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  #1  
Old 10-11-2005, 08:41 PM
Can Handle the Truth Can Handle the Truth is offline
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Let's use up all the world's oil ASAP

Because the sooner we use it up, the sooner we'll be forced to develop alternative energy.

Tell me why I'm wrong.
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  #2  
Old 10-11-2005, 10:00 PM
El_Kabong El_Kabong is offline
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You probably want to explain a) why anyone using petroleum at all annoys you so much and b) which alternative energy sources you are talking about and why you think they are more desirable for their purpose than the use of petroleum.

Anyway, sez here that oil provides only 3% of the energy used to generate electricity in the US. The top three sources of energy for electricity generation are coal, nucular and natural gas. Looks like alternative energy sources already are carrying the load in that sector.

So, what's the problem, exactly?
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  #3  
Old 10-11-2005, 10:13 PM
XT XT is offline
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Whats the rush? I guess I don't get it.

-XT
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  #4  
Old 10-11-2005, 10:19 PM
duffer duffer is offline
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Yup, use it up, then come up with the alternative. Sounds like a plan.

How's bout this? Let's develop the new technology so it costs less to use than generate? i.e. wind, solar, hamster-wheels. Meanwhile, we start aggressively going after the resources we know exist and know how to efficiently convert to useable energy. Environmental impact? Well, if we can suddenly switch to "alternative" fuels in a few years, certainly the Caribou/titmouse/Spotted Owl/etc coalition can adapt after thousands of year's of practice?

Nuclear energy. That's what you're looking for, it seems. I'm honestly hoping someday I have my own reactor charging my car and powering the house. Virtually unlimited power, non-polluting and very safe. Compare deaths attributed to oil, coal and nuclear production.


But wind sounds good. Persue that one.
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  #5  
Old 10-11-2005, 10:58 PM
dotchan dotchan is offline
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The problem with nuclear technology, of course, is that while the risk of an accident is small, if one does occur it's pretty catastrophic.

(Of course, it's the same with flying, and plenty of people decided that while you might have a chance of dying in a spectacular plane crash, it's better than driving 10+ hours to go to Disney or that Big Important Business Meeting.)
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  #6  
Old 10-11-2005, 11:04 PM
duffer duffer is offline
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Care to cite the numbers of deaths from Three Mile Island? Or even Chernobyl? There was a recent report (reported on ABC News IIRC, or maybe CNN but no link) that stated the death toll was miniscule compared to what was reported at the time as catastrophic.

I'm not one for buying into conspiracies started by "Big Oil" but if there ever was one, it's that nuclear power is dangerous. Again, care to cite numbers of deaths attributed to oil exploration/production and deaths from nuclear power plants?
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  #7  
Old 10-11-2005, 11:12 PM
XT XT is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dotchan
The problem with nuclear technology, of course, is that while the risk of an accident is small, if one does occur it's pretty catastrophic.
Its all about risk assessment...something most people are simply terrible at.

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Originally Posted by duffer
Care to cite the numbers of deaths from Three Mile Island?
I don't believe dotchan either said or implied that there had been a big body count...only said that while the risk is small (especially in the US), its non-zero...and if we come up snake eyes it could potentially be pretty bad. I happen to agree with you that nuclear is clearly the way to go...I'd like to see us do a radical shift to 70 or even 80% nuclear generation in the next decade. But one has to acknowledge that there ARE risks.

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  #8  
Old 10-12-2005, 12:02 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by xtisme
...while the risk is small (especially in the US), its non-zero...and if we come up snake eyes it could potentially be pretty bad
Really? What is that assesement based on?

Chernobyl was as bad as any US accident could realistically ever be. In fact it was worse. Yet the total death toll was less than 50 individuals . 50 indivuslas over 20 years is fewer than the number of people killed by the coal electricity industry last year alone.

Based on that it appears that even if we do come up snake eyes it isn't as potentially bad as continuing to use coal.

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But one has to acknowledge that there ARE risks.
I'm always happy to acknowledge risks. What irks me is that nobody seems to want acknowledge the far higher risks of coal electricty.
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  #9  
Old 10-12-2005, 12:03 AM
duffer duffer is offline
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Of course there are risks. There are risks in having major oil tankers pulling into harbors. There are risks of driving to work.

It comes down to risk outweighing benefit. I'm not buying into the "sky is falling" theory of the anti-nuke crowd. (And I'm not implying you are)

I understand the catastophic aftermath of a major nuclear meltdown. The problem is, it is all theory. We still haven't seen it happen even with real life reactor malfunctions. If we're going Chicken Little, let's mention the chance of the goose population being decimated by flying int windmills.
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  #10  
Old 10-12-2005, 12:33 AM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Kabong
Anyway, sez here that oil provides only 3% of the energy used to generate electricity in the US. The top three sources of energy for electricity generation are coal, nucular and natural gas. Looks like alternative energy sources already are carrying the load in that sector.
Coal and natural gas are not "alternative energy sources." They are nonrenewable, CO2-emitting fossil fuels, just like oil.
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  #11  
Old 10-12-2005, 04:07 AM
antechinus antechinus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dotchan
The problem with nuclear technology, of course, is that while the risk of an accident is small, if one does occur it's pretty catastrophic.

(Of course, it's the same with flying, and plenty of people decided that while you might have a chance of dying in a spectacular plane crash, it's better than driving 10+ hours to go to Disney or that Big Important Business Meeting.)
Excuse me for being a pedant in light of the posts following on from this one....

"The problem with nuclear technology, of course, is that while the likelihood of an accident is small, if one does occur it's pretty catastrophic"... and therefore the risk is high.

Risk is mitigated by decreasing the likelihood of an event or decreasing the harm arising from that event.

A risk assessment is a reality check. It is gathering all the information on the likelihood and consequences of a harm event occuring and working out the most practicable (i.e. maximum benefit for resources) way of managing the risk.
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  #12  
Old 10-12-2005, 04:16 AM
Rune Rune is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Coal and natural gas are not "alternative energy sources." They are nonrenewable, CO2-emitting fossil fuels, just like oil.
Well they are alternative to oil. And there are no renewable energy sources (the Second Law of Thermodynamics). Nuclear fuel is also a nonrenewable energy sources. But if there are hundreds or even thousands of years of usage I think itís a fairly safe bet that we will come up with something better by the time itís starting to run out. Which of course doesn't solve the problem with CO2.
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  #13  
Old 10-12-2005, 05:08 AM
SentientMeat SentientMeat is offline
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Let's use up all the world's oil ASAP
Doing so will increase the CO2 concentration to at least 750 ppm. Climatologists say that 450 ppm is the most we can safely allow.

What's the point of developing alternative energy, exactly, if not to avert possible disaster?
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  #14  
Old 10-12-2005, 08:25 AM
El_Kabong El_Kabong is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Coal and natural gas are not "alternative energy sources." They are nonrenewable, CO2-emitting fossil fuels, just like oil.
What Rune said. The OP did not say anything about coal or natural gas; he mentioned only oil. He did not say anything about renewables; he spoke only of alternatives to oil. I'm just asking him to define his terms a little more clearly.
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  #15  
Old 10-12-2005, 08:26 AM
Can Handle the Truth Can Handle the Truth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Kabong
You probably want to explain a) why anyone using petroleum at all annoys you so much and b) which alternative energy sources you are talking about and why you think they are more desirable for their purpose than the use of petroleum.

Anyway, sez here that oil provides only 3% of the energy used to generate electricity in the US. The top three sources of energy for electricity generation are coal, nucular and natural gas. Looks like alternative energy sources already are carrying the load in that sector.

So, what's the problem, exactly?
a) I want us to quit groveling before every shithole third world nation with oil. Especially those in the middle east. And I want our oil money to stop fundng terrorism.

b) Mostly nuclear.

Quote:
Originally Posted by duffer
Yup, use it up, then come up with the alternative. Sounds like a plan.
Obviously, that's not what I meant.
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  #16  
Old 10-12-2005, 09:50 AM
El_Kabong El_Kabong is offline
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a) I want us to quit groveling before every shithole third world nation with oil. Especially those in the middle east. And I want our oil money to stop fundng terrorism.
I believe that our Canadian posters might take exception to your referring to their fine country as a third-world shithole. Also, I would like to hear which countries, in your view, are funding terrorism as state entities from oil revenues, and maybe what you feel is a roughly accurate percentage of US 'oil money' that is being used by these nations to fund terrorism.

Sorry to ask these things, but I remain unconvinced that you have the slightest idea what you are talking about here.

Quote:
b) Mostly nuclear.
Well, here at least is a notion I can get behind, but it's still not clear whether you actually understand that oil is used much more for transportation than power generation purposes, and thus that a wholesale switch to nuclear power generation may not have that much of an impact on oil demand in the US.
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  #17  
Old 10-12-2005, 10:03 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Using up all the fossil fuels quickly means dumping lots of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere quickly - this might actually be worse than dumping the same amount more slowly.
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  #18  
Old 10-12-2005, 10:45 AM
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Don't forget that you can't go developing alternative energy sources unless you have energy to do it. My great worry in this is that by the time we are up against the wall we will not have enough resources to last us through the development stages and a good portion of the world is going to go pre-industrial for a hundred years or so.

Remember, we currently have NO OPTIONS. Coal, oil and natural gas all have limits, with the limits on oil coming fast. Though most people do not realize it, there are limits on nuclear as well, it is just that at our current usage levels they are very far off. If we switch to hydrogen as an energy storage system with the initial investment of energy provided by nuclear, that limit is going to come up mighty fast. Though sources such as thermal, tidal, hydro, and wind are theoretically renewable (on the scale of the human species), unbelievable innovations would be necessary for them to provide enough power for us.

The only real salvation I can see is fusion, and no one can seem to make it work yet. What we need to make it work is exactly what we are going to get; a gradual and constant decline in available resources with increasing demand. This will make for a very lean time with a great deal of international conflict resulting, but hopefully the pressure will increase fast enough that we can catch humanity. The scary thing is that we only get one chance. If we don't come up with replacement energy sources before the current ones run out, I don't believe we will ever have enough easily available energy to build society to the level that they can be developed.
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  #19  
Old 10-12-2005, 10:54 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Let's get everyone infected with HIV, herpes, and cancer ASAP. Because the sooner we do, the sooner we'll be forced to develop cures.

Let's cut down all the world's trees and turn them into toilet paper ASAP. Because the sooner we do, the sooner we'll be forced to get serious about recycling.

Let's run this argument into the ground ASAP. Because the sooner we do, the sooner we'll be forced to come up with better ideas.
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  #20  
Old 10-12-2005, 11:01 AM
even sven even sven is offline
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You know, it's entirely within the realm of possibility that there are no alternative energies that will sustain our current lifestyle. Something we can do now is plan transit-friendly cities and build energy effcient housing.
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  #21  
Old 10-12-2005, 04:03 PM
Can Handle the Truth Can Handle the Truth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Kabong
I believe that our Canadian posters might take exception to your referring to their fine country as a third-world shithole. Also, I would like to hear which countries, in your view, are funding terrorism as state entities from oil revenues, and maybe what you feel is a roughly accurate percentage of US 'oil money' that is being used by these nations to fund terrorism.
Saudi Arabia, for one. And who cares what percentage? A suicide bomb can't cost more than a few hundred bucks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Kabong
Well, here at least is a notion I can get behind, but it's still not clear whether you actually understand that oil is used much more for transportation than power generation purposes, and thus that a wholesale switch to nuclear power generation may not have that much of an impact on oil demand in the US.
Nuclear power to generate electicity to power electric vehicles from cars to high-speed trains. Military and cargo aircraft may continue to use fossil fuels, but civilian passengers will have to switch to the high-speed trains, unless a feasable rocket-powered civilian transport is developed. Large ships will be nuclear powered, smaller vessels by electricity, steam, or wind.
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  #22  
Old 10-12-2005, 04:18 PM
UncleBeer UncleBeer is offline
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Originally Posted by Rune
And there are no renewable energy sources (the Second Law of Thermodynamics).
Really? You tellin' me I can't grow more trees to replace the ones I've burned?
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  #23  
Old 10-12-2005, 04:29 PM
jshore jshore is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake
Chernobyl was as bad as any US accident could realistically ever be. In fact it was worse. Yet the total death toll was less than 50 individuals . 50 indivuslas over 20 years is fewer than the number of people killed by the coal electricity industry last year alone.
Here is a cite with more details. It appears that the 50 number is only those that they can directly (and quite definitively?) attribute to Chernobyl. The better estimate is that up to 4000 people will eventually die as a result.

I agree that this is still fairly small potatoes compared to the estimates for how many die from pollution from coal and other fossil fuels.
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  #24  
Old 10-12-2005, 05:35 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout
Using up all the fossil fuels quickly means dumping lots of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere quickly - this might actually be worse than dumping the same amount more slowly.
Is there any doubt about that?


Quote:
Originally Posted by flight
Don't forget that you can't go developing alternative energy sources unless you have energy to do it. My great worry in this is that by the time we are up against the wall we will not have enough resources to last us through the development stages and a good portion of the world is going to go pre-industrial for a hundred years or so.
I know this is a common scaremongering tactic by the peak oil loonies, but could you explain how such a scenario ever come about, much less be a reasonable fear?

Consider that the major energy source in the world today remains coal. The world has massive amounts of coal. There is so much coal that we havenít even looked very hard to find out how much coal there is. There is so much coal that at the moment many places wonít touch coal if there is more than about 50 metres of soil over the top of it, itís just not worth the effort to remove the overburden. Yet we know that there is coal thousands of metres under the ground. And there are still paces where coal lies ion the surface and can be picked up by hand.

Consider that the world has enough uranium to provide energy for the next 500 years at least. Also consider that deep coal mining and nuclear power are not developing technologies. They have been solid technologies for 200 and 50 years respectively.

So with all those facts in mind can you explain how we could ever come up against the wall so rapidly that we will have to abandon industry? To me the whole idea makes no sense.

Nuclear power is very nearly competitive economically with coal right now. In many places it is more competitive, and every year advances in technology make it cheaper. At the same time coal energy will become more expensive as we are forced to resort to ever deeper, dirtier and more remote coal deposits. At some point, when coal power is still less than 25% as expensive as it is today, nuclear energy will become the preferred economic option.

So can you explain why, at or very near that point, we wonít switch to nuclear power for purely economic reasons? Not because we are anywhere near running out of coal, we will still have hundreds of years of coal left. I simply cannot see how we could ever even hit a bump when it comes to energy transfer. The competitiveness of nuclear is simply to close to coal to make that possible.

I certainly canít see any scenario that doesnít involve spacemen that would lead to us having so little coal left that we couldnít build infinite nuclear reactors. Perhaps you could explain how you think this could ever happen.

Quote:
Though most people do not realize it, there are limits on nuclear as well, it is just that at our current usage levels they are very far off. If we switch to hydrogen as an energy storage system with the initial investment of energy provided by nuclear, that limit is going to come up mighty fast.
No, it wonít. Even with all those factors taken into account we have sufficient nuclear energy for at least 500 years into the future then yes. 500 years is not might fast. 500 years is so far into the future that it is for all practical purposes infinitely far off. Simply consider the technological changes that have occurred in the last 100 years and then tell me that you can predict energy options in 100 years time, much less sin 500 years.

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The only real salvation I can see is fusion, and no one can seem to make it work yet. What we need to make it work is exactly what we are going to get; a gradual and constant decline in available resources with increasing demand.
Fusion is the Holy Grail of both the Physics and Energy sectors. It doesnít require any more incentive for investigation and there is no reason to believe that a decline in resources could provide more incentive or make it a reality any faster. Energy yielding fusion simply isnít a working technology. More pressure isnít going to magically make it happen.

Quote:
If we don't come up with replacement energy sources before the current ones run out, I don't believe we will ever have enough easily available energy to build society to the level that they can be developed.
And if it the drought doesnít break then I donít believe it will rain.

This is a tautology. Of course if we donít find a replacement for the energy needed to sustain a developed society then we wonít be able to sustain a developed society. Hardly profound.

The point to realise is that we have sufficient coal for at least 100 years, and we havenít even looked for coal resources yet. We have sufficient fissionable material for another 500 years beyond that. So that gives us 600 years with current technology. Worrying about what energy sources we might be using in 2600 is as ridiculous as a woman in 1400 speculating about the world of today. That world will be just as incomprehensible to us now as our world would be to her.

In short the 600 years we have ATM is for all practical purposes an infinite amount of time. Maybe if technological growth showed any signs of stalling we could become concerned. But it hasnít, I can see no need for concern on these grounds.
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  #25  
Old 10-12-2005, 05:48 PM
wolfstu wolfstu is offline
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Originally Posted by UncleBeer
Really? You tellin' me I can't grow more trees to replace the ones I've burned?
In the ludicrously strict sense, no, you can't, because if you continue long enough at cycling your tree farm you will eventually run out of sunlight to make trees with. And, in the long term, all the stars in the universe are expected to burn out and die, so you can only keep up the tree thing for so long.

Realistically, we're not looking for a thermodynamically perfect process, but rather one that can be maintained indefinitely for a "long time", that being, ideally, until the planet or the sun are expected to be worn out.
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  #26  
Old 10-12-2005, 09:36 PM
El_Kabong El_Kabong is offline
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Saudi Arabia, for one. And who cares what percentage? A suicide bomb can't cost more than a few hundred bucks.
Ok, well, you are welcome to believe if you wish that jihadist terrorism will somehow magically vanish overnight if US companies stop buying oil from Saudi Arabia, but that seems pretty naive to me.

Quote:
Nuclear power to generate electicity to power electric vehicles from cars to high-speed trains. Military and cargo aircraft may continue to use fossil fuels, but civilian passengers will have to switch to the high-speed trains, unless a feasable rocket-powered civilian transport is developed. Large ships will be nuclear powered, smaller vessels by electricity, steam, or wind.
OK, so if I understand you correctly, because you are personally pissed off at Saudi Arabia over possibly funding some terrorist acts against the United States, you want to risk further global warming in the short term, destroy the entire US airline industry and impose upon the US population a forced switch to public transport, over what is currently a grossly inadequate passenger rail network, for most domestic travel. I utterly fail to see the reward, economically or strategically, in making these draconian changes at this time. As an aside, I am also unclear on where the electricity or steam for the seagoing vessels you propose is supposed to come from absent some means of burning fuel to drive their electric generators or heat their boilers.

Sorry, sir, but I do not find your ideas particularly intriguing and I must decline to suscribe to your newsletter.
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  #27  
Old 10-13-2005, 01:58 AM
T_SQUARE T_SQUARE is offline
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Blake- that is one of the most well reasoned posts I have read on this board (In my short time here). As Blake said, there is coal everywhere. And, we've known how to turn it into transport fuel since WW II. Furthermore, the world has quite a bit of natural gas as well. Much of it is stranded, but as LNG tech becomes cheaper, it won't be stranded for long. We also know how to turn natural gas into a clean diesel. Might be a little pricey, but it's already being done. That doesn't even scratch the surface of gas hydrates, which aren't feasible now, but would anybody want to bet me we could utilize them in oh say 200 years, a few centuries before coal is tapped? How's about nuclear? We could look for Uranium harder if need be, and, as I understand, other fuel can be used for a reactor (I am not a nuclear expert). Furthermore, how about a breeder reactor? I'll also bet we get those working in the next few centuries. We can already use electricity (from nuclear or what-have-you) for transportation. Trains have been doing it for quite sometime.

See, none of this stuff (except the gas hydrates) requires anything new. We can already do it.

Even Sven- what do you mean we won't be able to sustain current lifestyle? Give me a realistic scenario of how that might happen. I think myself and others have shown plenty of options that already exist as a substitute for oil everywhere it's currently used. And that's if we stopped working today and took a break.

After oil is gone, there will still be plenty of natural gas. After gas, coal, after coal, uranium.

And fusion? Who knows? Considering 66 years after people said powered flight was impossible they watched a guy walk on the moon, I'm not going to bet against human ingenuity.
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  #28  
Old 10-13-2005, 08:43 AM
UncleBeer UncleBeer is offline
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Originally Posted by flight
The only real salvation I can see is fusion, and no one can seem to make it work yet.
To be clear, fusion works just fine. It's cold fusion that you're speaking of. "Cold" meaning a fusion process which produces more energy than it consumes to maintain itself autonomously.
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  #29  
Old 10-13-2005, 07:24 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rune
Well they are alternative to oil. And there are no renewable energy sources (the Second Law of Thermodynamics). Nuclear fuel is also a nonrenewable energy sources. But if there are hundreds or even thousands of years of usage I think itís a fairly safe bet that we will come up with something better by the time itís starting to run out. Which of course doesn't solve the problem with CO2.
Why not? Does nuclear fission produce CO2?
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  #30  
Old 10-13-2005, 07:29 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UncleBeer
To be clear, fusion works just fine. It's cold fusion that you're speaking of. "Cold" meaning a fusion process which produces more energy than it consumes to maintain itself autonomously.
No, "cold" fusion means fusion at low temperatures (unlike, say, the core of the sun). From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_fusion:

Quote:
Cold fusion is a term for any nuclear fusion reaction that occurs well below the temperature required for thermonuclear reactions (which occur at millions of degrees Celsius).
In any case, I think flight was referring to controlled fusion of any kind. It's been achieved in labs (under very not-cold conditions), but only for a few seconds or microseconds, and is not self-sustaining, nor does it release more energy than it takes to create the reaction.
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  #31  
Old 10-13-2005, 07:31 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by T_SQUARE
Blake- that is one of the most well reasoned posts I have read on this board (In my short time here). As Blake said, there is coal everywhere. And, we've known how to turn it into transport fuel since WW II.
Yes, but at a net energy loss. See this thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=336917
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  #32  
Old 10-13-2005, 09:09 PM
T_SQUARE T_SQUARE is offline
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Yes, but at a net energy loss. See this thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=336917
Doesn't any energy process involve a net energy loss as you re-order the energy? My car certainly has a net energy loss in its motor but it's still useful. If a society is bone dry of crude oil and natural gas, and electric cars don't get their motors running, what is wrong with using coal? Yes the conversion process is expensive but I fail to see how a net energy loss is a problem. I would guess gasoline refining has a net energy loss too; it's just cheaper to do than Fischer-Tropsch right now. Maybe I misunderstand your definition of "net energy loss."
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  #33  
Old 10-14-2005, 12:59 AM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Originally Posted by T_SQUARE
Doesn't any energy process involve a net energy loss as you re-order the energy?
Cite?
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  #34  
Old 10-14-2005, 03:40 AM
T_SQUARE T_SQUARE is offline
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Cite?
Well, I'm not a physicist. That's why I made the statement as a question and not a declaration. Just what I've been led to believe, but again, college physics was a few years back. I'm going to do some more research, but if you know the statement to be false, please enlighten me.
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  #35  
Old 10-14-2005, 07:19 AM
Malacandra Malacandra is offline
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Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Cite?
Is this near enough to a cite?
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  #36  
Old 10-14-2005, 11:56 AM
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Blake, truly an excellent post. I have never seen a number like 500 years of available nuclear fuel, so I believe you may be referring to the amount of time it would take to use up the known sources of are at our current usage levels. Even assuming that power requirements do not dramatically increase, if as you suspect, we will become more reliant on nuclear that means usage rates go up and how long until we run out of fuel goes down.

Currently nuclear on provides about 16% of the worlds power. This, as I read the article, is just for generator plants and does not include many key sources of power, such as home heating gas or oil and fuel for vehicles. If there were reductions in the availability of these resources then nuclear and coal would be required to fill the gap either through hydrogen production, electically powered vehicles or artificial oil from coal. This would dramatically increase nuclear fuel usage and reduce the amount of time available resources would last. This was what I was referring to when mentioning the short time that nuclear would be able to meet our needs.

However, I have discovered further information that seems to contradict me. Here it says that we likely have far more uranium out there than we know about. Unlike oil where we have been putting forth huge effort to discover further sources there has been little attempt to locate new veins of uranium, sugeesting that much may be left to find. That, which I was unaware of, makes nuclear look a lot better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by T_SQUARE
Furthermore, how about a breeder reactor? I'll also bet we get those working in the next few centuries.
Actually, they work just fine now. England has been operating at least one for quite a while, though I believe they have now shut it down. Can't remember. The problem with them is that they have a nasty habit of making nuclear bomb material that is a pain to safely get rid of.

As to the rest of the Blake's post, I'm working on it. Though, the far greater abundance of nuclear fuel alone than I knew of may be enough to kill the theory.
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  #37  
Old 10-14-2005, 03:19 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malacandra
No, it isn't. Of course we have the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which means, among other things, that once you burn up any fuel, it's gone for good. But my point was:

1. It is possible to convert coal to gasoline (the Nazis worked out the process);

2. But apparently you get much less energy out of coal if you convert it to gasoline than you get if you burn it as coal -- because of the energy required by the conversion process itself. (That's also a problem with gasohol, BTW -- the energy invested into raising the crops is more than you get by burning the alcohol.)

3. That makes coal-derived gasoline (or crop-derived gasohol) a less-than-optimal choice, to be resorted to only if there's no other way to get gasoline and no way to make cars that run on anything else. In other words, burning coal-derived gasoline in our cars is, to put it mildly, a clear sign of desperation.

T_SQUARE said, "Doesn't any energy process involve a net energy loss as you re-order the energy?" In which s/he seems to be simply trying to wave aside the above as a problem. But it's irrelevant. The fact remains that some ways of "re-ordering the energy" are less efficient than others.
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  #38  
Old 10-14-2005, 05:29 PM
T_SQUARE T_SQUARE is offline
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Yes- Fischer-Tropsch is not the most efficient way to make transport fuel right now, which is why we don't do it. But just because the conversion takes some energy, doesn't mean the concept is crack-pot. Burning regular coal is all well and good, but darned inconvenient for transportation, unless you can convince your wife to man the shovel in the back of the mini van. There is nothing wrong with spending some energy to make it more useful. A laser, for example, is pretty inefficient, I would imagine. However, a camp fire isn't too useful for eye surgery. You use energy, a lot of energy, to re-order it to make it more convenient. I'm not saying we should be making synthetic motor fuel now, far from it in fact. But the option is on the table and it is viable.

I'm not sure we necessarily disagree.
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  #39  
Old 10-14-2005, 07:34 PM
duffer duffer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Can Handle the Truth
Because the sooner we use it up, the sooner we'll be forced to develop alternative energy.

Tell me why I'm wrong.

Quote:
Originally Posted by duffer
Yup, use it up, then come up with the alternative. Sounds like a plan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Can Handle the Truth
Obviously, that's not what I meant.

Then what the hell did you mean? That's exactly what you said. Don't expect me to decipher your OP and then tell me the interpretation is worng with no further clarification.
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  #40  
Old 10-15-2005, 01:44 PM
Can Handle the Truth Can Handle the Truth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by duffer
Then what the hell did you mean? That's exactly what you said. Don't expect me to decipher your OP and then tell me the interpretation is worng with no further clarification.
I assume the readers have some amount of inteligence; obviously we will not wait until the oil is totally gone before starting to develope alternatives. As oil becomes more scarce and more expensive, alternatives will be developed due to a sense of urgency which is lacking at present.
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  #41  
Old 10-15-2005, 01:58 PM
T_SQUARE T_SQUARE is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Can Handle the Truth
I assume the readers have some amount of inteligence; obviously we will not wait until the oil is totally gone before starting to develope alternatives. As oil becomes more scarce and more expensive, alternatives will be developed due to a sense of urgency which is lacking at present.
So you seem to think that the lack of urgency is bad. Isn't the fact that there is a lack of urgency a sign that the doom and gloom crowd have it all wrong? This kind of reminds me of the The Onion where the fat rich guy really, really wishes he was hungry.
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  #42  
Old 10-17-2005, 12:00 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flight
I have never seen a number like 500 years of available nuclear fuel, so I believe you may be referring to the amount of time it would take to use up the known sources of are at our current usage levels. Even assuming that power requirements do not dramatically increase, if as you suspect, we will become more reliant on nuclear that means usage rates go up and how long until we run out of fuel goes down.
Nah. We have enough conventional Uranium to last us about 10, 000 years at our current usage rates. If we had to switch to a purely nuclear energy base, with no fossil fuels, renewables etc. we have enough Uranium to last us about 400 years with conventional sources. And about 10, 000 years if we mine seawater. ( http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/....php?t=327833).

The 500 years figure is just a very conservative estimate to highlight how futile it is to worry about energy sources. 500 years is an infinite time period for all practical purposes.
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  #43  
Old 10-17-2005, 02:39 AM
Habanero Habanero is offline
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Actually, I'm under the impression an alternate form of fuel (alcohol) was invented for vehicles a long time ago. It's more potent and burns clean. The gas companies bought it, locked it up, and threw away the key.

We shouldn't even be using oil anymore, that's so early 1900's. We're more advanced than that. But companies who profit from it are going to milk it (and our plantet) until it's dry.

You know what? The longer I'm in school the more I'm realizing how much bullshit flies around this country. The FDA, the president, funding for genetic research (where it goes, more specifically), corporations like Wal-Mart, etc. Makes me feel all warm and hateful inside.
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  #44  
Old 10-17-2005, 02:42 AM
Habanero Habanero is offline
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Oh yes, one more note on the fuel thing.

There's an abundance of Methane Hydrate frozen in blobs on the sea floor all over the earth. These blobs have been around since prehistoric times, and are thought to have been the ending of one period of life (can't remember which period it was, will look it up if anyone cares) when most of them exploded and replaced most of the earth's oxygen with carbon dioxide. Nearly everything probably suffocated to death. Cool, huh?

Now companies want to find a way to harness this explosive chemical and use it for fuel. Just what we need, more explosions. Hurray for humanity.
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  #45  
Old 10-17-2005, 10:04 AM
RandomLetters RandomLetters is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Habanero
Actually, I'm under the impression an alternate form of fuel (alcohol) was invented for vehicles a long time ago. It's more potent and burns clean. The gas companies bought it, locked it up, and threw away the key.
Huh? Right now many people can go down to the local gas station and buy E85 (which is 85% alcohol) to fuel their automobile, assuming it is designed for it.

Of course, you get less mileage, as ethanoll contains less energy per gallon than gasoline, and most of recent studies show that producing ethanol from corn, as done in the US, is not energy economic to do; ethanol in fuel only exist because of large government subsidies.
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  #46  
Old 10-17-2005, 11:33 AM
El_Kabong El_Kabong is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Habanero
There's an abundance of Methane Hydrate frozen in blobs on the sea floor all over the earth. These blobs have been around since prehistoric times, and are thought to have been the ending of one period of life (can't remember which period it was, will look it up if anyone cares) when most of them exploded and replaced most of the earth's oxygen with carbon dioxide. Nearly everything probably suffocated to death. Cool, huh?

Now companies want to find a way to harness this explosive chemical and use it for fuel. Just what we need, more explosions. Hurray for humanity.
Habanero, I do hope you'll stick around, but you should know that your information concerning methane hydrates is seriously garbled and incorrect in most details. I'm speaking here not as an expert specifically in hydrates or peleogeology, but I do have a broad general knowlege of geology and petroleum.

Firstly, the 'explosive chemical' you are referring to is nothing more than a frozen compound of methane and water. Methane (CH4) is the main constituent of natural gas, which, last I checked, is safely handled as a fuel all over the world with, granted, the occasional explosion when mishandled. The point is, once the methane is separated from the water, it is neither more nor less difficult to handle than any other natural gas resource.

Secondly, if you are referring to one possible cause put forward recently for a Jurassic extinction event, methane hydrates did not "explode"; what may have happened is that some of it effectively melted (due to increased ocean temperatures related to greenhouse gas effects). The methane released in this way did not ignite, but apparently did scavenge much of the oxygen from ocean waters, resulting in the loss of most sea life.

An interesting question might be whether current warming effects might trigger another such event, and of course the current practice of burning of methane as fuel has some effect on this warming trend, but it seems highly unlikely indeed that extraction of hydrates in a few locations through some kind of mining or drilling process would directly result in such a catastrophic global release of raw methane.

As for your other post:

Quote:
Actually, I'm under the impression an alternate form of fuel (alcohol) was invented for vehicles a long time ago. It's more potent and burns clean. The gas companies bought it, locked it up, and threw away the key.
Yup, we've got it locked away in the same drawer as the plans for the 80 MPG carburetor. We'll release it when we're good and ready.
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  #47  
Old 10-17-2005, 12:02 PM
XT XT is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Habanero
Actually, I'm under the impression an alternate form of fuel (alcohol) was invented for vehicles a long time ago. It's more potent and burns clean. The gas companies bought it, locked it up, and threw away the key.
Have 'the gas companies' also bought the rights in all the other countries of the world, preventing them from using alcohol as an alternative? Those are some damn powerful companies that can prevent nations like China (an myriad other nations that could profit a hell of a lot if they didn't need to import oil) from switching over then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Habanero
You know what? The longer I'm in school the more I'm realizing how much bullshit flies around this country. The FDA, the president, funding for genetic research (where it goes, more specifically), corporations like Wal-Mart, etc. Makes me feel all warm and hateful inside.
This is because you are obviously young and THINK you know what you are talking about. When you get older you'll figure out how much you don't know.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Habanero
We shouldn't even be using oil anymore, that's so early 1900's. We're more advanced than that. But companies who profit from it are going to milk it (and our plantet) until it's dry.
Sounds like a great business opportuntity for you then. Go into business and cut the big oils throat by bringing a better, cleaner and cheaper product to market! Of course, when you actually try you will rapidly find out why oil ISN'T 'so early 1900's' and why its still in predominant use....and that really it has to do more with economics than with big oil out to milk us dry. But, at least you will have learned something.

-XT

p.s. 'profit' isn't a bad word.
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  #48  
Old 10-17-2005, 09:13 PM
Mr. Miskatonic Mr. Miskatonic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Habanero
Actually, I'm under the impression an alternate form of fuel (alcohol) was invented for vehicles a long time ago. It's more potent and burns clean. The gas companies bought it, locked it up, and threw away the key.
The fact is this: we cannot grow enough grain to produce the alcholol needed to run our cars. It is, at best a supplement.

Quote:
We shouldn't even be using oil anymore, that's so early 1900's. We're more advanced than that. But companies who profit from it are going to milk it (and our plantet) until it's dry.
No, we use it because it is the cheapest stuff available. Alchohol fuels are subsidized, and an effective, storable alternative has yet to be developed.

Quote:
You know what? The longer I'm in school the more I'm realizing how much bullshit flies around this country. The FDA, the president, funding for genetic research (where it goes, more specifically), corporations like Wal-Mart, etc. Makes me feel all warm and hateful inside.
My, such generic anti-corporate hatefullness! Its like an assembly line product, at the end you get a Che t-shirt.
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  #49  
Old 10-17-2005, 09:16 PM
Mr. Miskatonic Mr. Miskatonic is offline
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Originally Posted by El_Kabong
[Yup, we've got it locked away in the same drawer as the plans for the 80 MPG carburetor. We'll release it when we're good and ready.
No you won't, you know darn well the Ark of the Covenant fell on it and crushed it last year.
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  #50  
Old 10-18-2005, 02:50 AM
Mac Guffin Mac Guffin is offline
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Yes, lets use up all the oil, and find an alternative.

One problem with that.

Look around the room you are in. Imagine that everything made from plastics is gone. What is left?

Oil is good for more than just fuel.
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