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Power Hardware

Mideast Turmoil and the Push For Clean Energy 314

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Adam Werbach writes that in July 2008 oil prices reached $147 a barrel and suddenly energy prices and alternative energy was on everyone's agenda but soon oil prices fell as the economy faltered and people moved on to the more immediate concerns of keeping their jobs and businesses alive. Now with the possibility looming of $200 a barrel oil, the US has a robust field of clean energy technologies that are slowly coming online, from thinfilm solar to fuel cells to cellulosic ethanol — unlike 2008, when it seemed like we were starting our innovation engine from a cold start. 'In the last three years, as oil prices have softened, we've seen stumbles as companies like Applied Materials pulled back from the clean energy space because of operational and market conditions,' writes Werbach. '2012 will be a rich year for equity capitalizations, giving energy entrepreneurs the capital they need to build infrastructure. Even with the draconian austerity measures that are coming into effect across the country, this is a second opportunity for energy innovation.'"
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Mideast Turmoil and the Push For Clean Energy

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  • by NFN_NLN (633283) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @02:58AM (#35395058)

    Most of the 'clean' energy projects are not for replacing oil (as a transport fuel) but are for replacing fossil fuels like coal and natural gas in electricity production.
    Until we get a big breakthrough in battery technology we are not going to be able to run our cars on wind and solar power.

    Transportation only accounts for 27% of US energy consumption. You can still make a large impact even if you left cars to run on fossil fuels. []

  • by jjohnson (62583) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @03:05AM (#35395076) Homepage

    America has plenty of shale oil, which is more expensive to produce than the oil in the tar sands of Alberta, which is more expensive to produce than the oil in the Middle East. Environmentalism has nothing to do with failure to develop North American oilfields; the cost of a barrel of oil simply isn't high enough to start thoroughly exploiting local deposits.

    Oil has to be around $70/barrel for the tar sands to be worthwhile, and no one knows the floor price to make shale oil extraction profitable because that's a field of engineering only now being developed. As for the Gulf of Mexico, the reason BP was drilling 5,000 feet down was because all the shallow fields have been sucked dry.

  • Re:Thorium Reactors (Score:4, Informative)

    by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @06:04AM (#35395708)

    Actually, Thorium was the natural choice for nuclear energy; Uranium was chosen instead so that we could build bombs.

  • Re:Thorium Reactors (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 06, 2011 @09:31AM (#35396740)

    Actually, Thorium was the natural choice for nuclear energy; Uranium was chosen instead so that we could build bombs.

    I keep hearing this bullshit over and over, as if peopel just cut and paste it from some random website.
    Thorium is a rubbish choice for several reasons:

    Firstly, while it is possible to build a thermal breeder reactor using thorium, you would have to really push the the neutron economy, and thus the doubling time would be very long. As a consequence of the very long doubling time, the initial fissile fuel to breed enough U-233 to make a thorium reactor critical would have to come from reprocessed plutonium, meaning you would have to develop the technology needed for uranium reactors and plutonium extraction anyway.

    Now if you want to destroy the minor actinide from your uranium waste you need a fast neutron spectrum. The reason for this is that many of the actinides are not fissile for low energy neutrons. You could build a fast reactor using thorium, but in a fast spectrum Plutonium, not U-233 is teh superior fuel due to a much higher neutron yield. It is only for thermal neutrons that Thorium excels.

    It is also more difficult to reprocess throium, there's some intense gamma-emitters formed in a reactor using them, and there's a bunch of other issues.

Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don't add up.