of water will be higher, and thus it increases the effect of the CO2.

From this we can see that mankind-produced water vapour will in practice have no effect on the climate. If mankind produces more water vapour, it will only result in correspondingly more rain as the equilibrium concentration of water doesn't change.

[ Parent ]

it's a feature (none / 0) (#229)
by melior on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 02:09:19 AM EST

In many, many parts of the world having a waste product of pure, potable water would be a selling feature, not a bug.

- That's OK, I wasn't really using all of my Constitutional rights anyway...
[ Parent ]

vaporizatoin (none / 1) (#197)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 03:59:40 PM EST

The study done post 9/11 on the effects of jet exhaust in the atmosphere (since there were two days of nearly no air traffic), indicates that there would be weather effects involved.  Whether this leads to increased rain/storms is a possible effect, possibly localized, possibly not.  Ocean evaporation surely dwarfs our driving around 2billion cars?

-Chris

[ Parent ]

Ha ha, too funny. Water vapour in cold winters! (none / 0) (#204)
by sudog on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 08:09:30 PM EST

... will freeze to ice and clog the exhaust system without some kind of chemical or heat-based antifreeze mechanism.

Ow.


[ Parent ]

Yes water vapor in cold winters (none / 0) (#220)
by sherbang on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 12:22:51 PM EST

There's already water vapor in car exhaust. In the winter it's common to see water dripping out the back of someone's tailpipe.
The engine and exhaust system very quickly gets above freezing in any weather. Of course if we were to switch to pure hydrogen there would probably be no reason to run the exhaust all the way out of the back of the car anymore anyway, so there would be less pipe to have to get warm as well.
This seems like a non-issue to me.

[ Parent ]
It's not pure water.. (none / 0) (#226)
by sudog on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 09:00:49 PM EST

And the freezing temperature of it is below normal water freezing temperatures.

If it's pure water dripping down there, it's going to freeze in any substantial winter. Good luck with that.


[ Parent ]

What is the composition? (none / 0) (#230)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 03:37:20 AM EST

Could it be filtered and made nice for drinking? Drinking a glass of water that was just produced as you roll down the highway would be sweet.



[ Parent ]

That would be cool. :) n/t (none / 0) (#234)
by sudog on Sat Feb 28, 2004 at 04:30:10 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Global rainfall (none / 1) (#215)
by ttsalo on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 10:01:29 AM EST

Consider the facts about current industry/car/whatever emissions into the air -- billions of tons of CO2, NO/NO2, etc etc. Translate that all into water, and I think you'd give natual evaporation a run for its money

Think again. Total rainfall is about 496... thousands of cubic kilometers per year - about half a quadrillion tons. Your "billions of tons" water may sound like a large amount but isn't really even a blip on the radar.

Now, the increase of evaporation due to global warming might have some effects...



[ Parent ]

Problem with diesel passenger vehicles (none / 2) (#206)
by Stickerboy on Thu Feb 26, 2004 at 09:30:13 PM EST

Is that, according to CARB and the EPA, they're only legal in 45 of the 50 states.

That's right, if you live in a state with a sniffer test (like California), you're gonna fail it with even the latest iterations of modern diesel engines, due to the particulates still being emitted out the tailpipe.

Diesel trucks are a different beast - once you get above a certain weight class, vehicles operate under different emissions rules.

Problem is US Diesel specs (none / 1) (#218)
by c4miles on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:08:10 AM EST

According to a friend who studies automotive engineering in Canada, the problem lies not in the engine itself but in the specs for US diesel fuel; a car running on european diesel can pass tests that cars running on US diesel can't.

Only second-hand info, I know. But we have talked about this a couple of times.
--
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
[ Parent ]

Europe is ahead in diesel tech (none / 0) (#219)
by joib on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 11:31:35 AM EST

IIRC the high pressure injection systems common in Europe today (common rail and similar) actually requires very clean fuel to work at all. So by mandating cleaner fuel Europe can also utilize more efficient diesel engines. But IIRC similar laws are coming into force in the US in 2006.

[ Parent ]
Diesel passenger vehicles are legal in all states. (none / 0) (#269)
by Kiscica on Wed Mar 10, 2004 at 02:45:50 AM EST

I drive a 2003 diesel (TDI, turbo direct injection) Volkswagen Jetta myself, here in California --- 130 miles, round-trip, a day.  I'm really glad my car is a diesel -- gasoline has now reached $2.30-$2.50 a gallon here in SoCal; the diesel at my local station is $1.89 and I get 50 miles a gallon on it.  Of course, I mix 100% biodiesel (approx. $3 a gallon these days) into my tank, at about a 1:5 ratio ("B20"), so my cost per gallon is a little higher, though still much cheaper than gas.  But I could be using 100% biodiesel (and would, if it were available "at the pump" near me, instead of in buckets 50 miles away) and still have a lower cost, per mile, than a typical small gas car, let alone an SUV or pickup.

Diesel cars are not subject to the same emissions tests as gasoline cars in California (and, I would think, in the other states that follow California rules); they might not pass those tests, but it doesn't matter, since they don't take those tests.  (In fact, there was no emissions testing at all that I recall when I registered an '82 diesel Jetta a few years back).

You may be getting confused because the only company currently selling new diesel cars in the US, Volkswagen, decided not to obtain CARB certification for its 2004-model TDIs.  That means those cars can't be purchased or registered (new) in California or the four other states that follow CA rules.  It isn't even completely clear that the 2004 TDI's wouldn't have met CA standards (the 2003 did, obviously; while the 2004 engine is a new design, I don't think its emissions are significantly worse).

Modern diesel engines are somewhat worse in SOME respects, from an emissions point of view, than gasoline engines.  They are also significantly better in other respects -- a friend likes to point out that you can't kill yourself by locking yourself in the garage and running your diesel engine; the carbon monoxide levels are far too low -) Also, since pollutants are typically measured per gallon of fuel burned, it's only fair to note that a diesel car may burn half as many gallons per mile traveled as a gas car (my Jetta wagon gets 50 miles to the gallon).

And, IF they are run on clean diesel fuel (e.g. ULSD, ultra-low-sulfur diesel), better emissions controls (converters) can be added to them, just as they are to gasoline engines, negating even the slight emissions disadvantage.  Unfortunately most American diesel is among the "dirtiest" in the world, its high sulfur content being the chief problem.  But refiners can make cleaner diesel, and in fact will have to by 2006 under new Federal guidelines.

Needless to say, biodiesel IS clean diesel, as clean as it gets.  In fact, one of the traditional barriers you hear about switching to clean, ultra-low-sulfur petrodiesel is that it reduces the lubricity of the fuel, increasing wear on the engine.  (Where it's sold, e.g. ARCO stations around here, ULSD has lubricity additives to counteract this).  Biodiesel, on the other hand, has a far HIGHER lubricity than any petrodiesel.  That's right, it's better for your engine than dino juice.  And its lubricity-improving qualities are present even in low proportions, so it's a perfect solution to the ULSD diesel iubricity issue.  Even 2% biodiesel, used as an "additive" to regular ULSD diesel, gives a high-lubricity, low-wear fuel.  And of course it can be blended in any proportion from zero to 100%.

So, to my mind, one solution is this: mandated ultra-low-sulfur diesel ASAP; increased use of biodiesel both as an additive to ULSD and as a fuel in its own right, in any proportion; mandated emissions converters (which won't clog up because the fuel is guaranteed to be clean); and incentives (similar to those offered to buyers of hybrids like the Prius) to purchase these clean, highly fuel-efficient diesel vehicles and to use as much biodiesel as possible in them.  (Just reducing the road tax on biodiesel would help a lot).

Incidentally, why not a diesel hybrid?  I've seen the new Prius, and my sister has last year's model; I like them, though I still prefer my TDI.  But a diesel hybrid would rock -- it'd probably get 80 miles a gallon.

It's a win-win-win-win-win... situation... a win on emissions, a win on fuel efficiency, a win for renewable fuels (without unrealistically forcing everyone to switch right away), a win for people who want to drive full-sized, performance cars (TDIs is an amazing car to drive, nothing like old diesel cars used to be; there's nothing like passing SUVs and wannabe sports cars effortlessly up a steep hill in 5th gear!) and still get amazing fuel efficiency; even a win for people who don't like waste (diesel engines are built tough; they last much longer than gas engines).


[ Parent ]

Paradigm change (none / 3) (#213)
by John Thompson on Fri Feb 27, 2004 at 07:06:57 AM EST

Since a substantial fraction of fossil fuel use and contribution to air pollution and greenhouse gas production seem to derive from automobile use, wouldn't a paradigm change away from individual vehicles and toward public transportation make more sense?

It seems to me anyway that a wide variety of issues could be resolved by this, from the fossil fuel issues touched upon above, to land use issues, urban decay and more.



end of discussion (none / 0) (#249)
by circletimessquare on Wed Mar 03, 2004 at 07:38:26 PM EST

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/03/03/1833245&mode=nested

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

Alternatives for Now (none / 1) (#254)
by Idontdowindows on Thu Mar 04, 2004 at 07:57:37 PM EST

In addition to this debate, I offer this site: www.kestsgeo.com where kests & geo stand for Kinetic Energy Supported Transportation Structures to Geostationary Earth Orbit. Briefly: "..KESTS to GEO, civilization connecting with the vast 24-hour-a-day solar energy and materials processing resources of nearby space via extraordinary electro-kinetically supported transporting bridges between ground and high earth orbit, using technology in different ways than being used at present. Providing cheap continuous huge volume transportation to/from space, thus enabling abundant solar-derived electrical power worldwide, enabling toxic materials total recycling, enabling huge rotating space settlements, and enabling very high spaceports, all could have been well underway within 20 years, if we had been different.."

The Hydrogen Economy - Green Nirvana or a Pipe Dream? | 285 comments (245 topical, 40 editorial, 0 hidden)
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