The Future Of Energy

Tyler Durden's picture

Perhaps even more than exposing the instability of the worldwide economic ponzi system, so far 2011 has been most remarkable for fully demonstrating the fragility of the global energy complex, which in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear crisis (and the moratorium on nuclear energy in Germany now, and soon other places), and the MENA revolutions, have raised the question of what happens in a world in which crude is getting ever scarcer, while the one main legacy energy alternative, fission-based nuclear power, just took a giant step back. The topic of limitations in conventional and possibilites in alternative energy has gripped the general public's mind to such an extent that Popular Science magazine has dedicated its entire July edition to answering that very critical question. As PopSci says: "Oil’s amazing efficiency is one reason it remains in such high demand,
especially for transportation, and it’s also why finding an alternative
will be so difficult. But find one we must. We have already burned our way through most of the world’s easy oil. Now we’re drilling for the hard stuff: unconventional resources such as shale and heavy oil that will be more difficult and expensive to discover, extract, and refine. The environmental costs are also on the rise." So what is the existing line up of future alternatives to the current crude oil-dominated energy paradigm. Below we present the complete list.

Next Generation Nukes.

Nuclear power may have taken a major step back after the biggest nuclear catastrophe since Fukushima, but that does not mean existing Generation III projects (the Fukushima reactor is a Gen II) are not viable and safe. Below is a summary of the key aspects of this program now coming on line in Japan, France and Russia.

In the 30 years since regulators last approved the construction of a new nuclear plant in the U.S., engineers have improved reactor safety considerably. (You can see some of the older, not-so-safe ones in this sweet gallery.) The newest designs, called Generation III+, are just beginning to come online. (Generation I plants were early prototypes; Generation IIs were built from the 1960s to the 1990s and include the facility at Fukushima; and Generation IIIs began operating in the late 1990s, though primarily in Japan, France and Russia.)

Unlike their predecessors, most Generation III+ reactors have layers of passive safety elements designed to stave off a meltdown, even in the event of power loss. Construction of the first Generation III+ reactors is well under way in Europe. China is also in the midst of building at least 30 new plants. In the U.S., the Southern Company recently broke ground on the nation’s first Generation III+ reactors at the Vogtle nuclear plant near Augusta, Georgia. The first of two reactors is due to come online in 2016.

A central feature of this system is an 800,000-gallon water tank positioned directly above the containment shell. The reservoir’s valves rely on electrical power to remain closed. When power is lost, the valves open and the water flows down toward the containment shell. Vents passively draw air from outside and direct it over the structure, furthering the evaporative cooling.
 
Depending on the type of emergency, an additional reservoir within the containment shell can be manually released to flood the reactor. As water boils off, it rises and condenses at the top of the containment shell and streams back down to cool the reactor once more. Unlike today’s plants, most of which have enough backup power onsite to last just four to eight hours after grid power is lost, the AP1000 can safely operate for at least three days without power or human intervention.

Summarizing a typical Gen III schematic:

Regardless of the safety precautions, existing fission-based power will always carry the risk of a meltdown. Which brings us to...

Thorium-Powered Molten-Salt Reactor

Even with their significant safety improvements, Generation III+ plants can, theoretically, melt down. Some people within the nuclear industry are calling for the implementation of still newer reactor designs, collectively called Generation IV. The thorium-powered molten-salt reactor (MSR) is one such design. In an MSR, liquid thorium would replace the solid uranium fuel used in today’s plants, a change that would make meltdowns all but impossible.

MSRs were developed at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the early 1960s and ran for a total of 22,000 hours between 1965 and 1969. “These weren’t theoretical reactors or thought experiments,” says engineer John Kutsch, who heads the nonprofit Thorium Energy Alliance. “[Engineers] really built them, and they really ran.” Of the handful of Generation IV reactor designs circulating today, only the MSR has been proven outside computer models. “It was not a full system, but it showed you could successfully design and operate a molten-salt reactor,” says Oak Ridge physicist Jess Gehin, a senior program manager in the lab’s Nuclear Technology Programs office.

The MSR design has two primary safety advantages. Its liquid fuel remains at much lower pressures than the solid fuel in light-water plants. This greatly decreases the likelihood of an accident, such as the hydrogen explosions that occurred at Fukushima. Further, in the event of a power outage, a frozen salt plug within the reactor melts and the liquid fuel passively drains into tanks where it solidifes, stopping the fission reaction. “The molten-salt reactor is walk-away safe,” Kutsch says. “If you just abandoned it, it had no power, and the end of the world came--a comet hit Earth--it would cool down and solidify by itself.”

In addition to safety, Thorium power provides other strategic benefits:

Without the need for large cooling towers, MSRs can be much smaller than typical light-water plants, both physically and in power capacity. Today’s average nuclear power plant generates about 1,000 megawatts. A thorium-fueled MSR might generate as little as 50 megawatts. Smaller, more numerous plants could save on transmission loss (which can be up to 30 percent on the present grid). The U.S. Army is interested in using MSRs to power individual bases, Kutsch says, and Google, which relies on steady power to keep its servers running, held a conference on thorium reactors last year. “The company would love to have a 70- or 80-megawatt reactor sitting next door to a data center,” Kutsch says.

A sample MSR reactor shown below:

Naturally, the transition from fission power to MSR would involve massive costs and a huge overhaul in the existing regulatory regime. Which is why, instead of going the MSR route, why not just focus on a totally different energy creation paradigm, namely...

Fusion Power

The reason fusion power has been the holy grail in energy production is simple: it is the most efficient form of energy creation available. After all fusion power, that at the heart of the sun, is the source of life.

The well-publicized failures of cold fusion may have tainted the field’s reputation, but physicists have been successfully joining nuclei with hot fusion since 1932. Today, research in hot fusion could lead to a clean energy source free from the drawbacks that dog fission power plants. Fusion power plants cannot melt down; they won’t produce long-lived, highly radioactive waste; and fusion fuel cannot be easily weaponized.

At the forefront of the effort to realize fusion-based power is ITER, an international collaboration to build the world’s largest fusion reactor. At the heart of the project is a tokamak, a doughnut-shaped vessel that contains the fusion reaction. In this vessel, magnetic fields confine a plasma composed of deuterium and tritium, two isotopes of hydrogen, while particle beams, radio waves and microwaves heat it to 270 million degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature needed to sustain the fusion reaction. During the reaction, the deuterium and tritium nuclei fuse, producing helium and a neutron. In a fusion power plant, those energetic neutrons would heat a structure, called a blanket, in the tokamak and that heat would be used to turn a turbine to produce electricity.

The ITER reactor will be the largest tokamak ever made, producing 500 megawatts of power, about the same output as a coal-fired power plant. But ITER won’t generate electricity; it’s just a gigantic physics experiment, albeit one with very high potential benefits. A mere 35 thousandths of an ounce of deuterium-tritium fuel could produce energy equivalent to 2,000 gallons of heating oil. And ITER’s process is “inherently safe,” says Richard Pitts, a senior scientific officer on the project. “It can never, ever be anything like what you see in the fission world--in Chernobyl or Fukushima--and this is why it is so attractive.”

Alas, fusion energy is at best decades away:

To fully commercialize tokamak-based fusion, developers must overcome several challenges. First is the matter of breeding the tritium; there are only about 50 pounds of it in the world at any given time because it is not naturally occurring and decays quickly. (Deuterium is not radioactive and can be distilled from water.) Although ITER may use tritium produced by nuclear power plants, a full-scale fusion plant will need to produce its own supply--neutrons from the fusion reaction could be used to convert a stash of lithium into tritium. In addition, physicists must also determine which materials can best withstand the by-products of the fusion reaction, which will wear down the tokamak’s walls. Finally, residual radioactivity in the device will pose maintenance problems because people won’t be able to work safely within the vessel. ITER scientists must develop robots capable of replacing parts that can weigh up to 10 tons.
 
ITER will begin experiments in 2019 in France. If those are successful, the data produced by the project will aid the ITER team in the design of DEMO, a proposed 2,000- to 4,000-megawatt demonstration fusion power plant that will be built by 2040.

ITER in action:

Fuel
 
Engineers inject two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, into the tokamak, a high-powered doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber.
 
Plasma
 
A strong electric current heats the deuterium and tritium gases and ionizes them, forming a ring of plasma, a glowing soup of charged particles.
 
Heat
 
Radio waves, microwaves and high-energy deuterium particle beams heat the plasma. At high temperatures, the deuterium and tritium fuse to form a helium atom and a neutron.
 
Containment
 
If the plasma touches the walls of the tokamak, it will scuttle the fusion reaction. The charged particle is confined in a magnetic field made from 39 superconducting poloidal, toroidal and central solenoid magnets positioned around the outside of the doughnut and within its hole.
 
Lining
 
The vessel is lined with a steel blanket 1.5 feet thick to protect the tokamak walls from highly energetic neutrons.

Why the need for the above energy alternatives? One does not have to believe in peak oil to realize that crude is becoming increasingly difficult to procure. Per PopSci:

Even if we were ready to mass-produce a new generation of, say, biofueled plug-in hybrid electric cars by 2020, and even if we--in an absurdly best-case scenario--started cranking out those new cars as fast as we now make gas guzzlers (about 70 million a year, worldwide), we would still need another 15 years to swap out the fleet. In the meantime, oil consumption will continue to rise, as demand from fast-growing economies in Asia outweighs any green gains by Western nations.

David Victor, an international energy policy specialist at the University of California at San Diego, says consumption won’t even begin tapering off for another 20 years. At that point, daily consumption, now at 85 million barrels a day (mbd), will have topped 100 mbd. Realistically, says James Sweeney, director of the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University, cutting global oil consumption to a more economically and environmentally tolerable level (say, 30 mbd) will probably take at least four decades. Before then, he says, “we will use a lot of oil.”

How much? At the rate Victor suggests, we’ll need something like a trillion barrels of crude to get us to the peak of oil consumption sometime in the 2030s--and, in all likelihood, another trillion barrels to get us down the other side, to a point where oil is a vastly smaller part of the energy economy. Just to bridge the gap, then, we’ll have to extract about two trillion barrels of oil during the next four decades--almost double the 1.2 trillion barrels we’ve already burned through since Pennsylvania wildcatters launched the oil age in 1859.

Hossein Kazemi, a professor of petroleum engineering at the Colorado School of Mines, says that about half of those final two trillion barrels have already been discovered and are waiting in “proven” reserves that can be exploited profitably using today’s technology. The other half won’t come so easily. By some estimates, the Earth contains up to eight trillion more barrels of oil, but that oil exists in many forms, some of which, such as shale oil, can be extremely expensive to extract or refine. And as we work our way through the easiest oil, we will also be confronted by increasing external costs—real costs that nonetheless aren’t accounted for at the gas pump. A desperate rush to extract oil from unstable nations can topple regimes, for instance, even as extracting it from environmentally fragile spots can do major harm to the land or the sea.

Which means that we face a series of complex choices, not just about where to extract what kind of oil, but also about when to extract it. Going after everything at once may seem wise, especially to oil entrepreneurs invested in specific resources or policymakers unconcerned about external costs. But as engineers develop new extraction and refinement techniques, oil that is expensive or environmentally harmful now may be cheaper or cleaner in the future. With that in mind, what would happen if we considered how best to extract our two trillion barrels not from the short-term perspective of a politician or a businessman, but from the longer view of a petroleum engineer? Which oil would we save for last, and which would we go for first?

Below is a list of legacy energy forms that are currently being exploited and which provide a far lower capital investment need to generate incremental returns:

Shale

Total reserves: 3 trillion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE)

Given the political anxiety surrounding the prospect of importing oil, U.S. policymakers will be understandably tempted to reach first for the closest, richest oil resource. For many, that would suggest shale oil. The vast deposits located beneath Colorado, Utah and Wyoming alone could generate up to 800 billion barrels of oil. But policymakers should resist that urge.

Oil shale is created when kerogen, the organic precursor to oil and natural gas, accumulates in rock formations without being subjected to enough heat to be completely cooked into oil. Petroleum engineers have long known how to finish the job, by heating the kerogen until it vaporizes, distilling the resulting gas into a synthetic crude, and refining that crude into gasoline or some other fuel. But the process is expensive. The kerogen must either be strip-mined and converted aboveground or cooked, often by electrical heaters, in the ground and then pumped to the surface. Either process pushes production costs up to $90 a barrel. As all crude prices rise, though, the added expense of shale oil may come to seem reasonable--and it is likely to drop in any case if the shale oil industry, now made up of relatively small pilot operations, scales up.

The problem is that the external costs of shale oil are also very high. It is not energy-dense (a ton of rock yields just 30 gallons of pure kerogen), so companies will be removing millions of tons of material from thousands of acres of land, which can introduce dangerous amounts of heavy metals into the water system. The in-ground method, meanwhile, can also contaminate groundwater (although Shell and other companies say this can be prevented by freezing the ground). Both methods are resource-intensive. Producing a barrel of synthetic crude requires as many as three barrels of water, a major constraint in the already parched Western U.S. With in-ground, the kerogen must be kept at temperatures as high as 700°F for more than two years, and aboveground processes use a lot of heat as well. Those demands, coupled with kerogen’s low energy density, yield returns ranging from 10:1 (that is, 10 barrels of output for every one barrel of input) to an abysmal 3:1.

Coal

Total reserves: 1.5 trillion BOE

Coal can also be converted into a synthetic crude, as the German army, desperate for fuel, demonstrated during World War II. The method of transformation is simple: Engineers blast the coal with steam, breaking it into a gas that can then be converted, by the Fischer-Tropsch process, into gasoline and other fuels. Many energy companies are promoting various coal-to-liquid processes (CTL) as a way to replace oil, especially in the U.S. and other coal-rich nations.

The appeal is obvious. At a conversion rate of just under two barrels per ton, the world’s 847 billion tons of recoverable coal theoretically represent roughly 1.5 trillion barrels of synthetic oil, or a substantial piece of the final trillion.

Like shale oil, however, CTL has significant shortcomings. Its energy return is unimpressive; a barrel’s worth of invested energy nets just three to six barrels of CTL. Moreover, coal contains about 20 percent more carbon than oil does, and converting it to liquid raises the ratio even further. CTL fuels have a carbon footprint nearly twice as large as that of conventional oil--1,650 pounds of CO2 per barrel of CTL, versus 947 pounds per barrel of conventional.

Even if producers installed a vast and expensive system to capture and sequester the CO2 produced during the conversion process, says Edward Rubin, a professor of environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, coal production uses so much energy that CO2 emissions from CTL fuels would still be as great as those of conventional oil. At best, making fuel from coal would get us no closer to a more climate-compatible energy system.

All of that aside, even the supply of coal is not infinite. Researchers at the Rand Corporation concluded in 2008 that replacing just 10 percent of U.S. daily transportation fuel with CTL would take 400 million tons of coal annually, which would mean expanding the American coal industry, which is already straining environmental limits, by 40 percent. Although such an undertaking might be politically feasible in China or other nations, Rubin says, “I have a hard time seeing that in this country.”

Heavy Oil

Total reserves: 1 to 2 trillion BOE

Other unconventional resources may, despite having many shortcomings, become somewhat more attractive as new extraction methods come online. One of these is “heavy oil,” which ranges from the molasses-like crude in Venezuela to the bituminous oil sands of Alberta. For decades, oil traders saw heavy oil as inferior to light crude, which is easier to extract and whose smaller-chain molecules are more readily refined. Heavy oil’s bigger molecules, in contrast, were suited mainly to low-profit products, such as ship fuel or asphalt. But new refining techniques are making heavy oil more renderable into gasoline, and new extraction methods are making it easier to get out of the ground.

At a heavy-oil field outside Bakersfield, California, for instance, Chevron deploys computer-guided steam injection to thin the oil sufficiently to pump out. Even more promising are oil-sands operations in Alberta, where companies are now separating the brittle bitumen from sand and clay and cooking it into synthetic crude. At a conversion rate of one barrel for every two tons of sand, Alberta’s oil sands alone may contain up to 315 billion barrels of crude. As refining costs have dropped, output has reached 1.5 mbd and could more than quadruple, to 6.3 mbd, by 2035.

That said, heavy-oil production also has plenty of external costs. As with the kerogen in shale, the bitumen is processed either in-ground or by strip-mining. Both processes consume up to 4.5 barrels of water for every barrel of oil they produce and yield an unimpressive EROEI of about 7:1. And because heavy oils are carbon-rich, the CO2 footprint of crude from bitumen is up to 20 percent higher than that of conventional crude—not as bad as coal, but not exactly friendly to the environment either. Carbon-capture and -sequester techniques can only keep so much of that CO2 out of the atmosphere. Oil-sands operations are sprawling, and as a result, very little of the total CO2 emissions can be captured (one study suggests we might trap just 40 percent by 2030).

If carbon-capture techniques improve, though, heavy oil could make up a substantial share of the final two trillion barrels for a carbon penalty substantially below that of either CTL or shale oil. A further advantage (from the U.S. perspective) is that a lot of heavy oil is located in a politically stable country that’s right next door.

Ultra-Deep Offshore

Total reserves: 0.1 to 0.7 trillion BOE

The “deep” in ultra-deep refers to the depths plumbed by floating oil rigs (typically, anything beyond 5,000 feet). But the more important depth is the distance from the ocean floor to the oil itself. It’s not easy to start an excavation a mile or two underwater, much less one that continues on for several more miles underground (the current record, set in 2009 in the Gulf of Mexico, is nearly seven miles). But an ever-expanding drilling fleet is deploying new techniques in horizontal drilling, sub-sea robotics and “four-dimensional” seismology (which geologists use to track oil and natural-gas deposit conditions in real time) to rapidly expand output. Although fewer than half the world’s ultra-deep provinces have been fully explored, deepwater output in the past decade has more than tripled, to 5 mbd, and it could double again by 2015.

As the Deepwater Horizon disaster made clear last year, though, tapping this resource can involve significant external costs. The pressure in ultra-deep reservoirs can reach up to 2,000 times that at sea level. The oil within can be extremely hot (up to 400°F) and rife with corrosive compounds (including hydrogen sulfide, which when in water can dissolve steel). And the pipes that rise from the seafloor are so long and heavy that the platforms supporting them must be extraordinarily large simply to stay afloat. The biggest discovery in decades, Brazil’s “pre-salt play,” meanwhile, is defended by a 1.5-mile-thick ceiling of salt, which had the beneficial effect of absorbing surrounding heat and keeping the oil from breaking down—but which also, in doing so, congealed the oil into a paraffinic jelly that drillers must now thin with chemicals before they can extract it.

Not surprisingly, ultra-deepwater oil is some of the most expensive in the business. A single drilling platform can cost $600 million or more (especially if the deepwater is in the Arctic, where rigs must be armored to withstand Force-10 winter storms and hull-crushing ice floes), and companies can easily spend $100 million drilling a single ultra-deepwater well. The result of all this effort is a modest EROEI--from 15:1 all the way down to 3:1.

Thus, even as companies scramble to improve safety, most of the research and development in the ultra deep will focus on saving money and energy. Remotely controlled, steerable drill heads, for example, allow companies to drill multiple bores from a single platform (thus lowering costs and the aboveground footprint) and to follow the path of narrow oil seams, greatly increasing oil output. (The record for a horizontal bore, set by Exxon near Russia’s Sakhalin Island, is also about seven miles.) To further cut drilling costs, companies will steadily boost rates of penetration with more-powerful drill motors, drill bits made of ever-harder materials and, eventually, a drilling process that uses no bits at all. Tests at Argonne National Laboratory suggest that high-powered lasers can penetrate rock faster than conventional bits, either by superheating the rock until it shatters or by melting it.

Costs will further recede as companies develop more-accurate “multi-channel” seismic prospecting techniques that will, by combining up to a million seismic signals, help them avoid the ultimate waste of drilling into empty rock. And to better measure the oil reservoirs themselves, companies are creating heat- and pressure-resistant “downhole” sensors (similar to devices NASA developed to monitor rocket engines) that communicate to surface computers via optical fiber.

As the volume of data rises, the industry will also create more-powerful tools to analyze it, from monster compression algorithms (courtesy of Hollywood animators) to entirely new computing architectures. “If we go to a million channels [of seismic data], then we need petaflop computation capability, which we currently do not have,” says Bruce Levell, Shell’s chief scientist for geology. To get that capability, oil firms are working with Intel, IBM and other hardware firms. In the future, Levell says, the oil business “is really going to drive high-performance computing.”

Natural Gas

Total reserves: 1 trillion BOE

Natural gas, or simply “gas” in industry parlance, has long been oil’s biggest potential rival as a transport fuel. Gas is cleaner than oil--it emits fewer particulates and a quarter less carbon for the same amount of energy output--yet today it powers less than 3 percent of the U.S. transportation fleet (mainly in the form of compressed natural gas, or CNG). This proportion is poised to grow, though, in part because the overall supply of gas keeps growing.

With advances in a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” companies can now profitably extract gas from previously hard-to-reach shale formations. Worldwide reserves of shale gas currently stand at 6,662 trillion cubic feet, the energy equivalent of 827 billion barrels of oil. And that doesn’t include the gas that is routinely discovered alongside oil in oil fields and that is sure to be found in some of those yet-to-be-explored deepwater basins.

Gas is so plentiful that, in energy-equivalent terms, its price is a quarter that of oil--a bargain that is already transforming CNG from a niche fuel, used mainly in bus fleets, to a product for general consumption. The Texas refiner Valero, for instance, will soon begin selling CNG at new stations in the U.S.

A gas-powered future could still have some high external costs, though. Fracking can be extremely hazardous to the local environment. The method uses high-pressure fluids to break open deep rock formations in which gas is trapped, and these fluids often contain toxins that might contaminate groundwater supplies. But such risks, which have received substantial media coverage and are now the focus of a new White House panel, may be controllable. Gas deposits are typically thousands of feet belowground, while groundwater tables are much closer to the surface, so most contamination is thought to take place where the rising bore intersects with the water table--a risk that could be minimized by requiring drillers to more carefully seal the walls of the bore.

That said, allocating too much natural gas to transportation might have surprisingly negative consequences. First, it would most likely increase demand for natural gas so much that prices would rise, thereby undermining the current cost advantage. Second, shifting a large volume of gas to the transportation sector would mean pulling that volume away from the power sector, where it is more constructively displacing coal, whose carbon content is far higher than oil’s. But converting specific sectors of the transportation system (delivery fleets, for instance, or buses) could simultaneously cut CO2 emissions and reduce oil demand.

Enhanced Oil Recovery

Total reserves: 0.5 trillion BOE

The resource that comes with the lowest external cost might be the oil we left behind, back when energy was a lot cheaper. Drillers typically end up extracting just a third of the oil in a given field, in part because when they drain reservoirs they also decrease the pressure that pushes oil to the surface, making it more expensive to extract the remaining barrels. In the U.S., abandoned oil fields may still contain a staggering 400 billion barrels of residual oil; worldwide, the figure is probably in the trillions. Extracting all of it is economically impossible, but advances in enhanced oil recovery, or EOR, could boost extraction rates to as high as 70 percent.

EOR could add perhaps half a trillion “new” barrels worldwide. And it could also carry a substantial environmental bonus. One of the most promising EOR methods involves “flooding” oil reservoirs with CO2, which dissolves into the oil, making it both thinner and more voluminous, and thus easier to extract. Once the oil is extracted, the CO2 can be separated, re-injected into the field, and sequestered there permanently. An aggressive strategy in which CO2 is captured from single-point sources (such as power plants or refineries) and pumped into oil fields could increase U.S. oil output by as much as 3.6 mbd while sequestering nearly a billion tons of CO2. And depending on the method, EOR can have an EROEI as high as 20:1.

EOR can’t entirely bridge the gap--but in a perfect world, we would at least begin by tapping those barrels, along with the oil--equivalent barrels of natural gas. That way, we would be using the least damaging resources first and saving the worst barrels for later, when (if all goes well) future engineering innovations will let us extract and consume them more safely and efficiently.

But of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. For now, oil producers will do what they have always done, which is to extract oil as cheaply as they can. And oil consumers will follow suit, buying the cheapest energy they can. We may eventually ask the market to take the true costs of production into account, perhaps by way of a carbon tax or some kind of climate regulation. Or we may not. Energy policy has never been particularly far-sighted. There is little chance that the transition to a clean-energy economy will be entirely clean. It will require trade-offs and compromises, and the cost of those trade-offs and compromises will rise with every year that we wait to get serious about moving away from oil.

 


One thing is certain: the status quoTM, which is just as entrenched in the legacy financial system as it is in the existing energy paradigm, will do nothing until it is far too late to provide for a contingency plan while it is still feasible and not cost-prohibitive. After all, by the time things get so bad that there is no choice but to move on to something "else" it will be some other, far less entitled, generation's problem.

Source: Popular Science

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
spanish inquisition's picture

Cool. So I will be plugging my alloy wrapped Thorium reactor powered car and delivering electricity to the grid when I am not driving it.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Spanish, that is hopefully a pipe dream, never to see light of day.

The future of not of just energy, but most future endeavour lies not in high technology, but in the homeopathic application of high technology.

It also means the end of any "explosive" or "excessively hot" systems.

The answers on how to turn this existing paradigm on it's head are so simple, we would die laughing at the sheer stupidity of modern engineering/science and die crying at it's sheer cruelty.

Nuts. I go to the "best" vulture capitalists, India and US and Japanese....have them look first amazed, then afraid and then deathly quiet.

When real change wafts through.......hmmmmmmm...... we beg for change, beg for betterment of life/things.... but when the changemaker threatens to dis-mantle your existing world....in goes the head into the sand.

ORI

http://aadivaahan.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/a-big-part-of-what-this-here-place-is-about/

Prometheus418's picture

ORI, you seem ok, but I just read through the bulk of your blog, and I'm not sold on this.

There are a lot of claims in the world, and it's always possible that some of them are valid, but this sort of grandstanding without a decent lead often turns out to be a case where the inventor thinks they have a paradigm-shifter, but really just has a neat toy.

If this is truly a world-changing design, venture capital may not be the correct first step.  Capital is skittish, and tends not to have the background needed assess whether or not it can break scientific frontiers.  While I shudder a little to say it, you may be better off submitting the concept, if not the applications, to a University or two for peer review.  Standard disclaimer comes in to play here, of course- get a lawyer to cover your rear before revealing anything.

If you like, I am a mechanical engineer who plays with bleeding-edge medical devices and aerospace equipment all day.  I would be willing to look it over privately, and assist with the design and specs of the actual final products.  The cost would be a right to use, but not patent, the technology for the protection of my self and my family.  If it's a true ground-breaker, I'm unlikely to be able to help with the math and other considerations, but I am pretty sharp with electronic and physical prototyping, and have the tools and means to get the gears turning.  A working model on some of those desks might go a long way towards achieving your goals.

On the other hand, if it's not something that can be made to work, I'd be willing to trade for a set of prints and a cad model of a stirling engine I'm working on.  That's a known quantity, and the prints make it a hobby project for a determined person.

If you're interested in discussing further, you can reach me directly by adding @gmail.com to my handle here.

 

Oh regional Indian's picture

Prometheus, thanks for taking the time. Your scepticism is absolutely understandable.

Will connect via e-mail shortly.

ORI

falak pema's picture

Ori, I wish you well. Concerning your concept of NETI, there is a similar one in golf : NUNI.

It means, never up never in. Just saying....But then you are waiting for critical mass...so good luck!

Oh regional Indian's picture

NUNI, is that french? Never up never in....so it leaves you near enough and below the hole.

I like it. :-) And yes, critical mass, much needed for what I'm doing. And person by person, it's starting to happen!

If you are ever in India, be sure to bring your clubs, we'll swing!

ORI

Winston Smith 2009's picture

"It also means the end of any "explosive" or "excessively hot" systems."

The laws of thermodynamics strongly disagree.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Winston, nature works perfectly well without excessive heat or explosion. Does it not?

Look at the expressed world.

Nature multplies it's force if you will, through the harnessing of resonance, bio electric/magnetic etc.

I suggest a quick internet search for Viktor Schauberger. 

ORI

Hooter Shaker's picture

No, it does not....."excessive heat and explosion" is a vital part of nature.  Look no farther than our sun for proof.

I didn't junk you...

Diogenes's picture

I see. You have a whole series of inventions that will revolutionise our use of energy, allow cars to get 300 MPG and cure all the ills of the world. But the big interests are only interested in buying up and suppressing them. So you can't tell us what they are, only that you have them and may give them up with the right coaxing.

Sounds like the same old bullshit to me. And no, I am not interested in investing in your free energy device or cancer cure.

Oh regional Indian's picture

I do not recall asking anyone here for anything.

And you and your ilk just proved what I said above. Keep your head in the sand. At least you won't know when your ass gets chewed off.

ORI

Urban Redneck's picture

There is already a car that gets 300MPG, it's no secret, it's been on displays at auto shows, no one is supressing it.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Really? I'm sure it's a "Concept", can barely carry a load OR costs $300,000, right?

I'm talking about something that costs half a conventional automobile and is everything a modern automobile pretends to be.

 

The financial folks need to understand, the conspiracy they so willingly accept in teh world of high finance, it's as bad or worse in the rest of the world. Product development, innovation, invention suppression, murder....on and on.

ORI

Urban Redneck's picture

VW X-1, priced on par with a GM Volt, hitting showrooms in Europe late this year/early next.

It is the evolution of the insane diesel-electric hybrid concept car they launched about 10 yrs ago.  It's only a 2-seat plus trunk, but Volvo has a five-seat showing up six months later that will get 150mpg.  The VW is more a future mobile that makes Apple look like an amateur design shop, whereas Volvo has a more conventional design. 

Pricing still isn't competitive but governments aren't pushing efficiency to drive economies of scale.  My point was merely that there isn't a conspiracy of big oil to bury efficient technology, but big government is doing its damnedest to make sure that energy efficiency isn't adopted at the expense of UAW coffers, regardless of the financial cost to US taxpayers or blood cost to US soldiers. 

Oh regional Indian's picture

Thanks for the information and the clarification UR.

THere is huge subsidy built into all those products. 

There is another way and if I have my way, it's coming you way.

Soonish.

ORI

i-dog's picture

The suppression is very real, ORI. Two personal examples:

I'm a director of a pharmaceutical company which holds patents over a cheap and natural cure/remedy for a wide range of cancers, viruses and bacteria. The only sizable investment that the inventor, an internationally recognised and decorated biochemist, was previously able to obtain was from a multinational health foods company that bought and deliberately buried it -- because it threatened their existing [unhealthy] products! The patent holder had to take legal action over many years to regain control of the patent and the right to sell the cures to the public again. On top of that, our products cannot be sold as 'cures' unless we spend millions of dollars on 'licensing fees' to each potential market's health authorities (hundreds of thousands of dollars for each claimed cure in each market). Further, as of the beginning of this year, the 'Codex Alimentarius' is now being used by the WHO to effectively ban all natural extracts (and even natural foods) by all members of the WTO. Big pharma has their monopoly locked in by international 'law'!

I'm also a director of a multinational chemical company, with proprietary formulae, that has been in operation worldwide for over 50 years. Recently, the owner (son of the founder) of a major potential user demanded to know the actual formulae or he would ban purchase of our products by his company (even though all his engineers and specialists want to use them)! The scumbag is at the very top of the Neocon faction of the NWO and is creaming billions from the US taxpayer each year ... now he also wants to 'own' anything else his company might use in quantity!

Governments protect monopolies ... and monopolies can only be gained through government protection.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Crazy tales i-dog. If I tell the stories of my amazing first, second and third meetings with folks with pockets deeper than the marina trench, only to have them freak out with cognitive dissonance days/weeks later.

There is a suppresive, anti-competitive vein central to capitalism, even in it's most exalted, free market, Austrian form. It's like certain areas are being declared virtual dead zones. Even investors whose eyes bulge out at being presented with physical proof of concept cannot deal.

This system si crumbling under it's own weight and good riddance.

I feel your frustration.

ORI

i-dog's picture

"There is a suppresive, anti-competitive vein central to capitalism"

I strongly disagree with this statement, in principle, ORI (you can tell that I'm a dyed in the wool capitalist!) ... but it certainly applies to today's bastard version of crony capitalism and, in hindsight, I have seen this change come about only within the last 10 years or so.

For decades, I have been dealing with governments and at board level within dozens of the world's very largest companies, and socialised with the families of oligarchs and dictators. It has really only been within the last few years that I have come across this anti-competitive and ravenously acquisitive streak on their part. Previously, I found them to be generous and co-operative in so many ways.

(BTW, the second situation I described in the previous post occured just a few weeks ago and, knowing what I now know about the end-game of the NWO, it didn't surprise or frustrate me in the least ... it just confirmed to me that the nouveau riche among them are indeed on a last desperate dash to grab just one more armful of treasure before the gate slams shut on the rest of us.)

Oh regional Indian's picture

Interesting i-dog. And of course I meant today's bastardized version. Which is true for pretty much everything.

I came into my own, as an innovator in 2001. Wrote a patent (was in the silicon valley then) that underlies 50%-60% of underlying internet commerce.

It disappeared from the USPTO (after my checque for $408 was cashed)..... disappeared. I leanrt a huge lesson with that one. 

And yes, the signs are definitely more in the open now of desperation all around.

 

ORI

Winston Smith 2009's picture

"Cool. So I will be plugging my alloy wrapped Thorium reactor powered car and delivering electricity to the grid when I am not driving it."

No, the incredibly cheap and safe electrical power from abundant and cheap thorium would make synthetic liquid fuels economical. That's what you could use to fill up your tank until battery technology makes internal combustion backup for long range drives unnecessary. Of course those liquid fuels could also end up in a fuel cell car, too.

carbonmutant's picture

I certainly applaud the direction of the research but the thermodynamic efficiency is limited by the temperature difference. The amount of electricity generated depends on how much the magnetism changes.

If they could heat and cool 50 or 60 times a second they might have something.

Widowmaker's picture

Anyone recommending complexity in regards to energy is on the bus to nowhere.

Tell me about thermodynamic efficiency of sunlight to prove my point.

Face it, fraud markets and artificial support for legacy sources is the reason energy is in crisis.  In other words, manufactured crisis is nothing more than energy-racketeering, politically fallable.

Energy is abundant and present everywhere, even whenever you take a shit.  I don't need fraud magicians fag street to tell me about energy "problems."  It's perverted finance supporting the problems, not solutions.  

Absent greed, energy solutions are literally EVERYWHERE!  

The best thing that could happen is free energy killing modern financial slavery as it is known.

Prometheus418's picture

An example of how quickly things can be heated and cooled using purely mechanical methods:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF15NA4vR2w

(Not my video, just the first one I found.)

The drive shaft facing the camera does the work, while the far shaft pushes the displacement cylinder into the hot area.  Each cycle represents the total amount of gas in the system heating up (push stroke) and cooling down (pull stroke.)

This is old tech, and can be done with copper and/or aluminum.  There are newer alloys and metallic foams that can make this even more efficient.

Long-John-Silver's picture

What about cold fusion? Wait, what?

mynhair's picture

Very nice, but beyond the comprehension level of Libs.

 

Ahmeexnal's picture

They can't even understand the fine art of yomomma jokes.

mynhair's picture

Yes, anything multi-sylabic confuses them.

Pure Evil's picture

Can they appreciate yobamma jokes?

 

Now that's Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10 multiferroic!

 

Cha, cha, cha!

shano's picture

To the contrary......Libs have been working on this very problem for at least 40 years now.  Nice you all are catching up for once.  

 

We have been hoping you would 'evolve'.  

 

You left Industrial Hemp off this list.  It is the best fuel for ethanol production, does not need fossil fuel fertilizers or pesticides, and can grow with no irrigation in most parts of the nation.  Legalizing hemp would create totally new industries in America, improve exsisting ones (papaper and fabric) and will be the best fuel for both cars and jets.

You left hydrogen off this list, too...

knukles's picture

Like uhhhhh 'whoooz got dah papapers man?

He left burning books, witches, heretics and  Korans, not to mention be-headings, stoneings, beatings, overdosing, vivisection, transplants, chemtrails, nanobots, general insurrection, slavery, theft, civil disobedience, rape, war and associated other uninsurable acts of God, tsunamis, volcanoes, HAARP waves, forced entries, tarring and feathering, lynchings, electrocution, immersion in acid, drowning, smothering, choking, strangulation, prayer, (yes, the infinite power of prayer) forth and twelfth step work, common ordinary anger, affronts, assault and battery, drunkenness, speeding, jaywalking, kidnapping, murder, voodoo, curses, condemnation, crucifixion, hangings, excommunication, burning trash and newspapers, pillaging and arson off the fucking list, too.

gwar5's picture

Libs are making the planet dirtier. Libs are officially counterproductive to a clean planet and the Chinese are laughing. 

50 years of draconian US regulations has worked so well they've forced oil production offshore to filthy places like the Niger Delta, China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Venezuela and Brazil, forcing the world to obtain dirty, more expensive oil, that is also more prone to terrorist attacks and war.

Laugher: we can't even build a taxpayer subsidized solar array installation -- an environmental study shut one down from being built because enviros complained there might be an endangered desert toad in the way.

If Libs were serious, they need go to where there are real problems. They need to spend the next 50 years in China shutting them down if they want to save the planet. And PETA can do a lot more good by checking out the food markets in China where monkeys, dogs and cats are still on the menu, than by hassling US thoroughbred horse racing.

BP Oil spill? Obama received more money from BP than any other person in exchange for environmental short cuts and look what happened. BP also recieved quid pro quo Libya oil rights in exchange for Obama/Brown turning loose that Libyan terrorist, because they care so much about the environment, dontcha know. 

 

 

 

collinar's picture

Re: "we can't even build a taxpayer subsidized solar array installation -- an environmental study shut one down from being built because enviros complained there might be an endangered desert toad in the way."  

Hey, I talked to that toad. He said he would love to have the shade that PV array would provide. He said the enviro nut jobs  should get out of the way.

 

blunderdog's picture

I sense a contradiction.  You say "libs" are making the planet dirtier, yet I think you also imply these "libs" aren't in control of conditions in China.  Which is a shithole.

What train of logic explains how your assertion describes our obvious reality?

Zardinuk's picture

I think when you let a liberal answer this question, "how do we make the planet greener", you get worse than China. The liberals have found out that you don't actually need to make energy cheaper and more affordable, you just have to shut down the consumer, force them to live in straw bail houses with composting toilets and stuff like that, force them to pay double or triple for their dirty energy. At least China isn't trying to save the world from humans.

Urban Redneck's picture

The ideology is irrelevant. 

One doesn't need to be "in control of conditions in China" to be responsible for contributing the problems there. 

Anything who thinks that the world is "greener" when the industrial pollution and good jobs are simply swept under the rug and exported because of US government regulation doesn't understand that that world is one sphere with a continuous surface.

Making lightbulbs overseas out of toxic chemicals which eventually end up in US landfills, all to save energy consumption in the interim is lunacy and not environmentally friendly.

As bad as Cash for Clunkers was, the one redeeming feature of the program was that for the first timethe theoretically "more polluting" engines were scuttled.  Normally, regardless of whether an engine is used for an automobile or a diesel generator, an engine replaced in the first world will find its way to the the third world, so the net change in global pollution by upgrading to a more efficient engine is an increase in global pollution.

 

 

blunderdog's picture

I guess those are game attempts, guys, but they really don't help.  (I didn't expect much from gwar5, either.)

Best approach seems to be to replace the word "libs" with "bogeymen."  Then it makes sense.  On a kindergarten level.

Living in straw-bale houses and using composting toilets actually *would* reduce the amount of pollution which tends to destroy ecosystems.  It's a terrible approach, but the reason isn't because it causes more pollution.

I see no evidence that it was "liberals" who outsourced the manufacture of dangerous products to China--at least not without using a really historical meaning of the word "liberal" and going back to the foundations of "liberal economic policy" promoted during the 18th century and by our current businessmen.  Keeping part of the planet clean while someone else trashes another part doesn't affect all life on Earth, but at least it gives you a clean spot to enjoy.  As an analogy--maybe I can't prevent the neighbors from cooking meth in their basement, and maybe I even buy the stuff from them, but I'm not going blind from the fumes.  How much power do I have to prevent them from doing it at all?  (Agreed that this doesn't seem like it really falls into any liberal/conservative alignment.)

gwar5's picture

"Jane.... you ignorant slut!"  -- Dan Akroyd, SNL

Liberals have forced outsourcing of jobs from America with the highest tax rate in the world, the most stifling regulations, labor laws, litiginous culture and tort laws, and the enviro-nazi's making it impossible to get any development done at a reasonable cost. Those are all your ignorant, failed liberal ideas.

Businesses need to be rewarded for staying, not punished by liberals for leaving. Because it works and that's how other countries are doing it.

Now the EPA is going to punish all businesses and individuals and selectively hand out fines for not following their CO2 edicts. These are all socialist changes and mission creep coming from your corrupt central planners like  George Soros who are getting rich burying the West. 

blunderdog's picture

You're just an idiot, gwar5.  You don't even have the slightest grasp of the facts.  This is why you and your friends are laughingstocks--it's not only that you harbor an irrational hatred for a word you couldn't even define, it's that you couldn't dredge up a single point to bear with access to the entire Internet at your fingertips.

Liberals have forced outsourcing of jobs from America with the highest tax rate in the world

This is false.  Not true.  Which "liberals" are you blaming for our tax rates?  The Eisenhower administration?

the most stifling regulations, labor laws,

Also both false, you can check out most of Europe for better examples.

litiginous culture and tort laws

This is a cultural problem, not defined by the liberal/conservative divide.

The idea of rewarding businesses for keeping jobs here is a strange one.  You mean government should dole out favors for companies that pay high labor costs?  Take our tax money and give it to, say, Ford?  Mmm.  Why not just use tariffs instead?

Now the EPA is going to punish all businesses and individuals and selectively hand out fines for not following their CO2 edicts. These are all socialist changes and mission creep coming from your corrupt central planners like  George Soros who are getting rich burying the West.

George Soros runs the EPA?   He controls our legislature?

Batshit crazy, man.  Just batshit.  Harg blar.

gwar5's picture

There you are b-dog, for the last time, please don't make me come back here and beat you again on the nose with a rolled up newpaper....

 

Contradiction my ass. The only contradickshuns are libs like you and Tony Wiener.

Western libs have shown themselves to be total flakes, fakes and cowards. Everyone of you ignores the real pollution and real human and animal rights abuses.  Since when did "lack of control" ever stop any of your pukey orgs from doing a flotilla that got other people killed?

There is plenty they could try to do to protest and engage in a crack down on those evil "planet killers"  like China and Venezuela, if you really believed any of it. But you don't because you're all fake, and all of it is merely a shakedown of Western economies for money and political power. If that's not true, why aren't there boatloads of international lawyers headed to Beijing to seeking enviro-justice? 

No, you're all too busy spending your time and money sanctimoniously preaching and bullying Western economies into oblivian while the Niger Delta water is literally on fire and burning. You really could care less about real pollution. The mindless enviro-socialists are only helping places like China pollute by shutting down Western demand and letting China benefit and expand their fossil fuel usage with the cheaper prices.

Al Gore, WWF, Sierra Club and all the rest of the Soros' funded socialista cabal are all liars and hypocrites acting as secret Santas for places like Brazil and China. There is no "Bat Boat" harrassing Chinese fishing fleets, there are no demonstrations of people painted in fake blood to protest Chinese policy towards Tibet, there is no marxist pink lady flotilla against China for cracking down on 30 million Chinese muslims, there are no eco-nazis vadalizing shipments of gas and coal to/from China.

No, the liberal nutjobs are all here burning down ski lodges, creating a dust bowl by shutting off the water in central California, stopping solar arrays from being built in the Southwestern desert, and stopping oil drilling in the Gulf while paying Brazil to do even deeper drilling there.  

If liberals really believe that the world is going to end from global warming, how come they don't really act like it? Your behavior is a total contradiction to what you say you really believe.

True believers would at least be protesting Gore's jet. You need to renounce the hypocrites and switch sides if you really want to save the planet.

gwar5's picture

Contradiction my ass. The only contradickshuns are libs like you and Tony Weiner.

Western socialists have shown themselves to be total flakes, fakes and cowards. Everyone of them ignores the real pollution and real human and animal rights abuses.

There is plenty they could try to do to China to protest and engage their liberal hack politicians to crack down on the evil "planet killers"  like China and Venezuela. But it's nothing but silence. Where's all the international lawyers for enviro-justice? 

Instead, libs spend all their time and money trying preaching sanctimoniously bullying Western economies into oblivian while the Niger Delta water is literally on fire and burning. REally, they could really care less! The mindless enviro-socialists are only helping places like China pollute by shutting down Western demand and letting China benefit and expand their fossil fuel usage with the cheaper prices.

Al Gore, WWF, Sierra Club and all the rest of the Soros' funded socialista cabal are all liars and hypocrites acting as the secret Santas for places like Brazil and China. There is no "Bat Boat" harrassing Chinese fishing fleets, there are no demonstrations of people painted in fake blood to protest Chinese policy towards Tibet, there is no marxist pink lady flotilla against China for cracking down on 30 million Chinese muslims, there are no eco-nazis vadalizing shipments of gas and coal to/from China.

But the liberal nutjobs are burning down ski lodges in the USA, creating a dust bowl by shutting off the water in central California, stopping solar arrays from being built in the Southwestern desert, and stopping oil drilling in the Gulf while paying Brazil to do even deeper drilling there.  

If liberals really believe that the world is going to end from global warming how come they don't act like it? Their behavior is a total contradiction to what they say they really believe.

granolageek's picture

Dear asshole,

I own a farm in New Hampshire. My growing season is a month longer since I bught the place 20 years ago.

 

I don't think the world is going to end, I think I'll make a lot more money.

My neighbors and I are taking global warming to the bank. Money talks, religion walks.

 

blunderdog's picture

I'm not much of a liberal, and you're a crazy blowhard.  Heh.  But if it makes you feel better to pigeonhole me with your preferred bogeymen, feel free.

Liberals gonna get ya, boyee!  Go hide in the bunker!

billwilson's picture

You obviously meant conservatives. Liberals have been focused on this since the 70's.

BorisTheBlade's picture

Habit of bringing political divide i.e. liberals vs conservatives into otherwise perfectly neutral and technical topics is really funny.