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Is It True that Alternative Energy Is Too Expensive?

George Washington's picture




 

Washington’s
Blog

Many people assume that alternative energy is simply too expensive,
and not competitive with oil and other conventional means of energy.

While
some alternative writers allege that the big oil companies have
artificially increased alternative energy prices by buying up promising
alternative energy technologies - for example supposedly helping to kill
first-generation electric cars by buying
up promising battery patents so they couldn't be used in electric
models
- we don't even need to go down that rabbit hole.

Specifically,
a 2008 report for Congress by the Congressional Research Service
entitled "Renewable Energy R&D Funding History: A Comparison with
Funding for Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, and Energy Efficiency
R&D" notes:

Over
the 30-year period from the Department of Energy's inception at the
beginning of fiscal Year (FY) 1978 through FY2007, federal spending for
renewable energy R&D amounted to about 16% of the energy R&D
total, compared with 15% for energy efficiency, 25% for fossil, and 41%
for nuclear. For the 60-year period from 1948 through 2007, nearly 11%
went to renewables, compared with 9% for efficiency, 25% for fossil, and
54% for nuclear.

In other words, renewable energy research
and development received a small fraction of the R&D funding for
nuclear and fossil fuels. This has skewed the market, making
conventional energy sources cheaper and alternative sources more
expensive.

In addition, when the externalities
of environmental, military and terrorism costs are taken into account,
conventional energy production is much more expensive than most people
realize.

For example, as I wrote
yesterday, the government has decided that deepwater oil drilling in
the Gulf and other fragile and hard-to-drill regions - and securing oil
in Iraq and other foreign regions - are in our national security and
national energy policy interests (remember that Alan
Greenspan
, John
McCain
, George
W. Bush
, Sarah
Palin
, a high-level
National Security Council officer
and others all say that the Iraq
war was really about oil).

Nobel prize winning economist
Joseph Stiglitz says that the Iraq war alone will cost $3-5
trillion dollars
.

And economist Anita Dancs writes:

Each year, our
military devotes substantial resources to securing access to and
safeguarding the transportation of oil and other energy sources. I
estimate that we will pay $90 billion this year to secure oil. If
spending on the Iraq War is included, the total rises to $166 billion.

In addition, experts say that the Iraq war has increased
the threat of terrorism. See this,
this,
this,
this,
this, this
and this.

The
bottom line is that if alternative energy R&D was funded at the
same level as conventional energy, and when the externalities of
environmental, military and terrorism costs are taken into account, it
is not clear that alternative energy is really substantially more
expensive than conventional energy. At the very least, if the playing
field were leveled, alternative energy could become cost competitive in
the relatively near-term future.

 

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Tue, 05/25/2010 - 19:31 | 373204 jmc8888
jmc8888's picture

The amazing thing is no one considers ENERGY FLUX DENSITY. Oil and win/solar are HORRIBLE in energy flux density.  Wind/solar far, far poorer than fossil fuels.

Let's spend trillions of dollars going from one crap to the next equally crappy product.

Our current crap = fossil fuels

Our retarded 'green crap' = wind/solar

Both are idiotic.  Both are NOTHING compared to fusion.

Nuclear would be much cheaper than it is currently if we actually built them and built the new tech ones.

So the REAL question is...do we want to pay a boondoggle carbon tax to fun crap that isn't any better, and might be worse than fossil fuels...or do we want to continue on crappy fossil fuels and going to wars....or bypass both the dead ends and develop a technology literally thousands of times better in fusion?

 

Gee hard one there.

 

Let's recap

1. Spend trillions for crap that couldn't meet 1960's standards = wind/solar

Is this energy independence? Nope, because it's so low yield you need wide swaths of land and the corresponding materials to produce enough electricity to currently power what we need.  Let's use all of the world's metals and free space to build solar collectors to power everybody's stuff.  But once that limit is reached, we can't go over that amount.  Also it doesn't work at night, or without wind.

2. Spend trillions in wars to continue to barely meet 2010's standards = fossil fuel.  Wars, nuclear/bioterror/chemcial/terrorism threats, pollution, scarce and finite.

Energy independence? Obviously not.

 

3. Spend trillions to develop something 1000x (probably be orders of magnitude conservative) better than either...once it's developed, 1 gram of matter can light an entire town for a year.  Eneregy independance? You don't get it, unless you have fusion.

Until then Nuclear power, new reactors in the tens of thosands.

If you want green energy, you must like going down dead ends.  Because that is EXACTLY what the 'so called' "green energy" is.  What's so green about pulling metal from the earth anyways?

The greenest of ALL solutions, Fusion.  Nothing else compares.  But we can't be pussies in funding it. 

People who, 'think green', don't think. 

 

 

 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 21:41 | 371130 DisparityFlux
DisparityFlux's picture

Rode electric buses as a child in the early 1960s:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Dayton_Regional_Transit_Authority

loved the sparks and smell of ozone!

Nothing like progress to get in the way of progress.

Oh, by the way, I read your blog yesterday and wanted to bring the following to your attention. Read this article published March 1, 2005:

http://www.offshore-mag.com/index/article-display/223825/articles/offsho...

and then ask what is the acceptable value for probability of ultra-deepwater blowouts and how was the value determined.  Hint, the accepted value (0.0 to 0.00004) was determined by MMS; the agency responsible for regulating oil/gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) region of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).  Refer to section 4.4.1.2 in Volume I of OCS EIS/EA MMS 2002-052

http://www.gomr.mms.gov/homepg/regulate/environ/nepa/cw2003-2007.html

and Table B-4 in Appendix B of OCS EIS/EA MMS 2002-081:

http://www.gomr.mms.gov/homepg/regulate/environ/nepa/grid16ea.pdf

Since prospectivity of the OCS in the GOM was declared a National Security issue by the Department of Energy, check out one of our leading drilling experts:

http://www.pe.tamu.edu/schubert/

What happened to Task 4 in "Development of a Blowout Intervention Method and Dynamic Kill Simulator for Blowouts Occurring in Ultra-Deepwater?"

http://www.pe.tamu.edu/schubert/Current-Drilling-Research%2004_2002.pdf

http://www.mms.gov/tarprojects/408.htm

In the "lean engineering/management" approach to ultra-deepwater drilling, a single failure in analysis and oversight can lead to a catastrophic event -- Deepwater Horizon.

http://www.energybulletin.net/node/52763

 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 19:20 | 371113 islander
islander's picture

Tesla based energy is free. Thats why it  never saw the light of day.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 20:55 | 371242 ToddGak
ToddGak's picture

Come on, that's just silly.  There is not a solution to the second law of thermodynamics.

Plus, even if it was possible, couldn't some company patent the technology to produce said free energy, and make a mint converting it to electricity and selling it?

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 19:31 | 371132 George Washington
George Washington's picture

I have no idea what Tesla was supposed to be all about.

Can someone point to an electrical engineer who has written about whether Tesla's free energy ideas were bogus or real?

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 18:05 | 371021 Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr's picture

Like it or not--you cannot get ANYWHERE near the amount of energy you release cracking a gallon of crude with anything else available in nature (for now)--NOT even close! But it doesn't matter anymore--you fucking Liberals and your feel good about yourself mentality (how many die because of the retarded movie you all love about DDT?--Killed fucking MILLIONS in Africa from malaria!) you are destroying the fabric of reality. This Stepford Market is a joke--you voted for him? For this? yeesh

Wed, 05/26/2010 - 01:09 | 373710 JW n FL
JW n FL's picture

Aaron Burr,

                 You are a fucking idiot. There is no real difference between The Lobby whore over there or over here, they both Vote the dollar. You pick a whore any whore... One you Love and one you hate and I will happily show you the money trails left by the money hungry whores... One of both, don't just give me the ones you hate. I will prove too you there is no, NO! difference.

                Lets hope you are ready for the truth Aaron Burr...

Be well, JW 
 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 23:42 | 371382 Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

You know Aaron Burr's father founded Princeton right?  Just sayin'....

And you think that this is a liberal problem?  There is only one party, there is no left, no right. 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 19:10 | 371100 NOTaREALmerican
NOTaREALmerican's picture

Yeah,  like thinking a little oil in the water matters.    Stupid liberals.    What this country needs is MORE growth based polutants.   If the Chinese can live in toxic filth so can the greatest country in the entire universe.   We're not the pansies of the world but liberals want us to be like those EUROPEAN!     People who can't even win a war.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 19:17 | 371112 George Washington
George Washington's picture

NOW you're making sense!

Tue, 05/25/2010 - 12:25 | 372091 JW n FL
JW n FL's picture

7,500 feet or deeper 

Top of Form

Cajun Express

Deepwater Discovery

Deepwater Expedition

Deepwater Frontier

Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater Millennium

Deepwater Nautilus

Deepwater Pathfinder

Development Driller III

Dhirubhai Deepwater KG1

Discoverer Americas

Discoverer Clear Leader

Discoverer Deep Seas

Discoverer Enterprise

Discoverer Spirit

GSF C.R. Luigs

GSF Development Driller I

GSF Development Driller II

GSF Explorer

GSF Jack Ryan

Petrobras 10000

Sedco Energy

Sedco Express

 

Bottom of Form

 

4,500 to 7,499 feet deep 

Top of Form

Deepwater Navigator

Discoverer 534

Discoverer Seven Seas

GSF Celtic Sea

Jack Bates

Jim Cunningham

M.G. Hulme, Jr.

Sedco 702

Sedco 706

Sedco 707

Sedco 709

Sedco 710

Sovereign Explorer

Transocean Leader

Transocean Marianas

Transocean Rather

Transocean Richardson

 

Bottom of Form

 

400 to 4,499 feet deep 

Top of Form

Actinia

C. Kirk Rhein Jr.

Falcon 100

GSF Aleutian Key

GSF Arctic I

GSF Arctic II

GSF Arctic III

GSF Arctic IV

GSF Grand Banks

GSF Rig 135

GSF Rig 140

Henry Goodrich

J. W. McLean

Paul B. Loyd, Jr.

Polar Pioneer

Sedco 601

Sedco 700

Sedco 703

Sedco 704

Sedco 711

Sedco 712

Sedco 714

Sedneth 701

Transocean Amirante

Transocean Arctic

Transocean Driller

Transocean John Shaw

Transocean Legend

Transocean Prospect

Transocean Searcher

Transocean Winner

   

Bottom of Form

 

300 to 399 feet deep

Top of Form

C.E. Thornton

D.R. Stewart

F.G. McClintock

G.H. Galloway

GSF Adriatic I

GSF Adriatic II

GSF Adriatic IX

GSF Adriatic V

GSF Adriatic VI

GSF Adriatic VIII

GSF Adriatic X

GSF Adriatic XI

GSF Baltic

GSF Compact Driller

GSF Constellation I

GSF Constellation II

GSF Galaxy I

GSF Galaxy II

GSF Galaxy III

GSF Galveston Key

GSF Key Gibraltar

GSF Key Hawaii

GSF Key Manhattan

GSF Key Singapore

GSF Labrador

GSF Magellan

GSF Main Pass I

GSF Main Pass IV

GSF Monarch

GSF Monitor

GSF Parameswara

GSF Rig 134

GSF Rig 136

Harvey H. Ward

Interocean III

J.T. Angel

Randolph Yost

Roger W. Mowell

Ron Tappmeyer

Shelf Explorer

Transocean Nordic

Trident II

Trident IV

Trident IX

Trident VIII

Trident XII

Trident XIV

Trident XV

Trident XVI

Trident XVII

Trident XX

Bottom of Form

 

Under 300 feet deep  

Top of Form

GSF Britannia

GSF High Island II

GSF High Island IV

GSF High Island IX

GSF High Island V

GSF High Island VII

GSF Rig 103

GSF Rig 105

GSF Rig 124

GSF Rig 127

GSF Rig 141

Hibiscus

Searex 4

Transocean Mercury

Trident VI

Bottom of Form

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 18:29 | 371054 George Washington
George Washington's picture

Liberal?

The whole left-versus-right schtick is a false paradigm, a trick to try and divide and conquer the American people.

President George Washington was neither republican nor democrat (it was before the two parties were formed).

And, anyway, are people who don't want to rely on rubbing two sticks together to obtain all of their energy needs "conservatives"? Are people who don't want their livelihood as fishermen trashed "liberals"? Are people who want energy security - so that oil-rich countries can't blackmail us - "conservatives"? Are people who don't want to drink life-shortening, virility-neutering mud in their water "liberals"?

 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 18:27 | 371050 cyclemadman
cyclemadman's picture

Many times the environmental/liberal solution to problems only make things worse. For example, has anyone noticed that the paint lines on the streets don't seem to last anymore?  That is because we are forced to use water based paints and now the streets have to be painted at least 4 times as often.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 17:40 | 370979 THE DORK OF CORK
THE DORK OF CORK's picture

Some low hanging fruit.......

A simple cheap and easy way to get around suburbia without burning diesel.

This approach can be used for even low density cities of the US.

Even Los Angeles !

www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAPMvhD62kA

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 17:10 | 370929 dcb
dcb's picture

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Energy_Intensity.png

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Energy_consumption_versus_GDP.png

GDP and energy consumption in Japan from 1958 - 2000 The data shows the correlation between GDP and energy use; however, it also shows that this link can be broken. After the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 the energy use stagnated while Japan's GDP continued to grow, after 1985, under the influence of the then much cheaper oil, energy use resumed its historical relation to GDP.[6]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Japan_energy_%26_GDP.png

 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 17:14 | 370928 Henry Chinaski
Henry Chinaski's picture

I don't buy the premise that a lack of government R&D funding is why renewable energy sources are less feasible than petrol.  Maybe funding for renewable is lower because what research was done provedit less cost effective.  Why throw money at something that demonstrates inferior potential?

If this premise were true, nuclear would be the cheapest an most widely used energy source.

 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 17:02 | 370919 dcb
dcb's picture

Much of this debate wouldn't be happening if we had embarked on conservatiopn efforts after the first oil crisis. Japan has done well with not increasing oil usage over a loing period by being efficient.

 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 18:37 | 371020 anony
anony's picture

It wouldn't be happening now, but it would happen.  Conservation is fuelish.

The ONLY solution is finding an unlimited supply of cheap energy or at the least cost effective energy, with milliennia till it runs out.

In spite of Japan's efforts OIL is Still Running OUT and one day they will have none.

If someone can invent the paper clip, toe nail clipper, Water-pik, the stapler, the Rabbit Wine Puller, the breast implant, gore-tex, velcro, the atom bomb, the philips screwdriver, allen wrench, the condom, the Popeil veggie cutter, the Sham-wow, the Tesla, Collateral Default Swaps, TARP, leverage 100 to 1, the world wide computer internet web, land on the moon and get back, the hubble radio-telescope, Skechers, Crocs, the hula hoop, frisbee, levi's, Hustler Magazine, MACs, I-pods, maxi-pads, penis pumps, strapless-sling back patent leather pumps,artificial heart valves that last 200 years,polio cure,Shelby Cobra,Ford assembly line, 3-d tv, Bellagio and DubaiWater Fountains,Charlie Parker,Blogs,SSTs,Republican Government,Frasier, and Johnnie Blue, then certainly alternative energy could be a relative snap.

 

 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 20:48 | 371231 ToddGak
ToddGak's picture

Trouble is, most of those admittedly awesome things are not subject to the second law of thermodynamics.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 17:42 | 370981 Gromit
Gromit's picture

And how much does motor fuel cost in Japan?

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:55 | 370907 A Nanny Moose
A Nanny Moose's picture

Just as with the PoG...

Perhaps alt energy is not too expensive, but the price of oil is artificially held too low.

Tue, 05/25/2010 - 12:11 | 372066 JW n FL
JW n FL's picture

Oil $70 a Barrel for light sweet crude... and $150 - $200 for deep water Horizon and its sister ships http://www.deepwater.com/fw/main/List-by-Water-Depth-77.html ... or Heavy or Sour Crude refinement in say... China? http://www.google.com/#hl=en&ei=ufP7S-DwLsL7lwfD_ZXiDw&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=1&ct=result&cd=1&ved=0CEMQBSgA&q=heavy+or+sour+crude+refining+china&spell=1&fp=3ddd94a60b7b88b0

Whereas we (here in the U.S.) only refine Sweet Light Crude that was pumped up from 200 feet beneath the desert floor to a ready and waiting pipeline that has been in service for 20 years... in a perfect World of Rainbows and Unicorns, sure $70 Bucks a Barrel Light Sweet Crude works... maybe. But considering what where the Oil is... 7,000 feet beneath the ocean waves... only to drill another 5 miles underneath the ocean floor... and never mind the $6,000,000.00 dollar a day clean up that is not even scratching the problem, that needs to be blended into this pretty lil equation... Lets say $150 bucks a barrel on the Lite side... on a good day... which is not what the world looks like right now... and dare I say that those days are NEVER coming back.

As for your statement  A Nanny Moose? ***** "but the price of oil is artificially held too low." *****

Do you know what happens when the price of oil goes up and people understand its not coming back down?

 

Question; How many guns are in the united states of America?

Answer; The FBI estimates that there are over 200 million privately-owned firearms in the US. If you add those owned by the military, law enforcement agencies and museums, there is probably about 1 gun per person in the country.

If you want to get a rough idea of how many guns there are out there just look at how many people you see out there then multiply by a factor of estimated ownership. The last best guess was about 350,000,000 Total. That would be 1 weapon for every man woman and child. The average gun enthusiast owns several firearms which includes pistols, shotguns, and rifles of all makes and models. It is often estimated that about 1 in 4 people own any firearms and on average firearms owners own 4 guns each.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_guns_are_in_the_united_states_of_America

 

 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 17:34 | 370967 Gromit
Gromit's picture

Yes but you have to embed the cost of ten aircraft carrier groups.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:43 | 370880 anony
anony's picture

Without reading anything but your headline, the answer is an emphatic NO!

Alternative energy would shake things up fer sure, but the journey of a million kilometers begins.......

If only we had leadership that wasn't bought and paid for by existing energy companies, or if there were an alternative energy cabal to compete with them like a dozen T. Boone Pickens's, we might get out of the Middle East.....sheck that, I forgot that other part of the Mideast that we need to be there for, our 51st state.

But that's the final answer.  NO  it is  not too expensive, it's actually going to be a sou compared to the expense and devastation a nation with an Oil needle in its arm is proving to be now and the OD it will experience as oil runs out.  We really have no choice, but the 535 members, and the admenstruation that passes for government is too dependent on Big Energy to keep their jobs. 

I wish that bin Laden had been successful in having one of those planes take out the capitol in full session, while another worked on the Pentagon.  

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:33 | 370852 J.Caesar
J.Caesar's picture

there are certainly many high-tech, peak-oil solutions; but declining energy is not a problem, it is a situation.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:39 | 370869 proLiberty
proLiberty's picture

We don't have declining energy.  We only have a declining willingness to develop the resources we have.  In fact, the world is almost literally awash in hydrocarbons that can be converted to usable fuels.  The only issue is the cost of the finished product at the pump.

Tue, 05/25/2010 - 11:54 | 372020 JW n FL
JW n FL's picture

Peak Oil?

NOPE!

Peak Affordable Oil!

Yeah!! Baby!!!

Price manipulation of precious metals? sure, no doubt... How about that $70 a barrel oil we are seeing? NOPE! theres no price manipulation there, No Sir... just good ole' honest market driven pricing! We have cut everything from the budget? and still we are spending money faster than we can print and / or the Chinese can buy Treasuries?! Where does it all go? Where is all mountain of money going? we, as a country could have paid everyones fucking mortgage off and allowed for new mortgages to be put in place with the monies we have spent thus far... at which point everyone would have been out shopping, with the new mortgage dollars and happy the house was paid off for free. Consumer confidence would have been thru the roof, values would be stable and the markets would be on fire... but instead we let Wall Street pump the all the Markets with thier Non-Losing Algo's (Computer Trades), make NO! Loans but rack up Fantastic Bonus Monies! Bankers who make NO LOANS with accsess to a 0% FED Window who make hundreds of Billions in Bonus Monies? Really? Seriously?

Sorry got off topic.. heres a video or two for you to watch if you are so inclinded..

 

Bill Gates on energy: Innovating to zero!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaF-fq2Zn7I&feature=PlayList&p=C1B06538A32767DF&playnext_from=PL&index=161

 

The Business of Climate Change Conference 2009

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYuLjGQQ-jg&feature=PlayList&p=C1B06538A32767DF&playnext_from=PL&index=132

 

Peak Affordable Oil! Sorry for the other rant..

 

Be well, JW

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:25 | 370829 proLiberty
proLiberty's picture

The reason our consumption of oil is a national security issue is not  because we consume it but because the net effect of our own government's policies is to make it less costly to import it than to develop our own domestic resources.   This is coupled with other government distortions of the free market's decisions.

We could, for example, convert coal to diesel fuel at a break even price of about $70/bbl equiv.  The price of coal is where it is because of how much of our electricity is produced by burning coal.  There seems to not be any appreciation in government with the implications of displacing coal-fired power plants with nuclear ones to the maximum extent possible.

Solar and wind power are not "dispatachable", that is the utility grid cannot turn on the wind or the sun when it needs the power.  The only way to accept power from these sources is to have sufficient conventional standby facilities.  Enviros don't care about that cost or waste.

The President could declare that the US is going to meet its own hydrocarbon fuel needs in a finite timeframe, say 15 years, by setting a date certain for that event, and imposing a slowly-increasing fee for the license fee to import each barrel of oil.   That would set a firm floor on the market price and would give incentives for people to build conversion projects to satisfy a need that would be certain to come, a need that would not be undercut by outside producers.

Of course, this would require Congress to permit more complete development of all US hydrocarbon resources.  It may not really raise the retail price of the finished hydrocarbon fuels.  The US actually has enough hydrocarbon resources to satisfy our needs, especailly when nuclear power was allowed to grow again.  We have a tremendous amount of coal and natural gas resources.   We could be free of the worry about sufficient fuel availability if only we would face the reality of our own blessings.

 

See also: OSD/AT&L Clean Fuel Initiative, aka the Barna report:

http://www.pewclimate.org/docUploads/Harrison.pdf

 

See also: USGS Fact sheet: Gas (Methane) Hydrates -- A New Frontier

http://marine.usgs.gov/fact-sheets/gas-hydrates/title.html

 

"The worldwide amounts of carbon bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth."

 

 

 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:48 | 370893 OldTrooper
OldTrooper's picture

Presidential decrees?  Date certain?  Increasing fees?

Yeah, we don't have nearly enough of that kind of stuff, do we.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:20 | 370813 ZackAttack
ZackAttack's picture

Tell you one thing I *do* know - the energy charts out there look ugly, and the alternate energy charts are butt-ugly. They have a lotta air underneath them.  

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:17 | 370804 Jim in MN
Jim in MN's picture

Rough pecking order for new resources:

Natural gas (combined cycle, baseload duty) 7-8 cents/kWh

Supercritical coal 8-10 cents

Wind 9-10 cents (without subsidy)

Biomass (utility scale, no combined heat & power) 10-15 cents

'Clean coal' (integrated gasification combined cycle) with CO2 capture 12-20 cents

Nuclear 12-20 cents

Solar PV (household scale, $10/Watt installed) 25-35 cents

Natural gas and wind have been the top two builds in the US for about twenty years now.....

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:14 | 370787 chunkylover42
chunkylover42's picture

I'm not trying to bait anyone, I swear.  But I have a question - let's assume that some oil company really is buying up promising patents so they couldn't be used to develop cheaper, alternative sources of energy.  Is that patent really worth more to the company dead than alive?  The way I see it, if Exxon buys some patent and then uses it to develop some new source of energy, the monopoly profits from that (as presumably the sole provider of that energy source) would far outweigh anything they could generate from traditional fossil fuels, just based on volume alone.  Further, what is the incentive for the developer of said technology to sell the patent to Exxon or anyone else, for that matter?  If it's so valuable, why not take it to a VC company and develop it yourself?

I'm not saying it's not happening, I'm just questioning the economic logic of such a move.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 20:08 | 371183 JW n FL
JW n FL's picture

1.       Any energy patent has a separate set of rules… before it will be issued.  It has to be determined not a threat to the United States if it allowed to become public information.. This takes at least 6 months if not longer because it is decided that it is better kept in House by the U.S. Government… If the U.S. decides to keep it under wraps, You have to fight in Federal Court to get it freed up… all of this at you cost and all before you can even file for patent protection.

2.       If you had a great idea… whose market share would you be cutting into? In the U.S. more often than not General Electric… the Companies who Bonds are backed by the treasury, yep that G.E. we bring good ideas to life… their motto should be we maintain market share thru legislation and if we are lucky we can grow our market share thru even more legislation.

3.       Let’s say you just file for under W.I.P.O protections… to gain some protection Globally and cut down on the hemorrhaging of information once you file into other Countries.. By the time you pay for good legal help, file and then start the offshore translation runs… you are into multiples of millions for patent protection only.

 

Even if you monetize the idea you still have to fight with the utility companies who are in NO! rush to see anything new come to market that undermines their market share… Basically the status quo has a vested interest in seeing whatever good comes down the road, FAILS! The Government can throw money at the idea, but the lobby for multiple industries is hard at work every day to make sure that NOTHING gets in the way of the market share they now enjoy. In China it is the law that all green energy is bought and used (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BQ08Q20091227 ). In America you are gambling, research too vertical integration of the power produced.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:08 | 370767 Gromit
Gromit's picture

If renewable energy makes me feel good, does it matter what it costs?

If we can write blank checks to bankers, why not to renewables entrepreneurs?

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:17 | 370795 Carl Spackler
Carl Spackler's picture

TD, how does the quadruple duplicate copy post occur here?

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:43 | 370883 Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Multiple universes....and computer errors.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:15 | 370794 Carl Spackler
Carl Spackler's picture

because we already do write those blank checks

you must be too concerned about feeling good, and you

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:15 | 370793 Carl Spackler
Carl Spackler's picture

because we already do write those blank checks

you must be too concerned about feeling good, and

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:15 | 370792 Carl Spackler
Carl Spackler's picture

because we already do write those blank checks

you must be too concerned about feeling good,

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:15 | 370791 Carl Spackler
Carl Spackler's picture

because we already do write those blank checks

you must be too concerned about feeling good

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 17:32 | 370963 Gromit
Gromit's picture

If we can fund blank checks to bankers AND renewables entrepreneurs, why not write some more checks and stop collecting income taxes. We'd save a lot of money wasted on the IRS and stimulate the economy.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 15:56 | 370743 cyclemadman
cyclemadman's picture

It is high time that the government stopped picking winners and losers.  What needs to happen is to stop subsidizing everything.  Let everything succeed or fail on its own merit.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 19:05 | 371092 NOTaREALmerican
NOTaREALmerican's picture

Except my stuff.   Ok?   My subsides make America greater. 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 15:48 | 370731 Apostate
Apostate's picture

There is no way to know what the correct course of action is without accurate price signals.

For example, the alternative energy industry has (in general) banked on government tax credits and favorable regulatory treatment.

I doubt anyone - not even the most brilliant scientists and engineers - knows how to direct R&D in the energy sector.

There's too much malinvestment. Under Keynsianism, we're all flying blind, trying to make best-guesses and always windup up far off the mark.

As inflation continues to go out of control, society begins to resemble a surrealist painting more and more. Our lives become the mad dreams of the central planners. We still have free will, but we're buffeted about by forces seen and unseen.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 15:48 | 370730 Gromit
Gromit's picture

Renewable energy (ex hydro, nuclear) is fraud.

No-one has ever supplied power from solar, wind etc. without gigantic subsidies and they never will.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:21 | 370818 HomemadeLasagna
HomemadeLasagna's picture

Large, central "alternative" energy plants have generally been unsuccessful.  They have all the cost, manufacturing, maintenance, and management issues of a coal plant, yet produce less energy.

They also rely on the incredibly inefficient national grid to distribute that power, though, where much of what they generate gets lost in the process.  The grid is the problem as much as the source here, though.

 

No-one has ever supplied power from solar, wind etc. without gigantic subsidies and they never will.

Many people I know supply much of their own personal power from those sources without gigantic subsidies.  The source and the usage are at the same location. You're just looking at it on the wrong scale.


 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:14 | 370788 Carl Spackler
Carl Spackler's picture

Right. The future of energy is hydro, coal, and thorium-based.

Coal conversion to gasoline this is.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 17:03 | 370920 A Nanny Moose
A Nanny Moose's picture

Hydro is far more damaging than at first glimpse. Witness the degradation of the Colorado River Delta.

A primary function of rivers is to deliver nutrients from erosion during floods. Combine this with fire suppression tactics, and we have a recipe for a real ecological disaster...food supply degradation.

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:44 | 370877 Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

As Meatloaf said, "2 outta 3 aint bad."

Coal to gas is what Hitler and Japan tried to do.  Don't work, and coal is some hella toxic shtuff.  I do not want America to end up like China.  UGH!

+1 on Thorium!

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 16:31 | 370845 ZerOhead
ZerOhead's picture

A+ Mr. Spackler

Hydro has been pretty much done... so more coal for baseload (like Germany 80%) ... save the natural gas for transportation and fertilizer etc... and thorium will be the new uranium.

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