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Old 03-10-2008, 09:56 AM   #41
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I probably have too much faith in technology, but I see ethanol as a good thing, even if it is corn-based right now. First, we're not going to advance the process without some hang-ups and we're not going to advance it if we don't start. So, while we can probably all agree that corn-based ethanol, as it stands right now, is stupid, it did get ethanol into the limelight and got more money into the sector.

Now we have people looking at how to get ethanol from cellulose. That opens up switch grass, grass clippings, and corn sileage as possible sources. And, we have people looking at how to extract the ethanol from the corn while leaving it intact enough to use as cattle feed. Both of those options would leave corn as a food source.

I try and temper my technological enthusiasm with my knowledge of human nature, but I'm becoming more and more bullish on long-term energy. I was a peak oil doom and gloomer, but I think we're going to see some interesting developments in the next 10 years that have me hopeful we can progress.

On other fronts, chemists are looking at creating designer bugs that will create hydrocarbons. While it seems far-fetched that they'd be able to come up with something ready for an industrial setting, at least they're trying.

On yet another front, while I've been sorely disappointed with lackluster gains in solar efficiency, I think we're starting to make inroads in other areas, such as lower maintenance (PV cells in large scale) and maybe we'll see more efficiency gains as the market continues to be interested.

Additionally, I think the big oil companies are starting to look down the line to see how they'd continue to exist post-oil. BP is investing in biodiesel research, Chevron is looking at geothermal, etc.

Unfortunately, there are going to be a lot of spurts and stops along the way. As it stands now, and has been pointed out, the relative cost of oil is going to drive a lot of the innovation or lack of innovation in the US. We desparately need a national energy policy to be part of each party's platform. However, politicians are rather reactionary creatures and I don't see them exercising the necessary brain cells until it's far too late to do something proactive and visionary.
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Old 03-10-2008, 10:03 AM   #42
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Ethanol from corn was one of the worst ideas ever. Billions of dollars is being wasted on corn ethanol when it could have been spent on developing energy sources that actually do have the potential to help solve this nations energy crisis. Pork barrel.
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Old 03-10-2008, 11:41 AM   #43
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Ethanol from corn was one of the worst ideas ever. Billions of dollars is being wasted on corn ethanol when it could have been spent on developing energy sources that actually do have the potential to help solve this nations energy crisis. Pork barrel.
Well, the farmers are getting rich,and my ADM stock is up nicely..............
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Old 03-10-2008, 12:39 PM   #44
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Well, the farmers are getting rich,and my ADM stock is up nicely..............
Down 3% so far today.
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Old 03-10-2008, 09:48 PM   #45
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Down 3% so far today.
Yeah, I bought it in mid August..........
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Old 03-10-2008, 10:02 PM   #46
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I probably have too much faith in technology,
Me too.
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Old 03-10-2008, 10:41 PM   #47
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Nuclear Power? Does anybody here remember Chernobyl? Or Three Mile Island? Furthermore, there is still no facility available for premanent disposal of radioactive waste.

Let's focus instead on conservation and alternate sources such as solar and wind power.
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Old 03-10-2008, 10:44 PM   #48
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I probably have too much faith in technology
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Me too.
I'm not sure we, as a culture, have too much faith in technology. I think it's more that we have a tendency to put too much faith in technologies of the past.

If we believed in technologies of the future we'd be out there investing in research, trying to create the next thing, jumping on new technologies as they become viable, not trying to re-invent the old ones. If we had true faith in technology we'd be pouring money into solar, into tidal generation, into wind, into electric cars, even into nuclear. Instead we invest in the technology of our great-granddaddies, trying to re-invent coal into "clean coal" and gasoline into "E-85."
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Old 03-10-2008, 11:02 PM   #49
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Nuclear Power? Does anybody here remember Chernobyl? Or Three Mile Island? Furthermore, there is still no facility available for premanent disposal of radioactive waste.

Let's focus instead on conservation and alternate sources such as solar and wind power.
Of course I remember TMI and Chernobyl. I also remember years of investigation and recommendations that have been made since then, and note that, even though many countries get the majority of their electric power from nuclear, no one has had that scale of accident since Chernobyl. We're not foolproof, but it does seem that humankind can learn from our mistakes.

And I agree with you about doing more with conservation and renewables, but conservation can only take us so far when we're here, sitting at our computers and reading by electric light in our centrally heated homes.

What we need is a lot of R&D into renewables and widening range of energy options. You and I agree on that . . . where we differ is nuclear energy's role in energy policy. I don't like putting too many eggs in one basket, so the nuclear basket has a place in my philosophy. I'm comfortable with that because the newer generation of reactors are much safer and I see the safe re-processing and storage of nuclear industry waste as a political, not scientific problem.
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Old 03-10-2008, 11:44 PM   #50
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I'm not sure we, as a culture, have too much faith in technology. I think it's more that we have a tendency to put too much faith in technologies of the past.

If we believed in technologies of the future we'd be out there investing in research, trying to create the next thing, jumping on new technologies as they become viable, not trying to re-invent the old ones. If we had true faith in technology we'd be pouring money into solar, into tidal generation, into wind, into electric cars, even into nuclear. Instead we invest in the technology of our great-granddaddies, trying to re-invent coal into "clean coal" and gasoline into "E-85."
I generally agree. Coal is being burned now and it will continue to be burned so it has a place and it too needs to be on the list for technological advancement. Same for Ethanol. The faith we have as individuals is not reflected as a society because we have no energy policy so we stumble around in the dark and put our freedom at risk. IMO Technology is the one area we can maintain world leadership so why not a national effort to develop a diverse portfolio of energy resources deployed according to some best fit to needs model. Industry jumps on old tech because its easy and low risk and I wouldn't expect much different without a national mandate.
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Old 03-11-2008, 05:28 AM   #51
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Nuclear Power? Does anybody here remember Chernobyl? Or Three Mile Island? Furthermore, there is still no facility available for premanent disposal of radioactive waste.

Let's focus instead on conservation and alternate sources such as solar and wind power.
Wind solar yes will work BUT with the boom in population global warming if you believe it Nuke power will be needed for electricity to make the world go round and you better build desalinazation plants with electricity from the new nuke plants for WATER for the humans on the planet. If you think Bio fuels and the electric plants that are on the planet now will keep the planet humming along you are dreaming!
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Old 03-11-2008, 06:08 AM   #52
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Wind solar yes will work BUT with the boom in population global warming if you believe it Nuke power will be needed for electricity to make the world go round and you better build desalinazation plants with electricity from the new nuke plants for WATER for the humans on the planet. If you think Bio fuels and the electric plants that are on the planet now will keep the planet humming along you are dreaming!

HOLY CRAP!!!! What day is it I agree with Newguy for once. I guess everyone CAN find something to agree on.
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Old 03-11-2008, 07:45 AM   #53
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Wind solar yes will work BUT with the boom in population global warming if you believe it Nuke power will be needed for electricity to make the world go round and you better build desalinazation plants with electricity from the new nuke plants for WATER for the humans on the planet. If you think Bio fuels and the electric plants that are on the planet now will keep the planet humming along you are dreaming!
After a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan and a pandemic for the rest of us, I think we'll be able to fit a few more people on this planet.

On another topic, imnxpat, you should check out the newer nuclear reactors, such as a pebble bed reactor.
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Old 03-11-2008, 10:31 AM   #54
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I'm all for conservation, but we can't get there from here...

No reactors in the modern world are of the Chernobyl design (or lack of design...), so red herring...
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Old 03-11-2008, 11:19 AM   #55
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The proper role for government is to first determine if the "normal" market forces which drive energy source development and the use of energy in the US are somehow out of sync with our long-term national interests. It might be that market forces will work fine and that no government involvement s needed (e.g. if we determine that oil prices will ramp up at a rate that will allow energy companies to get replacements online soon enough, then there's no need for a government-sponsored crash program. Such a program might even be detrimental by discouraging private investment in these technologies, which would likely be a much more efficient way to develop these new technologies).

If there is a determination that market forces will NOT prove sufficient to provide the secure energy we need, then government has a legitimate role in artificially changing the risk/benefit ratios to favor the >>result we want. For example, if we decide that carbon emissions are a big deal, and that we have a national interest in reducing them (a big IF given the behavior of other countries), then the government could set in place artificial costs for the release of carbon. Or, we might decide, from a national security standpoint, that US national interests would be advanced significantly by diversify our transportation fuels away from petroleum. To achieve this, we could tax oil, thereby providing incentives for development of other transportation energy sources. The government should not be in the business of picking the preferred technology (plug-in hybrid vehicles, compressed-air vehicles, development of synthetic fuels, increased carpooling and bike use, improved mass transit, or some new technology we haven't thought of yet etc). If you increase the price of oil you start the growth of all of these approaches, each where they make the most sense.

Thus, only if necessary, the government should provide the artificial incentives/disincentives to align market forces with our national interests. The government should set the goal and put incentives in place, industry/technology/the market can best determine the "how." Mandating three nuclear reactors per state is a direct jump to dysfunctional micromanagement. That's how we got the highly damaging and expensive corn-based ethanol program.

But, we should go into this knowing that any government fiddling with incentives/disincentives will do two other things:
- Have unintended consequences (see "corn-based ethanol" for more info)
- Reduce our economic efficiency (at least in the short term), which will reduce our standard of living. Maybe it will be worth the cost--but there will be a cost.
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Old 03-11-2008, 11:42 AM   #56
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There was just something in the Economist about ethanol and the massive water requirements for processing.
Ethanol and water | Don't mix | Economist.com

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OFFICIALS in Tampa, Florida, got a surprise recently when a local firm building the state's first ethanol-production factory put in a request for 400,000 gallons (1.5m litres) a day of city water. The request by US Envirofuels would make the facility one of the city's top ten water consumers overnight, and the company plans to double its size. Florida is suffering from a prolonged drought. Rivers and lakes are at record lows and residents wonder where the extra water will come from.
...
The number of ethanol factories has almost tripled in the past eight years from 50 to about 140. A further 60 or so are under construction. In 2007 President George Bush signed legislation requiring a fivefold increase in biofuels production, to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
...
A typical ethanol factory producing 50m gallons of biofuels a year needs about 500 gallons of water a minute.
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Old 03-11-2008, 06:45 PM   #57
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Arab /= Muslim /= OPEC
That equation hides more than it reveals. There is an association between being Arab and being Muslim. And there is a lesser but not insignificant association between Islamic states and oil exports.

OPEC members:
7 of the 13 are Arab states (Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, KSA, and UAE).
10 of the 13 are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, KSA, UAE, Indonesia, Iran, and Nigeria).
3 of the 13 are non-Arab and non-Muslim states: Angola, Venezuela, and Ecuador

Check DOE oil export data at http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/country/index.cfm (click on the “exports” tab in the table on the right of that page).
Among the top 15 oil exporters on the DOE table, 6 are Arab states and 9 are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. So among the top exporters, OIC member states outnumber non-Islamic states 9 to 6 - and the 9 export 150% of what the 6 do. (add the data in top 15 exporter table – the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference exported 23,988,000 barrels per day and non OIC states exported 15,616,000 barrels per day.) Maybe this contributes to the popularity of the not necessarily ignorant notion that Islamic states sell a lot of oil by comparison to non-Islamic states.

Not all Muslims are Arab? True, most Muslims are not Arabs.

Not all Arabs are Muslim? Yes, but exceptions don't disprove trends. Arab states are predominantly Muslim, dominated by Muslims (to understate the case), and are all member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference(see http://www.oic-oci.org/oicnew/member_states.asp ). Their governments and the vast majority of their people will tell us what we can already see; Arab states are Muslim states. In the past century a huge proportion of Arab immigrants to the US were Christians. But this does not reflect non-Muslim influence in Arab states; on the contrary, it reflects the continued shrinking of non-Muslim minority populations. Some members of those minority populations will tell you that they are not actually Arabs anyway. Most Christian minorities in the region, while they will speak Arabic, also have another language - Asyrian, Chaldean, Greek, and the like, depending on the region. Groups of Non-Muslim Arabs are remnants of what the region was before Islam spread.

Look at the people who we call Arabs and you’ll see that “Arab,” as we use the word, is not a race. Arguably there is an Arab race centered around the Peninsula. But line up an average sample (if you can decide which features to call average in some of these places) of Arabs from the Maghreb, Egypt, the Levant, and the ArabPeninsula and you’ll easily see that they are different races, or mixes of races. Look within those regions and you find racial variety within them as well.
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Old 03-11-2008, 08:47 PM   #58
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The proper role for government is to first determine if the "normal" market forces which drive energy source development and the use of energy in the US are somehow out of sync with our long-term national interests. It might be that market forces will work fine and that no government involvement s needed (e.g. if we determine that oil prices will ramp up at a rate that will allow energy companies to get replacements online soon enough, then there's no need for a government-sponsored crash program.
.
I hearya, but I just think we are well beyond the point of waiting for market forces to advance this issue. Its been 35 yrs since the oil embargo, and we are absolutely no better off in action or attitude. My kid's eyes glaze over when I mention waiting in line for gas, so they have no tangible connection. We have a collection of groups lobbying for thier favorite solution to the detriment of all others. It becomes a tug of war and more resources wasted as various immature technologies compete for capitol. Gov't can remove some risk so industry is willing to invest more in research and sponser more engineering grads. Our most precious resource is time and we've squandered too much already. Lets GO!
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Old 03-11-2008, 09:06 PM   #59
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I'm always amazed by the idea, almost religious belief, that the market can take care of these issues 100% on it's own so sit back and watch innovation happen - no offense to the poster...It's entirely possible that, in this case, with such a complex problem, that events may move too quickly and cause a painful collapse in a period of time folks are not expecting possible - and too quick for the market to react to.

For example, would it be a bad thing for the US government to invest in technology to unlock the 2.6 trillion barrels of oil from oil shale in the US - and then give away the technology to the business world? Where is the harm in that? Of course an individual company can't license the patent on the process or the technology - but it's a matter of national defense - er potentially survival, to find a reasonable and orderly way through this energy morass.

ARPANET is basis for the technology that we are using today to communicate and that has revolutionized the world (ARPANET - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). I fail to see how this has hindered innovation and creativity in the networking and communications spaces of the market today.

In my mind a market has to exist - or have a very good likelihood of existing soon - before any serious private money is spent on the subject. As was mentioned earlier - most projects that were stimulated by the shocks 35 years ago were scraped over 20 years ago...while it is possible the market will "save us" - why put all the eggs in one basket? Like fighting with an arm tied behind your back in my mind.
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Old 03-11-2008, 11:29 PM   #60
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Nuclear Power? Does anybody here remember Chernobyl? Or Three Mile Island? Furthermore, there is still no facility available for premanent disposal of radioactive waste.

Let's focus instead on conservation and alternate sources such as solar and wind power.
Trouble is wind and solar power are not available 24/7 and almost need, MW per MW, equivalent standby generation. Are you willing to shut your electricity off to your house when the sun goes down? Wind and solar power will always be on the fringe for perhaps no more than 10-15% of overall power demand. Proponents have failed to do their math.

Nuclear is the only truly available baseload option to replace hydrocarbons.
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