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Earth Power The Almighty Buck News

How the Economy Is Changing Clean Energy 227

Al writes "The economy has hit green energy technologies hard, but technologies focused on energy efficiency and clean coal are still attracting money. Over the next few years, venture capitalists say that the biggest winners in clean tech will most likely be companies with technologies that improve efficiency. Such ventures often take advantage of cheap sensors, communications hardware, and software packages to monitor and control energy use both in buildings and on the electricity grid. High-capital businesses are now more likely to succeed if they can attract foreign funding. For instance, Great Point Energy, based in Cambridge, which has developed a process for converting coal into natural gas, has attracted $100m in funding from China."
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How the Economy Is Changing Clean Energy

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  • Re:If you ask me... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @03:19AM (#27190763) Homepage

    And working with finite resources like coal is a dead end. You will end up with the dirty parts regardless.

  • by Tweenk ( 1274968 ) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @08:28AM (#27191705)

    Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is currently uneconomical, and producing hydrocarbons through this process and then burning them in engines generates much more CO2 than burning oil, because some of the coal has to be used to generate the extra hydrogen present in gasoline:
    C + 2 H2O = CO2 + 2 H2

  • Re:If you ask me... (Score:5, Informative)

    by xelah ( 176252 ) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @10:10AM (#27192161)

    Of course companies need to maximise the profit. Why should they minimise debt is beyond me (if you are talking about maximising net profit and not turn-over, debt is not an issue).

    Because investors don't just care about profit, they also care about risk. Average profit with above average risk is not good.

    Debt and profit interact like this (ignoring tax, for now):

    Case 1: A company uses 100m of capital, all from shareholders, to make an average of 10m/year of profit. Return to shareholders: 10%, plus annual variation. The company goes bust if it persistently makes less than 0 profit.

    Case 2: An equivalent company uses 100m of capital, 50m from shareholders, 50m from 5% debt, to make an average of 10m/year of profit before interest, 7.5m/year after interest. Return to shareholders: 15%. The company goes bust if it persistently makes less than 2.5m/year from its operations, so the risk to shareholders is larger. If profits are a normal distribution - or anything like it - this could be quite a big difference in risk.

    So what matters is not profit, but risk-adjusted profit....and leverage increases risk. In theory, shareholders should care because they adjust the leverage themselves (owning 1000 of the share capital in case one, or 500 of the share capital and 500 of the debt in case two, is equivalent). However, the tax system encourages debt by taxing profit AFTER interest. This is a BAD thing, and may have contributed to our current mess, because it decreases shareholder returns in case 1 more than in case 2, encouraging otherwise pointless risky behaviour.

  • by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @10:37AM (#27192317) Homepage
    Oh please. I bet you're the sort of person who believes that we can replace all our coal plants with Wind and Hydro by 2015 if we spent enough money.

    First you have to get the liscensing for all these power plants. For Hydro, this is mostly impossible since someone will stand up and say that the turbines chew up fish at a ridiculous rate and destroy the river. For wind, people will complain about the birds. These drawbacks were true in 1960 but they aren't anymore. You'll be tied down for at least 3 years trying to get the permits and approval to build. And that's being optomistic.

    Then you need to build the things. But the lead time for many components is pretty long and still getting longer, even in this economy. We're buying forgings and bearings 3-4 years in advance. And then you have to machine it. These are big forgings and bearings, so not a lot of companies make them.

    Finally, you need to install and run the plants. As I said, the manpower is getting a little short. Startup engineers make a minimum of 60k base salary a year and it goes up from there. That's not incuding overtime, which is excessive. So its not at all about the money. Most companies that are installing wind turbines are running flat out too along with everyone else.

    Coal is mostly clean now, and it's a huge resource that the US has Right Now. I just spent a week in New Cumberland PA, right next door to Three Mile Island and several huge coal plants. And you know what? The air quality was excellent. There are tons of trees in that area and the scrubbers on all the plants are excellent. The ash is recycled into various useful products and the stuff that comes out of the scrubbers (mostly gypsum) is turned into Gypsum board.

    As for natural Gas, its completely clean. I went to one plant in Wallingford Connecticut that was in a heavy residential area. The turbines were abour 400 feet away from a bunch of houses, but nobody who lived there knew they were even running because of the sound wall and the clear exhaust. It's even burning a renewable resource. Most people don't realize that Natural Gas is 99% Methane with a hint of Hydrogen. Sure its not coming from renewable sources *now* but there's no reason it couldn't.

    I *want* one of these plants in my backyard. The taxes on 250 million dollars of equipment makes my taxes less. The highly paid employees have to eat, sleep, and socialize somewhere. The electrical costs are less because less energy is wasted in transmission.

    If you want to turn this country into Vermont, maybe you should just move to Vermont.
  • Re:"Clean" coal (Score:2, Informative)

    by iminplaya ( 723125 ) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @01:13PM (#27193487) Journal

    You cannot/will not make coal clean. That is unconditionally guaranteed. You just want to keep burning coal because it's cheap and convenient. Or you have some other interest. To hell with the consequences. That's for the next generation to deal with. If people are protesting nuclear, it's more likely because it's being handled as negligently as before by the same companies who are dumping sludge into the rivers and crude into the oceans. So if you want to keep your damn iPod charged up, find another way. Some of us are tired of breathing/drinking/eating your shit.

  • CO2 (Score:3, Informative)

    by falconwolf ( 725481 ) <falconsoaring_20 ... minus cat> on Saturday March 14, 2009 @02:07PM (#27194041)

    When there is more CO2, plants do better.

    Some plants grow better with higher CO2 levels, like poison ivy []. However other plants grow slower. There are winners and losers [] wherein some plants grow faster and others slower under high CO2 levels. The same is true under higher temperatures. []

    Oh, BTW, "The jolt of carbon dioxide []also boosted the most-toxic forms of poison ivy's rash-raising oil".

    So, please, stop trying to insult the intelligence of people on slashdot until AFTER you have educated yourself about how the world works.

    I suggest you do the same.


  • by IvyKing ( 732111 ) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @03:01PM (#27194503)

    If we had civilian nuclear plants that were good at producing electricity I would agree with you. Unfortunately in nearly every case we have a compromise dual use plant that produces very expensive electricity along with the weapon materials.

    The only "dual-use" nuclear power plant in the US was the Hanford 'N' reactor which was shut down shortly after the Chernobyl accident. Light water reactors are poor sources of materials for weapons due to the high 240Pu, and will be even poorer with the high burnup fuels.

  • Re:If you ask me... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14, 2009 @05:09PM (#27195447)

    MYTH 1: Global temperatures are rising at a rapid, unprecedented rate.

    FACT: Accurate satellite, balloon and mountain top observations made over the last three decades have not shown any significant change in the long term rate of increase in global temperatures. Average ground station readings do show a mild warming of 0.6 to 0.8C over the last 100 years, which is well within the natural variations recorded in the last millennium. The ground station network suffers from an uneven distribution across the globe; the stations are preferentially located in growing urban and industrial areas ("heat islands"), which show substantially higher readings than adjacent rural areas ("land use effects").

    There has been no catastrophic warming recorded.

    MYTH 2: The "hockey stick" graph proves that the earth has experienced a steady, very gradual temperature decrease for 1000 years, then recently began a sudden increase.

    FACT: Significant changes in climate have continually occurred throughout geologic time. For instance, the Medieval Warm Period, from around 1000 to 1200 AD (when the Vikings farmed on Greenland) was followed by a period known as the Little Ice Age. Since the end of the 17th Century the "average global temperature" has been rising at the low steady rate mentioned above; although from 1940 Ãff" 1970 temperatures actually dropped, leading to a Global Cooling scare.

    The "hockey stick", a poster boy of both the UN's IPCC and Canada's Environment Department, ignores historical recorded climatic swings, and has now also been proven to be flawed and statistically unreliable as well. It is a computer construct and a faulty one at that.

    MYTH 3: Human produced carbon dioxide has increased over the last 100 years, adding to the Greenhouse effect, thus warming the earth.

    FACT: Carbon dioxide levels have indeed changed for various reasons, human and otherwise, just as they have throughout geologic time. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the CO2 content of the atmosphere has increased. The RATE of growth during this period has also increased from about 0.2% per year to the present rate of about 0.4% per year,which growth rate has now been constant for the past 25 years. However, there is no proof that CO2 is the main driver of global warming. As measured in ice cores dated over many thousands of years, CO2 levels move up and down AFTER the temperature has done so, and thus are the RESULT OF, NOT THE CAUSE of warming. Geological field work in recent sediments confirms this causal relationship. There is solid evidence that, as temperatures move up and down naturally and cyclically through solar radiation, orbital and galactic influences, the warming surface layers of the earth's oceans expel more CO2 as a result.

    MYTH 4: CO2 is the most common greenhouse gas.

    FACT: Greenhouse gases form about 3% of the atmosphere by volume. They consist of varying amounts, (about 97%) of water vapour and clouds, with the remainder being gases like CO2, CH4, Ozone and N2O, of which carbon dioxide is the largest amount. Hence, CO2 constitutes about 0.037% of the atmosphere. While the minor gases are more effective as "greenhouse agents" than water vapor and clouds, the latter are overwhelming the effect by their sheer volume and Ãff" in the end Ãff" are thought to be responsible for 60% of the "Greenhouse effect".

    Those attributing climate change to CO2 rarely mention this important fact.

    MYTH 5: Computer models verify that CO2 increases will cause significant global warming.

    FACT: The computer models assume that CO2 is the primary climate driver, and that the Sun has an insignificant effect on climate. You cannot use the output of a model to verify or prove its initial assumption - that is circular reasoning and is illogical. Computer models can be made to roughly match the 20th century temperature rise by adjusting many input parameters and using strong positive feedbacks. They

  • Re:If you ask me... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14, 2009 @05:31PM (#27195621)

    There are several motives for the media and politicians to lie to you about global warming, aside from money and control.

    • The media sells more papers, magazines, and television ratings soar when their audience is scared of some imminent catastrophe that your respective service is reporting on []. Although, they can't decide whether we're going to burn to death, freeze to death, or drown. []
    • Environmental organizations and some scientists will lie to you because their funding depends on it. If theres no crisis to work through, then they start losing funding. This is well documented. []
    • Foreign countries are lying to us (by means of the IPCC) because they wish to throw a monkey wrench into the inner workings of western economies, which are the strongest in the world. If our economy slows down, the economic standing of other countries improves because we will no longer dominate the markets.
    • Development and industrialization of third world countries will be stamped out, along with hundreds of millions of lives, all under the guise of "saving the planet from climate change". It's absolutely sickening. So, who's really on the "immoral" side? Us or the alarmists?
    • Wanna talk about new taxes and restricted freedoms? Try carbon taxes on everything and strict regulations for everyone....all coming soon by convincing you that CO2 & greenhouse gases are somehow evil and you must pay to emit them. Too bad they can't tax the oceans since they are the cause of 96.5% of all greenhouse emissions, naturally, eh! Also too bad they can't go back in time and tax the dinosaurs since CO2 levels were MUCH higher back then and it must have been their fault.

    The motives for deception are there. Do your part to fight alarmism!

    CO2 is NOT a pollutant!

    Educate yourself! []

    Antarctica is getting colder and thicker: []), and we know that any fluctuating warming/cooling is due to natural occurrences, and not human activity.

    " [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

  • Re:If you ask me... (Score:1, Informative)

    by sunnyflorida ( 913256 ) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:34AM (#27199125)
    There is nothing dirty about CO2.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama