Log In

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips Forums!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!
  • Students Click Here

*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.

Students Click Here


***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Hello, so I know everyone here has at least an opinion on this subject.  I would like to see what the industry experienced members think of alternative energy and the forecast for the near future.

Within the next 5, 10, and 15 years, what do you think will become dominant in North America, Europe, and Australia?

One of the main issues plaguing alternative energy is the method of energy storage.  What do you think will become dominant?  New types of chemical batteries, flywheel storage, compressed air, water pumping, etc.

How about less known about methods, like plasma gasification and MSW energy?

Will micorgeneration become a major player, with the addition of hybrid and electric vehicles putting massive amounts of stress on the already stressed grid?

Any thoughts?


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

deltawhy, there have been a number of related threads over the last few years, you may want to take a look.

Be warned though, these types of threads often devolve into a debate over 'global climate change' and if people really are to blame.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Hi Kenat, yes I have seen a couple older threads on this subject and yes as you said, they do not yield the information I am looking for and readily go on useless tangents.  I intended this thread as a future analysis only thread.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Good luck with that.  I just spent 20 minutes typing a detailed discussion of the current state, then I refreshed and saw your future analysis and deleted it.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Oh, David that's unfortunate!  Keep in mind you cannot know the future state without knowing the current state... your help would be much appreciated.   

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Obviously, the most economical will dominate.  I am afraid we will still be driving gas guzzling cars, go back to "regular" light bulbs and wasting water as always.

Just my thoughts.  Saw this happen in the '70's, 80's, etc.  Everything changes - yet nothing really changes.....

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Look at the cost without the goverments additions, and most renewables don't make the cut.
Also look at the numbers for consumed power, and what area of collection is required make up even 10% of the consumed energy.

Besides the hype I just don't see to much impact without a storage technology. And fossel fuels are a type of storage, but just not fast enough.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I look at the amount of shale gas in the world (a staggering number if the IDIOT politicians can stop listening to the anti-human environmentalists and let us drill it).  I look at the amount of sea-floor hydrates (an even bigger number).  Then I look at the amount of gas that is being retrieved from fairly inefficient land-fill gas (big number) and see that the world never runs out of methane.

Any country with a rational energy policy (i.e., no country) would be doing the world a service by providing economic incentives to develop the infrastructure for meaningful gas-to-liquids development and large scale (effecient) waste-to-methane development.  Those two activities are sustainable, pretty green (no VOC or HAP anyway), and renewable.  Oh yeah, they are not sexy like ethanol (which takes more imported energy than it produces, and which is increasing the cost of all farm products), solar farms (which cast a huge shadow on the scorched earth under them and have some serious hazardous-waste issues), wind farms (which are so intermittent that the power-generation capability has to be duplicated with conventional plants), electric cars (which use about 3-4 times more energy than an IC engine to move the same payload and would put an unsustainable load on the power grid), or hydrogen cars (which represent an impossibly complex transportation and storage problem).  

The politicians will continue to pour our money into the dead-end technologies because that gives them the appearance of being green while allowing them to facilitate sending $500 million/day in petrodollars to countries that don't like us but that contribute heavily to political campaigns.  The short term projects with a chance of success would reduce imports and political contributions.  The world's politicians are collectively and individually scum-sucking slime.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Canadians will finally realize that the oil sands are their greatest asset and will demand that production be increased from the current 1 million barrels per day to around 10 million barrels per day ASAP.

HAZOP at www.curryhydrocarbons.ca

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

There is no free lunch.  I think pumped storage is underutilized, but it entails flooding some land, with the loss of any CO2 absorbing vegetation or any other use.  Energy storage allows us to run more existing facilities near their design load and then cover peak usage times; no need to build additional plants that run 1/2 the time.  Might even moderate the sporadic output of the windfarms.  Big point, made by others, is to get the governments out of the business and let the experts devise the best systems in a free market environment.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Except, in other de - or at least less - regulated areas the 'experts' often get overridden by the MBA's etc. who are mainly interested in goosing their short term numbers to maximize their stock options etc. not in the long term good of the company, let alone country (or dare I say it planet - if you believe in AGW etc. anyway).  

Given than energy policy is at least a medium, if not long term, issue, perhaps some government involvement is appropriate.  That doesn't mean I fully agree with everything ours is currently doing though.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

zdas04, I agree. However many in goverments see green power as a form of jobs program.

The problem is mechnication and the minumim wage has reduced the number of workers needed to a point that we would have millions of unemployed people if we did not have these make work programs.

The issue is unskilled, uneducated people really are not worth much. The minimum wage makes them unusable except where machines can't easly be used.

Don't get me wrong, most of these people do have skills, but at the present time they are not needed. So they belong to the unskilled catigory.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I really think any new, sensible, and viable ideas will be well-killed long before they have a chance to propagate into the mainstream.  I have every confidence that big oil and the absolute, asinine stupidity of governments will see to that.

Not to mention special interest lobbies.  The ag lobby in the US put their muscle into the ethanol boondoggle, and we have little hope of that dying out anytime soon.  As another poster already mentioned, it's a net loss.

Just my 2 cents.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Governments (or any other corporate entity) never create anything.  At all.  People do that.  Individuals with ideas, abilities, warts, and hemorrhoids create things.  The very best a government can do is to create an environment that minimizes the barriers that prevent creative individuals from succeeding.

In the case of energy policy, many governments around the world have realized that no economy can survive importing petroleum (and exporting petrodollars) to the tune of several percentage points of the GDP.  These governments have put very high usage taxes on petrol.  People complain bitterly about paying 4-6 times more per unit volume in much of Europe compared to US prices, but they do their complaining in smaller vehicles, vehicles with fuel-effecient technologies, on public transportation, and on bicycles.

The US sorry excuse for an energy policy revolves around the Department of Energy which was created in the Carter Administration with the clear goal of "eliminating all imports of oil to the US by 1980".  30 years later imports are approaching 3/4 of total domestic consumption.  The DOE is so inept that they don't even have responsibility for Oil & Gas royalty payments to the federal government.  

The lack of a policy has created urban sprawl without mass transit.  Rush "hour" in the LA basin or in Houston is approaching a 24 hour/day activity and nearly every vehicle on the road has a single occupant.  Government policy has caused that.  If Carter had imposed a $0.50/gallon tax on gasoline usage with a progressive annual increase, it would have hurt, but walk-to-shopping neighborhoods would have developed, safe and effecient mass transit would be normal, and families like mine (two people at home) would not have three 6,000 lb vehicles.

That didn't happen and we are sending our future to Venezuela, Canada, and Trinidad.  What can government do point forwarded?  End subsidies for "alternate fuels".  Provide meaningful tax incentives for any kind of research and development (we need to re-create private R&D departments that were outsourced to public universities in the '90's and haven't produced much since).  Create an environment where light rail projects that go from homes to business centers (not from the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere like was built in New Mexico) are viable.  Mostly governments just need to get the hell out of the way.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

i guess a key question for the future is are we going to continue with a distributed hydro-carbon energy source (as today) or is it more efficient to have centralised power generation and electrical distribution (what you might describe as an electricity-based economy).  ie electric cars ?

will there be a shift towards distributed power generation ? ie many small generators, one per village, or few large power stations, with the attendant costly distribution system ?

heating (in northern hemisphere winter) is probably best with NG (rather than electrical resistance heating) but then how significant is this energy burn (pun intended)?

solar power satellites ?


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

With the cost of photovoltaic $/W decreasing, I can see microgeneration blowing up.  If hybrid / electric vehicles become more and more prominent, it will incapacitate the currently stressed electric grid (unless sanctions are put into place such as night time only charging).  The general population is very naive regarding how their energy is made and transported, as well as the implications of each type.  People like hearing that they can charge their electric vehicles using power that they themselves generated, leaving a zero "carbon footprint".  Even though producing the PV cells and battery storage units are far more environmentally detrimental than using your old IC vehicle.  Not to mention the disposal of your currently working IC vehicle.

It is apparent that it's unrealistic to try and change areas of the government energy policies.  The people making the decisions have absolutely no idea what the best plan of action is, and even if they did, current economic factors will always take precedence.

The smart move would be to capitalize on whatever stupid decisions the government makes regarding the energy policy.  The important thing for a single engineer is not what the government should do, but what the government will do.     

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Quote (cranky108):

The issue is unskilled, uneducated people really are not worth much. The minimum wage makes them unusable except where machines can't easly be used.

Don't get me wrong, most of these people do have skills, but at the present time they are not needed. So they belong to the unskilled catigory.

I know of plumbers that make a lot more than I ever did and plumbing doesn't take much skill.  I've done a lot of it over the years.  If I can do it, just about anyone can do it.  winky smile

I know of car wash owners that are raking in a lot more money than I've ever made.  They got the capital and had them put in but the payback was pretty good.  His dad was worried he would starve to death because he was the least bright of his sons.  He's outearned his sibs with his car washes.

I think we'll be carbon based for decades to come.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Want to know what we COULD do, economics aside?  And want to know how much we use, by category, in comparison?  A great place to start, obviously:


"Even though producing the PV cells and battery storage units are far more environmentally detrimental than using your old IC vehicle."  I think that statement can be shown to be conclusively untrue.  In fact, the last time I looked at it, from an emissions perspective, the all-electric commuter vehicle was superior to an IC engine vehicle even if the source energy fuel was 100% coal- if CO2 is considered.  

The claim that PV panels make less energy over their lives than they contain in embodied energy of manufacture has been pretty thoroughly de-bunked.  It was claims like this that annoyed the author of Alternative Energy Without the Hot Air" enough to do the analysis and write the book.  Frankly, until we have energy pricing which includes the cost of carbon emissions and gets rid of the market-distorting subsidies for "green energy", we'll have to deal with claims like this constantly.

What will we be doing for energy 10-20-30 yrs from now?  Just look at what we're doing now- except more of all of it.  

I don't think governments will get their collective sh*t together to deal with carbon emissions to the atmosphere in a meaningful way.  People will pay whatever it costs to adapt to climate change, and will continue to pay an ever-increasing cost for fossil fuels as they become scarcer.  All the costs of these fuels- including the military and environmental costs that are right now not at all factored into the price most of us pay for them.  The increase in terms of even the partial cost of fossil fuels will gradually, slowly, change people's consumption behavior, favouring energy efficiency.

By the way, just because of rising fuels prices, I do see a big potential future for electric vehicles- especially when the Indians and Chinese start mass-producing them.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

"The smart move would be to capitalize on whatever stupid decisions the government makes regarding the energy policy"

Which neatly summarizes my current top priority project.  "Make an XYZ accessory to help research on solar cells so we can rake in lots of grant money over the next couple of years before governments restrict the funding stream" or something like that.

Maybe that's a bit harsh, there are some fairly good applications for solar.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Correct we should reduce imports of oil. We should drill here, and drill now.

So what is the real beef agenst carbon? An increase of CO2 increases plant growth. And as the numbers show, one volcano spits out more carbon the us humans do in a year.

What I have an issue with is you want big goverment to command us on how to live our lives. This is just wrong.

If alternative energy is to be, it should compete on a fair basis with oil, coal, natural gas, nucular, etc. No special taxes to shift away from carbon, unless you are willing to pay a tax for breathing, and for each of your children.

Granted, reducing smog is a good thing, but the solutions need to be economic solutions, not goverment solutions.

Besides who will be paying the tax on soft drinks? The consumer, or the bottler?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

And it has come to pass:


KENAT (Mechanical) 13 Sep 11 11:07  
... Be warned though, these types of threads often devolve into a debate over 'global climate change' and if people really are to blame.  

I just read a couple of chapters of Without Hot Air and it is "unbiased" in the same manner that FoxNews is "Fair and Balanced".  What I read was full of unsupported assumptions, opinions presented as facts, and "data" without numbers.  For example:

Quote (Ch 6 pg 41):

Manufacturing a solar panel consumes more energy than it will ever de-liver.
False. The energy yield ratio (the ratio of energy delivered by a system over its lifetime, to the energy required to make it) of a roof-mounted, grid-connected solar system in Central Northern Europe is 4, for a system with a lifetime of 20 years (Richards and Watt, 2007); and more than 7 in a sunnier spot such as Australia. (An energy yield ratio bigger than one
means that a system is A Good Thing, energy-wise.) Wind turbines with a lifetime of 20 years have an energy yield ratio of 80.
Notice that he just says "energy ratio of ... 4" (the reference is pretty misleading too, it is to something that says solar panels last 20 years not that they have a positive energy ratio).  

What went into that "energy ratio" number?  Did they include the energy used to mine the ore?  The energy used to transport the ore to the foundry?  The energy used to transport the overburden away from the mine?  The energy used in the Foundry?  The energy used in trucking the raw materials to the factory?  The energy used to create the box that the finished product is shipped in?  How about the energy used by the factory workers to commute to work?  Or, like most of these analysis, did they take the electric bill from the factory producing the panels and divide it by the number of square meters of panels produced during the month?  

I work in an industry that uses a LOT of solar panels (yes, Oil & Gas is a very large consumer of Photovoltaic panels, we use them on remote sites to power automation and communications equipment, BP is the world's largest producer of photovoltaic panels) and it is a rare panel that survives 4 years without a fault.  They tend to get covered with snow and a portion of the melt eventually defeats the seals and shorts out the panel.  Or they get covered in bird droppings and the chemicals degrade the surface.  If the life is 4 years instead of 20, then the energy yield ratio becomes 0.8 instead of 4, even when you understate the actual energy that went into the creation of the panel.  When I've done solar vs. connecting to the grid full-life economics the break-even number was around 80 W of panels gave me the same economics as building a mile of single-phase power line (assuming annual replacement of batteries and replacing solar panels every 4 years).

To be fair, I only read a few pages and I could easily have missed competent, fair, and even-handed data included in the parts I didn't read, but I didn't see any in the parts I did read.



RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Yes I am a consumer. I don't hord my money. And while I do grow some of my own food, I don't grow enough for my family.
That's why I work.

I do agree solar panels are cheeper than, say primary cell batteries (and smaller and lighter). They are also cheeper than long distribution lines. So they do have a place.

As well as wind energy, provided you have the ability to store that energy for a sunny day.

The primary purpose of the electrical network was to transport energy from large more efficent power plants to the consumers. So each block would not need an Edison battery plant. It was known there would be losses in the network, but those would be small compaired to the efficency gains of the larger power plants.

Granted things have changed. For a time electric utilities were prevented from building power plants that used natural gas. So they built coal fired plants.

There was an EPRI book on an idea of whole tree burning, but seeing how that took off, where will your idea be in a few years?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Articles like that are why I cancelled my subscription to Scientific American.  I patently reject the concept that CO2 is a pollutant.  The article takes that concept as a given.  


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Pulling a quote out of the Scientific American article...

"I think 30 percent of the energy consumption in the [manufacturing] facilities is easily met from the land they have available [on] the roof and in the parking lot,"

Most factories I have been in and around in the UK have roofs shaped like a buttress thread (I understand screws better than architechture). The vertical parts are windows letting light into the factory and face the sun all day, the rest is in shade most of the day (except summer when the sun is really high). We can't put panels on our roof and I would love to hear the justification for replacing all our parking spaces with PV panels.

Designer of machine tools - user of modified screws

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

The "shading" issue is one that is rarely considered with PV panels.  If you can get 1W/m^2 then to run an (evil) incandessant lightbulb you need 100 m^2.  Oh yeah, the sun is only up 8 hours/day in the UK winters.  Oh yeah, it is cloudy about half the time in UK winters.  So to run that 100 W lighbulb year round, 'round the clock you need to provide 600 m^2 of PV surface.  That is a shade source 25 m on a side.  A significant portion of the ground in the shade will never see sun and nothing will grow.  That is to run one light bulb.

I did these calculations for a 5 hp pump motor and got a panel array that was 150 m on a side (and a LOT of batteries that also took up space) and I was over 6 acres of shade and nearly 9 acres that couldn't ever get enough light to grow weeds reliably.

Like I said above, I use PV cells.  They are often the best tool for a particular job.  Just like I try to avoid using a claw hammer as a screw driver, I don't want to use an excellent point-source power supply for jobs that should be sourced from a generator.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***


Ninja182 (Mechanical)    
15 Sep 11 11:08
Pulling a quote out of the Scientific American article...

"I think 30 percent of the energy consumption in the [manufacturing] facilities is easily met from the land they have available [on] the roof and in the parking lot,"

I don't think they've done much manufacturing.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

"1W/m^2", correct me if I'm wrong, does this sound extremely low?  1 watt per square meter of PV cells?  Am I reading this right?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Bah! Shading cars. Real men get in and swear at how hot it is then burn their hands on the steering wheel.

Women open the door and let it cool down first.

Designer of machine tools - user of modified screws

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

"The smart move would be to capitalize on whatever stupid decisions the government makes regarding the energy policy"

KENAT:  that will not attract the smart money.  Smart money stays away from anything that only makes economic sense when propped up by fickle, unsustaintable government subsidy.  The smart money will only invest when there's a business model based on cost versus price.  Until then, the only people you'll get in there are dreamers and dabblers.

David:  you read the first few chapters of "Without Hot Air" and were turned off by the fact that he makes what I consider to be a reasoned, documented and compelling scientific case for being concerned about CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.  

Whenever I recommend that book to someone like you, who is fundamentally skeptical about that subject, I suggest they skip those chapters- or else they'll miss his real point, which is simply this:  don't propose any kind of solution unless it adds up- which you can determine on the basis of some pretty simple and difficult to dispute, half-order of magnitude scoping calculations.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I read the first chapter and did not find it at all compelling so I jumped back to the write ups on individual technologies and found them worse.

I am quite skeptical on the subject.  It bothers me no end that there is not a single unadulterated set of data in the world on the subject.  Not one.  These "scientists" modify raw data in place, destroying the original unmodified data.  My training and experience says that people only do that when they are hiding something.  Then I look at the models that they are using (see my May 27, 2010 Blog for a discussion of this) and see that the smallest grid size yet accomplished is roughly the size of the state of Colorado--to call that homogenous is ludicrous.  I have no doubt that the climate is changing--it always has and it always will.  My doubt is that anyone is close to proving cause and effect.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Man, I am in David's camp.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

My two cents.  Ultimately, solar cells are rocks that make power.  Electrical solutions always win in the end.  Hydrogen gas will also play a role [easilly transported using pipelines].

But for a long time into the future, oil gas and coal.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Sreid, I always heard that the definition of "easy" is "someone else has to do it".  I've been paid by a couple of clients to assess the difficulties of transporting and storing hydrogen.  The issues are hugely difficult to overcome.  Hydrogen will migrate through seals that are perfectly tight for methane let alone for petrol.  Then a small accumulation has a wider explosive range than methane and when (not if) the leakage finds an ignition source it gets really exciting really quickly.

Before you can transport or store it you have to generate it.  Steam stripping methane requires methane (which is not inexpensive), steam (which is very expensive to generate), and assorted piping and vessels.  If I can use the hydrogen as a unique chemical in a process it might make sense to generate it, if I'm just going to burn it I'd be way better off burning the methane itself and skipping the steam-generation step.  

Electrolysis is a non starter because it takes approximately the same amount of electrical energy as can be extracted in the most effecient combustion method developed today.  If you used hydrogen to run a DC generator to power electrolysis you would find that you get far less hydrogen out than you burned to get it. Fuel cells, Solar panels, and wind turbines are a bit less obvious, but the data I was reviewing said that none of these technologies ever pay pack the energy used to create them.

My assessment is that hydrogen fuel will never be more than an expensive toy and a publicity gimmick.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

zdas04 has it right. The only good thing about hydrogen leaks is that they disperse very quickly. Then once its out there I suppose it slowly oxidizes to water. Gives off quite a bit of heat in the process. Does not sound good unless we have a global cooling problem by then.

HAZOP at www.curryhydrocarbons.ca

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

deltawhy, sorry for posting this after all of the discussion, but here are some tidbits of information from Steven Koonin, Undersecretary for the US Dept of Energy (3.02Mb file).  It is basically a presentation summary of the DOE energy strategies, from a conference where I heard him presenting.  Some interesting bit of information regarding the direction our government is currently headed.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

David and I happen to agree about hydrogen.  If the source energy is fossil-derived, it makes no sense whatsoever to generate hydrogen unless there's a direct use for the molecule- as a vector to electricity it is a poor one for many reasons.  If the source energy is excess renewables, the storage problems of hydrogen make it a poor energy reservoir, with plenty of others of equivalent efficiency and far lower cost being competitive.  

As to the embodied energy or energy returned over energy invested for photovoltaics, we still disagree.  Again, I'd like to see the need for such studies to disappear, which will happen when we start taxing fossil fuel combustion emissions- at that point, price will tell all you need to know, and only truly feasible technologies will be invested in.  But until then, the studies are still necessary, and they still show photovoltaics return many times the energy they take to manufacture.

http://www.energybulletin.net/node/17219 (a particularly good review of the studies on the subject)

They have many other disadvantages (cost being chief amongst them), but a less than unity EROEI does not appear to be one of them when you compare credible studies.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Thanks for providing that, I've seen most of it in other presentations, but having it all in one place is useful.

If a study is done by industry (especially my industry of Oil & Gas) it is immediately rejected as propaganda.  If

Quote (from Editorial notes of Stephen Gale's article):

Sydney-based engineer and Network member Stephen Gale is Sustainable Development Projects Leader for HATCH – www.hatch.com.au.

His role is to develop tools and systems to integrate sustainability into HATCH projects, allowing the engineering teams to apply sustainability principles in their work. With a background in engineering design and project management, Stephen has spent the last five years developing and delivering sustainable solutions. Here he reports on a literature study carried out jointly with his colleague Colin Bankier.

Then it is "scholarly".  Looks to me like the authors have their own axe to grind.  That doesn't make them wrong.  It also doesn't make them right.

I haven't done my own study because it would be rejected out of hand.  I do know that if I define "life" of a PV cell as "able to replace the power used over a month using the sunlight available during the month", then I find that in 3-4 years panels are "dead".  That is why field automation systems record battery voltage every hour.  When the panel stops replenishing the battery voltage by the end daylight more days than not we replace it.  As an industry we replace a lot of panels every year.  If you take 25-30 years as a life expectancy then the energy balance is clearly favorable.  If you take 3-4 years then most of the researchers in the article would say it is a negative energy balance for most PV technologies.



RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

My take away from "Without the Hot Air" (and the class I read it for) a year or so after reading and forgetting the details is as follows.

At some level, most energy is (once was) solar energy, so in the long view humanity will either:

(a) transistion to solar energy sources (PV, heat engines),
(b) replicate solar energy (nuclear) or
(c) go extinct.

The only question is how long we have to choose and how we handle what happens environmentally in the mean time.  Every energy source has an environmental price.  

[As an aside, I also learned in the same class that anybody who talks about AGW but doesn't understand the atmospheric infrared window is talking from the wrong end of their anatomy.  For that reason, I've refrained from having an opinion on AGW until I reseach this topic further : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrared_window ]

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Ahhh. the ideas of old men who write books.

Howcome the writers of these books don't see the techalogical problems and develop solutions?

Or is that the difference between and engineer, and a scientist? One does things, the other only thinks about things.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

YoungTurk, go extinct?  I can't buy that.  Man predates the O&G industry.

Having worked in the glass industry, I can verify it takes a lot of capital and natural gas to make flat glass.  It is not an inexpensive venture.  Those campaigns run for 12-14 years once begun.  At the end of the life of a tank, they shut down and rebuild.  But, during the campaign, it is a 24x7x365 operation throughout those years, with huge natural gas burners to melt the silicate.

A local PV company is using flat glass from one of the plants I know very good.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Sorry KENAT, I misread your original post and took a swing at your quote of the OP's line that you re-quoted.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Yes, a bit hyperbolic, but look at it.  What do we do for energy 100, 1000, even 10000 years from now? Mankind extinct, probably not, but civilization will need a makeover when the gas pump runs dry and the tractors stop running.

To the OP, 5-15 years isn't a long enough time scale to expect major change. I expect more of the same, more of everything, with engineers doing our jobs and pushing efficiency values ever so slowly towards the technological limits.

If you haven't read the "Hot Air" book, I also recommend it for considerations on alternative energy and storage.  Zdas makes some fair points, but so does the book.

I've also been following a new blog "Do the Math" which recently covered several of the topics addressed here from a rough mathematical perspective.  

Energy Storage Posts:


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Instead of looking forward 100, 1000, or 10000 years look backwards.

10,000 years ago man's energy usage was burning wood and potential energy (i.e., chasing bison over cliffs).  People in most places couldn't imagine that rocks could burn.

1,000 years ago the vast majority of energy usage was burning wood, and while many people understood that peat and coal were potential energy sources, the use was very localized.  They couldn't imagine burning a liquid or a gas.

100 years ago burning wood and coal was starting to be seen as undesirable for local air quality in high-density populations, but they were absolutely the dominant energy sources on the planet.  Liquid and gas fuels were coming into their own, but the supply was very localized and the distribution was crude at best.  Electricity was confined to very small patches and people were heatedly debating the appropriate delivery conditions (voltage, AC vs. DC, and frequency).  Wind was used for very localized needs.  PV and nuclear were unheard of.

If we look forward 100 years what do we see?  Murk.  An asteroid may hit the earth before I hit "submit" and no one will ever read this and a hundred years from now mankind could easily be struggling to keep wood fires burning.  Or there could be a breakthrough that lets us synthesize lightning bugs into an unlimited power supply (see Robert Heinlein's The Roads Must Roll).  If there is no breakthrough in technology then we will still be burning coal for the majority of our electric power and using some sort of liquid carbon-based fuel for transportation.  The coal may not look like the coal that was discovered over 10,000 years ago, but it is too abundant to be ignored ("clean coal" is not nearly the oxymoron that the Greenies claim).

Looking back is useful in identifying how MUCH we didn't know yesterday about tomorrow.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

So when was the last time you have seen liquid fuels? Because if I remember correctly liquids don't burn. Maybe that is why oil is such a dirty fuel.

If I look back I see that as technology prgresses, our energy consumption inceases (same with water usage). And as population increases, and also energy increases. So either we need one of three things. Reduce technology (which I don't like), or reduce population (who chooses), or reduce the consumption of the devices we use (be smarter).
I would be concerned that if the third dosen't happen, one or both of the first two will.

But the people who want to push for solutions right now have an agenda, and are trying to force a false time line.

And the real irritating things is they quickly over look the easy solutions in favor of there agenda.

So it is my belief is we need to work smarter at energy consumption reduction. Not demand specific solutions now.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Thanks KNEAT, I was going to say "well, the stuff going into my gasoline tank this morning certainly looked liquid, might have been a solid but it sure gurgled like a liquid".  Your response was less snarky.

By "Oil" (I'm assuming Cranky means a fuel oil like Bunker C) is "dirty" because it is barely refined crude that still has most of the crap that mother nature dumps into the environment.  It still has some amount of sulfur, ash, and disolved solids--all materials that leave an ash when burned (Class "A" fire?).

Advances in energy consumption per unit over the last few decades have been astounding.  One of the graphs in the presentation that Fisch88 pointed us to shows the rate of decline in energy consumed per person to be very steep.  But at the end of the day you really can't save yourself into prosperity.  Improvements in effeciency are offset by increases in population and have resulted in an increase in the total energy demand.  


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I was just making a poke at the fact that liquids don't burn. They must be gasified in some way to burn.

However, if that gasification is incomplete, there would be some unburned fuel in the tail pipe.
And I do remember distilling kerosene in chemestry lab, and all the stuff left behind in the flask.

So the cadilic converter is there to burn this, I guess. Or is that the job of the AIR system (funny little air compressor for the exast).
So we put all this stuff on our cars, and were thinking they don't do enough.

So why do they say natural gas is a much cleaner fuel? Can't we clean up oil fuels to a better quality, and not need so much stuff on our cars?  

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

YoungTurk, I'm still in Zdas's camp.  Sorry!  But, I don't see more of alternatives.  I see alternatives as being a fad.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

In the UK, there are a lot of wind farms going up with plans for a number of floating wind farms in the channel and elsewhere. I dont know how much provision there has been for storage. Solar panels are pretty popular for microgeneration on houses e.t.c.

In Australia, I once heard a reliable source state that a 1km x 1km square of solar panels could produce enough energy for the whole country and that the only barrier was cost. Not sure how this would be stored though.

In the US the policy depends on the state and is all over the place with the best being those like california. I have seen hydraulic storage in operation in a few areas of the states and would think that this existing technology would be most easily adaptable to storage green energy.

In summary, I think it will definately need a mix of technologies as each is affected by incumbent conditions. Storage by hydraulic storage whenever this is possible with other methods introduced when this is not an option.

All 3 regions you mentioned are at the very least investigating the possibility of new nuclear power stations and I expect to see this as a source of base power. Even Australias traditionally strong anti nuclear policy is starting to soften and I expect that they will have a few power stations in few decades.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

csd, glad you chimed in.  At least this way I'm not the most optimistic one in the room!

Modern nuclear has fantastic potential, but I think Fukushima set the industry perception back decades, and it with it the future of the industry.

I'm surprised you think pumped hydro will play a large role as well.  If the following link got it right, 800 lb at 3 m  stores 3 W hr, or one AA battery.


I'm optimistic on solar, but a square kilometer is 1,000,000 square meters.  If I do the math right (second try this week), that would give an approximate practical upper limit of 200 MW peak (1,000,000 m2 * 20% efficiency * 1000 W / m2 peak insolation), or 50 MW average power (@ 250 W/m2 average insolation). 20% is an optimistic solar efficiency number for a large installation. Per wikipedia, Australia produces a total of 257 TWh of electricity per year.  50 MW average gives 0.44 TWh (50 MW * 24 hr * 365 days / 1,000,000 MW per TW).

To get 257 TWh, it would take nearly 600 km2, which feels about right based on this common graphic used for solar power:



RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Thanks for your interesting posts Zdas04. You wrote "By "Oil" (I'm assuming Cranky means a fuel oil like Bunker C) is "dirty" because it is barely refined crude that still has most of the crap that mother nature dumps into the environment."
I think Mother Nature gets away with too much. She sure made a mess mixing all that oil and/or tar with sand to make the oil sands, but we are doing our best to clean up her mess.

HAZOP at www.curryhydrocarbons.ca

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***


Thanks for the reality check, as I was going from memory I must have remembered it wrong regarding the solar panels.

As the cost of energy bills is skyrocketing I think that the market will eventually push for more economical solutions which can only really be nuclear in the long run.

Very good articles.

I thinks all articles on solar power miss one important option that would negate the option for storage, this is the option of a global electricity grid.

This may sound like science fiction but actually science fiction is way ahead of this, one writer has proposed the possibility of a sufficiently advance society surrounding their sun with with a ball of solar panels and living on the outside skin of this ball.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

You're thinking of a Dyson Sphere.  It is all over in sci-fi but the physicist gets the credit for the concept.


A global grid would require some immense transmission lines and the associated immense tranmission losses.  I'm thinking the associated costs would far outweigh storage costs.

Molten salts may be a feasible way to store thermal solar for night usage.  Solar thermal as a whole may prove more economically viable than photo-voltaic.  It certainly has a lower startup cost.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

So does a Dyson Sphere have anything to do with the Dyson ball vacuum cleaner?

(Before you make comments, it is intended to be a joke).

Gee, if you want free heat storage, build your home into the earth.

If you want a renewable fuel, make natural gas from plant or anamial waste. Or a mixed gas from baked wood (byproduct is charcoal).

Why is renewable so often made so complicated?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I think part of the problem in the US is over-use of electricity. Many of the practices there would just not be done elsewhere for example:

Leaving on lights where no one is.
Leaving heating at 70 degrees during the whole day even though no-one is home. It really just needs to be kept above freezing.
Having the airconditioner on late into the summer evenings even when the outside air temperature is a comfortable 70 degrees. Why not just open the windows and let the breeze in.

As for the houses, it constantly amazes me how houses in the southwest of the US do not have eaves, these are a proven way of reducing heating costs, and if taken to the extreme can make a house habitable in 110 plus temperatures even without air conditionaing. A good example of this is colonial style outback houses in australia which have a 10 foot or so verandah all the way around which puts the walls in shade and keeps the house relatively cool.

Unfortunately I did not get to see the earthships when I was in Taos NM a few weeks ago but it would be interesting to see the things they do there and living off the electricity grid.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I don't see how sinking my house is going to help me fire up the computer or watch a movie.

Sure you could gasify biomaterial and then run a turbine, but isn't that the most round about (and inefficient) method of getting electricity from sun?

Sun > photosynthesis > plant matter + heat > gas > electricity.  

Takes a lot of moving stuff around too (and drying, etc.), whereas

Sun > electricity or sun > heat > electricity

Seems the much better engineering solution.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Are you looking for efficiency, or cost?

I live without air conditioning, except for a single room unit. So I am not bound to 70 degrees in the Summer. In the Winter I do try to keep my house at least 70. If any of my family catches a cold I will spend more money on cold medicine, and doctor visits then I will save on energy.

My whole argument for wood gasification, or other stuff is that there are things in place to use Natural gas, and the infinsturcture is already there.

The infinstructure is not there for many of the ideas out there, and the total cost is much greater because of that.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Economical and energetically sensible maximum transport distance for biomass for electrical generation is about 100 miles- maybe a bit more by rail.  That's pretty limited.  

Gasifying biomass doesn't make sense unless your product is something higher value than electricity and char.  Burning it, especially co-burning it with coal, does make some sense- within the reasonable transport distance limit.

Lots of things work for an Earth with either 1/10th the number of people in total, or 1/10th the energy consumption per capita that we have in the developed world.  When the rest of the world develops to the extent we have, the energy consumption in total is absolutely mind-boggling- unless we all get very serious about wasting a great deal less of it.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Agreed that we do waste far to much energy. And I feel I do better than most about reducing that (I also look at reason and cost). But how do you change attitudes, without reducing freedom, or out right forcing people to waste less?

I took two seconds to look at riding the bus instead of driving. But haveing to walk a half mile to the bus stop, and another half from the bus stop to the office for less than a five mile drive just dosen't make since in terms of my time or my money.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Its all economics, just as it should be.  If fuel was $10/gallon and your car got 10 miles/gallon then you'd spend $10 to go back and forth to work--not worth 20 minutes of your time.  If parking were $25/day now we're up to $35/day to drive, might be worth the 20 minutes.  But fuel isn't $10/gallon, it is under $4/gallon.  Your vehicle doesn't get 10 mpg, it probably gets twice that.  Parking is free.  The cost of driving is 1/2 gallon or $2/day.

That is the real cost.  Environmental clean up and air-quality mitigation costs are included in the cost of fuel, so I don't think anyone should feel good about making dumb economic decisions because they are "green".  The balogna I threw away this morning was also green.

On the other hand, if you feel you would get an intangible benefit from the walk, then it might make sense.  Again a personal decision about allocation of resources--economics.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

you're lucky to have a 5 mile commute !

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

"Environmental clean up and air-quality mitigation costs are included in the cost of fuel..."

You're not even CLOSE on that one David.

 "I don't think anyone should feel good about making dumb economic decisions because they are "green"."

We agree completely on that one.  All we disagree about is whether or not to truly burden the source fuel with the FULl cost of its emissions and other "intangible" costs.  Do that properly via a tax and nobody will care how "green" something is- they'll only need to look at what it costs.  

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Thanks for taking your time to put in your two cents.  

From what I have gathered, I assume that most people agree that fossil fuel use is going absolutely nowhere but up as demand increases.  
Seems as though people think subsidies for alternatives (at least in the US) is diminishing.
As for conventional storage methods, seems to be the only economically feasible method is chemical battery and fossil fuels.  
As no new economically feasibly storage method has been utilized yet, alternatives will always require a near 100% backup (and thus utterly useless).

Seems reasonable to draw the conclusion that a drastic shift in energy production methods will not be happening anytime soon.
Technology to increase efficiency in current extraction, production, transmission, etc. coupled with a decrease in consumption is likely to be the only near future advances (although already occurring).


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I think you've lost control of this thread.

At least one of us is not even CLOSE.

I work in Oil & Gas.  I know the regulations that are in place under the Clean Air Act (in the U.S., other countries have roughly parallel regulations).  I know that if I set a compressor driven by a reciprocating engine then I have to apply RICE MACT (Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engine Maximum Achievable Control Technology) that results in total emissions from a 1,000 hp engine being fewer tonnes than you get from a lawnmower.  I know that the MACT for tanks, heaters, and dehydrators result in very low emissions for a VERY high cost to producers.  The release of regulated pollutants (VOC and HAP, not so-called Greenhouse Gases) is VERY low and the cost of that control technology is included in the fuel cost.

A non-trivial portion of the cost of my vehicles is emissions-control technology.  So between the cost of the regulations to control emissions during the production and refining process and the cost of end-use control technology, I stand by my statement that environmental costs are included.  What am I missing? Your bald-faced statement that I'm just wrong really didn't convey much information.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

zdas, how so?  Are you assuming most of the posts are not relevant to my original question?  I think most of the information here is quite useful, including all of your posts.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I'm glad you are getting what you need.  My comment was about the several of us that have dragged it into weeds.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

zdas04 - the only thing that you listed above that is not accounted for is greenhouse gases.  I too am curious about the "cost" of these gases.  Cost usually comes about from a problem (health, etc) and subsequent harm, that also has a cost.  The items that you lists: VOCs, HAP, NOx, particulates, all have a quantifiable impact and harm.  Unfortunately, for GHG, the science is still out (contrary to what some may think).  And even if there were a direct causal link, I still haven't seen a quantification that passes the smell test of the cost of the harm.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

i think the hidden cost referred to is "global warming", a newly "detected" consequence of burning fossil fuels and therefore not included in the pricing of products that use/consume fossil fuels.  as i understand it the EPA has defined CO2 as a pollutant, no?

in the immediate term the demand and the price of fossil fuels is going to increase.  this'll make alternatives more economically viable, as well as being "politically correct"

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Yep, I specifically did not include GHG because I can't make myself believe that cow farts and plant food (CH4 and CO2) are "pollutants".  I've spent a lot of time over the last few years trying to find untainted science that uses unadulterated data to develop a proof (computer models are NEVER proof of anything, at best they can point out areas for productive research, at worst they can be used to manipulate simple-minded people).  

I recently had cause to read a lengthy "scientific" paper on the impact of fugitive emissions of CH4 and CO2 from Oil & Gas.  It was very long on unsubstantiated facts and very short on verifiable information (the references all lead to broken links for example).  Then I read the "Peer Review".  For 20 pages the reviewers quibbled about the placement of commas and the existence of hanging modifiers WITH NO COMMENTS ON THE SCIENCE or the broken links.  I don't know if this dreck was normal "science" in this field, it is generally very difficult to find reviewer comments on AGW papers (which seems to only be true in climate sciences), but very easy to find "peer reviewed" papers.  If this one set of comments is typical in this field (and I don't know that it is, you can draw any line you want through a single point), then I become even more certain (if that is possible) that this whole AGW scam is simply a wealth redistribution plan on a monstrous scale.

No, the costs of "mitigating" GHG are not included in the cost of fuel, the the EPA pending Subpart W work will change that.  Expect industry profits to go down by $100-500 Billion/year or the cost of a gallon of gasoline to double, or some combination.  Many of the AGW folks will applaud the idea of industry profits going down that much, but the return on capital employed in this industry is 5-8% (Disney starts firing people when theirs drops below 20%) because virtually all of the profits go into projects that eat up many billions of dollars for decades before the first molecule of hydrocarbon goes to sales.  Without profits, there is no drilling.  Without drilling we'll see an increase in the rate that our national treasure bleeds to countries that don't like us.

Enough.  I've never convinced anyone that AGW was a scam.  I don't expect that I ever will.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***


I dont know as much about this as I would like though my opinion would be more in line with that of moltenmetal.

One thing I do know from experience is that a Ford Focus in the US is significantly below the equivalent model of ford focus in the UK as far as fuel efficiency. I have owned both.

The USA has pretty much the cheapest fuel in the world, even cheaper than some middle east countries. Either the US has undertaxed it or the rest of the world has overtaxed it, take your pick.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

The concept of "undertax" is a hard one for me to get my head around, but since taxation is the main tool of government policy I have to say that the U.S. is significantly undertaxed with regard to motor fuel.  In the 1970's when we were seeing motor fuel imports going from under 10% to over 30%, the Carter administration had a perfect opportunity to ratchet the taxes gradually upward (instead they created the Department of Energy which has just been a drain on the economy).  Many of the governments of Europe did start gradually increasing motor fuel taxes.  

The result, in the U.S. (which currently has cheep motor fuel, but by no means the least expensive, the last list I saw had us around number 30 of 90 countries listed) has been disastrous.  The result of increased taxes in Europe has been a tendency toward smaller cars, better public transit, less concentrated retail, more bicycles, and reasonably stable import levels for motor fuel.  The result of the U.S. lack of coherent energy policy is a tendency toward bigger cars, no public transit, more concentrated retail (that no one can walk to), fundamentally a non-existent rail-freight system, and imports of motor fuels in excess of 70% of demand.

The artificial price of fuel in Europe has done some really good things.  The market price in the U.S. has led us to some pretty dumb decisions.  But, the price of fuel in the U.S. does reflect the environmental mitigation that has been required.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

David is quite correct that there are some regulations that force people to do stuff and to spend some money to reduce the impact of their fossil fuel emissions.  But the harm done by the emissions that remain is paid for by others, and not in proportion to how much fossil fuel they use.

The atmospheric disposal "tipping charge" in the purchase price of the fuel itself is ZERO.  That's true whether or not you believe that CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion are harmful.

Atmospheric emissions are pretty much the only way you can dispose of a waste for free- legally anyway.

And the atmospheric emissions are not the only indirect cost that fossil fuels generate.  

Very few renewable technologies and even fewer efficiency/conservation technologies can compete on that playing field.  So instead you get market distortions in the form of subsidy, and idiotic governments betting on technology winners and losers.  That system is doomed to failure, taking both a lot of our money and a lot of private "sucker" money with it- all of it subsidizing consumption.

Burden the fuels themselves with the entirety of these external  costs- even a risk cost for the PROBABILITY of harm due to CO2 emissions- and all of a sudden all sorts of renewables- and more important, all sorts of conservation technologies- become economically sensible.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

csd, as to your point on the focus...

There are various factors at play, I believe the fuels are slightly different blends in US v UK.  Also, emissions standards for many pollutants are actually higher in the US (especially the CA rules) and so the cars are modified to meet them at the expense of simple 'mpg'.

I have to agree with Zdas on the oil tax issue.  I even read an article a while back that some in the auto industry were even pushing for higher tax as it would help mitigate the big price swings in fuel that drive people toward SUV purchases one season, and hybrid purchases the next and back & forth so creating a more stable market.  Or something like that.

In the US over the last 8 or so years the price of gas has increased by between 2-3 times - and gone up and down between them a bunch (Data point - when I was first out here in CA 2002-2003 gas was a little over $1.50 most of the time when I bought it, currently it's somewhere around $3.75 though it has been close to $5 at times and I've seen over in remote locations etc.).  While prices in the UK have gone up, I doubt the total increase is much more than 50% but I'm sure someone can correct me.  This is because the price of the oil is a much smaller percentage of the total price at the pump, so fluctuations in oil price have less impact.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Quote (moltenmetal):

But the harm done by the emissions that remain is paid for by others, and not in proportion to how much fossil fuel they use.
What harm?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Why, global warming of course.

"Good to know you got shoes to wear when you find the floor." - Robert Hunter

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

"fundamentally a non-existent rail-freight system"?????

I doubt this statment, and in fact the number of freight has increased over 100% in the last 30 years. Unless you are talking about the EU, which uses mostly ships and barges. But I believe you were talking about the US.

Just because the trains don't travel by your office dosen't make this true. They do travel by my office and I know there are much more in other locations.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

There are thousands of trains on the tracks at any given time in the U.S.  At the same time there are millions of over-the-road trucks on the interstates hauling goods for an something like an order of magnitude more expense per pound per mile compared to freight trains.  

With more expensive fuel in the last 10 years, some number of the trucks are short-hauling freight to a railhead and from a railhead to its destination, but not enough.  There are whole states that are either not served by rail or are barely served by rail.

Hauling freight from coast to coast is a really poor use of the Interstate system and a good use of the rail system.  My bombastic statement was a comment on the number of trucks that are on the interstates more than anything else.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

"What harm"?  Seriously?  We're not talking about the CO2 emissions only here:  there are plenty of OTHER emissions that cause PLENTY of harm, including loss of life.  

As to David's good point about rail versus trucks- we agree.  

Railroads directly pay the costs to maintain their own infrastructure.

Truck transport companies pay to share the public road infrastructure.  But those costs are subject to intense lobbying effort and hence are not nearly high enough in proportion to how much damage these trucks cause to the public infrastructure.

Both pay taxes on their fuel use- a smaller amount for rail than trucks due tot eh greater fuel efficiency- but obviously not enough differential to shift usage patterns much.

The fact that until recently, the City fo Toronto shipped garbage to a landfill in Michigan BY ROAD, indicates that the taxes on transport by road are nowhere nearly high enough.

This is yet another disparity that increased taxes on fuels would help to fix.  Unfortunately, with the rails ripped out during times when diesel was super-cheap, going back now is VERY difficult.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

To perhaps shift the conversation a bit, anyone want to offer opinions on the NATGAS Act?

My own take:

*If T Boone is for it, I'm against it.
*Not in favor of more market distorting subsidies.
*Against the idea of helping the well-off pay for their nat-gas cars and home fuel stations, to me this is the electric "car" tax credits again.
*In favor of the idea of less expensive transportation fuels.
*In favor of reducing imports of fuels from people that hate us.
*In favor of cleaner fuels.
*Range questions. Not sure the general public understands this at all well. One writer to my local paper was looking forward to CNG aircraft.
*At what point will road use taxes be applied to NG, and how?
*How, if at all, will the fuel tanks be regulated?

Any takers?


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I don't know much about natural gas legal stuff. So I won't.

What I do know is that the rail-truck break even point is about 250 miles.
I also know several companies will only transload for a minimum volume (probally has to do with making a profit). So if you live in an area with little volume of freight, you probally don't have rail service.

I don't believe it is just the cost of fuel that determines profit margen. It has to do with labor, insurance, cost of equipment that meets the EPA requirements, etc

I would like to see natural gas cars, but I don't like filling my car in my garuge with either gas or natural gas.  

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***


Fundamentally I think using Natural Gas (or variations) as a 'mobile' energy source for vehicles makes a lot more sense than using it for stationary grid electrical power generation where there are so many other options.

It has already been done since at least the second world war (well, that may have been 'town gas' but same concept) at various times in various places.

Why California didn't focus on this as a solution to the air cleanliness in LA rather than electrical cars or the 'hydrogen highway' I'll never fully grasp - I'm sure it's to do with the influence of the granola munching extreme greenies etc. but still.

It's fundamentally doable, there are no major technological hurdles as I understand it, just implementation.

I have no problem for some kind of subsidies/state spending to get it up and running so long as eventually it levels out/pays itself back etc.

The range issue only comes in on converting existing vehicles.  For vehicles designed for it from the start it's a virtual non issue.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

So what is the difference in a vehicle made for natural gas and converted vehicles?

Would it happen to be the weight? If so I'm not interested in an unsafe vehicle (Like le car).

So would there be a method of taxing natural gas for vehicles? Who would pay the road tax?


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Well, you'd design in the 'gas tank' instead of adding it as an after thought - typically in addition to the 'gasoline tank' often at the direct expense of luggage/trunk/boot space.  So the increased space used as a proportion of vehicle volume wouldn't be too bad.

Additionally, engines designed from the ground up to run on natural gas could be optimized to do so.

As to the taxation, there are lots of ways to do it.  

Maybe you just increase the tax on NG full stop, whether it's used for heating, cooking, tumble dryer or stationary electrical energy generation...

Maybe you change from taxing fuel as an approximation of how much use you make of the roads and apply a more direct charge - be it based on gps tracking of the vehicle or 'toll booths' that read the license plate or some variation (big brother anyone?)

Maybe you do it as part of the car tags/licensing system, potentially tracking the mileage of the car each time you renew and applying a 'tax per mile'.

I'm sure there are pro's and cons to all those methods, and probably plenty of other possible ways.

Change isn't always bad, and if we're going to look at change perhaps it needs to be more fundamental change not just tweaking the current system.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Quote (moltenmetal):

We're not talking about the CO2 emissions only here:  there are plenty of OTHER emissions that cause PLENTY of harm, including loss of life. 

Interesting statement.  Care to back that up?  David's already listed the costs that currently go into liquid fossil fuels to manage ACTUAL harms.  Most refineries spent $500+ million dollars ~10 years ago to reduce sulphur content, to manage harmful SOx, and pay for every barrel of refined product in operating costs.  And the costs of the efforts to contain fugitive emissions of carcinogenic compounds is not a trivial cost.

Your post discusses automobile and transport truck "costs", but there is no link to the fuel source.  All of those could be magical transports running on pixie dust, and you'd still have these issues.  There's nothing that you've written that is a direct causation (remember, correlation does not equal causation).  We indeed do have transport infrastructure issues, but it is not related to the motive fuel itself.

So, what harms are not captured and paid for already?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Trains died because trucks were easier and either cheaper or not too much more expensive in total.  The wrong price was set on the cost of trucsk to public infrastructure and lobbying has kept it there.  But now the tracks are gone, and with them, so have our alternatives.

We do not regulate the quantity of emissions to the atmosphere.  Rather, we regulate the intensity (concentration) of particular emissions- the quantity can and does increase with consumption, without limit.

We charge NOTHING for the emissions themselves- and we should, by means of a direct emissions tax on the fuels themselves.  Much more effective than a cap and trade system which can be scammed and defrauded.

Compare that to disposing of anything at a landfill or any discharge to a publicly owned water treatment works.  In either of those cases, there's something to be gained economically from eliminating the discharge.  Atmospheric discharge, once within the intensity limits of the regs, is FREE, even though as a society we pay for the costs of asthma and other respiratory diseases, premature deaths, mercury contamination of food fish etc. etc. etc.

And yes, I do consider fossil CO2 to be an emission worthy of concern, along with all the others.

Then there are the innumerable other intangible costs of fossil fuel exploration, production, refinement and distribution.  The massive military spending.  Dealing with repressive regimes.  The environmental consequences of spills.

Fossil carbon is too valuable, and too finite, to be wasting as a fuel in the profligate way we do today, especially in North America.  The only way to deter wasteful consumption is to increase price:  subsidizing consumption of "virtuous" alternatives is doomed to failure.  The market does increase price as scarcity or risk dictates- but not fast enough to fund the changes we need.  And when you factor CO2 into the mix, the whole thing becomes even more urgent.   

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Do you wish to explain the other reason they pulled up tracks? Simply there was a tax on each mile, and the potential profit for so many of those miles just wasen't there to pay for the tax, and maintenance. So it was a business decision to abandon so many of those miles (call your state if you don't agree with the rail roads decision).
Substidise roads and tax rails, what would anyone believe would happen.

If CO2 is a concern, ask how many carbon offsets have you purchased? Have you tried off the grid living? What is your part?

I happen to disagree with man caused GW, and therefore I don't believe I or anyone else needs to do vrey much to correct it. So how exactly to you believe you can fix the perceved problem without infrengeing on my liberties?

And don't mistake my disagreement on GW with my belief we should do more to be more efficent.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

moltenmetal - by your logic, then CO2 would be considered an emission worthy of charging for.  Since you, I, and every other not-plant organism generate CO2 as a waste product, your logic would dictate that they should also be charged for said emissions.  I recall that I did a calculation during the Canadian federal election this year (whilst engaging some political parties that promoted a carbon (sic) tax).  Based on the average human, each person should be charged about $250/year, based on a carbon (sic) price of $50/tonne.  You get that implemented first, and then we`ll talk about charging for other emissions.

Again, I don`t have a problem charging for something that has a real and quantifiable harm.  zdas04 listed, in detail, the harms that are already being mitigated and costs accounted for.  Tell me again, what harms are not being captured.

crank108 - when you talk about CAGW, please keep the word `believe` out of your words.  The science that demonstrates link between anthropogenic CO2 and temperature increase is lacking.  No need to believe it or not, the science and the math doesn`t demonstrate it.  Period.  Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that those that believe in CAGW are doing so out of a belief system that is more akin to religion or politics than science.  (To those that believe in CAGW, no direct ad hominem attack intended)

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

respectively, i disagree with that.  just because there is no proof (between CO2 and warming) doesn't mean there isn't any, that could be understood in the future.

i agree there is no proof currently, and so some people believe (in the absense of proof) that there is a connection.  equally i think some people believe there isn't a connection (since they equally can't proof there isn't).

and yes, i agree that global warming has reached (descended ?) to a religion, where prophets are reverred, believers praised, and non-believers (figuratively) burned at the stake.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

rb1957, until the null-hypothesis is reversed, no current proof means that there is no proof.  Any day, proof could come along and change that, but until such time, there is no proof.

The null-hypothesis being that the temperature rise being observed (observation error, etc aside) is natural and not connected to the increase in atmospheric CO2 content.  Until causation is made falsifiable (still waiting for this step, BTW), and falsification of the `anthropogenic CO2 causes the observed temperature increase alone` hypothesis is demonstrated, the null-hypothesis survives.  The catastrophic aspect (the one which demonstrates the harm of CO2) is an additional step, that again must survive the scientific rigor.

Any other conclusion is not based on scientific logic. (IMHO)

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

TGS4 I don't have to have proof to believe something. That's the basis of several religons isen't it?

Real proof would be a much greater influence, true. But with out it we either have a belief one way or another, even if we don't admit it.

I do agree we should have the $250 per person fee enacted, so all these protesters can be arrested for tax evasion.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

cranky108 - I agree.  That`s really the difference between science and religion.  Proof without belief vs. belief without proof.  I don`t have a problem with either, just so long as people appreciate which side of the ledger their opinions are based one.

Oh, and that $250/head fee is an annual amount, too.  And, people who exercise and metabolize more, would generate more emissions, and so should be taxed more.  Kinda the antithesis of the tax-the-fat movement...  I wonder what the `carbon footprint` of a cyclist commuter is...

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

do you include the cyclist's "emissions" ?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Absolutely.  They probably generate more Co2 in an hour of commuting than I do all day...

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

KENAT, I haven't studied up but it seems to me that NG is ideal for stationary applications, if you can deliver it by pipeline, liquid fuels seem to me ideal for mobile applications because of the superior volumetric energy density.

Agree that vehicles designed for NG can be far better than conversions.

If we are going to subsidize the conversion, I guess I could support the creation (and only the creation) of a fuelling infrastructure, if the subsidy goes away when the job is far enough along.

As for California, I think CARB is just anti-fossil fuel.

Regarding taxes, one of the advantages being pushed for NG is how inexpensive it is compared to gasoline and diesel. But this advantage is not assured into the future without accounting for both supply / demand and the tax regime. I'm wary of a bait-and-switch by the politicians.

I really feel the NATGAS Act is in our future as T Boone seems to be pushing it and the pols won't be able to resist, plus it is always popular to campaign against gas prices. I'm not necessarily against it, but right now a lot is unknown, which of course does not prevent the politicians from plowing ahead.

All we really need is Michelle Bachman's two dollar gas:)



RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I have to agree that the absence of proof is not proof.  My big concern about this particular religion is that EVERY SINGLE DATA SET is tainted by not being able to be reverted to an unmodified state.  Changing data in place is simply not science, it is spin.

Is the earth's climate changing?  Of course it is.  It has been in a state of flux for something like a billion years, what makes anyone think that changes would stop because we're watching?  Temperatures will go up.  Temperatures will go down.  Unsettled weather will increase.  Unsettled weather will decrease.  One day something really catastrophic will happen and most of us will die.  Could be tomorrow.  Could be in a million years.  There is no way to tell.

Is AGW real?  That has become a religious question.  My belief system doesn't stretch to accepting computer models as fact, adulterated data as pure, or researchers who have based their economic life on a hypothesis as unbiased.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Like any religin, I won't stop someone from practiceing it (except if you believe in killing other people). And you are free to practice what you want. But don't try to declare it the national religin. And make the rest of us bow.

However, I do agree there are some good things that can come from different ideas. So I will hear what you have to say.

I have seen good uses for alternite energy, but few that would work well on a grand scale.

Keep the new ideas comming.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***


They stopped burning unbelievers at the stake as that caused too many carbon emmissions flame

Regardless of the science, I just think its absolutely mad to sell something as energy dense and irreplacable as petroleum for such a small fraction of what we charge for milk.  

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

TGS4:  you are too intelligent to not understand the flaw in your argument about plant and animal CO2 emissions- my 9 yr old kid understands the basics of the biological carbon cycle, so I'm sure you do too.

Fossil carbon combustion releases stored carbon from the earth's crust into the atmosphere.  Plants and animals merely recycle most of the carbon from the atmosphere back to the atmosphere.  They do fix some carbon more or less permanently (i.e. seashell carbonate) or at least store it in the biosphere for a long time (i.e. soil organic carbon).  Doesn't matter if you eat the animals and plants or burn them as fuels, the CO2 that is emitted came from the atmosphere.

Tax fossil carbon, and any fossil carbon used to produce fertilizer or to run farm implements to produce plants or animals or food for them would be accounted for.  Fossil emissions from agriculture would show up in food prices, and fossil emissions from biofuels production would show up in the prices of these fuels as well.  The shell game of buying nat gas to fire the beer stills in corn ethanol plants would soon go by the wayside.

As to the AGW/CO2 argument, again you confuse causal proof with evidence of risk.  There is none of the former and PLENTY of the latter.  In this regard and all others, engineers are NOT permitted to take the position that doing what we're already doing is fine until we prove 100% that a catastrophic event WILL occur as a direct result.  Just look at the other forums on this site:  we spend all sorts of money and time and other resources to mitigate risks of serious harm, many of which would probably work out just fine if we sat back and rolled the dice.  In this case, since the fuels themselves are FINITE, their other emissions are KNOWN to be harmful, and we have plenty of other, higher, non-fuels uses for them, it seems quite clear to me that mitigating the risk of fossil carbon emission to the atmosphere by doing everything we can to conserve them is in the long-term interest of our species.  That remains true even IF doubling the atmospheric CO2 concentration in 100 years turns out to be totally OK for the biosphere.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

This topic comes up every now and then with my engineering friends (we work in oil & gas sector) and many of them are flat ou deniers that CO2 causes warming and it would be silly to try and reduce it.  My problem with this is even if CO2 isn't the be all and end all of global warming, why would we continue pumping all the other garbage along with it into the environment when we can strive to do things more efficiently and better for the future?  

The funny thing is I think some take this view because they think it threatens their livelyhood.  I'm of the camp that like it or not O&G is here to stay for my lifetime and clear, obtainable, concise reduction targets (similar to sulfur reductions and not a CO2 cap and trade, which seems way to liable to be gamed) would just lead to more work for engineers and our business.

On non industrial side of life I think the government needs to get in gear and update building codes... why are we still bulding garbage houses that leak energy so much when basic, passive changes could make a huge improvement?  I'm not a building guy so maybe I'm missing something.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

moltenmetal - I fully understand the biological carbon cycle.  Perhaps my example is a little tongue-in-cheek.  However, where do you draw the line with how long said carbon has been sequestered?  Less than 1 year for most food?  How about burning biomass?  Only if it is less than X years old?  What is X?  Is 100 years too much, or more...

With respect to the idea of risk and risk mitigation, I do this for a living, so I understand the concept fully.  You take an examination of the harm, apply a cost to it.  Then, you determine the probability of said harm occurring in a particular span of time.  Multiply the harm by the probability and you get the risk-based cost of the harm.  Now, compare that to the cost of mitigation.  Then, divide the mitigation with the probability that the mitigation will succeed in reducing the harm by the stated amount.  If the adjusted cost of mitigation is lower than the cost reduction in the harm, then mitigate.  If the cost of mitigation is higher, do nothing.

In regards to CAGW, I have found the assessment of the harms to be greatly overstated, while the benefits to be greatly understated.  And it is the algebraic sum of the two that determines the cost of the harm.  Next, the probability of both the harm actually occurring (do we really believe the 100-year computer models showing the increasing temperature with increasing CO2 content, absent any other natural causes) and the probability of the severity of the harm being at the stated quantity need to be considered.  In my opinion, we are nowhere near anything reasonable to even try to quantify these quantities.  Compare that with the cost of mitigation - a carbon tax, in your example.  The costs will be well understood.  However, and this is where I go toe-to-toe with carbon-tax enthusiasts, what is the probability that the mitigation will actually reduce the harms?  If I recall correctly, the number that I have calculated in the past, based on a carbon tax of $50/tonne, when based on the emissions of Canada, was valued $36.7 BILLION dollars per year, which will have an impact of 0.000306°C/year. That values the global temperature at $122.876 TRILLION per degrees Celsius.  And, that's if you actually believe the IPCC sensitivity values...  Are the harms really that expensive?

Like you said, we're engineers.  We don't deal in hand-waving, but real numbers.  I can provide the back-up calculations for the above number, if you want.  Until I have been shown that the cost of the harms (on a per °C basis) multiplied by the probability of the harms occurring is shown to be greater than the number that I have shown above, I will remain convinced that the mitigation is unnecessary.

Of course, we also need the causality  to demonstrate that the proposed mitigation will actually work, too...  Without that causal link, the cost of the mitigation divided by the probability of the success of the mitigation approaches infinity as the probability of the mitigation working approaches zero...

So, here's the gauntlet:
1) What is the total cost of the sum of the harms due to AGW?
2) What is the total cost of the benefits due to AGW?
3) What is the algebraic sum of 1) and 2) above?
4) What is the probability of those harms actually occurring in a specified time?
5) What is the adjusted cost of the harms?
6) What is the probability of the proposed mitigation (carbon tax) actually reducing CO2 emissions and total atmospheric CO2 content?
7) What is the probability that the above-noted reduction in CO2 emissions and total atmospheric content will reduce the temperature?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

So if you tax fossel fuels and not bio-fuels (as in carbon tax), how do you handle the fraction of natural gas produced from bio sources?

Which is a point that seems missed, that natural gas can be an alternative energy source, or a fossel fuel. The pipes are there, and the means to use it are there, and it is mostly clean. And in the larger home usages it can replace electricty (air-conditoners, and refridrators).

Also a concern is "if" methane is truly a green house gas, and it leaks from coal seams, then why would you not want to harvest it?

Now I am starting to sound like I like Natural gas.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

The gas you get from decomp or anaerobic digesters is close to equal parts CO2 and methane.  No confusing that with fossil nat gas, which has much less CO2.  And you would tax the fossil stuff at source, not the stuff which came from decomp of recently dead things.  Pretty easy to tell the difference between a fossil resource and one that came recently from the biosphere.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, so do you care about emitting it, and burning it is better than emitting it unburned.  Tough to put flares on cows' arses, but it is possible to avoid eating cattle.  Again, price should contain the full cost, and people would decide with their wallets.

TGS4: I don't know what industry you work in, but I thought that kind of simplistic cost-benefit analysis went out with the Ford Pinto?!  When the harm includes loss of life, rendering people homeless etc., that kind of analysis gets dodgy immediately.

There are plenty of helpful changes to our energy use patterns that can be applied which cost virtually nothing beyond an attitudinal shift or minor expenditure of capital.  But even these won't be applied unless compelled, by tax or regulatory means, because people hate some kinds of change on principle.  

You can argue that the cost of switching away from fossils is way too high relative to costs of the harm or adaptation to the harm and I'll respect that, at least a bit.  Personally, I'm totally against carbon sequestration as a bad idea- it's just a means to p*ss through our fossil resources even faster.  Unfortunately, reversing CO2 emissions (on the human timescale) AFTER they have been emitted is not only impossibly expensive it is probably technically infeasible at ANY cost.  How is it that you think it's fair that the people who have contributed NONE of those emissions (i.e. future generations) should bear the entirety of those costs?  All I'm advocating is user-pay- NOW.  I'm not happy when my generation digs a huge hole for our kids to crawl out of, and don't care if it's a fiscal one or an environmental one. When we dig that hole knowingly solely to satisfy our wants or stupidity rather than our needs, as a parent that just makes me sick.

Until 100% of our fossil fuels use is sensible and cannot be replaced by a reasonable alternative, we should be doing everything in our power to eliminate that wasteful use.  Right now, energy is still so cheap that people continue to waste it wantonly, without a second thought about it.  That needs to change in a major way before I'll respect anyone's concern about global warming mitigations.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

i reckon we'd all agree that our society is being extravagant with it's consumption of fossil fuel.  the capitalists amongst us will say that that solution we have today is the cheapest (most capital efficient), and price will increase to suit demand and supply.  some would say that it's government policy (through taxation) that will "correct" (distort?) the relative costs and either discourage consumption, encourage higher efficiency, or encourage development of alternatives.  some will say it's our moral duty to change.

but i think we're deeply divided on the global warming issue.  one camp is sure we need to change significantly now, that it is a moral imperative.  the other camp is equally sure that doing so is financial suidide.   

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Quote (moltenmetal):

When the harm includes loss of life, rendering people homeless etc., that kind of analysis gets dodgy immediately.
Please be so kind as to let me know the immediate threats to life and limb that one can expect from a 1-2°C increase in 100 years.  And homelessness - that happens far more frequently without any AGW right now - I call it things like living in a flood plain and being surprised when your house gets flooded.  Plus, we've already experienced sea level rise greater than or equal to that projected (assuming you believe the projections), without significant/costly impact.

Yes, health and safety are managed differently in the risk scenario - the quantification of the costs is less "cold" than dollars and cents.  In my industry, mitigation does not always mean removal of the risk, it may mean better PPE, better warnings of harms, better training to avoid harms.  And when all mitigations are considered, the most effective and cost effective one is implemented.  Removal/elimination of the harm is often not the most effective.

Again, though, what are the harms?!?

I don't disagree that fossil fuels should be conserved - they are indeed more useful in things other than stationary energy (motive energy is something else...).  If you want to talk about taxing fossil fuels because they are finite and could be put to better use to something other than energy - I'd be willing to have a reasonable discussion about that.  But doing that under the guise of AGW - a hypothesis that fails the smell test - well that's something I will vigorously oppose.

(On a related note, there was a report  - September 29, 2011 by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy - detailing what they forecast the "costs" of global warming to be for Canada.  They estimated $5B/year now, and possibly increasing to $21B-$45B/year by 2050.  Right now, $36.7B/year worth of mitigation (the effectiveness of which is highly questionable) doesn't seem worth it to me...  I could think of many better things to spend that money on.  Of course, keeping that money in the people's hands instead of governments' hands will have a much better economic impact, too...)

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Are you really that wooly-headed?  You say:

Quote (moltenmetal):

As to the AGW/CO2 argument, again you confuse causal proof with evidence of risk.  There is none of the former and PLENTY of the latter.  In this regard and all others, engineers are NOT permitted to take the position that doing what we're already doing is fine until we prove 100% that a catastrophic event WILL occur as a direct result.  Just look at the other forums on this site:  we spend all sorts of money and time and other resources to mitigate risks of serious harm, many of which would probably work out just fine if we sat back and rolled the dice.
I could ask exactly what the "evidence of risk" of AGW is, but I won't put you on that spot.  

Here's a hypothetical for you--it is certain that an asteroid of adequate size to significantly affect the viability of life will hit the earth.  There is no doubt about that.  It has happened before and it will happen again.  I don't know if the time horizon is months or millions of years, but it will happen.  Should we tax people who look at the sky to pay for the future harm that asteroid will do?  In my mind the wealth redistribution Ponzi scheme that is carbon tax is exactly that silly.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Hey David, there's no need to go ad hominem.

Your asteroid example is not at all comparable, and discredits your argument.  There's a HUGE difference between altering behavior to reduce a harm we suspect to be a consequence of that behavior, and taxing people who look at the sky because an asteroid might hit the earth.

I have a modicum of respect for TGS4's position, which is simply that the mitigations cost too much relative to the cost of the harm.  It's a persuasive argument until you realize that the cost of the harm is miscalculated- because it is as incalculable as the monetary value of human life.  How can you brook any significant cost for a use which satisfies greed or stupidity rather than a real need?  The cost of the mitigations I'm talking about is a cost we should be bearing anyway for the long term viability of our species, given the finite nature of fossil fuels and the other uses we have for them- uses that are FAR harder to substitute..

I'm not an enviro-religionist.  I feel no guilt for being alive.  I am no less entitled to the wise use of the earth's resources to serve my own needs than any other human who has ever lived.  What I am NOT entitled to is to squander the earth's resources in full knowledge of the resulting harm to future generations, or to dodge the full cost for that use.  Is that a moral position?  Certainly- I don't deny it.

I hear much lip service to the conservation of fossil resources on this site from people in the anti-AGW camp and it frustrates me.  I know many of you question what you see as an absence of measurable effects for the CO2 concentration increase that has already happened.  But I can't help feeling that the concern over the finite nature of the fuels themselves expressed here is totally insincere, and that much of the motivation for AGW denial arises NOT from science, but primarily from a desire to keep doing what we're already doing without feeling any pesky guilt.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I've never denied that the climate is changing.  It always has, and it always will.  This hour's cause is an interesting academic discussion.  My problem is that all of the "solutions" that assume man is the culprit feel like kids who are convinced that if they are riding in a falling elevator all they have to do is jump up in the air as it hits.  The "solution" doesn't solve the "problem" and they still end up broken in the end.

As to conservation, I personally have implemented projects that have reduced lost hydrocarbons by at least 1,000 times (I haven't done the math in a few years, that was the number in 2004) the hydrocarbons that will be burned for my benefit in my lifetime.  And you know what?  I didn't do a single one of them to "save the planet" or to "conserve the resource for future generations".  I did every one of them because they had a positive net present value.  The economics of not wasting resources can be very favorable.  I make a really good living showing people how to make money from hydrocarbons they were throwing away.  These are real conservation measures, not symbolic claptrap like driving an electric car or putting a PV panel on your roof to sell power to the grid.  Now if someone where talking about using a PV panel to charge an electric car, I'd be willing to run those numbers.  Last time I did, they were a negative NPV, but things change.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

moltenmetal - the fundamental issue that I have with the solutions (carbon taxes, etc) are that they imply causal proof.  Without causal proof, what evidence do you have that doing "anything" is actually going to help?  What if we taxed that heck out of fossil fuels - and that resulted in a significant drop in man-made CO2 production - and nothing changed?  Then, the harms, that you have placed such a high value on, will still occur.  And your risk assessment falls apart.

Maybe the level of "proof" of a causal link is lower for you than for me.  Fine.  But both of us need to examine the consequences of what will happen if we are wrong.  From my perspective, adaptation to changes (anthropogenic or natural) is the key.  If I am wrong, and CO2 has a significant effect, then we'll just adapt to that.  And maybe 100-200 years from now, we can re-examine the calculus of risk.  We'll be a lot smarter, and have a lot more data by then.  Maybe a causal link will be demonstrated to a higher level of "proof"...

For the prevention perspective, what if your prevention does not succeed - what if CO2 has low-to-zero impact on temperature?  Then what do you do?

This is a serious question that both sides of the debate need to answer - what if you are wrong?  Will your "solution" be worse than what would have otherwise have happened?  This is the aspect of cost-benefit / risk assessment that is frequently forgotten.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

SNT man, my point is that there are lots of readily viable alternatives to Gas as a large scale static electrical generation energy source.

Coal, Nuclear, HEP, Geothermal various other renewable sources...

However, almost none of these are well suited as vehicle fuels, and transforming them into a form potentially suitable as a vehicle fuel can be wasteful.

So, lets consider keeping the liquid fossil fuels for things where they are particularly well suited, be it chemical industry or aircraft or certain niche ground vehicles...

Lets save Gas for mobile applications where it's not too inconvenient.

Lets use other sources for large scale static electrical generation.  For instance, rather the using grain etc. to then generate ethanol, might it make more sense to just burn the darn stuff directly or grow an alternate crop suitable for combustion or something?

Let's also take reasonable steps to reduce waste, incentivised if need be.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

KENAT, can't argue with any of that...



RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

KENAT:  right on.

TGS4:  if we find no causal link between CO2 and detrimental climate change, we can burn fossil fuels again with abandon- until they're gone of course.  But we will have created choices for ourselves.   We won't HAVE to burn fossil fuels to the extent that we do now, because we'll have weaned ourselves off our energy addiction, and still have the fossil carbon sources for higher value, harder to substitute uses.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

moltenmetal - as I've said before, I don't actually disagree with you on the benefits of preserving fossil fuels (especially the high energy-density liquid variety) for high value uses.  I mostly agree with KENAT's summary of the appropriate-ness of fuel allocations.

Now, if only we, as a species, could have the adult conversation about this topic, and not "hide" it in the AGW context...  The topics are separate and only mildly related with respect to the proposed "solution"

Coming around to the OP, energy is prosperity.  The more energy, the more prosperity.  Has been that way since mankind first successfully controlled fire.  Anything alternatives that ADD to the energy mix are OK with me.  Any substitutions of one energy source for another need to be examined with a skeptical eye to the net benefits.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

We can have prosperity without wasting energy.  In fact, exporting enormous amounts of money to people who did nothing more than win the geological lottery is not good for prosperity.

We're not "hiding" the energy efficiency discussion in the AGW context.  Rather, yuo and I disagree about the AGW context and are unlikely to change each other's minds.  I'm merely making the point that it makes sense to wean ourselves off fossil fuels irrespective of AGW.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Well, I think that we agree to disagree on several aspects, and agree to agree on several more.

Didn't we get to this point several years ago???

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

We've known that there was gas in shale for a very long time.  The problem has been that the shale matrix is very resistant to flow.  We needed very accurate directional drilling to allow very long "laterals" (i.e., they drill down to the shale and then turn horizontal and drill into the shale for great distances) to contact a lot of pay.  Once you've contacted a lot of pay, you have to break a lot of shale to establish flow paths from the shale matrix into the wellbore.  You do this with hydraulic fracturing.

The industry has been doing hydraulic fracture stimulation since WWII.  The shale-gas fracs are big, but not outrageously bigger than other formations.  The problem is that several water wells were contaminated during the drilling and completion process in Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Best I've been able to tell there is no proof that the frac was to blame for the problem (most people in the industry think it was shoddy cement jobs that were to blame), but our fine news media and rabid environmentalists grabbed onto the idea that fracing was a new, untested process that ran amuck and have vilified this standard, safe, and thoroughly tested process and made hydraulic fracture stimulation into the rallying point for the world's wackos.  There was even a CSI television show about evil oil companies killing innocent, hard working farm folk with their vile chemicals and irresponsible processes.

The propaganda campaign has been so successful that many bills have been introduced in eastern legislatures to ban the process.  Further, the media and environment NGO's have turned public opinion against the process.  Shale gas has the potential (through the Gas to Liquids technology that is starting to be applied to the shale gas) to reverse the U.S. balance of payments deficit by manufacturing liquid motor fuel (indistinguishable from refinery output except for significantly reduced contaminants) from shale gas.  One company has applied for permits to build a GTL plant in the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana.  They should be building one in PA, but the frac frenzy makes it a high risk venture.  This process can be profitable with natural gas (feedstock) prices 3 times todays levels and motor fuel prices 30% less expensive than today.  What an amazing win-win for the nation and the consumer.  But it is in jeopardy because of a successful propaganda campaign by a few rabid anti-human, anti-technology, anti-life fanatics.  I feel really bad for the people who were injured by inept and irresponsibile operators, but I really wish that the media frenzy had focused on the culprits rather than the wrong bit of technology.

The 33% opposition is proof that propaganda works, not that hydraulic fracture stimulation is unsafe.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

David:  we agree that the shale gas frac'ing has been turned into a NIMBY hobby horse similar to the response we've seen to wind turbines.  Disgraceful

Shale gas is a wonderful addition to the supply mix which will allow us to keep much more coal in the ground.  That's good for the environment in every possible way, regardless what you use the gas for.  But it too is finite- and worth conserving.

Gas to liquids technology (i.e. Fisher Tropsch) is just another way to waste huge amounts of both capital AND the raw gas.  Compressing natural gas to LNG for use as a motor fuel is far more energy efficient than wasting ¾ of the source gas in a F-T plant.  FT plants make wax, quite a bit of NGL-range small parrafins, and water.  The latter two are not all that much more useful than the source gas.  You need to crack the wax to useable-sized molecules, which wastes yet more hydrogen and hence more of the source fuel.  Want to make less wax?  Then you make more NGL- you can't win.  And those plants are so capital intensive they barely make sense even when the gas is "free".  This is an established technology and gains will very likely be incremental rather than step-changes.    

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Interesting.  I taught a class at a company that holds one of the current FT patents and we talked about it a bunch during breaks (I was interested in the subject because the shale gas is driving the price of natural gas down far enough to curtail drilling).  These guys were really enthusiastic about what they were getting out of the plant.  There was recently an Oil & Gas Journal article about their LA plant that had numbers that were really positive (in the range of $6/MCF gas becoming gasoline that could sell profitably at under $3/gallon).  That would be a huge win.

I just don't know enough about the process to have an opinion.

I do have an opinion about the reservoir.  Original Marcellus Shale estimates of original gas in place (OGIP) were 550 TCF.  The EIA estimated 30% recoverable because that is what they always say when the correct answer is "we haven't a clue".  I developed processes to recover over 95% of the OGIP in the CBM plays.  Most of those techniques are proving to be effective in the Antrim and Barnett Shales, so I expect the ultimate recovery from the Marcellus to be closer to 500 TCF than 165 TCF.  Same with the other big shale plays.  

As I said in my first post in this thread, I think that the most effective renewable energy source is methane.  With just baby steps (relative to hydrogen, solar, wind, or wave), we could get to a stable, sustainable long term energy source.  The big hurdle is delivery.  LNG has the energy density of fuels that are liquid at room temperature, which is a really good thing (that you can't say of CNG).  The problem with LNG is the same as the problems with hydrogen--storage and delivery require specialized equipment and specialized training.  When my mother was alive there is no way I'd let her close to an LNG nozzle for her car.  There are just too many ways that really bad things can happen (JT cooling, improper make-up, etc.)

We need to develop a way to provide motor fuel that is liquid at room temperature.  If Fisher Tropsche is not the way then one of the inventors that John Baker is talking about in another thread needs to think of something.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

And while they are claiming, without proof, that fracturing caused the Blackpool Earthquakes, minor even by UK standards so even if true, so what?, what they neglect is that coal mining produced far worse effects.

Never mind the spoil heaps, in lots of areas there is a continuing risk of subsidence.

It may not be as dramatic as a really good earthquake but the damage is just as real. We once tolerated far worse than a couple of minor trembles hardly anyone without a seismograph can detect.

Now, why would we want to conserve fossil fuels?
By conserve I don't mean use as efficiently as we can, I mean leave locked in the ground so no one ever uses them.
What's the point? these are fuels that are economically accessible one time only.
Abandoned mines are the effective way to lock off these reserves from everyone in the future unless fuel poverty is so dire that almost any risk and cost is justified.

Fossil fuels are capital to invest an an economic mechanism hat delivers a market with enough impetus and enough value to fund the massive investments needed for the next fuel source... fusion, maybe. They also buy us time to get to that next big transition.

Squandering resources on wind turbines, and locking ourselves out of the fossil fuel bank is a good way to bankrupt the human race.
There is no in between. There is either progression and we use our brains and our resources to move forward or we are back to a hunter gatherer existence in the very near future.

Now would be one heck of a time to find we can't get at our fossil fuels and can't in future either, and that our wind farms are all deep under the snow drifts, stalled out because of too much or too little wind, inaccessible to service repair men whose electric vans can't get them to the wind farms because instead of runaway warming we are, after all, entering a minor downturn and it will take a while for sunspot activity to build back up and the effects to filter through.

Sooner or later the public will wake up to the big con that has been played on them and blood will be spilt.




RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

The "would you let your mother use it" argument is false. It would have precluded the use fire then town gas and then elecricity in the home. Forget Fisher Tropsch.

HAZOP at www.curryhydrocarbons.ca

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I'm sure that there is a reason that you feel that you have right to be a jerk.  I can't see what it is.  Don't really give a crap.  I said what I said, and I truly couldn't care less that you think it is "false".  Far as I can tell the only thing your post added to is to my blood pressure.  Have a fine evening.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

David - Please accept my apologies, no offence was intended. I have no vested interest in LNG as an automotive fuel, but I do think it can be safely dispensed. Also I should not have condemned FT out of hand.
I came across the following video showing what can happen with our current system. It is posted for interest only.
Clicking on X will bypass the ad.

HAZOP at www.curryhydrocarbons.ca

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

FT makes much better diesel than it does gasoline.  Ultra-low sulphur, because you remove it all in the reformer.

LNG has a hope as a motor fuel, unlike hydrogen.  Even CNG can give you enough range for a commuter vehicle, with much less hazard.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

I have seen demonstration fueling equipment for LNG, and I've used CNG fueling equipment.  Both processes required that the fuel tank be a pressure vessel (a bunch of added weight), and the LNG process that I saw required the LNG to be transferred as a liquid (VERY cold) and there were all kinds of warnings not to touch metal parts.  As the very cold liquid reached ambient temperature, the pressure in the tank got really high in order to stay saturated.  The guy that was demonstrating the LNG fueling, messed up a little on the "fool proof" connection (I didn't see how, or what mistake overrode the safeties) and had a minor leak.  By the time the process was shut off the nozzle was frozen to the tank and we had a significant area of explosive atmosphere.  The demo I saw simply wasn't ready for prime time.

The CNG we used in a fleet in the Rockies had the energy density about equal to Peat.  When the tank got below about 600 psig, we couldn't get enough fuel to the engine for an unloaded truck to pull away from a stop sign.  I had a newly filled tank (3,200 psig) and tried to pull a 2,000 lbm trailer up an insignificant hill--I made it about 100 yards before I was in 1st gear with the differential in low range and the vehicle would not go forward.  I changed to gasoline at that point and finished the job.

I don't believe that methane as methane has a chance in the world of becoming a mainstream motor fuel.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Semi-interesting aside(s): (1) The city where I live has gotten some new CNG transit buses, funding courtesy of Uncle Sugar. They have some more money from the same source that, as I understand it, can only be used to convert existing buses to CNG.

Because the existing (diesel) transit buses are of a design that keeps the floor close to the ground (for easy entry / exit) they could only accomodate CNG fuel tanks on the roof, which structure is not sufficient.

Prohibitively expensive to convert. Can't spend the money on anything else. What is a govenrment to do?

(2) The contract for waste-hauling is up for renewal. The waste authority is requiring that the successful bidder's fleet be CNG, with a phase-in period permitted.

The existing consortium of private haulers that have served the city for 30 yrs with a 90+% satisfaction rate can't bid low enough to win the contract as compared to the large companies.

Who knows how many small business people losing their jobs. Who knows how many exisiting trucks no longer usable in the area. What to do with them?

This is how we "go green".



RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

Is that those green jobs?

Does anyone have an idea on the differences in ranges for CNG and LNG?

On a dumb idea side, I saw an idea of storing HCL, or was it H2S, as a fuel. Just add Fe, and you release H2.
I don't support this, but it makes hydrogen less explocive.

RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

There are just too many variables to answer that.  If I run a CNG system at 30,000 psig and have a tank with a volume of 20 liquid gallons then the range is really long.  Of course putting a 30,000 psig vessel in a car is a lot of pressure energy that you don't want explosively releasing.  Realistic limits are under 3,500 psig.  In the system that I familiar with, when the switch was on Gasoline the truck could go about 250 miles on a full tank.  When it was on CNG the range was under 180 miles with the truck moderately loaded and not pulling a trailer.  Put a 2,000 lbm trailer behind the truck and the gasoline range dropped to around 200 miles and the CNG range dropped to around 50 miles.

LNG should see numbers consistent with gasoline--if you put a 20 gallon LNG tank you should get about the same number of miles as a 20 gallon gasoline tank.

Your example of inappropriate government activity missed one crucial point--CNG (and LNG) has an autoignition temperature that is too high for diesel engines (unless you go to impossible compression ratios).  So even if the buses could have found a place for the tanks they need their engines replaced with something with spark plugs.


RE: ***Alternative Energy Forecasts***

zdas04, thanks for that info, I was not aware, thought it was more of a straight swap than that.

The info in my post came from the local paper, over the last week or two. Kind of going from memory, but that facet of conversions was definitely not in the articles.




Red Flag This Post

Please let us know here why this post is inappropriate. Reasons such as off-topic, duplicates, flames, illegal, vulgar, or students posting their homework.

Red Flag Submitted

Thank you for helping keep Eng-Tips Forums free from inappropriate posts.
The Eng-Tips staff will check this out and take appropriate action.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members!


Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close