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Achilles
08-02-2007, 02:40 PM
As I'm sure everyone is aware, fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource. At some point, production will peak leading to an eventual collapse in supply. Some experts argue that this event has already occured and that we are sliding down the other side of Hubbert's Peak (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubbert_peak_theory).

Considering that cheap energy is the cornerstone of the developed world's economy, what impact do you think this will have when production peaks and we begin running out (tomorrow or 200 years from now)?

What alternatives do you think we should be investing in?

What geopolitical impact do you think it will have?

How will our lifestyles change?

Looking forward to reading your responses.

John Galt
08-02-2007, 09:09 PM
Due to the criminal alliance of oil companies and corrupt politicians, I think switching off petroleum will be a rough, probably bloody transition. Of course, some current technologies are showing great promise for propulsion, like hydrogen-powered cars (BMW just put its first into general production this year), and temporary stop-gaps like hybrids and bio-fuels might help ease the transition.

I think that after the initial "bumps in the road" we'll continue to continue, just as we always have, just burning something renewable, like hydrogen, instead of oil.

swfan28
08-03-2007, 05:23 AM
Originally Posted by John Galt
I think that after the initial "bumps in the road" we'll continue to continue, just as we always have, just burning something renewable, like hydrogen, instead of oil.
But hydrogen is not a primary source of energy meaning it does not exist in free forms in the nature. It must be produced from something which is always an energy intensive process. What primary energy sources do you think we should be investigating in?

I'm afraid the transition away from fossil fuels will probably get rough AND bloody. While the alternative technology exist, it is still very expensive compared to fossil fuels. Preparations for switching from fossil fuels to renewable based hydrogen economy are already underway in everywhere in the developed world but I'm concerned that this process will be far too slow.

The hybrids, natural gas and bio-fuels will undoubtedly ease the transition as will the CO2 capture and sequestration technologies but these are only temporary transition technologies. I think there are only two possible sources of primary energy for the future: nuclear fusion and distributed generation from solar and other renewable sources. Fusion will take another 50 years or so before it will be available so the change must be aimed towards renewables.

This transition will undoubtedly have significant geopolitical impact but I'm afraid I'm not very good at predicting those. Our lifestyle will probably be the last to change. We will change it only if we absolutely have to. Only if the situation becomes a total global disaster either by the transition getting bloody, the price of energy going skyhigh or by ecologigal disaster caused by global warming.

John Galt
08-03-2007, 12:53 PM
People will adapt quickly if they are FORCED to adapt. Short of a sizable global conflict, or a lengthy total embargo, the change will be long and gradual, perhaps even resulting in an end in oil supply due to depletion.

Achilles
08-03-2007, 11:41 PM
Hydrogen has a lot of obstacles to overcome before it's truly a viable option. Even if we are able to move past that though, we still have to consider that hydrogen might have other drawbacks which may or may not be outside the scope of this thread (i.e. water vapor being a greenhouse gas, etc).

While I do agree that many people will adapt once they are forced to, the reality is that some people won't. The U.S. is just beginning to wake up to the idea that there might be a problem in a couple of decades while China and India are really starting to find their stride as energy consumers. And that doesn't even take into consideration other third world countries that might seek to adopt our way of life in the future.

One comment that I recently heard expressed stated that we didn't adopt electricity because we started running out of candles, nor did we adopt automobiles because we started running out of horses.

I think that if we started seriously investing in new technologies, we might not have to wait until the world is running around in crisis mode to begin working on this. Furthermore, I think that we need to start educating ourselves about the reality of our options and stop letting our leaders distract us with diversions such as hydrogen, hybrid-tech, and bio-fuels.

Jae Onasi
08-04-2007, 05:17 PM
The first time in May that I paid over $70 to fill up my gas tank, I was incensed. So, I contacted my Congressman to express my displeasure at paying one of the highest gas prices in the entire country. After thanking him for his work on the boutique gas bill (which is one of the contributing factors of the high gas prices in the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor) and discussing how I think the oil companies have an effective monopoly on the market and are making obscene levels of profit by ripping the rest of us off, I moved on to discussing one of the aspects of increasing oil prices. That started a long discussion of how to decrease our dependence on world and US oil by switching to other fuel types.

I suggested for the very short term:
a. increasing fuel efficiency in all vehicles.
b. improving and increasing public transportation (including but not limited to making places safer to walk/bike ride, expanding public transportation hours to accommodate workers, funding public transportation expansion to reach more areas, and really making it easier for people to use public transportation.
c. Encourage more credits for people to increase heating efficiency at home (improving insulation, window efficiency, and switch to non-oil furnaces for instance).

Short term options:
a. switch to ethanol use (if Brazil can, we can)
b. switch to biodiesel use (both of which I pointed out would be Very Good for Wisconsin farmers)
c. fund research and build electric and other non-gas types of vehicles
d. make all petroleum burning things as efficient as possible

Moderate term options:
a. Research and implement solar power
b. Research and implement wind power (not like we don't get wind by us)
c. Research and implement geothermal power

Longer term options:
a. Find new sources of energy (renewable)

I got a rather generic reply, which I expected. Well, to be honest, I didn't expect a reply at all so that was nice. At least they read my email far enough to figure out what I was talking about. :)

Achilles
08-04-2007, 06:49 PM
I suggested for the very short term:
a. increasing fuel efficiency in all vehicles. I agree that this needs to be done. On the down side, so long as Hummers, SUVs, and big trucks are seen as status symbols/"chick magnets", this will do very little. I would say that we need to cut the tax breaks for large vehicles and apply them toward smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles.

b. improving and increasing public transportation (including but not limited to making places safer to walk/bike ride, expanding public transportation hours to accommodate workers, funding public transportation expansion to reach more areas, and really making it easier for people to use public transportation. Again, I would tend to agree here. My only caveat would be that contracts are awarded to companies that can incorporate renewables into the system (necessity is the mother of invention, after all). Public transit systems cost millions if not billions of dollars to implement and maintain. I'd hate to see the "balance due" on an relatively new, fossil fuel-based system stand in the way of a renewable-based system 10 years from now.

c. Encourage more credits for people to increase heating efficiency at home (improving insulation, window efficiency, and switch to non-oil furnaces for instance). Again, I would agree. I would add that this should only be one small part of a much larger campaign to promote conservation.


Short term options:
a. switch to ethanol use (if Brazil can, we can)
b. switch to biodiesel use (both of which I pointed out would be Very Good for Wisconsin farmers) These are not viable options. Fossil fuels must be used to produce ethanol and bio-diesel. The energy gains from these alternative sources are entirely negated by their production.

Also, at some point, we have to eat. The opportunity cost of switchgrass is corn, wheat, etc. Soil devoted to alternative fuels cannot also grow food at the same time.

People need to ask their representatives to stop wasting time with this.

c. fund research and build electric and other non-gas types of vehicles Most car companies already know how to build electric cars. Remove all the subsidies for petroleum based vehicles and apply them to electric cars. Done and done.

d. make all petroleum burning things as efficient as possible I would vote to begin phasing them out instead.

Moderate term options:
a. Research and implement solar power We already know how to build efficient solar cells, but the cost is still prohibitive. Greasing the rails with subsidies would help to artificially drive down costs long enough to establish a market.

b. Research and implement wind power (not like we don't get wind by us)
c. Research and implement geothermal power These are not reasonable stand-alone alternatives, but implementing them for island communities would be a huge step.

Longer term options:
a. Find new sources of energy (renewable) Solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal just about cover the gambit. 3 of the 4 aren't efficient/reliable enough to act as stand-alone alternatives.

I got a rather generic reply, which I expected. Well, to be honest, I didn't expect a reply at all so that was nice. At least they read my email far enough to figure out what I was talking about. :) It's always nice to see the system working, isn't it? :D

Kudos to you for at least taking the time to say something.

Jae Onasi
08-04-2007, 11:49 PM
I agree that this needs to be done. On the down side, so long as Hummers, SUVs, and big trucks are seen as status symbols/"chick magnets", this will do very little. I would say that we need to cut the tax breaks for large vehicles and apply them toward smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles.
Very true. I know there are tax credits for hybrid vehicles. I'd be interested in a hybrid if they can bring the cost down and make the size big enough for our family. The main concerns I have with all-electric is running out of juice in the middle of nowhere and needing to recharge quickly. When they can solve those problems, I think we'll see more of these--I'd be very interested myself.

Again, I would tend to agree here. My only caveat would be that contracts are awarded to companies that can incorporate renewables into the system (necessity is the mother of invention, after all). Public transit systems cost millions if not billions of dollars to implement and maintain. I'd hate to see the "balance due" on an relatively new, fossil fuel-based system stand in the way of a renewable-based system 10 years from now.
I could go for that too, though I'd like to see an increase as a short-term solution (particularly things as simple as increasing routes/route lengths into suburbs, increasing the times and hours mass transit runs, that sort of thing) with an eye towards these things as part of a longer term solution. People drive cars right now because it's more convenient or there's no alternative, not necessarily because it's cheaper. Make mass transit a lot more convenient than driving and more people would use it.
Again, I would agree. I would add that this should only be one small part of a much larger campaign to promote conservation.
Every little bit counts. :) Lowering my heating bill would be very nice.


These are not viable options. Fossil fuels must be used to produce ethanol and bio-diesel. The energy gains from these alternative sources are entirely negated by their production.
At this point, yes, but I'm sure we could find a way to make it more efficient. You just have to find a way to heat the stuff to change the starches and sugars to alcohols. If all the trucks and tractors used to harvest/move the crop are using alternative fuels and use alternative sources to create the ethanol/biodiesel, you eliminate the fossil fuel problem.

Also, at some point, we have to eat. The opportunity cost of switchgrass is corn, wheat, etc. Soil devoted to alternative fuels cannot also grow food at the same time.I think this could be a part of a broader solution, but at this point we have unused farmland in lots of the midwest so I'm not as worried about losing food-production farmland. Soy fixes nitrogen back into the soil so it could grow in places where other food crops aren't growing well because of spent soil.


Most car companies already know how to build electric cars. Remove all the subsidies for petroleum based vehicles and apply them to electric cars. Done and done.
It's not just the car companies, however--it's adjusting fueling stations into recharging stations around the country. In large metropolitan areas it's a lot easier to implement because the nearest recharging station is maybe a couple miles away. In rural areas, the nearest gas/recharging station can be 30 miles away or farther, so if you get stuck, you'd really be stuck. Someone can bring you a gallon or two of gas now to get you to the gas station to refuel. How are we going to create an equivalent for electric cars?



We already know how to build efficient solar cells, but the cost is still prohibitive. Greasing the rails with subsidies would help to artificially drive down costs long enough to establish a market.They're not efficient enough to be cost-effective for the average person. I don't know if subsidies would be enough to bring the cost down enough to make them attractive for the average consumer.

These are not reasonable stand-alone alternatives, but implementing them for island communities would be a huge step...Solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal just about cover the gambit. 3 of the 4 aren't efficient/reliable enough to act as stand-alone alternatives.
They'd have to be tailored for specific parts of the country, of course. Obviously tidal power isn't going to work for me since I'm a good 1000 miles from the ocean. Wind power does work well in some parts. In the plains states, some people have windmill farms that are creating enough power for their homes plus some to sell back to the power company. I've driven by several of these windmill farms in Minnesota and South Dakota. We'd probably have to do a combination of these to maximize energy.

For other alternative sources, I was considering the possibility of sources we haven't discovered yet, or methods of creating energy that haven't been invented yet. Fission reactors weren't even thought of 80 years ago, except maybe in a few physical engineers' minds. Who knows what we'll come up with 80 years from now?

It's always nice to see the system working, isn't it? :D
Kudos to you for at least taking the time to say something.
I called my Congressman (Paul Ryan) up right after the infamous and draconic HIPAA laws went into effect to complain about its implementation. It shut us out of information on my critically-ill mother-in-law who was in an ICU in MO the day it went into effect, to the enormous frustration of Jimbo and me (they wouldn't give us info over the phone because 'they couldn't guarantee it was us', despite the fact that they'd been talking to us for several weeks by that point. :roleyess: ). Our congressman's office actually called us back several months later to get more information on our experience for some committee meeting on it. I found that rather remarkable.

I'm on his email list for news. I probably email him on some issue about once or twice a year. I don't know if it really has much of an effect at all, but I feel like I'm doing something to make my opinions known, at least.

I find it interesting that as a Republican he's as interested in environmental/energy conservation issues as he is. Could be a reflection of how hard energy costs are hitting our district as much as anything else, but it's not typical for someone in the GOP to be that involved in conservation issues, even if I don't agree with all of the things he does on energy.

Achilles
08-08-2007, 01:19 AM
Very true. I know there are tax credits for hybrid vehicles. Let's see, the max tax credit for hybrids was $3,500 in 2005 and were required to be phased out after sales passed 60,000 units per manufacturer. On the other hand, SUVs are eligible for up to $25,000 in tax credits. I couldn't find any information regarding a phase out. Seems a little cock-eyed, don't you think?

I'd be interested in a hybrid if they can bring the cost down and make the size big enough for our family. I would be too. I imagine that most car manufacturers want a stronger indication that hybrids are a viable market before they invest in larger vehicles.

The main concerns I have with all-electric is running out of juice in the middle of nowhere and needing to recharge quickly. When they can solve those problems, I think we'll see more of these--I'd be very interested myself. No doubt that people making long trips would have to plan carefully or choose alternatives. I don't know many people that have 300 mile commutes though (round trip), so...

I could go for that too, though I'd like to see an increase as a short-term solution (particularly things as simple as increasing routes/route lengths into suburbs, increasing the times and hours mass transit runs, that sort of thing) with an eye towards these things as part of a longer term solution. People drive cars right now because it's more convenient or there's no alternative, not necessarily because it's cheaper. Make mass transit a lot more convenient than driving and more people would use it. I would agree so long as we are talking about extending existing services such as bus lines. However if we were talking about investing in brand new infrastructure such as light-rail, etc, I'd prefer to see some innovation.

At this point, yes, but I'm sure we could find a way to make it more efficient. You just have to find a way to heat the stuff to change the starches and sugars to alcohols. If all the trucks and tractors used to harvest/move the crop are using alternative fuels and use alternative sources to create the ethanol/biodiesel, you eliminate the fossil fuel problem. I guess I don't understand the reasoning behind this position. We're going to increase crop production, which is going to draw insects, which is going to require increased use of insecticides, so that we can produce an inefficient fuel source because we think that it might one day be a little more efficient, while alternatives that have much more feasible gains lay by the wayside. *shrugs*

I think this could be a part of a broader solution, but at this point we have unused farmland in lots of the midwest so I'm not as worried about losing food-production farmland. Soy fixes nitrogen back into the soil so it could grow in places where other food crops aren't growing well because of spent soil. Well I suppose that's good news for the american midwest then. What about global alternatives?

It's not just the car companies, however--it's adjusting fueling stations into recharging stations around the country. In large metropolitan areas it's a lot easier to implement because the nearest recharging station is maybe a couple miles away. In rural areas, the nearest gas/recharging station can be 30 miles away or farther, so if you get stuck, you'd really be stuck. Someone can bring you a gallon or two of gas now to get you to the gas station to refuel. How are we going to create an equivalent for electric cars? Is our western culture of entitlement so pervasive that we can't be bothered to be even a little bit accountable for ourselves. Lithium-ion batteries give us 250-300 miles. If you start your 60 mile morning commute with 30 miles worth of charge, I call that a life-lesson.

How about this: Do you drive your car around until it's nearly empty and then pray for a service station before you run out? Or do you fill up when you notice you're starting to get low? If it's the former, I submit that it's not the manufacturer's responsibility to compensate for your habits.

They're not efficient enough to be cost-effective for the average person. I don't know if subsidies would be enough to bring the cost down enough to make them attractive for the average consumer. What information are you basing this on? I bet you if electric cars got a $25k tax break and large vehicles go a $3,500 tax break, you'd see fewer hummers on the road.

They'd have to be tailored for specific parts of the country, of course. Obviously tidal power isn't going to work for me since I'm a good 1000 miles from the ocean. Wind power does work well in some parts. In the plains states, some people have windmill farms that are creating enough power for their homes plus some to sell back to the power company. I've driven by several of these windmill farms in Minnesota and South Dakota. We'd probably have to do a combination of these to maximize energy. No doubt that we would need to mix and match power sources. Also, decentralizing power is probably going to be a necessity. We just have to be cautious that we don't allow ourselves to be taken in with half-measures and defunct "alternatives" posing as long-term solutions.

For other alternative sources, I was considering the possibility of sources we haven't discovered yet, or methods of creating energy that haven't been invented yet. Fission reactors weren't even thought of 80 years ago, except maybe in a few physical engineers' minds. Who knows what we'll come up with 80 years from now? That's all great, but it ignores the fact that we have viable solutions now that are ignored because they are unpopular.

swfan28
08-08-2007, 03:40 AM
Originally Posted by Jae Onasi
The main concerns I have with all-electric is running out of juice in the middle of nowhere and needing to recharge quickly. When they can solve those problems, I think we'll see more of these--I'd be very interested myself.All-electric cars could be useful in cities as they really could help lessen the local air quality problems but not in anywhere else. The batteries are heavy and bulky energy storage system compared to gasoline or even hydrogen and as a result the driving range and performance of all-electric vehicles are still quite low even though the replacing of lead-acid batteries with lithium-ion batteries have tripled them both recently. Batteries also tend to self-discharge over a short period of time. The electricity for charging the batteries must also be produced in some way.
Originally Posted by Achilles
No doubt that we would need to mix and match power sources. Also, decentralizing power is probably going to be a necessity. We just have to be cautious that we don't allow ourselves to be taken in with half-measures and defunct "alternatives" posing as long-term solutions.True. The capacities of renewable energy sources are much less than current centralised power plants. Decentralizing power will also increase overall efficiency because it will help decrease the losses involved in energy transmission. The biggest problem with decentralizing power is the difficulty and inefficiency of storing electricity. When a single power plant serves a fewer number of consumers, the load curve will be much rougher than the combined load of tens of thousands of consumers, which means that efficient and reliable short and medium term energy storage is required.
Originally Posted by Jae Onasi
For other alternative sources, I was considering the possibility of sources we haven't discovered yet, or methods of creating energy that haven't been invented yet. Fission reactors weren't even thought of 80 years ago, except maybe in a few physical engineers' minds. Who knows what we'll come up with 80 years from now?I seriously doubt it. Our understanding of the structure of matter and with it the ability to convert energy is light years ahead of what it was 80 years ago. About 100 years ago we did not even know that mass coud be converted to energy and the research of quantum mechanics was only just beginning after the confirmation of quantum hypothesis by the discovery of photo-electric effect. I would be very suprised if someone came up with a completely new way to produce energy that has not been even thought of before.

Achilles
08-08-2007, 03:11 PM
The batteries are heavy and bulky energy storage system compared to gasoline or even hydrogen and as a result the driving range and performance of all-electric vehicles are still quite low even though the replacing of lead-acid batteries with lithium-ion batteries have tripled them both recently. Batteries also tend to self-discharge over a short period of time. All excellent points. I do not think that we have come anywhere close to approaching the ceiling on battery development though. Things were crappy in the past, they are still kinda rough now, but we most likely have a lot of room to grow. My 2 cents.

The electricity for charging the batteries must also be produced in some way. Again this is true. Suppose that you need 100 units of energy to make a car move using a combustible engine (i.e. an engine that requires petrol, ethanol, bio-fuels, propane, etc). Assume that 50 non-renewable units of energy are used by the car and 50 non-renewable units are used to produce the fuel that will go into the car (not an accurate distribution but I'm using it to clarify my point). All-electric will eliminate the need for 50 units, but to your point, suppose it increases reliance on the production segment by 50%. You now have 0 non-renewable units going into the car and 75 non-renewable units going into production. But then suppose that we are able to replace 50% of production with renewable technology. Maybe you still need 100 units of energy to power the vehicle, but 62 of them are clean and renewable and only 38 of them are non-renewable.

Your point is valid, but as an argument against investing in renewables (whether or not that was your intent), it doesn't it appear to hold up to scrutiny.

I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

swfan28
08-08-2007, 04:53 PM
Originally Posted by Achilles
I do not think that we have come anywhere close to approaching the ceiling on battery development though. Things were crappy in the past, they are still kinda rough now, but we most likely have a lot of room to grow. My 2 cents.No we are not and the development has been very rapid in recent years mostly due to the need of lightweight batteries for cell-phones. Only about five years ago many people vere ready to dismiss all-electric vehicles completely because of the very low energy density but now they actually look very promising for urban areas.
Originally Posted by Achilles
Your point is valid, but as an argument against investing in renewables (whether or not that was your intent), it doesn't it appear to hold up to scrutiny.That is not my intent. I mean that electricity is not good for energy storage. That is why we should try and overcome the remaining obstacles with hydrogen and fuel cell technology even though we'd have to use fossil fuels for hydrogen production at first. The change to renewables will be the ultimate goal but it will undoubtedly be a longer process than building a hydrogen distribution infrastructure and statrting mass production of fuel cell powered vehicles especially since all of the larger car companies already have hydrogen powered cars in limited production or at least have working prototypes.
Originally Posted by Jae Onasi
I suggested for the very short term:
a. increasing fuel efficiency in all vehicles.
b. improving and increasing public transportation (including but not limited to making places safer to walk/bike ride, expanding public transportation hours to accommodate workers, funding public transportation expansion to reach more areas, and really making it easier for people to use public transportation.
c. Encourage more credits for people to increase heating efficiency at home (improving insulation, window efficiency, and switch to non-oil furnaces for instance).

Short term options:
a. switch to ethanol use (if Brazil can, we can)
b. switch to biodiesel use (both of which I pointed out would be Very Good for Wisconsin farmers)
c. fund research and build electric and other non-gas types of vehicles
d. make all petroleum burning things as efficient as possible

Moderate term options:
a. Research and implement solar power
b. Research and implement wind power (not like we don't get wind by us)
c. Research and implement geothermal power

Longer term options:
a. Find new sources of energy (renewable)
For very short term options I agree with you. For short term I would add the early development of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and hydrogen infrastructure to the list as well as promoting public acceptance of all of these new technologies by "demonstration projects" such as limited use of them in mass transit applications.

For medium term I would suggest increased use of bio fuels if their production could be made more efficient. Biomass gasification and other CO2 neutral methods of hydrogen production should also be developed. If CO2 sequestration could be achieved reliably and safely, coal gasification could be applied to hydrogen production as well. This is especially important for countries such as China and India where the demand of energy is expected to increase rapidly.

For long term the aim should be towards completely CO2 free energy production. Renewable energy sources should be introduced to progressively replace the carbon based energy carriers. The complete change will undoubtedly take many decades. All of these methods I suggested are low capacity which means that the entire power distribution infrastructure will gradually change towards decentralised power production.

Achilles
08-08-2007, 05:15 PM
That is not my intent. I wasn't sure, hence the caveat.

I mean that electricity is not good for energy storage. That is why we should try and overcome the remaining obstacles with hydrogen and fuel cell technology even though we'd have to use fossil fuels for hydrogen production at first. The change to renewables will be the ultimate goal but it will undoubtedly be a longer process than building a hydrogen distribution infrastructure and statrting mass production of fuel cell powered vehicles especially since all of the larger car companies already have hydrogen powered cars in limited production or at least have working prototypes. It seems that we agree on the direction but not the methodology. I'm not convinced that hydrogen is the solution that some people think it is.

Achilles
08-14-2007, 01:28 AM
Not sure how much impact this might have on the discussion, but I thought it would be an interesting addition nonetheless.

Link (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070813/ap_on_sc/paper_power)
WASHINGTON - It's a battery that looks like a piece of paper and can be bent or twisted, trimmed with scissors or molded into any shape needed. While the battery is only a prototype a few inches square right now, the researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who developed it have high hopes for it in electronics and other fields that need smaller, lighter power sources.

Jae Onasi
08-14-2007, 02:03 AM
It seems that we agree on the direction but not the methodology. I'm not convinced that hydrogen is the solution that some people think it is.

Even though I know technology and storage safety has improved dramatically in the last 70-ish years, I still can't help but think of the Hindenburg every time someone mentions hydrogen power.

Achilles
08-14-2007, 02:14 AM
Potential safety risks aside, I hear people saying that it's 30-40 years off and that even if we get there, it won't be the silver bullet everyone is hoping for.

swfan28
08-14-2007, 05:27 AM
Originally Posted by Achilles
Not sure how much impact this might have on the discussion, but I thought it would be an interesting addition nonetheless.
WASHINGTON - It's a battery that looks like a piece of paper and can be bent or twisted, trimmed with scissors or molded into any shape needed. While the battery is only a prototype a few inches square right now, the researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who developed it have high hopes for it in electronics and other fields that need smaller, lighter power sources.I'd like to see some numbers about it's power density - both volumetric and gravimetric, cyclic stability and recharge times before estimating it's suitability for traffic or stationary power systems.
Originally Posted by Jae Onasi
Even though I know technology and storage safety has improved dramatically in the last 70-ish years, I still can't help but think of the Hindenburg every time someone mentions hydrogen power.Hydrogen is actually safer fuel than gasoline. This is because it is so light that it burns upward. In open space unless you are sitting right on top of the hydrogen tank, you'll be completely unharmed. Closed spaces on the other hand are another matter. Hydrogen's broad flammability range means that any leak could easily create an explosive mixture in a garage for example.

The Hindenburg disaster is a poor example of the dangers of hydrogen because hydrogen was not the biggest reason for the fire. The hull of the ship was painted with a mixture of iron oxide and aluminum - which has also been used as a solid rocket fuel. This rather strange choice of paint was the first thing that caught fire from the electrical discharge.
Originally Posted by Achilles
Potential safety risks aside, I hear people saying that it's 30-40 years off and that even if we get there, it won't be the silver bullet everyone is hoping for.No it won't be. Far more important than whether we use hydrogen powered vehicles or all-electric cars is the question of how are we going to produce that hydrogen or the electricity and what are we going to use for stationary power production. The change from fossil fuel based primary energy to renewables will take much longer than solving the obstacles with hydrogen technologies.

Arcesious
08-14-2007, 08:03 AM
Solar power works, but it's extent of use is limited. It does not provide as much power as other sources, although i is unlimited.
Hydrogen power is dangerous until humanity masters the elements. The best way to harness such power safely is to test is far away from earth- possibly on another planet.
The best form of power to use eight now is ionic power. Ion energy can by converted from the fourth form of matter- Plasma. Fire is one such form of plasma. Thus, extreme heat produced and a burning material can create plasma. Plasma is clean, efficient, and easy to control if an accident occurs- as water can easily calm it down.
If humanity masters the elements to the point the the periodic table has thousands of elements- then Humanity will be ready to use such power by usuing whatever safely mass-producable currently unknown elements they can that can create plasma.
Ionic Nuclear engines on spacecraft use magnetic power and the excess is ionic waste, cold plasma.
There are better forms of energy to use that can only be achived on starwars-scale technology levels, but currently, ionic power created using plasma energy is the most efficient. ionic power creates it's own magnetic discharge- and thus can reuse itself, it can infinitely generate itself if it';s magnetic field is harnessed fully- thus, hybrid cars never having to go for a recharge, and entire cities producing their own power, eventually the amount of power harnessed beign so great that the power plant itslef is no longer needed if a proper energy flow and reusing network is established.
I'm no physicist, so don't yell at me if i got something wrong here, okay?

swfan28
08-14-2007, 11:47 AM
There's not much that is scientifically sound in your post, Arcesious. If I understood it correctly, you are talking about propulsion systems instead of power production for the most part.
Originally Posted by Arcesious
Solar power works, but it's extent of use is limited. It does not provide as much power as other sources, although i is unlimited.In a way all renewable sources of energy are virtually unlimited. The biggest questions with solar power are the efficiency and price of the photovoltaics. Even if the efficiency was 100 %, which it will never be, there is only so much energy per unit area in the sunlight, which means that to satisfy the World's entire demand for energy, the combined area of the panels must be enormous. In theory solar power could be used to provide all the energy we need. There is certainly enough energy in the sunlight for that but the cost and availability of the materials used to build the photovoltaics is prohibitive.

Another problem with solar power is its limited availability. On cloudy weather the panels won't provide power at all, which means that an efficient energy storage system is needed. Batteries are only suitable for short term energy storage and energy conversion processes involved in the use of hydrogen are quite inefficient not to mention that fuel cell technology is not yet ready to be used in massive scale.
Originally Posted by Arcesious
Hydrogen power is dangerous until humanity masters the elements. The best way to harness such power safely is to test is far away from earth- possibly on another planet.I disagree. Hydrogen is not toxic or harmful to the environment. The only danger is it's broad flammability range which means that any leak of hydrogen in closed space is likely to produce an explosive hydrogen-air mixture.

Do not be distracted by the huge amount of energy released in hydrogen bombs. We are talking about converting hydrogen's chemical energy into heat by burning it or directly into electricity by having it react with oxygen in fuel cells, not about nuclear fusion. Fusion won't happen spontaneously either. It requires enormous pressure and temperature that are only found naturally inside stars.

Nuclear fusion will still take at least 50 years before it can be used in power production, but even it is considered safe. This is because in a fusion reactor new fuel is injected into the reactor as it is needed so if there is a problem, the reactor will simply shut down. The fission reactors are only "refuelled" once a year so if something goes wrong there will be a lot of fissile material going off. Fusion also doesn't produce radioactive waste so there will not be any problems with residual heat or nuclear waste.
Originally Posted by Arcesious
The best form of power to use eight now is ionic power. Ion energy can by converted from the fourth form of matter- Plasma. Fire is one such form of plasma. Thus, extreme heat produced and a burning material can create plasma. Plasma is clean, efficient, and easy to control if an accident occurs- as water can easily calm it down.I'm not sure if I understand this correctly, but I think you are talking about ion drives. That is new technology that can be used as an efficient but low powered drives for space probes but it certainly won't be applicable to anything else. The biggest advantage of ion drives is the very high energy density of the ion storage. In chemical rockets the efficiency is much lower which means that there must be enormous amount of fuel on board the vessel. This in turn increases it's mass which will require more power to move it and so on. Vast majority of the take-off weight of chemical rockets is actually the weight of fuel. With ion drives the energy storage is much lighter and thus more efficient.

Ion drives are however a low power propulsion system. They cannot be used to reach the orbit for example. Creating plasma also requires energy and is in fact quite inefficient process. That is of course not a problem with space probes.
Originally Posted by Arcesious
If humanity masters the elements to the point the the periodic table has thousands of elements- then Humanity will be ready to use such power by usuing whatever safely mass-producable currently unknown elements they can that can create plasma.
Ionic Nuclear engines on spacecraft use magnetic power and the excess is ionic waste, cold plasma.Well we can certainly create plasma from any element, but as I mentioned earlier the process requires energy and this type of propulsion is only applicable in space. I do not understand, what you mean by "ionic nuclear engine." I remember that at one point using lasers to cause nuclear reaction in a plasma was proposed as a method of propulsion for space craft in the future, but this technology certainly won't be available anytime soon.
Originally Posted by Arcesious
There are better forms of energy to use that can only be achived on starwars-scale technology levels, but currently, ionic power created using plasma energy is the most efficient. ionic power creates it's own magnetic discharge- and thus can reuse itself, it can infinitely generate itself if it';s magnetic field is harnessed fully- thus, hybrid cars never having to go for a recharge, and entire cities producing their own power, eventually the amount of power harnessed beign so great that the power plant itslef is no longer needed if a proper energy flow and reusing network is established.First of all you should understand that no energy source is such that it can infinitely generate more energy as it is used. Such a thing would be a perpetual motion machine. It is physically impossible.

Jae Onasi
08-14-2007, 11:03 PM
Moderator note:
Arcesious, this is a discussion forum for serious topics. Please see the Rules for Kavar's Corner (http://www.lucasforums.com/showthread.php?t=175866). You have to expect that people will disagree with you here. The disagreement is polite the vast majority of the time, but people express their differing opinions here regularly. If you prefer more light-hearted topics and threads, then Ahto's a great place. If you have any questions, please feel free to PM me.

Qui-Gon Glenn
08-15-2007, 04:16 PM
Nuclear fusion will still take at least 50 years before it can be used in power production, but even it is considered safe. This is because in a fusion reactor new fuel is injected into the reactor as it is needed so if there is a problem, the reactor will simply shut down. The fission reactors are only "refuelled" once a year so if something goes wrong there will be a lot of fissile material going off. Fusion also doesn't produce radioactive waste so there will not be any problems with residual heat or nuclear waste.

I'd like to know a resource for that guesstimation... I would like to read the state-of-the-art in regards to fusion technology... I had thought we were still a bit further off than that.

I'm not super-excited about fuel cell technology at the moment either. I am a battery-proponent, and feel that there is still a great deal of progress to be made on that front, and maybe even hitting the rise of an exponential curve.

Arcesious
08-15-2007, 04:34 PM
Okay, i've got one idea, it's just a shot out in the air, but who knows? here i go:

A solar power array in space.

An at least 5 mile+ in square mile coverage sized space station equipped with the largest array of solar power absorbing panels ever built.

It would be set to be far away from earth, but close wnoguh to reflect the sun's rays towards a specific designated point on earth, ex: a solar power plant.
It would be far away from earth so that it could absorb more coverage and intensity area of sunlight than the average solar power-plant on earth.
It would basicalyl be, pretty much- a reflector dish to reflect energy towards soloar power plants on earth with much more intensity of solar energy recival than avergely gained without it.
Once industrila levels became high enough, multiple array sliek this could be strategically placed around earth, constantly movign to ensure a certain angle of solar panels is always facing the sun, and a certain angle of solar panels is always ransmitting solar energy to solar power plants on earth.

I'm not sure if someone came up with this idea already, but that's my go at a cheap way to get more pure, safe, nearly unlimited energy.

Achilles
08-15-2007, 06:36 PM
If I'm following this correcly, then the biggest problem I see is transmitting the power from the array to the earth. You'd need to have some way of wirelessly transferring energy. Althought scientists have recently begun looking at ways to do this (*cough*nikolateslaahundredyearsago*cough*), it's still a ways off from being a viable option and even then you have the problem of trying to transmit through an areas that has no atmosphere, etc.

Arcesious
08-15-2007, 07:12 PM
Multiple many 'super' solar plants placed placed strategically on earth would work- you can transmitt solar energy as though it is using the 'microwave' satellite idea. Clouds are the only problem, but as humanity is advnacing ways to manipulate weather minorly are being experimented and proved. soon enogugh, we may even be able to prevent hurrcanes. (i'm saying a century until anything that drastic can be done, stopping hurricanes and otrnadoes and such.)


Energy can be transfered as heat and intense light through earth's atmosphere. i believe the 'microwave satellite' idea was one such way to due so.

But this is a good idea, no?

The closer to the sun you are, the more erngy you can absorb. a solar satellite array would work very well.

hey! new idea just popped into my head!

Say several hundred huge solar satellites are built someday- all equipped with advanced space travel engines.
Put the satellite sin a long line- as lose to the sun as safely possible, and they can transmitt the solar energ yover a lightyear of distance from really close to the sun to really close to earth by transmitting the energy along themselves like conduit passageways! (for non-smart people, it's basically a chain of satellites that transport power to earth from the sun for powering stuff.)

swfan28
08-16-2007, 12:04 PM
Originally Posted by qui_gon_glenn
Originally Posted by Swfan28
Nuclear fusion will still take at least 50 years before it can be used in power production, but even it is considered safe. This is because in a fusion reactor new fuel is injected into the reactor as it is needed so if there is a problem, the reactor will simply shut down. The fission reactors are only "refuelled" once a year so if something goes wrong there will be a lot of fissile material going off. Fusion also doesn't produce radioactive waste so there will not be any problems with residual heat or nuclear waste.
I'd like to know a resource for that guesstimation... I would like to read the state-of-the-art in regards to fusion technology... I had thought we were still a bit further off than that.Here's a link for more information about nuclear fusion http://www.jet.efda.org/index.html

Achilles
08-20-2007, 08:56 PM
I found this this YouTube clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woNnR4Ps0Iw) and thought others here might find it interesting.

swfan28
08-21-2007, 05:38 AM
Very interesting. This type of "solar concentrators" are already in use for solar heating in various locations, but this is going to be by far the biggest of them if it is built. Since this tower would serve such a large number of consumers, the load curve would actually be manageable. There is still the problem of intermittence however. The operators cannot control the amount of energy this produces to follow the load except by letting the hot air flow past some of the turbines. If more of these towers were built, there would be need for an efficient large scale medium term energy storage, which is currently not available. This technology also cannot be used everywhere. While the Australian desert is an ideal location for this tower, such locations don't exist everywhere. If this technology was used in much larger scale, the energy transmission costs would be enormous.

About fusion I would note that the JET reactor consumes about as much energy upon start up as it produces and it can only operate in pulses. Yet it is currently the most advanced reactor of its type though a new much larger one called ITER is under construction. I'm afraid that the 50 years may be an overly optimistic estimate of the time before fusion will be usable for power production.

John Galt
08-21-2007, 08:04 PM
As an Appalachian I have something of a conflict of interest in the coal debate. Even though I'd like to see renewable resources used (I'm a big fan of hydroelectricity and solar power), coal is what drives the economy here, and I can honestly say that I probably wouldn't even own a computer if my dad hadn't been a coal operator for 40 years (well, on and off with the car companies). I haven't been in a mine in a long time, but I do know quite a bit about the process of coal mining, and the numbers involved. 1100 lbs of coal isn't much at all, the mine that my family used to run(not a particularly large one, definitely nowhere near the size of a corporate job) brought up over 1000 tons of the stuff every day.

Back in the '80's, when the price of coal was up, the town I live in had the highest per-capita population of millionaires anywhere in the country, but now that prices are down only large corporate mines can make it here, and Pike County is now one of the poorer counties(wouldn't be so bad if they'd give us coal severance back, but that's a different matter entirely), with the third highest AIDS rate in the state. If coal were completely phased out it would completely destroy this area's economy.