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Alan Greenspan is not my favorite macro economist or central bank chief, although his presence on a bandstand with the great jazz saxophonist Stan Getz deserves almost as much respect as the above citation. Of course, when he says "everyone" he means persons in his social circle. Persons with the right 'connections', who wine and dine with similar ladies and gentlemen, and most important who were not confused by the sanctimonious pronouncements of the gentleman in the White House when the above statement was published.
Yesterday Michael T. Klare, professor of peace and security studies at Hampshire College, published an article in the European Energy Review with the title 'The New Thirty Years War' (2011), which is supposed to say something important about "The Great Global Energy Struggle to Come."
What he says is meaningless, because the conflicts he is talking about have to do with corporations, and not states: corporations come and go, and their troubles are seldom referred to as wars, even in those special cases when this designation might be appropriate. Put another way, in my forthcoming energy economics textbook (2011), given the opportunity, I would have said that Professor Klare's work has no place in economic research because he deals with fantasy rather than fact.
For instance, we have had an energy war in Libya -- a war for oil brilliantly examined in articles and comments in the forum OilPrice.Com. Moreover, for teachers of energy economics like myself, the basic issue in Libya was not oil but lies and misunderstandings, which unfortunately is par for the course where half-baked energy journalism and some economic research is concerned. In Dr Greenspan's excellent book, a figure for global oil output in 2030 of 116 million barrels per day (= 116 mb/d) was given -- courtesy of the International Energy Agency (IEA) -- while a large portion of one of my lectures in my course on oil and gas economics at the Asian Institute of Technology (Bangkok) was devoted to ridiculing another IEA estimate for the same year of 121 mb/d.
The opinion here is that those figures will never be seen for oil, although they are not impossible for 'liquids' (i.e. oil plus bio fuels plus natural gas liquids, etc). However if the maximum (oil/liquids) global production is in the vicinity of the one often bandied about in France, then a prophesy by an important contributor to the site EnergyPulse -- Len Gould -- deserves some attention: voters in many countries prefer war to being deprived of the energy -- particularly in oil products -- that they are used to.
Like Professor Klare, I refer to the disaster at Fukushima in my book, but unlike the off-the-wall analyses of that scholar, I happen to know what the Japanese nuclear future will involve. The nuclear renaissance may or may not take place in most of the industrial countries in the world, but it is certain in those countries (like Russia and China) who are playing to win. Japan belongs in this category.
Finally, since the European Economic Review has its editorial offices in Holland -- a country whose government recently renounced its holier-than-thou nuclear philosophy -- I have no choice but to ask what were the editors of that publication were thinking when they published an article that, from a scientific point of view, is hopelessly naïve.
(2011). Banks, Ferdinand E. Energy and Economic Theory. London, New York and Singapore: World Scientific.
(2011). 'Will France also play the nuclear fool'. Seminar Paper.
(2008). Greenspan, Alan 'The Age of Turbulence'. London: Penguin Books.
(2011). Klare, Michael T. 'The New Thirty Years' war. European Energy Review (5 September)
For information on purchasing reprints of this article, contact sales. Copyright 2013 CyberTech, Inc.
The quotation by Alan Greenspan apparently fell by the wayside, but it had to do with the Second Gulf War being for oil. Of course it was about oil, and the same is true of the Libyan venture. Libya has the largest reserves in africa, and the oil companies working in Libya say that there are more oil and gas reserves to discover and exploit.
I can also say that the article referred to in the European Economic Review, which is a rag that specializes in the publication of nonsense, had to do with the necessity of protecting civilians in Libya. I wonder if the editors of that 'review' are so dumb that they could not understand that the oil could have been obtained without going to war, and the same is true of protecting civilians. Here Pope Benedict deserves to be mentioned: he said that diplomacy and dialogue would work. Of course, maybe it wouldn't, but it was worth a try. Anyone who saw the picture of Colonel Gaddafi hugging Sarkozy and Berlusconi should have been aware of what could and should have been done: he should have been invited to Washington for some real hugging.
Harry Valentine 11.30.11
Hi Dr Banks,
I read a story that Alan Greenspan was at one time associated with author Ayn Rand . . . . at the time, the had a philosophical dilemna: He was'nt quite sure that he actually existed. At the time, Greenspan authored an essay on the merit of gold standard banking. As head of the Federal Reserve, he claimed that he was duplicating the what would have occurred under gold standard banking.
In the area of energy, theorists such as Greenspan and Klare totally ingnore that there are massive untapped oil reserves under the Arctic, offshore from Brazil plus the massive Bakken reserve in north-central USA and crossing into Canada. The transportation sector consumes the greater proportion of the oil . . . and cars go further on a gallon of gasoline today than the models built in the USA some 40-years ago.
Greenspan and Klare have no idea as to the kinds of energy innovations that may appear in the future. Many of the people who theorize about energy wars are of this mindset, probably having studied under Prof. Leo Strauss at some time and bought into his theories of the merit of perpetual war.
A long-term rise in the price of oil will spur innovation in other competing areas of energy related innovation.
Ferdinand E. Banks 11.30.11
Greenspan is a very smart man, although I find his politics less than attractive. As for a rise in the price of oil, that price is high enough, and if it goes up any more it could be very bad news for the international economy.
I never heard of Leo Strauss, but the war in Iraq and the war in Libya were about oil, and nothing else. And Greenspan knows that the war was about oil even if nobody wants to admit that it was, because he is a very smart man who associates with other smart people, and even not so smart people who hear what very smart people are saying. And the issue is NOT the future but now. Doing the right thing now instead of poking around in the Bakken and places like that.
Jim Beyer 11.30.11
I agree that Greenspan is a very smart man, but his interest in Ayn Rand (which I have also read about) is a bit troubling and problematic. I think it shows a gap in his critical thinking. (Or mine; perhaps Ayn Rand was the greatest social theorist the world has seen, but I find her simplistic and non-pragmatic.)
I agree with Harry and Fred that the long term energy issue is oil. We can fret about the implementation/non-implementation of more nuclear power, but one way or another, we can find a way to generate electricity. Replacing oil, however, is more problematic.
I am shocked to find that I am actually more conservative than General Motors, as I would have gone with the more stable NiMH technology for the battery packs for the Chevy Volt, rather than the problematic (fires) Lithium Ions. We simply HAVE to get plug-in hybrids working. I don't know any other way to reduce our oil demands by 20% or more, and we really have to do that as well.
It would be in our (U.S. and Canada and Europe) long term best interests to develop PHEV technology and then simply GIVE IT AWAY. The winners would be us (and many others). The relative losers would be people sitting on the remaining oil reserves.
Len Gould 11.30.11
The most salient lesson from the Libyan revolution is that even a committed populace willing to sacrifice lives has no chance of defeating their elites by force without assistance from an overwhelmingly superior external military. That means that as long as we continue to operate a representative "democracy" where the representatives are constantly co-opted by the elites, we will be subjects of our elites, no less than the serfs of the 16th century were of theirs.
The solution is true democracy, where every citizen votes directly on every item of legislation, and representatives are eliminated. With current communications technology and a bit of commitment, the system could presently be implemented with less relative cost to sociiety than were the nation-building railway projects of the 1800's. And the elimination of the $1.5+ million / yr cost of supporting each representative (Canada federal) would go a long way toward supporting the operation of the system.
Without a system such as this, broadly implemented across the world, disfunctional philosophies such as those of Rand, the Chicago school, economies must constantly grow or fail, etc. are destined to continue to cause civic disruption and unnecessary hardship interminably.
Professor Banks. I'd like to ask your opinion of economist Steve Keen, and his book Predicting the Unpredictable . His general thesis is that is was an error to bail out the banks in 2008 by providing money directly to the bank corporations. Instead, the same funds should have been provided to the citizens equitably, with the proviso that all funds provided must first be use to pay down their debts, meaning that the funds eventually arrive at the same location, the banks remain solvent, but the paying down of debt greatly reduces the quantity of money sloshing around in the economy speculating on each "next big thing". A rapid deflation which average citizens could survive.
Ferdinand E. Banks 12.1.11
Len, I don't think that it was a mistake to bail out the banks. I taught international finance for about 12 years, and even so this is a gut reaction, but I think that it made sense to be able to say that the US banking system was and will be kept sound.
The problem in 2008 was of course oil, as well as the presence of George W. in the White House, and in addition the failure of the American voters to vote for John Kerry. The misery has been compounded by the unexpected fact that Mr Obama is totally and completely incompetent. Oh yes, he's better than John McCain and Sarah, but so what. He obviously belongs in the library at Harvard instead of making stupid arrangements to put marines in Australia.
Having said that, I can say that I don't see any point in individually dealing with citizens/voters, equitably or otherwise. They are responsible for what has gone wrong. The thing is to train their children in new kinds of schools to be productive and do productive work - which is not being done in the United States - and for the people who are going to run or own the country to try to get some kind of idea of how the US should behave in the world of the future, which may turn out to be a very dangerous place. I dont know, but Canada might be in luck on that score.
Needless to say, Ann Rand's fiction and philosophy is fruitcake, but her earlier life made a lot of sense. As for the Chicago School, the best thing that happened to me after I applied for admission to Chicago U. was that they threw my application in the garbage can.
Jim Beyer 12.1.11
I think the difference is that most of the 2008 funds have already been paid back; in fact, the gov't has even made a profit on them. This is because (I guess) the shortage was more of a short-term cash flow issue.
Contrast this with your scenario of giving the money to citizens. Yes, the banks get their money, but the citizens wouldn't be able to repay the funds given to them. It is simply lost, and adds to the overall deficit/debt.
Len Gould 12.1.11
I saw on CNN yeaterday a documentary which stated that the Fed has since 2008 "made available" to banks funds "on the order of" $7.2 trillion. How they're going to get it "paid back" I've no idea, since according to CNN's FOIA request, no records were even kept of to whom it was "made available". LOL.
As Len points out the US is a republic not a democracy as often claimed. Its intended function was to elect representatives to make informed decisions in the public interest on its behalf. With our bumper sticker philosophies and short TV spots, focused on profit more than truth, as primary means of information I fear our representatives have been reduced to pandering to a poorly informed public and their own self interest rather than the greater good.
Even this I believe is superior to the same uninformed public making decisions directly. What I feel we lack is leadership it is my conjecture the least hint a backbone essentialy excludes one from being an elected official in the US. The way to be elected is present oneself as the lesser of evils to chose from and what it takes to do this is money.
However, I do not think a society bombarded with emotional adds financed by the Len's elite to further their own agendas would be more effective. 51% approval means 49% opposed. I am unconvinced that a simple majority should decide anything, make it a 2/3 vote and I will go along, otherwise I will still cling to the hope that our elected officials will become somewhat informed before making critical decisions.
Time to go I do not want to miss my nighly dose of TV.
Len Gould 12.1.11
Jerry, you do identify the main true weakness of true democracy, that being that costly commercial propaganda campaigns can still influence voters to vote against their best interests. However, at least it should inspire us to better educate everyone, and will at minimum cost elite opinion buyers more to buy an item of legislation. (eg. purchasing a hundred representatives is cheaper than convincing 50 million voters, expecially if the factionalism of party politics and party discipline is killed, as it would be.)
Jim Beyer 12.2.11
The true weakness of democracy is once the populace realizes they can vote themselves bread and circuses, then that's what they will do. They can and will do stuff that is not in their own best interests. Why? Because there's always a politician that will say "Yeah, we can lower all these taxes (or add all these entitlements) and everything will be fine, so vote for me!" And we do.
I think it's relevant, at least symbolically, how the birthplace of democracy Greece, is in such dire straits.
For democracy to work in the long run, the voters themselves either have to be disciplined, or some such discipline has to be wired into the constitution. There are some that feel that Greece will fall to a dictatorship in the near future. I'm not sure those predictions are without merit.
Bob Amorosi 12.2.11
I for one am glad I am not a politician in the US, or here in Canada, or in Europe given the sorry deficits and massive debts being carried by governments at all levels. Any measures our politicians take to drastically lower them are bound to be very unpopular with voters. To minimize the impending economic pain of their austerity measures, they will surely try to implement their measures slowly over many years, which means an unpleasant climate of austerity lasting longer than the average politician's term in office.
My advice for the private sector is don't depend heavily on governments for financial support for your business to survive into the future. Their cupboards are bare.
If you read between the lines Fred, that means I wouldn’t depend on government subsidies to help fund the construction of large central nuclear power plants in the west. Gee, maybe Merkel et al have another reason for abandoning nuclear – they won’t be able to afford new plants and possibly not afford refurbishing old ones either.
Of course this is not the best answer to nuclear’s woes. The REAL answer to get us the nuclear plants we are going to badly need in future is for the bright engineers in the nuclear industry to sharpen their pencils and get nuclear capital costs down – way down – so that they can compete better and just maybe our cash-starved governments will change their minds about supporting them.
Ferdinand E. Banks 12.2.11
Bob, they dont need to sharpen their pencils. If they can produce nuclear facilities for billions less in China than in the US, then all that is necessary is to find some engineers and managers in or out of the Big PX who are ready to take care of real business. And as a roll model, what about the Swedes constructing 12 reactors in 13 years, starting from ZERO. Even better perhaps, what about a Manhattan Project to get the energy economy into shape. In case nobody noticed, the price of oil just went above 100 dollars.
To repeat, if they dont want to hire or dont trust American engineers, just go to India with a bushell basket full of green cards, and pass them out to graduates from the Indian Institute of Technology. Or call pensioned engineers back on a half time basis. Or...or.... or what about treating energy the same way that streetlights or armies sent to fight stupid wars on the other side of the world are treated. In other words, made a public good.
Some German ignoramus has just stated that the renewed concentration of the UK on nuclear would impact negatively on renewables in the UK. Well imagine that. He doesn't seem to realize that the British government is going to put in more reactors regardless of the effect on renewables, which they dont believe in anyway, but cant say that in public. By they I mean Conservatives and Labour: Naturallly many of the liberals think otherwise, but intellectually they dont count for much, do they?
Michael Keller 12.2.11
In a broader sense, I think the basic problem with nuclear power lies with a mid-1950's and inefficient technology having to compete with much more efficient and less costly technologies. While some improvements can and are occurring with conventional nuclear power plants, the ability to significantly reduce costs is not that great owing to the mature nature of the technology. In some sense, may not be that dissimilar to the demise of the bulky old cathode ray tube TV and rise of the modern digital LCD TV.
I also do not think simply bringing in engineers from overseas is the answer for nuclear power. In the US, I believe there is now a fundamental inability and unwillingness to move forward with efforts that are essentially strategic and long range in nature. In my opinion, this is the direct result of a short term "accounting" mentality of most firms and the innovation killing bureaucratic nature of the federal government, which includes inflicting all manner of roadblocks on moving forward.
However, I am not pessimistic for the future. I believe the fundamental "can-do" nature of America will win out and the current oxygen wasters infesting Washington DC will be heaved over the side.
Ferdinand E. Banks 12.3.11
Michael, I dont believe for a fraction of a second that foreign engineers are necessary for the US to construct the optimal energy technology.
What I do believe is that Mr Obama and Dr Chu are incompetent when it comes to energy, they just dont or won't understand, and the same is apparently true of many other people - although I cant understand why. For people willing to understand, the topic is as easy as pie.
Of course, the US is a democracy, and the reason for MY concern in this matter is the reelection of a man who started a war on the basis of a lie, and the four extra years that George W. Bush spent in the White House has exacerbated a bad economic situation. Accordingly, I believe that certain kinds of errors should be avoided, and energy is one of that certain kind.
As for getting rid of what you call "oxygen wasters", it is not impossible that others will take their place, although the American people might come to their senses next year. Might.
Bob Amorosi 12.5.11
Fred, I totally believe your claims that the Chinese can build nuclear plants for billions less, or that the Swedes have built many of them much faster than in the US.
Now let me guess.... Chinese laborers and engineers are paid wages many times less than their counterparts in the US or in Canada. And the Swedes probably had to work around the clock read tons of overtime to build them so fast. So I suppose another solution to nuclear's woes in the west is if American construction laborers and nuclear engineers took massive pay cuts, and agreed to work large amounts of overtime without the fat pay bonus premiums they normally would get for overtime. I'm sure our politicians would then eagerly accept financially supporting many new nuclear plants under both of these circumstances. (Needless to say many other industries in America would become much more globally competitive if they did the same.)
Sorry to say Fred a lot of Americans would have to profoundly suffer, like maybe freezing in the dark without electricity, before our workforce would agree to such draconian pay cuts. But it’s kind of sobering to just even think about it.
Ferdinand E. Banks 12.6.11
Swedes working around the clock? You haven't been smoking something that you shouldn't smoke, have you Bob?
Sometime around l960 the Swedish government got the idea that a million apartments should be constructed in Sweden in a decade. All the bankers said impossible - and we are talking about some very smart people here - but the number of apartments constructed in that decade was slightly over one million. What was said about building 12 reactors I dont know, but 12 reactors were constructed in 13 years, and clocks didn't come into the picture.
I don't know what is happening in China, and basically am not concerned, but when they were a Third or Fourth World country they stopped the advance of our army in Korea, and today they are the second industrial country in the world. As I understand it, you cant walk down a street in Shanghai without bumping into a millionaire, and while I am almost certain that wages and salaries are lower in China than in the Big PX, the Chinese ability to do what they are doing is rooted in the fact that they mean business. They arn't playing.
They dont mean business in the US. The military and law enforcement seem to work, but outside of that it is a different country from the one that I grew up in. A president starts a war on the basis of a lie, and even though this is widely known he is reelected. A smart president follows, but he becomes dumb when he moves into the White House. Etc, etc. I'm sorry, but the South Koreans and the French and maybe the Canadians say that reactors can be constructed in five years. If the Americans leave dope and porn alone and get down to business, it would be easy peasy for them to construct those reactors in five years or less too.
Bob Amorosi 12.6.11
So Fred, overtime was not necessary in Sweden. Good for the Swedes, they do indeed seem to work pretty fast during normal working hours.
However I don't believe for a minute that the American nuclear industry is preoccupied with “dope and porn” that prevents them from getting down to business. They simply want too much money for anyone to invest in them in the US. If you don't believe me, just ask how many new nuclear plant applications have been tabled in the US in recent years that are going nowhere.
I repeat, they want far too much money to build them, so until they dramatically lower their charges to build them, they will have to wait a painfully long time before getting a lot of new business in the west, period. The public safety issue is also a big thorn in their sides aggravated by the recent disaster in Japan, but there are known engineering solutions that could have prevented it, and they need only be included in new plant designs for whatever higher costs. Oops, I said that bad phrase again, "higher costs".
Len Gould 12.6.11
I suspect that the difference between Sweden and the US is / was that for the Swedes, a bankable 10% profit in a free market competing with dirty coal generation wasn't a factor. Take it as you will, it's only the competiton from coal which is keeping the US from building as many new reactors as you'd like faster than you could imagine.
Len Gould 12.6.11
So Fred, that sounds like an economics problem. Back in your court LOL.
Malcolm Rawlingson 12.6.11
An interesting dialogue. I suppose that considering Mr. Greenspan to be "smart" depends upon one's definition of that term. I would place Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, Galileo, Maxwell, Planck and DaVinci in that category but seriously question its application to the aforesaid individual. If being smart means the single-handed ability to plunge the world into economic chaos - then Mr. Greenspan surely does deserve the accolade - and probably a Nobel prize for something or other. They seem to give them out to anyone these days. I think perhaps the world needs less of the Greenspan variety of smartness and more of the DaVinci type.
Malcolm Rawlingson 12.6.11
Well, now that I have that out of my system Fred - this is a very interesting topic. Of course fighting wars over resources is nothing new. It has been going on since humans have inhabited this planet. Only the resource in question and the destructive power of the weapons available has changed. The rest is the same old same old way human beings have always done business.
In this era it is oil. In previous era's it was spices, sugar, tea, wood, gold, silver, land and the list goes on and on and on.
The only thing that surprises me is that anyone is surprised that wars are and will be fought when any commodity a society is short of lies within someone elses borders or under another country's control. It is inevitable.
Future wars will be fought over water and food. I absolutely concur with Len Gould that "voters in many countries prefer war to being deprived of the energy -- particularly in oil products -- that they are used to."
That is the truest and most honest statement as it pertains to human society I have read. However I will qualify that just a little by saying that it only apples when the war is not in your backyard. When those countries who own the resources have weapons that pose a serious threat to the users of those commodities (over which the general populace agree to fight wars) then the appetite for such conflicts is greatly diminished.
It is equally true that voters in all countries prefer war to starvation and thirst and with 7 billion of us already we are already moving quickly to that inevitable conflict.
It is a sad commentary on the human race that despite the brilliant people mentioned in my earlier post we still rely on the guidance of fools (mostly but not limited to politicians) rather than solve the problems that lay before us. Far easier to whip up the population to beat the crap out of someone than solve the problems for the mutual benefit of all.
I read today that scientists have discovered at least 1200 planets that are candidates for producing life forms similar to our own. They focused on a tiny segment of space and the obvious conclusion is that there are tens of millions of such planets when the whole of space is studied.
No doubt there is a life form out there that is far superior to ours. God help us when they find out where WE are and want the resources of the earth to use for themselves. War of the Worlds will be a summer picnic by comparison.
bill payne 12.6.11
Iran War On?
A National Journal article hints that with the BIG covert war going on with Iran, the starting point for hostilities may already be behind us . http://www.nationaljournal.com/has-the-war-with-iran-already-begun--20111204?page=1
My, what marvels human ingenuity have wrought! Why, a world war which we can sleep through the opening hours of...enjoy it while you can
Urban Survival Tuesday December 6, 2011
Michael Keller 12.6.11
Having been involved in the construction of nuclear power plants and modern combined-cycle plants, I believe a very big reason for the high cost of nuclear power is none other than the US government (e.g. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission).
With a combined-cycle plant, construction is geared towards reasonably quickly putting together a good power plant using designs that are basically pretty simple. Once you get past waiting a few years for your environmental permits (compliments of the US Environmental Protection Agency and various other bureaucracies), the job can be completed in maybe 24 months.
With nuclear, the government bureaucrats spend truly stupefying amounts of time (as in years and years) pondering over all manner of detail, presumably to insure the plant is safe. The "bring-me-another-rock" exercises are mind numbing, with the objective seemingly to require as much paper as the plant weighs.
After say 5 or so years (if you are lucky), construction can start. Once again, tons of paper are involved, all kinds of inspections and "watchers-watching-the-watchers". However, the end product is still concrete, steel, pipe and wire, just like any other power plant. However, the “nuclear” regulations will generally easily double the time involved and as they say, "time is money".
In the final analysis, is the plant any safer with all this government seemingly never-ending oversight? Not really. A "safe plant" comes from quality design, manufacturing, construction and operation and that comes from good people who take pride in their work, not layers of bureaucrats.
bill payne 12.6.11
"With a combined-cycle plant, construction is geared towards reasonably quickly putting together a good power plant using designs that are basically pretty simple. "
As General DeGaulle once said, "I have understood you". But even so, where conventional economics is concerned, the time required to construct a nuclear facility is still five years or less. If bureaucats require 5 years to do what they can do in 5 months, well too bad for the people waiting for them to give their OK. IF THEY CAN DO IT IN CHINA, FRANCE, OR SOUTH KOREA, THEY CAN DO IT IN THE US...eventually.
About Alan Greenspan. Yes, he was a member of that financial market scandal in the US, but so were people smarter than him for that matter. But what can you do? The mistake of the century was the reelection of George W. Bush, and to my way of thinking, once he was in the White House anything bad could happen - to include the presence in that pad of the latest incompetent, Mr Obama.
Bob Amorosi 12.7.11
"THEY CAN DO IT IN THE US...eventually"
Let's hope so Fred, we need more nuclear badly for the future. I just hope the US government's debt doesn't spiral into outer space while we are waiting. If that happens, there will be a lot unemployed engineers in many industries in America, including in the nuclear power plant industry.
BTW readers the Canadian Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) company, famous for the Canadian Candu reactors around the world, was finally privatized by the Canadian federal government over the last two years. For decades as a crown-owned corporation they were habitually subsidized to the tune of hundreds of millions of tax-payers' dollars every year. Among other reasons, the feds in Canada didn't think AECL was worth keeping because it was a constant money loser. Hmmmmm..... really. One could argue those subsidies had indirectly enabled the production of lots of cheap electricity around the world including within Canada. Not anymore I am sad to say, and now AECL must sink or swin as a private busniess concern. Good luck because their new owners better have deep pockets to keep them afloat.
Len Gould 12.7.11
One thing I've learned from Noam Chomsky is that no significant nation in the present world is yet running a democracy. All are some form of "-archy", from "mon"archys (absolute dictatorships, chieftans, kings) to "olig"archies (military juntas, representative democracy) to "an"archy, by definition no government, see wild west of USA in 1800's.. I'm coming more and more to appreciate the calls for change, the most rational propositions coming from self- defined anarchists such as Chomsky / the tea party / occupy wall st.. Their problem is the term anarchy, as soon as I hear it I switch off but that's an error. They have the right idea (genuine political power spread equally among all citizens, and a government as powerful as necessary but genuinely controlled by the people) but the wrong name. They should use the term omniarchy.
Len Gould 12.7.11
Bob. Within days of it being allowed AECL will wind up as an ignored wholly-owned subsidiary of GE or Mitsubishi/Hitachi or etc. That's the last we'll hear of them.
Fred Linn 12.7.11
The basic fallacy in all this speculation and pontificating is substitution.
There are fully and easily implemented substitutions for all energy applications including nuclear and oil. Those substitutions are perfectly functional, reasonably priced and completely effective.
The only thing for which there is no suitable substitution is using brains.
We can make far more electricity than we need without nuclear power.
We can power our vehicles or do anything else we need done using biofuels instead of petroleum.
There is no need for nuclear power, petroleum or wars.
Jim Beyer 12.7.11
I respectfully disagree. The best substitute for oil (in automobiles) would be NG. And even that would add at least $2-3K per vehicle. That's enough to be a problem entering the marketplace. The situation is even worse for solar/wind vs. coal or nuclear.
I think the issue with oil is more pressing than how we make our electricity (nuclear vs. coal vs. solar/wind) It wasn't the high cost of electricity that spurred the economic collapse of 2008. It was oil.
Michael Keller 12.7.11
Bill Payne, The US has lots of natural gas ("fracking" of shale formations) for power production, so we should be fine for some several years. Europe has a problem, but fortunately the French have lots of nuclear power. Long range electrical energy production, hard to say. However, predicting the future of the energy business generally gets upended by technology innovations (e.g. horizontal drilling into shale formations).
I agree with Jim, fuel for transportation is the problem and the likely root cause of future (and current) "energy wars", as Professor Banks observed. There are no viable substitutes for oil at present.
From a purely technical standpoint, viable short range band-aids to reduce oil consumption and/or increase supply include; more efficient use of oil (e.g. hybrid vehicles, diesel engines, lighter vehicles with better engines); alternative fuels (natural gas); drill more in the US. Long range, some form of electrical vehicle would be ideal, but that awaits much better batteries.
dennis baker 12.7.11
penticton bc canada V2A1P9 250-462-3796
Request for Information (RFI) on Deployable Reactor Technologies ... The cover sheet and abstract must be submitted by Friday, April 30, 2010 by 4:00 p.m. (Eastern) to the following email address: DARPA-SNemail@example.com
https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=d0792af88a6a4484b3aa9d0dfeaaf553&... The solution to climate change. ( human excrement + nuclear waste = hydrogen ) The USA discharges Trillions of tons of sewage annually, sufficient quantity to sustain electrical generation requirements of the USA.
Redirecting existing sewage systems to containment facilities would be a considerable infrastructure modification project. It is the intense radiation that causes the conversion of organic material into hydrogen, therefore what some would consider the most dangerous waste because of its radiation would be the best for this utilization.
I believe the combination of clean water and clean air, will increase the life expectancy of humans. The four main areas of concern globally are energy, food,water and air! he radiolytic decomposion of organic materials generates Hydrogen. By using our sewage as a source of energy we also get clean air , clean water, and no ethanol use of food stocks. Eat food first, create energy after.
Simply replacing the fossil fuel powered electrical generating facilities with these plants, would reduce CO2 emissions, and CH4 emissions, to acceptable levels, globally. This would require a completely new reactor facility capable of converting human waste into hydrogen and then burning the hydrogen to generate electricity on site.
This solution is sellable to citizens because of all the side issue solutions. I ve been able to convince most simply with concept of using nuclear waste to a productive end. Superbugs ( antibiotic resistant ) apparently are created in the waters sewage is discharged into, which is one more side issue solution.
Anything not converting into hydrogen will potentially be disposed of using Transmutation. The water emitted from hydrogen burning will have uses in leaching heavy metals from other contaminated site clean ups
Fred Linn 12.7.11
Jim----the Fiat Siena Tetrafuel can run on petroleum gasoline, gasoline and ethanol mixtures, pure hydrous ethanol, and/or compressed methane(natural gas or biomethane)..
The Siena has a multifuel internal combustion engine that needs no batteries. It can run on petroleum, or it can run completely petroleum free.
No hybrid can do that. No petroleum, no go. Can't even be done with a Chevy Volt. Who want s to pay $40,000 for a vehicle that can only go 40 miles without stopping to recharge?
EVs can go a little farther. But they still have the same limitation. And they are expensive.
The Fiat Siena Tetrafuel is about the same size and weight as a Toyota Prius, but the MSRP for the Siena is $5,000 less than the Prius.
The Siena has been built and sold in the Brazil and Argentina markets, purchased and used by consumers on the road for the last 4 years.
The cost of driving a vehicle the same distance using CNG is less than 1/2 the cost of using petroleum. Even aftermarket conversions quickly pay for themselves----the more long distance driving done, the quicker the payback.
Fred Linn 12.7.11
dennis baker-------" The USA discharges Trillions of tons of sewage annually, sufficient quantity to sustain electrical generation requirements of the USA."-------
Methane, CH4, is natural gas. Biomethane is exactly the same stuff, CH4. The two can be combined in any proportion with no loss of performance in any application. It is chemically exactly the same stuff, CH4.
We have been able to make biomethane from any type of biomass at all, including sewage and landfills for over 160 years in recent history using anaerobic digestion.
Germany right now is on track to be producing 20% of their natural gas usage by anaerobic digestion by 2015----5 years ahead of the original goal 2020. And Germany is making a strong push to convert transportation fuel usage to CNG with over 5500 CNG filling stations available in a country about the size of Missouri and Iowa.
We can indeed make a valuable fuel from sewage-----but no radioactive material is needed. And the left over products are clean water and compost.
The leftover products of refining petroleum are large amounts of polluted water and toxic tars.
Fred Linn 12.7.11
dennis baker--------" Superbugs ( antibiotic resistant ) apparently are created in the waters sewage is discharged into, which is one more side issue solution."----------
Antibiotic resistant organisms are a result of the use of antibiotics. It is a result of evolution. Darwinian natural selection in action.
bill payne 12.7.11
New Mexico Gas Company energy efficiency tariff increase ... and possible ww iIII.
It only takes about two minutes to see what kind of fuel value we might get from our sewage.
Let’s take the sewage from 300 million Americans.
Just for the sake of argument they all eat 3,000 kcal of food. If it were all sugars and starches easily converted into sugars almost no fuel value would be eliminated. But there are cellulosics and other undigestibles so let’s say each person discharges 1500 kcals of fuel makings in their sewage.
And let’s say two thirds of this potential fuel value is realized and captured.
300x10^6 x 1500x3.96x2/3 /(6x10^6) = 198,000 B/d Oil equivalent, or 2% of US oil demand.
Capturing methane has a benefit beyond its fuel value as it is a far more potent green house gas than CO2.
Don’t like my crude estimate? Let’s see yours.
Don Hirschberg 12.8.11
Even animals designed to run on cellulose (two stomachs, re=chewing) don’t do a very good job of it. Cows spend almost all their waking hours eating and processing grass. One does not have to spend much time studying manure to conclude that much that comes out is very little changed from what went in. Hence cow pies have fuel value. (Compare the dog who in a few seconds can wolf down more than he needs for a day and more)
To the plains Amerindians buffalo chips were fuel. Before humor was sanitized and made politically correct we had jokes like this: Chief says have good news and bad news. Bad news little maize. Good news lots of buffalo chips. We will not freeze.
We process our food very efficiently and our sewage would not keep us from freezing.
The Amerindian civilization was one of starvation. Blessed for thousands of years with all the resources of the US/Canada/Alaska they could only keep perhaps 2 million alive at one time. They harnessed almost no energy except from human muscle, too often women’s muscle.
Ferdinand E. Banks 12.8.11
Bab A., the need for electricity will win out in the end. I would like to see the right decisions made next week instead of in 40 years, but let's face the facts of life: the people making the decisions in this matter are not as smart as you and me, and they are satisfied with the way they are, and they are NOT going to be pushed into making the right decisions. The voters will just have to do their job, unless they prefer to become one of those stone-age countries that many of them are so fond of.
You should have heard the encounter of the Swedish energy minister with three persons, one of whom was a professor of physics, employed by a charlatan named Aleclett. The energy minister used the word renewables in every sentence, and Mr Professor could hardly get his argument out of his mouth, because if he had it might have made him unpopular with a few dozen or hundred or thousand know-nothings.
Fred Linn 12.8.11
The city of Lunen, Germany[pop. 90,000], commenced operation of a dedicated biogas system that generates biomethane from livestock farms in the vicinity.
The methane is generated, scrubbed and distributed by a dedicated pipeline to a distributed electrical generation system of zoned diesel generators that provide combined heat and power(CHP). Overall thermal efficiency of the CHP power system is about 90%. The system also provides compressed natural gas for a significant portion of transportation needs.
The system handles waste sewage treatment, provides all the power needed by the city, creates excess of methane that is sent into the national pipeline grid, creates clean water that is reused in the municipal water system, and creates compost that is sold back to the farmers and local gardeners for fertilizer. The system is clean, efficient, and cost effective.
Bob Amorosi 12.8.11
Fred, I agree the need for electricity should win in out, eventually. The part that bothers me is what will probably happen to the US electricity system and to the US economy before voters will do something about it.
The trouble with voters is they won't see the need for more electricity until problems with grid reliability appear. As long as the lights stay on, and electricity stays affordable to most voters, they won't perceive any problems. By the time grid reliability deteriorates from insufficient generation capacity after decades of nuclear neglect, or by the time our electricity bills escalate to levels too high to tolerate, the grid and the economy will likely be in a big mess and take a painfully long time to fix.
Bob Amorosi 12.8.11
To clarify my position on nuclear, I am in favor of lots of renewables on the grid, but I am also of the strong opinion that renewables should coexist with nuclear generation, i.e. complement nuclear, because renewables in general could never supply the entire grid’s power demand 24 hours/day reliably.
The only thing that would change my opinion is if very large-scale electrical storage became affordable and was widely implemented with much more renewable generation deployed. If this does eventually happen, it likely won’t before many of the existing aging nuclear plants reach end-of-life service. So they will need wholesale refurbishing, or complete replacement, because something has to maintain the huge grid capacity supported by existing nuclear, and soon.
Malcolm Rawlingson 12.8.11
Mr Linn, There seem to be some inconsistencies with your post that cause me to question the reliability of the information. You say that "methane is generated, scrubbed and distributed by a dedicated pipeline to a distributed electrical generation system of zoned diesel generators that provide combined heat and power(CHP)." Diesel Generators burn diesel oil - not methane. Methane is a completely unsuitable fuel for diesel engines due to the very high compression ratio. I am hoping that you mean an internal combustion engine and not diesel engines which are a specific version of it. I very much doubt the 90% efficiency figure you quote and would like to see the specific calculations on that plant. I suspect that this figure is derived from a selective part of the plant and is not the overall energy out divided by energy in to the entire system - including the livestock. However if you can direct me to the information I would be pleased to verify that number for you but strongly suspect someone is playing fast and loose with mathematics - a common trait amongst renewables enthusiasts. Malcolm
Ferdinand E. Banks 12.9.11
Malcolm, Fred Linn wants to see the industrial countries reduced to the level of Stone Age countries. Sweden is filled with this kind of person, and here I am thinking of some girls at the parties I attended when I came to Sweden, and who were furious because their fathers worked their fingers to the bone to keep them in homes in ritzy suburbs instead of in mud huts on the fringe of the Kalihari., where more deserving and happy human beings lived.
As has been pointed out a number of times - more times than I realized - the nuclear reactor is probably the most important invention of the 20th century. But I am not going to argue that here or anywhere else, because too many people would call me a fool for coming to that conclusion, although I don't see how that conclusion can be avoided.
Fred Linn 12.9.11
Bob----the grid will kill itself off. Murphy's law. The larger and more complicated a system is, the chances for system failure expand exponentially. You are already seeing this----every time there is a storm or any other type of external or internal stress there are power outages----sometimes ranging up to millions of customers.
Sooner or later, people will just plain get tired of the electricity going off.
It would be preferable if the changes were made before time and money were invested in expanding a system that is statistically doomed to failure is installed---then has to be abandoned, and removed before a stable and reliable system can even be installed.
---------" because renewables in general could never supply the entire grid’s power demand 24 hours/day reliably."-------
Sure they can. There is no need for nuclear power and its attendant risk whatever. Electricity is electricity----it doesn't matter where it comes from.
Malcolm----" Diesel Generators burn diesel oil - not methane. Methane is a completely unsuitable fuel for diesel engines due to the very high compression ratio."-----
Diesel engines can run just fine on methane----we've been doing it for over 90 years. The necessary requirement for efficiency with internal combustion engines is a high comparative octane rating----the resistance of the fuel to preignition. The octane rating of methane is ~120, more than adequate to power diesel engines.
-------" the nuclear reactor is probably the most important invention of the 20th century. But I am not going to argue that here or anywhere else, because too many people would call me a fool for coming to that conclusion, "-----------
The machine gun was an important invention----but not a beneficial invention. Nuclear reactors are in the same category.
Cat has been making diesel engines that can use both utility grade methane,(scrubbed, 99+% methane) or field gas(unscrubbed---as it comes directly from a well, 50-75% methane----raw biogas and field gas are essentially the same thing).----since the early 1950s.
The means of ignition(spark---Otto cycle or compression---Diesel cycle) is not the key factor with internal combustion engine thermal efficiency. Resistance to preignition is----as measured by comparative octane rating. The ROM(relative octane rating) of regular gasoline is 85-87, you will find that marked on the pumps. The ROM of liquid diesel fuel is 105-110. The ROM of ethanol is 115, it is suitable to use in diesel engines with the addition of a flash point enhancer(ED95, ethanol diesel 95%) or hotter glow plugs. The higher the ROM, the greater the resistance of the fuel to preignition and the higher the compression ratio that can be used. Compared to gasoline engines, diesels are already high compression engines---16 or 18:1 compared to about 9 or 10:1 for gasoline engines. Typically, TER for gasoline engines runs about 20%, compared to 40% or more for diesel engines. The most widely used diesels in Europe, Scandia and MANs run in the 40 to 45% thermal efficiency range.
Combined heat and power applications use the waste engine heat circulated to a collector rather than a radiator(as in a vehicle)----to reclaim the heat to be used for building and water heating, and air conditioning.
Don Hirschberg 12.11.11
Fred Linn, I don’t know what TER means.
But I am aware that that methane can be used in diesel engines if some conventional oil is also used to compression ignite the whole mass of fuel. Methane alone will not ignite by compression. This scheme seems to be quite recent as Volvo is testing it out in Europe. A rather cursory search did not tell me about this method of blended usage in actual usage.
One advantage of blending methane with diesel fuel is that diesel fuel has about 2 hydrogen atoms per carbon atom while methane has 4 hydrogen atoms per carbon atom. For the same energy output the CO2 emissions are substantially reduced.
The diesel cycle is inherently less efficient than the Otto Cycle. That is, at equal compression ratios, the only variable we have, the Otto Cycle beats the Diesel Cycle. Of course in practice diesel engines use so much higher compression they are more efficient.
There is always the problem of using HHV vs LHV (low heating value) in calculating efficiencies and also the bugaboo about using low grade heat for process or space heating as a credit to thermal efficiency. Personally I would use HHV and not credit the use of “waste” heat except as a footnote. I can install even a rather inefficient engine in a building that needs heating. Route the exhaust pipe around such as no engine heat is “wasted” and call my engine 100% efficient. And using this rationale my car engine efficiency depends greatly on whether I am using the heater.
With no hanky panky I can accept real life diesels approaching 40 % brake thermal e, and Otto Cycle engines at over 30 %. (I am looking at a test of a 1930s gasoline engine with a compression ration of 6.7and an e of 24 % and this was at a time when efficiency was secondary. (Carburetors, no sensors, no electronics, and gasoline at 7 gallons for a dollar.)
How much fuel a vehicle uses is only weakly determined by the thermal efficiency of the engine. For years I drove a Model A ‘28/29 Ford with a rather large, 200 cid engine which was rated at 40 HP at 2200(?) rpm. The compression ratio was (new) 4.1. It could go 70 mph but I most often drove 45. There were no interstate high ways. Overall I got over 20 mpg even though in subzero (Fahrenheit) with a manual choke I would get maybe 10 mpg in the city. Today cars with many hundreds of HP very efficient engines use about as much fuel.
Fred Linn 12.11.11
--------" Fred Linn, I don’t know what TER means."-------
TER = thermal efficiency rating The amount of work (mass X distance / time) that is performed by an engine divided by the energy content of the fuel used converted to BTU(or similar heat content measurement, usually Joules).
A typical gasoline engine will get about 20% TER----about 1/5 of the heat energy content of the fuel actually shows up as work at the wheels.
-------" For years I drove a Model A ‘28/29 Ford with a rather large, 200 cid engine which was rated at 40 HP at 2200(?) rpm. The compression ratio was (new) 4.1"---------
--------" Today cars with many hundreds of HP very efficient engines use about as much fuel."------------
Gasoline engines in cars today run about 10:1 compression ratio. They typically develop ther peak horsepower at about 5-6,000 RPM. Your car probably had a TER of about 10%.
Diesel engines are already high compression engines. Diesel engines typically run at about 16:1 compression ratio and achieve maximum power(horsepower or force) at about 3500 to 4,000 RPM. Diesel engines give greater power output per unit of weight than gasoline engines----and have a TER of about 40%.
The faster you go, the greater the amount of fuel that you use. This increases exponentially. If you travel at a speed of 20 mph---you will use X amount of fuel----if you increase your speed to 40 mph, you double your speed, but you use four times as much fuel---if you increase your speed to 80 mph, you use eight times as much fuel.
This was called the fleet problem in the Navy. You can defeat a whole fleet of smaller ships with less armour in a pitched battle------but a battleship with huge guns and thick armour can't catch a fleet of smaller ships because they can carry more fuel----so they can go faster. They don't have as much weight to push. Not only weight in guns and armour---there is only a limited amount of space to carry fuel in any ship you design. The more weight you add in guns and armour---the less fuel you can carry.
Elephants or mosquitoes
Good luck Admiral.
Don Hirschberg 12.12.11
Fred Linn. You could have merely said you use TEP where I use Thermal Efficiency, or simply e, so commonly used by thermodynamists.
I will try to explain my point about max e being a weak variable in experienced mpg. The primary thing that determines mpg is how much power you are using – not the design or size of the engine. A car that gets 30 mpg at 60mph is using 2 gal/hour. If the engine is operating at an e of 25% then a gal of gasoline will give 12 hp-hrs, or use 0.5 of fuel/ HP-hr. (A gal of gasoline weighs about 6 pounds and has a HHV of about 125,000 BTUs. A gal of diesel oil weighs about 7 pounds and has HHV of about 140,000 BTUs. Fuels from different crudes processed by different refiners will vary.) In the case of the car using 2 gal per hour, at 25 e then it is of necessity using 24 hp. If we were to replace this engine that has an e of 30% under these circumstances we would expect to get 30/25 x 12 = 14.4 HP-hrs per gal, and instead of 30mpg we would expect to get 36 mpg. That would be great.
But that is not exactly how the world works. If our original engine were say a 1.5 liter engine it would be operating closer to its best e than the replacement engine, say 3 liter engine that would be very lightly loaded at 24 HP. I would not be getting an e of 30% at so far from the sweet zone. In the real world mileage would not have gone up from 30 to 36mpg.
The Carnot e for 4.1 r is 45, for 9 r is 58. If we apply an “: engine efficiency of 55% to both engines we get 24.75 for the model A and 31.9% for the r 9 engine. (For a r 16 diesel the comparable numbers would be about .65 x 55= .36.)
While my numbers are illustrative they cannot be far from actual experience and in proportion.
At the time I was getting up to 24 mpg on trips in my model A the cars that were passing me were getting perhaps 17 mpg with their more efferent engines. We often met hours later at a stop light. I was very poor and seldom stopped. A case of the tortoise and the hare.
I happen to think the engines advertised today are obscene. It is the 400 hp engines that that are the most efficient on the test stand yet consume the most fuel on the road. Consider this: a 400 hp engine can consume 30 gallons an hour. In one hour.
Today I have a 2002 Chevy Tracker 4 door 4wd, a mere 2 liter engine, 127 hp @ 6000 rpm (6000 rpm? I seldom cruise much above 3000 rpm). As an old engineer I marvel how good this vehicle is. Nothing, absolutely nothing has needed adjustment. Only an oxygen sensor and a fuse has needed replacement. It will probably go over 100 mph (I only drove it over 90 by accident), and has averaged from day one 27.66 mpg. Yet this vehicle has long been discontinued – I guess because it is not sexy enough. Hmm, I never thought of cars as sexy.
Fred Linn 12.12.11
Don----you are considering buy a car. You go to the showroom and see a model you like. You find that you can get the same model, same equipment, same power rating etc. etc. in either a diesel or a gasoline model---cost is about the same.
Which one is the better buy?
Malcolm Rawlingson 12.14.11
Fred Linn, I could find no reference to a diesel engine running on pure methane. I did find this reference to work that Volvo is doing to run trucks on a mix of 75% methane and 25% diesel but nothing on pure methane. http://www.autoevolution.com/news/volvo-trucks-testing-methane-gas-on-diesel-engines-18773.html Also you note in your post above that "the grid will kill itself off. Murphy's law. The larger and more complicated a system is, the chances for system failure expand exponentially. You are already seeing this----every time there is a storm or any other type of external or internal stress there are power outages----sometimes ranging up to millions of customers"
The grid is one of the most reliable technologies we have. You paint a picture of major unreliability - a false and misleading statement which is very far from the truth. Yes indeed losing the grid or parts of it does inconvenience customers - that is exactly BECAUSE it is so reliable. If you think it is unreliable consider that every single time any one connected to a grid turns on a light switch, a toaster,hair dryer or any one of the millions of electrical appliances the grid picks up the load every single time - flawlessly. Next time you wax poetic about the grid - calculate the number of hours the grid supplies all your needs and then determine how many hours of the year it was out of service. You will find the grid - at least in North America - is well over the 99% reliable.
What you are mistaking for unreliability - mostly failures due to weather related events - has more to do with lack of proper investment in the grid infrastructure. Older equipment needs to be replace periodically but because this equipment has been operating for years and years day in day out the day will come when the equipment is simply worn out.
Major grid disruptions are very rare occurrences. So I question your assertion that the grid will kill itself off. I would suggest that those who need to clear piles of snow and ice off their solar panels every morning before they can switch the lights on are more likely going to kill themselves off falling off the roof. Malcolm
catepillar produces both diesel engines and turbine engines for power generation that use natural gas
Natural gas is methane, CH4, both fossil natural gas(field gas, as it comes from the well head) and biogas are essentially the same thing, containing impurities. Both are cleaned with scrubbers----water cascades---that remove impurities. Utility grade natural gas and biomethane are over 99% methane.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_natural_gas_vehicles (list of natural gas vehicles)
Just about every major manufacturer of engines for vehicles, trucks, machinery, or industrial applications has some sort of natural gas options.
Compare power failure rates for natural gas which is delivered by underground pipeline to the failure rates electrical power that is delivered mostly by overhead wires. Underground delivery is far more reliable----one tree blown over on the overhead lines can knock out power to thousands of customers. Major storms such as hurricane Irene recently can leave millions of customers without power for days---and that is a routine occurrence.
Electrical generation at the load point bypassing the electrical grid altogether by the use of catalytic converters or on site diesel CHP generators will become much more common because they are cheaper and far more efficient and reliable---especially for large industrial consumers where power outages and shut downs can cost huge expenses. It is already being done now.
Malcolm Rawlingson 12.15.11
Interesting Fred, I was aware of gasoline engines operating on natural gas but not diesel - I stand corrected. And yes you are right that underground natural gas lines are less vulnerable to interruption than overhead wires.
I would suggest that the much more likely option is for gas to electricity conversion using methane fuel cells that provide hot water as well as electricity. A number of firms make these for household use as well as larger units for industrial use. The price however is prohibitive for all but very large applications and many of those are subsidized by Government incentives or research programs. No doubt the price will come down. I have investigated this possibility for my own house and the pay back time is about 80 years based on a unit made in Australia.
But there are serious flaws in your arguments. Most of those systems you speak of are cost effective only because they use the grid to sell surplus power back to the utility when the factory does not need it. Without the grid their power production must exactly match their power consumption and they become very expensive to operate in that mode. What you desire is for there to be no grid. Therefore there would be nowhere to put that excess power. Conversely most industries always have the grid as a back up if their generators fail. Since machines do fail - especially ones with many moving parts like engines - you simply trade the reliability of the grid against the reliability of your diesel or whatever engine you are using. It then is not a matter of whether the gas supply is reliable but it is now your responsibility to ensure your engine is ALWAYS running. Of course the solution is a back up generator while your normal one is out for maintenance. Hence double the capital cost. As I said these systems rely on the availability of the grid otherwise they are not cost effective....which is of course the reason why the vast majority of industries do not choose this option.
So in a nutshell you can't have your cake and eat it. If you want to get rid of the grid then every single consumer will need to become his or her own utility and remember when your system fails there is nothing to back it up. The capital cost of doing that for every house and every industry connected to the grid right now would be astronomical. For that amount of money you could put all the grid lines underground and solve your perceived reliability problem. I would like to see your numbers for grid reliability that support your statement of unreliability. The revers is in fact the truth.
In my area (rural and subject to high winds and storms) the power goes out only about two to three times a year and is often back on within an hour or so. Three hours in 365 x 24 is 8760 is a highly reliable system. Let's exaggerate (you know just like the media does) and say it is off for a total of a day every year (24 in 8760) for every customer on the grid (very far from the truth). That still gives a reliability of 99.72%.
That is not a very good reason for most people to spend million on their own power supply which of course is why most do not. There may be other reasons but it is not the reliability of the grid. As I said previously it is one of the most highly reliable systems ever built by far.
Fred Linn 12.16.11
Catalytic fuel cells can generate heat or electricity using catalyst mediated electrochemical reactions.
They can use hydrogen, carbon, or both as hydrocarbons. The catalytic converter in your car uses platinum to convert unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust gases to produce heat----that is why there is a metal shroud covering it to protect other engine parts. It uses a very thin layer of platinum metal as the catalyst. You can also find examples of catalytic converters in camping stores as tent heaters that use propane and oxygen to produce flameless heat.
There are also a number of different electrochemical pathways to produce electricity using the same fuels.
----------" So in a nutshell you can't have your cake and eat it. If you want to get rid of the grid then every single consumer will need to become his or her own utility and remember when your system fails there is nothing to back it up."-------
I can live completely independent of the electrical grid for as long as I want, either on grid or off. I can have system back up if necessary. If the grass gets too long, or I get tired of the view out the window, I can start up my home and move it somewhere else. I have everything that anyone else with an upscale apartment has, including a washer and dryer and a fireplace.
--------" Since machines do fail - especially ones with many moving parts like engines - you simply trade the reliability of the grid against the reliability of your diesel or whatever engine you are using. It then is not a matter of whether the gas supply is reliable but it is now your responsibility to ensure your engine is ALWAYS running."-----------
Back up means available---not ownership. You don't own the grid, you just use what you need. I have 7.7 Kw of generation power. It has never failed. And I do not need it 24/7-----I have 3200 amp/hr of storage available and the capacity on the rack to double that----but why do that? It would only add weight, and I only need to run the generator to charge about every 4 days to a week---that is perfectly adequate. In milder climates, I don't need to run the generator at all for the most part---solar charge can provide more power than I need.
I can run from shore lines---onboard generator---600w of stowable solar panels----or a diesel main. I have all the back up I've ever needed for $16.95, and the only back up I've ever needed has been the reverse----the only time my jumper cables have ever been used was to charge someone else's system.
I pay only for what I use-----and what I don't use, I don't have to pay for. I pay less than if I were renting an apartment, and if I don't want to pay for a pool or hot tub, I can move my apartment. If I were paying for an apartment----at the end of three years, I'd have spent about $36,000----and have nothing to show for it. At the end of three years with my current arrangement----I have about $18,000 in equity to move upscale to a classier rig if I wanted to. But why do that? We like it just fine here. But if we did move up to a classier rig----much of what I'm using can go right along with me.
---------" That is not a very good reason for most people to spend million on their own power supply which of course is why most do not. "-------
Luckily, it does not cost anywhere NEAR $1,000,000------more like in the neighborhood of $40,000. And the price is highly flexible, it only depends on how fancy or functional you want to be. Most of the other people I know can live very comfortably and well for under $1,000 a month.
-------" There may be other reasons but it is not the reliability of the grid. As I said previously it is one of the most highly reliable systems ever built by far."-----
No more reliable than my system, and it is not very portable. If a hurricane, bad snow storm, or tornado situation is coming---I can start up and be 4 or 500 miles away by the time it hits. You can't do that hooked up to the a fixed position grid.
Is that all too simplistic and not creditable for you? Fortunately for me, simple and creditable only has to work for me----it does not depend on what you think. See you in the mountains if it is summer, or at the Pacific shore if it is winter. I'll be the one with the German Shepherds and Weimaraners, usually outside with friends around the firepit drinking coffee, listening to music and having conversations about how much we miss being tied down to one place all the time.