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By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.
      - President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, 31 Jan 2006
      From "Energy Security for the 21st Century: Reliable, Affordable, Environmentally-Sound Energy"

But Bush, you know the other day when he had the speech about us being addicted to oil, he says those things as though, you know, he just thought of it and we're disagreeing with him, like everybody's been saying that. Jimmy Carter said it I think in 1978.
    And he comes out, "What people don't realize is we're addicted to foreign oil" and he's saying it like you're going "Get out of here." "We're addicted. You don't get it, people." You know, he was the guy on the stump a few years ago making fun of hybrid cars because it wasn't manly.

      - Comedy Central's Daily Show host Jon Stewart
      Interview on Larry King Live, 27 Feb 2006

A few quick questions for you all:

  • What do you think of E85 (85% corn-based ethanol, 15% gasoline) fuel, especially its present deployment in Brazil and potential deployment in North America?
    Edit, 19:50 CST Sun 19 Mar 2006 - Does it, as GM's VP of New Product Development just said in a CNN Presents piece, "make more sense than all the hybrid electrics in the world"?

  • Do you agree with British Petroleum (BP) CEO Lord John Browne that BP's $15B investment in new oil refinery technology vs. its $8B investment in alternative energy sources (via its subsidiary BP Alternative Energy) is an appropriate balance because, as he asserts, "there is no present energy crisis and no imminent doom... petroleum refinement is already in place"?

  • Why can't we have hybrid electric cars that also burn E85?

  • What is your outlook on solar versus biofuel (ethanol) versus hydrogen fuel cells? Which of these are really "energy-negative"? Would it be feasible to make them energy positive? Are you aware of any public misconceptions about the above?

  • What is more efficient in terms of energy producable per unit land area - wind or solar energy? Which of wind farms and desert solar paneling has greater environmental impact? Which one is more cost effective (as opposed to efficient)?

  • What is a long-term sustainable energy solution (say, for the next 1000-2000 years) given our exponentially increasing energy consumption? Short of building a Dyson sphere or harvesting interstellar gases, is there a viable biofuel or solar energy solution? What about fusion?



( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 20th, 2006 02:30 am (UTC)
Yes, I think the various solar radiations presently offer the most promise, but I wouldn't count out ZPE.

All the talk of economic viability relies on the perpetuation of archaic fiscal economic practices. The concern qualifies as a bait and switch tactic of PSYOPs.

The money has no value as soon as we decide it has no value.

BP, Shell and the other conglomerates have a survival interest. They intend on creating energy solutions that perpetuate their dominion.

Yes, the E85 blends show promise, but it just serves as a stop-gap. We have the technology to do much better than that right now. The factor that prevents that technology from widescale implementation seems to be greed and a realization that when the cat escapes the bag, a lot of rich people won't be so rich anymore.

Capitalism doesn't work without disparity. Capitalists will fight tooth and nail to prevent disparity from disappearing.

Mar. 20th, 2006 03:28 am (UTC)
The money has no value as soon as we decide it has no value.

Money exists because of scarcity. Solve the scarcity problem and the need for money disappears.
Mar. 20th, 2006 03:34 am (UTC)
Scarcity exists because it creates artificial wealth, not because it must exist.

We have no scarcity of food.

We have no scarcity of fuel.

We have no scarcity of labor.

Illusions get perpetuated to maintain a status quo of subjugation.

Mar. 20th, 2006 07:51 am (UTC)
Scarcity is a fact.

I have 24 hours in a day. I can choose how to divide up this time. I can't make it 48 hours. I can't make my time limitless. Even if I was immortal, I'd be faced with competing interests for my time *now*.

I can't see how it's possible to deny the existence of scarcity and scarce resources.
Mar. 21st, 2006 02:33 am (UTC)
I'll ignore your mistaken semantics and address the implied issues instead:

The number of hours in a day cannot be easily extended, but we must remember that the number of hours in a day is an arbitrary classification system.

When you factor in how many hours we have in a week, month, year or lifetime, we can readily see that we have precious little scarcity of time. And, with the roll-out of life extension technologies, that will become even moreso irrelevant.

When you actualize the Self, you have no competing interests. The Now pervades all.

What the thinker thinks, the prover proves.

If you accept it as certain, you will filter information to fit your assumption.

Many other authors have addressed this illusion of scarcity, and I do not feel compelled to mount a vigorous defense.

The illusion of scarcity has been perpetuated in order to subjugate the masses.

Do we have a scarcity of food? No. We could feed the world twice over.

Do we have a scarcity of talent? No. We could solve all major world challenges with redistribution of priorities.

Do we have a scarcity of labor? No. We have more than enough labor to accomplish any project we can dream up.

Do we have a scarcity of energy? No. We have dozens of viable energy sources capable of powering a dozen earths.

Do we have a scarcity of materials? No. We haven't begun to explore the potentials for the overwhelming majority of materials available to us, or the materials we can synthesize.

Mar. 21st, 2006 03:30 am (UTC)
How about I just say "I don't understand"?

Dude, don't bury me in wank, I haven't got the time to arse around trying to comprehend clever metaphysics for a week.

I'm fucking around the internet trying to read up on scarcity, how malthus was an idiot (eminently possible) and I'm trying to work at the same time. Honestly, I'd like to devote myself fully to both -- writing a letter AND researching something that I find interesting.

Except, (and I can only speak for myself ... maybe you're a clever multitasker ...) I don't split my attention very well -- hence I end up doing a half-arsed job at both.

Now, sadly, I've devoted all the time I can to this little thing for the next [insert arbitrary time unit]. So until the next [insert arbitrary time unit] I return to have a peek, I'll have to remain yours in frustrated, overly wordified ignorance.

Mar. 21st, 2006 09:54 am (UTC)
I'm all for crashing a large asteroid into Earth, slowing down its rotation and thus providing us with longer days. With a 26 or 28 hour day, we all could sleep more and would be much happier.
Mar. 21st, 2006 04:03 pm (UTC)
Humans actually operate more efficiently on less sleep, separated in at least two segments. I find that I operate best on a 3hr - 2 hr cycle. No other animal clumbs their sleep cycle together. Humans would greatly benefit if they'd take that into account and modify their schedule accordingly.

However, that doesn't give more hours to the day.

I wouldn't mind the asteriod event, as long as S.M.I2.L.E. kicked in and got some of us off this rock... ;)

Mar. 20th, 2006 08:45 am (UTC)
Well spoken, comrade!

About the E85... as long as millions of people are still starving to death on this planet, I'm highly sceptical of anything that bases on burning food.
Mar. 21st, 2006 03:17 am (UTC)
Apparently we have sufficient food, so burning it should be no problem for anyone.

Mar. 21st, 2006 09:48 am (UTC)
Yes, but the problem is the distribution.

If you have poor people starving in country 1, and poor farmers sitting on a mountain of grain they can't sell in country 2, there is definitely something wrong in the system. Something that can't be solved by finding ways how the farmers in country 2 can most effectively burn their foodstuff.
Mar. 20th, 2006 03:18 am (UTC)
...I tried the ethanol mix, and ours' was only about 15%, but my car stopped at all the lights, intersections, anywhere you had to slow down ,and coughed and spluttered at the best of times, so I won't be using it anytime soon.
Mar. 20th, 2006 03:46 am (UTC)
Was yours a FlexFuel car?
I hear that 80% of the cars on the road in Brazil are Flex.

Mar. 20th, 2006 05:35 am (UTC)
Re: Was yours a FlexFuel car?
Yep, a lot of the cars in Brazil are flex. Most Australian cars would not be I suspect, but otoh, they should be able to run on a 10% mix without harm ...

Mar. 20th, 2006 07:19 pm (UTC)
I thought it was E85, nermine.

Yew never know. I have a Honda Accord LX, and I'ma bet if we put 85% gasoline, 15% ethanol in our tank, it would sputter a bit at lights and going uphill.

Mar. 20th, 2006 05:55 am (UTC)
Re: Was yours a FlexFuel car?
Not that we know of. No idea what the actual material is....
It's *old* - so I doubt it.
Mar. 20th, 2006 05:11 am (UTC)
In the 1970s, we were painfully aware that we needed to search for alternatives to petroleum-based products. When the oil embargo ended, we merrily went our gas-guzzling ways and made little effort to look for alternatives.

I'm not a scientist and don't have good suggestions, but I would like to see our government put forth more effort to look for alternatives.

Currently E85 is only in selected markets and isn't widely available. This will have to change if we hope to have more vehicles on the road using E85.

As for using a grain-based fuel, I can see this as a win/win situation. The U.S. can curtail its dependence on foreign oil, and our farmers can benefit.
Mar. 20th, 2006 05:14 am (UTC)
The short term solution to our energy problems is effecient fusion. Then we can stop burning our oil reserves and start burning out oceans.

More long term, we shall construct vast solar collectors in space and beam the energy down to Earth.

In the even more long term, even the most perfect source of energy will result in significant waste heat building up on the planet and we will be forced to build gigantic sprawling heat sinks extending out into space.
Mar. 20th, 2006 05:34 am (UTC)
I was reading on Wired that E85 is extremely popular in Brazil. So much so that they have significantly reduced their oil dependency as a country -- it only spikes in the sugar cane off-season when ethanol supplies drop dramatically.

It *might* make sense to use E85. Demand for oil is not likely to lessen in the future.

The question is how much would you need to reconfigure cars? What sort of new fuel distribution network do you need? A changeover in both of these takes time when you have so many cars and petrol stations around ...

It also seems sensible to me to invest both for the near term and for the long term. As much as we might like to think otherwise (and I speak as someone who was involved with solar power for several years) 'alternative energies' can't fill the energy gap yet. If we were to stop using oil, coal and gas tomorrow -- or even next year -- they wouldn't fill in totally. So, with energy demands increasing, there's still a need to invest in current technology at the same time as we look hopefully toward future technology.

I have doubts over both solar and wind because of the limitations on how much they can output. Even very efficient solar cells have a maximum output. I think it's 16k watts per square metre or something like that? Wind is surely the same ... no matter how good you make it, it has a hard limit. There are few energy sources that can be considered as energy dense as petroleum or coal.

Geothermal perhaps might have some potential? But that's only ever going to run a car in a secondary sense ... via a battery.

Depending on how quickly current fossil fuels run out, we might end up having to seriously consider nuclear (fission) power. At least it's non greenhouse? Fusion would be better, but perusing wiki shows that it's still very much a technology that is still under development.

Mar. 20th, 2006 05:56 am (UTC)
ooh, ooh,..
...perhaps we should suggest exporting our sugar cane to Brazil. We could swap it for ummmmm, water filters!
Mar. 20th, 2006 05:52 am (UTC)
I think E85 will make more sense when we are harvesting it from corn that is able to grow without the use of petroleum-based fertilizer.

And the only problem with a Dyson sphere is that by the time you can marshall the energy to manufacture one, you almost certainly don't need it.

For right now, other than fusion, my hopes for alternative energies rest on Butanol-like processes of biomass fermentation and methane reclamation from waste.
Mar. 21st, 2006 01:28 am (UTC)
Actually, they're testing using switchgrass to make ethanol. Switchgrass is effectively a weed and so requires very little in the way of fertilizer, irrigation, or any other kind of care compared to corn. This means it could potentially be much cheaper (both in terms of money fuel) than corn. Corn is actually a rather silly plant to use as fuel. It's good to eat but so specialized that it requires a lot of resources to grow.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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