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Power User Journal Science

On Electricity (Generation) 330

Posted by Hemos
from the looking-at-tomorrow dept.
Engineer-Poet wrote a piece a few months back that focuses on electricity production; or rather how or what we will need to do to keep pace with people's demands while balancing that with environmental and economic impact. Lengthy but well-reasoned and good reading.
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On Electricity (Generation)

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  • They will not post what they disagree with. Try telling any green environmental lefty that Ethanol is a bad thing and show them why, and they turn their nose saying, "But, but, but, but its GREEN!"

    Good find man. I think I'll post it in a few of my discussion nodes.
    • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:06PM (#17800458) Homepage Journal

      They will not post what they disagree with. Try telling any green environmental lefty that Ethanol is a bad thing and show them why, and they turn their nose saying, "But, but, but, but its GREEN!"
      There's nothing wrong with Ethanol, save for studies 30 year out of date that are perpetuating the idea that it's energy negative. And it's not a "green" problem. It's a problem of finding an alternative fuel source before the rising prices of petrol cause too many economic problems.

      As it so happens, Ethanol is being used as an ocatane-booster additive in the majority of gasoline today. In part, it's because it's safer than cleaner than most of the chemicals previously used to improve octane ratings. Another part of it, however, is that up to 10% Ethanol mixtures are helping to lower the cost of gasoline as the prices for gas surpass that of Ethanol.
      • Wrong (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Gr8Apes (679165)
        Wrong wrong wrong.

        Ethanol is being used to reduce emissions on that small fraction of badly running automobiles out there. It does not have any effect on modern engines except to lower their mileage. Modern engines don't even require the "higher" octane rating, as they can compensate as required for slightly lower octane ratings.

        Ethanol actually reduces the specific energy of gasoline.

        Lastly, ethanol's true cost is in growing and producing ethanol - namely, water use and the agricultural pollution.

        Ethanol i
        • by jcr (53032)
          I can't wait for the luddite arguments against tide power. "But it will slow the moon down! EEEK!"

          -jcr

        • Re:Wrong (Score:4, Informative)

          by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:51PM (#17801150) Homepage Journal

          Ethanol is being used to reduce emissions on that small fraction of badly running automobiles out there. It does not have any effect on modern engines except to lower their mileage. Modern engines don't even require the "higher" octane rating, as they can compensate as required for slightly lower octane ratings.
          This is an incredibly naive take on Ethanol consumption. The higher octane does have an effect. That effect is to burn the gasoline hotter and more completely, thus extracting energy than would have otherwise been extracted from a lower octane fuel.

          It's true that in a pure-ethanol vehicle, you'll need more fuel to make up for lower energy density. However, the faster and hotter burn cycle can be compensated for, allowing engine designers to extract a fairly competitive amount of energy from the fuel.

          The lower energy density just isn't that big of a deal when the choice is between needing 20% more Ethanol fuel at $2.50/gal vs. purchasing petroleum fuel at $3.75/gal.

          Nuclear is still using "stored" power, thus can still have a net add to planetary heat.
          This must be the oddest argument I've ever heard against nuclear power. First and foremost, any escaped heat is wasted energy that could have been used for electricity. So plants try to loose as little as possible. However, they do lose some, but nowhere near enough to have an impact on global conditions. "Global Warming" models are not based around how much heat that power plants release, but around concentrations of greenhouse gases that hold heat in. The theory is that if the concentrations were lowered, the Earth would be better able to radiate away the excess heat.
          • This must be the oddest argument I've ever heard against nuclear power. First and foremost, any escaped heat is wasted energy that could have been used for electricity. So plants try to loose as little as possible. However, they do lose some, but nowhere near enough to have an impact on global conditions.

            I believe the point was that no matter how efficient the energy conversion process may be, in the end all the generated electricity will eventually be turned into heat as it's consumed. (I agree that th

            • I believe the point was that no matter how efficient the energy conversion process may be, in the end all the generated electricity will eventually be turned into heat as it's consumed.

              While that's true, it's also true of all energy sources. When you tap tidal forces for electricity, you eventually transform that energy into waste heat. When you tap wind power, you eventually transform that energy into waste heat. When you tap direct solar power using solar panels, you're only adding latency to its convers

              • While that's true, it's also true of all energy sources. When you tap tidal forces for electricity, you eventually transform that energy into waste heat. When you tap wind power, you eventually transform that energy into waste heat. When you tap direct solar power using solar panels, you're only adding latency to its conversion to heat.

                So while it's technically true, it wouldn't be a very good argument against nuclear power. :-)

                Entirely true, and I wasn't attempting to make an argument against nuclear

          • by jfuredy (967953) on Monday January 29, 2007 @02:30PM (#17802730)

            This is an incredibly naive take on Ethanol consumption. The higher octane does have an effect. That effect is to burn the gasoline hotter and more completely, thus extracting energy than would have otherwise been extracted from a lower octane fuel.
            Higher octane fuels actually decrease the temperature and speed of the fuel burn, thereby reducing knock, or preignition. There is virtually no difference in the total energy between a high octane and a low octane fuel. The difference is just in how readily the fuels are ignited.
        • Well, actually any heat we generate is miniscule compared to what comes in every day from the Sun, so your take on nuclear power contributing to heating is not actually a big deal. But, you're right that the competition for resources involved with ethanol could be a problem. Some think it is a near term problem just because of governement incentives: http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/2007/Update63 . htm [earth-policy.org].

          If Brown is correct, then buying flour now would be a good hedge.
          ----
          Solar doesn't increase grain fu
        • Modern engines don't even require the "higher" octane rating, as they can compensate as required for slightly lower octane ratings.

          Hmmmm...so who do I trust? Some dude on /. or the manufacturer of my car's engine? I'll go with the manufacturer on this one.

          If you are running a normally-aspirated engine with no aftermarket performance mods, yes, your engine can compensate for lower octane by adjusting the timing to avoid knocking, which isn't terribly healthy for your engine. However, the timing adju

      • by paladinwannabe2 (889776) on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:24PM (#17800750)
        Not that anyone reads those pesky things... but your concerns are mentioned.

        It's not that it's energy negative- we still come out ahead- it's that it's not energy positive enough. There's a lot of other things we could be doing with that corn instead of turning it into ethanol. We are paying tax money through subsidies for something that's not going to be a long term solution. It's a waste of money and resources that could be spent elsewhere.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by vertinox (846076)
          We are paying tax money through subsidies for something that's not going to be a long term solution. It's a waste of money and resources that could be spent elsewhere.

          There is no such thing as a long term solution. Only transitional solutions.

          Even all our sources of uranium will be depleted so day in the next few hundred years.

          (Of course to be even more fair we will have to leave the planet to find more sources of hydrogen for fusion in tens of thousand of years, but perhaps it will be a moot point)

          That sai
          • A long-term solution, in this rapidly-moving technological environment, is 50 years.

            You can bet that, absent massive climate change (which my proposal is crafted to help prevent), we won't have plants stop growing and cease generating organic wastes from diverse sources in the next 50 years. Before 50 years are up, I expect that solar PV will be cheaper than wind power and will be the principle source of electric power in most of the world. Wind and wave power look good to cope with night, clouds and othe
        • by mdsolar (1045926)
          Some recent work suggests that this might not be the case http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/314 /5805/1598 [sciencemag.org].
          ---
          Beat the rush into renewables: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
    • by Sunburnt (890890) on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:13PM (#17800590)
      "Try telling any green environmental lefty that Ethanol is a bad thing and show them why, and they turn their nose saying, "But, but, but, but its GREEN!"

      Wow, what an uninformed stereotype. Plenty of us green environmental lefties have serious issues with increasing society's reliance on industrial agriculture, and see the potential usurpation of the oil lobby by the corn lobby as a meaningless substitution. Our leaders keep trying to find new and exciting ways to supply our energy demand without examining the nature or utility of this demand. Sustainable energy will come from changing cultural attitudes regarding the worthy expenditures of energy, not a shuffling of environmental issues.

    • Do YOU think we need a change in our energy policy because of global warming?
    • by div_2n (525075) on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:33PM (#17800896)
      I've been around quite a few what I would consider hard core environmentalists and I've never gotten that impression. In fact, some of them seemed to be apprehensive about ethanol because of how they view the impact some of the corn production in the US has on the Mississippi delta--i.e. the dead zone.

      Maybe I've been around some of the more logical and open minded environmentalists, but my recollection is that they seemed to think solar and wind hold the biggest promises with ethanol being good if the major issues can be worked out.
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      Try telling any green environmental lefty that Ethanol is a bad thing and show them why, and they turn their nose saying, "But, but, but, but its GREEN!"

      Expect 2007 to be a big year for the government giving bundles of money to people who pretend to be environmentally friendly. But it's hardly a new idea; accusations that the Left focuses too much on good intentions, feel-good measures, and such while ignoring consequences have characterized most decent critiques of the Left for quite some time now, and g

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by simm1701 (835424)
      Nothing wrong with ethanol.... that figuring out all the problems it has might solve ;)

      Like the fact that transporting it more than a few miles to where it is produced removes most of the benefits

      Corn is definitely a bad idea for this - the useful output is just far too small - about 5-10% of the biomass. Some interesting research has been done with certain kinds of bateria and soy plants (the whole plants stalk, roots leaves and all) managing to use 90-95% of the biomass as usable energy.

      Your point is righ
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Paulrothrock (685079)
      I'm a green environmental lefty and I think ethanol, at least so long as it's made out of corn, is a bad thing.

      Maybe I'm not typical.

    • Silicon Jesus baited the flames thusly:

      Try telling any green environmental lefty that Ethanol is a bad thing and show them why, and they turn their nose saying, "But, but, but, but its GREEN!"

      This directly contradicts my own thirty years of experience with environmentally aware and politically active people. I strongly suspect you avoid such people, since you seem to have no idea how they behave or react in meatspace. News flash, glass saviour - ethanol and fool cells are what the right-wing browns are p

  • by nadamsieee (708934) on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:00PM (#17800386)
    Wait for the baby-boomers to die off. Suddenly energy, housing, and jobs will become plentiful. ;)
  • Article Banned (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CmdrGravy (645153)
    The article is banned by the filter here at work but the answer is obvious - build more nuclear power plants.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PFI_Optix (936301)
      Agreed. Nuke plants won't fix everything--there will still be the issue of the waste--but it's certainly better than what we have now.

      As for the nuclear waste: if we switched to 100% nuclear and renewable sources, it should follow that a significant amount of time and money be devoted to a permanent solution for nuclear waste. But I'd prefer we have 1,000 years to solve that problem than have 100 years or so to solve the current one. Especially as the current problem is alreay doing harm, whereas a well-run
      • by CmdrGravy (645153)
        The other thing about nuclear waste is that you know where it is, you don't just go pumping it out into the atmosphere and hope for the best.
        • The other thing about nuclear waste is that you know where it is, you don't just go pumping it out into the atmosphere and hope for the best.
          Unless that nuclear "waste" is coming from coal burning [ornl.gov] plants, of course. Then you are literally pumping it into the atmosphere and hoping for the best.
      • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday January 29, 2007 @01:55PM (#17802184) Homepage Journal
        But I'd prefer we have 1,000 years to solve that problem than have 100 years or so to solve the current one.

        Very well put. There's only one known solution to the problem at hand, and we need to start lighting up one of these plants every two months to get the carbon problem solved - nothing else has a chance of doing it (without 'killing off the human race' as an item on the table),

        Besides, we only need enough time on fission to get fusion perfected. That should take less than a hundred years. Then we only need to wait until we, as a race, consider that we have lift into space as a reliable technology. Then we just take all that old fission waste and send it into the Sun for the next generation of solar system to enjoy. And that's assuming we don't have a better solution for it by then.

        But, the current course is for nothing to get done and the problem to get worse. The "environmentalist" groups seem to think that's the best course of action (scare-quotes intended) and that implementing wishful thinking is a sufficient plan.
        • There is a perfectly good fusion reactor already and we orbit it. Tap in at http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]. No need for fission at all.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Control Group (105494) *
          Tangentially (literally):

          Orbital mechanics dictate that it's far easier to fling mass out of the system than in towards the sun (this having primarily to do with an existing angular velocity around the sun of ~30,000 m/s, borrowed from Earth's solar orbit).

          Practically speaking, of course, there's no difference between throwing the waste out of the system and into the sun. The percentage of people who would honestly raise a "polluting the universe" concern has got to be vanishingly small. If it isn't, we're
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sunburnt (890890)
      Hopefully commercial fusion becomes viable soon, removing a lot of the present objections to nuclear power. Hard to see how this will have much of an impact on transport fuels, though, without major advances in battery tech.
    • Not that I disagree with nuclear (from a pragmatic point-of-view), but I'd like to see more self-generating forms of electricity. Things like exercise gyms that double as power generators. That way I could convert my eco-guilt into a strong exercise regimen.
      • A previous poster mentioned a similar idea out of a work of fiction and your comment has a humourous angle to it. I don't see why this couldn't be a local-scale solution, though. Right now, all of the work that I do on the stationary bicycle during my lunch hour is turned into waste heat. Electricity is not my strong point, but it seems reasonable that many low-power generators could be put to some good use.
        • I've worked out the math before, and a serious workout could generate a significant amount of electrical power. I'm a marathon runner, and the amount of electricity I might generate from my daily exercise routine would probably generate all of my electrical needs for that day, with a little extra left over. Granted, just as with ethanol, there's still a question of supplying me with calories.
          • by joshetc (955226)
            It makes sense and unlike with ethanol, calories used on you wont be wasted as you will use them reguardless of the electricity you generate. A decent gym with 20 or 30 stationary bikes going could probably generate at least enough electricity to keep the gym self-sufficient.
      • Start at home!

        Ingredients:

        (1) Suitable exercise device (treadmill, stationary bike, etc)
        (1) Automotive alternator (w/ voltage regulator if it's not internal)
        (1) Heavy-duty 12 Volt rechargeable battery
        (1) DC Inverter (400W or better)
        (1) Free weekend or two

        Combine with any required hardware. Plug in TV/DVD player/Computer and work your ass off to keep that battery charged while watching your favorite movies. Battery provides temporary power for appliances while you get on and off the equipment.
        =Smidge=
        • I suspect that if I tried that myself, I'd end with nothing more than a bruised ego (and possibly other bruised/damaged items). However, I do have a cousin who's pretty good with electronics... (I understand the theory just fine. It's the practice I ain't so good at.)

    • I agree. It is a shame that environmentalists often oppose nuclear power, as it is still the best solution we have for generating pollution-free energy on a practical scale.

      By campaigning against nuclear power stations, environmentalists have forced more fossil-fuel stations to be built. Their actions helped to prevent investment in an infrastructure for sustainable energy, and have thus furthered our dependence on dirty fuels like oil and coal.

      They should have been campaigning *for* nuclear power. They sho
      • by jinxidoru (743428)
        Thank you. This is exactly what I have been saying for years. It's interesting to see that the environmentalists are starting to come around to nuclear finally. I wish they hadn't freaking killed the industry 20 years ago with their propaganda. We might not have the problem that we do today with Global Warming had it not been for their illogical, ridiculous FUD against nuclear.
  • Related Reading (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CheeseburgerBrown (553703) on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:05PM (#17800452) Homepage Journal
    For a science-fiction cant on some of the issues raised in TFA, take a look at The Bikes of New York [cheeseburgerbrown.com] which explores a post-energy crisis near-future in which impoverished people have the option of riding stationary bicycles to spin massive underground flywheels that top up the energy needs of commercial enterprises.

    I think creative solutions to electricity problems are in all our futures. Personally, I live about 75% off the grid and am looking forward to be able to afford to get all the way off -- but I need to get my roof re-done before I can even think about solar panels or mounting a wind turbine up there.

    At any rate, fiction for thought.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by CmdrGravy (645153)
      Not a bad idea, the idle poor ( known as Chavs in the UK ) use far more than fair share of power sitting around all day, as they do, in centrally heated saunas with Trisha on full blast on the Sky box.

      If we limited the amount of energy available to them they would be forced to get off their collective arses and get jobs.
    • by aldheorte (162967)
      I doubt the human body combined with a stationary bicycle is a very efficient processor of biomass into energy. Surely it would be more efficient to take a more direct route? I think this premise comes from the common notion that somehow humans magically create their own energy, rather than simply being replicating biochemical vats for the extraction of energy from food with many adaptations to find said food and perform said replication.
      • by syphax (189065)

        Humans are surprisingly efficient considering the low temperature at which we convert biomass to energy- something along the lines of 20% (based on studies of endurance cyclists, I believe- sorry, don't have time to find the source). That's not exactly good, but it's not bad compared to an internal combustion engine.

        The main problem with human power is that even at the (old?) minimum wage of $5 or so an hour, and given that someone in pretty good shape can put out ~200W for a few hours, you're looking at $
        • by PingSpike (947548)
          I think the idea is, if I'm trying to burn off my Christmas gut anyway...the bike I'm pedaling to do so might as well be connected to a generator.
      • Different sources on the wide Web trot out wildly different facts on how much energy a human being might be able to output this way, with some claiming that one couldn't even keep a light-bulb lit while others claiming to be able to store battery power for running laptops, DVD players and even very small appliances.

        Naturally, the energy isn't free: it comes from food (which is also not free). However, a person can work all day dribbling out energy as they do quality control watch on an assembly line, or
  • ..Hybrid Sweaters!
  • What!? (Score:5, Funny)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:09PM (#17800532) Homepage Journal
    Lengthy but well-reasoned and good reading.

    Dude, what the hell is something like that doing on slashdot? I need more psuedo intellectual rants about how the RIAA is going to eat my first born!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by trongey (21550)

      ...the RIAA is going to eat my first born!
      It's about time they started doing something useful.
  • Similar Ideas (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rohar (253766) * <bob.rohatensky@sasktel.net> on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:19PM (#17800682) Homepage Journal
    The article has some similar ideas to our project [energytower.org]. A few comments on the article:
    • The existing agricultural system is orientated towards edible food production. Growing, handling and storing crops for energy products is an entirely different industry that currently doesn't exist in North America. Using food production numbers for energy product potential isn't very accurate.
    • If agricultural production of energy products had access to affordable and renewable energy, there is a lot more potential for increased production while improving the land as well as better use of by-products than is feasible with the current fossil fuel powered agricultural sector.
  • by P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:22PM (#17800730) Journal
    The real pay off for ethanol will be when a good process for making ethanol from cellulose is developed. Cellulose is just long chains of sugars, and it is just a matter of time before the chemistry becomes a reality.

    In the meantime, ethanol for corn will help get the infrastructure in place.
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:22PM (#17800732) Homepage Journal
    because for all the work we do it won't amount to a hill of beans if China doesn't play along. Go look at many of their cities, they look even worse than the US did at its height for pollution.

    Hell, their only fix for good air during the Olympics will be to ban cars and shutdown nearby industries.

    Still got to love this comment on his blog :)

    "There is sufficient biomass energy to replace motor fuel and then some... if the energy is not wasted. "

    Well duh. Thats the problem with his whole page, its all stuck on a BIG bunch of IFs.

    but the biggest problem is turing grain crops into fuel, there are just so many uses for grain crops in everyday products that a slight increase in their pricing because of competition with fuels could force consumer prices up, masking the true cost of these new forms of power creation.

    • by PetiePooo (606423)
      The biggest problem in turning grain crops into fuel; there are just so many uses for grain crops in everyday products that a slight increase in their pricing because of competition with fuels could force consumer prices up, masking the true cost of these new forms of power creation.

      There are several ways to manipulate this. The subsidy can be adjusted to change the backstop price. Or we could establish a different subsidy rate for edible grains vs. excess stover. Plus, as energy becomes more readily
  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:28PM (#17800810) Homepage Journal
    This is a really nice piece of work. A couple of technologies that were missed are marketing mechanisms related to solar http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/solar-power-am way-way.html [blogspot.com] and fly wheels http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/saving-not-bor rowing.html [blogspot.com], described on the Real Energy blog.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drmerope (771119)
      Ah. Solar. I couldn't help but notice a few years back that the city of los angeles had covered a parking lot by the Staple's Center with photovoltaics, and I often read about how it takes 20 years to recoup the cost of solar panels (less now with heavy government supports). The irony of this is that manufacturing solar cells consumes a good deal of electricity--and it turns out (I'm in the semiconductor industry) that this manufacturing cost is the bulk of the price. Meaning that not only does a solar
      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        I think you are confusing manufacturing cost with retail price. At current retail, set by the scarcity of solar grade silicon, the payback time is about 12 years. But manufacturing cost is much lower than this. The energy pay back time is less than 5 years, and, as you say, the input energy is typically renewable in any case.
        ---
        Solar: it's what cooks dinner: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-user s -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
      • by Smidge204 (605297)
        Cost recovery on Solar-Electric vary widely dependong on various (and obvious) conditions... 20 years is pretty good. Around where I live it's closer to 40 years!

        Modern boiler-type fossil fuel power plants can reach efficiencies in the mid 40's (Using super- and ultra-critical designs. Combined-cycle turbine type plants can get into the upper 50% range. I don't think 50% for a charcoal fired power plant is completely out of the ballpark here, but it's pretty optomistic even if you use a turbine that burns p
  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Monday January 29, 2007 @12:30PM (#17800834)
    Sure - the proposal to produce charcoal will allow for some soil renewal, but to allow this process to become sustainable, we'd also have to manage our soil resources much more carefully than we have been. Oh well, one problem at a time, I guess - global warming-related climate change would likely destroy even more viable soil than this proposal (it dries quicker in some spots, erodes others much quicker), so it's certainly an improvement.

    Ryan Fenton
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by daeg (828071)
      True, although moving to easy, more natural crops like Switchgrass will alleviate some of our problems.

      Much of our soil erosion and depletion is due to the way we grow crops: in strict rows, with chemicals to kill weeds and grass. While killing weeds makes picking corn easier by keeping the rows clean, there is a lot of exposed soil under the plants.

      Grasses don't have this problem and actually help to maintain or even expand soil over time, and most have the added benefit of being perennial and self-propaga
  • One of the biggest threats the USA faces today is a serious shortage of energy.
    I flip a switch and the light comes on. I bump up the thermostat and the furnace comes on. I need to drive to Toledo so I fill the tank. The stores are full of food and manufactured goods from around the world. I can order up a computer, cell phone or HDTV, have it flown in and delivered by a man in a shiny brown truck with no pain, delay or unreasonable expense.

    Where's the energy shortage?
    • The threat isn't an existing energy shortage. The threat is how easy it would be for a serious energy shortage to occur.

      Consider where we get our oil. Most of it comes from politically unstable parts of the world.

      Why do you think Bush just asked to double the energy reserve? Because if something happens (and if he's doubling it, he thinks something very easily could happen)we'll be up the creek, sans paddle.

      Try thinking long term sometime. It's amazing what a little perspective can do on a subject.
    • I believe the sentence refers to the fact that the US has to import so much of its energy. You and I as consumers couldn't care less, as it is a commodity. We just want the lights to come on when we flip a switch. But that's because the shortage was large enough that other sources of energy were brought in from outside the United States. Just because we're shielded from it doesn't mean it's not there.

      Were there to be a major war, shutting down oil imports and other imports of energy (such as electrici

    • by Smidge204 (605297)
      I went over to the kitchen sink and washed my hands. My dishwasher didn't have any problems, and neither did my laundry machine. The toilets still flushed. I was still able to take a shower that night and have my morning coffee same as always. The heavy wetness on my lawn as I left the house was proof that my automatic sprinkler system was operating normally. ...but the news was saying there was a serious water shortage in my area.
      =Smidge=
  • by Spazmania (174582) on Monday January 29, 2007 @01:14PM (#17801490) Homepage
    How to end US carbon emissions in 30 years without damaging the US economy:

    Step 1: Build nuclear power plants. Update the designs with modern technology and give tax incentives for every new nuke plant built.

    Reason: 50's and 60's technology nuke plants currently generate electricity for less money than any other technology, even coal. They cost less than a third of what oil and natural gas plants cost. With modern technology its likely we could improve safety while lowering the cost further. Speaking of safety: the worst US accident in 50 years of opererating nuclear energey plants was three mile island, in which no radiation leaked and no one got hurt.

    Yes, worse accidents are possible. That means that over a long enough period of time they will happen. But weigh the rare environmental damage from a meltdown against the continuous destruction of the atmosphere by hyrdocarbon burning plants.

    Step 2: With the cost of electricty driven cheap enough by nuke plants, shift to hydrogen-based internal combustion engines. With electrolysis done at off-peak hours to generate hydrogen from electricity, every home can be its own fueling station. Hydrogen burns with oxygen to make water, so go drive a steamer.

    Reason: Imagine a city, maybe the city you live in, where the only air pollution is the occasional methane from peoples' farts! Nuclear makes its possible and these technologies are economical now, not just in some hypothetical future after more research.
    • Another forgotten method is Water Power.
      My friend owns some land that has a small stream (1m wide) runnnig through it. He installed a turbine at one end of his land. He built a waterwheel and installed it at the other end where there was more head (of water).
      He now generates more power than he needs and is selling it to the grid.
      His neighbours are now very interested in doing the same.
      This is small scale but the cost to the environment is pretty small.

      Now, if you take a big river there are huge opportunitie
    • Hum, you've forgotten the incredible subsidy nuclear power gets: It's been promised not to have to deal with the waste. That promise is not at all realistic since Yucca Mountian can't go forward. So, we're in a postion where we'll have to pay back all the energy we've ever gotten from nuclear power and then some. How much more expensive can you get? See: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/saving-not-bo r rowing.html [blogspot.com]
      ---
      Get Real Energy: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.h [blogspot.com]
      • by QuantumPion (805098) on Monday January 29, 2007 @03:03PM (#17803162)

        Hum, you've forgotten the incredible subsidy nuclear power gets: It's been promised not to have to deal with the waste. That promise is not at all realistic since Yucca Mountian can't go forward. So, we're in a postion where we'll have to pay back all the energy we've ever gotten from nuclear power and then some. How much more expensive can you get? See: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/saving-not-bor [blogspot.com] rowing.html
        That article is a load of crap. Basically, what he is saying is that in order to clean up all of the waste we've generated, we need to use high energy particle accelerators to split apart every last atom of radioactive waste, and since the particle accelerator would require more energy to run then what we obtained from the nuclear power to begin with, it's therefore not worth the trouble. This is equivalent to saying that fossil fuels can't be economically used, because the energy required to rebind the molecules after they are combusted is greater then the energy used to burn them to begin with. It's a ridiculous argument and is wrong on so many levels I'm not going to go into it here unless you really want me to.

        And your original point is wrong. You are backwards, power reactors don't receive subsidies to dispose of their waste. They've been paying into a DOE waste fund since 1982. The cost of waste disposal has already been factored into the economics of their operation.
  • The answer is sitting in the fucking sky.

    Solar energy is there waiting to be harnessed.

    The smart people will setup solar farms.
    • There is still the problem of steady growth and the consumption of finite resources. Even if we come up with some new and novel way of producing/extracting energy, the exponential growth problem does not go away.

      There's an interesting lecture [globalpublicmedia.com] by Al Bartlett [wikipedia.org] that covers this quite well, IMHO.

      "In the summer of 1986 the news reports indicated that the world population had reached the number of five billion people growing at the rate of 1.7% per year. Well your reaction to 1.7% might be to say that that's so sm
  • by jlcooke (50413) on Monday January 29, 2007 @02:31PM (#17802738) Homepage
    But it's not a Ethenol hybrid.

    It's a 2001 VW Jetta TDI. Diesel. Installed a GreaseCar [greasecar.com] system. Works well, but not in this weather (-20C..-30C).

    Pretty much every other time of the year, I start on DinoDiesel and once things get hot enough I switch to Waste Veggie Oil I get and filter to 10 microns [filterbag.com] from a local pub.

    The article puts things together in a clear way. Points out what's wrong with the nut-jobs who think the world can be run off of butterflies and rainbows.

    To those back-and-forthing on Ethenol - think about how much energy there is in a litre of ethenol. It's very very small. Production is expensive ($$$ & energy).

    I don't 100% agree with the article's view on charcol fuel sources. But I like the analysis, not many gems like that.

    My thoughts on how to solve this? Okokokok I'll tell you anyways. Grow alge, crush it into oil and use that. Alge grows 100x faster than canola/soy/rapeseed, is 50% oil, and only requires sunlight, (non-)salted water, heat, dirt and shit. No expentive farming equipment guzzling diesel to harvest. Just settling ponds like at the local water treatment plant to skim off the alge.

    Anyways. Alge == good. Alge has had about 3-4 Billion years head start on Solar-power. Don't believe me? Take a deep breath.
  • Best solution I know (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drago177 (150148)
    There will have to be multiple, complex solutions to this coming energy crisis, but 2 things will have to happen: 1) The public as a whole is going to have to be better informed and concerned enough to force the politicians to move, and 2) A huge majority of the public is going to have to make a few changes.

    Which green solutions are best is sometimes debatable. But there is a new company that seems to best cover both 1&2, and it is one of the 'no-brainer' solutions. Citizenre will be renting solar p
  • by Smoke2Joints (915787) on Monday January 29, 2007 @04:11PM (#17804118) Homepage
    Energy generation needs to be localised. Everyone needs to be aware of their usage, control it, and take on the responsibility of generating it themselves, be it photovoltaic, wind turbine, or micro hydro.

"I have more information in one place than anybody in the world." -- Jerry Pournelle, an absurd notion, apparently about the BIX BBS

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