Lots of Cheap Energy In Sight?

A companion post:
$50/Barrell Oil

Haven’t you hear of Wind Farms with 3MW Generators? (BIG Wind Mills!).
Ocean currents water mills?
Ocean wave gemerators?
Ocean Thermal Engergy Conversion? (OTEC)
Photo Voltaic Arrays for your house top?
Prefabed insulated concrete walls for you new house?
Etc, etc.

Nice thought. unfortunately, they are all together dwarfed by hydro, petrochemical, and nuclear power. And the former is easily tapped out in the developed world and the latter currently faces untenable barriers because of very shortsighted environmentalists.

Cite to evidence the barriers to nuclear power are these rather than economic barriers, at least partly due to the subsidization and effective subsidization of fossil fuels? (Hint: Nuclear power is apparently not cheaper in countries like France and Japan that use it more than we do; it is just that fossil fuels are more expensive there.)

There are also real issues with nuclear power, in regards to waste, safety, nuclear proliferation, and terrorism. These aren’t necessarily insurmountable but they are unlikely to be surmounted unless they are dealt with honestly.

Yes, but the greens are also misguidedly trying to stop wind farms from being built, on the grounds that it spoils the landscape.

Yeah? Not half as much as being underwater would spoil the landscape.

Personally I find wind turbines quite beautiful, especially in the knowledge that they are generating clean power.

Wind is nice and all that and can certainly be part of a coutnries energy generating protfolio. But iconsidering the low load factors for Wind and the inability to dispatch it when needed, menas it will never amount to much of the generation. Dispatchable energy sources, such as gas, coal and hydro will always rule the day.

Colophon: Yes, but the greens are also misguidedly trying to stop wind farms from being built, on the grounds that it spoils the landscape.

Some environmentalists are making such objections, it’s true (and so are many property owners and developers with not-so-environmental motives). However, I think it’s fair to say that a solid majority of people who describe themselves as “environmentalists” support renewable energy development, including wind farms.

Just not in their backyard. Nantucket Sound is densely populated with people who profess to be environmentalists, and they are opposing offshore wind farms because they spoil the skyline.

Those are great and all but there are a limited number of places where the direction and speed of the prevailing wind currents is consistant enough to make wind turbines worthwhile. That is not to say that we shouldn’t use them.

This just in. Cheap, clean, abundant energy for everyone in seven years.


I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

SS: Just not in their backyard. Nantucket Sound is densely populated with people who profess to be environmentalists, and they are opposing offshore wind farms because they spoil the skyline.

Are you claiming that most environmentalists don’t support wind farm projects that happen to be in their backyards? Because the poll numbers on wind energy in general and on the Cape Wind project (for an offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound*) don’t seem to bear that out:

*Nantucket Sound itself is not in fact “densely populated with people who profess to be environmentalists”, although many anti-environmentalists probably wish it were. :stuck_out_tongue: The dry land where the self-described environmentalists and other residents of the area actually live is generally called “Cape Cod and the islands” (Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket).

Cheap energy will always be a chimera, given the human’s infinitite capacity for power and greed.
More power to preaching I say!

More Aussies with novel energy ideas :-
The Solar Tower
Which it looks like they’re actually going to build, which since it is basically a 1Km tall chimney, scores highly on the “Gee Wizz” scale

(Interestingly, none of the simulations on the site show the plume of water-vapour that the thing will generate, I’m guessing that would make it look too “industrial”)

As one who thinks that the recent Iraq war had at least a teensy bit to do with securing Mideast oil supplies, I wonder what sort of impact that $129 billion+ we spent might have had on the development and exploitation of renewable energy sources.

Especially considering our entire federal investment in renewable energy for next year will only be around $375 million.


But you can’t use any of those things to power a car or an airplane. Not directly. You might use some of them to extract hydrogen from water, but the prospects for a “hydrogen economy” are iffy, to say the least. From the Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_car):

Actually, there was an article in Science a couple of weeks ago (which you probably need a subscription to access) entitled “Hybrid Cars Now, Fuel Cell Cars Later” which argued that the best estimate of the efficiency difference between a hybrid internal combustion engine vehicle and a fuel cell vehicle using reformed fossil fuels is so small that it really is better to focus on hybrids in the near-term, with the probability that we won’t be able to get a significant improvement over hybrid technology with fuel cells until we go beyond ones that reform fossil fuels to ones that use hydrogen that is generated in some presumably renewable manner:

Fuel cells powered by hydrogen alone pose a number of significant obstacles. One we hear about rarely is the simple but very serious problem of getting and keeping the hydrogen in the tank. It is estimated that about 60-120 million metric tonnes more of molecular hydrogen would be released into the atmosphere every year if we all switched to an effective hydrogen economy. This hydrogen easily rises to the stratosphere, and by changing the temperature and chemistry of that part of the atomosphere, could seriously impact the ozone layer.

Nothing’s ever free, it seems.

Cite: http://www.h2cars.biz/artman/publish/article_180.shtml

I know you think this. if it was oil we wanted, we could have easily just bought it. Iraq was basically for sale at a very small political cost to Bush.

In any event, considering renewable energy sources are essentially pipe dreams (in terms of making cost-effective facilities usable anywhere like oil or coal) 375$ is a heck of a lot of dough.

It’s pretty small on the scale of subsidization for fossil fuels and for nuclear energy, which with their considerable externalized costs (esp. in the case of fossil fuels) have much less strong cases for why they ought to be subsidized.

And, I don’t think they are exactly “pipe dreams”. Wind is pretty close to economically competitive today even when you don’t consider externalized costs. (Solar is still cost-competitive only in certain niche markets.)

A sustainable fusion reaction is the only energy transition that I have heard of which would not require massive changes in the lifestyles of the industrialized world.

Twenty years ago, we were twenty years away from a fusion based power plant. Today we are twenty years away. I am guessing that twenty years from now we will still be twenty years away.

That’s because the oil has been about to run out in 10 years for as long as I can remember. The deadline hasn’t got any closer, so small teams of specialized scientists keep chugging along with their research, without anyone bothering them much.

When the oil does start to run out for real, and when it starts to hurt (and there’s lots of debate about when this will actually be) I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Manhattan Project or Apollo Program style effort - bringing in experts from many disciplines to crack the problems, things would move orders of magnitude more quickly.