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Prii fans:
KUOW, our local NPR station in Seattle aired an interview with a guy who's written a book, "The End Of Oil". He was the most articulate person I've heard in a very long time talk about energy use and sources. Some tidbits, which many of you probably know already:
1. Hydrogen is a huge problem area and not likely to come on line anytime soon. Biggest problem is producing it without using more energy than you would liberate. Issue is that it keeps the Big Three, Big Petroleum and the Government from dealing with the problems NOW. Fuel cells are possible but what to power them with?
2. Oil production has peaked. OPEC knows it, the US knows it, and world politics are only going to get crazier as we, Europe, Japan, China and India compete for diminishing supplies.
3. Bio diesel is a wonderful grass roots partial solution, but creates problems if you scale it up to try to produce enough to run an economy with. Do we want to use agriculture to grow fuel instead of food? There are some crops that can be used to make bio diesel that can also be used as part of the crop rotation cycle practiced by farmers to keep their fields fertile. Big pluses are: no net increase (reduction, actually) in greenhouse gases and easy participation by Joe Consumer who wants to do something positive and feels trapped by the present system.
4. Hybrids represent the immediate best solution and can be made even more efficient by running on diesel engines powered by bio fuels. Plug in hybrids that combine the best of Prii type hybrids with the added advantage of being able to run on pure battery power for daily commutes.
There is a big chat about this on PriusChat.com.
5. Eventually, we will have to reconsider nuclear power. In 50 years, at present growth rates, we will need to generate four times the energy we use now, AND with a quarter of the greenhouse gases unless we want to fry ourselves. Virtually all forms of energy production that work on any large scale, involve greenhouse gas production.
6. Wind, solar, tidal, offer some relief but suffer from lack of "concentrated energy potential", i.e. it would take a hundred square miles of wind generators to equal a large oil or coal fired power plant. Solar depends on, obviously, daylight, and also is not energy dense per unit of area measurement. It would take a solar field the size of Arizona to provide the energy needs of this country. Doubtful that Arizona would agree to being so converted.
7. Europe is better off than we are because we have benighted, short sighted government in bed with oil and energy companies, while Europe has been progressing into alternative energy much faster than we.
8. Back to cars: Japan is years ahead of us. GM poo-pooed the hybnd idea ten years ago when it first surfaced, but the Japanese made a huge (and, as it turns out, right on) committment to hybrid technology early in the game and now is the leader of the pack. The most efficient use of an internal combustion engine is when it's running at a constant RPM, as in a generator. The most efficient engine/motor (actually) is electric. This is why diesel locomotives are so efficient: the diesel provides the electricity and the electric motor does the heavy lifting. The Prius simply puts that idea into a passenger car. A diesel Prius would be a thing of beauty.
9. Conclusion (my own): we change the energy face of this country one car, one driver at a time. As gas prices climb, the hybrid becomes more attractive and GM is recognizing this. More attractive means more hybrids and lower production costs. The Prius is almost a "one off" model given that there are fewer than 200,000 in the world. The economies of scale will change this.
We will continue to depend on oil for our lifetimes, but the picture is changing; from the bottom up.
Bob
 

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Yep. The one alternative to nuclear fission which we know how to build today is Solar power satellites in Earth orbit. They avoid the problems of low-power-density and intermittancy of surface Solar power. Indeed, unless we find a way to extract fissionable material from seawater or make fusion power work they will be necessary, because supplying nine billion people with the power to maintain a Western European standard of living will exhaust land based fission fuel supplies in about 100 or 200 years.
 

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Bob Allen said:
7. Europe is better off than we are because we have benighted, short sighted government in bed with oil and energy companies, while Europe has been progressing into alternative energy much faster than we.
Hi, Bob.

I have to take issue with the author's point above. Other countries, particularly in Europe, are also "in bed" with oil and energy companies. This is not a US-only phenomenon.

For those of you who want to read something even more depressing than what Bob has written about, and about a hundred times more depressing than that awful movie "The Day After Tomorrow", go ahead and do a Google search on the words "+peak +oil" (no quotes).

But please prepare yourselves. It's not a pretty story. I feel it's only right to give you fair warning that you may feel sick and depressed afterward. You may not be able to sleep, either. I couldn't sleep for over 48 hours. And it is EXACTLY why I say that pollution will be the least of our problems when oil is all gone (or when we get to the point at which we can't get to it anymore).

Anyhow, do that research if you are so motivated...but be prepared to have your very core...your very soul changed by it.
 

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I fear the use of solar power satellites. Even if engineers can reduce the chances of accidental misaiming to close to zero, they're just too tempting a weapon for hackers or small countries who can afford to launch a pirate spaceship.

Any satellite (or satellite array) that can beam down enough power to make a difference in our energy consumption, can make a huge difference in the population of a city.
 

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richard schumacher said:
... The one alternative to nuclear fission which we know how to build today is Solar power satellites in Earth orbit...
I take issue with this, for two reasons:

1. We do not in fact know how to build satellites which would collect significant amounts of energy and beam it back to Earth. This is pure science fiction.

2. We do know how to build a variety of distributed power generators (solar and wind come immediately to mind). It is not likely that any one of these alone would meet our needs, but combined they would. And this is technology we have today.
 

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I used to be big spectator of solar based satellites, so I could clarify a couple things:

As I understand it, aiming is not an issue as far as safety goes. I've heard descriptions of basically having a cow pasture with some chain link extended like a shade cover horizontally above ground. Microwave is how they'd beam it, and they can (sa I vaguely recall) select a frequency that is selective enough that it wouldn't matter if they missed.

Also, as far as potential terrorrist use, they'd have to take over a geound control system, which should be a lot easier to make tamper resistant than, oh, a nuclear power station, or for that matter a natural gas or LPG terminal.

Also when I used to keep up to date, they were progressing nicely with technology; they had a model airplane they were able to power from the ground by beaming to it microwave energy. There were certainly technical hurdles to cross, but nothing that seemed inherently impossible.

The problem as I recall has been economics. Getting those panels into space is a cost that has to be justified by the increased efficiencey vs. ground based, and the land that isn't consumed by several square miles of panels.

Tau Zero
 

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Daniel said:
1. We do not in fact know how to build satellites which would collect significant amounts of energy and beam it back to Earth. This is pure science fiction.
Your claim is mystifying. All of the basic technology required for Solar power satellites exists today. In particular, microwave beaming of power at about 90% efficiency was demonstrated between points on the ground more than 15 years ago. It wouldn't be cheap, but then raising sea level by roughly 200 feet through global warming would also be expensive.
 

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I am currently reading "Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude" by ex CIA Robert Baer.

This book is quite a wake up on how the revolving door works for the beltway and how the house of Sa'ud affects the politics here in the US.

What I find disturbing is that the Saudi's are holding over 1 trillion dollars in US treasury plus 1 trillion in the US stock market. Combined with their control of the crude oil market: they have the USA right by the balls
 
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