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Saturday, May 31, 2008

WELL, BARACK, WE HAVE A PROBLEM...

...and you have the power to provide the solution. Why you? The United States is the most powerful nation, ever. Today, and for the next generation, no other country will be anywhere close to our military and economic dominance. You will have a once in a millennium opportunity to accomplish something monumentally extraordinary, while ameliorating the global economic mega-depression that some say will soon loom from the combined hammer of Peak Oil and Global Warming.

You worry that you have a more important task at hand, which is to become POTUS (President of the U.S.)? Yes, continue that effort, but you will become the 44th POTUS.

Now to the more important challenge, creating your legacy for the benefit of Planet Earth and Humanity. As an aside, let me say that during the past year I published two books: SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/) and SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity (http://simplesolutionsbook2.com/). I mention this because those publications provide both the spur and solution for you, our Nation and the World.

Our society seems to have a fatal flaw: we can’t expeditiously act to prevent potential cataclysms like Peak Oil and Global Warming (let’s call this PO/GW). Yes, of course, we will eventually prevail, but, by my reckoning, only after decades of agony and turmoil. There has to be a better way.

Miracle of miracles. It turns out, ironically, that PO/GW is just the catalyst you need to empower you to take extraordinary steps. There are innumerable great things you can attempt to accomplish to create your legacy. What about something so monumental as ending wars..forever?

Fortunately, you will be the next POTUS because McCain, a Republican, is too closely linked to the military-industrial complex and Clinton is too entrenched in conventional politics for either one of them to even consider this extraordinary pathway to be described. You symbolize change and will not be fettered by convention nor commitments.

Let us speculate that early in your presidency your close advisors tell you, Mr. President, we have a problem. We have reached Peak Oil, and the $100+/barrel oil we have will zoom to over $200/barrel. Worse, we can’t shift to coal or other fossil fuels because, yikes, Global Warming is indeed real. It’s kind of too late, and you can ascribe culpability to Bush or Congress or oil executives, but the masses—you and me and others—are to blame. Public will is totally lacking.

Understanding that, you and you alone can immediately orchestrate a global Manhattan/Apollo effort to minimize the coming pain. We need to spend a trillion dollars over the next few years to stimulate industry to help us remediate the almost certain crisis. This is only a fraction of what we will squander on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.* The numbers, therefore, are tolerable to take on this gallant mission.

So where do you find this kind of money? Ah, the Defense budget. You go to your very first G8 Nations Summit, by your declared emergency to be held at United Nations headquarters in New York City, and pronounce a Gorbachev-like bombshell: our country will reduce military spending by 10% this year, and will continue to do so for the next eight years. This scenario is described on page 65 of Book 2. You say, we want every country to do the same, for this 10% solution can be our response to Peak Oil and Global Warming.

China’s knee-jerk reaction might well be, what, cut defense spending? We haven’t had a chance yet to attain your level of capability. But, on afterthought, they will realize that they will only need to decrease their spending by $6 billion in Year One while the U.S. takes a $60 billion hit. Ten percent of the worldwide $1.2 trillion/year for war means that at least $120 billion/year will suddenly become available in the first year to overcome PO/GW. This sum will drop to just under $100 billion in Year Two…and down to a little more than $50 billion by Year Eight. But, by Year 12, the world defense budget will have been reduced to $34 billion, and almost a trillion dollars would have been allocated to overcome PO/GW.

This grand sum will go to the United Nations to administrate and dispense. Yes, I’ve worked with the UN, and it is about the worst organization to do anything, but there is no choice, it is the only international entity of any credibility available.

The so-called military-industrial complex will shift their effort to mass-producing more efficient wind energy conversion systems, developing the hydrogen jetliner, in time converting the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to methanol and otherwise insuring for the development of the sustainable infrastructure and necessary clean energy. Military personnel can initially be maintained to take on environmental tasks and the like.

There is every reason to believe that your 10% solution can continue forever to the point where there will be close to no military expenditures and no chance for a major war. Countries like Costa Rica, Iceland, Mauritius and Panama already have no defense budget. Are they threatened? Nope! Japan, and, even, China, have had a chance to expand their economy because of a limited war account. The U.S spends almost $2000/person for defense while that of China is $45/citizen.

Triumphing over PO/GW will mean applying our tax dollars in a constructive manner. Much of this will be for better jobs, greater support towards education and truly boosting our economy.

So, future President Obama, you will have a problem, but could the above scenario be an effective solution? You are the exact right person to save Planet Earth and Humanity. Simply go to my blog at http://planetearthandhumanity.blogspot.com/, where some details are presented.

Ah, what a great country. Where else can a former public McKinley High School student provide advice to a Punahou graduate?
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* In his new book, the Three Trillion Dollar War, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, with colleague Linda Bilmes, provides a true picture of the Iraq War cost. The obvious sense, then, is, if so much money only created a stalemate in the Middle East (and that is being kind), how can only one trillion dollar save the world from Peak Oil and Global Warming. Well, Mr. POTUS #44, this sum will only be the worldwide federal government contribution. Industrial cost matching should push the the actual expenditure to several times this contribution.
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Comments to the above can be viewed in The Huffington Post. Go to:
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and type "Patrick Takahashi" into the search box. Click on "search" and then click on "Well, Barack, We have a Problem." The comments are at the end of the article.
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I yesterday mentioned that European gasoline prices were double ours. This is only partly true, as France is just below $10/gallon and Germany is already up to $11.50, which would almost be three times what we pay in the USA. I also said that the people in those countries were accepting these inflated prices. Not so, as protests are growing. Soon, there will be major demonstrations, then, rioting. Had enough of this? Move to Venezuela. Book 1 listed gasoline at 12 cents / gallon. Today, gasoline still costs 12 cents / gallon. By the way, ten years ago, the price of crude oil was $11.91, less than one-tenth the cost today. Has something monumental occurred? Ah...yes, although my response should have been more hysterical.
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Friday, May 30, 2008

WHY IS THERE NO NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY?

There is no national energy policy because there is no public will for one. Sure, blame Congress or President Bush or the oil companies, but we are the problem. Part of the reason is that life remains okay.
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Gasoline now costs $4/gallon, and people complain, but Europeans pay twice this price, and Norwegians get by at an equivalent of more than $10/gallon. The various White House administrations and the Congress never treated energy as a high priority. Sure, lobbyists were very effective, but the fact of the matter is that the populace really did not care that much. Neither did we express much concern for global warming. We get what we deserve.
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We have our priorities all wrong, and do nothing about it. For example, each NASA space shot is said to cost about a billion dollars. This is more than the annual Department of Energy renewable energy budget.
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Each B-2 Stealth bomber sells for one billion dollars…no, make that $2 billion, including all development costs. A B-2 weighs 2.3 million troy ounces, which, if constructed of pure gold, would still cost $2 billion. Of course, it wouldn’t be able to fly, but want more?
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The U.S. Navy will outlay $160 million/year to man each Nimitz class aircraft carrier, and when the George Bush is christened (no joke, but this named for #41, H.W.) this year, there will be ten of them. The George W. Bush direct solar energy request is about half what it will cost to operate one nuclear carrier! And we have ten of them...with no major enemy today!
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The American public readily accepts this absurdity. Where are the priorities? What can you do about this? You can start by reading SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/) and SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity (http://simplesolutionsbook2.com/).
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The world needs to spend not a few billion, but a trillion dollars over the next few years to minimize the crunch of Peak Oil and Global Warming. Remember, the Iraq War is said to have cost $2 trillion, so just one trillion should be simple. How? Tomorrow a proposal to our 44th POTUS (President of the United States). Also, Go Green! Details will be provided from Monday.
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The price of oil for the week inched up to $127.35/barrel. Did I say we spend more than a billion dollars a day for gasoline?
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

HOW ARE THE REALLY BIG COMPANIES DOING?

A slight nostalgic trip back to Black Energy today. The Forbes Global 2000 puts HSBC Holdings (financial services company from the UK) at #1, General Electric #2, Exxon Mobile #5, Wal-Mart #16, and General Motors at #573. The Fortune Global 500 lists Wal-Mart Stores as the largest corporation, followed by nine oil and automobile companies. Exxon Mobil is #2, General Motors #5 and Toyota #6. So what is big has to be defined.

Exxon set new records in 2007 and made a profit of $40.6 billion. The first quarter of 2008 also broke a record. General Motors lost $38.7 billion in 2007, but only $3.3 billion in the first quarter of 2008. In 2004, GM’s VP for Product Development Robert Lutz claimed that hybrid compacts like the Toyota Prius was bad for business, and the company had no plans for similar cars. In 2007 Toyota overtook GM as the world’s biggest carmaker. Oh, Lutz was promoted to Vice Chairman of Global Product Development, and was quoted by D Magazine as referring to global warming as a “total crock of sh*t.” He was unrepentent.

The CEO of Exxon Mobil is Rex Tillerson. He is the last of the brontosaurs, but possibly because he also has the mind of the fox with a growing bank account. While BP is now “Beyond Petroleum” and other oil companies proclaim their greenness, Tillerson is resolute in saying that EM is all petroleum. Exxon derived from John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, so it is only appropriate for Senator Jay Rockefeller to wonder why EM remained so anti-environment and pro-fossil. He was embarrassingly rebuffed by Tillerson. So Rockefeller's people attempted to strip Tillerson of the chairman’s job, but ended up gaining only 39.5% of the votes this week.
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Is this the kind of leadership our country needs? Amen. Tomorrow, more Green Energy.
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Hey, oil is crashing, and sits at $126.39 at this writing. Will we see $100/barrel again?
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

GRAND CHALLENGES FOR ENGINEERING

Now and then I will insert interesting information related to my blog topics. Today, I am summarizing a study of the National Academy of Engineering on the above topic. William Perry, former Defense Secretary and now a professor at Stanford, served as chairman, and the committee included people like Dean Kamen, Craig Venter and Larry Page. Go to
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http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/
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Appropriately enough, three of the top four challenges are related to this blog:
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#1 Make solar energy economical.
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#2 Provide energy from fusion.
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#3 Provide access to clean water.
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#4 Develop carbon sequestration methods.
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Mind you, I agree that potable water is also a serious crisis. So what do our decision-makers do? They mandate ethanol and biodiesel production. Yes, there is a now a food problem, and soon will come water. If anyone talks to you about diesel from crops, just ask them two questions: how much water will be needed and how efficient will this biofuel product be relative to insolation. The answers are "lots" and "well, oil crops are just about the most inefficient of all biomass options."
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Whoops, the price of oil went back up past $130/bbl today.
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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

IS GREEN ENERGY BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

In a word, yes. Renewable electricity is, indeed, cleaner than the more conventional forms, relative to global warming (grams carbon dioxide per KWh):

o 667--Coal fired power plant

o 400--Natural gas fired power plant

o 200--Coal fired power plant with carbon capture (this is known as clean
--------coal, but is not close to being commercialized)

o 30--PV station

o 25--Nuclear fired-power plant

o 11--Wind farm

The carbon contribution of nuclear and the renewables, of course, comes from the manufacturing, transport and installation of the system.

The price of oil is falling! Bloomberg has petroleum today at $128.40/barrel.
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Monday, May 26, 2008

GREEN ENERGY

Sustainable Energy

Last week was “bad” energy, but there is “good” energy, generally referred to as sustainable or renewable. Sunlight can directly be utilized, but is also responsible for the winds and biogrowth. Geothermal energy is also generally recognized as okay. Direct solar can take the form of photovoltaic cells, tower/dish power devices, passive cooling and water heaters. Three important indirect alternatives are wind power, ocean energy and biomass. The USDOE link, http://www.eere.energy.gov/RE/solar.html, can be tapped for everything you want to know about renewable energy.

The world uses about 400 quads of energy each year, of which oil is 141 Q. 1 Q equals 2.52x1017 calories or 2.52x108 tons of TNT, but it’s best to forget the Qs and cs. Look at relativity. If we can capture one-hundredth of one percent the available solar energy that shines on our planet, we should be fine, for now.

Consider, then, that the Sun provides Earth with as much energy each hour as humanity uses every year. The Sahara Desert can produce 450 Tera Watts of power, when the sun shines. The current global power consumption is about 13 TW. But no one lives in that desert, but they do in India, which basks in the hot sun and has the potential to produce 600 TW. Finally, the World Council for Renewable Energy reported in 2004 that renewable energy has the potential to supply 15,000 times the current annual consumption of nuclear and fossil energy. The simple story is that there is a lot of sustainable energy available.
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The NYMEX Crude Future rests today at $132.97/barrel.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

NATURAL DISASTERS

The price of oil remained at $132.60/barrel over the weekend.

EARTHQUAKES, TSUNAMIS, HURRICANES, TYPHOONS AND CYCLONES

On weekends I will link SIMPLE SOLUTIONS to current events. Book 1 (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/) covered all the above topics. My blog this Sunday is on this subject because two natural disasters hit this month.

On May 2 Cyclone Nargis (means daffodil in Urdu) in the Indian Ocean struck Myanmar (formerly Burma) and will ultimately cause a death toll of more than 100,000. Up to 3 million were made homeless. By comparison, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 killed 1,836 in New Orleans, causing damages of up to $100 billion, making 60,000 homeless.

On May 12 an earthquake of approximately 8.0 on the Richter scale decimated Wenchuan County in China, killing more than 62,000, throwing 4.5 million into homelessness. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake (7.8 on Richter scale) resulted in around 700 deaths. The population then was 400,000 and more than half were left homeless.

As terrible as these natural disasters are, sometimes we lose sight of how much more serious they are in foreign countries. Cyclone Bhola in 1970 landed in Pakistan (before this area became Bangladesh) as a Category 3 storm and killed 300,000. In 1976 there was an earthquake of 8.2 in Tangsan, China, killing 400,000 (some publications say "only" 255,000 died). I don't even remember these worst of natural disasters.

Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are different names for essentially the same storm in different parts of the world where wind speeds greater than 74 miles per hour are reached. In the Northern Hemisphere, they turn counterclockwise because of the Coriolis force (see book for details). So does your toilet bowl flow. Yes, in the Southern Hemisphere, the turn is clockwise. What happens at the equator? Well, these storms do not form 7 degrees north or south of the equator. When they do form north and south of this band, they all turn away from the equator. Thus the 7 degree band around the equator would be the ideal location for OTEC plantships, as the surface temperature is at the maximum, and you won’t need to design to survive a hurricane. Honolulu is just more than 21 degrees north, while Hilo is just below 20 degrees north.

Category 5 Hurricane Camille in 1969 attained a wind speed of 190 MPH as the most powerful to strike the U.S. and killed 259. I happened to drive along the Mississippi coastline in 1968, then again in 1971. The entire road system had disappeared the second time. Hurricane seeding (generally with silver iodide) experiments were being conducted in the Caribbean during this period, and there are a few conspiracy theories ascribed to Camille. NOAA documentation is sketchy with respect to Camille.

Typhoon Tip, though, is especially memorable, for it also reached 190 MPH, with a low pressure of 870 millibars (lowest for these storms), before striking south Japan, killing 42, including 13 U.S. Marines. Tip had a diameter of 1350 miles, which, if place over the Western Half of the U.S., would extend from Canada to Mexico and cover a good part of the states from California to Colorado.

The debate is on whether global warming will intensify such storms. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that it is likely that hurricanes will become stronger. From Chapter 5 of Book 1, page 212:

Both William Gray and Max Mayfield, icons in hurricane prediction and observation, have said that there is no link between global warming and hurricanes. However, Environmental Science and Technology reports on two studies in Science and Nature which have found hurricanes growing fiercer.66 Peter Webster and Judith Curry believe that there is an unambiguous connection between warmer ocean surface temperatures and increase in hurricane intensity. Curry, chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, was asked why Gray and Mayfield feel the way they do, and her response was, “these are hurricane scientists who don’t know a lot about global climate warming.” Kerry Emmanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has reported that over the past 30 years hurricanes have become more powerful, where both wind speed and duration have increased by 50%. The blame was squarely placed on global warming. These storms trigger twisters and floods, so the effect multiplies.

Hawaii is in the path of hurricanes. I have not experienced one yet in my life, but during the writing of this section, Daniel was approaching our state as a Category 5 hurricane. Thankfully, it dissipated, but further east, Typhoon Saomai slammed into China in August of 2006 as the strongest storm in 50 years. It was only a Category 4 typhoon (hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are the same, and the name depends on where they impact, with the southern hemisphere ones circulating clockwise and northern, counter-clockwise, caused by the rotation of the plane—sort of like how your bathtub water drains), but 1.6 million were evacuated, 50,000 homes were wrecked, and nearly 500 were killed. What was particularly ominous about the 2006 season was that two hurricanes FORMED just south of Hawaii, but thankfully, drifted West, and one of them, Ioke, became a Category 5 hurricane, and the strongest to ever be recorded in the Central Pacific. Maybe time to move to Kansas or the Equator, because—something called the Coriolis force being too weak to induce air to rotate around low pressure cells—hurricanes don’t start nor go there. Delete Kansas. They have twisters there that should also gain in ferocity.

The Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960, with a rating of 9.5 on the Richter scale, killed 6000 and was the largest recorded. A tsunami of 35 feet hit Hilo, killing 61. The second largest, of 9.2, was the Great Sumatra-Andaman Earthquake of December 26, 2004, which triggered a tsunami, killing 225,000. Interestingly enough, the Bam (Iran) earthquake of 2003, only 6.6 Richter, which did away with more than 25,000, occurred on December 26, and the 7.1 Richter earthquake just off the southern coast of Taiwan in 2006 also happened on December 26. At a supposed energy release of 26.3 megatons of TNT, the Sumatra earthquake was 1500 times greater than the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb. However, the Russian Tsar Hydrogen Bomb was double the energy level of that earthquake.

Subsea earthquakes generate tsunamis generally not larger than 10 meters in the far field. Chapter 6 of Book 1 reports on mega-tsunamis, where a major landslide into the ocean can generate a 100 meter tsunami. We’ll re-visit this phenomenon later as Six Hours to Seattle.

Friday, May 23, 2008

FUSION...NOW...ON PLANET EARTH

Crude Oil will remain above $130/barrel through the weekend.

The following editorial is a contribution of Charles Helsley, former director of the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology.

Fusion Power - NOW

The modern world survives – and sometimes prospers – by the use of prodigious amounts of energy. Our global consumption of fossil fuel energy has increased nearly 8 fold in the last 60 years although our global population has only increased 2.5 times. Our fossil fuel resources are finite so this rate of usage has a limited life – oil is likely to peak in a few years, if it has not already peaked, and coal will follow suit in a few decades. Even the nemesis to many, nuclear or fission power, has its problems for resources are stretched by the existing users and new units likely will require the use of plutonium with its unacceptable security requirements to prevent it from being used to make ‘bombs’.

Clearly, the maintenance of our current level of energy consumption, let alone its growth to satisfy the needs of less developed economies, will require a new energy source. Biomass, solar, and even wind energy are likely to grow too slowly to even meet the rapid decline of oil resources that will begin in the next few years. Our only hope is to rapidly bring fusion power on line.

Before you write off this idea as being ‘hair-brained’ for all of us have been told commercial fusion power is 50 years away and seems to have gotten further away in the last few decades, let me assure you that there are ways of making fusion power a reality much more rapidly. In the late 1970’s a viable means of producing a controlled thermonuclear reaction using Heavy Ions particle beams was researched and shown feasible by national labs such as Argonne, LBL, and LLL. Unfortunately, funding was redirected away from this promising avenue into weapons research and then into Tokamaks and ITER all of which have interesting physics but none are unlikely to produce viable commercial power sources. Only HIF (Heavy Ion Fusion) has the endorsement of renowned scientists as a practical means of generating fusion power. Essentially all the needed research has been done and it is now only a matter of money and effort to develop the first operating unit. If you want to read more see
http://hif.lbl.gov/tutorial/tutorial.html .
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HIF provides a means of quickly bringing 10 to 100 GW of clean, safe, economical energy on line in less than a decade and perhaps as soon as a half decade. Moreover, rapid conversion from fossil fuels to non-carbon based fuels in the quantities needed by modern society is only possible using fusion. We urgently need public support and a political mandate to begin construction of such a system. It can be done, so let us do it NOW!
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I agree with Chuck that that the period around 2012 might well be the timeframe for a major global economic collapse from the combined impact of Peak Oil and Global Warming. There is no solution to overcome this calamity, but an Apollo/Manhattan effort to immediately move forward on major non-fossil sustainable options that show promise for early large-scale commercialization could minimize the agony. His fusion concept with Bob Burke is worthy of immediate exploration. This White Energy posting closes my week on Black Energy. Next week? GREEN ENERGY.
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Thursday, May 22, 2008

CRUDE OIL PRICES...DROP

GOOD NEWS! As I am entering this blog into the virtual world from McCarron Airport (access to wireless is free here) in Las Vegas, the price of oil precipitously dropped. Yes, still above $130/barrel, but only barely.

Simple Solutions for Black Energy

As fast as possible, eliminate all forms of fossil fuel and fission energy. Easy to say, but how? For coal, as an example, just a $50/ton carbon tax (or $13.50/ton of carbon dioxide) would raise coal-powered electricity from 4.2 cents/kWh to 5.4 cents/kWh. There are advocates for a carbon tax of $200/ton, which would bring coal electricity up to 9 cents/kWh (and natural gas electricity, at $7 per million BTU, to about 8 cents/kWh). Later it will be seen that wind power is already in the 3 to 5 cents/kWh range, so just something so simple as a severe carbon tax could well be the solution.

I would advocate a $1000/ton carbon tax. Well, let me amend that suggestion for public relations purposes. Instead, a 10 cents / pound carbon dioxide tax appears to be less frightening. That drops the $1000/ton carbon tax by about 25%. Yes, but the key question is how. Who will take charge? The G8 nations? United Nations? Sorry to say that that is the fatal flaw of our current society: we cannot make critical decisions in a timely manner on issues like Peak Oil and Global Warming. “Capping limits and trading carbon dioxide credits” is the best our decision-makers can offer, which attempts to maintain a free enterprise spirit. While this is better than nothing, the problem is that the mechanism just allows polluting nations to continue adding carbon dioxide into the atmosphere while stifling the potential of developing countries. Ah, but we can then proudly boast that with these extra revenuee those pioneering nations can jump to a sustainable energy mode and maybe even prevail, oh, a century from now.

In the meantime, we need to dramatically expand our efforts at Green Energy and continue to push forth on White Energy, explained yesterday as fusion. How much should be expended each year? No one will really know regarding fusion until perhap 2016 when the $13 billion international fusion experiment in France is expected to attain net positive, but a minimum Department of Energy budget of $10 billion/per year (ten times current support) for the renewables, plus monumental incentives for industry to take the lead. are bare minimums. The problem, of course, is that effective commercialization of those sustainable options will take a generation (about 21 years) to develop and the global economy could well crash by 2012.
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So what is the solution? Go to the answers provided in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/). One magic bullet will not suffice. A range of super solutions must be integrated following the new will of the people. But you say, the old will was a disaster. What hope can there be for a new will. Well, if we all can make that crucial difference following those proferred Rainbow Vision, there can be hope.
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

YES, OIL HIT ANOTHER ALL TIME HIGH

The price of petroleum zoomed above $135/barrel today, and settled at $134.55 for the day. Why? Nothing special, only further signs that Peak Oil is near.

WHERE WILL NUCLEAR ENERGY BE IN TEN YEARS?

World leaders will continue to wrestle with North Korea and Iran, worry about radioactive terrorist bombs, the safety of nuclear power plants and where to put the wastes. The specter of climate warming will spark a resumption of planning and construction of fission facilities, each in the 1000 MW and larger sizes.

Smaller reactors, all fission, defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency as less than 300 Mw, will become more prominent. South Africa, with the help of China, is developing something called the Pebblebed Modular Nuclear reactor, supposedly described as inherently safe, and these could find niche markets. The Beijing experimental reactor is only 10 MW, but the South African designs are at 170 MW. Chinergy’s plan is to build a 195 MW module and a U.S. group is developing a 285 MW reactor. Perhaps ships and locomotives will someday be thusly powered. But these all will use U-235 (remember, there is only 1% of this in deposits). Hmmm, maybe bring back the breeder reactor? Read Chapter 1 of Book 1 (http://SimpleSolutionsBook1.com) on how I helped kill the Clinch River Breeder Reactor back in the early 70's when I worked in the U.S. Senate.

China plans to build forty new conventional nuclear plants by 2020, bringing their production up from 2.3% of generation to 6%. The 2050 goal is 150,000 MW of installed nuclear capacity, more than the 100,000 MW of the United States, the country with the current highest capacity. But the last nuclear power plant coming on line in the U.S. was 1996, with zero additional facilities currently approved. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that nuclear energy will grow from the 16% to 27% of worldwide electricity generated by 2030. All this is fission, the dirty kind of nuclear power.

Hot fusion remains at least two generations away, while cold fusion could power automobiles in your lifetime, or maybe never at all. Fusion will be cleaner, for the only nuclear waste problem will be tritium, with a half-life of 12.3 years, and there is enough fuel for a very long time. But the commercialization of this option remains today on the dreamy wish list.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yes, another news flash: Petroleum today closed at above $129/barrel, again, a new record high. This nightmare is becoming all too real. Well, bear with me on Black Energy, for next week I will switch to Green Energy.

Future of Nuclear Energy

In 2005, France was selected over Japan as the site for the next major international experimental fusion reactor. With part of this fund, Japan will be upgrading their JT-60 tokamak to superconducting operation. Greenpeace protested.

The $13 billion project is the most expensive international science effort ever to be launched. The 500 megawatt magnetic confinement reactor (remember, there are two kinds: magnetic confinement/torus/tokamak and inertial confinement laser) will be located near Marseille at Cadarache, and is projected to sustain plasmas to demonstrate fusion in 2016. It is reported that just the deuterium in Lake Geneva provides sufficient fuel to meet global energy needs for several thousand years. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor Project, actually formed in 1985 during the Cold War, announced its agreement in Moscow in 2005, and includes the U.S. and China as partners. Construction will take a decade, cost $6 billion and produce 10,000 jobs. Much of the remaining $7 billion will be for associated R&D and the group will be chaired by Japan. If successful, a demonstration plant will be built in the 2030’s, with the first commercial fusion plant expected in mid-century. Not to be totally left out, though, China took only five years and spent $37 million to build a superconducting tokamak, with India ($45 million) and South Korea ($330 million) not far behind on theirs.

There is an $8 billion project, called the Large Hadron Collider, scheduled to begin operations in Geneva by 2008. This is a particle accelerator nearing completion at the French-Swiss border, five miles across and 300 feet underground. The expectation is that the beams of proton will attain 99.999999% the speed of light and set the stage for the next new theory to merge quantum theory and relativity. This experiment shifts high-energy physics, for the first time, away from the United States, so we are, with some futility, trying to develop the International Linear Collider, an even bigger particle accelerator, for $12 billion. Remember, these projects only provide more information, and, as we will later learn, the annual U.S. Department of Energy renewable energy budget to kick our addiction to oil, is less than $1 billion/year.

All this super physics harkens me back to the Superconducting Supercollider, another particle accelerator, which took ten years of planning and mobilization to the point where tunneling and excavations were nearly complete and a laboratory staff of 2,000 employees were assembled in Texas…when it was summarily cancelled in 1993, because at more than $8 billion, Congress deemed it to be too expensive. Mainly, we had won the Cold War, and it wasn’t necessary anymore to show how terrific a country we were, plus, two Democrats, President Bill Clinton and Texas Governor Ann Richards, had no desire to uphold the legacy of the previous Republican administrations. This is yet another example of how politics can change priorities, sometimes for the good.

Finally, cold fusion. What is the difference between conventional hot and controversial cold fusion? Wired Magazine, perhaps, said it best, comparing the four stories high 300 million degrees Celsius, Joint European Torus (JET) fusion power experiment, costing a billion dollars, located near Oxford, England—with the $50,000 room temperature fusion laboratory of Edmund Storms in Santa Fe, Mexico. Size and cost! Storms maintains an international cold fusion data base (http://home.netcom.com/~storms2/). Oh, maybe there will never be such a thing as cold fusion. But we don’t know for sure, yet, and I, frankly, think it will be re-invented again, and soon. I might further add that I consider fusion, hot and cold, to be white energy.
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Monday, May 19, 2008

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS MAKE BEST SELLING LIST

Just had to share this because it might well be the last time this happens:

Island Life
Posted on: Sunday, May 18, 2008
The Honolulu Advertiser
BEST-SELLERS IN HAWAI'I

This list is a rotating compilation by local booksellers. This week; retail sales at Bestsellers, Bishop Square for May 5-10.

FICTION
1. "The Hollow" by Nora Roberts
2. "The Breakup Queen" by Hawai'i writers
3. "The Devil Who Tamed Her" by Johanna Lindsey
4. "Honolulu Stories" edited by Gavan Daws and Bennett Hymer
5. "The Whole Truth" by David Baldacci
6. "Invisible Prey" by John Sandford
7. "Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Betrayal" by Eric Van Lustbader
8. "Phantom Prey" by John Sandford
9. "The Appeal" by John Grisham
10. "Simple Genius" by David Baldacci

NONFICTION
1. "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch
2. "Simple Solutions for Humanity" by Patrick K. Takahashi
3. "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle
4. "Simple Solutions: For Planet Earth, Book 1" by Patrick K. Takahashi
5. "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle
6. "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne
7. "A Dash of Aloha" by Kapi'olani Community College
8. "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert
9. "Just Who Will You Be?" by Maria Shriver
10. "The Companies We Keep" by Bob Sigall

I should add that it just so happened that my book signing was at Best Sellers around that week. But, at least I'm temporarily famous. Aloha.

ABOUT COAL AND GLOBAL WARMING

Yes, 40% of the world’s electricity comes from coal, but it’s downright shocking to report that the U.S. will build 280 500 MW coal-fired power plants in the 2003 to 2030 period, China will bring on line a coal-fired facility every week into the foreseeable future, and India is not far behind. These new coal power plants alone will add as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as all the coal burned over the past 250 years. Or, look at it this way: the U.S., China and India, three nations that do not adhere to the Kyoto Protocol to control carbon dioxide, are planning to build 847 new coal-fired power plants by 2012, which would produce five times as much carbon dioxide as the entire Protocol aims to reduce. How do we tolerate this madness? Simply, people just don’t care enough today. Is there a simple solution?

More than half of all electricity generated in the U.S. comes from burning coal. Your home refrigerator and electric range each uses 1000 pounds of coal a year. Hot water heater: 4000 pounds. Just this latter statistic makes a good case for solar water heaters, for this much coal produces 14,700 pounds of carbon dioxide. Forget about cars for now, how much are you contributing to global climate warming by taking hot showers?

Not to be ignored should still be acid rain and general air quality brought on by burning coal. The World Health Organization reports that in China and South Korea alone, roughly 355,000 people die each year from air pollution.

The price of petroleum continued to increase today to $127+/barrel.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

WHAT IS PEAK OIL?

When will we really run out of oil? In 1949, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among its centennial celebration articles, published M. King Hubbert’s paper, “Energy from Fossil Fuels,” where he noted that oil was first produced in Rumania in 1857, and two years later in the U.S., and expressed concern that the world would in a relatively short period run out of this fossil fuel. He had not quite yet perfected his bell shape curve prognostications.

However, in March of 1956, at the Spring meeting of the American Petroleum Institute, Hubbert, as Chief Consultant for Shell Oil Company, presented a paper called, “Nuclear Energy and Fossil Fuels.” He predicted that U.S. oil production would reach a peak between 1965 and 1970. However, he was wrong, by one year, as oil peaked in 1971. Lost in all the oil were his other prediction peaks: coal about 2150 and nuclear energy, for the next few centuries. There was a sense that fossil fuels would not be sufficient for the anticipated enormous increase in world energy consumption, and, perhaps, nuclear power was the answer, if “mankind can solve its international problems and not destroy itself with nuclear weapons.” He might well be even more prescient than we take him to be.

But that was all a half century ago. At the other extreme of guestimation is Matt Savinar, youngish lawyer with absolutely no technical training, for his bachelor’s degree was in political science. He is the author of Life After the Oil Crash, which he made available as a free download prior to the 2004 presidential elections. His website, by the same name, is the #1 “Peak Oil” site on Google. His message is simple: “civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon.” He accesses scientists and synthesizes a conclusion. We are not running out of oil, he says, but the peak might have already been reached (and if not yet, pretty soon), which is the problem, because the “price will skyrocket, oil-dependent economies will crumble, and resource wars will explode.” Could he be right? Absolutely!

So when will we reach Peak Oil? Chevron, the most arthritic of the oil dinosaurs, itself floated an ad saying that the world consumes two barrels of oil for every barrel discovered. In their web page (http://willyoujoinus.com) they say the era of easy oil is over. BP reported in the Year 2000 that world oil production per capita peaked in 1979. That in itself kind of says it all.

Former wildcatter (he found oil where it wasn’t supposed to be) T. Boone Pickens has surmised that we’re already at the peak. The head of BP Capital, a hedge fund that has returned 800% since 2001, he further went on to say in the Houston Chronicle on March 1, 2007, that Norway, Canada, Mexico and Russia are declining producers.

Thus, we won’t run out of oil, but we might have already reached the point when half the recoverable oil has been produced, that location on the curve called Peak Oil, and if not, we certainly will in the next few years. Then, oil becomes more difficult to extract and more expensive to produce. Compounding the predicament are two other impacting factors: the increasing demands from China, India and other developing countries, and the looming calamity of Global Warming. The latter happening means that liquid fuels from coal or the exploitation of tar sands and heavy oils, cannot be safely considered because coal, for example, sends more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than oil.

Petroleum remains at $126+/barrel.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Clean Coal

From all indications, our economy has quickly shifted, where the $100/barrel psychological cealing has now become a floor. Oil today seems comfortable above $126/barrel, even with a tad more production from Saudi Arabia and a suspension of additions to our Strategic Petroleum Reserve.


MORE ON BLACK ENERGY

Continuing some non-negatives of black energy from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/), let me provide some info about clean coal.

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS CLEAN COAL?

…yes, there is such a thing as cleaner coal. Not really clean, mind you, but cleaner than really dirty. Coal, when burned, produces heat, carbon dioxide and oxides of sulfur and nitrogen, which, in the atmosphere, can get converted into acid rain—sulfuric acid and nitric acid. The Federal Government and industry have invested $4 billion over the past two decades to develop technology to remove 99% of particulates and 95% of acid rain pollutants.

Some sulfur can be removed before burning by washing the coal, but most of it is captured, subsequently, but before leaving the factory, by using flue gas desulphurization units, or scrubbers. The scrubbing agent is usually simple limestone or lime, which, like a sponge, absorbs sulfur compounds.

Nitrogen oxides are formed by any fuel that burns hot enough. This is because 80% of our atmosphere is nitrogen, a gas that does not cause any harm, but at high temperatures, combines with the other almost 20% part, oxygen, and NOx is bad. It causes smog, helps form ground level ozone and makes acid rain. The best way around these nitrogen oxides is to prevent forming it. Staged combustion processes work, but scrubbers can also be used. Ninety percent of NOx can be removed by catalysts.

The latest coal burning technology uses a fluidized bed boiler, which is fed pulverized coal and limestone, and operates at 1400 °F (760 °C) instead of the more traditional 3000 °F (1650 °C). In goes the fuel, lime sponge and air, out comes heat, carbon dioxide and calcium sulfate—which can be used to make wallboards—plus 10% of the sulfur and nitrogen compounds. It’s not perfect. The next step will be a pressurized fluidized bed boiler, which should be able to generate 50% more electricity and take out more pollutants. However, the more complicated the technology gets, the finer you need to crush the coal, and the more energy inefficient and expensive it will be.

Ah, but there is an even cleaner coal technology: coal gasification. Basically, you burn coal under controlled conditions, produce mostly methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen, all which burn well, and use this hot gaseous mixture to spin a gas turbine to generate electricity and boil water with the exhaust gases to generate more electricity. 99.9% of sulfur and small particles can be removed. If the economics make sense, the carbon monoxide and hydrogen can be pre-removed and converted into plastics and other fuels. A plant in Kingsport, Tennessee is using this system to make photographic film and methanol.90

With great fanfare, in 2002, Australia announced ZeroGen, integrating coal-based gasification and carbon capture and storage in deep saline aquifers to produce low emission base load electricity. In mid-2007, the project collapsed, for no commercial backing could be found.

Nevertheless, there is yet an even cleaner coal option. Thirty years ago, I spent time at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, assisting on a project called “In Situ Coal Gasification.” We also looked at in situ (meaning in place) oil shale retorting and tar sands production. The process started as a Plowshare Experiment to utilize controlled nuclear reactions underground to break apart coal beds. Then, the coal (or oil shale) was burned in place (in situ), and methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen were tapped, with the carbon dioxide separated and geologically stored. This was mostly a laboratory model and planning project. Then, the use of nuclear energy became unpopular, so conventional explosives were suggested.

The really worrisome factor was the cost. When oil sold for $2/barrel in the early seventies, the economics of in-situ coal gasification were such that if petroleum only sold for $2.50/barrel, the concept would be profitable. Then, oil went up to $10/barrel in the later seventies, and, gosh, if it only went up to $12/barrel, billions could be made with this new coal technology. Well, oil is now more than $120/barrel, and, while there is no sign of in-situ coal gasification, yet, I can predict we will see some significant movement, first in Congress, then in Go-Co (government-company) partnerships.

This is one of the lessons I learned about next generation technologies. You can always rig the economics to look promisingly attractive, or, to be fair, honestly calculated to be favorable because there are so many unknowns. The reality, though, is generally lacking.

On the plus side, global warming should not be a dampener with regards to this option because any carbon dioxide produced can conveniently be stored back underground for later utilization as feedstock to produce methanol. Yes, the end result will still be more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but, at least you’ll be able to use this resource twice. A case can then be made about coal meeting any post-Kyoto Protocol.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Oil Hits Record High...Again

FLASH: Well, petroleum rose up to just about $128/barrel today and settled into the $126 range. Ho hum, another record high. Good a time as any to share yet another Black Energy anecdote from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://SimpleSolutionsBook1.com):


This story compares Exxon Mobile’s leader, Lee R. Raymond, who, in 2006, went into retirement with a compensation package of $398 million, with, well, me:

My retirement package was a simple pension, medical insurance and free parking on campus. Lee (pardon me for this informality, as I never met the gentleman) and I both graduated as chemical engineers in the early sixties, he, from Wisconsin (rated #1 in chemical engineering in those days) and I, from Stanford University (ten years later rated #1). He got his PhD from the University of Minnesota and went to work for the research office of Humble/Enco in Tulsa.
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I toiled in industry for a while, went back for a PhD, and then began teaching at the University of Hawaii in 1971. At about the time he joined H/E, it became Exxon. I worked in the U.S. Senate from 1979-1982 just after the second oil crisis and drafted sustainable resources legislation, including the original bill on hydrogen. I returned to the University of Hawaii and became director of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute in 1984. Raymond was made president of Exxon in 1987.
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Four years later, the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, spilling more than 11 million gallons of oil, the largest spill in the U.S. Raymond supervised over the $2.1 billion cleanup and Exxon agreed to pay almost $1 billion over ten years.
The University of Hawaii merely plodded along with budget problems in the 1990s, but my Institute annually generated more extramural funds/person than other unit on campus. During this interval, he was made chairman of the board and is known to have called global warming a hoax.
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I tried to form a climate warming remediation team, then chaired the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel. He wisely remained very close to the Bush/Cheney White House and helped found the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. But I helped initiate the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR) to form international partnerships in sustainable systems. I assisted in bringing a National Science Foundation marine biotechnology engineering center to Hawaii, expounded on the virtues of the Blue Revolution and continued to develop the future of energy, hydrogen and biomethanol.
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By all free enterprise standards, he was fabulously successful, for Exxon increased in value by a factor of five during his chairmanship. PICHTR has never really developed much, yet. Hawaii, nor the world, never really used anything I advanced. Lee no doubt worked every day of his life and, it is reported, averaged, with all compensations, about $150,000 per day during this period. I never got close to making that amount...per year.
Then, too, is he worth a $400 million retirement buy out? Such is the nature of our way of life and the energy problem. Is this fair? Well, life is not fair. But, maybe this is why we need some simple solutions. Perhaps if this book becomes wildly successful I will begin to catch up with Lee’s bank account.
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I’m writing this paragraph from Las Vegas, so it seems appropriate for me to work in a local citizen. Lee is a rich man, but, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who helped bring Las Vegas to Macau with the Sands, and more, only third on the list of richest people (to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet), for the past two years, has been earning $1 million per hour. One million dollars per hour! Poor Lee, only $6,250/hour. Wonder what Bill and Warren make per hour?
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Lee, I would love to meet with you someday to congratulate you on your achievements. Wish you well, honestly.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Energy Information Agency Predicts

In case I tomorrow happen to be in the hinterlands without any internet connection, let me share with you an official declaration from our U.S. Department of Energy as my May 16 blog:

EIA Reports
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
WASHINGTON DC 20585
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

At the Kyoto negotiating session, the United States and other developed nations agreed to individual targets for greenhouse gases in the period 2008 to 2012 relative to their emissions in 1990. EIA concludes that:

1. The carbon price required to reduce U.S. energy-related carbon emissions ranges from $67 to $348 per metric ton in 2010. Due to the carbon price, the average price of gasoline could be between $0.14 and $0.66 per gallon higher in 2010 than it would be otherwise, and electricity prices could increase by 20 to 86 percent.

2. Because coal is the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels, the price of coal will rise dramatically--between 153 and 800 percent in 2010 relative to baseline projections, and coal use will be reduced by between 18 and 77 percent, particularly for electricity generation.

3. Electricity generation by coal will be replaced by natural gas and renewables and also by the continued operation of many existing nuclear plants. Electricity generation by renewable sources will increase as more technologies become economic with higher fossil fuel prices. Renewables could capture between 11 and 22 percent of the generation market by 2020. Major increases are expected in wind and biomass gasification and also in geothermal generation.

3. Nuclear generation's decline will slow as it becomes economic under higher carbon prices to extend the operating life of existing plants rather than retire them, raising nuclear generation between 8 and 20 percent in 2010, compared to the baseline.

4. Gasoline consumption could be between 3 and 18 percent lower in 2010 compared to the baseline, and jet fuel consumption lower by between 1 and 16 percent.

EIA also analyzed cases with alternative assumptions about higher and lower economic growth, faster and slower technology change, and the construction of new nuclear generation plants.
Copies of Impacts of the Kyoto Protocol on U.S. Energy Markets and Economic Activity, or of a briefing paper What Does the Kyoto Protocol Mean to U.S. Energy Markets and the U.S. Economy? are available from the U.S. Government Printing Office 202/512-1800 or through EIA's National Energy Information Center, Forrestal Building, Washington, DC 20585, 202/586-8800. The reports are also available on EIA's Web Site at http://www.eia.doe.gov/. The full report is available at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/kyoto/kyotorpt.html. The briefing paper is available at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/kyoto/kyotobrf.html.

The report described in this press release was prepared by the Energy Information Administration, the independent statistical and analytical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy. The information contained in the report and the press release should be attributed to the Energy Information Administration and should not be construed as advocating or reflecting any policy position of the Department of Energy or any other organization.
EIA Program Contact: Mary J. Hutzler, 202/586-2222EIA Press Contact: National Energy Information Center, 202/586-8800, infoctr@eia.doe.gov
EIA-98-24
Contact:
National Energy Information Center
Infoctr@eia.doe.gov
Phone:(202) 586-8800
FAX:(202) 586-0727
URL: http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/press/press109.htmlIf you are having technical problems with this site please contact the EIA Webmaster at mailto:wmaster@eia.doe.gov

I SHOULD INDICATE THAT THIS WAS A 1998 EIA REPORT, AND, OF COURSE, THE USA CHOSE NOT TO COMPLY WITH THE KYOTO PROTOCOL. Thus, our supreme leaders, in their infinite wisdom, saved us from what could have been a catastrophic economic debacle in a decade if we had caved in to the international agreement. THE REALITY? At the ultimate high end, the EIA predicted that gasoline would increase by $0.66/gallon by 2010. The truth is that two years earlier, 2008, the price of gasoline has already increased from $1.30/gallon (1998 price) to something approaching $4/gallon, or $2.70/gallon. Need I say more?
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Wind Power and Biomass in Nevada

In my constant search for sustainable energy and resources, I've found an excellent spot for wind power. The entire region from Las Vegas to Mesquite must have constant winds at 25-35 MPH. The van was regularly challenged on our way to the fastest growing city in Nevada, which happens to be Mesquite. Or perhaps the constancy is only at the Canyons Golf Course. Kenji Sumida and I each scored 107, and this with gimmee putts from 5 feet and a few personalized mulligans. The high nutrient recycled water fairways were certainly lush and green.

Back to Black Power, the price of oil seems to have stabilized at $124+/barrel. The hotel lobby computer barely works, and some fans have complained that my blog was too much like my Book 1 (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/), so that's all folks. Aloha.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Excerpts from Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth
(http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/)

Nuclear Energy

The nuclear option could well be the solution to our energy problems. After all, the Sun fuses hydrogen to give us solar energy. Why, then, not us? Then again, there is the specter of nuclear holocaust, the dirty bomb and terrorists. That double-edged sword will continue to torment this alternative.

On February 7, 2006, The Oakland Tribune reported that for the first time in more than 20 years U.S. nuclear weapons scientists began designs for a new hydrogen bomb. On July 2 of that year I realized for the first time how close I lived to thermonuclear annihilation. In the 150th anniversary issue of The Honolulu Advertiser, on page CC-19, was a horrific night photo of Honolulu with a huge fireball in the background.315. This was Teak Redstone, a 3.8x106 million ton hydrogen bomb blast of August 1, 1958, which occurred 48.3 miles above Johnson Island, located 800 miles south of Hawaii. It was reported that animals 300 miles away were blinded, permanently. This was rather puny, as H-Bombs go, for in 1954 we detonated a 13.6 megaton version over the Marshall Islands, and in 1961 the Soviet Union exploded a 50 megaton bomb over Novaya Zemlya Island in northern Russia above the Arctic Circle. These were the days when nuclear experiments were done in secrecy, so no one in Hawaii even knew this was coming. Eleven days later came a second detonation, but this one was announced ahead of time, and became the equivalent of a July 4th fireworks show, with picnics and jockeying for good views. I don’t remember all this, for I was by then on my way to Stanford University for my freshman year.

On July 9, 1962, a mere 1.5 megaton 400 kilometer height burst, code-named Starfish Prime, inspired hotels in Hawaii to advertise the “rainbow bomb,” and hosted roof parties.78 But, wow, streetlights blinked out, telephone service failed, and the strong electromagnetic pulse also crippled seven earth satellites. Much of this was kept classified until quite recently. You think, perhaps, Jong-Il Kim of North Korea now might have a relatively safe target to consider? He probably would not want to take a chance, but he does interact with Middle East terrorists looking for something more spectacular than 9/11. Why not wipe out all satellite capabilities? On the other hand, they don’t have the H-Bomb, just, maybe, the A-Bomb, which cannot perpetrate this kind of damage. But good enough reason to terminate the intentions of North Korea and Iran now before they graduate to the H-Bomb.

By 1962 I was back and working in Naalehu, the southernmost point of the USA. While an airline pilot flying over Diamond Head described the nuclear explosion of the November 2 version to be “an unbelievable rising sunset…, with rainbow etched in a frightening arc…then a lavender-white end to everything,” even this, I don’t remember. Today, notwithstanding the dreadful consequences, I, too, would have been up with a glass of Chardonnay in hand, not to toast the spectacle, but to enhance the experience.

Now to mundaneity, there are only five points to make regarding the potential of nuclear power. First, conventional (meaning fission—splitting large elements like uranium) nuclear power plants will see a rebirth because the combined high price of oil/natural gas and threat of global climate change will compel decision-makers to reconsider and advance this option. Second, fusion (meaning combining hydrogen, as our Sun does, to provide energy) power will continue to be developed..for many decades to come. Third, cold fusion will keep coming back in many guises. There is something about this concept that intrigus me. The fourth issue is where to safely store all the dangerously radioactive fission waste. And fifth, the dirty (meaning radioactively potent) terrorist bomb could well become a guerilla weapon of choice in populated areas, water supplies and so on.

Petroleum seems to be settling below $125/barrel today. Still amazing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Black Nuclear Energy

There should be no racial connotations to black versus white energy. Coal and oil are black-colored and sunlight is white light. Remember, though, that our Sun is nuclear powered, fusing hydrogen to produce heat. But this is white nuclear energy: fusion. Black nuclear energy is fission, from the breakdown of large atoms, like uranium and plutonium.

The Atomic bomb is a fission device, while the Hydrogen bomb is a fusion explosion. The half lives of the products of fission are as long as how long homo sapiens have existed, on the order of hundreds of thousands of years. This means that after that period, half the radioactivity is still there. Tritium is produced from fusion, and the half life is about a dozen years.

This then leads to fission power versus fusion power. I'll elaborate tomorrow.-

The price of petroleum is just below $126/barrel. Interestingly enough, the price of uranium six months ago was more than $90/pound. Today? $65/pound.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Black Energy

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (Book 1) (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/) considers black energy to be all fossil fuels and nuclear fission. While the price of oil today settled into the $123/barrel range, coal, too, I should have earlier reported, has been surging. They blame China, which until recently exported the stuff, but is now importing. Higher coal prices of course mean higher electricity bills.

How much does coal cost? Five cents per pound. What can you buy today for that price? Of course, now you need to ship the stuff, which adds a new term to your energy lexicon: carbon footprint. Now, rock stars are criticized for flying long distances, thus adding carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Local foods are further in vogue because the carbon footprint is low. Shipping Castello blue cheese from Europe is incurring some wrath. Coal, too, suffers from having to move the bulk.

I once worked for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on in situ coal gasification. This Latin term means processing the coal in place, underground, by cracking it (originally using nuclear energy in the Plowshare Program...but when I was involved with conventional explosives to avoid public backlash), producing methane and hydrogen, but, also a lot of carbon dioxide. No problem, pump the carbon dioxide back into the ground, thus cracking more coal. Someday, even this carbon dioxide might be used to produce methanol. The problem was that the process was too expensive and risky. But with oil at $123/barrel, it's worth another look.

Incidentally, gasoline is ten times more expensive than coal on a weight basis. Comparing BTU/pound, coal provides five times more energy than natural gas. However, with regard to effective energy, coal produces twice the amount of carbon dioxide than natural gas. Getting lost in all these numbers? Book 1 attempts to make sense of all this.

Are we reducing coal consumption because of global warming? Nope, the fastest growing energy resource today is coal. Again, China is blamed. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that just less than half our electricity comes from coal. By 2030, on top of expanded production, about 54% of our electricity will be coal-fired. That is 22 years from now. You can, thus, also blame the USA.

Wait a minute. What about wind power, solar photovoltaics, et cetera? Well, you see, that is the problem. Huh? Read Book 1.

Clean coal? All our presidential candidates take the higher road and mumble something about this potential. But, they are looking for votes, and America is the Saudi Arabia of coal.

But what about global warming? Well, actually, it is technically possible to capture the carbon dioxide produced by burning coal, then converting this gas into methanol, leading into the topic of yesterday. The economics today look terrible, so the prevailing attitude is to geologically store this greenhouse gas. Book 1 goes into an experiment we had in Hawaii to "safely" store carbon dioxide deeper in the ocean, but environmentalists went bananas.

Read Chapter One of Book 1 for the truth about coal. Tomorrow, nuclear energy.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Biomethanol, Inc.

No news flash. This is Sunday, and the price of oil remains at $125.96.


The following is an e-mail I today sent to a business colleague, in response to his advice. We have for, at least, a decade now, talked about forming a company to produce methanol from biomass. For now, it's best to keep names confidential, but anyone reading this and finding interest in our potential partnership is welcomed to communicate with me. (patkentak@hotmail.com).

Dear XXXXXX:

Thank you for your message. The biomethanol concept we discussed years and years ago is looking more and more sensible. If only we had the capability to have prepared the groundwork for leading the way. It's certainly not too late, and, to give ourselves some credit, the fiscal world is still not jumping into this field, so our timing, or lack of it, might actually be optimal.

For one, the farm lobby is so dominant that they will continue to insure for the continued use of ethanol for another decade. They have all those faciities already built, and they don't want them to suddenly become obsolete. As a sensible diversion, most are now touting converting the cellulose to ethanol, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which abandoned gasification/catalysis a long time ago, but kept the biological options open, is happy, sort of. I've talked to a couple of high level officials there who, off the record, tell me that they would prefer opening up the options to other biofuels, including back to gasification/catalysis, but USDOE headquarters is so infused with current politics, that NREL is prevented from expanding their activities. Internal discussions, however, have occurred, and the new president and the new USDOE might at least open a window.

The problem with the national policy is that the current Congress and Administration picked ethanol, and, first, they would lose a lot of face if they switched to another fuel, but also, all the language is in place for ethanol, and given these advantages, methanol cannot yet compete. I agree with you that Clinton/Obama will not shift away much from the current biofuels program, for they, too, have the same lobbyists working for them, or, who otherwise are influential because of campaign funding. This is all related to current investments (in ethanol plants) and importance for them to maintain a decent return on investment. Ethanol also seems to satisfy a sufficient majority for tackling the Peak Oil / Global Heating problem. Something is better than only fossil fuels.

The four reasons why I think methanol will eventually prevail are:

1. Methanol is a one carbon liquid biofuel, and plain common sense tells me that this is the optimal pathway because it should be cheaper to produce.

2. A couple of million dollar comprehensive analyses HNEI performed with Stone and Webster for the USDOE in the 80's were clear that, given biomass, methanol, is, indeed, the best option. How can you, then, not be convinced with gut feeling reinforced by reality?

3. Fuel cells. Methanol has a lower energy density than gasoline (and ethanol), but the fuel cell powered transport future levels the playing field, for fuel cells are more efficient than internal combustion engines, so, the miles travelled/storage volume remains about the same when you compare methanol with gasoline (and methanol is better than ethanol in this parametric comparison). Fortunately enough, the direct methanol fuel cell is soon to arrive, and some are even predicting that this device will soon replace batteries in portable electronics (iPods, computers, etc.) A larger DMFC is not here yet for autos, but, I would think it will just be a matter of time before breakthroughs occur. Why companies like BP went towards butanol is beyond my comprehension, for this fuel has even more carbon atoms, is more expensive to produce and won't ever be used with fuel cells. Methanol is the only biofuel capable of being used in fuel cells without an expensive reformer. There are doubts if ethanol will ever meet this test.

4. This I find hard to believe, but ONE GALLON OF METHANOL HAS MORE HYDROGEN THAN ONE GALLON OF LIQUID HYDROGEN. What does this mean? Well, the infrastructure, then, is already largely in place to handle a methanol economy. Hydrogen might someday become competitive, but that will be, at best, in the 2050 to 2100 time frame. Methanol is, indeed, the bridge to hydrogen, and only so mostly because of the eventual coming of hydrogen-powered aviation. A fuel cell plane, I read, has already been become reality, and if this alternative develops, that could doom a future for hydrogen. Thus, George Olah could well be right. There might never be a hydrogen age, because the methanol economy will never be replaced. But I guess we are getting ahead of ourselves.

What prevented progress in the past was an unfortunate PR problem, for methanol, because it served as the feedstock, got linked with MTBE, which is carcinogenic. Drinking methanol gives you a high, but also has a bad side-effect, blindness. Ethanol is my preferred drinking alcohol. Also, too, methanol was purposefully kept out of the national energy plan because there was a fear that, somehow, it would sneak in as produced from methane in the Middle East.

Ethanol has already, too, gotten a bad reputation because of the world food crisis, which we predicted ten years ago. The field is now shifting to fermenting the fiber. I saw an ad today in WIRED magazine touting the fact that it now only takes 10 hours to produce ethanol from some type of crop. Can you imagine the equipment, space and costs associated with such a facility? This one track mind for ethanol will only result in a second type of white elephant, the hydrolyzed/fermented cellulose facility, which will also sell electricity and, even, fertilizer. A few of these companies will succeed, of course, because the tax incentives exist, and methanol cannot compete unless also made eligible. But this is all so stupid because of eventual economics. Why can't effective decision-makers think like us?

Incidentally, there has been a sudden surge of interest in biofuels from algae. Certainly, as algae can be from two to ten times more efficient in converting sunlight into biomass than any terrestrial crop; grown in the ocean, there is no irrigation problem (and Peak Freshwater looms on the horizon); if fed the cold water effluent from the OTEC process there will not be a need fertilizers (those from oil); and with genetic engineering, who knows where this option can go--this has been my dream for a third of a century. However, I'm involved with a couple of efforts, and my current back of the envelope analysis indicates that the eventual cost of jet fuel or biodiesel or whatever will only be able to compete if oil rises beyond $200/barrel. At least one important microbial entrepreneur says $500/barrel might not be high enough. I have been promised an engineering study for my comment. So, like in ethanol, I'm worried that there will be a premature leap into commercial embarrassment. Yes, do the R&D, but, no, don't expect a magic solution within a decade. I'm euphoric about the rise of this option, but I've seen too many of these risky dreams in my time. Biomethanol is real and available.

So, what do we do? I still think our original strategic plan for biomethanol is functional, which is, to form a technical/fiscal/political consortium of credibility and competence. Gropower (I think we found a better name that took us away from electricity...I'll go search my files) would be this holding company to orchestrate three needs: insure for methanol incentives in a five years, arrange for R&D to fill the gaps and secure all the necessary patents. We probably won't see many financial rewards for a while, but our task would be accomplished if we can be bought out by an oil company or global entity. Our major purpose, too, that of getting the world away from ethanol to a more sensible biofuel, methanol, and in so doing, finding the right replacement for oil, will be attained. We can then go on to more challenges, like SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for life and death.

Aloha.

Pat

P.S. I'll enter this into my blog for today (while preserving your identity---thus XXXXs above) so that we can begin to gain interest from others who are equally concerned and might want to join in on our partnership. FOR THOSE OF YOU READING THIS, PLEASE COMMENT.

P.S., too: I did not mention much about how to gain any initial angel capital, but you are an expert in that field.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Life [10May08]

FIRST THE GOOD NEWS: The price of petroleum dropped below $26/barrel...oops...make that below $126/barrel...all the way down to $125.96.

Oil was ten times cheaper AFTER the First Energy Crisis in 1973/74. The price of petroleum was LESS than $3/barrel BEFORE this event. The average car then cost about $3,000. Gasoline in 1973 was purchased for $0.39/gallon and milk, $1.31/gallon. Thus, if each of these went up by the same proportion, these items should today cost:

Gasoline $16.38/gallon
Milk $55.02/gallon
Car $126,000

Does this make any sense to you? Read SIMPLE SOLUTIONS to understand what is happening.

Goldman Sachs just this week predicted oil going up to $200 in the not too distant future. How long, then, before $300/barrel, 100 times the price of the 70's? Remember, Goldman Sachs in 2005 predicted petroleum going as high as $105 in the "not too distant future," as an extreme super-spike. The industry scoffed.

The following excerpt is borrowed from the Introduction of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/)

MY LIFE

A good place to start is a little more than a century ago, for this is where I can trace my beginning to sustainable resources, the underlying theme of Book 1. Somewhere around the turn of the century—that is, 1900—my grandfather from my father’s side, returning to Japan from some education or training somewhere in the USA, stopped off on the island of Kauai in Hawaii to help build a 2.4 megawatt hydroelectric facility. You wouldn’t think there was electricity in those days, especially on Kauai, made popular by recent movies such as King Kong and Jurassic Park. After all, around this period, immigrant Chinese could not marry nor own property, and were banned from most shops and public institutions in Los Angeles. Even I can’t distinguish between Chinese and Japanese. What a hellacious time he must have had. Bigotry was a way of life then…and still carries on today in many parts of the world, including Los Angeles.

I was born on September 6, 1940, and grew up in Kakaako, a fishing village of Honolulu, only a couple of blocks from where in 1995, I presided over a ceremony to dedicate the International Marine Biotechnology Culture Collection, close by where the new University of Hawaii Medical School was to be built, and which is now in full operation. I graduated from Pohukaina Elementary, Central Intermediate and McKinley High Schools, public schools. Then I left Hawaii for the very first time in 1958 to attend Stanford University.

My very first job after graduating in 1962 with a degree in chemical engineering was, appropriately enough, in sustainable resources, more specifically, biomass processing, or to be perfectly accurate, working in a sugar factory. This was with the oldest company in Hawaii, C. Brewer, in Naalehu, the southernmost community in the USA, where I met my wife, Pearl, who was a nurse in the next town, Pahala.

When I joined the sugar industry I thought I was the first of my direct family line of relatives to do so. Most Japanese in Hawaii trace their beginnings to their ancestors being brought to Hawaii to toil in the fields. Turned out I was the second, for that grandfather mentioned above, I later learned, worked for Eleele Plantation, now McBryde Sugar Company, but on a very specific mission, to be outlined in the section on hydroelectric power.

So here I was in 1962, when this region of the United States, Kau on the Big Island, had no access to radio (in the daytime), nor TV. Even many of my classmates, who joined the Peace Corps to places like the Philippines and the Ivory Coast, could listen to the radio. But then, Hawaii had become a state only three years earlier. Today, C. Brewer is no more and the industry is virtually gone. So much for sustainability, but biomass, it is now turning out, could well provide a promising future for transportation fuel, as described in the biomass portion of CHAPTER 2.

In 1963, after a short stint in the Army Reserves, while on a C. Brewer trainee assignment to the Kilauea Sugar Company on Kauai, a newsletter noted my arrival. A very old man came up to me one day and said he had known my grandfather. My initial reaction was mild astonishment, as while I knew that my father had been born on Kauai, I don’t recall him talking much about his parents. That individual said my grandfather was involved with the Wainiha Powerhouse and was extraordinary, in that he was very well educated and served as a supervisor. Unfortunately, he died only a few years after arriving and was buried up on the hill above the town. My family knew I was on this island. Why had no one said that I should visit my grandfather’s burial spot, for the culture of even Hawaii Japanese, was to honor the dead. Then again, maybe someone did and I did not pay any attention.

Life on Kauai was idyllic. Pearl, my wife, and I lived in the middle of where the movie South Pacific was filmed. She even looked like France Nuyen, the actress who dallied with John Kerr, at the slippery slide pool, which served as our backyard. I remember Tommy Sands and Nancy Sinatra one day just appearing and swimming there, which was really a river with a waterfall. Hanalei Bay, the foreground for that fictitious Bali Hai, was down the road a bit. We had a 145 pound mostly German Shepherd, Pepper, who I bathed by tossing a stick into the river, which he returned to me for a soap down, then another toss to wash himself out. I can recall when he was 6-months old and had never swum. we drove up to the Kaloko Reservoir, just outside Kilauea. On his own he bolted into the water, swam to the middle—quite an achievement for a puppy, as that was around a 100 yards, and probably more—and came back. In 2006, this reservoir/dam system fell apart and killed seven people.

Well, returning to 1963, weeks later, this gentleman came back and said he had found the gravestone, which was outside the cemetery fence, and that he and his friends went on to restore the area. He led me there and took a photo of me with his daughter, two neighbor children and Pearl. I am today, 44 years later, now kicking myself, for I never really expressed my thanks to him. Only as I write this sentence do I appreciate the enormity of what he did, for I recently used this finding as the starting point for my roots search. Also too, I never bothered to ask him for details about my grandfather. I did, though, mail a copy of that photo to my older brother, Stan.

I pretty much forgot about all this until 2005, when I got a sudden urge to search for my roots. At this point, all I had were a few rumors. Yes, there was that encounter on Kauai 42 years previously and my first visit to the grave of my father’s father. Deep in my brain cells were wild thoughts of this grandfather being educated at Columbia University, his grandmother being a female samurai Robin Hood on Hokkaido…but no proof. And I still did not even know what his first name was. So the process of searching for my roots started at a one day workshop held at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. This is where I created the family mon as a composite of two classic versions. I colorized this official form into the rainbow version shown on the cover. The mon represents a high bridge (Takahashi means high bridge in Japanese, or long chopsticks, and both, as I think about it, would apply to the symbolism) to connect countries and people taking the high road to cooperation. This book hopes to serve this function. The cover for Book 2 will use a gold version of this black and white mon to symbolize the Golden Evolution.

In September of 2005, Pearl and I visited Misa Tamura, the son-in-law of that older gentleman, to find the gravestone on Kauai. Misa, himself, was well into his 80’s by then, and he asked if we also wanted to see my grandfather’s powerhouse, for somehow, the community even then, a century later, referred to the site as Takahashi’s powerhouse. The Wainiha Powerhouse was commissioned in 1906, and today produces 4 MW with essentially the same incoming pipes and generation equipment. Around this time, my brother, Stan, found the earlier photo and sent me a note that the name on the gravestone was Kenjiro Takahashi. Thus, I learned for the first time that I was named after this grandfather, for my middle name is Kenji.

There were still huge doubts on what was real until I had the good fortune to sit next to Elsie and David Ikegami at a 50th year Wedding Anniversary party of a mutual friend. David was born in Utah, was a Mormon, but lived most of his life in Hawaii. At the age of 80, he ran one of those Mormon family centers famous for conducting these root searches. I visited his office and passed on all the information I had, which was not much. Within two weeks his staff found a nine page document signed by the Secretary of the Territory of Hawaii showing that Kenjiro came to Kauai from America, was originally from Hokkaido, Japan, and served as a luna, or supervisor, at the Kilauea Plantation. He fell at the hydro site in 1906 and died in the same year that the powerhouse commenced operations. Well, with most of what I thought was largely made up now turning out to be true, the search was intensified with a trip to Utashinai, his home village, which I learned from two energy leaders in Japan, Fumio Ito and Takayoshi Ota, who were invaluable in unearthing kosekis (Japanese document providing family details), and will continue for Kenjiro’s grandmothers in Akita on Honshu and Otaru, just outside of Sapporo. Even if I find nothing else, there is enough already to write a book, tracing this possible female samurai Robin Hood great great grandmother to me. This one, though, looms as a novel.

My grandfather from my mother’s side also had an unorthodox introduction to Hawaii, for the mother of my mother passed away soon after her birth, and her father left her in Toyama, Japan, joined a crew on a steamer that came to Honolulu, and to avoid the authorities, literally jumped ship by swimming to shore, becoming a houseboy of the Waterhouse family, one of the pioneering local families with a lot of wealth. He must have been an illegal immigrant all his life, but, he, too, led an interesting life. I vaguely remember his hosting regular family luaus (Hawaiian feast), although he passed away when I was 9 years old. Still living there is his eldest son, Larry Yamamoto, my uncle, who, at all of 92 years old, is still driving.

Back again to 1963, after a year in Kilauea, I returned to the Naalehu, where I really learned practical engineering, for the first time, at the Hutchinson Sugar Company—how to weld, pack a pump and manage people. Also, in these small towns, you were expected to become a useful member of the community, for I grew up in Honolulu, where none of this was necessary. I became involved with the Explorer Scouts, served on the credit union board, and even, for their annual July 4th Fair, organized what I called The First Annual Battle of the Bands, which might have been the first rock concert held in Hawaii. It was a huge success. Oh, what an impresario future I might have had if I continued that thrust. I think I invented the concept. There were no such things as Woodstock in the early 60’s, where rock groups came together to entertain the public in an outdoor setting.

The social life on the plantation was particularly well lubricated with alcohol of all types, especially Ten High, the cheapest bourbon, which was usually purchased by the case. There were memorable parties where Mai Tai’s were fashioned using the basic ingredients, including, three kinds of rum (which is a sugar by-product) and sticks of real sugar cane instead of mini-umbrellas and pineapple. Across the street from the sugar factory was a bar which only served Budweiser beer and Thunderbird wine. I later (much later) in wine tasting sessions filled this wine (a screw cap fortified wine made by Gallo) into one of those small skinny bottles used for ice wines, and true sommeliers usually picked this $2/bottle as the most expensive of the lot being sampled, for they could detect the noble rot from what was no doubt a late harvest reisling.

It was already clear in the early 60’s that the industry was having survival problems, so, as a matter of strategy, C. Brewer had the foresight, five years into my nearly third world existence, to send me to graduate school, Louisiana State University, for it was the only sugar school in the world, even though what they wanted was to find future options for the crop and lands. LSU had basketball star Pete Maravich, a rabid football crowd and a different way of life than Kakaako, Palo Alto or Naalehu. I proceeded to complete a dissertation where I built a tunable laser before one could be purchased to zap the DNA/RNA bonds of E. coli in a micro reactor to sterilize or catalyze growth, entitled, “Tunable Organic Dye Laser Irradiation of E. coli.” This first involvement with genetic engineering eventually will lead to the chapter in Book 2 dealing with Eternal Life.

I received a PhD in biochemical engineering in 1971, joined the faculty of the College of Engineering at the University of Hawaii, and was told to teach computer programming, a course I never took before, with a story that is continued in the education chapter of Book 2. I obtained funds from the National Science Foundation to do some reservoir engineering for the Hawaii Geothermal Project. This episode placed into my memory banks the seed for CHAPTER 6: Six Hours to Seattle. Then the first energy crisis hit in 1973, I was well prepared for the future of renewable energy, Chapters 2-4.

Dean of Engineering John Shupe was asked by Governor George Ariyoshi to do something about the long gasoline lines. Shupe convened ten of his faculty. Each proceeded to pick an energy topic of his liking, and, as I had the least seniority, was left with wind power. I don’t think I had even seen a large windmill in my life, but just within an hour of reading, figured out that if the power obtained from a wind energy conversion system (WECS) increased with the cube of the wind velocity, Hawaii, indeed, had some potential, for we had mountains that channeled and amplified the trades. What this means is that if you had two sites, one at a speed of 10 miles per hour and a second at 20 MPH, the latter would produce EIGHT (2 cubed, or 2x2x2) times more power with the same WECS.

Armed with this awesome knowledge, I went to Washington, D.C. to talk to the Energy Research and Development Agency, the predecessor of the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE). Lou Divone was in charge of the winds (that was in 1974, and several decades later, he was still basically involved with this technology within the department in the same Forrestal Building), and I told him that Hawaii had started a wind power program. He literally laughed out aloud, reached behind his desk and pulled out an almanac, showing that the Hawaiian wind velocities were among the poorest in the Nation. But, I noticed that the measurements were only taken at airports, where you don’t want high winds. Such was the level of knowledge in 1974. He conceded that this was perhaps worth a second look, so suggested that, as there was a solar energy conference in Denver the following week, I should drop by and talk to the experts there. This story continues in the CHAPTER 2 section on Wind Energy Conversion Systems.

That trip in the previous paragraph was particularly monumental, for, while I don’t remember why, I first went to Miami to participate in the charter international hydrogen gathering chaired by Nejat Veziroglu. A couple of years ago I wrote a recommendation for him to the Swedish Nobel Prize Committee. Professor Veziroglu started and has been the continuing inspiration for the modern era of hydrogen. One of Nejat’s Romantics, John Bockris, also was there, and is credited with coining The Hydrogen Economy. It is this group that has initiated a campaign to “save the world” from Peak Oil and Global Heating, as reported on in CHAPTER 3.

I thus additionally got interested in the subject of hydrogen, but in offbeat ways. In the 70’s I spent some time at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on two assignments, sustainable resources and laser fusion, the latter mainly to extend my PhD research, and a summer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center to participate in a faculty study on extrasolar (orbiting other stars) planets. Fusion, of course, depends on isotopes of hydrogen, and the individual leading the program at LLNL was Edward Teller. As the H-Bomb was such a terrible weapon of mass destruction, Teller’s dedication to fusion for peaceful uses no doubt was his attempt to balance the morality problem. Regarding my NASA experience, it turned out that the quietest portion of outer space is at a frequency where the hydrogen molecule vibrates. This combination of seemingly disparate experiences with the first element in our chemical table, hydrogen, directly links me to CHAPTER 3, The Silver Bullet: Hydrogen, and a chapter in the upcoming Book 2, Seeking the Light: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

Over the next few years I taught, did sustainable resource research and served in various administrative capacities with the College of Engineering and Chancellor’s Office at the University of Hawaii. In 1979, I co-authored the Solar/Wind Handbook of Hawaii for the U.S. Department of Energy, but when the second energy crisis came, my conclusion was that the solutions to our energy problems could more effectively be solved through politics, so off I went to Washington, D.C. to serve as the Special Assistant on Energy to U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga. I helped pass legislation on a variety of sustainable resource measures, including wind power, solar energy, hydrogen, ocean thermal energy conversion and seabed resources. These areas all became the foundation for Book 1.

At the end of my third year in D.C., Paul Yuen, the new Dean of Engineering at the University of Hawaii, and I concocted a plan for future financial support of our projects. We decided to create our own funding agency. Thus, I returned to the University of Hawaii in 1982 and we co-founded the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR) to serve as a dual bridge: between academic research and the marketplace and between Hawaii and the Pacific Rim and Islands. Details on how PICHTR came into being are provided in CHAPTER 4 on the Blue Revolution. I also found time to tinker with electric vehicles, OTEC, energy storage and materials science, only to give them up on a hands-on basis when I was selected as director of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute in 1984.

Over almost half a century I have taught courses in environmental engineering, computer applications, technology and society and renewable energy. I have written more than a hundred publications in the fields represented in this book and edited the Journal of Energy Engineering. I have chaired/directed a variety of sustainable resource workshops, conferences, national panels and projects, and might even suggest that I was the principal investigator of more National Science Foundation research prioritization workshops than anyone else. I initiated Project Green Enertopia (CHAPTER 2) and the Blue Revolution (CHAPTER 4), and drafted the first hydrogen (CHAPTER 3) bill introduced in the U.S. Senate. I’ve also determined that one of my greatest flaws is starting something, but not making time to finish them. If you’re reading this, then this could be one of my first accomplishments at completing anything.

After fifteen years as director of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, I took early retirement from the University of Hawaii in 1999, and began to write a dozen docu-novels related to my academic experiences, which got me nowhere, because a writer has to focus. Taking a cue from my personal flaw theory, I think I solved this problem by integrating all of them into SIMPLE SOLUTIONS.