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Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

Posted November 01, 2009 9:29 AM

Alternative energies, clean coal, natural gas, sustainable bio-fuels — talk about our energy future is non-stop and sometimes contradictory, with separate camps arguing about the best solutions. What is the best approach to analyzing all of these options? Are powerful lobbies getting their voices heard over those of the scientists and engineers that we need to be listening to? How can we accurately measure the value and the impact of each of the competing technologies?

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#1

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

11/02/2009 2:18 AM

Technology exists to meet our energy needs for years to come. We may have to may more for it, we may have to alter our lifestyles a bit, but mostly the battle is political and of little consequence to the long term survival of the human race. What is REALLY disturbing is that this smokescreen is hiding from the public a far more significant issue for which it is not clear the appropriate and cost-effective solutions are available- I am referring to water shortage. I would feel a whole lot better if some of the billions of dollars being wasted on wild energy schemes was directed towards solving the water issue...

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#4
In reply to #1

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

11/02/2009 10:01 AM

Good point. And the food and agriculture issues that may arise from there.

There was in the past week an interesting radio interview (antena3) in Portugal and the predicted scenario for this nation...

I is not good at all- They say that Lisbon could have the temperatures of the actual Rabat for the end of this century.

I wonder for other places...I imagine Alasca is witnessing these "about to came changes" right now .

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#7
In reply to #1

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

11/02/2009 8:21 PM

I agree that the water shortage issue is of far more consequence than the energy issue. While it is possible to live in a energy minimum situation culturally (people do it every day in the Third World) living without potable water is much larger problem. There are numerous technologies to reclaim and purify water (even if it is contaminated); however, most of them require electrical energy and the largest sources of water (ie:the oceans of the world) are not convenient to population centers for desalination by RO, etc. Indeed, the problems we are facing are primarily political in nature.

More wars have been fought over water rights than for any other single reason. I suspect it will be the same in th future. Water is a basic human need.

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#8
In reply to #1

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

11/02/2009 9:39 PM

Check out www.ire-incorp.com . We have a food/fuel/fallow cropping cycle based on University and USDA research that gives sustainable production of food and energy, and we use a couple of cheap prehistoric technologies to purify polluted water and recover water from the atmosphere for irrigation. Unreacted biomass from the fuel production provides electricity and heat to run the system.

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

11/03/2009 9:30 AM

Are you George?

You should register...

Looks interesting

when does the pilot go online?

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

11/03/2009 6:36 PM

Pilot scale was run in 2006, 07, we are starting up a 4 MGY training and demonstration center, a 12 MGY commercial unit, and freezer plant to process vegetables as part of the food/fuel/fallow cropping cycle in South Texas. The CO2 from fermentation is the refrigerant in the IQF freezer tunnels. Next step is the Microturbine running on straight 130-proof denatured ethanol to make the electricity to run a hybrid with no gasoline in the mix. Test vehicle will be road tested first of the year. Once the system is proved, we start building agricultural tractors and trucks for transportation, good bye gasoline and diesel. Our water technologies will let us bring irrigated agriculture to that desert between Ozona, Texas and El Paso.

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#12
In reply to #1

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

12/06/2009 8:10 PM

Search "arithmetic, population and energy" on youtube. Take it with a pinch of salt, yet... how many bottles left ?

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#13
In reply to #1

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

12/23/2009 3:16 PM

Your comment on water conservation (including reduction of water pollution) is well taken. Much has been done in the USA in terms of conserving water over the last 100 years: farm ponds, industrial run-off reservoirs (building regulation require), and wetland conservation. However, more is needed. The loss of vegetation such as trees which transpire large amounts (as much as 50-100liter/day per tree) of water to the air. Replanting of trees has been tried in several countries including USA, India, Iran etc. with positive results. However, replanting does not usually keep up with the destruction of trees. Mankind needs to be in "harmony" with nature, or we will upset the natural equilibrium. LeChatelier's principle states that if a stress or stain is applied to an equilibrium, the equilibrium will shift in the direction that will undo (reduce) the stress or strain. Unfortunately that means humans. "It's not nice to P***-off mother nature!"

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#15
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Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

12/31/2009 1:39 PM

I agree!

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#2

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

11/02/2009 5:20 AM

I see nothing wrong with looking for alternatives in energy conservation and efficiency and any moves to reduce atmospheric pollution is to be highly recommended. But carbon trading schemes are total political crap, nothing more than a method to steal more money from the ever suffering taxpayer.

Political interference of scientific advise has become a problem, three immediate references are apparent

1 A qualified scientist in our public funded dept of scientific research CSIRO has been gagged for daring to say[researched] that the governments carbon trading scheme will not make a bit of difference to global problems,CSIRO will not release his papers to the public even tho it is funded by tax payers money, if there is nothing to hide why would this not be allowed?

2 Our government has banned politicians from informing their constituents of government proceedings if it is not in there interest's. the following link will explain.

http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/piersakerman/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/big_brother_antic_mocking_openness

You think Australia is democratic? how could you trust a government not to interfere in any thing it sees fit and not inform its public.

3 Here is another example of lack of government intelligence and poor public information.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/philipjohnston/6483905/Is-cannabis-very-harmful-Dont-be-a-dope.html

Lack of our governments effort to actually reducing our carbon footprint is because it has its fingers in to many big businesses which are misdirecting its policy's. We could have immediate results if the natural gas which is being sold to the Chinese for a pittance could be used to fire our coal powered power stations, also we have supposedly the worlds largest supplies of uranium but this government will not build any atomic power stations.

This would give the taxpayers in this country a great deal of relief. Apparently listening to good scientific advise is not on governments agendas anymore political expediency is more important than the public good.

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#3

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

11/02/2009 10:01 AM

It is a fact that energy, water and other non renewable sources, can not sustain the increasing consumption rate, what is going on now.

Where as established methods like thermal, fossil fuel based usage got a deep bearing and dependency.

Petroleum products just apart from fuels ,also cater to lot of basic chemicals like solvents, fertilizer and lot other raw chemicals.

Coal conversion has also got a major utility potential.

All the ongoing renewable energies got a relevance about best exploitation of available opportunities. For example solar power for space vehicles and so on.

2020 is looked at with lot of optimism towards carbon emission reductions.

A CONVINCING ENERGY SOLUTION a major improvement in the existing power generation sector with lowest cost, augmentabilty and flexibility should be the goal of all searches. It is more on the part of engineers and scientists to contribute for the viability. Once low cost electricity is viable ,then comes the major answers to all fossil fuel dependency, a total revamping into our on going systems.

The quest is not out of HOPES.

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#5

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

11/02/2009 11:12 AM

It would seem that a system that could run on all of the following would not only help economically, but also politically and environmentally, and get us all energy independent.

1) Compressed air ---to recover energy, such as from braking, or movement. Batteries cannot take the massive energy flows in such a short time. Typical braking power is 3-4 times acceleration in most vehicles. Hydraulics work well...

2) gaseous fuels, such as hydrogen, Natural Gas, cow farts (joke...). This basically means the system needs tanks and compression ability, which goes along with compressed air (synergy?).

3) Liquid fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, alcohol, methanol, and, of course, french fry oil...oh, and bio diesel...to use up all that fuel made by the algae force fed by co2 from the engine...

4) Solar and wind... How to do that is by electric or hydraulic drive...working on hydraulics myself...

When the system is able to take in all four groups, then it will run on what is available. If it can do that below 1500-1800 kelvin, there will be no smog or soot.

Then that system needs to be at least 60% efficiency in fuel conversion...GE has a system that is 60%, so it is possible...just make it a lot smaller for the home/office heater system replacement.

If you can do that, about 80-90% of the co2 would be gone and energy would be very cheap. How? look at some of my old posts...

Ah, but to get there people need to invest, which is where ROI (return on investment) comes in. If you use some form of carbon fuel to bridge when solar/wind are not functioning, then the higher the cost of Carbon fuels (read cap and trade), the lower the ROI.

Ironically, if they (USA congress---Copenhagen treaty) pass cap and trade (tax?), it will SLOW and hinder progress towards solar and wind by making the ROI lower for such a capital equipment investment. Why?

During the first 5-10 years a person will run natural gas (cheapest/BTU and available in homes already) and generate electricity, and thereby make money to pay off the machine/engine.

Once every house has a machine (engine) and it now becomes "base load" power, displacing coal power, the price of electricity will drop to the marginal cost of the lowest cost carbon fuel the home owner can use (not coal). That cost/kw is around 3-4 cents/kw when you get 60% efficiency. A Coal plant is 2 cents/kw.

To be par with coal a person would run half the time solar and get a cost around 2 cents/kw if the avoidance payment is low. In places like California where the earnings payment is 11 cent/kw, they would make 7 cents/kw running on Natural Gas, and would run wide open (25kw) 24/7, and save with wind/solar when available.

As electricity prices fall, the investor will find it does not pay to run unless it is from solar or wind, or when the spot price of electricity (voltage and frequency maintenance?) is high enough to cover fuels costs, or use the waste heat (40% of not converted to electricity...) to heat a house and generate electricity to pay for the fuel used....

In other words, the ROI will be higher if there is no Cap and Trade, thereby giving enough incentive for people to go out, buy the machine, and generate power in their home (25 kw max, typical), which some day will be mostly solar/wind due to competition forces. Once everybody has one, the only way to make money will be with cheap bio-fuel made from home, or by solar/wind.

This is how we can transition from coal to solar/wind and keep the lights on. CAP AND TRADE will make a few people rich (Goldman Sachs and "friends" of Congressman) and SLOW (!) progress towards energy independence.

This is what I am working on...

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#6
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Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

11/02/2009 1:43 PM

Long time no see

How is your project coming along?

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#11
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Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

11/11/2009 1:19 AM

It is coming along well. I had a lot of dead ends, but I think I see a light at the end of the tunnel...just hope it is not a train... There sure are a lot of devils in the details. One small thing can stop an entire concept.

Thanks for the ask.

Seaplaneguy

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#14

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

12/31/2009 5:59 AM

Technical solutions exist for almost all our problems in both energy and water.

If CO2 is a problem (and not a plant nutrient), it can be scrubbed and used to accelerate growth of algae, trees etc. This would make coal acceptable, instead of being"bad" (how we would manage base load energy without it I'm not sure).

If oil shortage is a problem we can extract oil from coal, as well as algae and various other things. (The algal route is not currently economic, but continued research will probably make it competitive).

If water is a problem, desalination is improving in efficiency all the time and will probably be a viable contributor to a solution.

Nuclear can produce large amounts of base load energy, and with some redesign could do it quite cheaply. Waste can be concentrated and used to generate more power, while other wastes can be locked up in silicate complexes, synrock etc.

Changed agricultural practices can improve our land instead of damaging it, while still retaining productivity.

Coal station waste can help grow more food by using nutrient enriched water (primarily with CO2, but other nutrients can be present) to irrigate crops etc.

All these problems have either been solved or are on the way to solution, but the biggest hurdle to overcome in all cases is political.

As long as a problem can be perceived, vested media interests make money, "green" lobbyists make money, academics get research grants and cushy jobs as "advisers", politicians are seen to be needed to "solve" the problems, big government can justify taking more control, more bureaucrats are needed to investigate and control things etc.

As can be seen, the "problem" takes on a self-sustaining life of it's own and solutions have a lot of resistance to overcome before they will even be considered.

As engineers, we need to be continually pushing the "solutions", not enhancing the problem.

Ultimately, we are the ones who will enable these problems to be solved.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Battle Brewing Over Our Energy Future?

01/01/2010 3:42 AM

sceptic you said,

As long as a problem can be perceived, vested media interests make money, "green" lobbyists make money, academics get research grants and cushy jobs as "advisers", politicians are seen to be needed to "solve" the problems, big government can justify taking more control, more bureaucrats are needed to investigate and control things etc.

There is the core of the problem, governments, bureaucrats and all there bum kissers are absorbing the tax payers money for there own benefits to such an extent [ see British politicians with there snouts in the trough]there is not a lot left over to invest in new infrastructure. We have an whole fleet of ex prime ministers still sucking on the public teat costing us millions of $ a year not one of these has stood up and said this money would be better used for new treatment centers in hospitals or any other number of worthy causes. They are so arrogant about there previous position in life they cannot see how wrong they are.

Until we get some politicians with some integrity [ hopefully there is a small light on the horizon] things will not get any better, this does make me so sad.

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