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YOU!: Fix the US Energy Crisis

by russ_watters
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russ_watters
#775
Jan16-12, 11:25 PM
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I know it's late but since you replied recently....
Quote Quote by sketch View Post
Groups of houses or apartments to share high power appliances such as vaccum cleaners, tumble driers, fridges and freezers etc.
How would that help any? Sharing a vacuum cleaner or drier doesn't make you vacuum less or dry your clothes less, so it doesn't decrease the amount of energy you use.
More internal electrics to run on 12v, with the power supplied via small windmills and solar arrays.
What does running at 12V have to do with anything? It won't decrease the power used...
Larger windmills to store higher voltage using capacitors or flywheels to store energy for use in the higher-powered equipment.
Windmills don't store anything and voltage isn't something that is stored.
Simple really.
I'm sorry, but that post reads mosly like gibberish.
russ_watters
#776
Jan16-12, 11:29 PM
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Quote Quote by Pkruse View Post
I see lots of suggestions that fit with sketch's ideas above, things that are all within our current level of technology. While these are technically feasible, I think we need to be realistic as to what is politically acceptable. (That also implies economically viable.) Engineers can develop all sorts of good ideas, but if the market can't sell it, it goes nowhere. Nothing that restricts our growth in living standard is acceptable to the majority of people today, and I don't see that changing.
That's a real toughie. You're right that as a matter of technology most of our energy issues are solvable without too much effort. But political will drives the US to make half its electricity with coal, while expressing fear over global warming. It is irrational and I don't know if/what will change it.
Pkruse
#777
Jan17-12, 05:56 AM
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Yes, Russ. We as engineers need to become very creative to develop new solutions that are politically and ecconomically acceptable. We need to figure out what the people want, and then give it to them. They want an every increasing standard of living with zero impact on the planet. We will never attain that idea, but I believe we can approach it much more closely than we in the past have thought possible. We do know how to resolve all the World's problems from a technical point of view, but rehashing what we already know endlessly with little chance of actually selling it is not productive. We need to find simething that sells.

I have zero hope that fusion will solve our problems within my life time. When I talk about nuclear, I don't even bring fusion up. But our old plants were developed as they were because at the time we needed to make bomb fuel. We could have designed them differently, but we did not for that reason. Some of my friends in the industry talk about all sorts of wonderful ideas whereby they could develop entirely new designs from the ground up that would have zero possibility of a melt down, which would eliminate the problem of storing spent fuel, and which would be many orders of magnitude safer and less expensive than we have today. All this is technology that we could jump on and develop today, but first we need to develop the political will with funding that follows. It would be great if some of those working along these lines would post their ideas here, where we could develop a critical mass of thinking to stimulate further development, but they keep to themselves because their ideas are potentially very profitable and they don't want anyone to steal their ideas.

I myself work for a company that would fire me if I posted proprietory material here. So I'm one that is limited in that same way. But I'm seeing much more funding cut loose to develop these ideas, some of which will change the whole tone of this thread if we repeat it ten years from now. Between the various parties seeking new green technology, more than a billion dollars of research money is being spent in this direction. Some of it is government money, but much of it is private venture capital. When you see private sources funding research, you know it has at least a good probability of becoming productive and profitable--ideas that we can actually sell and the people will use.
Topher925
#778
Jan17-12, 08:47 AM
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Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
What do you favor as a replacement for liquid fossil fuels, that make economic and logistical sense?
I'm in favor of a 100% solar powered hydrogen economy. But since we have to live in the real world a combination of nuclear and solar (but mostly nuclear) is the best bet for the near term. I think 20 years from now hydrogen fueled plug-in hybrids will become the staple for transportation with the source of hydrogen coming from high temperature electrolysis, solar thermochemical hydrogen generation, and natural gas.
Astronuc
#779
Jan26-12, 06:29 AM
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Interesting read concerning the economics of renewable energy: "Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust".
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2012/01/ff_solyndra/

I thought that the first photo might be photoshopped, but if one searches Google images for "wind turbine fire", one fines some numerous images of wind turbines on fire.
Ryan_m_b
#780
Jan26-12, 07:01 AM
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Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
What do you favor as a replacement for liquid fossil fuels, that make economic and logistical sense?
If we can get artificial photosynthesis to operate on an economically viable industrial scale we could produce carbon-neutral oil by combining carbon from CO2 with hydrogen from water. This would have the advantage of not requiring a large retooling of our existing oil-based infrastructure.
mheslep
#781
Jan26-12, 11:06 AM
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Yes I've been following some of the efforts: inorganic w/ Lewis (CalTech) and Nocera (MIT); biologic w/ Joule Unlimited and Venter. Lewis has already identified materials efficient and cheap but not robust to the corrosive environment of hydrolysis. Nature deals w/ the same problem by continually rebuilding the photoplasts, if at some energy cost.

For this reason I favor the biologic solution from Joule w/ its direct hydrocarbon engineered organism. Their approach eliminates the harvest and lipid conversion step (direct conversion), eliminates the 'gunk' build up associated with algae that has crashed some prototype systems, eliminates biomass feed stock transport problems, eliminates the fresh water resource problem (at least 19 mbbl/day) associated with all other biofuel efforts. Joule claims they can do 20,000 gallons/acre-year of hydrocarbon in a peer reviewed journal. They rely on bio-solar enclosures which has proved too expensive in the past, so they have that hill to climb.* If they succeed, then 7 million acres replaces all US oil imports, 15 million replaces all US oil period. That's a fraction of the land dedicated to just US corn ethanol in 2011.

*For instance, if the cost target is $2/gal, then they have to build an acre of enclosures, operate, and pay land taxes off $40,000/acre/year. If the cost of the enclosure is only $2/sq ft then an acre of enclosure costs $86K. Of course farmers make a living off $1000/acre/year, but they don't have to cover the dirt with plexiglass.

PS: The above is, I think, the best approach for liquid fuels. I still favor electrified, battery based, transportation over combustion and its inevitable byproducts whenever possible.
turbo
#782
Jan26-12, 12:14 PM
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My wife and I are "fixing" the energy crisis in our own way. We burn properly seasoned wood in an efficient steel, fire-brick lined stove. I have never had to clean the chimney, because the hot fires strip out all the tar and creosote.

This weekend, we are replacing the last two problematic windows with brand-new double-hung windows with vinyl frames and IR-reflective glass. Winter is a good time to do such replacements, since the companies that do that sort of work are always looking for ways to keep their employees busy in the slack season.

My wife and I bought this place 6 years ago and had the oil tank filled because we didn't have a decent supply of seasoned hardwood at the time. We still have over 1/4 of that tank of oil, and I have been nursing it along with 911 to avoid sludge. We are using the furnace on cold nights (especially when I'm not feeling well, which is frequently recently) trying to draw down that tank. Eventually, I'll order maybe 100 gallons of oil, and who knows how long that will last...
mheslep
#783
Jan26-12, 12:31 PM
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Quote Quote by turbo View Post
My wife and I are "fixing" the energy crisis in our own way. We burn properly seasoned wood in an efficient steel, fire-brick lined stove. I have never had to clean the chimney, because the hot fires strip out all the tar and creosote.

This weekend, we are replacing the last two problematic windows with brand-new double-hung windows with vinyl frames and IR-reflective glass. Winter is a good time to do such replacements, since the companies that do that sort of work are always looking for ways to keep their employees busy in the slack season.

My wife and I bought this place 6 years ago and had the oil tank filled because we didn't have a decent supply of seasoned hardwood at the time. We still have over 1/4 of that tank of oil, and I have been nursing it along with 911 to avoid sludge. We are using the furnace on cold nights (especially when I'm not feeling well, which is frequently recently) trying to draw down that tank. Eventually, I'll order maybe 100 gallons of oil, and who knows how long that will last...
What kind of wall construction/insulation do you have? Any upgrades planned? I've upgraded my windows too, and air sealed the attic, but I can't find away to easily upgrade 2x4 framed w/ cedar shingle walls to the new super insulated design (double wall or 2x6). Might as well knock the place down first. Meanwhile an IR temperature gun shows a lot cold temps on those walls.
turbo
#784
Jan26-12, 01:35 PM
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Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
What kind of wall construction/insulation do you have? Any upgrades planned? I've upgraded my windows too, and air sealed the attic, but I can't find away to easily upgrade 2x4 framed w/ cedar shingle walls to the new super insulated design (double wall or 2x6). Might as well knock the place down first. Meanwhile an IR temperature gun shows a lot cold temps on those walls.
We live in a house made of ~6" poplar logs. We added 1" of foam insulation to the roof before installing a metal roof.

Sometimes, it would be nice to have the place a little bit warmer in the winter without stoking the stove, but adding studs and insulation to the outer walls would destroy the appearance of the place. As it is, I have to be careful not to stoke the stove when the outside temperature is freezing or higher, because it gets really hot in here. Extra insulation would require us to buy a much smaller wood-stove to avoid getting roasted out.

I enjoy splitting, stacking and seasoning hardwood that has only sequestered carbon for maybe 40 years instead of burning #2 heating oil (~$3.60/gallon right now). I could cut the wood off our 10 acres, but I prefer to buy the wood from my niece's husband, who runs a bulk-firewood operation in the spring/summer. That saves me a lot of work and risk. My footing is not so great after I had a stroke, so running a screaming chainsaw on steep side-hills (about the only terrain on our property) is not an attractive option.
mheslep
#785
Jan26-12, 01:43 PM
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Quote Quote by turbo View Post
As it is, I have to be careful not to stoke the stove when the outside temperature is freezing or higher, because it gets really hot in here. Extra insulation would require us to buy a much smaller wood-stove to avoid getting roasted out.
You might consider an HRV for that problem.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_recovery_ventilation
Sealed up homes still need to turn the air over, and I expect you'll get a more even room temp as a benefit. Not sure how much duct work you'd need to add.
turbo
#786
Jan26-12, 02:21 PM
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The only duct-work we have is connected to the oil furnace, and this place is so small that ducting would be overkill. We burn less than 5 cords of seasoned hardwood/year, so our heating energy costs are negligible. As summers have gotten hotter and hotter, we need more air-conditioning, but hopefully the new windows will cut back that cost, too.

My youngest uncle is a (semi-retired) HVAC guy, and he's pretty darned sharp. When he saw these last two problematic windows, he said "Replace them, and they'll pay for themselves in a few years." I know he's right, and shouldn't have waited this long to swap them out, but there always seemed to be other priorities cropping up. Still, replacing drafty old windows pays more than keeping money in savings accounts.
Artus
#787
Feb2-12, 04:26 PM
P: 43
It's official now. We have passed the Peak Oil and there is not evident solution:

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/01...tudy-peak-oil/
Ryan_m_b
#788
Feb2-12, 04:32 PM
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Quote Quote by Artus View Post
It's official now. We have passed the Peak Oil and there is not evident solution:

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/01...tudy-peak-oil/
It is neither "official" nor clear. These arguments have happened before, we should wait until it is clear to conclude or discuss the rationale for the recent conclusions, not take them as fact.
Most Curious
#789
Feb8-12, 06:51 PM
P: 55
Lift ALL restrictions on oil and gas production / refining nationwide.

CEASE all exports of energy. To include crude and refined product as well as gas. Possible exception for batteries.

Eliminate trading of ALL futures contracts of energy.

Defund the EPA and scatter those responsible for the outrageous damage they have done!.

Cease all "alternative energy" dreams and subsidies, including tax breaks. All research to be privately funded. I wish them well but see no need to fund their pipe dreams.

Kill all building of hybrid cars which in fact ADD to pollution.

Suspend the clean air act until such time as all job killing, cost increasing provisons are removed.

Eliminate all efficiency standards for things like vehicles, light bulbs, home heating etc.

Remove alcohol contamination from gasoline and bio contamination from diesel fuel.

Give a tax break for construction of new coal fired generating plants and advanced nuclear plants. To aid construction, eliminate income taxes for those working on the projects.

IMMEDIATELY resume nuclear fuel reprocessing for the valuable material otherwise wasted and to reduce the volume of high level waste to be stored.

Build such new electrical transmission lines as necessary. Grant maximum of 14 days for all NIMBY actions and hearings. No more roadblocks to sighting of transmission lines, coal and nuclear plants, refineries and nuclear waste disposal sites to name only a few.

Am I serious?? You better believe I am!! Our "energy crisis" has been created by politics. Our current economic funk can also be traced to the treasonous acts of the EPA, DOE and congress to mention only a few of the crimminals involved.
Abraham
#790
Feb8-12, 07:06 PM
P: 69
Quote Quote by Most Curious View Post
Lift ALL restrictions on oil and gas production / refining nationwide.

CEASE all exports of energy. To include crude and refined product as well as gas. Possible exception for batteries.

Eliminate trading of ALL futures contracts of energy.

Defund the EPA and scatter those responsible for the outrageous damage they have done!.

Cease all "alternative energy" dreams and subsidies, including tax breaks. All research to be privately funded. I wish them well but see no need to fund their pipe dreams.

Kill all building of hybrid cars which in fact ADD to pollution.

Suspend the clean air act until such time as all job killing, cost increasing provisons are removed.

Eliminate all efficiency standards for things like vehicles, light bulbs, home heating etc.

Remove alcohol contamination from gasoline and bio contamination from diesel fuel.

Give a tax break for construction of new coal fired generating plants and advanced nuclear plants. To aid construction, eliminate income taxes for those working on the projects.

IMMEDIATELY resume nuclear fuel reprocessing for the valuable material otherwise wasted and to reduce the volume of high level waste to be stored.

Build such new electrical transmission lines as necessary. Grant maximum of 14 days for all NIMBY actions and hearings. No more roadblocks to sighting of transmission lines, coal and nuclear plants, refineries and nuclear waste disposal sites to name only a few.

Am I serious?? You better believe I am!! Our "energy crisis" has been created by politics. Our current economic funk can also be traced to the treasonous acts of the EPA, DOE and congress to mention only a few of the crimminals involved.
Everything will come at the cost of the environment. I don't think eliminating those who oversee the protection of it---however muddled or inefficient these departments are---will help us survive as a species. I'd rather live in the dark and breathe clean air, than live in "modernity" and breathe the poisoned air.

An important question is why we have a looming energy crisis at all. Perhaps we should find an answer to a lifestyle crisis that is clearly driving an energy crisis. Just a thought.
Topher925
#791
Feb8-12, 07:29 PM
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Quote Quote by Abraham View Post
An important question is why we have a looming energy crisis at all. Perhaps we should find an answer to a lifestyle crisis that is clearly driving an energy crisis. Just a thought.

I've thought about this a lot. There was never an energy crisis 200 year ago because people lived different lifestyles and the technology which consumes large amounts of energy hadn't been created yet. Solving the energy crisis is rather simple, just revert back to the lifestyles of Ben Franklin and its problem solved. This would obviously never happen but I think it is a very practical solution.

This of course raises another question; is it really worth doing? Man kinds time on earth is finite no matter which way you look at it. Is it better for humanity to exist as long as possible, or to achieve as much as possible. Without the consumption of energy and pollution of the planet we would never go to Mars, there would be no LHC, and we would have to give up on our search for a theory of everything.

I think there's a practical solution somewhere there in the middle but there's no telling if we'll ever find it.
mheslep
#792
Feb8-12, 07:54 PM
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There were energy crises hundreds of years ago. People denuded the forests of Europe for fuel and building materials, and were well on the way to doing so in the Americas until Coal came along. In the early 19th century it was said that a man had to travel 50 miles from Boston center to find a tree fell-able for firewood.


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