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July 19, 2008

Comments

Danube of Thought

I don't think Mr. Terry knows very much about what he is talking about. Why does he say "in terms of both energy and power," and what does that phrase mean? And what does its hugeness have to do with its feasibility? If it's feasible to heat my swimming pool with solar power, that's not "huge," but by its terms it's feasible.

Why can't it be "unshedulable," if it's possible to store it? Why is (3) true, and what exactly does it mean? What's the difference between (4) and (5)?

I am deeply suspicious of people who say "utilize" when "use" would work just fine.

Danube of Thought

"unschedulable"

kim

Thinking about climate and energy is almost as difficult as climate and thermodynamics and as marked by chaotic efforts. Energy is mutable, its needs and supplies are diverse. There are lots of solutions to lots of problems, most of both undreamed of yet.
===============================

clarice

I can't get into the author's head so I can't be absolutely sure what he's talking about, but let me venture a guess.
Say we are talking about off shore oil drilling and persuading Congress to permit it. The cultists of alternative energy will say it's unnecessary to (a) risk some possible eco-disaster and(b) Bad to spew more CO2 into the atmosphere and (c) it's unnecessary because if X number of residences were fitted up with solar panels we'd produce enough energy to make this oil unnecessary.
I's say the author is taking a short cut in describing the need for reliability and concentration. The panels are reliable sort of in a limited number of places and applications and you will still need back up power which needs to be ready to tap where it is needed and whenever it is needed.
He doesn't concern himself with what we also need to take into account--the huge sums of energy needed to produce those panels--and where will we get that? Aluminum and glass production take lots of power--it used to be a lot came from hydropower in places like Washington state--a power source which is now more expensive and which the very people who fought the construction of more conventional power plants elsewhere, now are making scarcer who demands for saving fishies, etc.

Sara

But, but, what about the ugly factor?

Why can't they develop solar cells that look and act like roof tiles instead of those huge ugly arrays like giant black billboards that make a neighborhood look so tacky.

kim

Right, clarice, and the dissonance keeps on turning, big wheel keep on rolling, along.
============================================

kim

Aesthetics ain't the half of it, Sara; why can't Californians hang their laundry out to dry?
==========================

clarice

**now are making scarcer WITH demands for saving fishies, etc.
*****

Jim Rhoads aka vnjagvet

As I read den Beste's post, it debunked the wholesale replacement of the big four (oil, coal, water and nuclear) by any of the posited "alternative" (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) sources.

His basic point is that none of the alternative sources are sufficiently scalable to materially reduce dependance on the big four for supplying national (much less world) needs.

He was not arguing that alternatives cannot assist some individual users in marginally decreasing their energy costs.

Barney Frank

The context of the original post seemed to be scaleable energy sources able to replace power plants, especially as it relates to real world progress on alternative energy sources not breakthroughs for Everyman. I've been hearing about that breakthrough just around the corner for about thirty years now.

Ten or twelve years ago Plugpower declared they would have economical residential sized propane powered fuel cells ready for remote locations in a year or two........still waiting.

clarice

Yes, vnjagvet and BF--that is a far more clear and to the point explication that mine is.

But it is almost never made in public debate, is it?

John Oh

Den Beste means reliable as in what you turn on to light and heat your house when there isn't enough wind or sun.

I think he would be first in line to become more independent of the utilities.

Jim Rhoads aka vnjagvet

Yeah, John. These technologies have over 100 years of engineering attention and refinement dedicated mostly towards reducing costs and increasing distribution and reliability.

Even in the 1930's much of the rural area throughout the world (including in this country) were without electricity, indoor plumbing, telephone service and paved roads.

"Alternative" energy source technologies are their infancy as these things go.

Someone out there may be the Rockefeller, Ford, Firestone, Edison or Gates of one or more of the alternatives. Until then, we'll keep chugging along.

Rick Ballard

"His basic point is that none of the alternative sources are sufficiently scalable to materially reduce dependance on the big four for supplying national (much less world) needs."

Bingo. I encourage anyone who wishes to do so to park the equivalent of a Prius on their roof. Put solar panels on every square inch of your lot, erect your very own windmill and install whatever fad of the moment device fills your need to show "concern".

Just don't screw with the grid and don't expect me to smile at the size of your subsidy check.

And don't tell me that you're serious about any of that carp unless you write a letter a week to your Congresscritters demanding accelerated licensing of nukes.

hit and run

Rick:

And don't tell me that you're serious about any of that carp unless you write a letter a week to your Congresscritters demanding accelerated licensing of nukes.

Or, unless, like Ed Begley Jr., you power your own toaster by riding your stationary bike.

bgates

Since the rest has been covered, I'll just add that den Beste says "both energy and power" because he is an engineer. Power is a rate of energy. Say we discovered that inside the earth's core there's a reservoir of 10,000 trillion barrels of oil, but we can't drill a hole that deep any more than 5 microns across. Bingo: Infinite energy; negligible power.

bgates

write a letter a week
Good heavens, think of the paper. Not to mention the carbon used by the Post Office (although that's a government agency; is their energy use allowed?)

Jim Rhoads aka vnjagvet

Hilarious, Hit.

If Begley were really serious, he would just eat bread. Save the electricity for something really important. Like shaving.

Rick's point is right on.

It's ironic that the kind of people influenced by the so-called "conservation" zealots who are promoting these bandaid cures today were picketing nuclear power facilities twenty-five years ago -- virtually killing off that source of energy, and assuring we would be looking for ways to produce energy today.

PeterUK

Every so often the human race changes its source of power.Manpower,horsepower, wind,steam,gas,the internal combustion engine,now when it is time to change the human race has lost its bottle and is running backwards.
Serve us right if the next dominant species is a polar bear with an opposing thumb.

Greg F

To paraphrase Steven Den Beste, proponents of alternative energy had no concept of the magnitude of the numbers involved.The peak demand in California in the summer of 2000 was about 40 GW. (Peak hours were between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm).

Picking out a panel at random, a 125 watt panel is going to cost about $650. All things being ideal, which they are not, you would need 320 million panels for a total cost of $208 billion to cover the peak.

There are of course a few non-ideal things to consider.

1) A solar panel is rated under standard operating conditions. Irradiance of 1000 W/m² perpendicular to the panel and substrate temperature of 25 degrees C. For every degree above 25 you will lose roughly 0.5% of output. They also degrade with time roughly 0.7%/year. You might get 1000 watts/meter for a short time during the day and the sun will not be perpendicular most of the time without tracking.

2) One of the typical arguments about the price of solar cells is economy of scale. The argument usually goes if we make enough of them the price will go down. Unfortunately were not talking about toasters or consumer electronics. Refined silicon is not cheap and requires significant amounts of energy to refine. There is limited capacity for refining silicon which will not change in the near future. A kilogram has gone from $24 in 2004 to $450 in 2008. The other significant problem is the wirebond pads require silver. Since 2003 the price of silver has gone from $4 to $6 per ounce to $16 per ounce. With the solar panel insanity showing no chance of subsiding expect prices for these 2 commodities to soar and the cost of panels to follow.

GMax

Well having a small solar panel which runs my gate opener, I checked into solar panels for the roof about 4 months ago. Got lots of calls back from guys who talk fast. When I wanted to know the cost and the KwH generated some got real quiet. The ones who were honest, at some point realized I wanted to do a payback model, and immediately switched to their solar water heater systems. One exasperated by my insistence on interruption the spiel to get my questions answered, finally told me "look the point is not how long it takes to get your money back, its the environment". The phone went dead shortly after.

But solar panels do work on cloudy days, and there is the ability in some states to put your excess power into the grid ( Texas is one and through a reverse meter ) sell the grid your excess.

Tom Maguire

His basic point is that none of the alternative sources are sufficiently scalable to materially reduce dependance on the big four for supplying national (much less world) needs.

He was not arguing that alternatives cannot assist some individual users in marginally decreasing their energy costs.

OK, fair enough, but what is marginal? If the Little Three alternative energy sources could displace 30% of the Big Four that would still be huge, even though the Big Four will be with us for the foreseeable future.

If the argument is that we can't fully replace the Big Four so why bother, well, one worries that Den Beste is the enemy of the good.

Jim Rhoads aka vnjagvet

gmax:

You sure can tell what type of clientelle those salesfolks cater to. Not the rational or businesslike, that's for sure.

It's the environment, doncha know?

clarice

Maybe because resources are not infinite, TM. If you take the money you've allocated for new energy production and directly or indirectly (thru govt subsidies/mandates) compel be invested in energy sources which do not meet his tests, you will not be able to provide for your energy needs.

Right now, because we are nibbling at the edges for religious purposes, we are pissing away resources on insufficient sources and blocking ones that are adequate to meet out needs.

clarice

**compel IT be invested **

**to meet ouR needs****

Jim Rhoads aka vnjagvet

TM:

I think he's just saying that there is a lot of work to do before the alternatives make even a slight dent in the basic energy problem. It is a matter of perspective, contrasting with the evangelical fervor of the Goristas.

I don't think he is saying that no one should be working on solvng the problems. Just that symbolic gestures won't get us there.

Larry

Solar power satellites in geosynchronous orbit, enormously expensive to start, would thereafter provide energy for only maintenance costs. With tracking, each generates for at least 12 hours continuously. Less corrosion than in the atmosphere. Essentially unlimited power available, capture of which depends on the size and number of satellites. The face of the moon could serve a similar purpose. A prominent SF writer proposed this about 40 years ago. I thought it was A C Clarke, but can't find a cite. He devised space elevators, which would be useful servicing the sats.

JM Hanes

Glad to see you back, TM! It was the dog days of summer without you.

Afraid I can't work up any similar enthusiasm for the return of SDB though, but at least this missive was mercifully brief:

Any idiot who thinks alternative energy is just around a billion corner is living in a fantasy world!

GMax

How are you going to get the power from the Satellite down to a grid?

I feel like I should not be encouraging what is probably a troll, but this seems so insane on its face I want to hear about invisible transmission lines three miles high.

Rick Ballard

"If the Little Three alternative energy sources could displace 30% of the Big Four that would still be huge"

How true. Just as if I had wings (and the muscle), I could save beaucoup bucks on airline tickets. The tiny problem is that 30% = 30+ quads today - and total alternative and renewable (less hyrdro) = 1.41 quads. Drop ethanol and the total is .40 quads. So all we have to do is triple todays total solar and wind resources and we'll achieve the equivalent of one year's total usage increase of about 1.2 quads.

I wonder if corn would grow under a nice solar PV cell array?

Greg F

TM,

World electricity production 2005:
16.79 trillion kWh

30% = 5.037 trillion kWh

Based on real data from real solar cells a 2000 watt array in southern California would produce about 2800 kWh/yr. To produce 30% you would have to deploy 3.6 trillion watts of panels. Based on the $650 for the 125 watt panel the cost would be $18.7 trillion. That would be about 1/3 of the worlds GDP.

Consider that the panels degrade 0.7%/year we would have to spend an additional $131 billion/year every year just to keep the power output at a constant level.

GaryC
Greg F:

To paraphrase Steven Den Beste, proponents of alternative energy had no concept of the magnitude of the numbers involved.The peak demand in California in the summer of 2000 was about 40 GW. (Peak hours were between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm).

Picking out a panel at random, a 125 watt panel is going to cost about $650. All things being ideal, which they are not, you would need 320 million panels for a total cost of $208 billion to cover the peak.

If the Hyperion nuclear battery technology meets its performance and cost goals, then we are talking about $25 to $30 million for each reactor, which can produce 35 MW of electrical power (or 70 MW of thermal energy for industrial processes) for 8-10 years. They are called nuclear batteries because they are sealed, operate automatically, and could actually be run by Homer Simpson without threatening a meltdown.

At the end of life they have consumed all of the U235 in the fuel, and about half of the U238, so the nuclear waste is about 10 to 40x smaller than that from a conventional reactor. The units are about the size of a hot tub, and can either be buried intact or recycled the same way that lead-acid batteries are, with proper care for the waste products.

For California, it would take 1600 of these small nuclear reactors to supply all electrical power, at a cost of $40 billion. Note that this capital cost also includes all fuel to operate for the life of the systems. Assuming an 8 year life, this is $5 billion per year, to supply 350 GW-hr per year, for an estimated cost of under 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

clarice

The problem is NO POLITICIAN can get elected without supporting the notion that we should do everything when it's way past time that someone told the truth--we need nukes, oil, coal, gas and the other studd no matter how much money we toss their way cannot meet our needs in the forseeable future.
What would be funny were it not so sad id that the Dems keep blocking the big four, often on the pretext that they'll provide for so little of our needs and will take TEN years to come to market at the same time they throw millions on stuff that will provide far less and are further away from feasibility.

OVER THERE--just like their foreign policy--wherever we are we should've been OVER THERE>

clarice

(I'm tired--and am producing way too many typoes..) Niters..

GaryC
Greg F:

1) A solar panel is rated under standard operating conditions. Irradiance of 1000 W/m² perpendicular to the panel and substrate temperature of 25 degrees C. For every degree above 25 you will lose roughly 0.5% of output. They also degrade with time roughly 0.7%/year. You might get 1000 watts/meter for a short time during the day and the sun will not be perpendicular most of the time without tracking.

Last week I was reading an article about possible applications of thermoelectric coolers based on the Peltier effect to supplement solar cells.

One approach was to use the temperature difference between the cells and a heat sink to convert a fraction of the waste heat into electrical power. This turned out to be more expensive than adding additional solar cells.

The other approach was to use some fraction of the solar cell output to drive the TECs to cool the cells. This was estimated to generate additional electrical power at about 1/4 the price of adding solar cells, if I remember correctly. It worked, of course, precisely because of the loss in efficiency with increased temperature that you mentioned.

Pofarmer

OK, fair enough, but what is marginal? If the Little Three alternative energy sources could displace 30% of the Big Four that would still be huge, even though the Big Four will be with us for the foreseeable future.

So what 3 alternatives? Let's say it's night and the wind ain't blowing, is your third taking up the slack??? If not, you just destabilized the grid. Texas is having problems with only 3% of it's grid on wind power.

Look, if you have to have conventional generation to back up this alternative carp, just build more efficient conventional generation and forget the alternaties till they are economical, which they will most likely never be.

Even in the 1930's much of the rural area throughout the world (including in this country) were without electricity, indoor plumbing, telephone service and paved roads.

"Alternative" energy source technologies are their infancy as these things go.

Huh??? We had alternatives. We used water, and wind(although not solar.) Large parts of the great plains had wind generators for individual houses in the 40's and 50's till the power lines got there. Guess what??? As soon as mains power became available they were abandoned. Time hasn't changed the reasons why. Same for windmills. Same for water wheels, and a host of other power sources. Ever seen pictures of a baler being run off a drive shaft rotated by a team of horses? Remember steam engines? This country grew up on alternative energy. We already gave all that up for what we have now. Build the nukes and get it over with.

GaryC
GMax:

How are you going to get the power from the Satellite down to a grid?

I feel like I should not be encouraging what is probably a troll, but this seems so insane on its face I want to hear about invisible transmission lines three miles high.

Although there have been discussions of alternatives, microwave power transmission is probably the most practical approach. By picking the right band, you can get nearly 80% transmission through the atmosphere including conversion efficiency at both ends.

Michelle Obama

I wish I was smart enough to say something smart on this thread, but all I know, like a million other Americans is we have two cars that run on gas from oil,and our security detail have the same cars. Take your solar, nuclear, bio fuel, and corn and well it does not help the children get to soccer practice, piano classes, ballet, school, or Access Hollywood.

But my husband cannot afford to help other children, right now!
He must help my chilren get to the White House so we can all be saved. Your souls are in danger and that is our priority.

cathyf
...not intermittent...
This is just not true... It can be intermittent, as long as it is up and down at the right times. The peak demand for electricity (2pm-5pm) is an order of magnitude larger than the trough in midsummer. So if you are totally nuclear, in order to have enough power from 2-5pm, you will be throwing away 90% of your power between 2-5am. So intermittent is good, as long as it is guaranteed for the peak of production matches the peak in demand. (Gasoline is the classic intermittent power supply. When you need to run the engine you turn it on and consume the power. When you don't need it, you turn it off and the engine stops using gas.) Take the example of the solar roof tiles in a place where you can sell power back to the grid. What happens is that all of the roofs start feeding power back into the grid at exactly the point that it is needed, at the peak time. This means that you can eliminate buildng entire power plants which are only needed at peak times. Contrast this with wind power, which only produces reliable power in the spring and fall windy seasons when people aren't running heat or A/C, and hot muggy still air is associated with peak energy demand. Even if you use the wind power when it is available, you will be throwing away electricity from the conventional plant because you have to have the conventional plant running. (A "quick start" power plant starts up in 5 hours. You can startup as a heat wave starts and shut down when it stops, but you can't turn on and off between afternoon and the middle of the night.)

The interesting question has to do with finding ways to store energy. Put the windmills on the coast, and when the wind is blowing use the power to break down the seawater into hydrogen and oxygen, and store the hydrogen in big tanks. Then use the hydrogen to run hydogen fuel cells. As long as your tanks are big enough, you won't run out of hydrogen on becalmed days. Build a nuclear power plant next to the shale oil field, and use the nuclear power to extract the oil from the shale, then consume the energy as oil/gas exactly when you need it. A trick that they already use at hydro dams -- during the middle of the night, use the excess power to pump water back up over the dam into the reservoir.

GaryC
Greg F:

2) One of the typical arguments about the price of solar cells is economy of scale. The argument usually goes if we make enough of them the price will go down. Unfortunately were not talking about toasters or consumer electronics. Refined silicon is not cheap and requires significant amounts of energy to refine. There is limited capacity for refining silicon which will not change in the near future. A kilogram has gone from $24 in 2004 to $450 in 2008. The other significant problem is the wirebond pads require silver. Since 2003 the price of silver has gone from $4 to $6 per ounce to $16 per ounce. With the solar panel insanity showing no chance of subsiding expect prices for these 2 commodities to soar and the cost of panels to follow.

I'm a lot more optimistic about the future affordability of some of the thin film technologies. CIGS (Copper-Indium-Gallium-diSelenide) is really interesting, since some of the production approaches are really equivalent to color printing on a mylar or metal sheet substrate. They use much less of the required materials per kilowatt of capacity. Of course they are also much less efficient (at under 20%) than multiple-junction Gallium-Arsenide cells, which are now over 40%.

Greg F
By picking the right band, you can get nearly 80% transmission through the atmosphere including conversion efficiency at both ends.

What microwave transmitter is going to come close to that efficiency at any kind of usable energy levels?

Neo

Now, I absolutely do not understand either (2) or (3) as requirement that must be cast in stone.

Consider for a moment you are Intel making semiconductor product in a wafer fab where it takes dozens of steps over dozens of hours of processing using toxic gases. The power goes off for 2 seconds .. all the partially processed wafers go in the trash can.

Pofarmer

(Gasoline is the classic intermittent power supply. When you need to run the engine you turn it on and consume the power. When you don't need it, you turn it off and the engine stops using gas.)

That's intermittent usage, not intermittent supply. The gas is always there, as is the potential energy stored in it.

Larry

How are you going to get the power from the Satellite down to a grid?
I feel like I should not be encouraging what is probably a troll, but this seems so insane on its face I want to hear about invisible transmission lines three miles high.
Posted by: GMax | July 19, 2008 at 11:01 PM

1. I'm not a troll. 2. No idea where you came up with, "..invisible transmission lines three miles high.", invisible and 3 miles having nothing to do with the question at issue. 3. One method of transmission may be suggested by the space elevator, another by laser to heat a steam turbine, still others by folks smarter than either of us. 4. It's not my idea, but that of someone with scientific and engineering fides. I'll keep looking for a cite.

Jim Rhoads aka vnjagvet

We had alternatives. We used water, and wind(although not solar.) Large parts of the great plains had wind generators for individual houses in the 40's and 50's till the power lines got there. Guess what??? As soon as mains power became available they were abandoned. Time hasn't changed the reasons why. Same for windmills. Same for water wheels, and a host of other power sources. Ever seen pictures of a baler being run off a drive shaft rotated by a team of horses? Remember steam engines? This country grew up on alternative energy. We already gave all that up for what we have now. Build the nukes and get it over with.

You have me there, Po. This is, of course, absolutely true.

Hydro is still one of the big four, but we have about tapped most of its potential. Windmills go back hundreds of years. Steam was generated mostly from coal and wood, so was using the energy sources we are trying to replace.

But exploring these sources as mass substitutions for today's big four energy sources has only been going on for the past thirty or forty years.

I am with you on nuclear as the only real possiblity for reasonable success in the next 10 to 20 years.

Pofarmer

But exploring these sources as mass substitutions for today's big four energy sources has only been going on for the past thirty or forty years.

Because the damn schools don't teach a useful history course anymore. And I'd say more like 10-20.

Ralph L

microwave power transmission
Like the Batman movie? So funny that the water evaporated, but the people didn't.

Sara

I'm for nuke power and wind power. Give everyone their own wind power and have the pole double as a flag pole.

Between where I live and Palm Springs we have a huge canyon area that is acres and acres of the new windmills. It is like miles of sculptures.

Pofarmer

It is like miles of sculptures.

You and I will have to disagree on that one.

Charlie (Colorado)

Why can't they develop solar cells that look and act like roof tiles instead of those huge ugly arrays like giant black billboards that make a neighborhood look so tacky.

because they have to be black or else they're reflecting the light you'd like to be absorbing, and they have to stand up so they're perpendicular to the sunshine, or they don't have as much sun to absorb.

Charlie (Colorado)

one worries that Den Beste is the enemy of the good.

I hope you're proud of yourself.

Charlie (Colorado)

How are you going to get the power from the Satellite down to a grid?

As he said, microwave transmission. The original thought came from Peter Glaser. See also this post at Space.com, and the Wikipedia article on Solar Power Satellites..

GaryC
Greg F:
By picking the right band, you can get nearly 80% transmission through the atmosphere including conversion efficiency at both ends.
What microwave transmitter is going to come close to that efficiency at any kind of usable energy levels?

Looking at some relevant links, I think I misremembered what terms were included in the efficiency numbers. Rather than including conversion efficiencies at both ends, the 80% value only included transmission through the atmosphere and conversion on the ground. (The link above to the Georgia Tech study on Wireless Power Transmission gives the collection efficiency at 96.5% to 86^ for 4 different designs, in the 2.45 and 5.8 GHz regions.)

This has a significant impact on the thermal control system for the solar power satellite, especially for the transmitter, and increases the area of the solar cell array, but does not alter the potential for an environmental impact on the Earth.

Lee A. Arnold

Does #5 include total government subsidies, direct and indirect, to oil, gas, and nuclear? These roughly total around $20 billion a year. It also appears that the taxpayer is going to pick up about half the tab for constructing Yucca Flats, as well as all of the tab for storage of radioactive waste into perpetuity.

Elroy Jetson

Drill now and drill often. Oil is the short term answer for transportation. Continue with natural gas development for heating and maybe transportation fuel. Go with nuclear for the next 30 to 40 years in preparation for all electric transportation. Supplement with solar where applicable and maybe tidal in areas where the sun doesn't come out often.
This problem is a lot more complex than inventing the light bulb or telephone. Otherwise someone would have come up with the "silver bullet" a long time ago.

SlimGuy

Just for the record we produce about 2% of our annual electricity nationwide from oil per the EIA. Coal and natural gas and nuclear are the big sources with hydro next and solar and wind almost in the round off error.

Scientific American did a major study on total solar via power panels and mirror heating a mediums to run turbines with natural gas assist with compressed air cavern storage as the dark hours provider.

From the model they developed it would take approximately 145,000 sq miles of the desert south west plus a multi billion dollar distribution grid enhancement to do the deed.

Total cost over 500 billion.

For those who heart wind power the cost of copper to build all those individual generators compared to large turbines at a conventional plant are really an issue holding their production up and their cost/kwh as a result.

Wind or solar you still need to upgrade the grid in a major way.

SlimGuy

The limiting issue right now on wind turbines is there are few who will do the high work to install and maintain them.

Also imagine doing maintenance on a windmill 150 feet in the air in the middle of winter with the wind chill up there in the negative double digits.

bgates

total government subsidies, direct and indirect, to oil, gas, and nuclear? These roughly total around $20 billion a year.
Billion? B? Exxon alone had $11 billion net income in the first quarter, on revenue of $117 billion.

pagar

Good Morning to all.
Pofarmer has the best answer iom.
''Build the nukes and get it over with.''

boris

To the extent that wind and solar are an attempt to forstall nuclear it's misguided. Solar has applications to support its development but not sure wind does. Nuclear has the realistic option of replacing coal and meeting expected growth in demand. In that situation would wind even make sense? Probably not.

PeterUK

There seems to be a failure of vision,a "buggy whip" thinking in terms of planning.
The history of transport is replete with example of modes of transport reaching their ultimate perfection and being superseded by new technology.
The tea clippers were the fastest ships afloat,they were killed off by the steamship.
The early 19th century flintlock was a thing of mechanical perfection, only to lose out to the percussion cap.
In all probability the new technologies are already just, the connections have to be made.
All of us are living in a technological world which did not exist when we were born.It will happen again the unimaginable will become the everyday.

clarice

P.S. It's pretty much going on under the radar but huge gas finds have been made under the shale in Pennsylvania--enough reportedly to meet the country's entire natural gas needs for three years.
I'm told there's a great deal more, easy to get to, in Louisiana (not under the sea but under the land).
Those who adopt Europe and Japan's notions of conversation and sources ignore that they have few petro resources and we have A LOT.

Larry

Good morning, everyone. Speaking of gas, algore is on MTP blathering about the climate change crisis and catastrophe to follow. Still lying. Brokaw's eating it up.

kim

The Gorebellied Fool. Watch that man carefully; he is our era's grandest example of how hubris can destroy a man.
================================

Ralph L

We need a Dr. Evil drill to access the heat below us.

kim

Keep that Pandora's Box closed. Turning loose more of the earth's internal heat really would change the climate, and probably deleteriously. That's not just an effervescent, transient, trace gas.
=============================

Richard

I would suggest that Den Beste's critics read the original articles, which are still available on the net and can be found with a not-too-difficult search. Nearly every question and objection will be answered. Especially note Den Beste's very prescient take on ethanol. To me mind, when someone analyzes a proposal, predicts its consequences, and turns out to be right, he earns credibility for the rest of his analysis.

Larry

I'm rooting for the old guy in "The Open". He's tied for the lead through 10.

kim

You'll note I've not criticized SDB, Richard, but my Daddy told me twenty-five years ago that the only reason ethanol had a chance was because of tax subsidies. He hadn't even imagined all the evil ramifications of that bit of central planning. It didn't take much to be prescient, though, in the face of that fact, that ethanol could not make it in a free market.
===========================

kim

We should apply similar reasoning to alternative and especially to so-called 'sustainable' energy sources. I think government should perhaps support basic research, but subsidies to specifics is an error.
===========================

clarice

**notions of conSerVation **

Ralph L

BHO says "conversation" was correct.

Lee A. Arnold

bgates, billion with a b. This does NOT include the cost of defense and national security regarding international oil and gas supplies.

Cecil Turner

I would suggest that Den Beste's critics read the original articles . . .

Concur. I also think he's spot-on with the above. Diffuse alternative energy proposals can be successful at the individual level, but unless they meet his listed criteria, they do little or nothing for the system as a whole. And a casual glance at the numbers suggests they aren't even scaleable enough to pick up the increase in demand . . . let alone provide enough energy to reduce dependence on less eco-friendly sources. Bottom line: go long nukes!

JorgXMcKie

Personally, I'd like to follow Ed Begley around for a couple of weeks and see just how much energy he does use. I'd also like to know how long he has to ride that bike to provide the power to produce his "Living with Ed" tv show.

sbw

Actually, you could get energy paralleling Arthur C. Clarke's space elevator and without a satellite. There would be electrical potential difference between the top and the bottom of the elevator. There has been talk that a wire descending from 100 miles would stay up by itself because of the spin of the earth.

But the energy from a satellite can be transmitted without wires either as microwaves or concentrated photons. And it could be designed to turn off the instant an unwary bird (or human) wandered in the way. But it would be the bane of an astronomer's existence.

GMax

Heck Tarrant County ( that is Ft. Worth ) is one big natural gas deposit apparently. Lots of drilling going on at DFW airport and most subdivisions including mine are organizing to negotiate with drilling companies as a group not one v one. Barnett Shale is the formation and its a big find. Google it and read up.

GMax

Here is a taste:

Some experts have suggested the Barnett Shale may be the largest onshore natural gas field in the United States. [1] The field is proven to have 2.5 trillion cubic feet (59 km³) of natural gas, and is widely estimated to contain as much as 30 trillion cubic feet (8.5×1011 m³) of natural gas resources.[2] Oil also has been found in lesser quantities, but sufficient enough (with recent high oil prices) to be commercially viable. The Barnett Shale is known as a "tight" gas reservoir, indicating that the gas is not easily extracted. The shale is very hard, and it was virtually impossible to produce gas in commercial quantities from this formation until recent improvements were made in hydraulic fracturing technology and horizontal drilling, and there was an upturn in the natural gas price.

Larry

Recently, I saw an estimate that Rocky Mountain shale oil reserves equal twice the entire amount of oil that has been used in all of recorded time.

K Rod

1) Energy and Power: Power refers to rate of energy flow, e.g. Kilowatts. Kilowatts times hours gives Kilowatt-hours and this is energy. SDB means that any energy supply that would supplant existing sources must provide large amounts of energy at a usefully large rate.
2) Reliability: Intermittant or unreliable sources (basically, wind = unreliable and solar = intermittant) must have a fallback, i.e. traditional power sources. A game-changing theoretical breakthrough in energy storage would have to occur for this problem to be overcome. Anyone care to speculate if/when this breakthrough will happen? I've heard rumors of such things over the years but I'll believe it when I see it.
3) Concentrated/diffuse energy: Coal, petroleum, natural gas and nuclear are all highly concentrated sources of energy. Wind and solar are diffuse. It must be collected over very large areas to add up to enough energy to make a difference. The cost to concentrate energy from a diffuse source is a huge obstacle (wind generators, photovoltaic panels and the infrastucture to connect it all is hugely expensive). Traditional sources will have to be much more expensive than now for this to be feasible. Despite the peak oil debate, there is still alot around and there are giant reserves of coal. It will be very difficult to get people to ignore $0.10/kWH energy when they're forced to use $10.00/kWH energy
4) SDB's criterion for significance of a new energy source was to replace just 1% of fossil fuel or nuclear sources. He didn't think even 1% is feasible. Tom was opining that he didn't understand why we couldn't replace 30% with alternatives. Well, I guess he just doesn't understand. I realize that some sort of transistion must happen someday and I really hope it will happen sooner rather than later, but it will take a long time to get to 30% (a century?).
5) Stipulating that it will take a very long time to transition to renewables, we really don't have the luxury to ignore nuclear or fossil fuels. The greens/leftists keep saying "we can't drill our way out of this". The reality is we can't NOT drill our way out of this. The transition will take too long.
6) Over the next few years, the man-made global warming hypothesis will disintegrate as temps continue to not climb or even drop some. CO2 will no longer be the issue it is is today. It will be ugly. Time will tell.

Tully

Not having time to see how well it's already been addressed, I'll just do the short take.

Now, I absolutely do not understand either (2) or (3) as requirement that must be cast in stone.

#2: To reliably replace current energy usage/demand at any major degree of current scale any alt-energy substitute must be reliably available 24/7/365, and in substantial amounts. Intermittent and unpredictable supplies are incrementally useful for the fringes, but are not scalable dependable replacements. Unpredictable and intermittent generation can also have unpredictable and unforseen drawbacks above and beyond the reliability problem.

#3: The bulk of power usage is required to be concentrated and deliverable to be useful as a large-scale substitute for current usage. Your roof solar is all good and fine (if you can accept the current payback periods of a half-century or so...) but the factories and office building require reliable on-demand delivery of large chunks of power, not trickled-in variable amounts.

To re-emphasize something I keep pointing out and that even Al Gore managed to get right (hey, it happens...) all the new electrical generation in the world won't help us one damn bit unless we seriously upgrade the national power grid infrastructure to deliver that electricity where it's needed. If we all switched to electrical cars tomorrow and had the generating capacity to charge them magically appear we still could not deliver that electricity to where the cars were at current peak grid loads. The grid is already at capacity. We must seriously expand our national infrastructural grid capacity. That applies pretty much regardless of your favored energy policy.

When you discount limited-expansion-potential "renewable" energy production (hydro and geothermal) the idea that we could expand what remains (carbon-nuetral biomass, wind, and solar) per Gore's pipe-dream in ten years to replace current is simply outright laughable at our current technology. If we expanded current wind and solar and biomass by 1000% in a decade (at a MASSIVE capital cost) we'd still have to reduce current energy consumption by over 50% to come remotely close to carbon-free.

Without the carbon argument, there's not much argument at all except about how fast and hard to ramp up domestic production. We have NO shortage of carbon fuels in America. We are the Saudi Arabia (and then some) of oil shale and coal. Between the two we have enough carbon fuels for centuries to come. It is only by insisting upon restricting the use of carbon fuels that we really have a physical fuel crisis. The current crisis is one of political origin--the decades-long restriction of our own carbon-fuel production, and the ramp-up time and capital costs required to substantially increase it. But the fuels are most certainly there.

Cecil Turner

If you posit that part of the "problem" is to reduce GhG emissions, then nukes are the only real alternative.

Remember all the hoopla about Cheney not inviting the environmentalists to the energy task force? With 20:20 hindsight, the reason is starkly obvious . . . they're obstructionists who can't do the basic arithmetic. But as I've said before, from a program perspective, they got it about right: encourage new nuclear reactors, hydrogen, clean coal, study fusion, drill in ANWR.

Not sure how much more pain we have to endure before we start. But Jerry Pournelle (H/T Instapundit) points out the obvious:

I suspect that energy economics is more determined by law suits than by engineering.

Barney Frank

Billion? B? Exxon alone had $11 billion net income in the first quarter, on revenue of $117 billion.

bgates,
Regarding oil, most of the 'subsidies' are in the form of depletion allowances, which are tax breaks meant to encourage production. Similar allowances are also available to timber and minieral owners.
The straight depletion allowance is no longer available to vertically integrated oil companies but it was replaced with driling costs deductions and credits for keeping marginal wells in production.

Whether letting a company or individual keep more of his money than they otherwise might constitutes a subsidy seems to me to be in the eye of the beholder. Just ask anyone with a mortgage.

Tully

Targeted allowances, deductions, and tax credits are all subsidies by definition. Whether or not you feel they are reasonable deductions is your own mileage.

Yes, that also applies to your mortgage tax credit. It's a subsidy meant to encourage home ownership.

Barney Frank

Well, strictly speaking, all of the above are by definition incentives not subsidies. A subsidy is generally a payment of someone else's tax money from the government to an entity for a variety o reasons, such as much of the farm program.
A tax incentive is allowing a person or business to keep more of their own pre tax money through deductions and credits.
And a mortgage deduction is a deduction not a credit.

Tully

Well, strictly speaking, all of the above are by definition incentives not subsidies.

Sorry, Barney, you're wrong. Better go look up the economic definition of subsidy. That a payment may be indirect does not change that it is still a subsidy payment.

An "incentive" from the government delivered via the tax system is still a subsidy regardless of the form it takes. Such "incentives" paid via the tax system are called tax subsidies. That includes tax deductions, tax credits, etc. The market distortion is the same regardless of the label applied.

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