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By Robert Rapier on Jan 2, 2012 with 52 responses

Soliciting Reader Feedback for Power Plays

Most regular readers are aware that I am writing a book. The title of the book is Power Plays: Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil. While I have contributed several chapters to books in the past, this is my first full book, and I only recently learned that the publication process goes much faster than I had imagined. I signed the book contract in August 2011, and we were targeting completion of the book by year-end 2011. My assumption was that it would probably take months to get final edits, artwork, etc. completed and that it might go on sale during the second half of 2012. But, I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that it wouldn’t be available until 2013.

However, I was recently surprise to learned that the book is already for sale at a number of outlets, including Amazon, and that release is scheduled for March 15th, 2012. So I am feeling the pressure at this point. I have to turn in the final chapters and edits by January 15th. That means I have 2 weeks left to make adjustments. I still have to write three chapters, but a lot of that work is done. The book is supposed to be 250 pages, and I have about 180 written. But nothing is set in stone until January 15th.

What I would like to do is share my thoughts with readers and request some feedback and suggestions. The main thing is that I don’t want to overlook something major. I would also like to hear what readers would like to see in a book on energy. Essentially, the goal of the book is to provide essential information for people from zero knowledge about energy to those who are fairly sophisticated in their views on energy, but presented in a (mostly) non-technical manner. I also want to press hard for changes in our energy policy so that we can be better prepared for the difficulties that I believe await us. Scattered throughout the book are facts that may not be commonly known, and sidebars that cover a number of controversial topics. My goal is that everyone will learn things that they did not know, and I can safely say that has been the case for me as I have written the book.

Below is the Table of Contents as things currently stand, followed by a short synopsis of each chapter. The final order of the chapters may be different than depicted below, and I may even decide to add or substitute a chapter depending on the feedback I get here.

Chapter 01 – Overview

This chapter is basically an explanation of why energy is important in our lives, and gives a brief summary of topics such as “Energy Misconceptions” and “Energy Politics.” I also lay out some questions that the book will answer.

Chapter 02 – Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power

This chapter covers the history of oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power, and discusses countries that produce the most and that use the most.

Chapter 03 – Renewables

Similar to the previous chapter, except covering biomass, wind, solar power, hydropower, and geothermal power.

Chapter 04 – Energy Production

Discusses how the major forms of energy are produced.

Chapter 05 – Climate Change

I go over the science behind climate change, and look at the challenging prospects for reining in carbon emissions.

Chapter 06 – Peak Oil

I cover what peak oil is, the misconceptions behind peak oil, and the threat it poses to modern civilization.

Chapter 07 – Nuclear

This looks at the future of nuclear power, with an emphasis on the ramifications of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Chapter 08 – Threats

Here I cover some of the major threats to energy security besides peak oil. I write about OPEC, emerging countries, and the implications of declining EROEI. I also cover the threat posed by oil choke-points, which is something that is presently in the news as Iran threatens to shut down the Straight of Hormuz.

Chapter 09 – Better Energy Policies

Here I focus on several ideas that will help move countries away from dependence on imported oil – and ultimately fossil fuels in general – while also making sure supplies are adequate during the transition. I talk about fossil fuel taxes, drilling proposals that fund alternative energy and mass transit, and the need for an Open Fuel Standard.

Chapter 10 – Due Diligence

This chapter explains how to sort out hype from reality, particularly when dealing with an alternative energy technology.

Chapter 11 – The Race to Replace Oil

This chapter is not yet written, but will cover many of the contenders to replace oil. I plan to look at methanol, ethanol, mixed alcohols, DME, and probably fuel from algae.

Chapter 12 – Corn Ethanol: Past, Present, and Future

I cover the history of corn ethanol policies in the U.S., detailing what worked and what needs to be improved. I talk about the implications of the blend wall and how it is impacting the industry.

Chapter 13 – The Role of Biomass

This chapter is not yet written, and I may decide that this material is adequately covered in other chapters. This one is a candidate for substitution.

Chapter 14 – Energy and Politics

This chapter covers the history of energy policy in the U.S. over the past four decades, and why that has resulted in such a high level of dependence on imported oil.

Chapter 15 – The Road Ahead

This chapter isn’t written, but will be my assessment of what lies ahead and which pathways offer the most promise for mitigating the energy crunch.

So there you have it. What does it look like I am missing, and what suggestions do you have? What messages do you think is important to convey to the general public?

Besides editing already submitted chapters, I need to write about 4 pages a day for the next three weeks. So there is still plenty of time to influence the final version. R-Squared readers will naturally be acknowledged in the book for reader’s contributions. Thanks in advance to those willing to offer suggestions.

Link to Original Article: Soliciting Reader Feedback for Power Plays

By Robert Rapier

  1. By Dave Coyle on January 2, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I am impressed with the contents as planned, but would also really like to see an explanation of the economics / economic influences in play that will likely determine the future of the types of alternative energies. I see you plan to address the political influences, but in the spirit of “follow the money,” the future of alternative energies will also be heavily influenced by the economics. It would be very valuable to see a concise summary of how the money flows and who the key players are behind this movement — which could significantly influence its outcome.

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  2. By Wendell Mercantile on January 2, 2012 at 10:54 am

    I plan to look at methanol, ethanol, mixed alcohols, DME, and probably fuel from algae.

    RR~

    You should at least mention the vast amount of energy locked in frozen methane clathrates under the oceans. They would be both expensive, and technically difficult to access and exploit, but the gigatons of methane they represents are a huge “Ace on the Hole.” As far as I’m aware, only the Japanese are making a significant and serious research effort to eventually use the crathrates under the Pacific east of Japan. If Japan ever figures out an economic way to use them, it would turn around their energy architecture — without the perceived drawbacks of nuclear power.

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  3. By Marc Ferguson on January 2, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I would add a chapter on water use present and future in the production of energy. Setting aside energy used to extract and process fuels, water is the most inportant input. Different energy types (fuels and production) requires different quantities, and have different effects on the quality of the wastewater and the surrounding environment. And water costs are increasing, and will continue to do so with climate change-related changes in precipitation patterns and velocity. Whether it is fracking, or competition for water during drought like what is beginning to occur in Texas, water is a critical component.

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  4. By Tom G. on January 2, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Robert:

    I wrote the following a few months ago about WHY the term GLOBAL WARMING is so misunderstood by the American people.

    Tom G. wrote on November 26, 2011 in response to a “Global Warming” posting:
    We can promote clean air and water. We can reduce the use of coal, oil and natural gas. We can continue to fund further battery research and make our transportation system less carbon intensive. We can change the way we farm to be more efficient and less carbon intensive. We can continue to promote high speed rail. We can build more wind, solar, hydro, wave and geothermal systems. We can continue to develop bio-fuels based on non-food crops. All of these things we can do without ever using the term ‘Global Warming’.

    We can do all of these things because most are [or soon will be] the most cost effective approach. You don’t get companies like Google, GE, Exxon-Mobile and others to invest in ‘global warming’. They invest in things they can CONTROL As a retired engineer, I really don’t think it makes much difference HOW we achieve our goals just as long as we do and that to me is one of the problems with the term ‘global warming’. It is not a GOAL, A PLAN or STRATEGIC objective, it professes to be a statement of fact or at best a statement of a static condition [the globe is warming]. The term global warming doesn’t DO anything – it only states a condition and doesn’t do that very well either. 

    When people write goal statements they usually contain action statements like:
    # I intend on reducing my carbon footprint by 25% this year or 
    # I plan on buying an electric car next year because they require less maintenance or 
    # Next year I am going to try the train between L.A. and Las Vegas instead of driving, or 
    # I am going to write a letter to my city council to encourage the use of solar on public buildings. 

    While every one of the above statements has something to do with global warming the term is never used or even needed. I believe that a large majority of the American people would be responsive to those types of actions. I can SELL goals, plans, strategic objectives and visions to an American Company or the American people – I can not sell ‘global warming’ since it is not a product or service. 

    I sure hope this makes sense to someone. We can do hundreds of things to make our lives better without ever using the term ‘global warming’. I can’t sell a homeowner ‘global warming’ but I can sell them a 5 kW PV system for their home because in 7-10 years they can be enjoying free electricity. 
    In the end aren’t they the same thing?
    Published on blog: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/14awt)

    P.S. I worked at a nuclear power plant for 20 years. If you have any questions or information you would like reviewed I would be happy to help.

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  5. By James Halloran on January 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

    In place of the chapter on biomass, which you are considering omitting, I would suggest how global demographics might shape the future development and consumption of energy. The developed countries have the most sophisticated application of energy to their domestic product, but have combined declining population. Along the way, they seek to push efficiency, conservation, and reduced carbon emission. The developing countries, with their growing populations and less developed GDP, must rely on inexpensive energy (and lots of it) to meet the demands of more people seeking a better life. This is a dichotomy already manifesting itself in number of ways, but it is likely to create greater global tension going forward.

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  6. By Don on January 2, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Hi Robert,

     

    A few suggestions:

    Chapter 1:

    I think it would be instructive to go through an energy graphic showing sources/uses.  US (or world) uses in 2010 Y amount of energy.  A amount hits the earth from the sun (A-z = the amount can collect via solar(,  B is in the earth in the form of coal, C is in the amount in oil etc…  I think this type of back of the envelope calculations prime the reader into thinking – We use a lot of energy !  How do we get it ?  What other ways can we get it ?  Think along the lines of the Global Climate Change scientists wedges (http://cmi.princeton.edu/wedges/)

    Chapter 2:

    I read a book about electricity not to long ago and one of the more interesting theories they put forth was the desire for humans over the last 150yrs to develop “higher ordered” power – cleaner signal, more power (e.g. moving from steam, to electricity, etc).  We will be demanding higher ordered power as we move forward with newer and more sensitive electronics (just look at the UPS/battery/line conditioner that feeds most people’s computers!)

    In this chapter when you talk about nuclear power I would definately discuss a few things: a)  the state of nuclear reactors (Generations including III (in use) and plans for IV, V+ etc).  Here (or Chapter 1) I would discuss the issue of nuclear waste …  We have lots of it but Japan, Germany, France have more reactors but less waste why?  (they recycle it).  I understand that to save money in the 70s the government stopped recycling our nuclear waste.

    Hydroelectric – I don’t know where you are from but here in the US South we have pumped-storage hydroelectricity dams (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P…..lectricity) that are basically twin lakes that generate electricity going down hill during peak usages (thereby making money) and when demand is low (at night) they pump the water back up hill to the higher lake.  Now this makes ECONOMIC sense because it makes them money but it makes no sense from an ecological and/or sustainability stand point. 

    For other renewables you may want to talk about tidal power (used in Bay of Fundy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A….._Station)- or ocean wave energy).  However, all this is placed in the context of chapter 1 which shows will likely us that we need a wide mix of technologies to achieve the amount of energy that we use. 

    Chapter 7: 

    I would cover way more nuclear accidents than Fukushima  (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N…..idents).  I would also discuss fusion power as opposed to just focusing on nuclear fission.  There is promise but Science has been promising that for decades …  Why ?  I imagine both technology and policy intersect here.

    Chapter 13:

    Don’t get rid of it !  Expand it!  With the EPA’s RFS we have mandates to get renewalable fuels off the ground.  Corn based ethanol is already maxed out on how much it is supposed to produce (which is horribly inefficient but you know that) and next gen fuels are barely on the radar screen.  Ask (and answer) the questions why ?  Certainly technology but policy brings to bear here as well.  How much biomass can we get from agricultural and forest waste ?  What are the competing usages for that material ?

    Chapter 14:

      Maybe this is where you put the nuclear policy questions regarding waste…  Why don’t we reprocess our waste like other countries do ?  does it make sense in terms of energy ?  Can we get to next generation reactors ?

     

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  7. By Jeff on January 2, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I would like to see a chapter discussing the essential role of government investment in science and technology research, especially in regard to energy. Given the recent Solyndra debacle, and that Solyndra is often viewed as a government failure, it seems essential that the role of government investment should be discussed and given significant weight.

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  8. By Evan K. on January 2, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Have you considered including a section that puts into context the amount of energy consumed globally? I feel that people are unaware of how much energy daily activities require, for example, driving your car to the supermarket or cooking a meal versus the energy produced by an average coal burning power plant. When coupled with knowledge of less energy intensive alternatives, the idea of conservation appears a powerful and individually applicable method of fighting energy scarcity and climate change. Good luck, I look forward to checking out your book.

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  9. By JonSCKs on January 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    In 1999 the Crash in Crude/energy prices was fueling growth of the Cerrado in Brazil.. (It takes cheap energy to settle a country..) This is an area not unlike the prairie of the Midwest in the late 1800′s like my forefathers found.. tall lush grasslands. It is estimated that an additional 170 miln acres (about 40% of US farmland) will come online over the next 50 years as they develop the infrastructure.. roads/rail lines.. etc. It was this looming production that permiated the Ag community in 2000/01 when corn futures prices traded between $1.70 and $2.50.. Crude had just come off it’s lows at around $10/bbl in 1998.

    About that time California was experiencing blackouts due to Manipulation (Enron) or bad policy..Natural Gas spiked to $9.95 during the winter of 00/01.. and economically it made sense to burn corn instead of Natural Gas.. for a very brief moment in time. With corn at 314,000 btu’s per bushel and Natty Gas at 820,000 btu’s per cubic ft.. Even $3.00 corn was only worth.. $7.83 Natural gas and that got the ball rolling to consider corn as an energy substitute. Natural Gas collapsed to around $2.00 by January 02 but spiked again the following year to $9.50 and traded in an upslope from $4.30 in the fall of 03 to a new all time high of $15.78 in December of 05.. with the damage from the Hurricanes in the gulf that summer.. at that point corn was trading at $1.86.. as the same hurricanes destroyed the export infrastructure and grain was being barged back UP the Mississippi to the interior.. Cash corn was trading for as low as $1.50.. in the heartland of the country.

    THAT is what started the ethanol boom. As ethanol plants were generating as much as $3.00 per bushel processing profits.. They could pay for themselves in a single year.. Driven by profit margins the ethanol expansion exceeded the supply of corn by 2008 just in time for the economic meltdown of the Great Recession which forced a period of consolidation. However by 2011, roughly 200 ethanol plants across the country have the capacity to convert about 5.2 Billion bushels of corn into about 14.8 Billion gallons of ethanol a little over 10% of the Nation’s gasoline useage.

    Early planting expectations look for a 4 to 6 million acres expansion in the crop for 2012 yielding about 98 mln acres planted which if matching the uptrend in yields of 160+ could yield a surplus crop of almost 14.5 billion bushels (if the weather cooperates..) or about 6.5 billion bushels for corn ethanol.. at a 2.85 yield that would be 18.5 billion gallons.

    Although this would be a very large crop.. we have seen similar jumps in production such as 2004, 2007 and 2009

    http://www.agmanager.info/live…..Supply.htm

    Much of the growth in production has occured in the plains states where feedgrains such as dryland corn and sorghum are replacing the sowing of wheat which has lost about 25 mln acres to other crops in the past 30+ years..

    http://www.agmanager.info/live…..creage.htm

    The Northern Plains especially are growing their ability to produce high dryland yields.. the Southern plains can under the right conditions yank out big yields also.

    Ethanol will not replace gasoline.. but it can be a significant fuel extender which has high octane as well as a high protien feed. Ethanol refineries are glorifed feed mills with energy (ethanol) as one output.. the other.. high protien feed is also in demand.. as it can be mixed with lower value forages.. to extend feed supplies.. which we are seeing during the drought of 2011.

    Livestock exports to a booming Asian market stands ready to fuel future growth in the need for high protien feeds such as DDGS as well as WDGS which are the output of ethanol plants.. we can use ALL that can be produced.

    Likewise the high octane level of ethanol makes an ideal blend agent with lower octane gasoline.. extending the use of a diminishing resource. Also since crops use CO2, ethanol helps fight climate change.

    Therefore in my humble opinion.. ethanol has a bright future ahead. Thanks to the demand from ethanol.. the American farmer is now much less subsidized.. and due to it’s integration into the fuel stream.. ethanol competes without the blender’s credit adding another check to high priced energy markets.

    We have 2.3 billion acres in this country.. ethanol uses about 30 million or a net when you credit the feed component back to about 20 million about 0.0087 of the land mass of the US.

    http://www.ers.usda.gov/Public…../EIB89.pdf

    It’s not perfect.. and yes more hurdles remain.. but in about a decade we grew to filling 10% of the largest gasoline market in the world.

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  10. By moiety on January 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Íf the role of biomass chapter is left out, I would consider the role of electricity. By that I mean that there is a large drive for electrification instead of oil wit of course replacing coal. The question is is it possible?

     

    Another idea might be to look at oil and add that it is required for plastics and other chemical building blocks.

     

    That said I doubt both would make a chapter.

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  11. By Rif on January 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Some notes:

    Ch. 1:
    - You must include an explanation about power different from energy, mixing them up is like confusing speed and distance. This is such a common mistake, even some journalists writing about energy do not understand the difference. I think part of the problem is that the units KW and KWh looks the same. It would be less confusing if energy is stated in joule instead of watt-hour.

    - Include metric units for everything if you want anybody outside US to understand your book.

    Ch. 3:
    - Solar power is 3 main different types.
    1. Solar hot water / heating from roof top panels.
    2. Solar PV which generate electric power, roof top systems or power stations, also BIPV.
    3. Concentrated solar thermal power, power stations that generate electric power, with heat energy storage, e.g. Andasol and Gemasolar in Spain.

    - Wind power both onshore and offshore.

    Ch. 4:
    - World Energy Council has statistics on global usage of different forms of energy. WEC, World energy resources:
    World energy resources

    - EWEA has statistics on European energy production for wind and other resources:
    Pure Power

    - Power grid: HVDC connections, electric power market between regions or countries.
    1. MIT study, US Electric Grid
    US Electric Grid

    2. EWEA offshore power grid
    Offshore Grid Report

    - Grid energy storage:
    1. Hydro pumped storage.
    2. CAES and next generation adiabatic CAES.
    3. Batteries, sodium–sulfur NAS.

    Ch. 6:
    Explain that we will never run out of oil, we will run out of cheap oil.

    Ch. 9:
    Smart grid: Net meeting, varying prices to adjust power demand.

    Good luck with the book.

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  12. By JonSCKs on January 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    JonSCKs said:

    We have 2.3 billion acres in this country.. ethanol uses about 30 million or a net when you credit the feed component back to about 20 million about 0.0087 of the land mass of the US.

    http://www.ers.usda.gov/Public…../EIB89.pdf

    I need to shore up some of my numbers here.. Officially I am at 94 planted.. 86.4 harvested with a national average yield of 157 yielding a 13.6 bil bu crop with ethanol useage of about 5.1 bil bu.  I would center the bell curves around these numbers but would concede that we could plant as much as 98 and yield as much as 165.. for a 14.8 crop..  or on the other end.. 91.. and 150 for a 12.6 bil bu crop.. but most likely something in the 13.2 to 13.8 range.
     

     

    Yields are upward sloping..  http://www.agmanager.info/live…..Yields.htm

     

    Although 2011 was a rough year.. we should return to trendline.. as we always have at some point.. although I think the one on the linked chart is a little steep.. for now.  Anyway.. a 157 bu National Average yield would be a close place to start a credible discussion.  Which we will probably beat over time.  At 157.. and 2011 ethanol grind of 5 bil bushels.. that is 31.85 mln acres.. let’s say 35 mln and credit one third back.. just under 17 lbs per bushel for the feed component.. 30%.. yields about 24.5 to 25 mln acres net.. out of 2.3 billion would be 0.0109 of the land mass of the US.

    Again the success of ethanol comes down to so much of this alternative energy was already in place.. we already had farms.. we already grew corn.. we already had storage facilities and harvesting capacity and transportation to do “more of the same.”  Adding the biorefineries was the challenge.. and determining where to locate them.. most of these big fights are now over.  Now we can get down to refining the processes.. Some plants are recovering the corn oil which can be sold or converted into bio-diesel.. You can talk about growing algae alongside these production streams such as what Green Plains is doing.. etc.  http://www.gpreinc.com/News/64

    Anyway, now that the basic processes are in place the add-on’s can be attached to enhance and diversify the income streams.  As crop sizes continue to grow.. the need for more storage and harvesting capacity will continue and will be met.  The whole concept is basically an add-on to what the American Farmer already does.

    It’s hard to forecast what the future holds.. but I do believe it is reasonable to see grain based ethanol approach 20 to 25 billion gallons over the next decade.  The US has been the dominant export supplier to the world.. given high grain prices.. the Cerrado is expanding further as are other regions such as the black sea region in the FSU.. both of these places will offer significant growth in agricultural productivity in the future.. and prices will find equilibrium.. probably at levels lower than today.

    Weather as always will offer curve balls.. with declines and gluts.. that is why we need to continue to build out storage and develop processes and programs for storing huge crops into periods of shortfall.. if things get bad.. we can always limit ethanol conversion or draw on stocks.  Given a growing population on the planet.. the fact that we are raising more grain.. is not a bad thing imho. 

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  13. By Wendell Mercantile on January 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Ethanol will not replace gasoline.. but it can be a significant fuel extender which has high octane as well as a high protien feed.

    JonSCKs~

    With all due respect, the corn ethanol wave has crested. The blender’s credit is gone as of yesterday, and if there were no Federal mandate, there would be no reason to ferment corn and distill the ethanol from it.

    Not even corn growers and their relatives would use it as a fuel without the mandate. Please tell me the last time you saw a corn farmer using a corn-derived fuel to power his/her ag equipment/

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  14. By rufus on January 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Something that I think is being overlooked is the future “efficiency” gains of Flexfuel engines. When do Ford, and GM think they can hit “parity” between E85 and gasoline (or, how close do they think they can get, and when?)

    If cellulosic ethanol is going to require a $3.00 + (or higher) selling price this is an all-important question.

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  15. By rrapier on January 2, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Rufus said:

    Something that I think is being overlooked is the future “efficiency” gains of Flexfuel engines. When do Ford, and GM think they can hit “parity” between E85 and gasoline (or, how close do they think they can get, and when?)


     

    I actually cover this in some detail.

    RR

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  16. By rrapier on January 2, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Rif said:

    Some notes:

    Ch. 1:

    - You must include an explanation about power different from energy, mixing them up is like confusing speed and distance. This is such a common mistake, even some journalists writing about energy do not understand the difference. I think part of the problem is that the units KW and KWh looks the same. It would be less confusing if energy is stated in joule instead of watt-hour.

    - Include metric units for everything if you want anybody outside US to understand your book.


     

    That’s a really good idea. I have to go back and see if I have mentioned that, but I don’t think I have.

    Right now I have a mixture of metric and U.S. units. I have to standardize those, and will probably do so by placing the metric value in parentheses (since it will probably be mostlly an American audience; if the book was strictly technical I would do the opposite or just completely omit the U.S. units).

    Ch. 3:

    - Solar power is 3 main different types.

    1. Solar hot water / heating from roof top panels.

    2. Solar PV which generate electric power, roof top systems or power stations, also BIPV.

    3. Concentrated solar thermal power, power stations that generate
    electric power, with heat energy storage, e.g. Andasol and Gemasolar in
    Spain.

    Got all three of those covered.

    RR

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  17. By rrapier on January 2, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Evan K. said:

    Have you considered including a section that puts into context the amount of energy consumed globally?


     

    I actually try to do this in a number of places; put our consumption up against some familiar marker.

    RR

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  18. By rrapier on January 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Jeff said:

    I would like to see a chapter discussing the essential role of government investment in science and technology research, especially in regard to energy. Given the recent Solyndra debacle, and that Solyndra is often viewed as a government failure, it seems essential that the role of government investment should be discussed and given significant weight.


     

    Just finished writing about Jimmy Carter and the establishment of the Synthetic Fuels Corporation. It has been used often by critics as an example of why the government should stay out of the energy business. So the Solyndra’s and Range Fuels have roots going back decades.

    RR

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  19. By JonSCKs on January 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    Ethanol will not replace gasoline.. but it can be a significant fuel extender which has high octane as well as a high protien feed.

    JonSCKs~

    With all due respect, the corn ethanol wave has crested. The blender’s credit is gone as of yesterday, and if there were no Federal mandate, there would be no reason to ferment corn and distill the ethanol from it.

    Not even corn growers and their relatives would use it as a fuel without the mandate. Please tell me the last time you saw a corn farmer using a corn-derived fuel to power his/her ag equipment/


     

    Last week the spread between e-10 and gasoline was $.12 here.  I use it everyday.

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  20. By Wendell Mercantile on January 2, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    When do Ford, and GM think they can hit “parity” between E85 and gasoline (or, how close do they think they can get, and when?)

    Rufus, Rufus, Rufus,

    Whenever you talk about Flex-fuel, it’s corn ethanol. Why do you always leave out methanol and the Open Fuel Standards Act?

    I supposes it’s because passage of the OFSA and a true open market for methanol would quickly leave the corn ethanol boys wondering what had hit them. At least their emphasis would go back to growing corn for food.

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  21. By Wendell Mercantile on January 2, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Last week the spread between e-10 and gasoline was $.12 here. I use it everyday.

    JohnSCKs~

    Perhaps you should change your habits. Here’s my experience with E-10:

    On road trips, I get ~ 32 mpg in my compact, 4-cylinder truck when burning straight gasoline. If I switch to E-10, my road mileage drops to ~29 mpg. (Well documented in my truck’s fuel log over the last five years.)

    Thought experiment time: On a theoretical trip of 320 miles, I would burn 10 gallons of gasoline. If I burn E-10 on the same trip, I would use 11.03 gallons of E-10.

    But, 90% of that E-10 is gasoline. What’s 90% of 11.03? A: 9.93 gallons. Whether I burn gasoline or E-10, I burn almost the same amount of gasoline.

    Now you tell me: Yesterday, the U.S. average cost of regular gasoline was $ 3.278 per gallon. The average cost of E-10 was $3.399 per gallon.

    Should I buy 10 gallons of gasoline for $32.78, or 11.03 gallons of E-10 at $37.49 to travel that 320 miles?

    Personally, I’d rather spend that almost five dollars on something else.

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  22. By art on January 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Hi RR,

     

    If the biomass chapter is not omitted you might light to add an word to marine biomass.   i would think it is  worth the effort to sort out if and how marine biomass can contribute in the energy game.  2/3 of earth surface is ocean or sea with fast  of productive capacities largely unexplored. are there marine equivalents of  oil rich landplants?

    examples:   anaerobic digestion of salty biomass (no idea if it is even existing process) or the omega project (NASA).

     

     

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  23. By JonSCKs on January 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    Last week the spread between e-10 and gasoline was $.12 here. I use it everyday.

    JonSCKs~

    Perhaps you should change your habits. Here’s my experience with E-10:


     

    No thanks..

    My GMC flex fuel pickup gets better fuel economy with a 20% ethanol blend.  I would have to buy another 2.78 gallons of straight gasoline to do the same 320 mile trip.  At your gasoline costs.. that would run an extra $9.11  Also ethanol is cheaper than gasoline “here” vs your example.. as I said last week the difference was $0.12 cheaper for e-10.

    http://www.ethanol.org/pdf/con…..ummary.pdf

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  24. By rufus on January 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Wendell, we’re not fools, here. Now, you’re just making stuff up. Go lie down.

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  25. By Wendell Mercantile on January 2, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    No thanks..

    JonSCKS~

    Be that as it may, my truck (admittedly a 1999 model) consumes more total energy when I burn E-10. Somebody had to use energy making the extra gallon of corn ethanol it would burn were I to use E-10 on that hypothetical 320 mile trip.

    Each vehicle owner has to use their own analysis. You’ve seen mine.

    Best.

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  26. By rufus on January 3, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Wendell, if I remember correctly, it was Russ Findley, about 3, or 4 yrs. ago that was trying to sell that “I lost 10% mpg on E10″ nonsense (if I’m mistaken about this my apologies to Russ.)

    Then you tried to sell it about 2 yrs ago, and backed away. The American people may not be rocket scientists, all, but if any were really losing anything like 10% there would be a hue and cry throughout the land.

    The truth is, everytime it’s been tested it was found that 10% ethanol mixed with 87 Octane gasoline yielded between 1.5 and 2% loss of mileage in the average car/truck on the road. When blended with 84 Octane, of course, it was closer to 3%. That’s why the discount is usually in the 3% ($0.10 to $0.12) range.

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  27. By perry1961 on January 3, 2012 at 1:47 am

    Robert, do you have anything on the cellulosic bottles being tested by Coke and Pepsi? Plastics make up about 10% of oil consumption. Water and soda bottles are the largest users of plastics.

    I think electric and hydrogen transportation deserve chapters of their own. One or the other will dominate highways eventually. Toyota plans to market a $50,000 hydrogen SUV in 2015. The same vehicle would have cost them a million dollars to produce just 10 years ago. I’ve read where GM expects to lower the price of the next generation Volt by $8000 or more, also around 2015. As these technology prices drop, and oil continues to rise, it’s not hard to predict the outcome.

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  28. By freetoken on January 3, 2012 at 2:52 am

    Robert – the table of contents indicates that the book will cover quite a variety of topics, but is there a unifying thesis and story line so that the reader can be led from chapter to chapter, to see a bigger picture?   That is, your contents indicate that you are about to dump on the reader a large quantity of information, but what meaning will that have to the reader?

     

    Also, do you explain to the reader just exactly what is “energy” and the fundamental role that energy plays in life, both the biological life of the reader and in their lifestyle?    And of the relationship between energy and the micro and macroeconomics of society?

     

    In other words, do you establish the answer to the question “Why should I care?”.    I think that is the hard central nut to crack, if you are writing for the general reader.

     

    Some topics that might fit some chapters:  (a) Energy and Housing – the American Lifestyle as defined by our living spaces.   (b) Energy and Family – How increased energy use per capita tracks with household composition and number of children. (c) International comparisons – how is the US different from other nations wrt the energy situation, or are we all in the same boat?

     

     

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  29. By moiety on January 3, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Rif said:

    Some notes:

    Ch. 1:

    - You must include an explanation about power different from energy, mixing them up is like confusing speed and distance. This is such a common mistake, even some journalists writing about energy do not understand the difference. I think part of the problem is that the units KW and KWh looks the same. It would be less confusing if energy is stated in joule instead of watt-hour.

     


     

    I disagree. While people may not know what a Wh is, at least in Europe they can find it on their bill. A joule will not be in standard lexicon for non technical people (same goes for imperial units I guess).
    On the first point it can also be useful to include that not all energy sources are the same either. For example some renewables are variable and may not be suitable for baseline without storage. That can incur extra cost and inefficiency.

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  30. By St. Roy on January 3, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Robert:
    How about a chapter on population decline as fossil fuel energy abundance recedes?

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  31. By David Martin on January 3, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Hi.
    I wanted to draw your attention to the energy supply and demand calculator for the UK useful for the discussion of energy matters which has now been updated to include costs.

    Costs are expected to rise significantly by 2050, and even the cost of doing nothing about climate change is projected to raise costs from the present £3,700 pa per capita to £5,000.

    FOE etc are putting it about that there is little extra cost in going for renewables, and created an energy pathway purporting to demonstrate this,

    The only example pathway given using a lot of nuclear assumed no conservation, so falsely attributing the benefits of economy to renewables.

    Accordingly I have sent this e-mail to the administrators:

    ”On the website the lowest cost option offered as an example pathway is the Merkel.
    It is surely worth pointing out in a given example that using a lot of nuclear is far cheaper.
    I constructed this pathway based on the FOE choices, to demonstrate both low cost of nuclear and the far higher price needed for renewables, and also super insulation is more costly than building more nuclear:
    http://2050-calculator-tool.decc.gov.uk … in_context

    At £4175 it is £508 less than doing nothing, and £1,011 less than the FOE alternative with CO2 targets hit.
    In fact of course the extra CO2 produced by biofuel imports in the FOE model would be very heavy, far more than those of mining more uranium.

    So the true cost of renewables is over £1,000 per person every year, a huge additive sum.

    Supposedly this does not meet the criteria for diversity of supply and is 100% import dependent.
    This ignores the fact that the import bill even on a once through cycle would be tiny compared to fossil fuels, that reprocessing is available to further greatly reduce it, and that it is perfectly practical to store years worth of nuclear fuel.

    Many different designs of nuclear reactor are also possible, including using CANDU or Westinghouse reactors to burn thorium, aside from more advanced designs.

    So adequate diversity can be obtained within the nuclear supply so that the argument for diversity is moot, especially at the huge costs renewables entail.

    I would therefore suggest that the low cost, low CO2 pathway including a large nuclear build should be included amongst the examples to show the true cost of going for renewables.”

    I conceive that that the figures available through this tool may be useful in finishing your book.
    Rgds,

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  32. By David Martin on January 3, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Apologies for the bad link.

    S/be:

    http://2050-calculator-tool.de…..in_context

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  33. By Wendell Mercantile on January 3, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Rufus~

    Ever since buying my first car, I’ve kept fuel/mileage logs. I can back up my E-10 mileage with well-documented numbers. The facts I reported are accurate for my compact pick-up truck. (1999 GMC Sonoma with a 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed manual transmission. My main car is a VW Jetta TDI, also with a manual transmission.) You can take them or leave them, but they are my experience.

    I am well aware that most people don’t keep detailed fuel/mileages logs — perhaps they should. In fact, I’d guess most people don’t even care what kind of fuel they put in their cars. They just pull into their local “U-Pump-it” and hope the price hasn’t gone up since the last time they filled the tank. I thought that since JonSCKs just popped up on RR’s site talking about E-10, he’d be interested in hearing my documented experience with E-10.

    I will say this — it’s getting more and more difficult to find straight gasoline, and I buy E-10 more often. (With it’s corresponding drop in mpg.) A year ago there were three fuel stations that advertised and sold straight gasoline in my city — now there is only one. When I’m on the road, when refueling I buy what’s available — it’s not worth the time to find a fuel station selling straight gasoline.

    Happy New Year

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  34. By Bill K on January 3, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Robert, I’ve been following R^2 for nearly two years now, and as a young professional in the alternative energy sector, would like to say thanks for educating me so thoroughly. I have high hopes for your book to consisely do the same for its readers.
    As a suggestion (and I’m certain you most likely cover this), please include discussion on conservation. As much as we can talk about gaining marginal improvements on efficiency, E&P production gains, etc. it would be wise to balance several topics with the effects of conservation. True, we may see quips like keeping our tires fully inflated and running our home thermostats to less extreme temperatures, but perhaps show examples of actual changes and their impacts (LEED building renovations like the Empire State Building, fleet alternative fuel mix changes like buses and taxis on natural gas, average home utility impact of solar panels/water heaters, etc.). Furthermore, to give us some hope in the political arena, if possible try and highlight some of the lesser-known politicians (even down to a local town level) who are guiding their cities or states towards sustainable development (i.e. Portland or perhaps non-US examples). If people realize action is underway, it will be easier for them to participate.
    Thanks again for all your hard work, and I look forward to reading your book.

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  35. By mac on January 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Robert,

    Glad to see that you are going to highlight some of the little known but interesting energy facts in your book. I think you once mentioned the fact that Chevron (the oil company) is the world’s largest producer of geothermal energy. Great. A sort of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not of little known and unusual energy facts. Should keep the reader interested.
    All the best for the New Year.

    mac

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  36. By Bill Caldwell P. Eng on January 3, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I’d suggest that discussing energy storage (electrical) would be of benefit. There are real misconceptions regarding the feasibility of electric storage devices, such as energy density, efficiency of conversion of line electrical to battery (or capacitor, etc) and then to usable power for propulsion.

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  37. By Phil von Hake on January 3, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Hello Again, Robert!

    I say “again” because I think I thanked you for your excellent observations at the most recent ASPO conference. I helped promote the 2009 Int’l. Peak Oil Conference in Denver, but haven’t been able to travel to any ASPO Conferences since … >:-(

    Congrats on already getting your own Peak Oil book this far. FWiW: I started converting my own “Peak Oil Riot Act” presentation into a book over the summer. I wanted to have it out there by now, but the news I keep hearing about advanced drilling technologies, secondary recovery, etc. has left me with something of a crisis of confidence over how high such a peak/plateau might end up being, whether we’ll reach it soon (as I’d always thought) or not even in our lifetimes, etc. … ?! Still, I look forward to reading your own insights.

    I second Marc F’s comment on adding a chapter (or two?) on Water, which I wouldn’t be surprised to see becoming an even more pressing issue than Energy soon … ?

    While we’re at it, I’d also say more about Population, and especially the percentage of that population that wants more (and more!) energy.

    AND I’d definitely including something about and the inevitable rise in capital & operating expenditures that the global fossil fuel industry will face … and may indeed already be facing. Lots of current infrastructure is in dire need of repair & replacement. All those new finds will require all new infrastructure. And an entire generation of oil industry workers is already starting to retire, leading to an inevitable (and inevitably expensive) brain drain from the industry. How can anybody think that oil will stay at only $100/bbl (and/or gasoline at only $3 gallon) for much longer???

    I helped edit a paper while working at Platts in 2007, and their prediction for all capex costs (i.e., from the drill bit to the gas pump) for the entire global oil industry between then and 2030 would be $21.4 trillion … ! Matt Simmons (R.I.P.) came out less than a year later to say it’d cost $50-100 trillion within the next decade … !! I got a few seconds with Simmons at ASPO 2009 in Denver to see if I heard him right, and he said “Yes, it’ll cost that much” … !!!

    I’d better stop here before I make you write any new chapters(!), but I’ll remain -as available as possible to help you finish your book -> http://www.pvhccc.com.

    Thanks Again,
    BEST of Luck with the next few months(!),
    and I look forward to staying in touch . . . PvH

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  38. By Marcus on January 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Marc Ferguson said:

    I would add a chapter on water use present and future in the production of energy. Setting aside energy used to extract and process fuels, water is the most inportant input. Different energy types (fuels and production) requires different quantities, and have different effects on the quality of the wastewater and the surrounding environment. And water costs are increasing, and will continue to do so with climate change-related changes in precipitation patterns and velocity. Whether it is fracking, or competition for water during drought like what is beginning to occur in Texas, water is a critical component.


     

    I would second the need for a discussion of water.  The Water-Energy Nexus is a hot topic these days: it takes water to make electricity and it takes electricity to move and treat water.  Just as we are leaving an age of abundant energy supplies, we are leaving an age of abundant water supplies.  Cooling water use in electricity generation and other energy-related process technologies is a particularly important topic.  Cooling water reqquirements apply to all forms of thermoelectric power generation (coal-fired, NGCC, nuclear, concentrating solar power, geothermal), as well as biofuels production.

     

    Air-cooled condensers are becoming more prevalent, and they don’t need cooling water make-up, but those types come with a power penalty, so as water becomes more scarce and expensive, water use will become more and more critical for new energy-related facilities.

     

     

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  39. By Rif on January 3, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Moiety said:

     

    I disagree. While people may not know what a Wh is, at least in Europe they can find it on their bill. A joule will not be in standard lexicon for non technical people (same goes for imperial units I guess).

    On the first point it can also be useful to include that not all energy sources are the same either. For example some renewables are variable and may not be suitable for baseline without storage. That can incur extra cost and inefficiency.


     

    Sadly Wh is used many places, so in the book he should explain Wh and relate it to users electricity bill. The problem is people confuse Wh with W. This problem would disappear if electricity companies and elsewhere would use a proper unit joule for energy, that was my point.

    Your second point. Other power plants like coal and nuclear have the problem that they are bad at demand response, so they too incur extra cost for storage systems to follow a dygn (24h) demand curve.

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  40. By Rif on January 3, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    I am well aware that most people don’t keep detailed fuel/mileages logs — perhaps they should. 


     

    Lots of people do that. Look on the German site Spritmonitor.

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  41. By Benny BND Cole on January 3, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    I guess I would include a page or so on how damn up in the air the oil industry is.

    Regime changes in Venezuela, Iraq, Iran could bring 20 mbd to market in 10 years. Or they could get worse.

    What if China mandates PHEVs?

    What if PHEVs become globally competitive in five years?

    What if natural gas becomes globally abundant for a long time?

    What if we have hit Peak Demand from crude oil?

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  42. By RR-Indy on January 3, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    one german company Alphakat claims to be able to convert biomass into diesel fuel at below 400 degree C and without pressure. they also claim to have built several running capacities such as in Mexico, Germany, Bulgaria, Spain, italy and even Malaysia. would you consider those thermal degradation technologies into special chapter knowing that you consulted Choren on a similar thermal process. RR-Indy

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  43. By ben on January 4, 2012 at 1:19 am

    For those who may be interested–and most should be–R. Rapier’s observations about Range Fuels that had been reported at some length in the 12/5 issue of Biofuels Digest were reintroduced to the public in today’s
    ICIS Green Chemicals blog (Ms. Doris de Guzman). As many of you know, Range Fuels assets were auctioned off to LanzaTech for the fire-sale price of $5.2MM. Would anyone care to calculate the IRR on Uncle Sam’s investment in this other shining example of public investment of the U.S. Treasury’s rseources not to mention full faith and credit.

    As mentioned previously, some folks mmay owe RR either an apology, an expression of thanks or at least a cold beer. Alternatively, ordering a few book will likely prove a reasonable substitution for any of the above:)

    Let’s keep hammering on the dim-wits who keep trying to sell us the Brooklyn Bridge for the upteenth time. Talk about a suspension of reality. Wow, are some of these folks delusional.

    Ben

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  44. By moiety on January 4, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Rif said:

     

    Sadly Wh is used many places, so in the book he should explain Wh and relate it to users electricity bill. The problem is people confuse Wh with W. This problem would disappear if electricity companies and elsewhere would use a proper unit joule for energy, that was my point.

    Your second point. Other power plants like coal and nuclear have the problem that they are bad at demand response, so they too incur extra cost for storage systems to follow a dygn (24h) demand curve.


     

    Ok. First point I agree with you and get you. But unfortunately Robert is constrained by writing a book for people who may look at J and kW and raise eyebrows. That said using Joule as a standard would take more than energy companies. Whenever I have done energy balances I usually start with kW and at the end get kWh. So education systems would have to changed as well.

    However going too far into the vernacular may also be a bad idea. The one unit that is common in most countries in terms of energy is the calorie. It is a unit I tend to detest but it is something that everyone knows and can relate to. Shudder.

    On the second point, yes load response is not good from large coal and nuke power plants. However I am really after variability whereby load response can go from 100 to 0 depending on prevailing conditions. While coal and nukes need some backup (augmentation by gas plants), renewable generally need much, much more. I have often quoted Eon 2005 wind report as a basis for that.

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  45. By paul-n on January 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    RR,

     

    I think you should definitely keep the chaptert on biomass as;

    1. you are very familiar with it, much more so than most energy commentators, and,
    2. groups like the RFA and others (Khosla etc) are continualy pushing the line that biofuels can “replace oil”.

    This claim needs a rigorous analysis to show the scale difficulties.  

     

    As for the units debate, I am assuming that there will be just one edition, not a US and an international one.  In which case you have no choice but to use both metric and Stone Age units.

    In case you haven’t read it(recently), I thoroughly recommend David Mackay’s book (readable as an e-book) Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air.

    He does a very good job of illustrating the scale/inconvenience issues with all the renewables.

    He also settled on the kWh as the standardised unit. I think you sould do the same for electricity, since even the kWh is used for this in the US.  But for transportation fuels, I think GGE (gallon gasoline equivalent) is a reasonable unit, and is already used for vehicle CNG.  This would help avoid confusion that kWhs can be used for transportation (for anything other than electric cars and trains).

    I think the point needs to be really reinforced on the differences between liquid (transportation) fuels and sources of electrical “energy”.  We see people from solar companies talking about mid eastern oil and their solar stuff in the same breath, when there is absolutely zero linkgae.  No amount of solar, wind or other renewable electricity wll reduce oil consumption unless there is a real change in US transportion systems – and that seems very unlikely.

     

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  46. By Optimist on January 4, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Robert,

    I suggest you delete chapter 13 and incorporate it in chapter 11. It needs to precede chapter 12, IMHO.

    Speaking of chapter 11: I’d make a big deal about the fact that the goal is to replace oil, not gasoline, diesel and other familiar fuels. This is where I think many of the elected asses get confused. The first prize would be to produce the exact same (or 100% miscible) fuels, but do so using a renewable feedstock. It might be worth pointing out that existing fuels come with many benefits, and if they are to be replaced, it should only be if the replacement offers significant advantages. I’d also mention that there is significant infrastructure out there for existing fuels, and a switch will have major cost implications. When might a switch make sense? Only if the potential benefit justifies the cost. For example, converting biomass into methanol may be so much cheaper than converting the biomass into hydrocarbon liquids that it might make sense to switch to methanol.

     

    I think that discussion will set you up for a good discussion of ethanol, biodiesel, DME and all the rest.

     

    I’d also refer back to chapter 3 to show how much biomass is required to make a dent. You also want to point out the difference between using the whole plant for fuel production (gasification) and using only the fruit/seeds (food-based fuels). This would be where you could comment on food vs fuel vs waste. Next, you need to discuss the efficiency of the conversion process: if it was me I think I’d go as far as suggesting that thermo-chemical would always be more efficient than fermentation-distillation, but that depends if you have the data to support that.

     

    Chapter 9: do remember to include your suggestion that the government only pays for kWhs delivered, not promises. Let the banksters earn their pay by investing in those.

     

    Somewhere you need to include our old favorite, TDP, as an example of a neat little niche technology (FOG -> renewable crude). You want to mention how the waters got muddied by bad engineering (fictitious mass and energy balances) and incomptence (to give them the benefit of the doubt) as in the claim that all trash could be converted into fuel, when it was only the fat soluble portion. TDP was also going nowhere until they got themselves a lobbyist who got them a nice $1/gal subsidy. This shows the need for a system of subsidies that does not mention any fuel by name, but rather sets criteria that needs to met for a fuel supplier to qualify for subsidies. Chapter 9, perhaps? Chapter 1?

     

    Good luck, man! This looks great!

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  47. By Optimist on January 4, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    I think electric and hydrogen transportation deserve chapters of their own.

    Oh, @#$%!!! Not hydrogen, please.

    It’s bad enough that we have to talk about ethanol in polite company…

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  48. By Optimist on January 4, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    How about a chapter on population decline as fossil fuel energy abundance recedes?

    That would be the shortest chapter in the book:

    No decline.

    After 200 years, Mathus still has a batting average of 0.000. He is not getting any better at this. Get used to it.

    I second Marc F’s comment on adding a chapter (or two?) on Water, which I wouldn’t be surprised to see becoming an even more pressing issue than Energy soon … ?

    Nope. Unlike liquid fuels water does NOT get converted to thin air during its use. Effluents can be cleaned up and reused. Toilet-to-tap is the ultimate goal. In fact, it’s already here.

    The problem is people confuse Wh with W.

    The need for America to convert to the SI system of units goes beyond the scope of RR’s book, IMHO.

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  49. By Optimist on January 4, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    What if China mandates PHEVs?

    What if PHEVs become globally competitive in five years?

    What if natural gas becomes globally abundant for a long time?

    What if we have hit Peak Demand from crude oil?

    Benny, he is writing a serious book. Not a comedy…

    one german company Alphakat claims to be able to convert biomass into diesel fuel at below 400 degree C and without pressure. they also claim to have built several running capacities such as in Mexico, Germany, Bulgaria, Spain, italy and even Malaysia. would you consider those thermal degradation technologies into special chapter knowing that you consulted Choren on a similar thermal process.

    Funny that they haven’t built a plant in Germany and started printing their own money, then…

    He also settled on the kWh as the standardised unit.

    Makes a lot of sense. Joule is to small of an entity to make sense, and nobody, anywhere has any sense how much a Joule is. I’d also stick with kWh, even for liquid fuels. You can always throw in GGE occasionally. The idea that kWh refers only to electricity needs to be electrocuted.

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  50. By carloBio on January 23, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Just discovered your blog. Kudos from a fellow ChemE on well thought out and balanced discussions. In general terms, wondering if you would consider discussing energy storage and the losses associated with converting energy from one form of storage to another. Truly, there are very few “sources” of energy other than nuclear (our solar fusion reactor included for discussion purposes). Everything else we call fuel is just a temporary way to store energy. I am involved in biofuels as I see them as a near term way to substitute some of our fossil fuel use (very old biofuels) and reuse some of our waste products. Even so, I realize the inherent inefficiency of storing solar energy as biomass and adding insult to injury by converting that energy with very inefficient combustion processes. Converting electricity to work seems a much more efficient proposition but I come back full circle to the problem of storing electrons. Do you see the chemical storage of electricity as a viable option (either in batteries or fuel cells?). Look forward to more of your insights. 

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  51. By rrapier on January 23, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    carloBio said:

    Do you see the chemical storage of electricity as a viable option (either in batteries or fuel cells?). Look forward to more of your insights. 


     

    I do discuss storage; distributed storage in particular.

    And I do mention in the book that almost all of our energy comes from the sun in one way or another. There are just a few exceptions, and even those are related to other stars that preceded our sun.

    RR

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  52. By neil robertson on January 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I like the approach that David MacKay took of doing an energy balance of sources and sinks.  http://www.withouthotair.com/

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