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## YOU!: Fix the US Energy Crisis

 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.
 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.

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 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.

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 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.
 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.

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 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.

 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.
 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.

 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
 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.

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 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 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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 Quote by russ_watters 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.
Indeed. Affordable (or at least competitive) hybrids mitigate this problem somewhat but range is a big problem, though more so in some countries than others. IIRC the average American travels many times further by car every year than a European owing to lower pop. density and less urbanisation. This could mean that car manufactures on either side of the Atlantic diverge further in their approaches.

 Quote by Ryan_m_b 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.
I think the advancements of this technology has been relatively quiet over the past few years as there has been a very large focus on battery electric vehicles and the use of biofuels which obscures attention. But its important to remember that fuel cell vehicles have been in the hands of actual customers since 2005. Just about all major automotive manufacturers have fuel cell vehicles on the road right now that you can lease.

 Quote by russ_watters 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.
True, but these aren't small cap technological companies we're talking about here. They're the worlds largest auto manufacturers, Daimler, Toyota, Ford, GM, etc. And as for expensive the numbers were typically around 25%-40% more expensive for initial launch in 2015. For example the Toyota Hylander FCEV was estimated to be around $50K (but its been scrapped for a new platform). The B-Class IIRC is expected around$35K. So we are talking Volt expensive, not Prius. This would obviously change with volume.

 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.
Range has been addressed and isn't seen as a problem. The FCEV Hylander I drove on Tuesday had a range of 430 miles. The Tuscan I drove I think had a range of about 300mi and the Clarity has 280mi. Good enough for me but maybe not the typical consumer. I don't think reforming at home will be an option as CH4 reformers are rather elaborate and expensive.

 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.
Natural gas is most certainly part of the energy road map for the next decade at least. 95% of the hydrogen produced today comes from natural gas. CH4 to H2 doesn't provide a 0% carbon energy economy, when the hydrogen is put in fuel cells it does provide an estimated ~50% reduction in CO2 emissions when compared to gasoline vehicles.

 But as always, my primary objection to hydrogen is the coal we would burn to produce it.
We don't need to burn any coal to produce it, we can supply enough hydrogen for the next 50 years from natural gas. While this isn't the best plan, its certainly better than the status quo.

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 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 ...
Using liquefied H2, compressed H2, or methane? Is there a consensus?

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 Quote by Topher925 Range has been addressed and isn't seen as a problem. The FCEV Hylander I drove on Tuesday had a range of 430 miles...
The Hylander apparently uses a high pressure 10,000 PSI tank (expensive). Even so, how much of the interior does a 430 mile tank displace? Is the idea to have an infrastructure of 10K PSI compressors and tanks at fill-up stations, supplied by a huge fleet of the standard 3,000 PSI gas tanks?

 Quote by mheslep Using liquefied H2, compressed H2, or methane? Is there a consensus?
All vehicles use 5Kpsi or 10Kpsi compressed H2 tanks. Liquid H2 is considered old technology and methane doesn't make economic sense.

 The Hylander apparently uses a high pressure 10,000 PSI tank (expensive). Even so, how much of the interior does a 430 mile tank displace? Is the idea to have an infrastructure of 10K PSI compressors and tanks at fill-up stations, supplied by a huge fleet of the standard 3,000 PSI gas tanks?
One neat thing I noticed about all of the FCHV's is that if they made noise and didn't have water dripping out the exhaust pipe I don't think you could tell them apart from their ICE counterparts with the exception of the Honda Clarity. The Hylander, Tuscan, B-class, Equinox, all looked like normal vehicles inside and out with no (apparent) sacrifice to interior space. The Honda Clarity did have a small trunk due to the size of the H2 tank. I wouldn't say the trunk was terribly small but you could probably only fit two, maybe three, bags of golf clubs in the back.