Archive for the 'Energy' Category

Algae as a potential fuel generator, and also Newt Gingrich is an idiot.

Mar 26, 2012 in Energy, Politics

It’s really amazing how Newt, who is theoretically smart enough to understand that organisms can produce byproducts we find useful (bacteria produce most booze), is happy to pander to the dumbest voters by pulling out a gas nozzle and looking for the algae coming out. He knows bottom-feeder Republicans like arguments like, “I didn’t come from a monkey,” (in that case, Republican politician Jack Kingston, reliable bottom-feeder) so he trots out the dummy science. Or else he really is that stupid?

p.s. More on Newt being a depraved fool, different topic.

-hw

Renewable energy getting huge boost from Obama administration.

Jan 04, 2012 in Energy

This kind of stuff doesn’t get a lot of fanfare, but it’s got a lot more to do with national defense than bombing people in Afghanistan or starting a new war in Iran as the GOP candidates proudly promise.

With two years of the Obama administration, almost four times as much clean energy has been put on the grid on public lands as in all the previous 40 years.
All the renewable energy ever permitted on public lands totaled 1,800 MW by the end of 2008. In the last two years, the Department of the Interior has approved 6,600 MW of new projects.

I’ve mentioned it before, but at a relatively inexpensive cost we could generate 70% of our electricity with solar alone by 2050. Throw in support from other renewables like wind (and possibly waste-eating fast neutron nuclear power) and we’re set.

-hw

Triflin’ fools.

Sep 26, 2011 in Energy

I dunno, I guess the Republicans think they have something here with Solyndra?

Now Jesus knows Republicans don’t require anything other than an opening for an ominous soundbite to flail their arms and possibly start impeachment proceedings. They want an opening, and they want it bad. So what appears to be sloppiness and an eagerness to get green energy works projects going is now Teh Sinister Conspiraceeeee!

But here’s the underlying reality behind why Solyndra failed: While Darrel Issa is moaning about the horror of losing $500 million investing in Solyndra (they should have opened their factory in Iraq, Republicans would forgive them for blowing billions), China has invested $30 billion in solar energy, and is now blowing us away. US share of the market has plummeted to 7%.

Are Republicans angry that we let China develop an industry that could beat ours? Nope. Captain Dipshit, Ed Morrissey, concludes that since our smaller subsidies didn’t elevate the American solar industry above the better-subsidized Chinese ones, that subsidies are a bad idea.

Are Republicans unable to stomach billionaire George Kaiser donating some money to a Chicago Hospital to curry favor with politicians? In a post-Citizens United world, where legalized bribery has become constitutionally protected? Where Google decides it wants better taxes and anti-trust forgiveness, so it starts larding money on Republican politicians? Getting a politician’s ear by dropping large chunks of change into their campaign coffers is how Washington works, and the conservative Supreme Court has removed all obstructions to corruption. That said, greenlighting green energy was something the administration already firmly believed in, donations or not.

On the other hand, Republicans are so enmeshed in oil and fossil fuels, having let the dollars of those industries replace their brains, that Solyndra really is about something bigger to them: killing green energy as competition to fossils. Please, these are the same people who let oil dollars actually convince them 98% of climate scientists are wrong. And if they think solar could do some good, they certainly don’t want Democrats to be seen creating prosperity. Surely some Republican businessmen smell money to be made with solar, but you know, Al Gore, so yeah. Where fossil fuel dollars don’t take them, hating Democrats will ferry them the rest of the way.

-hw

Quick charging for electric vehicles figured out?

Jun 13, 2011 in Energy, Global warming

Electric goo!

One important characteristic of the new design is that it separates the two functions of the battery — storing energy until it is needed, and discharging that energy when it needs to be used — into separate physical structures. (In conventional batteries, the storage and discharge both take place in the same structure.) Separating these functions means that batteries can be designed more efficiently, Chiang says.

The new design should make it possible to reduce the size and the cost of a complete battery system, including all of its structural support and connectors, to about half the current levels. That dramatic reduction could be the key to making electric vehicles fully competitive with conventional gas- or diesel-powered vehicles, the researchers say.

Another potential advantage is that in vehicle applications, such a system would permit the possibility of simply “refueling” the battery by pumping out the liquid slurry and pumping in a fresh, fully charged replacement, or by swapping out the tanks like tires at a pit stop, while still preserving the option of simply recharging the existing material when time permits.

Caveat:

Gogotsi cautions that making a practical, commercial version of such a battery will require research to find better cathode and anode materials and electrolytes, but adds, “I don’t see fundamental problems that cannot be addressed — those are primarily engineering issues. Of course, developing working systems that can compete with currently available batteries in terms of cost and performance may take years.”

Sounds like the far bigger challenge is getting America’s solar power grid up and running…not a technical challenge, a political one that will not be broken until the grip of Big Oil either weakens or decides it can profit off the transition.

-hw

Solar Saudi Arabia.

Apr 01, 2011 in Energy

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Mojave Desert.

This wonderfully dense piece by Alexis Madrigal captures the dawn of a new solar era, fraught with the moral struggle over the lost habitat of the desert tortoise. Except the choice isn’t turtle/no turtle, it’s turtle/thousands of other species including humans. Solar power is one of the few reliable, renewable energy sources that can replace the vile filth in our skies and mercury in our food chain caused by coal power. Solar power can never flood the environment and our cities with radiation like nuclear power. Any environmentalist worth their salt should understand that this isn’t a clear choice, it’s a dilemma, and the only thing that is clear is that fossil fuels must go. I would want BrightSource to do whatever it can to help the desert tortoise survive, but by bringing clean, neverending power to the US (yes, solar could power the entire country by 2050 especially combined with wind) they benefit all life.

In the long run, the argument is moot. Oil won’t be here. Coal will even disappear in time. Maybe not in my lifetime, but I don’t think in such terms. Maybe it will be five hundred, or a thousand years from now when we have no more fossil fuels, and then what? How about five thousand years? One day, if it isn’t renewable it won’t be a possibility. Yet will we have recovered from the damage that all those fossil fuels wrought?

-hw

Why be original?

Feb 12, 2011 in Energy, Environment

…when our technology has advanced enough to the point where we can copy nature’s efficiencies? This is the future:

-hw

Here we go…

Jan 27, 2011 in Energy

I knew Obama was going to get a reaction for daring to mention oil subsidies. This seems like a pretty mild one so far…after all, do either the oil companies or the GOP really want to get into a fight over oil subsidies?

Perhaps, “…by naming this specific subsidy, the president put Republicans into the position of having to be overt in defending their masters in something unpopular with most Americans, or come up with another way to handle investments in the clean energy sectors.”

It’s rather amazing how elementary it seems that we need to invest in clean renewable energy, and that at the very least our efforts should certainly match oil subsidies. That would be a compromise I’d bitterly swallow. But when funds are getting tight, it makes perfect sense to shift our dollars from yesterday’s power source to tomorrow’s.

-hw

Who does he expect to make electric cars?

Sep 11, 2010 in Energy, Politics

What an absolutely outrageously manipulative insensitive hubristic piece of Green advertising bullshit. From a fucking car company! A car company who’s (non-electric) cars are helping to destroy the bear’s ice pack!

Cute but stupid, wiseguy. The ad is still for an electric car. The car companies are who needs to make the transition to electric from gas, so as they make this transition, they should deserve credit for that, revel in it, and seek more.

Another thing people love to do is bitch about where the electricity comes from. I really don’t trust such people, as it’s usually a winger trying to bash people for taking global warming seriously. Obviously electric cars get their energy from the electric grid, which is usually supplied by various methods but usually fossil fuels. Yes, of course, but the point is to also reform our electric production.

It’s not too difficult: Car companies need to transition to electric, and electricity needs to transition to clean, renewable resources. People who are temperamentally smartasses need to make sure they’re actually being smart in their assery.

-hw

We’ve got some growing to do.

Jul 29, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Energy, Environment

Ezra Klein gets to the heart of the difficulty in passing good environmental legislation:

If you wanted to design a threat that our political system couldn’t address, here’s what you’d do: You’d make the pain of doing nothing come much later, but the pain of doing something begin right now. You’d concentrate the costs of failure in poor countries, while the costs of a policy solution would be concentrated in certain regions of America. You’d make it hard to solve without the imposition of a new tax. You’d make sure that some of the largest and richest industries in the world had an enormous amount to fear from that tax.

Well, that settles it, I guess. Here goes our grand experiment in seeing what happens when you have over 400 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere…soon to be 500;)

Future’s so bright…all we can be thankful for is that oil is depleting quickly enough to force alternative efforts. Hurrah to the Chevy Volt…and here’s hoping Dana Pico learns what an early adopter is! It’s somewhat expensive now, but the economies of scale are amazing things, aren’t they? One year’s $600 iPhone 2G is today’s $200 iphone 4.

And Dana can hope the petroleum lasts forever, but it won’t be because “little toy electric cars simply are not us.” Our oil supplies will not remain cheap and economical because it we need to drive manly beast cars. We are not able to endlessly pollute the earth’s atmosphere simply because we can’t be bothered to charge a car. Desire is going to run right up against possibility and lose that battle. Unfortunately, climate change legislation faces certain political impossibilities because the GOP continues to drop the ball on our future and our grandchildren’s future for the sake of present greed.

-hw

Prototype: Solar mixed with hydrogen power.

Jul 06, 2010 in Energy

A self-sufficient home:

On a typical summer day, the solar panels drink in and convert sunlight to about 90 kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to Strizki. He consumes about 10 kilowatt-hours daily to run the family’s appliances, including a 50-inch plasma television, along with his three computers and stereo equipment, among other modern conveniences.

The remaining 80 kilowatt-hours recharge the batteries—which provide electricity for the house at night—and power the electrolyzer, which splits the molecules of purified tap water into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is vented and the hydrogen goes into the tanks where it is stored for use in the cold, dark winter months. From November to March or so Strizki runs the stored hydrogen through the fuel cell stacks outside his garage or in his car to power his entire house—and the only waste product is water, which can be pumped right back into the system.

“I can make fuel out of sunlight and water—and I don’t even use the water,” he notes. “If it’s raining, it’s fuel. If it’s sunny, it’s fuel. It’s all fuel.”

Now, granted, the set-up cost half a million dollars. But as a pilot-project, this is a superb effort. The trick of solar is always about spreading the power surplus around to the hours that the sun isn’t shining. As always, hydrogen is price-prohibitive, but being tech mass production and refinement may yield long-term results.

-hw

Oil is Republican blood in the water.

Jun 20, 2010 in Energy, Politics

Rahm Emanuel, approaching usefulness:

Obama sped right past the Republicans on this one. They’re worried about BP’s bottom line, while the Obama administration just got BP to voluntarily cough up $20 billion to cover the clean-up, with more on the way. The “tea” party was just the Republican party, and they’re here to save America’s corporations from stifling regulations over things like safety and accountability, while Obama scored a victory without a single executive order.

Of course, the GOP leadership is out there trying to do their damage control, and I think they deserve some credit for realizing Joe Barton just about sank the GOP’s chances for big gains in the fall. Mitch McConnell is out there doing his diligent duties, but the problem is, as Rahm Emanuel nails, this is what Republicans really believe.

-hw

Monkey grapevine.

Jun 05, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Energy, Politics

Limbaugh says it, Krauthammer tries to put an intellectual sheen on it, and Palin dutifully repeats it. What is it? The idea that somehow the Sierra Club, by trying to prevent environmental damage on land somehow “pushed” the oil companies out to sea. Thus, who should we blame for ruining the environment? The environmentalists, of course!

Naturally, this morsel is too irresistible for the rightwingers because it’s the classic trope of telling a Big Lie to turn the person trying to fix the problem into the culprit, when you are the actual culprit. Wingers need cover for relentlessly promoting hateful and destructively policies. The first ones they have to brainwash, however, is themselves.

It’s difficult work, however, and it sometimes requires, in a symbiotic way, somebody with no intellectual honesty whatsoever, Rush Limbaugh in this case, to give the unthinkable words, and suddenly fake intellectuals like Krauthammer become instantly afflicted with amnesia regarding one inescapable fact:

The environmentalists don’t want deep sea drilling either.

That was the idiot Republicans chanting, “Drill, Baby, Drill!” like zombies in August 2009. The Sierra Club and other environmentalists have, without a doubt, advocated for and endorsed a future where most of our energy comes from clean, renewable resources.

I’m under no illusion that this is really a unique point to be made. This is all so bleeding obvious and beyond debate that I feel stupid simply for spending time over such visible and tangible realities. This is like blogging on the earth being round.

Yet there these people are, the various brokers of power in the GOP following the lead of their party’s true leader for the past twenty years: Rush Limbaugh. People with power are saying this dreck. People who want power are saying it. People who want to vote for them believe it and repeat it. Yet there it is, such an imposing fact that none can survive against! We want solar, we want wind, we want tide generators, we even want safe nuclear power.

But I guess in this deranged world view, those concerned about the environment were supposed to approve of drilling in Alaska in order to prevent offshore drilling.

The other inescapable obstacle that a fraudulent blatherer like Krauthammer ignores is that oil is finite. The oil corporations and the GOP are going to be for drilling absolutely anything and everything they can, until the earth contains not a drop left. They aren’t out in the oceans drilling at unsafe depths because the environmentalists forced them out there, they’re there because there’s oil in them thar depths. No other reason whatsoever.

If these Republicans can’t understand these basic facts, how can they suggest to the public that they’re in any position to help solve the problems afflicting this nation? Problems which are the product of years of GOP/corporate collaboration?

-hw

Drill, baby, drill!

Apr 30, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Corporate shenanigans, Energy, Environment

I’m happy to be wrong but when I read this the first thought that sprung to mind was “fat fucking chance”:

“We are taking full responsibility for the spill and we will clean it up, and where people can present legitimate claims for damages we will honor them. We are going to be very, very aggressive in all of that,” Tony Hayward told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

Like Exxon, BP will be fighting this in court for the next twenty years trying to defer as much of the coasts of cleanup onto the federal and state governments. Considering that they’ve already spent considerable sums fighting regulations that would have prevented this disaster it’s hard to believe that they’ll be going out of their way to admit fault.

So what is geological and energy security expert Sarah Palin’s take on all of this? As Digby has humorously remarked, “How’s That Wishin’ Prayin’ Thing Workin’ Out For Ya?”
-mg

Alright then, here’s your oil drilling thread.

Apr 01, 2010 in Barack Obama, Energy, Environment, Politics

Hey, look at the shiny health care reform…!

Okay, no public option, but…what’s the upside to a few more barrels of oil? Was anybody really calling for this right now? Must we tolerate this as more of “the long game,” eventually settling for some halfway version of a carbon tax?
Should we always come out of the gate with a compromise Republicans will try to compromise?

Thought, phlegm welcome in comments.

-he

Sarah Palin segues into punditry fail.

Jul 14, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Energy, Sarah Palin

People keep telling Palin she’s some kind of important voice on the right. Result: She publishes an op-ed, naturally in the Washington Post, of complete ignorance on cap and trade.

Her position is best summarized as, “Oh nooo teh cap and trade will destroy the economy!” which correctly translates as, “Republican stooges will say whatever the energy companies who line election coffers hypnotize them into thinking.” The relevant chart:

Sarah’s knowledge of energy comes from being Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Chairwoman, a position she also quit.

Unfortunately, she has contracted the GOP disease of believing that the world may very well end if she doesn’t shut up for five seconds and wait until there’s something important to say.

-jb

Test Your Wingnut IQ!

Jun 04, 2009 in Energy, Farming, Journamalism, Uncategorized

Opened up the news this morning and saw that Obama’d given a speech in Cairo, and that the transcript was online. Thought I’d try a little experiment: I’m going to cut & paste the first paragraph, and predict how the wingnutosphere reacts to the graf in question. Bear in mind: I have not looked at any blogs at all this morning, right or left, except for the Iowa Liberal dashboard; anything I get right must be attributed to my incredible psychic powers and/or the awesome predictability of wingutticus americanus.

President Obama: I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions.
wingnutticus americanus: Teleprompt! Teleprompt! Teleprompt!
[Note that some scientists believe this call is a form of territorial marking, and that the word is uttered reflexively by W.A. without the speaker actually knowing what it means.]

President Obama: For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning,
wingnutticus americanus: “Islamic learning”? Like learning to blow up schoolbuses and kill American soldiers? Some “learning.” No thanks! Oh, they invented algebra? LOL I hate math! Everyone I know does! What do you mean I couldn’t use this computer without math? I never do math on it! Wait, what: libraries that preserved manuscripts that would have been lost in the dark ages? LOL who even goes to the library any more! Besides, I never heard of this Al-Azhar until today, but I bet I can find bad people who went there! Gosh, that’ll be fun!

President Obama: and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress.
wingnutticus americanus: Progress? What planet is this guy from? In Egypt, they [insert statistic spoon-fed by neocon thinktank to wingnutosphere as soon as word got out that the speech would take place in Cairo]. Is that really “progress”?
[note: this one will be so popular that every time something bad happens in Egypt between now and 2016, wingnutticus americanus will link to the story with the word "progress," and scientists will continue to study w.a.'s incredibly selective instinct for spotting irony.]

President Obama: I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.

wingnutticus americanus: ZOMG OH NOES TERROR PANIC RAAAAAAAGE GLOOM DESPAIR AND AGONY ON ME DEEP DARK DEPRESSION EXCESSIVE MISERY IF IT WEREN’T FOR BAD LUCK I’D HAVE NO LUCK AT ALL GLOOM DESPAIR AND AGONY ON MEEEE ISLAMOFASCISM BIRTH CERTIFICATE VINCE FOSTER GRASSY KNOLL THREAT OF GLOBAL COMMUNISM ASDFGHJKL;ASDFGHJKL;ASDF.
[note: tragically, many members of the species wingnutticus americanus will be injured reacting to the President's greeting when they try to mash the buttons on their keyboard too fast. please give to the Strained Wingnutticus Americanus Foundation today!]

How’m I doin’, Malkin-readers? Want me to guess what number you’re thinking of next? Bet I can: 2012, right?
-TT
(update: having read the rest of the speech, I feel secure in saying we are going to be treated to a full fusillade of wingnuts in total explosive meltdown today. It’s gonna look like the 4th of July out there!)

Y’all come back now, hear?

May 12, 2009 in Energy

Black gold. Texas tea. Two articles concerning energy caught my attention today. The first I read in the Financial Times. It reported on the on-going saga of Venezuelan nationalization:

A fresh round of expropriations in Venezuela has raised fears that the Opec producer’s already declining oil output could sink to its lowest level in the past 20 years.

Troops were mobilised over the weekend to assist Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, in seizing the assets of some 60 oil service companies, after a law was approved last week that paves the way for the state to take increasing control over its all-important oil industry.

Note that in the business press we don’t have to suffer through any of the pointless editorial about evil socialism versus free markets that one would be forced to cope with on cable news or the Fort Dodge Messenger editorial page. We instead go straight to the heart of the matter; that Venezuelan oil reserves are depleting at around 25% a year and Chavez is selling nationalization to the Venezuelan people by blaming the decline on private oil companies who wont play ball. Being a business paper, the FT assumes one thing; that decreased production equals increased prices for everyone. Two contributing factors are to blame for the losses in output. The first is Venezuela’s technological inability to extract the remaining crude that is in its aging fields. The petroleum that is left is heavy, high in sulfur, and therefore more cost intensive to refine into gasoline. It’s also more difficult to extract. Saline and natural gas injection and displacement methods are both technically sophisticated and capital intensive and PdVSA lacks the know-how and the money to get the job done. The second factor is geological. Venezuela is past peak and the article says as much when it points out that capital investment would only slow down depletion by efficiently pumping out what is left which, considering that we rely on the black stuff in every facet of our activities of daily living, isn’t exactly a rational long term strategy.

The second article I read is a lot more hopeful and makes a helluva lot more sense to me than putting off the inevitable. It’s about an American company positioning themselves to compete in the emerging battery technology market:

General Electric will open a $100m factory in the US that will build energy-storage batteries used to help power a new generation of more efficient locomotives, power grids and other industrial gear.

The plant marks the latest step in GE’s efforts to profit from advancements in battery technologies, a centrepiece in chief executive Jeff Immelt’s push to capitalise on mounting demand for more efficient and environmentally friendly ways to produce, distribute and use energy. Mr Immelt predicted that annual sales at GE’s fledgling battery business would swell to $1bn within the next decade.

Granted, the electricity to charge the batteries has to come from somewhere and I don’t entertain any fantasies about making it all happen on clean coal or whatever panacea is en vogue this week but it’s definitely a start in the right direction.

-mg

PS – I can’t let go of my obsession with the nanny state. Here’s another little snippet from the article:

The company plans to apply to the US Department of Energy this week for federal stimulus money to help pay for construction costs, though Mr Immelt said GE would press ahead with its plans for the factory even the request is denied. It received a $15m grant from New York state.

GE doesn’t seem to have any feelings of guilt about accepting a hand-out. Why should you?

100-mpg hybrid Hummer.

Apr 18, 2009 in Energy

The Hummer is the poster child of excess consumption and inefficiency, but a Utah company is converting the much-maligned SUVs into a range-extended electric vehicle good for 100 mpg and a range of 40 miles.

Raser Technologies will unveil the Raser H3 on Monday in Detroit. It promises a 90 mph top speed, off-road capability and a lithium ion-battery you can recharge in as little as three hours. What’s more, the company says the drivetrain can be installed in other trucks and it hopes to have 2,000 converted vehicles on the road by the end of next year.

Make the dream real.

-jb

Fusion one step closer?

Mar 16, 2009 in Energy

Thomas Friedman is good at looking at fancy new tech and dropping his jaws in wonder. It’s about the only way I can relate to his general boneheadedness. Today he looks at recent advances in fusion reactors that suggest it might not be merely the dream of science fiction writers.

The way the N.I.F. works is that all 192 lasers pour their energy into a target chamber, which looks like a giant, spherical, steel bathysphere that you would normally use for deep-sea exploration. At the center of this target chamber is that gold can with its frozen hydrogen pellet. Once one of those pellets is heated and compressed by the lasers, it reaches temperatures over 800 million degrees Fahrenheit, “far greater than exists at the center of our sun,” said Moses.

More importantly, each crushed pellet gives off a burst of energy that can then be harnessed to heat up liquid salt and produce massive amounts of steam to drive a turbine and create electricity for your home — just like coal does today. Only this energy would be carbon-free, globally available, safe and secure and could be integrated seamlessly into our current electric grid.

Last Monday at 3 a.m., for the first time, all 192 lasers were fired at high energy precisely at once — no small feat — at the target chamber’s empty core. That was a major step toward “ignition” — turning that hydrogen pellet into a miniature sun on earth. The next step — which the N.I.F. expects to achieve some time in the next two to three years — is to prove that it can, under lab conditions, repeatedly fire its 192 lasers at multiple hydrogen pellets and produce more energy from the pellets than the laser energy that is injected. That’s called “energy gain.”

“That,” explained Moses, “is what Einstein meant when he declared that E=mc2. By using lasers, we can unleash tremendous amounts of energy from tiny amounts of mass.”

I’d want to keep that project funded.

-jb

Imagine, if you will…

Mar 12, 2009 in Energy

...a city with charging lanes so that electric vehicles could charge in ten seconds and keep going.

Charge batteries in ten seconds? Yes we can.

-jb

Infrastructure, infrastructure.

Feb 24, 2009 in Barack Obama, Energy

Matt Yglasias offers a useful map of our nation’s high-voltage grid, illustrating how poorly equipped it is to distribute wind and solar to the rest of the nation.

Just imagine if oil were shooting out of the ground in Arizona and nobody wanted to build a pipeline, or railroad, or any other means of siphoning it into our gas tanks (no, oil shale and tar sands are not appropriate analogies, drooling righties). Well, it isn’t dirty-ass oil, it’s sunshine. Bright, clean, Superman-powering sunshine, turning Arizona into an arid kiln where you can cook your breakfast on the hood of your car. But it can also power refrigerators in New York and electrical cars in Minnesota. Couple that with all the employment-stimulating work it will generate, and it’s another slam-dunk for Obama as soon as he makes the move. Fortunately, he’s acutely aware of the situation and making plans.

-jb

Electricity will make cars go, down the road.

Jan 15, 2009 in Energy

Good news: Lots of people working on electric vehicles, and plenty of models on display at car shows.

General Motors set the electrification revolution in motion two years ago by introducing the Chevy Volt Concept car to a packed house at the 2007 North American Auto Show here in Detroit. You know, or at least have heard of, the Volt. It’s the car powered solely by electricity.

Fast-forward to the 2009 Detroit Auto Show and just about every automaker is unveiling an electric vehicle in one form or another.

Semi-good news:

Why? Partly because it is the right thing to do eco-wise, but mostly because government overseers are pushing car builders into it with the fervor of a hyena fighting for meat at a fresh kill.

Like hybrids before them, electric vehicles will most certainly be unprofitable at the outset. Ford Motor Chairman Bill Ford believes a structured government energy policy will make or break the EV. “You could do it with a combination of a gas tax or other tax incentives on these new vehicles, or maybe a recycling program that would incentivize people to give up their old cars and invest in the new technology,” He said.

Fortunately, we have a government in place willing to do this.

Unfortunately, we’ve got a recession which has left people broke while reducing gas prices.

Buyers are feeling too squeezed by the economy and just are no longer willing to pay a premium for cars like the Prius, says Jon Kinkov, managing editor of autos for Consumer Reports. Americans are fickle and “there won’t be a wholesale rush” on hybrids unless their prices come down and gas prices go back up.

Detroit says it’s taking sticker shock into account. Sue Cischke, Ford Motor Co.’s group vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering, acknowledges that hybrids and electric vehicles need to be made more affordable. As technology evolves, she insists, and more of these cars roll out of showrooms and are produced on a bigger scale, prices will begin to come down. Exactly when that will happen is unclear.

Fortunately, there are crafty bastards out there who aren’t even close to giving up:

FAREED ZAKARIA: What’s the idea of Better Place?
SHAI AGASSI: We looked at the problem of transport from a very different perspective than the automotive sector has in the past. They’ve all looked at it from the perspective of how to build the car. We looked at it from the perspective of how to run an entire country without oil. You’ve got to put the infrastructure ahead of the cars. In our case, the infrastructure is a combination of a massive amount of charge spots and the ability to switch batteries in less time than it takes you to fill up with gasoline.

But by building the infrastructure before you have electric cars on the road, aren’t you putting the cart before the horse?
We wouldn’t build the infrastructure if we didn’t have a massive carmaker to build cars. Renault-Nissan is the first to build the cars for this infrastructure, and we’ve coordinated so our infrastructure will be in place when their cars hit the market.
Click Me! Quantcast

How else have you altered the old transportation model?

The second [change we decided on] is that the car and the battery, ownershipwise, have to be separated.

Why is that?
You never want to be the guy who bought the previous [year's] battery. We say, you never buy the battery. What you buy is the car. The third change is in the business model. You buy the commute by miles, and commute miles include the battery, the electricity, access to the network and battery-switching. You [sign up for] a contract on a per-mile basis, and you get a rebate based on the length of your contract. That makes the electric car cheaper to acquire than the gasoline counterpart.

At this stage, the gas-electric hybrid will be the best option for people in the sparse Midwest, but this Agassi fellow is right to concentrate on developing the pure electric market in urban megalopolises.

Do we need to wait for the best battery? We didn’t wait for the best chip technology to start the PC revolution, and we didn’t wait for the best communications chip to start the cell-phone revolution.

True. It took the iPhone to turn the masses onto smartphones, but we wouldn’t have it without the Treo and the Blackberry.

Brought to you via the government-created Internet.

-jb

Smart move from Honda.

Jan 11, 2009 in Energy

They spent a long time being angry at Toyota for running away with the hybrid market, and thought that slapping “hybrid” on a car that didn’t get better mileage would be their salvation, but Honda finally put in the work and produced a model that is at $20K not only cheaper than a Prius, but more than competitive and with a lil’ bit o’ vroom to it, the Insight.

Eco Assist uses a dashboard display and speedometer backlighting that effectively turn hypermiling — the fine art of maximizing fuel efficiency — into a videogame that coaches you on your driving style. There’s also an Econ Mode that decreases throttle sensitivity, reduces air-conditioning demand and pulls a few other under-hood tricks to maximize fuel efficiency.

During a day behind the wheel last month, we managed an impressive 42.4 mpg without even trying. When we pushed the Econ Mode button and used Eco Assist to mind our hypermiling P’s and Q’s, the Insight returned an amazing 65.6 mpg. That’s on par with the best figures we’ve seen from the Prius.

The irony is the Insight is the first hybrid with the driving dynamics that might encourage you to ignore your inner environmentalist and just have fun. While we didn’t drag race a Prius, our seat-of-the-pants impression is the Insight has snappier acceleration, not to mention more responsive steering, better brakes and superior handling.

Alright, gentlemen, good move but let’s get moving on those plug-in hybrids, right?

-jb

The Fix-Mike’s-Retina Donation Post…Extravaganza!

Dec 16, 2008 in Energy, Uncategorized

As our loyal readers who hang on our every word know already, a few weeks ago Mike was the victim of a brutal mugging while taking out some cash at an ATM to go Christmas shopping for his family. As I previously noted, this happened in freaking Ft. Dodge, Iowa. Anyway, Mike got his hand broken and in the process of getting his head kicked in damaged his retina, requiring an operation.

As a result, Mike has missed a lot of work and now, even with insurance, faces some hefty bills in order to have this operation to save his sight in that eye.

We know we are a tiny blog with a readership strongly dependent on the people we know, fellow Iowa bloggers and various Republicans we’ve pissed off at some point. Yet we’re hoping that if we can get even 10% of our readership to throw a few bucks Mike’s way, it’ll ease the burden of his health care costs.





We firmly believe the Internets is for fighting and blowing off steam and saying all the things you can’t say at work or family functions, or even to your Republican fishing buddies. But we always do our best to help a friend in need, so we’re hoping a few of you can click on the Paypal button and spread the word.

Oh, here’s the operation of which we speak being performed on some other lucky chap.

So if you have two minutes and a few bucks to spare, please help save Mike’s eye.

-jb

UPDATE: America the beautiful:) Mike will be in surgery tomorrow and recuperating until Monday. We thank all friends, real and virtual, who are helping make his recovery easier.

Bush finally impresses me.

Dec 14, 2008 in Energy, Uncategorized

The man has mad shoe-dodging skillz.

I gotta admit, the first shoe would have caught me.

-jb

The motion in the ocean…

Nov 30, 2008 in Energy

When you think about it, there’s quite a bit of energy to be harvested from oceans.

“If we could harness 0.1 per cent of the energy in the ocean, we could support the energy needs of 15 billion people. In the English Channel, for example, there is a very strong current, so you produce a lot of power.”

However the problem is that on average the sea is fairly calm, and currents don’t move fast enough to power the kinds of turbines we’ve invented previously. A new development stands to alter the equation:

Existing technologies which use water power, relying on the action of waves, tides or faster currents created by dams, are far more limited in where they can be used, and also cause greater obstructions when they are built in rivers or the sea. Turbines and water mills need an average current of five or six knots to operate efficiently, while most of the earth’s currents are slower than three knots.

The new device, which has been inspired by the way fish swim, consists of a system of cylinders positioned horizontal to the water flow and attached to springs.

As water flows past, the cylinder creates vortices, which push and pull the cylinder up and down. The mechanical energy in the vibrations is then converted into electricity.

Cylinders arranged over a cubic metre of the sea or river bed in a flow of three knots can produce 51 watts. This is more efficient than similar-sized turbines or wave generators, and the amount of power produced can increase sharply if the flow is faster or if more cylinders are added.

A “field” of cylinders built on the sea bed over a 1km by 1.5km area, and the height of a two-storey house, with a flow of just three knots, could generate enough power for around 100,000 homes. Just a few of the cylinders, stacked in a short ladder, could power an anchored ship or a lighthouse.

Systems could be sited on river beds or suspended in the ocean. The scientists behind the technology, which has been developed in research funded by the US government, say that generating power in this way would potentially cost only around 3.5p per kilowatt hour, compared to about 4.5p for wind energy and between 10p and 31p for solar power. They say the technology would require up to 50 times less ocean acreage than wave power generation.

Surely it grinds up fishies, or hampers the unbridled joy of boating, or frustrates my efforts to eat fresh cod daily?

Because the parts only oscillate slowly, the technology is likely to be less harmful to aquatic wildlife than dams or water turbines. And as the installations can be positioned far below the surface of the sea, there would be less interference with shipping, recreational boat users, fishing and tourism.

Um, unless it saps the Earth’s momentum and brings it to a halt, turning half the planet into a blazing wasteland and the other into a cold black nightmare-land, there may not be a downside…

-jb

Detroit bailout *grumble* makes my belly hurt.

Nov 13, 2008 in Economy, Energy

Okay then, like everything else this damned economy seems to require, government money with major strings attached. No free lunch you “invisible hand” preaching con-men.

If we are going to bail out Detroit, the deal has to be based on meeting the new fuel economy standards of 35 mpg by 2020, and meeting them increasingly with hybrids. The deal has to be for multiple plug-in hybrid car models. And most important, the deal has to include a management team that is wholly committed to that inevitable transition, a team that will not waste a penny of the taxpayer-funded bailout lobbying against the even tougher standards and regulations that will be needed to avoid the harsh consequences of global warming and peak oil.

This isn’t socialism. And it isn’t nationalization of the auto industry. It is immunization of the auto industry against the seemingly fatal disease of mental decay. And it is immunization of the nation against far graver threats. Indeed, the potential risks the bankruptcy of Detroit poses pale in comparison with the all-but-certain risks of continuing on our path of ever greater oil consumption and ever greater greenhouse gas emissions.

Car companies: Your job description is this: make the cars America needs, or nobody’ll buy your goddamned cars. Myopic economic models made you think otherwise. Obama’s bailout of Detroit needs to change the thinking and get an economy of scale moving on plug-in hybrids.

-jb

Finally…somebody the wingers will listen to about the energy crisis.

Jul 23, 2008 in Energy, Peak Oil

The average Republican blogger (I say Republican because they are most certainly not conservatives) is unable to distinguish between hard science and politics. This is why Al Gore is frequently lampooned; because he delivers an unpopular message and was once a Democratic politician. This sort of irrational behavior is entirely predictable considering that a lot of individuals find that problems are more easily digested when they come pre-packaged as a Left versus Right issue. Hacks are also aware of this sad arrangement and will leverage a persons reflexive hatred for short term gain. Enter Larry Kudlow, the WSJ editorial board, and the throngs of other media acolytes who are anxiously looking for scapegoats and band-aid solutions.

T. Boone Pickens is a rich Texan who votes Republican. He also funded the 527s responsible for the Swift Boating of John Kerry. How’s that for Red State cred? Like Al Gore, Pickens also agrees that we can’t DRILL! DRILL! DRILL! our way out of our current energy crisis. He’s also put together a plan that could realistically transition us away from fossil fuel sources of electrical power generation to renewable sources like wind and solar. The plan has its problems but it’s remarkable in its forward thinking pragmatism. It’s also encouraging (and a relief) to know that a person the ditto-heads will listen to is getting out in front of this issue in a big way. Here’s a link to his promotional website.

-mg

Let’s try an energy thread.

Jul 17, 2008 in Energy

People are clogging an unrelated post about Obama with energy talk, so let’s try an open thread.

Some points to consider:

1. In times of energy depletion, Republicans are dedicated to continuing to mangle all facts necessary to do the bidding of oil companies. Offshore drilling is pure campaign bullshittery.
2. Peak oil wasn’t supposed to happen this goddamned fast. I was talking about it a couple years ago thinking I’d have another ten years or more before the pain started to kick in. Now I’m joining America in saying, “Ouch, goddammit!”
3. Global instability and a weak dollar via massive borrowing expedited the supply crunch, so special thanks to George W. for screwing up absolutely everything possible in the critical 8 year period he was “the decider.”
4. No, it isn’t the damn liberals standing in the way of renewable clean energy.

Have at it. Those four points should get us through November!

-jb

The only relief from gas prices you’ll really see.

Jun 28, 2008 in Energy, Science

I guess I didn’t know everything about plug-in hybrids.

hen one of the world’s mightiest corporations throws everything it’s got at a project, and when it shreds its rule book in the process, the results are likely to be impressive. Still, even for General Motors, the Volt is a reach. If it meets specifications, it will charge up overnight from any standard electrical socket. It will go 40 miles on a charge. Then a small gasoline engine will ignite. The engine’s sole job will be to drive a generator, whose sole job will be to maintain the battery’s charge—not to drive the wheels, which will never see anything but electricity. In generator mode, the car will drive hundreds of miles on a tank of gas, at about 50 miles per gallon. But about three-fourths of Americans commute less than 40 miles a day, so on most days most Volt drivers would use no gas at all.

The gasoline engine only generates electricity? Niiiiice. This is a step further removed from today’s version of the horse-drawn carriage. The car is almost a pure electric car, but with back-up in case you’re short on outlets or time. $5 to $7 gas (and you better believe it can reach $10)ain’t no thang when you only need to fill up a couple times a year, if that. (more…)

Oil: $500 per barrel in 3-5 years.

Jun 23, 2008 in Energy, Peak Oil

Dr. Seymour Hirsch, senior energy advisor for Management Information Systems, Inc., was recently on CNBC discussing the dire supply problems we face. As the title of this post suggests he thinks that $500 a barrel oil is a possibility within a three to five year time frame. He also mentions oil sands/shale as realistic supply of liquid hydrocarbons which should make some of our recent commentators happy. The video can be found here.

-mg

One less scapegoat.

Jun 21, 2008 in Energy, Middle East, Peak Oil

Another oil price myth takes it on the chin. U.S energy secretary Samuel Bodman said yesterday that it was limited production and not the dirty deeds of market speculators that is to blame for rising energy costs.

-mg

If you get enough people wishing for oil independence…

Jun 20, 2008 in Clueless Conservatives, Energy, Peak Oil, Uncategorized, WTF?

Let’s take a trip into make-believe land where all of the world’s problems can be blamed on scheming liberal hippies and sinister Socialists.

Rovin, a frequent ranter on Common Sense Political Thought, has bought into the “WE CAN SOLVE GAS PRICES BY DRILLING HERE!!!!!!” myth so much that he’s gone ahead and created a blog to start a little movement. And it is classic winger hysteria; no facts but a lot of bluster with the usual list of grievances.

Here’s an EIA study showing that drilling ANWR would reduce the price of a barrel of oil by…..are you ready? 75 cents.

Here’s another EIA study
that shows what impact offshore drilling off the continental United States would have on a barrel of oil. Care to guess how much? If you guessed half the production rates of ANWR you would be correct!

-mg

PS> forgot to mention, those projected savings are by the year 2025 and don’t factor in the natural depletion of other sources of liquid hydrocarbons or natural gas.

See what happens when you accept every bit of flatulence that escapes from Limbaugh’s lips as fact?

What are we cheering here?

Jun 16, 2008 in Energy

Oh, yay, Honda rolls out a hydrogen car!

The biggest obstacles standing in the way of wider adoption of fuel cell vehicles are cost and the dearth of hydrogen fuel stations. For the Clarity’s release in California, Honda said it received 50,000 applications through its Web site but considered only buyers living near hydrogen fuel stations in Torrance, Santa Monica and Irvine.

Yeah, and that situation is unlikely to change. Keep hopin’ somebody feels like investing $10 million in a hydrogen station near you!

“It’s so smooth,” said Harris…”It’s like a future machine, but it’s not.”

I concur.

-jb

Get in mah belly…er, garage?

May 30, 2008 in Energy

If I weren’t getting married in February, I’d marry this car:

220 mpg

Hybrid Technologies is aiming for a 150- to 180-mi. range per charge from the all-electric model, while the lithium-ion-meets-gas hybrid needs to hit 220 mpg—minimum. And that’s not to mention performance. When we asked Cerven if Hybrid Technologies could hit ZR1-level horsepower equivalent numbers in the mid-600s, he laughed, vaguely adding that we were “way out of the ballpark—it’s gonna be wild.”

This is the way of the future, and a fine candidate for targeted subsidies. Get the ball rolling!

-jb

The market has spoken.

May 10, 2008 in Energy, Ethanol, Iowa, Peak Oil

Here at Iowa Liberal we’ve spilled a lot of ink bemoaning the ethanol boondoggle and contended that mass transit is a better idea than expecting consumers to wait around for whatever combination of miracle alternative fuels that will allow them to carry on driving Ford Expeditions and GMC Yukons. And we’ve never said that these alternatives won’t exist, just that they’re not scalable to the point of providing a viable replacement for gasoline. Metro commuters seem to agree:

Mass transit systems around the country are seeing standing-room-only crowds on bus lines where seats were once easy to come by. Parking lots at many bus and light rail stations are suddenly overflowing, with commuters in some towns risking a ticket or tow by parking on nearby grassy areas and in vacant lots.

“In almost every transit system I talk to, we’re seeing very high rates of growth the last few months,” said William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association.

“It’s very clear that a significant portion of the increase in transit use is directly caused by people who are looking for alternatives to paying $3.50 a gallon for gas.”

Some cities with long-established public transit systems, like New York and Boston, have seen increases in ridership of 5 percent or more so far this year. But the biggest surges — of 10 to 15 percent or more over last year — are occurring in many metropolitan areas in the South and West where the driving culture is strongest and bus and rail lines are more limited.

Hopefully we wont have to wait until gas is six or seven dollars a gallon before state and local leaders start looking into light passenger rail service along I-80 or I-380. Regardless of those who are pathologically opposed to anything resembling mass transit it’s inevitable that pubic demand will bring these alternatives to the fore simply because it’s more economically feasible than waiting for electric cars (which would necessitate a massive overhaul of the electric grid, the costs of which would invariably be shifted onto taxpayers) or E85 ethanol which, even in it’s infancy, is proving to be a massive disappointment.

-mg

Not about oil (except when it is).

May 02, 2008 in Energy, Foreign Policy, Iraq

John McCain let the cat out of the bag a little bit today in Denver:

“My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East,” McCain told a crowd of 300 at a Jewish Community Center in Denver.

“That will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.”

Ignoring the obvious implications of the above statement for a moment I think that it needs to be pointed out that John McCain currently has no sensible energy policy to begin with, let alone “eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East”. But to just come right out and state a common sense observation like the above is very out of character for any politician, regardless of affiliation.

-mg

ANWR: The solution to all of our energy problems.

Apr 29, 2008 in Energy

In a not-no-stunning display of poor leadership, President Bush has once again recommended that drilling of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the solution to our current energy woes. Iowa Liberal has tackled this issue as have many others. At the very least, rational leadership would accept the simple fact that policies based upon keeping the cars running at all costs are doomed to failure as demand has simply exceeded supply with no possibility for reversal. Rational leadership would start looking at making other arrangements that aren’t completely dependent upon cheap and plentiful liquid hydrocarbons which are disappearing faster than even a pessimist like myself would have imagined. Politicians who lead people into believing that drilling ANWR is a solution are selling false hope.

-mg

My oil!

Apr 29, 2008 in Economy, Energy, Peak Oil, Uncategorized

Omigod!

As oil prices soared to record levels in recent years, basic economics suggested that consumption would fall and supplies would rise as producers drilled for more oil.

But as prices flirt with $120 a barrel, many energy experts are becoming worried that neither seems to be happening. Higher prices have done little to suppress global demand or attract new production, and the resulting mismatch has sent oil prices ever higher.

That has translated into more pain at the pump, with gasoline setting a fresh record of $3.60 a gallon nationwide on Monday. Experts expect prices above $4 a gallon this summer, and one analyst recently predicted that gasoline could reach $7 in the next four years.

No way!

In the United States and through much of the developed world, the higher fuel prices have led drivers to reduce their consumption, and gasoline demand is expected to drop this year. But that drop will be more than offset by the rise in energy demand from developing countries. In the next two decades, demand is projected to jump by 35 percent, and developing countries will consume more oil than industrialized countries.

C’mon, why they wanna do that? Only Americans really need cars!

The outlook for oil supplies “signals a period of unprecedented scarcity,” Jeff Rubin, an analyst at CIBC World Markets, said last week. Oil prices might exceed $200 a barrel by 2012, he said, a level that would very likely mean $7-a-gallon gasoline in the United States.

Some regions are simply running out of reserves. Norway’s production has slumped by 25 percent since its peak in 2001, and in Britain, output has dropped 43 percent in eight years. Production from the giant Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska has dropped by 65 percent from its peak two decades ago.

Shhh…teh oil is 4evah eff U don make teh oil angry witchoo!

“It’s a crunch,” said J. Robinson West, chairman of PFC Energy, an energy consulting firm in Washington. “The world is not running out of oil, but rather it’s running out of oil production capacity.”

That’s right, man, you go, dude! The world is NOT RUNNING OUT OF OIL! We’re just having a harder time figuring out how to get it, but the world is NOT RUNNING OUT OF OIL! If we could just drill some MORE, we’d be okay because THE OIL WILL ALWAYS BE THERE!

Lookee here, watch me with this calculator…if I decide that the world will need 15 million barrels a day from Saudi Arabia, I just multiply that by 100% and that’s what Saudi Arabia will be able to produce.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is completing a $50 billion plan to increase capacity to 12.5 million barrels a day, but it signaled recently that it would not go beyond that. That means Saudi Arabia could fall short of the 15 million barrels a day that most experts had expected it to produce in the long run.

Not 100%? Who will give me 100% so my calculator will work right? OPEC give me 100%?

OPEC’s 13 members plan to spend $150 billion to expand their capacity by five million barrels a day by 2012. But OPEC will need to pump 60 million barrels a day by 2030, up from around 36 million barrels a day today, to meet the projected growth in demand. Analysts say that without Iran and Iraq — where nearly 30 years of wars and sanctions have crippled oil production — reaching that level will be impossible.

Fine, OPEC is retarded anyway. Somebody else give me 100% Maybe 1000%?

But the International Energy Agency estimates that current investments will be insufficient to replace declining oil production. The energy agency said it would take $5.4 trillion by 2030 to raise global output. Otherwise, it warned that a crisis before 2015 involving “an abrupt run-up in prices” could not be ruled out.

Pfft! Everybody is retarded.

-jb

p.s. If only there were some way we could spend about $400 billion to power the whole nation on solar by 2050

More wishful thinking on the liquid hydrocarbon front.

Apr 28, 2008 in Energy, Peak Oil

Those Brazilian oil fields that were supposed to stave off our collective day of reckoning have a lot in common with most of the other off-shore petroleum deposits that are supposed to allow us to keep commuting to work in Ford F350 extended cab pickups. They’re almost physically impossible to get to making them prohibitively expensive to exploit:

April 28 (Bloomberg) — Brazil’s plan to become one of the world’s biggest oil exporters hinges on exploiting crude 6 miles below the ocean surface in deposits so hot they can melt the metal used to carry uranium to nuclear plants.

Tapping what may be the biggest oil finds in the Western Hemisphere in three decades will require equipment that can withstand 18,000 pounds per square inch of pressure, enough to crush a pickup truck, pipes that can carry oil at temperatures above 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 Celsius) and drill bits that can penetrate layers of salt more than one mile thick.

Much like the “Jack” discoveries made a few years ago, nobody is even venturing a guess as to how much each barrel of oil extracted would have to cost in order to make such a venture profitable. If you guessed “a helluva lot” then you’re probably close. Rest assured, though, that when we get to that point we’re going to have more to worry about than the cost of driving our Ford Expedition to the Denny’s buffet.

-mg

Time to rethink that SUV purchase.

Mar 09, 2008 in Energy, Peak Oil, Uncategorized

Raving-liberal-moonbat Matt Simmons (of Simmons and Company, one the largest investment bankers in the energy markets) blows some minds at CNBC:

He certainly does put things into perspective.

Ever stop and think how $4..$5…even $6 dollar a gallon gas would change the way you carry on with your activities of daily living?  Probably in more ways than you think.

-mg

Woosh-woosh-woosh

Feb 23, 2008 in Energy

That’s the sound of wind turbines in Texas powering 1 million homes and rising

-jb

Whoops!

Feb 09, 2008 in Energy, Ethanol, Global warming

Well, I always thought of ethanol as more of a national security issue than a global warming one

The rush to grow biofuel crops — widely embraced as part of the solution to global warming — is actually increasing greenhouse gas emissions rather than reducing them, according to two studies published Thursday in the journal Science.

One analysis found that clearing forests and grasslands to grow the crops releases vast amounts of carbon into the air — far more than the carbon spared from the atmosphere by burning biofuels instead of gasoline.

Nothing about ethanol has ever struck me as being particularly clean. I thought we were at best shaving a few million tons of carbon over ten years, although I had no hard information to base that guess on. Now the hard information comes out.

Well, I can at least hope for electric tractors one day. That and a bowl of ice cream that never empties (I’m thinking of an ice cream rental business).

-jb

An appreciable improvement in the hydrogen situation.

Feb 02, 2008 in Energy

Well, cheaper hydrogen using solar power does help…

Nanoptek, a startup based in Maynard, MA, has developed a new way to make hydrogen from water using solar energy. The company says that its process is cheap enough to compete with the cheapest approaches used now, which strip hydrogen from natural gas, and it has the further advantage of releasing no carbon dioxide.

Nanoptek, which has been developing the new technology in part with grants from NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE), recently completed its first venture-capital round, raising $4.7 million that it will use to install its first pilot plant. The technology uses titania, a cheap and abundant material, to capture energy from sunlight. The absorbed energy releases electrons, which split water to make hydrogen. Other researchers have used titania to split water in the past, but Nanoptek researchers found a way to modify titania to absorb more sunlight, which makes the process much cheaper and more efficient, says John Guerra, the company’s founder and CEO.

This is pretty sweet. It sounds like a perfect mating of solar and hydrogen, a utilization of extremely basic and common elements of our environment.

Guerra says that chip makers have long known that straining a material so that its atoms are slightly pressed together or pulled apart alters the material’s electronic properties. He found that depositing a coating of titania on dome-like nanostructures caused the atoms to be pulled apart. “When you pull the atoms apart, less energy is required to knock the electrons out of orbit,” he says. “That means you can use light with lower energy–which means visible light” rather than just ultraviolet light.

I love how incremental discoveries are happening every day in nanotech science. We’ve essentially discovered the ability to play Legos with molecules and see what new things we can dream up at the smallest scales that translate into results in our macroworld.

Does it translate into scooting your butt to McDonald’s in a hydrogen powered car anytime soon? Nope. But somebody will make use of the abundant clean energy, probably more for power plants than individual transportation.

-jb

Shrill Shrieking Unspeakably Wealthy Moonbats

Jan 27, 2008 in Energy

Yet another granola-crunching moonbat yammering on about ‘peak oil’ and other liberal lies.

This particular science-disbelieving moonbat happens to be the CEO of Shell Oil.

Seven years, folks! I know there are some people who have this quasi-mystical idea that we can’t mess things up completely – that God will step in right at the moment of impending disaster, or that ingenuity will come into play just when things look darkest. Some people might call these thoughts “Hollywood fantasies,” and that’s one way of putting it, but the itch reaches back further than that. It’s the age-old need for a clean narrative that doesn’t end in one’s own demise. I have news for all y’all’s inner children.

Just because your need for a clean narrative is soul-deep doesn’t mean you’re going to get what you want. If there’s anybody who hears the CEO of Shell say “we’re gonna hit peak oil” and wants to go about debunking and offering alternate theories, let that person ask himself: if I know so goddamn much about oil, why am I not infinitely wealthy, like the CEO of Shell?

-TT

The plug-in hybrid: Our next logical step.

Jan 24, 2008 in Energy

The plug-in is the bridge to the future. We, by building it, guarantee the existence of the other side.

The big greenhouse gas savings would come about as plug-ins enable a major transition toward clean electricity and away from petroleum-based fuel, which is getting dirtier every year, as unconventional oil, such as Canadian tar sands, becomes more popular.

Unlike petroleum, electricity is poised to get greener in the future, especially as we fight climate change. Indeed, once we have a national cap on carbon emissions, plug-ins will drive even faster growth of the diverse and growing numbers of carbon-free electricity sources, which include solar photovoltaics, solar thermal electric, wind, geothermal, nuclear and, potentially, coal with carbon capture and storage. By providing distributed energy storage to the grid, plug-ins could make intermittent renewables like wind power (mostly available at night) more cost-effective — and ultimately assist renewables in becoming the nation’s primary source of power.

Renewables aren’t just replacements for fossil fuels, they have really attractive virtues that make them ultimately preferable. As the plug-in fosters clean electricity, the abundance of clean energy will engender new power grids and efficiencies in delivery that could potentially lead to more energy use in our daily lives, not less. Electric vehicles will find fast-charging power stations across America within a generation or less.

-jb

p.s. Toyota is jumping in the mix by 2010 to match the Chevy Volt.

$100 a barrel.

Jan 02, 2008 in Economy, Energy

It finally happened.

-mg

Libertarian theology.

Dec 20, 2007 in Energy, Politics

Don’t you love Cato-ites and their libertarian maxims? They sound so neat and wise, but have almost no connection to reality. Whiskey Fire notes this utterance regarding the new auto mileage standards:

All this leads to one question: Why are these mandates necessary? If the changes are as sensible as Congress and the White House claim, consumers would make them privately.

They would? That’s indisputable, is it? For the sake of argument, let’s say so but…

Perhaps it’s about making sure that consumers have the actual real-life capacity to make the fucking choices they’ve been demanding for years in the face of a retarded American corporate structure that refuses to innovate to meet a demand that sane people saw coming 15 years ago?

I’d sure like to be able to buy an electric car. Auto and oil industries have been very successful at making sure I don’t get that choice. The Cato-noid whines that only a few models beat 35mpg, but the introduction of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are hardly exemplars of revolutionary technology, would drive up averages effectively. Since electric cars don’t actually use gas, I would hope to see them make a big impact, unless somebody slips in some fine print to make sure zero-emission vehicles don’t go screwing up our efforts to clean up the environment…

-jb

The market will provide us with alternatives.

Dec 12, 2007 in Energy, Peak Oil

Or so we’re supposed to believe.

I was perusing The Oil Drum and ran across this contribution by Hans Noeldner:

Somewhere along the way, we-the-people seem to have reached a consensus that when it comes to allocating natural resources, money should do the talking. In fact many true believers contend money is the only legitimate communicator.

…If our economy fails to charge us the “true cost” of denying future generations the fossil energy they might need to feed themselves 50 years hence; if our economy suffocates vast swathes of bio-productive land beneath highways and parking lots for our Happy Motoring convenience, if our economy fails to extract “flood money” from us to recompense millions of coastal dwellers for the loss of their ancestral homelands beneath rising oceans; well…perhaps the solution is to internalize those costs somehow.

The article suggests that perhaps some behavior modification is in order to hopefully mitigate some of the potential issues that a future of fossil fuel scarcity poses so naturally the free-market crazies gotta make an appearance.  Here’s a classic comment from user “Practical”:

What a lot of rubbish. Non market solutions to inequality and perceived misuse of resources have been tried many times with little success. Check out all the the socialist failures of the 20th century. Those who think they know better than the market are delusional, especially if they think imposing their ideas on the unwilling will improve the situation.

It’s easy to forget while you’re watching The Hitler Channelor listening to your iPod that all of the fancy things that you see around you and enjoy are the results of burning rocks and dinosaur juice.  And so I’m sure it’s also easy to believe that the market forces that rely on cheap rocks to burn will also provide innovative solutions for a way of life that doesn’t rely exclusively on said cheap dino juice.  Sooner or later, guys like Practical are going to have to realize that technology and energy are not interchangeable.  Technology does not create energy, it is reliant upon it.  So if he’s waiting for that hypothetical “they” to “come up with something” I’m afraid he’s going to be very disappointed.

And besides, where are the free-marketeers when it comes to other issues of behavior modification?  How about a free market solution to the sale of illicit drugs?  I mean, there’s obviously a demand, so why not let the market decide?    

-mg

Peak Oil is on schedule.

Dec 10, 2007 in Energy, Peak Oil

As entirely expected here at Iowa Liberal, documented further by the New York Times:

The economies of many big oil-exporting countries are growing so fast that their need for energy within their borders is crimping how much they can sell abroad, adding new strains to the global oil market.

Experts say the sharp growth, if it continues, means several of the world’s most important suppliers may need to start importing oil within a decade to power all the new cars, houses and businesses they are buying and creating with their oil wealth.

Indonesia has already made this flip. By some projections, the same thing could happen within five years to Mexico, the No. 2 source of foreign oil for the United States, and soon after that to Iran, the world’s fourth-largest exporter. In some cases, the governments of these countries subsidize gasoline heavily for their citizens, selling it for as little as 7 cents a gallon, a practice that industry experts say fosters wasteful habits.

What I find unexpected is that 7 cent gas didn’t turn these countries into economic superpowers. When all is said and done, the potential of oil countries will have been mostly wasted. The wealth has gone everywhere but to the people that live there, and now that their economies are just barely getting afloat, sure signs of oil’s scarcity continue to pile up. As exporters turn into importers, the energy vacuum will start tearing eyeballs out of sockets Total Recall style.

-jb