A hundred years of natural gas?

by Solarevolution January 25, 2012 02:49

The President of the United States has been duped. Last night he told the nation that the USA now has 100 years of natural gas reserves, thanks to new technology.  

No doubt his rhetoric was based on recent enthusiastic reports claiming that indeed the US has 100 years of natural gas. But did anyone in the White House notice who wrote those reports? Is it possible the authors hold investments in natural gas? What do they have to say about the consistently low yields of new natural gas wells?  Where does objectivity come into play? If it's true, why then is the USA still importing natural gas from Canada?

President Obama made 100 years sound like a long time. If he's right, what will America's grandchildren do 101 years from now if it's all used up by then?

Is the USA a hundred year flash-in-the-pan natural-gas-powered civilization? If not, it's time to panic! The USA needs to find an alternative to burning up all its natural gas in a couple more generations. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If it's not true and there's less natural gas than advertised, then Americans must be even more conservative and really panic!

Either way, whether the nation may run out of gas in 10 years or 100 years, it's time to slam on the brakes and find viable alternatives to natural gas now, and not keep kicking the can down the road.

Afghanistan, a testimony to American diplomacy ten years on

by Solarevolution January 11, 2012 19:30

Part 1: Electricity and Oil 

Afghanistan is the country where average electricity consumption per capita was about the lowest in the world in 2001; it is even lower now ten years on, in 2012.

Average oil consumption per capita was about the lowest in the world in 2001; it is lower yet in 2012.

2001

Population =  25,838,797

Electricity Consumption = 20  kWh(e)/year/capita
Always-on power use equivalent = 2.3 watts/capita average
%(US) = 0.16%

Oil consumption = 2.19 M bbl/year.
Oil consumption = 0.08 bbl/yr/capita
%(US) = 0.3%

2011

Population =  29,835,392

Electricity Consumption =231.1 million kWh / 29,835,392 = 7.75 kWh(e)/year/capita
Always-on power use equivalent = 0.9 watts/capita average = 40% of 2001
%(US) = 0.06% or less than one tenth of one percent.

Oil consumption =  = 4,800 * 365 = 1.75 M bbl/year.
Oil consumption = 0.06 bbl/yr/capita = 75% of 2001
%(US) = 0.2%

Energy conservation has been taken to a whole new level in Afghanistan, with greater than 50% reduction in just 10 years, a testimony to American diplomacy.

Afghanistan has the second highest rate of infant mortality and second lowest life expectancy of any country, above only Angola.


Part 2: Solar Energy

Imagine what might have happened if the USA had invested a mere $1B in delivering solar panels to Afghanistan. Putting that amount in perspective, the cost of war in Afghanistan has been about $500 billion as of January 2012 and the war costs $300 million a day according to the Pentagon.

Let's use $3/watt as the price of solar. (Panels alone are now selling well below $1.50/watt and some complete large utility-scale systems are at or near that $3/watt price.)

$1B ÷ $3/watt = 333 megawatt, ÷  29,835,392 people = 11 watts/capita. Multiply this by 5 hrs equivalent production per 24 hour day (21%) and the result is 11 watts*21%= 2.3 watts/capita, the same as was available in 2001.

Conclusion: A timely investment of $1 Billion in solar panels in Afghanistan in 2001 would have doubled electricity production per capita in Afghanistan. The same investment today would increase electricity production by 250%.

Would Afghanistan have the third lowest literacy rate in the world if electricity were available to its people?

What are we shoveling with shovel ready solutions?

by Solarevolution September 09, 2011 08:29

I learned a new phrase a few days ago, "drop-in fuels." Leave the fuel-hogging devices all the same -- ask no questions about efficiency -- and concoct a new fuel to keep feeding the hogs. (On small islands in ancient Polynesia, it was discovered that hogs were competing for the same food as humans, and they were exterminated. Oh, that we could learn such lessons from our ancestors.)

The military is looking for a way to fuel jets, tanks, personnel carriers, etc., without oil, and the politicians are providing the rhetoric to suspend the laws of physics until they get re-elected.

Just as with the flawed notion of "shovel ready," we have institutionalized business-as-usual (BAU) remedies which have no future. Rebuilding America, fixing our infrastructure, etc., is all about constructing stranded assets -- artifacts of the age of oil which will last 50-100-200 years longer than the fuel that is needed to operate them. Pity. 

What is the alternative?

  • Simultaneously with putting solar panels on our roofs, we must swap out our incandescent bulbs and put in LEDs that use 10% as much energy. The same goes for the efficiency of refrigerators and washing machines. We can do better.
  • In the haste to convert our cars to electric propulsion...
    • Did anyone notice that the car itself is only about 1% efficient? (Most of the fuel is used to move metal. We use a ton of metal to move a person!)
    • With help from other 2 & 4 wheeled contraptions, the car kills a million people worldwide every year and maimes countless others.
    • The electric vehicle uses as much in materials as a conventional car -- or more. There are no savings in materials.
    We did not speed up the horse by feeding it on the newly discovered fuel, kerosene. We created the horseless carriage. As the horseless carriage scaled up, we didn't notice its limitations. We now know how to achieve mobility without oil, and we can solve the other flaws of our transportation system at the same time. Getting off oil is liberating, not confining.

If we do all these things and more, we won't be needing the over-powered military machinery which is being used mostly to protect our sources of oil. 

We have a unique opportunity in the context of peak oil to redesign our infrastructure, to transform personal transport to 100% renewables -- and while we are at it, eliminate the fundamental flaws in our present system.

First principles:

  • grade separation (put fast-moving vehicles above pedestrians and bicyclists with podcars or below with subways),
  • automated on fixed guideways,
  • dispatchable at will, not scheduled,
  • solar powered,
  • light weight, aerodynamic,
  • consuming less than 100 watt-hours per vehicle-km.

You don't know how to do that? If you jettison the oil, you will be able to figure it out. Don't leave it to future generations to struggle in an oil-depleted world. It is time for our generation to become responsible. Let's not kick the can down the road to the next generation.

Post-Peak-Oil Riots in England

by Solarevolution August 14, 2011 14:52
England riots: Reaction to another night of disorder

10 August 2011 Last updated at 10:15 ET

...He added: "This has been senseless violence and senseless criminality of a scale I have never experienced in my career before.


Police calm London, but riots flare across UK

LONDON (AP) - Britain will not allow a culture of fear to take over the streets, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Wednesday, saying police have drawn up contingency plans to use water cannons if necessary.

"We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order onto our streets," Cameron said in a somber televised statement. "Nothing is off the table."

... "We want to make it absolutely clear - they have nothing to protest against,"...

Britain's riots began Saturday when an initially peaceful protest over a police shooting in London's Tottenham neighborhood turned violent. That clash has morphed into a general lawlessness in London and several other cities that police have struggled to halt.


More deaths in English riots

Three men said to have been protecting their local community have reportedly been run over and killed in Birmingham as riots continue throughout England.


British Gas voted 'worst energy supplier'

British Gas has been voted the UK's worst energy supplier, according to a survey by price comparison website uSwitch.Customer satisfaction remained low for the company despite cutting prices twice this year and taking a total of £207 off its average energy bill.



 

 


The Coming UK Energy Meltdown



Social media plays huge role amidst madness of UK riots

The reasons behind how and why these riots are happening is the centre of huge debate, one we’re not going to even attempt to join right now. What we are interested in talking about is the part technology has had to play in it all.

Although the service hasn’t been shut down, it has been revealed that the company is providing information to police which has predictably sparked all sorts of controversy.

Understandably there’s been a lot of frustration and anger vented at the government and police force due to their lack of action this week. The opinion that the internet has been much more effective then any effort from the ‘powers at be’ is one felt by many, this tweet (user unknown) summed up the mood well we thought:

"if the Big Society exists in things like #riotcleanup, remember that Cameron didn't give us it, the internet did".


Twitter refuses to close accounts of rioters to protect their 'freedom of expression'
By Chris Greenwood and Tim Shipman
Last updated at 2:27 PM on 10th August 2011

Twitter has refused to close the accounts of London rioters who used the service to spread unrest and insisted that Tweets must 'continue to flow'.

The US-based company said that 'freedom of expression' was essential and that information would be 'kept flowing'.

Social networks have faced criticism for allowing rioters and looters to incite violence and public disorder across the country since riots began last Saturday in Tottenham.

Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger were used by rioters and police have signaled that they will trawl people's accounts to find offenders.

 

Fracking the Future

by Solarevolution June 28, 2011 04:14

Based on a series of articles in the New York Times, the headlines and blogs this week are asking, "Is Shale Gas A Ponzi Scheme?"

The author questions the long-term reality of shale gas production and especially the financial underpinnings. Critics charge that the articles were poorly written or that the author has an agenda. Both sides are dancing around, talking about prices and debating the facts about reserves. Activists are rightfully worried about the environmental impacts of the new method of "fracking" (fracturing) shale formations to extract natural gas.

But neither side is asking the fundamental question:

What are we going to do when we run out of tricks to extract more fossil fuels?!

We are fracking our future.

Is there anyone out there who cares about our children?

Someone out there cares about being maligned by the press: Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy -- a company which was taken to task in the New York Times article. He offered these assurances to his employees and encouraged them to forward his message to the world:

In summary, you work for a great company and a great industry that is changing our country (and someday our world), much for the better. ... Again, thank you for all your hard work in building our company and in delivering to all Americans a brighter future through more affordable energy, more American energy, more clean energy and more job and wealth creation. ... we will now re-double our efforts to educate as many people as possible so that they may know the truth from us rather than distortions and dishonesty from others.
We hope that every Chesapeake employee can be part of our public education outreach.  ... You can do this by talking to your families, friends and others ... about the kind of company you work for and the integrity of what we do every day for our shareholders, our communities, our states, our nation, our economy and our environment. ..

Everyone, in other words, except the unborn. At one point, burning fossil fuels was arguably a rational thing to do. But we've passed the point of diminishing returns. Aubrey McCLendon thinks that burning our furniture to keep warm over the winter is wealth creation. He has company. I saw this in a discussion group:

"I disagree that we are foisting any challenges on future generations ....
A couple paragraphs later the same author wrote...
"I do not envision any ... disruptions for at least a century. Perhaps even two or three. By then, I think we can trust our great-grandchildren to have solved these problems.

I wouldn't know how to make this up. He didn't even see the irony: "Trusting" our great-grandchildren to meet their needs without the benefit of oil [plastics...], natural gas [fertilizer, glass...] or coal [steel, cement...].No, kids, that's right. We burned it all up! Just google "solve these problems" and you will find everything you need to rebuild the depleted world we left for you.

Our society's challenges extend beyond finding cheap and abundant sources of natural gas to make fertilizer and keep the lights on. The critical shift we need is to build awareness, to invest in our children's future by finding a pathway to energy self-reliance, not by extracting more of a finite resource.

It can be called intergenerational equity. Big words, simple Boy Scout concept: Leave the campground better than you found it. (Don't burn the picnic tables!)

Noche Triste for Black Gold

by Solarevolution June 20, 2011 14:29
A reader recently commented...
Consumers and businesses will not abandon $30 trillion in rolling stock and infrastructure tied to petroleum/liquid fuels that provide the energy for 97% of transportation worldwide. How could they?

Hold that thought...

In his stunning, brilliant chronicle of the conquest of Mexico by Cortés, William Prescott tells of the "Noche Triste" (Sad/Melancholy Night) when the Spaniards and their native allies escaped the Aztec palace shortly after the death of Montezuma.

Montezuma had been mortally wounded by his own people who were disgusted by his traitorous complicity with the Spanish enemy. His death undid the cover provided by a political hostage, and a hasty retreat was staged at midnight on June 30, 1520. Scrambling to prepare their escape, Cortés offered treasures to his men, many of whom stuffed their pockets with gold and jewels to improve their lot when they returned to Spain.

 Built on an island in the middle of the grand shallow lake where Mexico City now stands, the palace was connected to the shore by eight causeways, the favored of which had three breaches to cross (where bridges had been destroyed by the Aztecs). Deciding to reuse only one portable bridge for these three crossings proved to be a tragic mistake when, after the army had crossed it, the bridge could not be dislodged from its first moorings. Prescott describes the struggle to cross the third and last breach as the army was beset by those defending their homeland:

"Those fared best, as the general had predicted, who travelled lightest; and many were the unfortunate wretches, who, weighted down by the fatal gold which they loved so well, were buried with it in the salt flats of the lake."

... and now, let's get back to the question at hand...

My reader may be right, that many people won't be able to abandon their black gold. If that's so, then one's point of view may make all the difference between thriving and despair.

Peak oil is a juggernaut that answers to no one. The desires and opinions of consumers and businesses will have no weight when the oil is gone. They will be forced to abandon that $30 trillion of then worthless rolling stock and infrastructure if they wait till Mother Nature shuts down the gas pumps.

When they are heading for the rocks, sailors jettison their cargo -- simply to survive. As the oil economy declines, those who would cling to their black gold may be pulled down with it. Those who jettison the tempting shiny substance in favor of living lightly on the earth with the new artifacts of the solar age will be free to move forward without impediment.

It seems like an easy choice for those who have shifted their point of view from fear (holding onto what we already have for dear life) to hope, investing in solar technology that will survive the decline of oil.

Trying to preserve the automobile with its freeways and fuel tanks will inadvertently hasten our economy's decline. In the next few years we will either spend another $30 trillion more just to operate and maintain our ill-fated oil-based monstrosity -- most of it leaving our economy to support unfriendly regimes -- or we will spend a "mere" $10 trillion building a post-automobile transportation system -- boosting our own economy -- designed to operate henceforth sustainably with solar energy already bought and paid for, without fuel, for the long term.

Hybrid vehicles won't get us there. Electric vehicles won't get us there. Flex fuels won't get us there. Grasping at straws (biofuels) won't get us there.

We still has the opportunity to encourage innovation and call upon American ingenuity to meet new standards of excellence: Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROEI, say, higher than 10) and performance standards (for example, "more than 150 miles per gallon equivalent"). Those who read the writing on the wall and work together to find new approaches still have a fighting chance!

Slam on the Brakes

by Solarevolution June 20, 2011 09:15

Reading all these price predictions by peaksters, I’m reminded of the Austrian economist Murray Rothbard who said, “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”

We know that the media (government / business / religious leaders) are giving very little attention to Peak Oil, but I would like us to consider what we, the Peak Oil community, are not talking about.

We’re not talking about slamming the brakes on fossil fuels.

Read more at ASPOUSA.org. 

Hubbert Rectangles

by Solarevolution June 18, 2011 13:01
Herman Daly defined sustainability as "equity extended into the future."
 
Inspired, I created a spreadsheet called, "Adults learning to share the future with their children."

Still not knowing quite where to start, I had to think it through. In Peak Oil circles we talk a lot about Hubbert curves. But in the wider world out there, more often than not we find people making reference to Hubbert rectangles: "We have enough [oil/gas/coal/uranium] to last for X years."

In other words, we carry on blithely -- Business as Usual ("BAU") -- and then plop! we're down to ZERO, just like that!

Plus, rectangles are much easier to model than curves. So off I went ... and created 3 scenarios. One, the rectangle: we use it all up at today's rate and then it's smack dab zero. Second (unrealistic) what if we cut back immediately and spread it out evenly over a long period of time -- 1000 years, or whatever you say? Third, create a policy at some deliberate enlightened decline rate and move off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

Here's one variation of these 3 scenarios -- using "25 years [of oil/gas/coal] left." Our options are:
#1) be done with it quickly -- the black rectangle
#2) drop supply at 10% per year (orange). Clearly some people aren't going to be happy about this.
#3) for reference, we drop immediately to a 1000 year rate. (At least this is less un-sustainable.) 


You can find the spreadsheet here if you would like to play with it.

If you're wondering how big a rectangle to draw, you might want to try any of these values I obtained by googling "Years of [oil/gas/coal] left" (precise wording using quotes):
  • Oil: <50, 40, 49
  • Gas: 53, 20, 8, 10, 60, 4.
  • Coal: 200, 141, 300, 250, 500, 100, 400, 10
These numbers came up just from the first page of links, things like: "there is about 20 years of natural gas left in the world." Some of them were national, some were global figures.


Energetics vs Economics

by Solarevolution June 18, 2011 12:36

Now here's something to think about…

I don't know that we can "throw out" money as a metric in a world where the economy is the main narrative and is likely to be for a long-time.

Obviously we aren't going to do away with money -- or economics, for that matter. It's the direction of the connection that matters. Economics is an instrument of policy; it is a consequence of policy, not a precursor; therefore economics cannot determine policy. Policy, based on whatever metrics, is carried out by economic instruments -- subsidies, grants, taxes, lending rates, etc. -- once the underlying premises are understood and desired outcomes are determined.

Whenever this relationship is reversed -- with economics determining policy -- then policy is built upon a circular argument: for example, a portion of the premium rewarded to special interests can be recycled back into the system in the form of lobbying power. Otherwise, how could energetically bankrupt ethanol become economical? Those who have already been successful at gaming the system can readily use ethanol [take soil; add sunshine, water, oil and coal] to continue successfully gaming the system. It doesn't have to meet the test of good energetics.

It's easy for the economically powerful to pull this off. As Jeremy Grantham wrote in his April GMO letter, "The problems of compounding growth ... are not easily understood by optimistic, short-term-oriented, and relatively innumerate [can't do math] humans (especially the political variety)."

We are unlikely to persuade the world to do away with money. But on the subject of energy, we will use kW-hours, BTUs, EROEI, etc., as metrics to point us toward sane policy. Then we have at least a fighting chance of creating economic instruments that discourage depletion (e.g, fuels recovered at low EROEI) and encourage energetically attractive alternatives (e.g., with high EROEI).

Taking it one step further, if we care about our children and our neighbors, then we will also factor equity into the equation and save a little for them. That's just sound energetic policy.

Will China opt for Oil? Will India invoke Ingenuity?

by Solarevolution July 07, 2009 01:29
I'm in the middle of what seems an interminable debate with a few friends who can't handle the idea of anthropogenic climate change. As I look at the various scenarios, I realize that China and India are just about as locked into the fossil fuel future as Americans are. And thus we face a stupidity end game ... in which all the major countries say, well, we can't change because it would screw up our own economy. We'd have to retool and that's expensive.

But China seems to have more money than India to go out and secure oil for their own future, as they are out-bidding just about everyone else (example). So if India wants to move out in front to power its economy, especially transport, then ingenuity (as opposed to business-as-usual, BAU) has to play at least some role.

Germany did this with renewables (solar, wind) and guess what harm came to them? They developed the most powerful solar industry in the world, with only half the daily sunlight of southern California. They are treating the USA like a third world country -- exporting complete solutions to the USA, buying USA solar manufacturing companies, enticing USA companies to relocate in Germany, etc.... A clean sweep!

You say that you will start doing solar in earnest when it can compete without subsidies. Germany didn't keep on looking; their champion Herman Scheer proposed a different point of departure.
Fossil energy not only threatens massive environmental and social disruption through global warming but, at present rates of consumption, it will run out within decades, causing huge industrial dislocation. Even before then, the conflicts and imbalances it causes in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world's economy will be frighteningly exacerbated.

But let's say I buy your argument -- that we should wait until it competes. Then I would suggest looking for the solar "killer ap" which works today without subsidy.

How about this, then? A solar system with a 4 year payback, without subsidy:

It is the solar highway: a continuous solar system 2 meters wide = 300 kW/km = 500 kW/mile. Not on roofs, which are often shaded by trees and cluttered with HVAC equipment, but alongside existing roadways. A solar system providing power for a transportation system which is 10X better along at least a half dozen metrics compared to the automobile ... and even 10X better than public rail transit along several of those metrics. I presented a paper on this in Stockholm at the end of 2007. The calcs are here, assuming Sweden's lower level of solar but higher price of fuel. (You can change the assumptions for India. It will only get better than the 3.8 year payback I calculated for Sweden.)

Development of this technology is ramping up in Sweden, the UK (an installation is nearly complete at Heathrow Airport), and elsewhere.

China is buying oil rights and building cars. India is too. Utter insanity.

Which shall it be: engineers or soldiers?

Which countries will be the first to move beyond oil

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