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Thursday, July 31, 2008

FIRST REVIEW OF SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR PLANET EARTH

There appears to be no hurricane/typhoon/cyclone activity today on Planet Earth. Of course, the Southern Hemisphere is in the depths of winter, so nothing there. But did you know that there has only been one hurricane in the South Atlantic...in NASA recorded history? That was, of all the names, Catarina (they have no set naming system in this part of the world, but this storm was heading for the state of Santa Catarina), which struck Brazil in March of 2004. Why so few such storms in the south? Something to do with vertical shear and lack of viable disturbances. Hurricanes, Typhoons and Cyclones are essentially the same, and when in the Southern Hemisphere, they rotate clockwise and in the north, counter-clockwise. There are, of course, very severe clockwise cyclones in the Indian Ocean, and most of the worldwide deaths from these storms occur in this region.
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Over the next few days I will provide reviews of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/). The first was written by former Hawaii Federal Prosecutor Daniel Bent for Amazon.com.
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Eye Opening to a Better Understanding of Alterative Energy Options, June 24, 2008
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Simple Solutions for Planet Earth is a must read for many if for no other reason than that its author, Patrick Takahashi, is a now retired PhD in Chemical Engineering who has spent his entire career in renewable energy. Among many other things, it explains in clear terms how the release of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 to 62 times worse than carbon-dioxide, from the continental shelf and arctic tundra could turn the earth's atmosphere into the 460 degree centigrade hell like the planet Venus that once had an atmosphere like Earth's. (By the way, the book notes that when Steven Hawking was asked his thoughts on the environment, he stated it was that the Earth "might end up like Venus, at 250 degrees centigrade and raining sulfuric acid.") Simple Solutions is a sometimes stream of consciousness personal narrative with frequent gems of insight from analysis of the post peak oil energy alternatives and their relative potential for actually being implemented. It is also a practical treatise on the national and international politics of getting science done. This book is a "must read" for any investor, policymaker, CEO, aspiring CEO or business student. Every citizen in a democracy should also read it. Alas, that's not likely to happen. You will read it now but find yourself referring to its gems of insight, history and fact for years to come (I finished it 2 months ago and already my copy has more dog-ears than a mid-sized kennel). Its informal and personal style makes its high science accessible to everyone including those who might think a logarithm is something you find in a forest. The book does need an index but its strengths in facts and science far outweigh anything a copy editor could do for it.
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Both oil and DJI dropped today, crude slipped to $124.18/barrel and the stock market down 205 to 11,379. Two days in a row now when they tracked each other. Rather unusual.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

HISTORY OF OTEC

OTEC is a proven, well-documented technology that extracts clean, renewable solar thermal energy from temperature differences in the ocean. While fusion has not yet reached that net positive plateau, in 1979, a group led by Lockheed showed for the first time in Hawaii that OTEC electricity was possible. The U.S. Federal government alone has spent more than $250 million on OTEC R&D. Japan, India, France and Taiwan have also expended many millions.

The early history of OTEC is all French. There are three primary production cycles: closed, open and hybrid. Jacques d’Arsonval, a French engineer, first proposed the closed cycle design, a system that used ammonia as the working fluid. You probably don’t recall that your home refrigerator once circulated ammonia, then Freon, which was subsequently banned by the Montreal Protocol in 1987 for causing ozone depletion, and today uses a more environmentally acceptable refrigerant, a hydrofluorocarbon. You can avoid any binary fluid by using the open cycle process, which produces the most amount of freshwater. This cycle was utilized by D’Arsonval’s student, Georges Claude, in 1928 off Cuba. As has been the experience with many ocean energy demonstrations, a major storm damaged the equipment before Claude was able to attain net positive electricity.

An early pioneer was J. Hilbert Anderson, founder of Sea Solar Power. He presented a paper to the American Chemical Society on April 9, 1975, entitled, “Sea Solar Power and the Chemical Industry,” which described his OTEC system, originally conceived in 1962. I recall meeting with him in the early 80’s when I worked in the U.S. Senate. Supposedly, the SSP design results in a system 8 times cheaper than the prototypes funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. I regularly meet with Bob Nicholson, who now represents that company, as he has for several decades.

The modern history of OTEC, though, is mostly Hawaiian, with a sprinkling of Japanese, although India was at one time ready to join the net-positive club. Mini-OTEC, a venture headed by Lockheed, reached a closed-cycle net output of 18 kW on a government barge off Keahole Point, Big Island of Hawaii in 1979. A few years later, a Japanese group succeeded with a 120 kW gross system, also of closed-cycle design, on Nauru, but was, like Claude, wiped out by a hurricane. OTEC-1 tested a one MW size heat exchanger and large coldwater pipe in Hawaiian waters in the 80’s, and a 260 kW gross open-cycle facility was built by the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR) at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) in the 90’s. The latter two projects were funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
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The price of oil jumped today to $126.52, just a tad over $3/gallon. However, the DJI jumped 186 to 11,584. Goldman Sachs predicted crude would hit $149 by the end of the year.
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No significant hurricane activity today.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

BILLIONS AND TRILLIONS

The Huffington Post today published my article on "Billions and Trillions." Go to http://HuffingtonPost.com, type in Patrick Takahashi in the upper right corner box, click on SEARCH and click on that article. The interesting thing about these posts is that there are instant comments. My posting on "Why Is There No National Energy Policy" drew more than 100 comments. Some of the responses are downright derogatory, so I ran a check on who these people were, and invariably, they were connected to the Heartland Institute and Cato Institute, which are funded by companies such as Exxon Mobil and Philip Morris. They are paid to undercut anything on global warming or renewable energy. Yet, there is something about internet portals such as the Huffington Post, for the concept can lead to exponential propagation of ideas to influence decision-makers. Protest marches are so last generation.
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Carl Sagan wrote a book entitled Billions and Billions. While we tend to get wrapped up in our own infinitesimal problems, keep in mind that it takes light 100,000 years (travelling at 186,282 miles/second) just to get from one end of our Milky Way Galaxy to the other end. The closest spiral galaxy, Andromeda, is 2.5 million light years away. Yes, if we can ever design a spacecraft to travel at the speed of light, it would take two and a half million years to reach our closest true galaxy. And, there are more than 100 billion galaxies in our universe. But let's think small.
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Modern man, homo sapiens sapiens, only arrived on the scene around 100,000 years ago. In a few years, the World population will approach 7 billion people. We first reached 1 billion just about 200 years ago, zooming to 6 billion in 1999.
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Apparently, Everett Dirksen never did say "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." Or, at least the Dirksen Center could not find anything in their files to verify that statement. Laid end to end, a billion one dollar bills would circle the globe at the equator four times. A trillion would take us from Earth to our Sun. One thousand billion dollars amount to a trillion dollars.
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How far does a sum of one billion dollars go these days? We are paying $1billion/year to Pakistan for counterterrorism. There is a billion dollar large floating golf ball (really a radar station stationed in Alaska) that spends many holidays in Pearl Harbor. Each space shuttle shot is supposedly about a billion. The Lighthouse, a 984-foot skyscraper designed by American architect Thom Mayne, being erected in Paris, will cost a billion. The Freedom Tower (1,776 ft) has been financed for $3 billion. Each Nimitz class aircraft carrier carries a $4.5 billion tag.
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What about rate of usage? For the past decade, the U.S. Department of Energy has annually spent less than a billion dollars for renewable energy research. The Bush budget for this coming year remains less than $1 billion. Farm subsidies will amount this year to $25 billion. And farmers are doing well because of the ethanol debacle. Our arms shipment to Middle East countries (not including Iraq and Afghanistan) will this year add up to $63 billion. We will spend around $600 billion this year in the U.S. on gasoline. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz (Harvard economist) estimates the cost of the Iraq War to be $3 trillion, that is 3,000 billion dollars.
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A few months ago, President George Bush requested a $3 trillion Federal budget, predicting a budget shortfall of $407 billion. But, it was this week reported that this deficit will actually be closer to $500 billion. Our overall Federal liability (national debt social security, etc.) is $57.3 trillion, or about $500,000/household. Our gross national product is about $13 trillion, while that of the world is $65.6 trillion (we are 20% of the world).
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How are our companies doing? Just four oil companies (Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips) last year earned $100 billion in profits. Quarterly reports show that record profits are continuing this year. In 2007, General Motors lost a record $39 billion, and Ford just posted a worst ever quarterly loss of $8.67 billion. Toyota seems poised to sell more cars than GM this year. Our airline companies are predicting a total industry loss of $13 billion this year. But we're talking paltry billions here.
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Going back in time, the Manhattan Project (to build a couple of atomic bombs) cost $2 billion, or $21 billion in current dollars. The Marshall Plan for post-war Europe cost us $13 billion over four years, or $80 billion today. The Apollo mission cost about $23 billion spread over 13 years, or $140 billion today.
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So if Peak Oil and Global Warming are so dreadful, why don't we just start a new Manhattan Project for a sustainable world? Well, the International Energy Agency last month reported that it will take $45 trillion to insure that our climate only rises about 5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. The Manhattan, Marshall and Apollo efforts combined, in today's dollar, only amounted to $0.24 trillion.
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Do we have a problem? Try dividing 0.24 into 45. You will obtain a figure of nearly 200, which means that for the world to take immediate action just to suffer an uncomfortable temperature rise would cost about 200 times more than Manhattan/Marshall/Apollo combined! Remember, the U.S. Congress this year killed the global warming mitigation bill and only included about a billion dollars for renewable energy research, while the G8 Nations in Japan weakened their resolve to tackle this problem. Oh, yes, our Congress, though, somehow, in no time at all, for them, actually found $300 billion to bail out our so-called housing crisis. What's going on? It really does not matter, for those were billions. The reality is that the $45 trillion IEA estimate could well be $450 trillion if you look closely at what actually has to be spent to control carbon dioxide by 2050.
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Yes, the Pickens' $0.7 trillion wind farm initiative helps and so does the Gore $5 trillion renewable electricity for the U.S. proposal, which most pundits panned as impossible. Forget about billions and trillions. Don't waste time with more or less taxes. Why not just take that quantum leap to a free Green Energy Age, as explained in my HuffPo of July 17?
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The price of oil sunk today to $121.90/barrel (or $2.88/gallon). Predictably, the Dow Jones Industrials jumped 266 to 11,398.
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Typhoon Fung Wong caused $30 million of agricultural damage in Taiwan and moved on to China. Nothing much else is happening in the East Pacific and Atlantic.
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Monday, July 28, 2008

HOW WE TEND TO FORGET THE REST OF THE WORLD

Yesterday I reported that there were no major storms in the Atlantic and Pacific. We have a tendency to forget the rest of the world in these sweeping statements.

It turns out that Typhoon Fung Wong (also known as Igme) strengthened to a Category 2 storm at 100 MPH and hit Taiwan on Sunday (our time). There were several deaths. Last month, Typhoon Fengshen (also known as Frank) battered the Philippines and caused several hundred deaths, with many hundred more missing (mainly from a capsized ferry). Then, of course, there was Cyclone Nargis, which reached a Category 4 storm of 132 MPH, devastating Myanmar on May 3. Deaths were initially feared to exceed 100,000, but it now appears that the toll is 22,000, with 41,000 missing.

In comparison, Katrina in 2005 killed “only” 1800 as a Category 3 hurricane. The most deadly hurricane in the U.S. hit Galveston as a Category 4 in 1900, leaving a death toll of 8,000. The second worst, another Category 4, struck Lake Okeechobee, Florida in 1928, killing 2,500. Katrina was the third worse in terms of casualties. The so-called Miami Hurricane of 1926 caused the most damage: $157 billion. Galveston is #2 at $99.4 billion and New Orleans (Katrina) #3 $81 billion.

In 1970, the Great Bhola Cyclone killed at least 300,000, and maybe up to a million in the Ganges Delta region of Bangladesh. Over the past century or so there have been at least ten cyclones/typhoons which killed at least 100,000 in Asia, mostly Bangladesh, but also India, China and Viet Nam. Needless to say, no American hurricane made the world top ten.

While we’re at this, the USA is also not close to making the world worst list in 20th century Natural Disasters, where #1 was a China flood in 1931, killing 3.7 million, a more recent one in 1959 killing 2 million, and many more, all in China, with death tolls greater than half a million. The 1976 Tangshan earthquake, also in China, could have killed 655,000. There was a 1556 Shaanzi (yes, China) earthquake, which claimed the lives of 830,000.

The United States (and, more specifically, from poultry and swine in Fort Riley, Kansas) was sort of responsible for the Great Influenza, the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu, because it started in our country and spread around the world. Anywhere from 20 million to 100 million died. In the early 30’s, famine killed 5 million in the Soviet Union. Droughts, epidemics and floods do most of the damage. Annual world-wide traffic deaths are around 1.2 million.

Those are partially man-made, but a true society inspired disaster of great magnitude is war. Forty million dead in the Chinese Three Kingdom Wars (184-280 AD), 36 million in the An Shi Rebellion (756-63) and 60 million in the Mongol Conquest of Asia/Europe (1207-79). World War I had a toll of 66 million (but many of these could have been related to the Spanish Flu) and World War II killed 72 million. The Iraq war has seen slightly more than 4,000 American deaths, but perhaps up to a million of everyone else.

Well, this has been a wild journey from hurricanes, but we do tend to exaggerate our own problems when the worst is occurring around the world. Read the Appendix of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://SimpleSolutionsBook1.com) and Chapter 1 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity (http://SimpleSolutionsBook2.com) for details.
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Oil upticked to $125.36/barrel, and, of course, the Dow Jones Industrials dropped, 240 to 11,131.
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Fausto was a Category 2 hurricane on July 20, but degraded into a trough, and, is today bringing a few drops of rain to Hawaii. Genevieve was a hurricane on July 25, but is now a remnant, still heading for Hawaii.
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

MARINE BIOMASS PLANTATIONS

The following is excerpted from Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://SimpleSolutionsBook1.com):
Marine biomass, microalgae in particular, has long been known to be ten times more productive per unit area than land crops. However, the more easily managed variety is something called macroalgae, such as kelp.

A good starting point is 1968 when Howard Wilcox of the California Institute of Technology, using U.S. Navy funds, initiated a literature survey of marine plants ideal for marine plantation cultivation. Macrocystis, the giant brown kelp, prevalent along the coastline of Southern California all the way up to Alaska, was selected. Experimental studies show that sugarcane is about the most productive crop cultivated today. The solar capture efficiency of this specie is about 2.6%, yielding close to 100 tons per hectare of dry matter per year. Macrocystis, in plot tests, has been shown to be 7.5 times more productive than sugarcane, and on an areal basis, 17 times higher. Taking a rough average, say that giant brown kelp is ten times more efficient than sugar cane in converting sunlight into biomass. Ah, the potential, remembering from early in Chapter 2 that if we can only secure 0.01% of impinging sunlight, we can replace all the fossil fuels and nuclear energy currently used. Large portions of the ocean can be utilized for this option.

The Wilcox unmoored floating ocean farm was conceived to be 400 hectare (just under a thousand acres) modules, with the kelp attached in an umbrella pattern 3 meters apart, with about 1000 plants per hectare. Modified Jacobs wave pumps were to be used to bring up nutrient rich fluids from the deeper waters.

So, in 1972, Macrocystis pyrifera was grown in an open ocean farm off San Clemente, California, not far from where now the Richard Nixon Museum sits. The energy crisis then drew the partnership of the American Gas Association (Gas Research Institute, GRI) and the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration (later called the U. S. Department of Energy), with General Electric Company as the prime contractor. By 1975, the design expanded and the enterprise became known as the Ocean Food and Energy Farm.

However, the multi-product concept of Wilcox was down-focused by the new associates to provide energy only in the form of substitute or synthetic natural gas (SNG) via the anaerobic digestion of the kelp. Although cultivation proved successful, for high growth rates were experienced with upwelled nutrients, inclement conditions dislodged the plants and caused havoc. The Offshore Test Platform, using a Navy buoy, was tried, but upwelling proved testy and the whole system was destroyed by a storm in 1981. The federal government withdrew its support and GRI continued to look at other macroalgal species.

Follow-up work involved the U. S. Department of Energy, New York State Energy Development Authority, New York Gas Industry Group and the University of Florida Regional Biomass Program, with seaweed genetics and new bioconversion technologies added to the research mix. By 1986, when the program was essentially cancelled, most of the work was occurring on land, using herbaceous and woody feedstocks, and had moved from the West Coast to the East Coast. GRI continued to support the effort at a low rate until 1990.

I recall interacting with Wheeler North (Cal Tech) and Michael Neushal (University of California at Santa Barbara) about regenerating an upgraded program in Hawaii, and, in fact, Professor Neushal’s son, Andrew, spent some time under my tutelage as a graduate student in Hawaii. Andrew submitted a paper entitled, “OTEC and Mariculture: A Review,” but not long thereafter returned home to Santa Barbara, for a reason explained in the following paragraph. He pointed out that, while ocean projects tended to be pricey, the cost to erect a building in Tokyo was more than $55,000 per square meter, while the offshore structure for kelp could be kept below $50 per square meter. The point here is that “land” or space is free in the ocean. Further, he cited the work of Oswald Roels, reporting that the electricity from a 100 MW OTEC plant would yield $34 million/year, but an additional $516 million/year for shellfish. In many ways, this paragraph underscores the attractiveness of the Blue Revolution, that is, the total product potential and the fact that it would be foolhardy to only produce electricity, at least in early efforts, to enhance the commercial value of those billion dollar initiatives.

I subsequently assisted Michael Neushal on a National Science Foundation sponsored Franco-American Workshop held in Baltimore, Maryland, which he co-chaired with Marlene Karakashian on Ocean Engineering, Biotechnology and Mariculture. More than any other scientific gathering, this is the one that planted the seed and contacts for a future effort to gain a National Science Foundation engineering research center in marine bioproducts, as described in Book 2. In the proceedings of this workshop is a statement reporting on related studies involving the work at Stanford by Irving Weissman on mammalian stem cells being bioengineered to cure cancer. In his 1993 cover letter, Neushal laments that the delay in completing the workshop report was due to his contracting colon cancer, which very soon thereafter overcame him.

In 2007, two Japanese groups reported on mega-projects to grow macroalgae for both global warming remediation and the production of a biofuel. An informal information-sharing coalition was attempted, involving Toshitsugu Sakou, who chairs one of the Japanese teams, John Forster from the State of Washington, researchers at the University of Hawaii and the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research. A year later, there is very little to report.
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Hurricane Genevieve, now a tropical depression at 30 MPH, has lost any cyclonic character, is continuing to move west, and a week or so from now will drop some rain on Hawaii, maybe. Nothing else particularly significant is happening in the Pacific or Atlantic at this time.
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Friday, July 25, 2008

TIDAL, CURRENT AND SALINITY GRADIENT ENERGY

Let me now summarize three somewhat obscure marine energy options, starting with Tidal Energy:

The great advantage of tidal energy is that it is totally predictable, and in some portions of the world, the daily tides, where crests occur every 12 hours and 25 minutes, caused by the revolution of the moon around Earth, and our planet around the Sun, can exceed 50 feet. Tidal movement has actually slowed the rotation of Planet Earth over the past half billion years or so from 22 to 24 hours. Why do some locations have such tides and others closer to a foot or less? Well, good question, and the answer is that astronomical factors, shape and depth of basins and inlets and barometric pressure fluctuations combine to create these differences. Glad you asked. Hope you now know why.

Tidal energy has been used since the 11th Century when small dams were built at the coastline for water to turn wheels to mill grains. If an estuary or fjord (natural reservoir) of sufficient size is at the coastline, it then becomes a relatively simple matter of placing a turbine where the tides come in and out. The 240 MW Rance River facility (1966) in France has been operating for four decades, China has several facilities producing a total of more than 11 MW. In Canada, the Annapolis Basin generator of Nova Scotia (1984) produces 20 MW.

There are ample locations in Canada {Bay of Fundy, where tides are 17 meters (56 feet), particularly Minas Basin, showing potential for 7,000 MW between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where vertical axis marine blades are being contemplated}, United Kingdom {Severn, 15 meters (49 feet) for 8640 MW}, Russia {Mezenskaya, where a tide of 10 meters (33 feet) show prospects for a 15,000 MW system, and Penzhinskaya Bay, 6 meters (20 feet) for 50,000 MW}, Korea {where Incheon “only” has about a 5 meter (16 feet) tide, but has completed a 480 MW design}, and Turnagain Arm, Alaska {7.5 meters (24.6 feet) for 6500 MW}. At a cost of $250 million, equipment has been ordered for the 254 MW Shinwa Tidal Power Plant off the South Korean coast, while the city of Incheon announced their intent to connect four islands to harness 812 MW at a cost of $1.9 billion.

The reality is that this is a limited option. A couple of nations will no doubt begin to build rather elaborate systems, but this is not a world saving option.
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Current Energy

Ocean currents keep portions of the land warmer or colder, and can be utilized for energy. There is some tendency to consider current energy as tidal energy because the flow of currents is linked to tidal fluctuations, so proponents sometimes highlight this option to be ocean current energy. It is reported that a 2.4 MPH current is equivalent to a 22 MPH wind site. Both would be super locations.
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The Gulf Stream carries 30 million cubic meters of water per second, more than 50 times the total flow of all the rivers, and has been estimated to have a potential of 25,000 MW. AeroEnvironment Company performed the Coriolis Project and proposed 242 170-meter diameter turbines to produce 10,000 MW. The Florida Current was used to produce 2 kW from a turbine suspended at 50-meter depth and UEK Corporation tested a 20 kW turbine in the New York City East River.
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Alexander Gorlov at Northeastern University in Boston speculated that the potential of the Gulf Stream was really 65,000 MW, and shared plans to construct a farm of 100 Gorlov helix turbines to generate 136 MW when the currents flow at 8.2 feet per second. He would like to generate hydrogen by electrolysis.
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The European Union has studied the potential of installing 100 vertical axis turbines in the Straits of Messina, between Sicily and Italy. In addition, the Japanese Kuroshiro and African Agulhas-Somali Streams have been suggested as having potential. My assessment: let’s see if anything is ever built of any magnitude.

Salinity Gradients

Salinity gradients can provide osmotic energy by utilizing the pressure difference at the boundary of the incoming freshwater flowing into the ocean, where a semipermeable membrane is utilized. The fresher the river water and saltier the ocean, the higher will be the efficiency.

The Dead Sea has an osmotic pressure differential with freshwater twenty times greater than that of seawater. Sidney Loeb has calculated that the cost of producing this energy there would be less than 6 cents per kilowatt hour. Another study tapping the Jordan River envisions a 66 MW power plant with capital costs of $9,000/kW and energy costs of $0.09/kWh.

Statkraft of Norway, in 2003 established the first laboratory dedicated to saltwater-power. In the U.S., the hydrocratic generator has been patented.

The problems are rampant, and include, imperfect membrane, high capital cost for plant installation and low efficiencies. Don’t hold your breath for any significant development.
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In Summary
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An excellent PowerPoint on all the above, including offshore windpower, can be accessed by going to GOOGLE and typing in Michael Robinson, ocean energy.
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Oil further sank to $123.26/barrel today. The Dow Jones Industrials ticked upwards by 21 points to 11,371. However, the world market tanked today. While this is supposedly related to their concerns about the U.S. economy, there are some ominous rumors about a subprime debacle, something of which I know not.
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Genevieve is now a hurricane at 75 MPH and is heading straight for Hawaii. But cooling and increasing shear should weaken her back to tropical storm status by Sunday. Anyway, this storm is still more than 2000 miles away.
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Dolly is now a remnant with winds of 30 MPH and headed for New Mexico. Brownsville suffered from a rainfall of 8.62 inches, while San Manuel got a foot. While nothing seems troublesome in the Atlantic Region, it should be remembered that Cristobal and Dolly justed popped up a day before they made landfall in North Carolina and Cancun, respectively.
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

OFFSHORE WIND POWER

Today, I continue the series of articles related to the Blue Revolution, which is Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/).
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The wind power section in Chapter Two mentioned various projects aimed at placing wind energy conversion devices at sea. Most of these, actually, are located in marshy, wetland, coastline areas which are not too deep. The problem with offshore wind power is that it is difficult enough trying to maintain a machine on land. The ocean brings salinity, hurricanes, and that three orders of magnitude (compared to wind) more potent force called waves. But, gosh, as most of the really attractive wind regimes could well be offshore, as in Hawaii, I wish a better system can be developed. Mooring will make the effort problematic, but the field is just waking up.
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One advantage of a dynamically positioned (no mooring) plantship, which would rotate in a gyre, is that a product such as hydrogen could be hydrostatically stored in a "bladder" and transferred to the marketplace. Not only are the best Hawaii wind sites located between the islands, but the ocean is currently free.

Also on the plus side, the turbulence faced by the land-based wind blades would be minimized (that is, the effect of mountains causing instability should not be as troublesome) at sea. Also it is possible that some ocean wind locations could be closer to the population base than mega wind farms.
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The problem with offshore wind farms of any size, though, is that they are commonly floated for the media and never get built. Environmentalists sometimes get involved against this option. Is there even one major marine wind farm in operation?

If you ever wanted to go to Stockholm, it is hosting an offshore wind conference from September 14-16 in 2009. It is reported that 4000 MW could be in European waters by 2010 and up to $20 billion invested by 2020.

I am bullish for this renewable technology, although much needs to be researched and developed. There is almost no current U.S. government funding for this option.
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Oil prices slightly rose today to above $125/barrel. The Dow Jones Industrials dropped by 283.
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Now Tropical Depression Dolly swept through Texas/Mexico and, at a peak of 100 MPH, dumped a foot of rain, and is now at 35 MPH and will further dissipate.
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Tropical Storm Genevieve, at 60 MPH, is continuing to move west towards Hawaii, and should become a hurricane soon, but will most likely weaken and pass south of the Big Island late next week. But, you never know.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

WAVEPOWER

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://SimpleSolutionsBook1.com), with recent updates.
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Wave energy systems are producing, maybe, one megawatt today. Many systems have been tried, and they have mostly failed. Much of the cataclysmic damage can be explained by the fact that water is 859 times denser than air. Wind energy conversion devices have been known to self-destruct. Wave machines are almost a thousand times more apt to do this, for they tend to be built where the waves are the most pronounced.

The United Kingdom estimates that 0.1% of the energy inherent in offshore waves can supply the world’s energy needs five times over, and another study estimates that the power released by waves breaking along the world’s coastline has the equivalent output of three thousand 1,000 MW power plants, where a good site can produce 65 MW/mile. Even though it lost an Osprey prototype in a storm in 1997, the U.K. began to upgrade its program, and the BBC had a series of ongoing programs into 2007, with the 400 kW Oscillating Water Column system in the Azores, spearheaded by the pioneers from the University of Edinburgh, as the most prominent.

Japan (135 kW) and Norway (350 KW) conducted the early demonstrations, and it was reported in the later 1990’s that a 110 kW Mighty Whale concept was still being tested in Australia for the former, while the TAPCHAN reservoir concept of the latter was being installed in Java, with interest shown by Chile, India and Sri Lanka. No further information seems now to be available today, which probably means that nothing much is happening.

Even Hawaii has joined the fray with a $4.3 million 50kW U.S. Navy project operated by Ocean Power Technologies. The project is expected to ultimately spend $12.9 million. Occeanlinx Limited of Australia in May of this year announced that they will provide electricity to Maui Electric Company from a 2.7 MW wave energy conversion system from about 1 kilometer north of the northeast coast of the island. This $20 million effort is expected to become operational by 2009.

Next generation devices include the Pelamis, also called the Ocean Energy Converter, being developed in the United States, which is described as a series of buoys; another American design using a peizo-electric polymer where deformation by the wave can generate electricity; the ConWEC (controlled wave energy converter) of Norway, a wave piston gadget; a national Danish attempt to develop a water analog for its successful air hardware, thus far whittled down to the Waveplane, the Point Absorber System, the Wave Dragon and the Swan; and the Dutch Archimedes Wave Swing, a series of linked mushroom shaped air chambers. If these sound Rube Goldbergish, they are.

My personal assessment of wave power is to wait and see. I am not optimistic.
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Well, oil dropped again today, to $124.42/barrel (or $2.92/gallon), the first time it has dropped below $3/gallon in quite a while. Predictably, the DJI went up 30 points.
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Tropical Storm Cristobal, at 31 MPH, is moving east, away from land, and could soon move east southeast. Dolly hit Southern Padre Island as a Category 2 hurricane, moved inland just north of Brownsville, and is weakening. Considerable rainfall can be expected in the next day or two.
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Tropical Storm Fausto is now at 40 MPH, continues to move west in a path to take it north of Hawaii, and will weaken. Tropical Storm Genevieve is moving west northwest on a path that, if continued, should take it north of Hawaii. Now at 60 MPH, it could well become a hurricane within two days. However, after that, a northern shear should weaken her.
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Eastern Honshu just had an earthquake, of 6.8 magnitude, but a destructive tsunami was not generated.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

THOSE SALMONELLA JALAPENOS

I’ll return to The Blue Revolution soon, but let me close the book on my June 24 article on the killer tomatoes. Looks like this outbreak has morphed into the jalapeno that might cause a mild illness. We blame China for a lot of bad stuff. This time we are holding Mexico responsible for this scourge. Thus, watch out for these fresh peppers, or those used in non-cooked/pickled products such as salsas and salads.

The toll is up to 1.251 in 43 states, and no one has died. Tomatoes have been cleared, but maybe not. How serious is this epidemic from jalepeno?

Trivial! Americans contract 1.4 million cases of salmonellosis each year. Ground beef from Safeway (Hawaii was included) was a source less than two years ago, although the company reported that NO ONE was affected. I would be wary of eating raw hamburger.

Each year there are 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations in the country directly attributed to influenza, or the common flu. Sixty million of us annually contract this bug.

Remember that previous article where I indicated that 1 in 20,000 eggs might have Salmonella enteriditis, which means that you can eat a raw egg every day for 57 years and, perhaps, catch this ailment, once? Well, the odds of you being sickened with jalepeno will more closely be related to your intolerance to spicy hot food.

Why am I even writing about vegetables and diseases? Well, Chapter 2 of my book 2, SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity (http://simplesolutionsbook2.com/), enters the realm of nutrition and medicine.
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Oil dropped below $130/barrel today, down to $128.15. Gasoline prices have now been dropping for two weeks, to $4.05/gallon. That's the U.S. average, not Hawaii.
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Tropical Storm Bertha is safely in the Atlantic heading east.
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Tropical Storm Cristobal, at 50 MPH, is still moving parallel to the Eastern Seaboard, but is weakening and could move slightly east southeast by Thursday.
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Dolly is now officially a hurricane at 75 MPH, and is predicted to hit in the vicinity of Brownsville, Texas tomorrow afternoon. Very heavy rains are expected.
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Elida is just about now providing some needed rain to the Big Island. Nothing much more is expected.
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Fausto has weakened into a tropical storm at 40 MPH and should soon become a remnant.
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Tropical Storm Genevieve has winds nearing 60 MPH and should strengthen as she moves west on the path of Elida towards Hawaii.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

PEAK OIL AND GLOBAL WARMING TODAY

I had a very satisfying book signing over the weekend at Borders Ward Center. Big thank yous to all who came, and to Diane DeCorte of Borders, who made the excellent arrangements.
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Let's review where we are today on Peak Oil and Global Warming. While the White House and industry in general, especially fossil fuel companies, remain almost arrogantly dubious about both, there seems to be a growing tide of concern around the world. (I even posted an article on The Huffington Post with the title, "Why Don't Republicans Like Fossil Fuels and Not Care That Much for the Environment?" Go to http://huffingtonpost.com/, type my name in the upper right corner box, click on SEARCH and click on my June 24 paper.)
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Oil prices last week dropped around $20 from the $147/barrel high of two weeks ago, and pushed back up above $130/bbl today. It's becoming almost predictable, but a slight increase in petroleum futures resulted in a slight drop of the Dow today. When oil goes up, the stock market drops. When oil prices fall, the market rises. The national economy is most definitely worsening, and Hawaii in particular will suffer the most, primarily because aviation travel, on which tourism is based, is totally dependent on jet fuel, which is largely refined from imported oil. When the First Energy Crisis hit in 1973, the U.S. was importing 35% of the petroleum used. Today, our foreign dependency is just about double that, almost 70%.
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Have we reached Peak Oil? It almost doesn't matter, for it not yet, with the expanded use of this resource by China, India and other developing nations, it is soon to come, almost surely jerking the price beyond $200/barrel. Wall Street made this prediction earlier this summer and both Goldman Sachs and Allianz (German insurance company) said this would occur in two years.
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So you say, big deal, we can then turn to Canada and Venezuela to increase tar sand production and unleash our greatest resource, for we are known as the Saudi Arabia of oil shale. Well, no, for coal and these options produce twice the carbon dioxide of, say, natural gas, and there are those bad things many have predicted from the Greenhouse Effect. I even joined in by taking an extreme swipe with my two posting in the Huffington Post on June 9 and 10 earlier this summer entitled, THE VENUS SYNDROME, where life on Planet Earth is forever destroyed by temperatures of 900 degrees Fahrenheit. There were few comments, very few.
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If that's not bad enough for you, re-read my blog of yesterday on hurricanes. And speaking of these storms, Tropical Storm Bertha is now in really cold waters east of Canada, but is maintaining sustained winds of 70 MPH, just below hurricane strength. Tropical Storm Cristobal drenched North Carolina and will move parallel to the Eastern Seaboard, but is projected to during midweek turn east, then southeast into warmer waters by the weekend. Hmm. Tropical Storm Dolly passed over Cancun, and is now in the Gulf of Mexico at 50 MPH and could become a Category 1 hurricane when it hits the Mexican or South Texas Coast soon after midweek. In the Pacific, Remnant Elida could bring some showers to Hawaii in a few days. Winds remain at 35 MPH, but the passage will be south of the Big Island. Hurricane Fausto, at 80 MPH, is somewhat weakening as it continues to move west northwest in a path that should take it north of Hawaii...if nothing changes. A tropical depression just formed today off southern Mexico, and, currently at 35 MPH, is projected to move west northwest, sort of the same direction as Fausto.
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

HURRICANES

Looking ahead, Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://SimpleSolutionsBook1.com) talks about hurricanes. This has been an unusual 24 hour period for storm formation, so let me attach here an excerpt from that book:
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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. Peter Webster and Judith Curry believe that there is an unambiguous connection between warmer ocean surface temperatures and increase in hurricane intensity.65 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.

Then, in June of 2007, Cyclone Gonu hit Oman and Iran. This was the strongest storm since record-keeping began in 1945. Even though oil fields were spared, the price of petroleum jumped past $71/barrel. Any excuse works for oil, but, the point is that something is happening to our weather.

So back to today, the Atlantic is suddenly jumping with storms. Tropical Storm Bertha remains unusually potent in those colder waters east of Maine and heading further northeast away from the U.S. However, out of nowhere, Tropical Storm Christobal suddenly formed off the coast of South Carolina…yes, not off Africa, and dumped some rain and caused heavy surf for the Carolinas. The expectation is that Christobal might intensify over the next few hours, but soon weaken and move northwest, with the eye moving parallel off the east coast. A tropical depression is from 23 to 39 MPH, tropical storm from 39 to 74 MPH and hurricane from 74 MPH. Today, Tropical Storm Dolly was named, forming just east of the Yucatan Peninsula in the extreme western Caribbean. Dolly should hit the Peninsula, weaken, then enter the Gulf of Mexico.

In the Pacific, Elida has weakened into a tropical depression, and should continue to move west, becoming a remnant south of the Big Island in a few days. Fausto remains a hurricane at 85 MPH and is still headed north of the Big Island. However, the odds are that he will weaken by midweek.
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Friday, July 18, 2008

SOME THOUGHTS ON ELECTRICITY

Al Gore sounded the trumpet yesterday: $5 trillion to produce 100% Earth-friendly electricity in a decade. The current annual U.S. Gross Domestic Product is $12 trillion. Go to http://hawaiienergyoptions.blogspot.com/ for the details.

Ten years ago, the average cost of electricity in the U.S. was about 8 cents/kWh. Today, the average price is approaching 11 cents/kWh, a 38% boost. Idaho only pays 6.5 cents/kWh (hydro and old coal plants are cost effective), but Connecticut is at 20 cents/kWh.

In Hawaii, the price of electricity in 1998 was 12 cents/kWh. Today, it is just above 30 cents/kWh. Maui is around 40 cents/kWh and Lanai is at 45 cents/kWh or so. Powerplants on the mainland rarely use oil or, as in the case of Hawaii, Bunker C and equivalents, the gooey leftover after jet fuel, gasoline and other liquids have been refined out of the crude.

But is this why electricity rates have soared in Hawaii? Yes, as while coal prices have doubled or tripled and natural gas has increased by a factor of 3.5, oil has jumped from $12/barrel to $129 during the past decade, a factor greater than 10. An interesting sidenote is that natural gas sells for $9/1000 cubic feet in the nation, while in Hawaii we pay $25 for the same amount of synthetic natural gas.

Gasoline in Hawaii on July 17, 2008 was $4.55/gallon, while the national average was only 44 cents less, at $4.11. Thus, Hawaii’s gasoline is only 11% above the national norm, whereas our electricity is 172% and SNG 178% higher. As we get frustrated about spending $100 filling our SUVs, remember that the general price of gasoline in Europe is over $10/gallon. Germany was reportedly $11.37/gallon a month ago. See my various articles on methanol versus ethanol, etc.

Back to electricity, then, should we thus switch to nuclear fission? Uranium (uranium oxide) cost $10/pound in 2000, jumped to $136/pound.a year ago, but has settled in the range of $50/pound. Thus, uranium prices have recently become metastable, plus there are the radioactive waste storage and terrorist worries, not to speak of trying to get anything like this endorsed by the general public. With our stifling traffic, we have been debating rail for 20 years. You can well imagine how long nuclear power might take. It is, though, a non-issue for Hawaii.

Windpower is surging, as government incentives have made this option competitive with coal and nuclear. You’ve of course read about David Murdock on his $750 million windfarm of up to 400 MW emanating from Lanai. T. Boone Pickens will be spending many trillions to build a 4,000 MW windfarm in Texas, which spurred utility officials to give preliminary approval for $5 billion to build new transmission lines. But in Hawaii, as we’re not linked to the national grid and winds come and go, some sort of back-up or storage complement is needed for this alternative to supply more than 20% of the total capacity. Ultimately compressed air or hydrolysis of water into hydrogen might someday be considered, but, for now, this is not a problem because we have the existing electrical production system that can in time be refined for this purpose. The best wind sites in Hawaii are on the open ocean between our islands, for the winds are channeled and enhanced, while the “land” is almost free. The marine technology, though, is not yet in sight.

Solar thermal has recently gained momentum in Southern California, as utility scale electricity is reportedly in the range of 10 cents/kWh. Numbers are widespread for coal, nuclear and wind, but, in general, something on the order of 4-8 cents/kWh have been reported for all three. If a severe carbon tax is instituted, coal electricity could go up to 11 cents/kWh and natural gas systems to 10 cents/kWh.

Geothermal power supplies around 25 MW on the Big Island, and worldwide can be produced in the 4-8 cents/kWh range. As a rough rule of thumb, 1000 MWs are needed for a million people, as in our entire state. There remain environmental roadblocks to geo-expansion in Hawaii. The combination of those who live in the Puna region and don’t want a lifestyle change, marijuana growers, Hawaiian religious purists, and those not particularly fond of noise (usually very quiet) and smells (hydrogen sulfide is a natural component of our volcanic emissions) have successfully fended off this option. The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute twenty years ago guided a geothermal effluent products program, where artworks were fashioned from glass made from the silica in the fluid, agriculture was enhanced with the available heat and the concept of Hawaiian geothermal onsens was featured. Details can be found in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/). This was the only geo-project popular with the local community.

Solar photovoltaics have hovered around 20 cents/kWh, and, even if the announced paint on PV becomes real, the cost will remain above 15 cents/kWh, with potential for 10 cents/kWh for utility scale applications.

Ocean energy? Wavepower is very, very risky and ocean thermal energy conversion remains to be demonstrated. We await development and hope for success, as, like geothermal, OTEC provides baseload electricity, plus, freshwater, too, if desired. Then there is the Blue Revolution. Go to http://hawaiienergyoptions.blogspot.com/ for the latest announcements.

The relative electricity costs vary quite widely, but a reasonable average in mid-2008, might be:

Cents/kWh

Coal without carbon capture……….…..…….…...6
Coal with carbon capture………………....….…..11
Natural gas without carbon capture………………7
Natural gas with carbon capture………………...10

Nuclear…………………………………...…………8 (waste disposal??)

Wind Power…………………………….…………5-7

Solar Thermal………………...…...…………… 9-12

Solar Photovoltaics.....................................15-20

So in quick summary, windpower is competitive, solar power towers and other thermal facilities appear reasonably close to prime time, but those next generation high tech photovoltaics concepts await realization. So why is gasoline here only 11% above the national average, while electricity is 172% higher? To repeat, most powerplants on the mainland use coal and natural gas, while those in Hawaii mostly burn oil, which has experienced a price increase greater than ten during the past decade.
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Oil dropped below $130 to $128.88/barrel today. This is $3.07/gallon. The stock market loves this free fall as the Dow Jone Industrial Average went up 50 points to 11,497.
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-Bertha is back to being a hurricane again, but is headed in a NorthEast direction, away from the U.S. Whew, Elida is now barely a tropical storm with winds at 40 MPH and supposedly will become something called a remnant by the time it reaches a point south of the Big Island. But Fausto is now a hurricane, and is moving an unusual path in the NorthWest direction.
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

THE FREE HYDROGEN AND ELECTRICITY AGE (Part 4)

To recap parts 1 to 3, the FREE Hydrogen Age was advocated as a solution to be considered if the world got suddenly clobbered by the combined hammer of Peak Oil and Global Warming, triggering a global depression. Certainly, under business as usual conditions, the notion of FREE hydrogen, or FREE anything, would only draw ridicule. These posts were also carried in The Huffington Post (http://HuffingtonPost.com).
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Last week, at the G8 meeting in Japan, our global leaders made what to some might seem like a promising declaration: cut carbon dioxide by half by 2050. The problem is that this is kind of what they also said last year in Germany, except, this time with weakened language. Is this progress? In a sense, one shoe (the environmental one) has, thus, fallen.

Regarding the other, Peak Oil and prices, former Shell chairman, Lord Ron Oxburgh, warned in September of 2007, that oil could reach $150/barrel, and in November, Usameh Jamali of OPEC said the same. Morgan Stanley was more specific, and earlier this spring predicted $150/barrel oil by July 4. Well, that did not happen, but, at $146/barrel, got awfully close the day prior. In May, Goldman Sachs forecast $200/barrel oil by the end of the year. A really hot summer, where millions succumb, plus oil at this lofty range, could well trigger a devastating economic plunge to set the stage for that FREE Energy Age.

I recall an AMERICAN SCIENTIST cartoon way back when where a professor at a blackboard solved a difficult problem by inserting "a miracle happens." Avoiding the hard question of who will actually make the command decision (I think the G8 group should be it, but that is another post) and how, let's say a miracle, in fact, occurs. A legal proclamation is made to make hydrogen free by January 1, 2020. How might the transition look?

First, it will be extremely difficult to provide unlimited free hydrogen by that date, but not impossible. The infrastructure is currently lacking. You can't instantly convert the ground and air transport system to use hydrogen. But that's not the point, for industry will do all it can and begin maximizing the availability of anything that uses hydrogen. With wind power and all the other solar options, made competitive by a severe carbon tax, facilities can be mass-produced to make free hydrogen. The supply should at least match the means to utilize it. Would electricity, too, be made free? Something to consider if generated from a renewable source. So, maybe we should be saying, FREE Renewable Hydrogen and Electricity Age. In any case, if everything works to perfection, only a relatively small fraction of actual energy utilized in 2020 will in fact be FREE hydrogen, or electricity from anything related to hydrogen, but this is of secondary importance, for an exponential trend will have been initiated.

The Free Hydrogen Age will need a bridging renewable liquid fuel, and the world, as I intimated in an earlier post ("What is the Best Biofuel?"), seems headed down a dead end bioethanol / biodiesel pathway. Either go to Part 2 of that article ("Ethanol versus Methanol") or Chapter 2 of my book on SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth found in the box on the right, and learn why biomethanol is the wise choice.
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Part 4 is now getting too long, so let me stop here. For Part 5, you can today go to http://huffingtonpost.com/, type "Patrick Takahash" into the upper right box, click on SEARCH, than click on Part 5, which will also be covered in this blog tomorrow.
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Oil is really dropping, today to $130.17/bbl. The Dow Jones Insdustrials are happy, rising 207 today to 11467.
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Tropical Storm Bertha is moving EAST, away from the U.S., and will turn to the northeast, weakening and moving north of Maine by later this weekend. However, Hurricane Elida is now at 80 MPH, moving west toward a position south of the Big Island. This is a good a time as any, to repeat the story of Iniki, which on September 8, 1992, was moving west, at a position 385 miles South Southwest of Hilo, when it became a hurricane. However, on the 9th, the subtropical high pressure ridge weakened, and Iniki turned WNW. On the 10th at 5 AM, Iniki was 425 South of Honolulu. This path continued until, at a point 400 miles South of Lihue, Iniki turned more nothward, than more east than west. In the early morning hours of September 11, Iniki was 130 miles SSW of Lihue. Yes, 9/ll is also a catastrophic day for Hawaii. At 3:30 PM, the eye crossed the south coast of Kauai just East of Waimea as a Category 4 Hurricane of 140 MPH, with gusts up to 175 MPH. The worth of damages today amounted to $3 billion, with 1,421 homes destroyed. A month later, only 20% of the electricity had come on line. Who knows what would have happened if Iniki struck Honolulu--as the pathway on the 10th showed a direct line to Oahu for a period--as the devastation could have easily been ten times worse. WHILE ONE DOES NOT WANT TO CRY WOLF ALL THE TIME, INIKI MAINTAINED A FAIRLY CONVENTIONAL PATH FROM MEXICO, WEST TO THE SOUTH OF THE BIG ISLAND...UNTIL SOMETHING UNUSUAL HAPPENED. A post-script is that there is one theory that Iniki actually began off Africa, moved across the Atlantic into the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, skipped through Central America (shrouded as a front), gained speed in the Pacific, and hit Hawaii.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

THE BLUE REVOLUTION (Part 1)

Over the next few days I will focus on the Blue Revolution. I would like to refer you to a blog by Doug Carlson (http://hawaiienergyoptions.blogspot.com/), who focuses on one aspect of the concept, OTEC, plus, of course, Hawaii's energy options. The following is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/):
CHAPTER 4: THE BLUE REVOLUTION

Our Oceans

Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the fifth largest in the solar system, having formed about 4.8 billion years ago. The circumference is 40,000 km (24,855 miles) and the mean temperature at the surface is 14°C (57°F). Earth has a Teutonic origin, but is only called so in English. However, it is Erde in German.

Our last common ancestor formed 3.5 billion years ago, a loosely knit mélange of early cells that later evolved into bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. The surprise for those who left school some time ago is archaea, which was first identified in 1977. Even today, software programs, such as Microsoft Word, gently provide a red underline when you type in “archaea,” because it has not yet been recognized as a real word. Archaea occupies its own division of organisms, but had a common ancestor with bacteria a few billion years ago. If we trace our roots to some ape, then deeper to microorganisms, we came from archaea, not bacteria.

Using a space analogy, astrophysicists recently learned that dark matter, something we can't see, makes up most of the universe. If you weigh all the living mass of the ocean, there is a lot more bacteria than all the macroorganisms (like fish and seaweed) in the sea. There is only a slightly lower amount of archaea than bacteria. Furthermore, there is more bacteria and archaea in the seas than the total weight of what lives on land and in the atmosphere. Worst yet, because they cause diseases, there are more viruses in seawater than bacteria. Thus, there are huge challenges to closing the growth cycle to produce specific seafood varieties. Go to APPENDIX A for more details.

Interesting that 99% of ocean microorganisms cannot be grown in a typical laboratory. Yet, by 2007 Craig Venter led a two year scientific voyage, trawling the world’s oceans for bacteria and viruses. He doubled the number of known genes in our ecosystem, revealing 6 million new proteins, and this, just from 200 new organisms sequenced to date.

Well, in the beginning, how did the oceans form? About a billion years ago there was one supercontinent called Rodinia, which broke apart 750 million years ago, and reformed 150 million years later into Pannotia, which split again 50 million years later, reorganizing as Pangaea about 275 million years ago, and, finally, about 100 million years later, began separating into the current conformation. Thus, we have had three different supercontinents, and, in time, will form a fourth and more when they all come together again, for we have another 5 billion years or so before the Sun engulfs us.

Seventy one percent of our globe at the surface is water, about 149 million km2 land to 362 million km2 (140 million square miles) ocean/lake/river. Three percent of water is fresh, but half of that is locked up as ice. If all the ice melts, the surface of the ocean would rise by about 76 meters (250 feet).

The added factor about our oceans is that it is three-dimensional, with 1.4 billion cubic kilometers (336 million mi3) of space in which to operate. On land we are pretty much only two-dimensional, with skyscrapers here and there, where the tallest will soon be 705 meters (2323 ft) when the Burj Dubai is completed.

The average depth of our oceans is 13,124 feet (4000 meters), with the Mariana Trench being the deepest at 36,200 feet (11,033 m), about one and a third of a mile deeper than Mt. Everest (29,035 ft, 8850 m) is high. The Pacific Ocean is twice as big as the Atlantic, and larger than the Atlantic, Indian and Arctic Oceans combined.

The coastlines are obviously receiving the brunt of any pollution, but even there, waste is mostly nutrient for most ocean biota. There are toxic dangers, but certain fish species, tuna, for example, supposedly tainted with mercury, are so because this variety feeds at a high trophic level, meaning that it eats fish which might eat other fish, thus concentrating mostly natural mercury.

Yes, certainly, cruise ships should not surreptitiously dump garbage, oil spills do occur and agricultural effluents can be pesky, but, as a whole, the ocean is in okay shape. It is important, though, that we keep it that way, and, in fact improve conditions if economically possible.

Over much of the ocean, the temperature variation is on the order of 10°C (18°F) or less, although the sub-tropic and tropical belt can vary by nearly twice that range, very useful for the concept of ocean thermal energy conversion. On land, the temperature can range from -88°C (-126°F) to 58° (136°F), or a differential of 262 degrees F. The ocean, thus, is a secure environment in terms of living conditions. There is a layer, called the euphotic zone, from the surface to about 600 feet deep, the limit of sunlight penetration, that has immense potential as our next source of food, natural materials and habitats.

Macroalgae can grow more efficiently than any land plant, for there are no roots that restrict its nutrient flow. The entire plant can absorb nourishment, plus, energy is not wasted building structural material to keep the plant vertical. A marine biomass plantation fed by upwelled fluids does not need to be fertilized (for the deep ocean has all the minerals needed for marine growth), nor irrigated. Plus, roads need not be built to transport the feedstock or the final product. Where there is biomass, there can be more seafood. The total system concept makes environmental and economic sense.

The operative term here is mindful of Francis Bacon, who wrote his Novum Organum in 1620, declaring that scientists prattle but don’t generate. Bacon was interested in the practical benefits. As an engineer, many times in conflict with big science advocates found on all major university campuses, who mostly enjoy observing and modeling, this chapter heavily leans in the direction of useful applications, as will the entire book.

The Blue Revolution, then, is this attempt at a monumental transformation, utilizing the ocean to produce products for humanity in harmony with the natural environment. It is blue to symbolize the ocean, as opposed to green for land production.
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Oil is further dropping, down to $134.62 today. This equates to $3.21/gallon. The Dow leaped 277 to 11,239.
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Tropical Storm Bertha, as expected, is now moving southeast, and has increased in sustained winds to 70 MPH. Hurricane Elida has strengthened to 105 MPH, and is still headed straight to Keahole Point on the Big Island. Effects could be experienced in just about one week. However, Elida is expected to weaken over the next couple of days.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

THE FREE RENEWABLE HYDROGEN AND ELECTRICITY AGE (Part 4)

To recap parts 1 to 3, the FREE Hydrogen Age was advocated as a solution to be considered if the world got suddenly clobbered by the combined hammer of Peak Oil and Global Warming, triggering a global depression. Certainly, under business as usual conditions, the notion of FREE hydrogen, or FREE anything, would only draw ridicule.

Last week, at the G8 meeting in Japan, our global leaders made what to some might seem like a promising declaration: cut carbon dioxide by half by 2050. The problem is that this is exactly what they also said last year in Germany, except, this time with weakened language. Is this progress? In a sense, one shoe has, thus, fallen.

Regarding the other, Peak Oil and prices, former Shell chairman, Lord Ron Oxburgh, warned in September of 2007, that oil could reach $150/barrel, and in November, Usameh Jamali of OPEC said the same. Morgan Stanley was more specific, and earlier this spring predicted $150/barrel oil by July 4. Well, that did not happen, but, at $146/barrel, got awfully close the day prior. In May, Goldman Sachs forecast $200/barrel oil by the end of the year. A really hot summer, where millions succumb, plus oil at this lofty range, could well trigger a devastating economic plunge to set the stage for that FREE Energy Age.

I recall an AMERICAN SCIENTIST cartoon way back when where a professor at a blackboard solved a difficult problem by inserting “a miracle happens.” Avoiding the hard question of who will actually make the command decision (I think the G8 group should be it, but that is another post) and how, let’s say a miracle, in fact, occurs. A legal proclamation is made to make hydrogen free by January 1, 2020. How might the transition look?

First, it will be extremely difficult to provide unlimited free hydrogen by that date, but not impossible. The infrastructure is currently lacking. You can’t instantly convert the ground and air transport system to use hydrogen. But that’s not the point, for industry will do all it can and begin maximizing the availability of anything that uses hydrogen. With wind power and all the other solar options, made competitive by a severe carbon tax, facilities can be mass-produced to make free hydrogen. The supply should at least match the means to utilize it. Would electricity, too, be made free? Something to consider if generated from a renewable source. So, maybe we should be saying, FREE Renewable Hydrogen and Electricity Age. In any case, if everything works to perfection, only a relatively small fraction of actual energy utilized in 2020 will in fact be FREE hydrogen, or electricity, but this is of secondary importance, for an exponential trend will have been initiated.

The Free Hydrogen Age will need a bridging renewable liquid fuel, and the world, as I intimated in an earlier post (“What is the Best Biofuel?”), seems headed down a dead end bioethanol / biodiesel pathway. Either go to Part 2 of that article (“Ethanol versus Methanol”) or Chapter 2 of my book on SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth found in the box on the right, and learn why biomethanol is the wise choice.

Part 4 is now getting too long, so let me stop here and promise a Part 5, providing the answer to a FREE Renewable Energy Age. Stay tuned.
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Oil dropped today, the most for one day since the Gulf War 17 years ago. At one point the descent was $10/bbl. However, there was some recovery to $138.69/barrel. Why these jitters? Economic fears, for one, but it also had something to do with how computers determine buy and sell. When the price dipped $140, the controlling software automatically sold, until human correction interceded. Or maybe it was President George Bush's press conference. But he only repeated his condemnation of the U.S. Congress of not following his leadership to allow our oil companies to drill for oil in our coastal zone, including ANWR. As a result, combined with IndyMac, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae worries, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finally sunk below 11,000, dropping 92.65 to 10,963.
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Tropical Storm Bertha, should turn east and south over the next couple of days, maybe to again become a hurricane, but is expected to move east and north toward colder waters away from land later. Hurricane Elida is just at hurricane strength, and should weaken, headed on a path south of the Big Island of Hawaii.
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Monday, July 14, 2008

ON OFFSHORE OIL AND THE HAWAII SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COUNCIL

Yesterday, I mentioned that David Block of the Florida Solar Energy Center was soon to publish something on offshore oil. Well, today he sent me his paper, entitled, "Can the U.S. Drill Its Way Out of the Energy Problem?" However, as he has not yet officially released it to the general public, I thought I'd merely mention a few points and ask you to contact him if you are interested in the details (block@fsec.ucf.edu). Dr. Block said:
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1. ...to the question from the title above: no.
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2. He provides some very useful information on oil supply, demand and reserves, and carefully explains why future oil demand will not be met.
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His key statement is: "Developing alternative energy sources has to be a priority and sound engineering principles must be applied to future energy resources." I might add that the important point has to be with respect to national priorities. In Peak Oil and Global Warming--call it PO/GW--the opportunity has not been provided to engineers to apply their skills. The problem, thus, is not a technical one, but political. Further, the fault is not particularly that of President George Bush or the U.S. Congress or oil company executives. What is lacking is public will. How then to influence the masses is the key to overcoming PO/GW.
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The electronic media, represented by blogs and papers like THE HUFFINGTON POST, might well be the solution, for they feature instant feedback and exponential propagation of ideas. Protest marches are so last generation. HuffPo is close to publishing Part 4 of my series on a solution to PO/GW. After that will come Part 5, which provides my current views on the ultimate simple solution.
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Oil today rose to just above $145.18, a dime short of the all-time record high.
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Bertha in the Atlantic continues to slightly weaken, and will soon head northeast, away from land. However, Elida is now officially a hurricane, with sustained winds at 85 MPH, and is moving West towards Hawaii. It is, though, expected to weaken over the next few days.
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Finally, I would like to introduce the Hawaii Science and Technology Council (http://www.hiscitech.org/), where Lisa Gibson serves as President. (lgibson@hawaiiscitechcouncil.org). I previously served on the board of two of their members (Cardax and Hawaii Biotech), plus, of course, still have a Manoa office at a third, the University of Hawaii.
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HiSciTech tomorrow (Tuesday, July 15) sponsors a presentation by Dana Christensen, Associate Laboratory Director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, on "The Energy Challenge and Opportunity." I will set up a table at the event, to be held at the Plaza Club in downtown Honolulu, at 3 PM, to sign my two books: SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://SimpleSolutionsBook1.com) and SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity (http://SimpleSolutionsBook2.com). Call Lisa at 536 4670. Perhaps your organization might want to become a member of HiSciTech.
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

FOSSIL FUEL LIQUIDS IN THE USA

Background

The world uses 85 million barrels (U.S. is about 21 MBD) of oil/day (31 billion bbl/year—7.7 BBY in U.S.). The U.S. imports 65% of the oil we use, or 5 billion bbl/year and will over the next year send $700 billion to foreign suppliers. Forty-five percent of our oil becomes gasoline. A SPECIAL CASE IS HAWAII, where 38% of all energy used goes to aviation. The national percentage is around 3.3%. The Nation uses 400 million gallons of gasoline daily at a cost exceeding $1.5 billion, amounting to $600 billion/year. The internet and YouTube have been besieged with stories on all the oil available domestically to make the nation energy self sufficient. The official numbers don’t support that contention. Plus, there is that additional matter of global climate warming, which tends to get ignored by fossil proponents. Why, then, this continuing controversy? Money, as just one month of oil in the U.S. is worth almost $100 billion.
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Internet Dreams

1. Bakken Formation

Discovered 57 years ago and located in the Williston Basin (Montana, North Dakota and Sakatchewan), a couple of billion barrels of oil can potentially be extracted. Oil is being produced today, but the formation is of low porosity and costs are high. However, if world petroleum prices stay above $100/barrel, expansion will occur. Yet, over the lifetime, the Bakken Formation will supply only about a month or two of the total U.S. consumption.

2. Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)

ANWR is located east of Prudhoe Bay in the North Slope. The controversy is clear: residents (including the Inupiat Eskimo occupants of Kaktovik located at the drill site), Republicans and industry want to drill, while environmentalists, many Alaskan tribes (including the general village of Kaktovik) and Democrats don’t. Around 3 billion barrels are potentially producible, maybe 4 months of U.S. consumption, although wild speculations provide ten times this amount. If President Bush could not ramrod this project through in 8 years, there is little hope for ANWR ever to get developed, as Obama is against and McCain is lukewarm at best.

3. Oil Shale

There are about 2 to 3 trillion barrels of recoverable oil from oil shale, more than double petroleum reserves. The U.S. might have up to two-thirds of this resource. I was a staff member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 1980 when legislation for the Energy Mobilization Board was enacted to form government-company partnerships for coal gasification and oil shale retorting. Nothing really happened because the real cost of oil significantly dropped from 1980 into the ‘90’s, but with the recent price surge, the industry is re-mobilizing. However, the cost of producing this fossil liquid will be at least $75/barrel, and, perhaps, more than $100/barrel. Plus, water is required in the processing. In Estonia, more than 90% of the water consumed in the country is used by their oil shale-fired electricity production industry. Finally, the killer is that the overall environmental outcome will be a higher amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere, and the carbon tax looms.

4. Lindsey Williams’ 75 minute sermon on the vast amount of oil off Alaska (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3340274697167011147). I was not impressed, but it was intriguing…and I watched the whole thing.
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5. Tar sands: not much in the U.S. Most of this resource is in Canada and Venezuela.
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6. Offshore oil is a particularly contentious issue, with candidate Obama agains and McCain for. This is that typical Democrat versus Republican issue. David Block of the Florida Solar Energy Center has indicated to me that he will soon publish a paper on this issue, so we will wait till then.
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My take on why resource estimations range so wildly is that the high guesses tend to assume that most of the oil in place can be extracted. The reality is that the actual recoverable and commercial reserve can be as low as one percent of that total. The uncertainty between the extremes results in all those optimistic prognostications. And, what about global climate warming?
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Tropical storm Bertha is beginning to actually move East, away from the U.S. New Tropical Storm Elida could turn into a hurricane, but should weaken as she approaches Hawaii.

Oil is selling for around $144/barrel.
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Friday, July 11, 2008

OIL HITS ANOTHER RECORD HIGH TODAY

The price of oil spiked above $147/barrel and settled just below that value. These are all-time records. Something about Nigerian unrest, a Brazilian oil strike and the continued devaluation of the U.S. dollar. As stated yesterday, maybe we have hit and passed Peak Oil.
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The Dow Jones industrial average dipped below 11,000 today and settled at 11,104. Gold is nearing $1000/troy ounce, at $965. Newcastle coal prices also reached new record high levels this past week. Is this recession heading into a depression?
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Hurricane Bertha is turning north and should head away from the U.S. towards Canada, but should hit colder waters and dissipate over the open ocean. Boris, just south of Hawaii now, is but a cloudy speck.
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Well, over the next few days I will complete the FREE hydrogen series with Part 5, where, perhaps, another renewable biofuel might be suggested as a more attractive energy form than hydrogen. Then, next week, I start on The Blue Revolution.
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

HAVE WE REACHED PEAK OIL?

Oil leaped back up to $141.65 today. Which made me wonder if we have, in fact, attained Peak Oil (PO). Let me go on the record that we reached this critical point today. Why?

The 48 lower states of the U.S. attained PO in 1970 (Alaska in 2003).

Venezuela ............1970
Iran ......................1974
Indonesia ..............1991
Norway .................2000
Mexico .................2003
Russia ..................2007

Kuwait ..................(2013)
Saudi Arabia .........(2014)
Iraq ......................(2018)

World oil discoveries peaked in 1960.

Oil production in million barrels / day
.................................Early ‘80/s Today

Saudi Arabia ................10 ...........9
Russia ........................12 ..........12


When will Peak Oil occur (current production = 85 MBD)?

Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (Ireland) ..........2007
Energy Watch Group (Germany) ..........................................2006
Matthew Simmons ..............................................................2005
Sadad Al-Hussein (ARAMCO) ..............................................2006
Oil Drum ............................................................................2005

But the U.S. Energy Information Agency expects world production to expand to 100 MBD in 2020 and up to 118 MBD in 2030.

From 1995 to 2005, the U.S. increased oil consumption by 3 MBD.
From 1995 to 2005, China increased oil consumption by 3.5 MBD

One problem is that some producing countries think that oil resources are oil reserves. From all indications, it is appearing that the Middle East countries have purposefully exaggerated their reserves by a factor of from three to ten, so that they can increase their quota. They apparently cannot increase production by much under any condition.

The U.S. Department of Energy in 2005 published the Hirsch Report, which underscored that it was absolutely necessary for a crash mitigation program to be initiated 20 years before Peak Oil occurs. IS THE WORLD IN TROUBLE?
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Bertha is now barely a hurricane and should begin to turn more East than West tomorrow.
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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

ON HYDROGEN AND REALITY

Over the past few years I have exchanged at least 100 e-mails with John Bockris, the man who coined the term, The Hydrogen Economy. The story is reported in Chapter 3 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://SimpleSolutionsBook1.com). This is a typical response, sent today, this time on the matter of hydrogen versus methanol. Today, the issue is whether we should abandon any bio-options for our energy future. Nejat Veziroglu (leader of the hydrogen romantics) and Jochen Winter (leading hydrogen advocate from Germany) have, now and then, participated in these repartees.

Dear John:

Thank you for your letter of 8July08. However, sometimes you ignore the reality of reality. It is the transition over the next decade, then, century, that will pose the greatest challenges. Certainly, someday we should be able to effectively sponge carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and, too, produce useful fusion energy. Perhaps the hydrogen economy will be the standard bearer a millennium from now. But we are not there yet, and might never.
For now, if you were to compare the total system cost of hydrogen or solar photovoltaics, from production, transport, storage and through end use, you will find that there are several bio options much more economical. Part of this has to do with the existing infrastructure, technology and government incentives. For ground transportation, ethanol and biodiesel happen to be two of them, as stupid as this may be, and temporary as they hopefully will last.
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The action ground is today through the next couple of decades, and I feel that there is something better than, say, ethanol or hydrogen, to serve as that bridge. It is far, far more economical to gasify/catalyze terrestrial biomass into methanol than any fermentative ethanol process. Let's toss away biodiesel as unworthy of discussion, and hydrogen gas is just not ready for prime time today. Europeans are finally waking up to this nonsense. In the U.S. our presidential candidates still support corn ethanol. Unbelievable!

I keep repeating that one gallon of methanol has more hydrogen than one gallon of liquid hydrogen (thus, having energy efficiency, transport and storage advantages) and that the direct methanol fuel cell will very soon begin to replace batteries in portable electronics, hopefully making the DMFC probable for vehicular applications in a decade or two. Think about this, please.
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There also remains the wild card of marine biomass, for, it is reported that marine microorganisms can be up to ten times more productive than any land crop. Plus, in the ocean, you won't need irrigation and fertilizers (if ocean thermal energy conversion effluents can wisely be utilized). Furthermore, our ocean space is currently FREE and available. However, the moisture content is high, so, with the genomic table, it is possible that someday some quicker fermentation process might win out over gasification.
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In any case, today, we can't throw out our bio potential in the mix of future energy options. You might ultimately be right, but there will need (mostly because we have a free enterprise quasi-democratic global system that loathes to make quick adjustments--did you read about the incredible declaration of our G8 leaders yesterday in Japan, where they actually backtracked from the wishy washy 2050 global mitigation pronouncement of Heiligendamm) to be a long transition period that will last 50 years and more, plus, how will your super PV system power aviation?
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Aloha.
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Pat
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P.S. I will this week publish my Huntington Post Part 4, ending with hydrogen versus methanol. You are encouraged to comment for the benefit of the international community. Coming from the person who coined the term, The Hydrogen Economy, perhaps your instant feedback can suddenly stimulate the world to groove towards hydrogen. I still think there is something about this new-fangled technology that can better influence decision-making. Parts 1-3 of my FREE Hydrogen series are already available at http://huntingtonpost.com/.
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Oil seems to be hovering at $136/barrel today. There is something about Iran firing off a test missile or two and the oil inventory dropping.
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Yesterday I reported that Hurricane Bertha in the Atlantic was starting to turn East. Well, actually, she should continue a mostly Northeast course, then more East than West on Friday. Bertha is a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 105 MPH. There is nothing much going on in the Pacific, with Boris now a passing cloud South of the Big Island.
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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

HYDROGEN AND OUR SUN

Before I provide Part 4 of Free Hydrogen, here is an excerpt from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth (http://simplesolutionsbook1.com/).
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Our Sun (74% hydrogen), it is reported, has used 2% of its hydrogen thus far (4.6 billion years old with about 5 billion years of life left). Where did the hydrogen come from? Well, a million years or so after the Big Bang, the neutrons, protons and electrons began to combine to form hydrogen. Gravity allowed hydrogen atoms to agglomerate, and after a while, the sphere became large enough such that there was sufficient pressure at the core to initiate fusion. After a while these stars blew up, reforming more hydrogen. Our Sun was thusly created using these hydrogen atoms as a third generation star. (It has been almost 14 billion years since the so-called Big Bang.) The surface temperature of ours is only 10,000 °F (5538 °C), but deep inside, where all those hydrogen molecules are fusing, the temperature is said to be 27,000,000 °F (15,000,000 °C).

Hydrogen has that supernatural quality to be many things to many people. Hydrogen is all-pervading (most abundant element in the Universe) and the foundation of all life (our Sun and all stars fuse hydrogen to produce light and heat). Is Hydrogen, then…God? (I do enter into the realm of the supernatural and religion in Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity-- http://simplesolutionsbook2.com/ )
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Well, the price of oil is really dropping, and, as of this writing is down to around $135/barrel.
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Hurricane Bertha in the Atlantic is still at 105 MPH, but not only went North...at this time, is actually heading East more than West.
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Monday, July 7, 2008

THE FREE AND CLEAN HYDROGEN AGE (Part 3)

This discussion continues the concept of FREE HYDROGEN.

Many of us demand free education through high school, good roads, a functioning military, public safety security, etc. Michael Moore’s Sicko reveals that even medical care is largely free in Europe and rest of the world. We pay for all of this, of course, through taxes. Is there something universal about a similar energy entitlement? We get very close with electricity, anyway.

Book 1 on the right provides most of the details in Chapter 3, but, to get to the current bottom line, the average family in the coming years will annually spend about $5000 on gasoline and pay $25,000 in taxes. It is possible that FREE HYDROGEN can be supplied if this household provides this same total, that is, $30,000 in taxes each year. The transition will be messy, and the devil will no doubt be in the details, but free transport fuel with the added benefit of a cleaner environment and more secure world would be worth it, even if a few extra dollars (in the form of a carbon tax) might initially be required. Ignore the semantics, call this an investment for your future and that of Planet Earth.

The total analysis, would, of course, need to include all energy factors, so let us look at the entire picture. Over the coming years, there will be more than 120 million households on average spending $8000 for powering ground transport, heating and electricity, or nearly a trillion dollars each year for energy. A 10 cent/pound carbon dioxide tax would increase gasoline prices by $2/gallon (even with this increase, the domestic cost at the pump will still be only HALF what is paid in Europe today) and coal-fired electricity by 8 cents/kWh. Note that under those conditions, wind power, solar thermal and future paint on solar photovoltaics can compete against coal-fired electricity. There is that added matter of nuclear power that needs to be considered in this mix. This extra carbon investment revenue to be generated could, thus, in addition, be more than a trillion dollars/year. This grand total of $2 trillion/year can thus be applied towards developing a free hydrogen economy, as outlined in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth. In time, the hydrogen jetliner, too, can be accommodated.

This is just a gross calculation, but the point of all these numbers is that government won’t need to suffocate the economy to produce sufficient revenues to support a free and clean hydrogen economy. Remember, according to Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, just the Middle East war will cost you, the taxpayer, at least $3 trillion.

The role of industry will be as an equal associate, possibly in government-company partnerships. Ultimately, by 2020, or certainly by 2050, when the technologies/infrastructure becomes available for hydrogen, either government will merely tax you an amount that you would otherwise be paying for energy anyway, partially subsidized by the savings to accrue from a lower defense budget (see HuffPo on “Well, Barack, We have a Problem…”), or a means will be found to continue the one-to-one relationship between the consumer and public utilities/energy sector. We thus can hopefully sidestep Peak Oil, remediate global warming, circumvent a global economic depression and minimize future world wars.

There is, of course, one huge problem with this analysis. We could be faced with these environmental and economic cataclysms today, or very soon, while it will take decades for a hydrogen infrastructure to develop, even under emergency conditions. Thus, while we must act now (and we really should have in 1980 during the aftermath of the second energy crisis), there, unfortunately, is a Catch 22 dilemma—a Free Hydrogen solution, even if deemed optimal, can only be invoked AFTER any mega crisis. That’s the reality of our democratic free-enterprise society. How, then, faced with this fatal flaw in our civilizational make-up do we implement this plan? No, a benevolent dictatorship is unlikely. Maybe the answer is not hydrogen, or perhaps we are doomed, but Part 4 is yet to come.

(This is #3 of a 4-part series.)
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Oil remained just above $141/barrel today.
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Hurricane Bertha has peak winds of 115 MPH and, while presently headed straight for the Carolinas, seems more likely to veer north. Arthur suddenly formed on May 31 just off the Yucatan Peninsula and made landfall that day. Next is Cristobal.
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In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Boris has dissipated and Hawaii awaits some rain in a couple of days. Tropical Storm Alma slammed into Nicaragua on May 29 and 25,000 people were evacuated. Tropical Storm Christina disippated on June 30 while heading towards Hawaii and Tropical Storm Douglas weakened just south of Baha California on July 4 and died at sea. Elida is next.
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