Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Jul 29, 2007 with no responses

Google Solar, Hydrogen, and Farm Bills

I wanted to briefly comment on several issues. Some of them deserve their own essays, but I am too pressed for time.

Google Solar

If you are into solar, Google’s Solar Panel Project is incredibly cool. They provide real time data on their solar energy production. One thing that I have noticed is that the assumption of peak power times 5 hours to get the overall daily solar production appears to be too conservative. For instance, according to the link above, yesterday power peaked at 877 KW at 1 p.m., but total energy production yesterday was 7021 KWh. I have to multiply by 8 hours to get that. In fact, that’s been a pretty consistent theme this month. It may be that 5 hours is the appropriate multiplier in the winter, and that may be where it comes from. I will have to make sure I track their production this winter (as well as California demand).


A number of people have written to me at various times and asked why I never debunked hydrogen. The reason is that I felt like it was already thoroughly debunked. When President Bush pushed hydrogen in his 2003 State of the Union address, I was actually working with hydrogen in a GTL application. Hydrogen does some interesting things with flame speed and auto-ignition temperatures that I was exploring. But I didn’t know all that much about the issues of hydrogen as a large scale transportation fuel. So, I thought “That sounds pretty good.” Then, I went to work the next day, dug out the DOE’s hydrogen road map, saw what the problems were, and where the technology stood, and I concluded that there would be no hydrogen economy any time soon – probably not in my lifetime. I mean, the technology has to leap huge gulfs in several areas, which is much different than only have one or two technical challenges to resolve. So, I didn’t give hydrogen much more consideration after that.

But it won’t die:

Hydrogen can replace gasoline, scientist contends

FLINT – Stanford Ovshinsky, founder and chief scientist of Energy Conversion Devices Inc. in Rochester Hills, told the Flint Rotary Club on Friday that the world has to convert to alternative forms of energy.

He said current internal-combustion engines in cars and trucks can be converted to run on hydrogen.

With hydrogen, he said, there’s no pollution, no climate-change issues.
“All you need for fuel is water,” he said “You don’t need the Mideast.”

All you need is water? Is he serious? How about an energy source to electrolyze the water? Why don’t we get our hydrogen from water right now (instead of from natural gas)? You need that as well. Free hydrogen doesn’t just hang about, waiting to be mined. Anyway, I was going to write a longer rebuttal, but my friend Chris Nelder beat me to it:

Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Are No Panacea

I’m going to make a prediction today: you will never drive a hydrogen fueled car.

Although hydrogen does indeed have some benefits in certain applications, it’s my task today to separate the reality of useful fuel cells from the hydrogen hype.

That may seem like a bold statement to you now, but by the end of this article, you’ll understand why.

I think he did demonstrate the point, so I will merely refer you to his essay for a good debunking.

Those Darn Farmers

I say that with tongue in cheek, because I grew up on a farm that my family still owns and operates. But this one struck me as funny:

House Farm Bill Includes Production Fee For ’98-99 Oil Leases

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. House of Representatives included a measure that would impose a fee on production from controversial 1998-99 oil and gas leases in a farm bill it passed Friday.

Lawmakers have been trying since last the Congress to force the companies to renegotiate the leases, which omit royalty price thresholds, saying the omission could end up costing tax payers $10 billion in lost royalty payments.

The Government Accountability Office estimates that around $1 billion in royalties has already been lost as a result of the price-thresholds omissions, and that they could cost taxpayers an additional $9 billion in the future.

Although six companies – including BP PLC (BP), Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Marathon Oil Corp. (MRO) – have agreed to pay royalties on the leases on production from October 2006, they only represent a fraction of the total lease owners.

Around 40 companies representing 80% of the production haven’t agreed to renegotiate the leases, including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Total SA (TOT), Chevron Corp. (CVX) and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC), according to Interior Department data. Democrats have been seeking royalty payments for all output from the leases.

While I do note that my own company has agreed to pay royalties, I can’t get past the irony that a farm bill would attempt to rectify the situation. Perhaps in the next energy bill, we can get rid of those darn sugar subsidies. I mean, come on. I can argue a case for corn subsidies. I don’t want our corn farmers to be put out of business by cheap imports (even though we get subsidized high-fructose corn syrup as part of the deal). But sugar? Give me a break. Aren’t we fat enough already without subsidizing the problem?