# YOU!: Fix the US Energy Crisis

by russ_watters
Tags: crisis, energy
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Mentor
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 Quote by mheslep Yes I think the UK is the country farthest out on point and will be the one to watch as a predictor of how to proceed. North Sea oil and gas has declined substantially. The UK was self sufficient in gas a few years ago and now imports 40%. UK energy imports tripled in a 5-6 year period.
Yup. Depressing really but hopefully will soon force large commitment to weaning ourselves off of oil and gas. We've got a whole lot of coal left that we never finished mining (because it couldn't economically compete) that we could use in the meantime, we've got new nuclear reactors on the way (albeit delayed) and there's been significant investment in other technologies like fracking and renewables but we need to press far more.
P: 11
 Quote by Ryan_m_b Yup. Depressing really but hopefully will soon force large commitment to weaning ourselves off of oil and gas. We've got a whole lot of coal left that we never finished mining (because it couldn't economically compete) that we could use in the meantime, we've got new nuclear reactors on the way (albeit delayed) and there's been significant investment in other technologies like fracking and renewables but we need to press far more.
Ryan:

Let there be no doubt that a few generations away, humans will consume all the energy resources we have. It will face us at a time if we are ready or not. If we are ready we survive. If not, those who have planned to do without will survive. As said above, we suffer because we need a catostrophe as the first responder to set in motion a staggering effort and catastrophe is a very poor red flag.

IMHO, Nothing but clean Fusion is on the horizon to replace Neuclear, coal and oil. So we can start aggressively now or pay much, much, more later.
PF Gold
P: 3,098
 Quote by Ryan_m_b Yup. Depressing really but hopefully will soon force large commitment to weaning ourselves off of oil and gas.
Yes I'll be curious to see which technical moves UK transportation makes.

 We've got a whole lot of coal left that we never finished mining (because it couldn't economically compete) that we could use in the meantime,...
Exactly. UK's coal mining era boom and bust is often used to illustrate peak energy arguments in an attempt to show the resource is depleted which is nonsense in this case. UK coal has been economically unavailable (for the moment), not geologically.

The UK also seems to have some of the best offshore wind resource in the world, which should eventually help if the cost can be driven down.
P: 628
 Yes I think the UK is the country farthest out on point and will be the one to watch as a predictor of how to proceed. North Sea oil and gas has declined substantially. The UK was self sufficient in gas a few years ago and now imports 40%. UK energy imports tripled in a 5-6 year period.
 Quote by Ryan_m_b Yup. Depressing really but hopefully will soon force large commitment to weaning ourselves off of oil and gas.
On the contrary, I'm really please we're winding off production, but would feel much better if we turned it right down to 'idle' - there is still oil and gas out there and we bloomin' well should stop pulling it out the ground whilst other countries are still selling their oil! We need to keep our own oil for ourselves for when the real bad times come to hit the global economy, and I'm talking about commodities getting so expensive they are effectively barred from export to us by other countries.

If it was my country to control, I'd turn all production down to minimum to keep the engineering infrastructure of those production sites ticking over (even if that is an expense to the country) and buy oil from others while they are still selling. The black stuff will be worth an absolute fortune in the future, and right now we're selling it cheap when we could, instead, be buying it cheap. It's worse that Brown selling off the nation's gold - I mean, we'll really need this oil in the future!
 Sci Advisor HW Helper PF Gold P: 2,907 If you have an idea (and resources) for a "transformational energy technology" you can apply for a grant through ARPA-E (US Department of Energy). Deadlines: Letter of Intent: March 30, 5:00 ET Concept Papers: April 12 5:00 ET Full Applications: TBD Grant: $250M -$1MM Recipient expected to cost share 20% minimum. More information on the web at: http://www.arpa-e.energy.gov/media/n...9/Default.aspx
 P: 490 This note will start out summing up a negative situation, and then will then show reason for hope toward solving this mess and even growing to greater heights. I’ve been a strong advocate of finding alternant energy sources since the early 1970’s. From time to time, I’ve had the privilege being a part of that effort. But time and again I keep running into two indisputable facts: > For the time being, nothing will be as cheap as fossil fuel and nuclear. >Science, engineering, and a deep love for Mother Earth aside, most people will always go with whatever is cheaper. The following things further complicate the matter: > While alternant sources have become less expensive, they will not be ready to compete with conventional sources for a very long time. >Every time we think we are getting short of fossil fuel, someone discovers another huge and vast supply of it. >The developing countries will continue to demand a larger share of the global energy market as they rapidly make up lost ground in economic development with the United States. >Everyone’s energy demand will continue to increase. >Recently and at various times in the past our government has made huge volumes of money available for research into energy solutions. It has never done much real good such that we can see evidence of it in our current energy market place. >No rational person can argue that this world is not getting warmer. It is not profitable to argue as to if that is a good thing or not. (It can and has been in the past argued that throughout history periods of warming have always brought a higher level of peace, health, and prosperity for the humans; whereas we tend to see wars, famine, and plagues during periods of cooling.) It is also not profitable to argue the reason, whether the warming is caused by human or natural means. It is only important to accept that we are getting warmer and develop means of dealing with it rationally, while at the same time perhaps slowing it down a bit if we can. I will always strongly support the spending of large amounts of research money. That is never a bad thing. Even if the original intention turns into nothing useful, research always improves our collective knowledge base and inspires new and creative ideas. That is how we evolve as a human race and culture. But to solve this problem quickly, we need much more than that. Most of the companies who are best able to use this recent supply of green research money profitably have not touched it. Those who have taken it have done nothing to apply it to real solutions. For the most part, they spent it on making big things small, only using public domain knowledge—being very careful not to use public funds to develop any new technology that might solve anything. The reason is that anyone using public funds must turn what they develop over to the public domain. To the academic this is so routine and fair that they don’t even give it a thought, because it is deeply imbedded in their subconscious as being fair, just, and right. But to the business community it is the most evil and wicked thing possible as they seek the holy grail of energy, the solution that will solve everything and enable them to make Wal-Mart, Microsoft, and Apple look like tiny mom & pop operations. Business guards their intellectual property with the highest degree of zeal. They are also very good at obtaining private funding for any idea that might be profitable. In other words, we have all the resources in the business community to solve the energy problem; but the only way to make it happen is to make it profitable. That is exactly what is happening right now, but for the most part in the highest secrecy as they continue to guard their intellectual property. But we can gain insight as to what they are doing from the rare media report that is actually useful, or from their business advertisements or marketing reports, or by noticing what skills they are hiring. They cannot be 100% secret when they are looking for investors or potential customers. Here is what I see happing on a huge scale right now. The combined effect can very likely make this whole energy crisis a thing of the past:  Carbon sequestration. Many companies and research organizations are collectively spending billions on research. A combination of the huge investment with in many cases a high degree of secrecy makes it likely that they see real solutions in sight. One very large and long established company is already looking for customers for a CO2 pump that will make it cheaper and easier than anyone else has dreamed possible. This can turn a fossil fuel plant into a zero emissions plant. How would that change the Big Picture?  Companies that design nuclear power plants have made it clear for some time now that they now understand how to design a plant that has zero probability of a meltdown or any other serious accident. All safety controls are completely passive and depend on simple physics to be completely safe. They are now advertising that they have new designs on the books and are ready to build. All new power plants will incorporate this new technology. How will that change the picture? One of the commodities they need to build these plants is derived as a byproduct of natural gas production, and we now have plenty of that.  We are worried about extremely long term storage of spent nuclear fuel. Yet it has always been possible to cheaply recycle it so that we have almost no waste at all. The road block is not technical. It has been done in the past. The current road block is political since Jimmy Carter signed legislation making the recycling of nuclear fuel illegal.  The reason we selected our current common design of a nuclear plant is because our original objective was to obtain bomb grade Plutonium from them. It turns out that is one of the byproducts of recycling the fuel, which is the reason it is currently illegal. But one huge company that has always been a major player in nuclear power is currently looking for customers for a new process that will continue to extract usable energy from spent fuel for another 35 years. Once they are done with it, it will be relatively safe with no need to store it for hundreds of thousands of years. We currently have enough spent fuel in storage to supply power at the current world consumption rate for 1800 years--if that was our only source of power. None of our barriers to doing this are technical. They are all political. So we have the ability in the near future to burn as much fossil fuel as we want with zero emissions, to build new nuclear plants that are 100% safe, and to eliminate our problem with spent nuclear fuel. What else do we need to solve this problem? What we need is the political will to do it. We lack nothing from the technical perspective. Note: I have purposely not mentioned the names of any companies. I’ve not said anything that cannot be quickly found with Google searches. The reason is that the company I work for forbids me from mentioning the names of any of our current or potential customers or suppliers. You see, we also zealously guard our intellectual property.
Mentor
P: 5,473
 Quote by Pkruse Everyone’s energy demand will continue to increase.
I agree with almost all that you have said but this point I don't think has to be true. Not because people in the future are going to do less but because there are many ways we could increase energy efficiency so that it might be possible for future generations to do with <X joules what we do with >>X. I'm short on time but there are two main points I want to bring into this;

1) Town planning. A few years ago the human race reached a milestone, for the first time over 50% of us live in cities. This is important and a healthy trend in terms of efficiency. Having high population densities grants benefits of economies of scale. In terms of energy use there are many obvious potential reasons for less energy to be used by an individual for example: not having to travel as far for goods/services/work and mass public transport. An interesting thing to note is how this changes shopping behaviour, rather than a weekly drive to a superstore to stock up a whole car people can walk to one of the many local shops every other day and get one or two bags. In one area where I used to live within a 1 mile radius there were three main chain express stores (like this), dozens of independent stores and if that radius was increased another mile two superstores were added.

2) Eco-architecture. Buildings with energy efficient systems, insulation, triple/quadruple glazing etc can consume far less energy. Personally I would be in favour of regulations saying that all new building projects after a reasonable time (say 5 years) must be built to low energy/passive house. Combine this with incentives like subsidies for retrofitting eco-friendly fittings into older buildings and incorporation of more renewables into building design (solar panels, vegetation for insulation and carbon sink etc) and we could move towards a more energy efficient infrastructure without having to radically develop new technology.

These are just two quick points but I hope they highlight that we don't have to just focus on new energy initiatives and technologies when we're looking to solve an energy crisis.
 P: 490 Of course you are right. I see so many ways that we could be more efficient, and we will be so in the future. But that has been the general trend over the last several decades. Everything is more efficient than it used to be, yet we are using a whole lot more energy. The reason being that we find more ways of using it. But I do hope that your prophecy turns out to be more accurate than mine.
PF Gold
P: 3,098
 Quote by Pkruse Of course you are right. I see so many ways that we could be more efficient, and we will be so in the future. But that has been the general trend over the last several decades. Everything is more efficient than it used to be, yet we are using a whole lot more energy.
In the developing world, yes energy use per person continues to increase as does population. However, in the developed world energy use per person has been declining for decades, and in much of the developed world where population is flat or decreasing even absolute energy use is similarly flat or decreasing.

One fairly straightforward conclusion to draw might be that energy growth follows not an exponential but some kind of logistic function, like most other things in human existence. That is, one washing machine, microwave, and fridge (or so) is enough; nobody want's a hundred washing machines just because there is sufficient energy to run them for the moment.
Mentor
P: 5,473
 Quote by Pkruse Of course you are right. I see so many ways that we could be more efficient, and we will be so in the future. But that has been the general trend over the last several decades. Everything is more efficient than it used to be, yet we are using a whole lot more energy. The reason being that we find more ways of using it.
I think mheslep hit the nail on the head with this one, whilst there are more things we could use energy on we run into something similar to a decrease in marginal utility. Once my lights, heating, TVs, computers, domestic appliances etc are all powered there's little I need more for.
 Quote by Pkruse But I do hope that your prophecy turns out to be more accurate than mine.
I would hope so but it's fare more hope than prediction. We are approaching an energy crisis across the world, we've spent the last century on a sugar high from cheap and easy fossil fuel energy but as we approach peak oil we really will have to contend with energy being harder to get. I hope that will lead to a better focus on energy efficiency more than new methods of harvesting energy.
 P: 130 This may sound overly simplistic, but that doesn't mean it's any less right: Stop moving 2 tons of steel just to get 150 pounds of flesh from here to there.
Mentor
P: 5,473
 Quote by martix This may sound overly simplistic, but that doesn't mean it's any less right: Stop moving 2 tons of steel just to get 150 pounds of flesh from here to there.
I'm going to take a wild guess that the Atlantic is to the east of you...

Otherwise I agree.
P: 1,672
 Quote by Ryan_m_b I'm going to take a wild guess that the Atlantic is to the east of you... Otherwise I agree.
I don't think it is. If the Atlantic was east of him then it would be 250+ pounds of flesh, 1 ton of guns and ammo in the trunk, and 2 tons of metal.
 P: 17 North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) originally proposed in 1964."Every Member of Congress, everyone in the executive branch from the President on, in the field of national resources, has to plan during their period of administration or office for the next generation, because no project that we plan today will be beneficial to us. Anything we begin today, is for those who come after us. And just as those who began something years ago make it possible for us to be here, I hope we'll fulfill our responsibility to the next generation that's going to follow us." - JFK 1962Modeled after the successful TVA program under Franklin Roosevelt. In line with Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace and nuclear power start-ups. This project seeks to create a continental system of water regulation that can redistribute wasted runoff waters of northern Canada and Alaska to make the Great American Desert Bloom. Employment for this project would total some 4 million jobs extending over 30 years. Components:39 tunels 8 pumping stations 28 power stations that generate 80 gigawatts 12 canals over 4500 miles 46 locks 95 dams This project cannot begin without a return to prudent banking as under the guidance of our founding fathers, notably Alexander Hamilton and his Bank of the United States. Followed by John Quincy Adams' U.S. railroad construction projects, which included over 60 rail lines designed by army engineers. Continuing on through Abraham Lincoln creation of greenbacks. Then Franklin Roosevelt issued credit funds to initiate the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). Public Credit is an essential component of any development project. This project will require many new innovations and technologies.
P: 130
 Quote by Topher925 I don't think it is. If the Atlantic was east of him then it would be 250+ pounds of flesh, 1 ton of guns and ammo in the trunk, and 2 tons of metal.
You do make a point there
 P: 1,672 I recently attended a conference this week that was focused on hydrogen energy technology. I've been to many before but this one had a rather large attendance of representatives from just about all major automotive manufacturers. They even let us drive their fuel cell vehicles. While talking to a lot of the reps and head honchos they all made the statement that fuel cell technology is ready for deployment now. The cost of FCHV's is now about at the same cost of conventional ICE HEV's and the only thing holding up the technology is infrastructure. They all also made the point about how the US is going in the opposite direction as far as alt fuel technology goes (biomass, batteries) and that initial deployment (2014-2015) will mostly be in Germany, Japan, and Australia with only a small share of vehicles in Hawaii and California.
Mentor
P: 5,473
 Quote by Topher925 I recently attended a conference this week that was focused on hydrogen energy technology. I've been to many before but this one had a rather large attendance of representatives from just about all major automotive manufacturers. They even let us drive their fuel cell vehicles. While talking to a lot of the reps and head honchos they all made the statement that fuel cell technology is ready for deployment now. The cost of FCHV's is now about at the same cost of conventional ICE HEV's and the only thing holding up the technology is infrastructure. They all also made the point about how the US is going in the opposite direction as far as alt fuel technology goes (biomass, batteries) and that initial deployment (2014-2015) will mostly be in Germany, Japan, and Australia with only a small share of vehicles in Hawaii and California.
Very interesting. I'm aware of small scale deployment of fuel cell vehicles in europe such as a bus route in London but didn't realise the readiness of the technology.

AFAIK however the infrastructure problem is a big one and with my untrained eye it would seem that electric and non-fossil fuel oil vehicles have a huge advantage even with their current lack of technological readiness. One wonders if by the time politcal and financial commitment really gets the ball rolling for hydrogen infrastructure if electric vehicles especially would be at a state where they can easily compete and start flooding the market.

Nethertheless I'm not one for technoptimism (especially when it comes to important matters) so this is definitely something that should be looked into. If in twenty years time we look back and think that it was a waste of money I would still say we were right to act.
 Mentor P: 22,302 You gotta be careful talking to vendors about the readiness of non-existent/prototype level products. Their idea of "ready" and ours may be vastly different. Ie, what does "about the same mean"? 5% more expensive? 20% more expensive? And more than what; what is a "conventional ICE HEV"? A Prius or a Volt? Their "about the same..." could mean paying $40,000 for a$25,000 family sedan. Still, that would be closer to prime time than I expected. The one fundamental technical issue I doubt has been addressed is range. Full electrics, natural gas and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have very small niches because of the range issue. Natural gas may be able to get around that by filling-up at home, but otherwise, people are not going to be excited about going to a "gas" station every other day 200 miles worth of hydrogen. Due to its local availability (not just at home; I mean pumping it out of the ground in Pennsylvania instead of Qatar), low cost, and compatibility with hydrogen fuel cell systems (often), natural gas has huge potential to be a transitional portable energy medium for the next 50 years (you could even use the same pipes to pump hydrogen into our homes after the CH4 dries up). Since I'm not sold on hydrogen anyway, I'd be fine with that -- but others might see it as a delay in progress. But as always, my primary objection to hydrogen is the coal we would burn to produce it.

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