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Saturday, November 26, 2011

SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS: The Free Green Energy Age

This will be a double posting to complete my series on THE FREE GREEN ENERGY AGE:


Part 4 somehow got lost in the Huffington Post system.  The following came from my daily blog of 17July08.



To recap parts 1 to 3--carried in the Huffington Post--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, a generally did these articles.


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 by Sidney Harris way back when where a professor at a blackboard solved a difficult problem by inserting "a miracle occurs." Avoiding the hard question of who will actually make the command decision (I think the G8 group should be it, but that is another posting) 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 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 continues below, a few days after petroleum hit a peak price of $147/barrel.


Well, on 17July08 I published Part 5 of the series, and the final version is entitled not Free Hydrogen, but Free Green Energy.  I was influenced by many that hydrogen, per se, might not be the ideal fuel, but an assortment of clean options could well be.  I agreed. 

The Free Green Energy Age (Part 5)


This is the fifth and final article of my HuffPo series on finding an optimal solution for Peak Oil and Global Warming. There is a clear transition of thought from Parts 1 to 5. These points are covered in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.


Did you know that we will, over the next year, send to foreign oil producers around $700 billion to pay our annual oil bill, while we invest less than $1 billion on renewable energy research? What are our personal priorities? Americans annually spend $25 billion on video games, $80 billion on cigarettes and $100 billion on alcohol, with a huge subsequent downside on time lost, health and relationships. Problem #1: the lack of public will regarding critical national priorities, as, for example, on energy.

Further, the U.S. and Venezuela reached Peak Oil in 1970, Iran 1974, Indonesia 1991, Norway 2000, Mexico 2003, and Russia 2007. Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia will all reach this pinnacle around 2015. British Petroleum reported in 2000 that the world oil production per capita crested in 1979.  Interesting table from The Oil Drum:

CountryPeak Prod.2008 Prod.% Off PeakPeak Year
United States112977337-35%1970
Venezuela37542566-32%1970
Libya33571846-45%1970
Other Middle East7933-58%1970
Kuwait33392784-17%1972
Iran60604325-29%1974
Indonesia16851004-41%1977


It would thus not particularly surprise me if we later learn that Peak Oil occurred in July of 2008, or earlier. A telling sign is that the price of petroleum last week exceeded $147/barrel, the highest ever, then crashed $10 on Tuesday, showing a dangerous metastable predilection. The Dow Jones Industrials reacted by dipping below 11,000, now officially a bear market, dropping from the 14,165 in October. What will happen when oil reaches $200/barrel?

Part of the problem with global warming is that people don't get too excited about a tenth of a degree temperature increase each year or a small fraction of an inch sea level rise, unless you happen to live on an atoll. In my two posts on The Venus Syndrome, though, I discussed the prospects of a terminal cascade effect leading to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Also too, to feed your future nightmares, if all the ice melts, the ocean will elevate by as much as 250 feet.

While these worst case scenarios are sufficiently distant in the future to worry us, a few enterprising spirits are beginning to get concerned. T. Boone Pickens, a Republican and oil man, proposed a trillion dollar wind farm effort (he later gave up when he learned he had to pay for the connecting grid, which about doubles the cost of wind power). Politicians from various quarters are now suggesting a range of next generation Manhattan Projects. 

Problem #2, yet, is politics, itself. Another T., Booker Washington, once said "there are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, and the other is pulling up." Today, our elected officials mainly concentrate on the former. Let's stop beating around the, ahem, Bush. Instead, focus on the latter, and, while we're at it, do something monumental, like making green energy free some time in the future, say 2020. James Hanson of NASA leaned in this direction when he advocated a severe carbon tax, but wanted the revenues directed back to the taxpayers, not government.

So, after four parts, the punch line is the simple plan: eliminate all energy incentives, even for renewables...forget about the carbon tax...just make sustainable and clean energy in 2020 FREE. A dozen years is close enough to be meaningful, plus 2020 is symbolically representative of good vision. We really should have initiated that energy Apollo Project after the second crisis in 1979, for now, the doom projected by some, is worrisomely close at hand.

Some might exclaim, what about those poor coal miners in West Virginia, or nuclear plant operators or economies of the Middle East oil producers? Not to worry, for wind, solar and bio represent on the order of 1% of our supply today, and traditional energy forms will be required for decades to come. What will, for example, petroleum cost? Don't know, but the market will determine prices into and beyond 2020. It's just that Green Energy will be supplied for free from that year. Who will provide this energy? Not sure, probably some government-company partnership. After all, today, electric utilities are already closely controlled, so this is not new. The primary benefit of this epic program will be to bring safe and home-produced energy to the consumer as soon as possible to minimize the economic and lifestyle trauma surely to come anyway. You see, we missed the boat in 1979 and will thus suffer some consequences, make that, possible doom.

A universal free green energy declaration will provide incredible opportunities to creative people and our free enterprise system. If you have been reading my various HuffPos, I have said that ethanol from fermentation will probably be replaced by methanol from gasification/catalysis; the direct methanol fuel cell will soon be readied to supplant internal combustion engines and batteries; wind power will truly surge; and hydrogen jetliners will be flying and fusion power will now be commercialized long before 2100.

But traditionalists will state, this is impossible...in fact, crazy. So be it. I provide a hint in my first HuffPo of May 29 entitled, "Well, Barack, We have a Problem..." Then through all my other posts, leading to this series, details about purposefully controversial alternatives are provided. I do suggest that the G8 Nations and United Nations take the lead, but, on afterthought, the USA made an early unilateral decision to legislate for clean air and water, and the world followed. Our next president, Congress and the private sector must set aside their differences, ala Booker T, and take just one magnificent step: make Green Energy FREE in 2020.

Yes, perhaps I'm off on yet another Man from La Mancha mission. No doubt, the devil will be in the details, transition, timing and economics. A million plans are being suggested, mostly in general conflict of each other. Let's simplify the whole process by selecting this simple, but ultimate solution. Problem #3, which is that fatal flaw of our human society -- we can't seem to make grand decisions until it is too late -- can, thus, be partially overcome.

A critical mass of us making a stand today, with each just taking one constructive step, can galvanize our so-called leaders. HuffPo and the internet at large could be the key, for this new opportunity of instant feedback and propagation is changing the nature of decision-making.  The world wide web, now in combination with conventional people protests, can make the difference.

Impossible dreams have a way of now and then attaining reality. Maybe this one will save Humanity and Planet Earth.

Comments (16):  There was a good discussion at the end.  However, there remained some skeptical about overuse of energy if made free and a few couldn’t quite comprehend that this energy would not actually be free because your taxes would pay for what you use.  All in all, for such a ridiculous suggestion that we make renewable energy free, the response was encouraging.


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