Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Energy Concerns

As technology advances, the need to power that technology increases. This is becoming more concerning as we're running out of our chief energy resource: oil.

Now, of course, it's not possible to for any energy source to last forever. Delta S > 0. Even the stars will die. But, hey, a billion year fix is better than a hundred year one.

So, what other options are there? What will keep our technological society chugging along?

Well, there's ethanol.The idea makes sense. By far, the best solar cells known to man are contained in plants. Chlorophyll converts the energy of sunlight into the more storable and transportable form of sugar. Then we can process that sugar and make fuel we can run our cars off of. The problem is, raising crops isn't that easy, and requires us to put our own energy into it, in the form of fertilizers, harvesters, etc. That's true of any means of acquiring energy, but in this case, we put in more than we get out. Ethanol isn't feasible as an energy source even on a short term basis.

There's coal and natural gas. There's still plenty of that left, at least compared to oil. But that's hard to get out of the ground, and it's horribly polluting.

And then there's the nuclear option. Although nuclear power plants have their dangers, most of them are exaggerated. While there is the possibility of a meltdown, modern nuclear power plants are extremely well shielded. You wouldn't be exposed to significantly more radiation standing right outside of a nuclear power plant that was melting down than you would anywhere else. And nuclear power plants are well protected against external threats as well.

The only real concern about nuclear fission is the waste. Radioactive waste will stay radioactive for millions of years. What do you do with it? Right now, our best solution is to bury it deep under mountains. But that's not terribly secure. I haven't seen these ideas anywhere else, and they're probably not feasible, but the best I can think of is to either bury them deep under a subduction zone or launch it into space.

But anything we do now, is really just tiding us over until we can harness the power of the sun directly, either with extremely high efficiency solar panels, or fusion power plants.


CresceNet said...
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CresceNet said...
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M. Simon said...

Here is a fusion project you might not have heard about:

Bussard Fusion Reactor
Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

It has been funded:

Bussard Reactor Funded

I have inside info that is very reliable and multiply confirmed that validates the above story. I am not at liberty to say more. Expect a public announcement from the Navy in the coming weeks.

The above reactor can burn Deuterium which is very abundant and produces lots of neutrons or it can burn a mixture of Hydrogen and Boron 11 which does not.

The implication of it is that we will know in 6 to 9 months if the small reactors of that design are feasible.

If they are we could have fusion plants generating electricity in 10 years or less depending on how much we want to spend to compress the time frame. A much better investment that CO2 sequestration.

BTW Bussard is not the only thing going on in IEC. There are a few government programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory, MIT, the University of Wisconsin and at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana among others.

erich said...

I thought your readers would be interested in looking at these energy technologies and EPS's theoretic base for ball lighting.

Aneutronic Fusion: Here I am not talking about the big science ITER project taking thirty years, but the several small alternative plasma fusion efforts.

There are three companies pursuing hydrogen-boron plasma toroid fusion, Paul Koloc, Prometheus II, Eric Lerner, Focus Fusion and Clint Seward of Electron Power Systems

Vincent Page (a technology officer at GE!!) gave a presentation at the 05 6th symposium on current trends in international fusion research , which high lights the need to fully fund three different approaches to P-B11 fusion

He quotes costs and time to development of P-B11 Fusion as tens of million $, and years verses the many decades and ten Billion plus $ projected for ITER and other "Big" science efforts

Here are the links:

U.S., Chilean Labs to Collaborate on Testing Scientific Feasibility of Focus Fusion

However, short of a Energy "silver bullet" like fusion , Here is a fully DOABLE technology

Time to Master the Carbon Cycle with Terra Preta Soil Technology;

The integrated energy strategy offered by Charcoal based Terra Preta Soil technology may
provide the only path to sustain our agricultural and fossil fueled power
structure without climate degradation, other than nuclear power.

The economics look good, and truly great if we had CO2 cap & trade in place:

Terra Preta soils I feel has great possibilities to revolutionize sustainable agriculture into a major CO2 sequestration strategy.

I thought the current news and links on Terra Preta soils and closed-loop pyrolysis would interest you.

SCIAM Article May 15 07

After many years of reviewing solutions to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) I believe this technology can manage Carbon for the greatest collective benefit at the lowest economic price, on vast scales. It just needs to be seen by ethical globally minded companies.

Even with all the big corporations coming to the GHG negotiation table, like Exxon, Alcoa, .etc, we still need to keep watch as they try to influence how carbon management is legislated in the USA. Carbon must have a fair price, that fair price and the changes in the view of how the soil carbon cycle now can be used as a massive sink verses it now being viewed as a wash, will be of particular value to farmers and a global cool breath of fresh air for us all.

If you have any other questions please feel free to call me or visit the TP web site I've been drafted to co-administer.

It has been immensely gratifying to see all the major players join the mail list , Cornell folks, T. Beer of Kings Ford Charcoal (Clorox), Novozyne the M-Roots guys(fungus), chemical engineers, Dr. Danny Day of EPRIDA , Dr. Antal of U. of H., Virginia Tech folks and probably many others who's back round I don't know have joined.

Also Here is the Latest BIG Terra Preta Soil news;

ConocoPhillips Establishes $22.5 Million Pyrolysis Program at Iowa State 04/10/07

Mechabolic , a pyrolysis machine built in the form of a giant worm to eat solid waste and product char & fuel at the "Burning Man" festival ;

Erich J. Knight
shengar at

mymanmitch said...

Actually, oil is not in short supply. What is in short supply is the oil that we are able to get to with current technology. Right now, the drilling techniques we use require large pockets of oil in a single space in order for us to pull it out from underground. There is actually something called shole oil (not sure on the spelling of that, but it is phonetically correct) which is oil spread very thin over a very large area. The current estimate is that there is enough of this oil under Arizona and Colorado to supply America with oil for thirty years. We just can't get to it yet. Thats the problem. I do agree that some other method of energy does need to be found, because eventually oil will run out. It's just not quite as soon as you think.

TopFalcon said...

I see your point, and I agree with it. I read somewhere (probably Popular Science) that in 50 years or so our world’s main problem won’t be worrying about poverty or global warming, but that we’ll be in an “Energy Crisis”. If we don’t unlock the secret of fusion or harness some new technology soon, we really will be in a problem.
It’s very interesting trying to think of what the world would be like if energy wasn’t as accessible as it is today. We take advantage of energy, though we still pay for it, it really isn’t much of a problem. But a world living with a shortage of energy is almost inconceivable. For the sake of mankind I hope we’re able to think of something before it gets to that. Cold fusion, they say, is within a couple decades away, and there have already been breakthroughs with solar panel technology, so at least we have something to look forward to.

Jose Alvarez said...

The beginning of your article makes it appear that we get most of our power for electronics from oil. Yes we do use a lot of oil for cars, but that is not relevant to my computer needing more power. I believe most power that goes to ones house is from power. I think the best solution is wind, solar, and nuclear. Wind and solar are more friendly and abundant, the problem is that they take a lot of space.

erich said...

Finaly some legislation that talks of Charcoal sequestration in the soil, Please contact your represenative about how important it is to get this into the farm bill!!

S.1884 – The Salazar Harvesting Energy Act of 2007

A Summary of Biochar Provisions in S.1884:

Carbon-Negative Biomass Energy and Soil Quality Initiative

for the 2007 Farm Bill

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