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By Robert Rapier on Aug 29, 2011 with 73 responses

Book and Travel Update, and Some Interesting Stories

Book Update

I have mentioned it on here a couple of times, but I am under contract to deliver a book on energy by the end of this year. I initially had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to write, but that has evolved a bit as I started writing. So far, I have turned in three chapters to my editor, and I have several others partially complete. The book is going to be broken down into sections of general information (who uses what, who produces what, how it is produced, etc.), controversies (nuclear power, climate change, peak oil, etc.) and then one on possible energy solutions going forward.

I am trying to cover stories from an objective point of view. For instance, when you read the nuclear chapter, my intent is that you won’t be able to tell whether I am for or against, but you will have a lot more facts at your disposal. This is not an advocacy book, except in the section on solutions I will have to advocate somewhat. But generally speaking, I am not taking a pro or con position on fossil fuels, renewable power, climate change, etc. I am just trying to provide some interesting thought material for readers.

I am creating a lot of my own graphics, as I often don’t find exactly what I am looking for. As an example, I have oil consumption graphed over the past 45 years, and I show the times that global oil consumption dropped. It’s always in relation to bad news, which I point out on the graph. I am also trying to highlight interesting facts throughout the book that people won’t generally know by placing them in highlighted text boxes throughout the book. For instance, when I think of huge power plants, my mind instantly goes to large coal and nuclear plants. But, “Did you know that 4 of the 5 largest power plants in the world are hydroelectric plants?”

However, this is not just to update readers on the book status. I also want some input. What are some of the topics that you feel are inadequately covered in other books? What would you particularly like to see covered? I don’t want to wait until after the book is published and think “How could I have forgotten about that?”

Despite the book schedule, I am still putting up two columns each week. Sometimes one of those will be a guest column, but often I will still post my own original column each Monday and Thursday. I intend to maintain that schedule.

Upcoming Travel to Bay Area and D.C.

After getting to spend the latter half of the summer at home in Hawaii, I will be hitting the road again soon. From October 9-12, I will be attending the Gasification Technologies Conference in San Francisco. Over the past year, I have had a number of readers/companies in the Bay Area ask for a meeting or for me to make a facility visit, and I always say “The next time I am in the area.” Well, I am going to be in the area. If necessary, I can tack on a day earlier or later if there is a compelling reason to do so. But if you would like to meet, please contact me over the next couple of weeks so I can get an idea of whether I need to budget more time. In the case of a facility visit, ideally I would do that with the intent of writing a feature story about the company.

The same applies for a November trip to Washington D.C. For the first time in 3 years (and only the 2nd time ever) I will be at the ASPO-USA Conference 2011 on November 2-5 at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. I am currently scheduled to speak three times during the conference. I am supposed to speak on Thursday afternoon on peak oil implications for businesses and investors, kick off Friday’s plenary by talking about peak oil concepts and principles, and then participate in an Investment Roundtable on Saturday Morning.

To be honest, since this is a peak oil conference I won’t spend much time talking about concepts or principles. People who attend these conferences know these things. I plan to spend some time talking about how to conduct due diligence, and then talk about major energy-related threats to the global economy. I will have some slides on why I think we are on a collision course with China.

Again, if you would like to meet during this time (and outside of the ASPO meeting), please let me know and I will do my best to accommodate that.

Energy Stories in the News

There were several energy stories of note in the Energy Ticker last week that could have been fodder for a column. Instead, I will just highlight them here with some brief commentary.

First up was something that I was certain had been brewing in the background, but it was the first time I have seen it come to the surface. Many people believe that corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol are natural allies. After all, corn ethanol is a transition fuel to cellulosic ethanol, right? Get all of the ethanol infrastructure in there and then we will transition over to cellulosic fuel.

Do you know who might not see things that way? How about corn growers and some corn ethanol producers? Here is how I always viewed their position. They know that they can produce more ethanol, but the cellulosic ethanol mandates are in their way. They are capped. Further, cellulosic ethanol is pulling money away from them that they could use to help push corn ethanol market penetration higher. So I suspected that there was some resentment at least among some in the corn ethanol camp. There was some proof of that last week in a story highlighted in Biofuels Digest:

The Unicorn and the Fairy: Corn declares war on cellulose

The National Corn Growers Association declares War on cellulosic biofuels, calling them “non-existent”, then mysteriously removes the blog post. What gives?

Ten days ago, Cathryn Wojciki, communications manager for the National Corn Growers Association, wrote a blog post in which she tossed the cellulosic biofuels industry under a bus.

Referring to cellulosic biofuels targets in the Renewable Fuel Standard, she wrote: “Much as parents may tell stories about unicorns and fairies, some players in the ethanol and environmental industries pushed a product which they were not prepared to deliver. In both scenarios, optimism created a beautiful vision of a world that does not exist.”

That original post was removed, but you can see a cached version here. The funny thing was that they had linked to one of my essays pointing out that there still has not been any production of qualifying cellulosic ethanol. Funny to be quoted by the National Corn Grower’s Association, given that I was branded as one of corn ethanol’s worst enemies. Maybe it’s that thing about the enemy of my enemy…

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In other ethanol news, This Week in Petroleum (a feature I used to report on every week) had a blurb on ethanol exports that suggested something that ethanol producers have long denied:

E90 exports to Europe may have benefited from both the U.S. blending tax credit ($0.45 per gallon of ethanol) and lower European import duties on ethanol/gasoline blends (compared to pure ethanol imports).

The ethanol industry has claimed numerous times that their exports were not benefiting from U.S. tax credits, but I have long suspected that they were to some extent in any case. Looks like the EIA suspects it as well. I suppose we will know next year — when the tax credit will almost certainly be gone — if ethanol exports from the U.S. plummet.

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Finally, there has been a lot of criticism of late on the cost of creating green jobs. If you recall, this was a big part of President Obama’s platform, and has been stressed by other politicians as well. The idea is that we must transition from fossil fuels, and a green economy will take the place of the fossil economy — creating many jobs in the process. It turns out that those jobs are pretty expensive to create:

Some question green investment as clean-energy summit nears

Agencies and advocacy groups count green jobs differently, so databases don’t show consistent numbers. For example, the BlueGreen Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of labor unions and environmentalists, says the Obama administration has spent $93 billion saving or creating 1 million green jobs nationwide, at $93,000 per job, while a November report in The Washington Post pegged federal investment at $90 billion to save or create 225,000 green-energy jobs, or $400,000 per job.

So even the advocates concede $93,000 per job. The Washington Post — not exactly a bunch who would appear to have an anti-green agenda — puts the number much higher.

I don’t question that we need green jobs and a new renewable energy economy, but come on. Those are ridiculous numbers. Surely we have more efficient ways of job creation. I think the bottom line problem is that a lot of money has been spent on promoters who never delivered, and that inflates the costs of creating those jobs. But that has to stop.

  1. By moiety on August 29, 2011 at 3:18 am

    For the book.

     

    Energy solutions going forward is the most important in my view. However it is a hard sell as it requires reduction (as well as alternatives) in my opinion. I hope that would not be omitted. That said I reckon that one could write an entire book on solutions going forward.

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  2. By Douglas Hvistendahl on August 29, 2011 at 4:47 am

    One thing I’ve noted: there is little comparison to long term history. We compare to present times, but ignore improvements over, say the late 1700s. Even a major downgrade from present standards will leave improvements, provided we use them. Examples: the vertical garden and intensive garden methods produce much more per acre than our current (or past) farming methods. Efficient buildings can now be built for less than the cost of a standard style new building (especially McMansions!!!) However, we are going to need to change some things, the question is: ready? or not?

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  3. By Charlie Peters on August 29, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Conversation about the use of Corn Fuel Ethanol in Gasoline, Listen Online

    http://radiolibertyarchives.gs…..72711a.mp3

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  4. By Walt on August 29, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Moiety said:

    For the book.

     

    Energy solutions going forward is the most important in my view. However it is a hard sell as it requires reduction (as well as alternatives) in my opinion. I hope that would not be omitted. That said I reckon that one could write an entire book on solutions going forward.


     

    I think what would really be nice is some actual facts published on costs involving various technologies, not just cost of production promised.  This of course takes a lot of work to get costs right as every process should be modeled and costed for capex (osbl and isbl), opex and the source of energy used to run the process.  I had a wonderful meeting last week with a chemical engineer who has been involved in a lot of corn ethanol projects, and he referred to them simply as natural gas plants.  They live and die based upon natural gas prices, and that does not even get to the problem of corn costs as they rise or fall worldwide.

     

    Of course, there is a new video out that appears not to consider natural gas as having a role in operation of ethanol plants and is making the circuit across America.  It highlights these main points as I understand.  I have not seen the movie yet, but hope to in the future:

     

    Ethanol does not require more energy to make than it yields.

    Argonne National Laboratory research has shown that corn ethanol
    delivers a positive energy balance of 8.8 megajoules per liter. The
    energy balance from second-generation biofuels using cellulosic sources
    is up to six times better, according to a study published in Biomass and
    Bioenergy Journal.

    Ethanol does not take food away from humans.

    Only 1 percent of all corn grown in this country is eaten by humans. The
    rest is No. 2 yellow field corn, which is indigestible to humans and
    used in animal feed, food supplements and ethanol. Read more about this.

    Ethanol does not emit more greenhouse gases than gasoline.

    A 1996 EPA study analyzing sources of air pollution confirmed that
    gasoline vehicles and non-road equipment are the largest contributors to
    vehicular gaseous hazardous air pollutants. However, another study
    showed ethanol reduces tailpipe carbon monoxide as much as 30 percent
    and tailpipe particulate matter emissions by 50 percent.

    Also, the Journal of Industrial Ecology at Yale University published a
    study in 2009 that found that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by up
    to 38-59% when using ethanol as a transportation fuel.

    Ethanol can be made from waste.

    Cellulosic ethanol can be made from agricultural waste and biomass such as corn cobs and stover, wheat straw, wood, energy crops, and even municipal waste.

    Ethanol is cleaner burning.

    Compared to gasoline, ethanol reduces every single tailpipe emission
    (CO; CO₂; smog; particulates; NOx and SOx) because ethanol contains 35%
    oxygen and results in a higher temperature burn.

    12 billion gallons of ethanol were produced in Canada and the US in 2010.

    This will grow to 36 billon gallons by 2020. Currently, the ethanol
    industry replaces 364 million barrels of imported oil each and every
    year in the USA and Canada.

    Ethanol creates jobs and is good for the economy.

    A major study by the Windmill Group identifies 645,000 jobs created by ethanol in the USA.

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  5. By Jerry Jeff on August 29, 2011 at 10:08 am

    re: the book:
    You’re always good about keeping the global view, so I’m sure your book won’t myopically focus on the USA at the expense of the other 75% of the world economy. And a discussion of the role of government in the transition away from fossil fuels is a big topic that I think you’re well equipped to cover–targeted taxation, investment, try to save consumers from a big price hike, or not?

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  6. By Wendell Mercantile on August 29, 2011 at 10:21 am

    We compare to present times, but ignore improvements over, say the late 1700s.

    Valid point Douglas.

    By the early 1700′s, England had almost denuded their country by cutting down most of the trees to make charcoal for their rudimentary iron and glass works. The only thing that allowed them to reforest the country was replacing charcoal with coal which of course, also led to the Industrial Age. Had England not had significant coal resources, it would probably now be a treeless, third-world country.

    Look what happened in the Levant (What we now call Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and Israel.), where they had no coal to fall back on after they’d cut down the trees. Centuries ago, the Levant was almost completely forested. It’s not now. The deforestation of the Levant was a great, and now little talked about tragedy, and was largely a result of overusing the available biomass, with no fossil fuels such as coal to take up the slack.

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  7. By Tim Weiman on August 29, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Robert:

    I’d be most interesting in seeing information about the potential for energy efficiency. What do we need to do to achieve major savings? How do the economics of energy efficiency compare to the economics of deeloping “alternate” energy? How does energy efficiency compare to “alternate” energy from an environmental perspective, e.g., GHG emissions? How does an emphasis on energy efficiency impact job creation?

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  8. By Andy on August 29, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Robert,

    Please could you cover Molten Salt (Breeder) Reactors (MSBR’s) in the nuclear section.

    This is a major technology which was first demo’d in the 50′s/60′s but never persued due to the fact it doesn’t produce plutonium (so of no use to the military who held the purse strings). It was also too complex for mobile use (think ships) and didn’t match well thermally with the rankine steam cycle.

    With the brayton cycle and modern materials, this could be the modular proliferation proof nuke that can be produced reasonably quickly.

    The USA holds all the technical research on these liquid core reactors and no one else has any empirical data or experience with them so America is uniquely place to develop them.
    They aren’t vapourware as two experimental reactors have been live run in the past.

    Currently, due to extremely conservative practices within the comercial power generation industry (build what you know etc) there is no desire (or profit!) to take on a design and build project. Similarly the V.C. guys couldn’t handle it as its too big for them. I suspect its something the government really need to do.

    If there is one technology which could concievably replace coal within 50 years, then this is it.

    Andy

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  9. By rrapier on August 29, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Jerry Jeff said:

    re: the book:

    You’re always good about keeping the global view, so I’m sure your book won’t myopically focus on the USA at the expense of the other 75% of the world economy. And a discussion of the role of government in the transition away from fossil fuels is a big topic that I think you’re well equipped to cover–targeted taxation, investment, try to save consumers from a big price hike, or not?


     

    It does indeed cover the global energy picture. There is probably more emphasis on the U.S., but up to this point in my writing I have covered lots of other countries. In the nuclear chapter, for instance, the events relating to the industry are truly global in nature. There is a big focus in there on breaking down Germany’s recent nuclear moves.

    Lots of good suggestions, some of which I hadn’t much thought about. I will revisit the comment thread here many times as I continue to write.

    Cheers, Robert

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  10. By Kit P on August 29, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    “”Did you know that 4 of the 5 largest power plants in the world are hydroelectric plants?””

    Wind farms are much larger. When it comes to making electricity, size does not matter. It is the amount of electricity that matters. The only 1400 MWe machines are driven by steam from nuclear reactors. Soon there will be 1600 MWe machines. The generators at nuke plant more often than not produce electricity 100% of the time for a given year.

    Reliability matters!

    For those of you that are not engineers, it is professionally unethical to do work outside there field of expertise. I am not inferring that RR is unethical because he is working as a journalist. RR is a chemical process engineer who has never worked in the electricity generating field.

    “I don’t question that we need green jobs and a new renewable energy economy, but come on. Those are ridiculous numbers. Surely we have more efficient ways of job creation”

    The concept is good but the execution is flawed. A $500k grant will make a 1 MWe+ anaerobic digester economical at a large dairy farm. It will produce distributed electricity at $50/MWh for many years while producing organic fertilizer. Clearly huge environmental benefit when compared to the $20 million that mild climate Seattle got for weatherizing three homes.

    If you look at how the money is being spent the intent is to get votes in the next election.

    “I’d be most interesting in seeing information about the potential for energy efficiency.”

    Tim this is one of those counter intuitive things. Since the energy ‘crisis’ of the 70s we have reached a point of diminishing returns. My house is so efficient that the cost of central AC is less than a cup of coffee at a fast food restaurant. Forty years ago we did not run the AC in Virginia unless we had guests that could not tolerate the oppressive heat.

    “GHG emissions?”

    Again Tim a case of diminishing returns. Tim if you ever lived in a steel mill town where many homes were heated with coal you would not be worried about AGW. It is also a case of effective policies. If you want to reduce burning fossil fuels build a nuke plant or heat with wood.

    “…Molten Salt (Breeder) Reactors (MSBR’s) in the nuclear section.

    ….

    Currently, due to extremely conservative practices within the comercial power generation industry (build what you know etc) there is no desire (or profit!) to take on a design and build project. ….

    If there is one technology which could concievably replace coal within 50 years, then this is it.”

    This is what I know about LWR Andy. The French replaced coal 20 years ago with LWR. Everyone loves paper reactors but the reason they stay on paper is they are not better. For example,

    “but never persued due to the fact it doesn’t produce plutonium (so of no use to the military who held the purse strings).”

    Commercial light water reactors do not produce plutonium that has military uses since the plutonium is used as fast as it produced. Never in the history of making nuke weapons has a commercial LWR been used as a source of material.

    Many of those who favor various paper reactors because they address complaints by anti-nukes who will be against everything anyhow. Anti-s do not like renewable energy when it comes down to actually doing something.

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  11. By Benny BND Cole on August 29, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    RR’s will be one of the few books on energy I will buy.

    Ideas? Only, do not underestimate man’s ability to respond and innovate, especially if there is a price signal and market system at work.

    The future may or may not be bright, the answer to that lies in man’s ability to govern on many issues. Oil under the ground is one resource among many, and there are literally dozens of other issues that will also influence our future, such as wars, worker productivity, pollution, religious fundamentalism, transportation etc.

    There is plenty of energy, and plenty of ways to conserve.

    I contend we will somehow stumble ahead to a cleaner and more-prosperous future, especially those countries that have freedom of speech and roughly free commercial markets.

    What is happening in natural gas and PHEVs is remarkable.

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  12. By Kit P on August 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    “There is a big focus in there on breaking down Germany’s recent nuclear moves.”

    Germany is going to close all the nuke plants. Again!

    How about a story about closing the coal plant near Seattle? Again!

    People say lots of stuff. There is a reason I do not spend much time on what crazy people say in California, Seattle, or Germany. When it comes to doing they are not very good. On cold winter night, customers only care about their children staying warm. Next thing you know the nuke plant is retired 20 years after the original design life. France will be happy to build new nuke to provide Germany power.

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  13. By Rufus on August 29, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    I agree with Kit on this one. Energy projects (or, any projects) should be undertaken because they are economically viable (or, perhaps, because of a pressing “externality” such as “pollution, etc.”)

    Judging a project by the number of jobs (or the “cost” of the jobs) it creates is, for lack of a better word, silly. You wouldn’t judge the efficacy of a Nuclear Plant, or Hydro-Electric (Boulder Dam, Three Gorges, etc) by the “cost per job.” Why would a Wind Farm, or Solar Panel Manufacturing Facility be treated that way?

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  14. By Kit P on August 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    “Judging a project by the number of jobs”

    Then there is the double standard. The largest O&M cost at a nuke plant is all those high paying jobs. I have met very few who did not love working at a nuke plant. The greens think they are doing workers a favor when they close a nuke plant. To be fair, I would still be in California working in renewable energy but they did not replace nuke jobs with renewable energy jobs.

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  15. By rrapier on August 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Kit P said:

    “”Did you know that 4 of the 5 largest power plants in the world are hydroelectric plants?””

    Wind farms are much larger. When it comes to making electricity, size does not matter. It is the amount of electricity that matters. 


     

    When I say “size” I mean size of capacity. I think most people in the energy business realize that when one speaks of the size of a plant, they aren’t talking about how many acres it takes up. Of the Top 5 electrical plants (by capacity) in the world, one is a nuke plant and 4 are hydro plants.

    For those of you that are not engineers, it is professionally

    unethical to do work outside there field of expertise. I am not

    inferring that RR is unethical because he is working as a journalist. RR

    is a chemical process engineer who has never worked in the electricity

    generating field.

    No, I think that is exactly what you are inferring. There is no other reason to have said it. Your whole shtick here is if you feel like someone is treading in your area to try to put them back in their place and then telling everyone that you are the real expert. But I have in fact worked in lots of different areas, including electricity generation. I believe I have pointed this out before. But speaking of professionally unethical, how about representing yourself as an engineer when that’s not what you are?

    On the other hand, you have never worked on ethanol at all, so the next time you tell us how wonderful our ethanol policy is, let’s be sure to qualify that with “I am not an expert, and the only reason what I am saying isn’t unethical is that I am opining as an anonymous journalist. But I am a maintenance man in a nuke plant who has never worked on liquid fuels.”

    RR

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  16. By rrapier on August 29, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Rufus said:

    I agree with Kit on this one. Energy projects (or, any projects) should be undertaken because they are economically viable (or, perhaps, because of a pressing “externality” such as “pollution, etc.”)


     

    I think the whole point is that they aren’t economically viable, so the question is what are we getting for our dollars.

    Judging a project by the number of jobs (or the “cost” of the jobs) it
    creates is, for lack of a better word, silly.

    It isn’t a project we are judging here, it is a sector. Lots of projects. Lots of money wasted.

    On the other hand, I agree that if we spent $50 million to create 4 jobs, but that resulted in decades of cheap electricity for consumers then that might be a fine investment. But generally when the economics look like that we don’t have to spend government money to create the jobs.

    RR

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  17. By Wendell Mercantile on August 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Energy projects (or, any projects) should be undertaken because they are economically viable (or, perhaps, because of a pressing “externality” such as “pollution, etc.”)

    Indeed, that does sound prudent Rufus. Don’t you think that might explain why POET isn’t willing to move forward with cellulosic right now? Not economically viable — at least not w/o some mandates or government support. Or is that one of those externalitys you are talking about?

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  18. By Rufus on August 29, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I imagine the man is somewhat reluctant to lose the family business just to prove a point. I think it’s a pretty untenable situation. He could go broke even if his technology works out exactly as he hopes.

    That’s a pretty awful gamble.

    He may take the chance, but I wouldn’t want to bet on it.

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  19. By armchair261 on August 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    A few topics I’d like to see…

    A discussion on commodity pricing, with historical oil, gas, product, and power prices discussed in the context of commodity pricing in general. What makes prices of commodities rise and fall? What roles do producers actually play in price setting?

    A sober discussion on fracture stimulation risks and benefits. Not that it’s completely risk free, but making the point that the risks have been vastly overestimated by politicians and others. This view is not helpful to US energy policy.

    And finally, a good dose of myth busting. No new refineries? Cars running on water? Etc.

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  20. By St. Roy on August 29, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Robert:

    The important issue that all current cheap energy depletion authors avoid is the the carrying capacity overshoot and likely die-off on billion of people during the 21st Century. This is probably the most important subject of the day but remains taboo. I would like to see one of you guys (Heinberg, Kunztler, etc.) tackle that one head on in a book chapter. The past work of G. Hardin, W. Catton and G. Peters provides good background.

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  21. By St. Roy on August 29, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Robert:

    Another chapter suggestion. How about a chapter on the the thermodynamic oxymoron of using fossil fuel energy powered technology to develop alternative energy sources. When you consider all the fossil energy costs of developing and building windmills, solar panels or algae farms, it a positive EROEI ever possible?

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  22. By rrapier on August 30, 2011 at 12:23 am

    armchair261 said:

    A sober discussion on fracture stimulation risks and benefits. Not that it’s completely risk free, but making the point that the risks have been vastly overestimated by politicians and others. This view is not helpful to US energy policy.

    And finally, a good dose of myth busting. No new refineries? Cars running on water? Etc.


     

    The publisher has specifically asked for a chapter on fracking. That will be a slow chapter for me, as I will need to do a lot of research to sort out what is real and what has been overhyped.

    I will bust myths throughout the book, but that might be a good idea to just have a chapter dedicated to them. There are a lot out there.

    RR

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  23. By rrapier on August 30, 2011 at 12:25 am

    St. Roy said:

    Robert:

    Another chapter suggestion. How about a chapter on the the thermodynamic oxymoron of using fossil fuel energy powered technology to develop alternative energy sources. When you consider all the fossil energy costs of developing and building windmills, solar panels or algae farms, it a positive EROEI ever possible?


     

    I do discuss this issue; that in fact some alternative energy sources are so fossil-fuel dependent that they aren’t renewable. I actually wrote a blurb on wind farms today, pointing out that while normal operations doesn’t emit CO2, the production of all that steel and concrete emits a lot.

    RR

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  24. By moiety on August 30, 2011 at 3:13 am

    I think the bigger CO2 impact from wind farms is the need for quick ramping gas plants to provide backup when wind power is no longer available or dispactable.

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  25. By Mark Duffett on August 30, 2011 at 3:23 am

    …oil consumption graphed over the past 45 years, and I show the times that global oil consumption dropped. It’s always in relation to bad news…

    I’d be hoping you cover the flipside of that – can you show graphically whether high oil prices are a reliable leading indicator (i.e. a contributing factor) of economic downturns? Is the strength of this relationship changing over time?

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  26. By Angus North on August 30, 2011 at 8:02 am

     

    Hi Robert

    Here are a couple of unusual and not well known energy alternatives. I’d be interested to hear your take on these.

    Thorium

    Firstly, the thorium nuclear fuel cycle someone mentioned above, which has the promise of being much safer, and a much longer lasting energy solution than the uranium fuel cycle, given the relative abundance of thorium. Check out the introductory talk in the video at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2…..orium_bet/

    Ammonia

    Secondly, ammonia as a fertilizer AND transport fuel.

    Fertilizer

    Here’s an article on ammonia fertilizer production using natural gas:
    http://www.energybulletin.net/…..fertilizer

    To produce ammonia (NH3), hydrogen is stripped from the natural gas, then reacted with nitrogen from the atmosphere using the Haber process. From Wikepedia:
    “The Haber process is important because previous to its discovery, ammonia had been difficult to produce on an industrial scale, and fertilizer generated from ammonia today is responsible for sustaining one-third of the Earth’s population. It is estimated that half of the protein within human beings globally is made of nitrogen that was originally fixed by this process.”

    But ammonia can also be produced from the hydrogen produced by electrolyzing water. In fact this was the dominant source for agriculture in the early 1900′s:
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki…..dro_Rjukan

    So really any renewable energy source could solve that particular food security problem.

    Transport fuel

    In addition ammonia can and has been used as a carbon free transport fuel, basically as a more viable alternative to hydrogen, being much easier and less energy intensive to compress, store and transport (systems for which are already in place given the agricultural application):

    Some links:
    http://youtu.be/B6HzP84KhoY
    http://energy.iastate.edu/Rene…..HH%202.pdf
    http://www.nh3fuelassociation.org/
    http://peakoil.blogspot.com/20…..uture.html
    http://www.hydrogencarsnow.com…..-vehicles/
    http://www.electricauto.com/_p…..er%20B.pdf

    Not sure of the scale required for the ammonia production to be economic.

    With cheap solar pv or wind  power maybe you could generate both the fertilizer and the tractor fuel on farm sites.

    Regards
    Angus

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  27. By Wendell Mercantile on August 30, 2011 at 10:16 am

    How about a chapter on the the thermodynamic oxymoron of using fossil fuel energy powered technology to develop alternative energy sources.

    You could do a chapter called, “The Second Law of Thermodynamics for Politicians.”

    If politicians understood the natural laws of science better, they wouldn’t pass so many silly man-made laws.

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  28. By Steve Funk on August 30, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I would be curious to see any objective data on the productivity of hemp for oil seed and cellulose biomass, in relation to other crops such as canola and soy. Most of what is on the net about this crop is published by hard-core advocates who may have been consuming the product internally.

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  29. By rrapier on August 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    I think it was mentioned here before, but Scientific American has a new article called The False Promise of Biofuels. (That is a condensed version; the print version goes into much more detail). In the extended article is something I have said to Rufus many times; that the enzymes are not the critical element required to make cellulosic ethanol commercially viable:

    Even a superenzyme will inevitably be slow to break down cellulose because the biological interactions require time to work, making high-volume production difficult.

    The article details 3 hurdles that cellulosic ethanol must overcome (the dilute final ethanol mixture is the one that I think is the most serious) and 4 hurdles that algal fuel must overcome. For each one, the energy required to produce it is identified as a hurdle.

    RR

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  30. By Wendell Mercantile on August 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    For each one, the energy required to produce it is identified as a hurdle.

    The energy input required will always be the number one hurdle, but did they mention the logistics nightmare it would be to keep a biofuel plant supplied with biomass?

    The 40 MW biomass electrical generation plant near me has discovered that. They are needing to bring in biomass from as far as 125 miles away.

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  31. By armchair261 on August 30, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I will bust myths throughout the book, but that might be a good idea to just have a chapter dedicated to them. There are a lot out there.

    Might be fun to name the public figures who have abused these myths!

    I’d also like to have a handy reference table equating the energy equivalency, using reasonable assumptions (or a range thereof), of the main fossil and renewable energy sources. For example, converting the energy contained in a barrel of oil to the energy equivalent area of an Arizona solar array or a Texas windfarm.

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  32. By Kit P on August 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    “carrying capacity overshoot and likely die-off on billion of people during the 21st Century.”

    Billions will die of old age after living longer than ever before thanks to modern medicine, good diet, and reliable supplies of energy. St. Roy you may want to compare reality against crazy doomer theories.

    Fortunately college professors who write ecology science text books do not produce food or energy or protect the environment for that matter.

    “I think the bigger CO2 impact from wind farms is the need for quick ramping gas plants to provide backup when wind power is no longer available or dispactable.”

    Moiety, no reason to think this is true in the US. The NG fired plants came first so wind only means we use less fossil fuel.

    “Thorium”

    Yes, Angus there is enough fissionable material on this planet to supply our energy needs until the sun novas.

    “Ammonia”

    Yes, you can make with electricity.

    “In addition ammonia can and has been used as a carbon free transport fuel…”

    No, ammonia is extremely toxic.

    “With cheap solar pv or wind ”

    Again it is the reliability issue. High capital cost industrial systems can not rely on sources of energy with a low capacity factor.

    “When I say “size” I mean size of capacity. I think most people in the energy business…”

    The power industry is different than the energy industry. I do not care how ‘big’ something is if it does not produce electricity when and where I need it. You can store a years worth of fuel at a nuke or coal plant.

    There is nothing wrong with the concept that renewable energy can reduce the use of fossil fuel other than the silly extremes that some want to take renewable energy while ignoring the environmental impact of renewable energy.

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  33. By Kit P on August 30, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    “On the other hand, you have never worked on ethanol at all, so the next time you tell us how wonderful our ethanol policy is…”

    It is called stating an opinion and I think most readers here know the difference. Just for the record, I did not need a ME dgree from Purdue to know why farmers in Indiana grow corn and not sugar cane.

    I am on the rest coast so I will be happy to come to your gasifier and explain why the list is so short. The same as cellulose ethanol, no one can figure out how to make it work very well. Interesting yes, useful no.

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  34. By rrapier on August 30, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Kit P said:

    “On the other hand, you have never worked on ethanol at all, so the next time you tell us how wonderful our ethanol policy is…”

    It is called stating an opinion and I think most readers here know the difference. Just for the record, I did not need a ME dgree from Purdue to know why farmers in Indiana grow corn and not sugar cane.


     

    Frequently, I think you write things simply because you can. What you wrote above has no meaning, significance, or relevance to anything. I am unaware that anyone here has discussed growing sugarcane in the Midwest.

    I am on the rest coast so I will be happy to come to your gasifier and explain why the list is so short.

    I don’t even understand what you are trying to say.

    The same as cellulose ethanol, no one can figure out how to make it work very well. Interesting yes, useful no.

    I could explain that 20 years ago, which is why I have consistently predicted that the mandates could not be met.

    RR

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  35. By Wendell Mercantile on August 31, 2011 at 12:13 am

    No, ammonia is extremely toxic.

    But not that toxic. Hundreds of thousands of farmers in the Midwest apply ammonia to their fields each year without killing themselves, or their neighbors, or harming the environment. I’ve even seen 10-12 year olds kids driving tractors and applying ammonia. (Your using the same argument the anti-methanol people use.)

    The biggest precaution with ammonia is to keep it locked up so the meth cookers can’t sneak in at night and pilfer it.

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  36. By Rufus on August 31, 2011 at 12:15 am

    In spite of the fact that Economic Growth has been flat all year, and that the U.S., and the IEA have pumped close to 60 Million Barrels of Oil, and Products, onto the market in the last 30 Days, RBOB is at $3.00/Gal (which translates out to $3.70/Gal at the pump.)

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  37. By Rufus on August 31, 2011 at 12:21 am

    When your book comes out we will be a year, or two, into the “double-dip,” and, quite likely, still looking at $4.00/gasoline.

    James Schlesinger said that the U.S. has two modes: Complacency, and Panic.

    The day your book is published we will probably be getting close to the end of the “complacency” mode. You might want to keep that in mind.

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  38. By Walt on August 31, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    The article details 3 hurdles that cellulosic ethanol must overcome (the dilute final ethanol mixture is the one that I think is the most serious) and 4 hurdles that algal fuel must overcome. For each one, the energy required to produce it is identified as a hurdle.

    RR


     

    The same for GTL at small or medium scales.

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  39. By Marlowe Johnson on August 31, 2011 at 9:31 am

    “I don’t question that we need green jobs and a new renewable energy economy, but come on. Those are ridiculous numbers. Surely we have more efficient ways of job creation.”

     

    Robert I think your criticism here is  misplaced.  100K government investment per job created is pretty standard across industrialized countries.  You might be interested in this recent report by the Brookings Institute that shows that green jobs really are better paying than comparable jobs in the fossil industry (when adjusted for education levels): http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2011/0713_clean_economy.aspx.  Michael Levi’s take on the Brookings study is also worth reading:  http://blogs.cfr.org/levi/2011…../#more-964

     

     

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  40. By Angus North on August 31, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Here is a risk analysis for ammonia as a transport fuel: http://www.energy.iastate.edu/….._final.pdf

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  41. By Anon on August 31, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    The same as cellulose ethanol, no one can figure out how to make it work very well. Interesting yes, useful no.

    I could explain that 20 years ago, which is why I have consistently predicted that the mandates could not be met.

    RR


     

    They appear to have figured it out here…first $50 million and now another $75 million….nobody will move forward with commercialization at this scale unless it is proven to work….right?

     

    USDA Guarantees Loan to Florida Biofuels Facility

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
    announced on August 18 that it issued a $75 million loan guarantee to
    support construction of a waste-to-energy bioprocessing facility in Vero
    Beach, Florida. The plant will produce up to 8 million gallons per year
    of cellulosic ethanol and will create an estimated 380 new jobs.

    The facility, to be completed by the summer of
    2012, will use a gas fermentation process to produce cellulosic ethanol
    from citrus fruit, vegetable, and yard wastes. The plant will consume
    an estimated 300 dry tons of organic material per day and will produce
    enough electricity to run the plant and provide for the power needs of
    1,400 homes. It is estimated the facility will create 380 jobs. Compared
    to gasoline, the ethanol produced by the plant will reduce greenhouse
    gas emissions by an estimated 90%. The loan guarantee was issued through
    USDA Rural Development’s Biorefinery Assistance Program. DOE has also
    supported this technology with $50 million in American Recovery and
    Reinvestment Act funding. See the USDA press release, a DOE Energy Blog post, and the USDA Biorefinery Assistance Program webpage.

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  42. By Wendell Mercantile on August 31, 2011 at 10:15 am

    WASHINGTON, August 18, 2011—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development recently issued a $75 million loan guarantee to support construction of a waste-to-energy bioprocessing facility in Vero Beach, FL.

    Anon~

    That’s one of those, “Let’s throw something against the wall and see if it sticks. At least we can tell people we are trying something.” projects.

    And who knows, something good may come of it, but the only guarantee is that USDA loan guarantee.

    I wish we could require Vilsack report back to us in five, and then ten years to tell us how it turns out, but by then he’ll probably be in some cushy lobbying job, and will have completely forgotten about his Vero Beach guarantee.

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  43. By Wendell Mercantile on August 31, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    RR~

    Do you plan to have a chapter about the vast amount of energy locked in the methane clathrates under the oceans? Very difficult and expensive to get at — but it’s there waiting.

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  44. By Freude Bud on August 31, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I think that any book about energy needs to include conversion tables–and an explanation, as in sample examples, of how it is done, boe, etc.   Examples of how people misread energy data, like mistaking primary energy for power generation, etc.

     

    I’m not sure if you’re going to handle economics as opposed to science/logistics, but I think pointing out how cheap energy/expensive labor was a key driver of the UK Industrial Revolution and how cheap energy remains essential to the functioning of the world economy is important for understanding the viability of various alternatives.

     

    Anything describing all the BS on all sides when it comes to the cost (ROI) of nuclear energy would sure be helpful to me.

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  45. By rrapier on August 31, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Anon said:

    Robert Rapier said:

    The same as cellulose ethanol, no one can figure out how to make it work very well. Interesting yes, useful no.

    I could explain that 20 years ago, which is why I have consistently predicted that the mandates could not be met.

    RR


     

    They appear to have figured it out here…first $50 million and now another $75 million….nobody will move forward with commercialization at this scale unless it is proven to work….right?

     


     

    Did you follow the Range Fuels story? It was a lot more money than this, and it didn’t work. It has never been that cellulosic ethanol doesn’t work; it just doesn’t work economically.

    RR

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  46. By rrapier on August 31, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    RR~

    Do you plan to have a chapter about the vast amount of energy locked in the methane clathrates under the oceans? Very difficult and expensive to get at — but it’s there waiting.


     

    I am going to have a section on solutions, and I will likely cover this as an option — but in the same vein as nuclear fusion.

    RR

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  47. By Kit P on August 31, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    “But not that toxic.”

    Yes, Wendell it is that toxic. Very few things are more toxic than anhydrous ammonia.

    “apply ammonia to their fields each year without killing themselves, or their neighbors, or harming the environment.”

    For the most part! Farmers take risks that are not allowed in the energy industry.

    “I’ve even seen 10-12 year olds kids driving tractors and applying ammonia.”

    When I see children being endangered I call child protective services.

    “Here is a risk analysis for ammonia as a transport fuel:”

    So Angus, I can show you a risk analysis showing the risk is lower to store spent nuclear fuel in your front yard than a car fueled with ammonia. Will you let me?

    The point here is that introducing ‘new’ risk requires a compelling reason other than you saw something on the internet and thought it was a cool idea.

    We drove by a truck loaded with anhydrous ammonia this morning next to a wheat field this morning. I was not the least bit concerned. However, it that same truck was on the street where I lived or stopped near a school, I would be dialing 911.

    “A service station dispensing anhydrous ammonia as an automotive fuel would first unload the refrigerated ammonia from a tank truck in a manner similar to the unloading operations for LPG.”

    Not after 9/11/2001.

    “The ammonia fueling hoses will have break-away connections such that if a drive away accident were to occur, a minimal amount of ammonia would be released.”

    In at least one accident report I read the ‘minimal amount’ resulted in a fatality.

    “The most serious hazard presented by NH3 is from a large release from which escape is not possible.”

    Hydrogen and anhydrous ammonia face the same problem. Very few fire marshals will let it in their cities by the use of onerous regulation. It would be easier to put a nuke plant in the basement of the high school to provide heating.

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  48. By Angus North on September 1, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Yes NH3 is toxic if accidentally released, for the few people nearby when the accident occurs, before the gas disperses. However, car exhaust from petrol and diesel is also toxic, on a city wide scale. And on the production side, a 3 month long oil spill in the Gulf followed by the spraying of 2 million gallons of carcinogenic dispersant is not exactly safe or healthy.

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  49. By Wendell Mercantile on September 1, 2011 at 9:57 am

    When I see children being endangered I call child protective services.

    Kit P.

    Kids helping out on their parent’s farm or ranch is common (and expected), and certainly nothing new. If you were in the Midwest or Great Plains and called “child protective services” every time you thought a farm or ranch kid was doing something at which he or she could get hurt, you’d be mighty busy.

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  50. By Wendell Mercantile on September 1, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Here’s an interesting story. A solar panel company in California that last year accepted a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department has declared bankruptcy. In 2010 President Obama gave a speech at the plant of a solar panel manufacturer in Fremont, Calif., saying “the future is here.”

    One of those seemingly clever ideas they couldn’t scale up to economic production.

    Solar Panel Company Declares Bankruptcy

    Couldn’t Compete ~ “Solyndra could not achieve full-scale operations rapidly enough to compete in the near term with the resources of larger foreign manufacturers,” the company said in the statement.

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  51. By thomas398 on September 1, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Mark Duffett said:

    …oil consumption graphed over the past 45 years, and I show the times that global oil consumption dropped. It’s always in relation to bad news…

    I’d be hoping you cover the flipside of that – can you show graphically whether high oil prices are a reliable leading indicator (i.e. a contributing factor) of economic downturns? Is the strength of this relationship changing over time?


     

    See this post and the source article it references. Oil prices havent spiked before the last two recessions.

    http://www.consumerenergyrepor…..go/#p13544

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  52. By St. Roy on September 2, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Robert:
    Robert:

    Here is a good issue to address in your new book.

    If someone were to calculate all the fossil fuel calorie inputs relative to the calorie outputs of any kind alternative energy over there development and operating lifetime, I think you would find that they are all “perpetual motion machines”. Why do so many people ignore the 2nd law of thermodynamics?

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  53. By russ-finley on September 3, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    RR said:

    For instance, when you read the nuclear chapter, my intent is that you won’t be able to tell whether I am for or against, but you will have a lot more facts at your disposal.

     

    Sometimes it is better to state one’s prejudices rather than try to be neutral, or hide them, as the lay press does. Consider laying out your cases along with your opinions if you have them. We are all very much susceptible to self-deception (hidden subconscious bias).

     

    Also, how about checking on this calculation:

     

    “…In 2003, the biologist Jeffrey Dukes calculated that the fossil fuels we burn in one year were made from organic matter “containing 44 x 10 to the 18 grams of carbon, which is more than 400 times the net primary productivity of the planet’s current biota.”(1) In plain English, this means that every year we use four centuries’ worth of plants and animals. …”

    Taken from a Monbiot article.

     

     

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  54. By rrapier on September 4, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Russ Finley said:

    RR said:

    For instance, when you read the nuclear chapter, my intent is that you won’t be able to tell whether I am for or against, but you will have a lot more facts at your disposal.

     

    Sometimes it is better to state one’s prejudices rather than try to be neutral, or hide them, as the lay press does. Consider laying out your cases along with your opinions if you have them. We are all very much susceptible to self-deception (hidden subconscious bias).


     

    Really all I am doing is trying to state facts. It isn’t so much a matter of “One side thinks this, the other side thinks that.” I am just laying out factual information.

    Also, how about checking on this calculation:

    “…In 2003, the biologist Jeffrey Dukes calculated that the fossil
    fuels we burn in one year were made from organic matter “containing 44 x
    10 to the 18 grams of carbon, which is more than 400 times the net
    primary productivity of the planet’s current biota.”(1) In plain
    English, this means that every year we use four centuries’ worth of
    plants and animals. …”

    Taken from a Monbiot article.

    I have that original paper somewhere. I have cited that several times, including in a forum a week ago: http://www.bigislandvideonews……rgy-forum/

    Are you thinking that the calculation may not be accurate?

    RR

     

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  55. By paul-n on September 4, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Estimates of global net primary productivity (NPP) vary according to the calculation method used, but according to this paper, the range is between 50 and 100 Pg/yr (50-100 x10^15) .

    If we said 44 x 10^15 for NPP, then Jeffrey Dukes estimate of the fossil fuel use at 44×10^18 gC  is 1000x the global NPP. 

    44x 10^18 g C is equivalent to about 60,000 billion tons of coal – that seems like an awful lot of coal

    Annual world coal consumption in 2009 was 7.6 billion tons, so where are the rest of the C emissions coming from?

     

    According to the UN Statistics (via Wikipedia), global CO2 emissions for 2008 were 30 billion metric tons.

    One ton of CO2 is 27%C, so the global C emissions were 8.1 billion tons, or 8.1 x 10^15 g of C.  

    This is actually about 10 to 25% of global NPP, depending on which numbers we use.

    So I would suggest that Jeffrey Dukes number is out, by about three orders of magnitude

     

    So we are using energy at less than NPP, though, of course, we couldn’t ever harvest anything close to all of NPP.  It would be interesting to know what fraction of annual NPP becomes fossil fuels – probably less than 1%, so we are certainly using fossil fuels much faster than they are being created.

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  56. By rrapier on September 5, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Russ Finley said:

    RR said:

    all I am doing is trying to state facts. It isn’t so much a matter of “One side thinks this, the other side thinks that.” I am just laying out factual information.

    If you state a position you will be able to do more than just reprint charts and curves found in EIA and DOE databases.


     

    Oh, there is plenty of analysis of the information. For instance, I paint a clear picture of why we have nuclear power. I show what happened to the global nuclear industry after Chernobyl, and speculate on what is likely to happen going forward. What I don’t do is stake out a position that we must allow or stop nuclear power. I walk through the pros and cons in objective fashion.

     
    “Are you thinking that the calculation may not be accurate?”

    Not necessarily. I’ve made no attempt to check it. Thought it might
    be a good idea though just in case the results are being misinterpreted.
    Paul just took a shot at it and came up with a different answer for
    reasons unknown.

    I think I know, but I will have to go back and look at the paper. Now that I see Paul’s number, I think the initial calculation had some guesstimate in there on what percentage of plant life may have been fossilized. Based on that and the amount of fossil fuels we are using, he calculated that we are using up 400 years of fossilized biomass each year. I think that was the deal, but need to go back and check it.

    RR

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  57. By Kit P on September 5, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    “he or she could get hurt, you’d be mighty busy.”

    Not really Wendell! It does not take very long to stop and point a problem out. There is also a difference between getting hurt and killed. There is a difference between letting children ride a bike is a neighborhood and on a busy highway.

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  58. By russ-finley on September 5, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    RR said:

    all I am doing is trying to state facts. It isn’t so much a matter of “One side thinks this, the other side thinks that.” I am just laying out factual information.

    If you state a position you will be able to do more than just reprint charts and curves found in EIA and DOE databases.

     Are you thinking that the calculation may not be accurate?

    Not necessarily. I’ve made no attempt to check it. Thought it might be a good idea though just in case the results are being misinterpreted. Paul just took a shot at it and came up with a different answer for reasons unknown.

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  59. By Wendell Mercantile on September 5, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    It does not take very long to stop and point a problem out.

    Kit P.

    Oh, point out a problem. I thought you wanted to call “protective child services?”

    If I saw the neighbor’s kids out doing something stupid while mowing hay, I would certainly feel duty-bound to stop them, or at least tell their dad.

    But I wouldn’t call protective child services for the mere act of seeing kids helping out on the family farm which is what you earlier said you would do.

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  60. By Kit P on September 5, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    “at least tell their dad. ”

    That is very heroic of you Wendell but Wendell what would you do if you saw of child in immediate harm? That is the dilemma.

    If dad has the same mindset as Wendell and equates handling hazardous material unsafely with ‘helping out on the family farm’ then dad is going to ignore the intervention.

    The point here is that improperly handling hazardous material is a crime. I have never actually had to call CPS. Pointing out to people that they may need a layer is a sobering thought. Either explain to me why I am wrong or tell me what you are going to do about the problem.

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  61. By Wendell Mercantile on September 5, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    The point here is that improperly handling hazardous material is a crime.

    Did I ever say the kids I saw driving tractors and applying nitrogen were doing it improperly, or in a dangerous or criminal fashion?

    What is criminal about applying anhydrous ammonia as fertilizer — whether it’s the farmer or his kids applying it? It happens hundreds of thousands of times each spring across the Midwest. I suppose you think the kids who live on a ranch also should not help with branding or castration.

    Your becoming quite a “nanny stater,” if you think a farmer or rancher can’t teach his kids how to do a essential job on the farm or ranch from which the make their living.

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  62. By Kit P on September 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    “Did I ever say…”

    I told you what I would do if I saw a child in immediate harm.

    “What is criminal about applying anhydrous ammonia as fertilizer…”

    You tell me Wendell! What are the regulations for handing anhydrous ammonia on farms? Places in an industrial setting that I have worked require workers to be over 18 and be trained.

    I was overcome by ammonia in the work place. I had no training and I think the owner had no concept of the danger since he let his son work there too. It was before OSHA.

    “nanny stater,”

    There is a difference between ‘secondhand smoke’ and anhydrous ammonia.

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  63. By rrapier on September 7, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Kit P said:

    “nanny stater,”

    There is a difference between ‘secondhand smoke’ and anhydrous ammonia.


     

    Yes, one is a carcinogen that children are exposed to every day.

    RR

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  64. By Wendell Mercantile on September 8, 2011 at 12:04 am

    I was overcome by ammonia in the work place. I had no training and I think the owner had no concept of the danger since he let his son work there too.

    Kit P.

    Overcome by ammonia? If ammonia is that toxic why are you still alive? Why were you doing something for which you were so ill-prepared?

    That doesn’t sound like you.

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  65. By Wendell Mercantile on September 8, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Here’s another interesting story: A propane fuel cell. Ruggedized propane fuel cell

    DARPA researchers say they have overcome this limitation with the development of a compact solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) fueled by propane that quadruples the endurance of Lockheed Martin’s Stalker small UAS.

    That only begs the question of why are we messing around with hydrogen fuel cells that depend on hard-to-handle gaseous of liquid hydrogen, when we could instead be developing fuel cells that use easier-to-handle fuels such as propane, methanol, or ethanol?

    [link]      
  66. By Kit P on September 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    “Yes, one is a carcinogen that children are exposed to every day.”

    Not my children! Even if the risk is small it is easy to avoid.

    “If ammonia is that toxic why are you still alive?”

    It was a relatively weak solution used to ‘develop’ blue prints and whoever was doing it before me spilled a large amount inside the machine. I was working during lunch so the foundry equipment was not running. So others heard me fall and got me out of the room before serious injury could occur. However, my sense of smell was damaged.

    “Why were you doing something for which you were so ill-prepared?”

    It was before OSHA. I was a high school student with no concept of my on mortality. My point is that there is a long list of things we used to do but can not now. For good reasons.

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  67. By Wendell Mercantile on September 8, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    It was a relatively weak solution used to ‘develop’ blue prints and whoever was doing it before me spilled a large amount inside the machine. I was working during lunch so the foundry equipment was not running.

    Kit P.

    Must have been a life-searing, traumatic experience for you. It probably explains a lot. (By the way: I do remember that ammonia smell when unrolling a freshly made set of blueprints.)

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  68. By Kit P on September 8, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    “Must have been a life-searing, traumatic experience for you.”

    No, I just went back to work after being able to answer the question, “How many fingers do you see?”

    One can only image what would happen now with a chemical spill that overcame a worker. The hazmat team would be called and the worker taken to the hospital for observation.

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  69. By Wendell Mercantile on September 8, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    The hazmat team would be called and the worker taken to the hospital for observation.

    Not to mention that someone would have called “child protective services” and the caseworker would have started a file that would still be part of your “permanent record.”

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  70. By Wendell Mercantile on September 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Another interesting story: AliphaJet Inc.

    “Our strategy fundamentally improves the economics of making 100% drop-in renewable jet biofuel,” said Jack Oswald, CEO of AliphaJet.

    Developer claims bio-based jet fuel breakthrough ~ September 15, 2011

    …its BoxCar catalytic de-oxygenation process “significantly” reduces capital and operating costs for producing bio-jet fuel. The cost savings come because it does not require hydrogen to remove the oxygen from the feedstocks.

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  71. By paul-n on September 19, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    i am not that impressed by AliphaJet – so they can turn plant and animal oils into jet fuel – big deal!

    That is not the problem that needs to be solved – it is producing the oils in the first place.  They even say how oil from algae can be used as a feedstock, despite the fact that no one has worked out how to commercially get oil from algae.

    Given that plant oils can be used directly in a diesel engine, that is what should be being done, and leave the petro diesel for the jets.

    However, there  is zero money for doing SVO, but there is lots of money for turning SVO into expensive jet fuel for the Navy, so these companies are just following the money.  The problem is that it is being offered for the wrong things.

     

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  72. By Shaun B on September 21, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Greetings Robert

    Topics for book, Love to see cost and economic (Moores Law Equivalents) for renewable energy and storage. Also your take on short and long term technologies /companies that could be successful in renewable energy.

    For example First Solar has a proven track record of projecting and hitting cost and energy output for thin film solar. See First Solar quaterly transcripts at Seeking Alpha

    Show me the facts, history, time frame behind a bright renewable energy future.

    Also nice if you include references and video links, color charts & graphs , etc in ebook version. Willing to pay more to get more.

    Looking forward to the book

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  73. By Kit P on September 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    “Love to see cost and economic (Moores Law Equivalents) for renewable energy and storage.”

    Questions like this may explain why Silicon Valley gets confused between electronics and electric power generation. Area is always a term in the equation. While the energy density of fission or fusion is huge, the limiting factor is how much energy can be transferred per surface area of heat exchangers.

    Wind and solar are diffuse energy sources requiring massive collection areas. Since water is denser than air, hydroelectric turbines have a much smaller turbine blade area. Since storing water reduces flooding, provides for irrigation, recreation, and navigation; hydroelectric is the cheapest and most practical form renewable energy. It is also the largest. In the US, we have used up most of the cost effective sources of new renewable energy.

    “For example First Solar has a proven track record …”

    The only place that the solar industry follows Moore’s Law is issuing press releases.

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