The Energy Revolution has begun and will change your lifestyle
Welcome to the Energy Blog
The Energy Blog is where all topics relating to The Energy Revolution are presented. Increasingly, expensive oil, coal and global warming are causing an energy revolution by requiring fossil fuels to be supplemented by alternative energy sources and by requiring changes in lifestyle. Please contact me with your comments and questions. Further Information about me can be found HERE.
Lest all of you that feared of my demise, The Energy Blog is returning, I am still alive and feeling better every day. I have been ill do to complications from chronic illinesses, but I am now taking medications that seems to have gotten every thing under control.
I wish to thank everyone who has expressed their concern, both with the comments on the last post and by email
I will resume regular posts soon, although probably not as frequently as in the past. The pressure and the grind required to post every day became too much for me, frequently causing me to work into the wee hours of the morning; that stress no doubt contributed to my illness.
The sometimes outspoken Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) and executive vice president, IHS Inc., spoke at the 2008 National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 23. Some of his remarks may be of interest to readers of TEB.
“High energy prices, climate change and energy security are converging as the new engine driving the development of clean energy, There is a major shift in public opinion towards clean energy, which is being bolstered by the growing conviction that new carbon policies will reshape the competitive landscape of the global energy business.” . . .
Citing CERA’s new study, Crossing the Divide: the Future of Clean Energy, Yergin said that renewable power and biofuels could be supplying as much as 16 percent of the global electric and transportation needs by 2030. . . .
On current oil prices, he added, “A major reason for the current leap to around $100 a barrel is the economy – but now a weak U.S. economy, rather than the strong global economy that has been so important the last few years. A slowing U.S. economy, rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and expectations of more, and a weak U.S. dollar – along with the reappearance of inflation around the world – are driving investors into oil and other commodities. Instead of the traditional ‘flight to the dollar’ during times of uncertainty, we are seeing a ‘flight to oil.’” . . .
Two of his key insights from the Crossing the Divide study may be of special interest to readers:
Renewable power technologies are poised for substantial growth – Wind will make the largest gains, followed by solar power and biomass — despite near-term bottlenecks in wind turbine manufacturing, supply shortages in silicon and competitive pressures from escalating component costs.
Conventional emission-free technologies– Nuclear and hydroelectric generation will account for most of the clean energy impact for the next decade, and almost half the gross clean power additions by 2030. The coal resource base and utilization in the United States and China will create a powerful drive to develop “clean coal” technologies.
It has been a good year for The Energy Blog and I hope each and everyone of you also had a good year. We passed several milestones and received some recognition throughout the year. Excuse me for bragging up our successes.
The number of visitors per month to The Energy Blog increased from about 70-75,000 at the beginning of the year to over 100,000 at the end of the year. Our peak was 105,000 in November, with some trailing off in December due to the lower number of posts. Our advertising revenue increased significantly with Google's purchase of FeedBurner and their subsequent posting more mainstream ads at the end of the top post and in the feeds to the site.
We were recognized by the London Times as being one of the 50 best business blogs. The Cleantech Blog was the only other alternative energy/environmental blog that that was recognized by the Times. It was very surprising, I had no idea that the blog was under consideration. They didn't even notify me, I read about it on the Cleantech Blog.
The Wall Street Journal started a new blog in their online edition, Energy Roundup. We were mentioned in their initial edition and have been mentioned several times since then.
Best wishes, happiness and good health in the new year,
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) today announced a new strategic initiative to develop electricity from renewable energy sources that will be cheaper than electricity produced from coal. The newly created initiative, known as RE<C, will focus initially on advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems and other potential breakthrough technologies.
In 2008, Google expects to spend tens of millions on research and development and related investments in renewable energy. As part of its capital planning process, the company also anticipates investing hundreds of millions of dollars in breakthrough renewable energy projects which generate positive returns.
"There has been tremendous work already on renewable energy. Technologies have been developed that can mature into industries capable of providing electricity cheaper than coal. Solar thermal technology, for example, provides a very plausible path to providing renewable energy cheaper than coal. We are also very interested in further developing other technologies that have potential to be cost-competitive and green. We are aware of several promising technologies, and believe there are many more out there."
"With talented technologists, great partners and significant investments, we hope to rapidly push forward. Our goal is to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal. We are optimistic this can be done in years, not decades."
-- Larry Page, Google Co-founder and President of Products
Biopact has a post on a sure to be controversial article by a Harvard professor that claims that biofuels can match oil production. Read the post and the Financial Times article and form your own opinion.
Even though some vested interests are trying to downplay the potential of biofuels, energy analysts and scientists know that their potential is truly vast - at least in theory. The director of Harvard University’s Center for International Development (John F. Kennedy School of Government), professor Ricardo Hausmann, joins those analysts and presents a well argued view on what would be needed for a sustainable bioenergy future to emerge. Writing in the Financial Times, he goes so far as to state that 'biofuels can match oil production'. . . . more
Cree, Inc. (Nasdaq: CREE), a manufacturer of LED solid-state lighting components, released the results of the first phase of the conversion of its Durham headquarters to LED lighting, which has resulted in the use of 48% less energy than the lights they replaced and plans to convert all lighting at the headquarters and manufacturing facility to LED lighting. The parking lots, entryways, lobby and conference rooms at Cree’s headquarters building are now 100-percent lit by energy-efficient, environmentally friendly XLamp(R) LEDs.That means replacing everything from high-pressure sodium parking-lot lights to the fluorescent tubes in offices and hallways to the spotlights on the flagpole out front.
“Conventional wisdom is that LED lighting is years away from widespread adoption. The truth, however, is that the performance of Cree’s LED technology enables real LED lighting solutions today,” said Chuck Swoboda, Cree chairman and CEO. “The conversion of Cree’s site demonstrates that the LED Lighting Revolution is well underway and will illustrate the benefits in energy savings, maintenance costs and environmental impacts.”
The new LED lights use 48% less energy than the incandescent, fluorescent and high-pressure sodium lights they replaced. Cree began the process in October 2007 and will continue until it replaces the tens of thousands of bulbs and tubes that light the campus, inside and out.
Cree claims that the combination of the energy savings, reduced maintenance and disposal costs and the environmental savings demonstrate that LED lighting is now a real alternative to traditional lighting solutions.
USNews.com has a very, but good, article on the "Power Revolution" that is developing now. They attribute venture capitalists as the prime mover of this revolution with Vinod Khosla being emblematic of this technology entrepreneurship. They focus on concentrating solar power, "deep geothermal", cellulosic ethanol and plug-in hybrids as prime examples of these technologies. A brief excerpt is given below:
Khosla views climate change as the gravest threat the world has ever faced, and he knows others see America's foreign oil dependence as an urgent crisis. But in his calculus, we've been pitching pebbles at these Goliath problems. "Building a biofuels plant here and a solar plant there is not enough," he says, "unless we can replace 50 percent and hopefully 100 percent of the fossil energy sources." . . . more.
IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced that it has developed and is using an innovative new semiconductor wafer reclamation process at its Burlington, VT manufacturing facility and intends to provide details of the new process to the broader semiconductor manufacturing industry. The new process uses a specialized pattern removal technique to repurpose scrap semiconductor wafers to a form used to manufacture silicon-based solar panels.
Semiconductor manufacturers are very concerned that intelluctual property on defective wafers might be recovered if they are sold. To avoid this they have been using much more expensive sandblasting, or chopping them up and disposing of them in landfills. IBM's process wipes away any traces of the original chip design, which could ease those worries.
Through this new reclamation process IBM is now able to more efficiently remove the intellectual property from the wafer surface, making these wafers available either for reuse in internal manufacturing calibration as "monitor wafers" or for sale to the solar cell industry, which must meet a growing demand for silicon material to produce photovoltaic cells for solar panels.
According to Cleantech, IBM's machines use an abrasive pad and deionized water to polish the patterns off of scrap wafers, which are thin discs of silicon material used to imprint patterns that make finished chips for electronics.
Shai Agassi, former SAP executive, announced today the formation of Project Better Place, a company based on one of the 21st century’s biggest challenges – developing a sustainable, environmental solution for converting country-wide transportation systems toward electricity and away from fossil fuel. Electric vehicles would be enabled through an electric recharge grid infrastructure and using charge spots and battery exchange stations. In one of the largest-ever initial fundings for a startup, the company has raised $200 million from a group of investors lead by Israel Corp. The energy cost of all-electric cars would be about 7 cents a mile which is less than a third of the cost of driving a gasoline-powered car today.
Project Better Place will focus in phase one on establishing a repeatable infrastructure to support electric vehicles, implementing electric recharge grids through local operating companies in multiple countries. They will establish a widespread grid of electric charging spots at current parking locations as well as battery exchange stations, analogous to gas stations, all of which are integrated with software systems. These capabilities will provide consumers with the energy to keep their cars charged and driving without the need to wait for electricity at any point. The new grid presents a practical solution to address barriers to electric vehicle adoption.
In addition, the company will secure partnerships with a supply chain of car makers, technology providers, and global and local financing institutions. The company is currently in discussions with various governments to establish pilot sites, with plans to begin rollout of the new infrastructure in early 2008.
Tennant Company Unveils Green Technology That Makes Water Behave Like a Powerful Detergent, Without Adding Chemicals
Tennant Company (NYSE: TNC), annouced ech2o™ (pronounced “echo”) technology in a press release, a breakthrough cleaning technology that electrically activates plain tap water, making it behave like a powerful detergent without any added chemicals.
According to Tennant, the patent-pending ech2o™ technology offers eco-friendly advantages including lower costs, ease of use and improved operator safety plus an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional cleaning methods. ech2o’s cleaning effectiveness is proven to be the same or better than general purpose cleaners, without the negative environmental impact and health issues associated with producing, packaging, transporting, using and disposing of traditional cleaning chemicals. Among ech2o’s additional benefits, it uses 70 percent less water than traditional cleaning methods. ech2o begins as water and ends as water.
"Our new ech2o technology is a category-changing advancement for the cleaning industry, and delivers on our goal to offer cleaning solutions that lower cost-of-use, improve health and safety and are more environmentally friendly. By changing the properties of plain tap water, ech2o enables it to clean as well as, or better than, traditional chemical-based cleaners. It virtually eliminates any negative impact the cleaning process may have on our natural environment," said Chris Killingstad, Tennant Company's president and chief executive officer.
In a three volume report that a DOE Task Force prepared it was concluded that "the domestic and global fuels supply situation and outlook is urgent. Increasing global oil demand, declining reserve additions, and our increasing reliance on oil and product imports from unstable foreign sources require the Nation to take immediate action to catalyze a domestic unconventional fuels industry." It further went on to say "Aggressive development by private industry, and encouraged by government, could supply all of the Department of Defense’s domestic fuels demand by 2016, and supply upwards of 7 million barrels per day of domestically produced liquid fuels to domestic markets by 2035." Their most aggressive scenario concluded that oil imports would decrease if significant efficiency gains were made. The following is a shortened summary of the report from EV World. (click to enlarge graph)
The United States' Task Force on Strategic Unconventional Fuels (www.unconventionalfuels.org) has made public its findings and recommendations on the future role to be played by five non-petroleum energy sources found in America: shale oil, heavy crude, tar sands, coal-to-liquids and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) using captured carbon dioxide.. . .
The Task Force . . . takes a comprehensive look at the potential contribution these, heretofore under-utilized resources can make in supplementing the nation's declining petroleum production. They conclude that even under the most aggressive development scenario, these resources could produce about 7.6 million barrels a day of synthetic liquid fuel by 2035. And under current, business-as-usual, conditions -- and assuming a whole host of issues from socioeconomic to technical can be resolved -- unconventional fuels might add 2.3 mbld by 2035, about one-tenth of what America currently consumes. . . .
The contributions made by the various unconventional energy sources under three different utilization scenarios shows America continuing to be largely dependent on imported oil with energy conservation and efficiency making greater contributions then unconventional fuels put together.
China will increase the portion of renewable resources to 15 percent in its total energy consumption in 2020 in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pursue sustained economic growth, according to a national plan published on Tuesday.
China's renewable energy usage will total 600 million tons of coal equivalent by 2020, compared with 166 million tons in 2005 which accounted for 7.5 percent of the country's total energy consumption.
The plan would cost China two trillion yuan (US$266.7 billion) during the 2006-2020 period, said Chen Deming, vice minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). . . . more here and here
University of Utah physicists have developed small devices that turn heat into sound and then into electricity. The technology holds promise for changing waste heat into electricity, harnessing solar energy and cooling computers and radars.
"We are converting waste heat to electricity in an efficient, simple way by using sound," says Orest Symko, a University of Utah physics professor who leads the effort. “It is a new source of renewable energy from waste heat."
In the above photo, Symko demonstrates how heat can be converted into sound by using a blowtorch to heat a metallic screen inside a plastic tube, which then produces a loud tone, similar to when air is blown into a flute. Symko and his students are developing much smaller devices that not only convert heat to sound, but then use the sound to generate electricity.
Symko plans to test the devices within a year to produce electricity from waste heat at a military radar facility and at the university's hot-water-generating plant.
Symko expects the devices could be used within two years as an alternative to photovoltaic cells for converting sunlight into electricity. The heat engines also could be used to cool laptop and other computers that generate more heat as their electronics grow more complex. And Symko foresees using the devices to generate electricity from heat that now is released from nuclear power plant cooling towers.
From the International Herald Tribune -- A growing number of Americans are shunning power lines, choosing to live "off the grid," without commercial power — and still enjoying their computers and large-screen televisions. ... Off-the-grid living is edging into the American mainstream. About 180,000 homes, mostly in the West, operate on it, though the power industry has not yet felt the shift. ...
But the number of people going off the grid increases by about a third each year, said Richard Perez, who publishes Home Power magazine, and Lori Ryker, who has written two books on the subject. ...
In the 250-home Oregon community of Three Rivers, everyone gets most of their power from solar panels on their rooftops or on nearby structures positioned to more efficiently capture the sun. ... living off the grid is not cheap. High demand for solar panels and improved technology has kept the price up, and Three Rivers homeowners say an advanced solar energy system can cost $25,000 (€18,496) for the panels, batteries, inverter and other equipment. The federal government and most states offer tax credits. ...
[In some places] Some supplement the solar power with windmill-generated energy. ...
Residents with wells need generators for their pumps, and propane powers high-demand appliances such as stoves.
Beyond that, the sun does the job.
Distributed energy at its best. 180,000 homes is a very small number when compared to the total population of the U.S., but by increasing by a third each year this could turn into a more significant number. Although expensive there are millions of people who could afford it. The significance to me is that we have the technology to do it and prices are going down. The trend should really accelerate after 2010 when solar power prices start to drop significantly.
The May 8 Short-Term Energy Outlook, by the EIA, had some points that help explain the high prices of gasoline, the major point being that gasoline inventories are down now and it will take until the end of summer for inventories to catch-up creating a situation where supply is very tight causing high prices.
Continuing problems for refineries in the United States and abroad, combined with strong global gasoline demand, have raised our projected average summer gasoline price by 14 cents per gallon from our last Outlook. Retail regular grade motor gasoline prices are now projected to average $2.95 per gallon this summer compared with the $2.84 per gallon average of last summer. During the summer season, the average monthly gasoline pump price is projected to peak at $3.01 per gallon in May and again in August, compared with $2.98 per gallon last July. ...
World oil markets are projected to tighten this summer due to continued growth in oil demand and production restraint by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Despite the recent increases in world oil prices, global oil consumption is projected to grow by 1.4 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2007 and by 1.6 million bbl/d in 2008. About one-half of the projected growth will come from China and the United States ....
For 2007, U.S. crude oil production is projected to average 5.15 million bbl/d ... With the startup of new deepwater production from the Atlantis platform later this year and from the Thunderhorse platform late next year total domestic crude oil production is projected to average 5.34 million bbl/d in 2008.
Gasoline inventories, which typically build slightly in April, sharply declined last month because of the high incidence of refinery outages and low imports. ... Gasoline inventories are expected to remain below the lower end of the normal range throughout the summer, which will keep pressure on gasoline prices and likely result in higher margins and retail prices than those seen last summer.
WSJ.com has started a blog called Energy Roundup which many of the readers of The Energy Blog might find interesting. Besides commenting on energy stories in the news it regularly reports on energy stories from blogs, including, of course, The Energy Blog.
It is worth a read to keep you caught up on what is going on in the energy world.
LONDON -- A political storm is looming over one of Britain's first wave power projects, the Wave Hub, which surfers fear will drain energy from the waves they ride along the Atlantic coast.
In one corner stand the local authorities and power companies, who say the 25 million pound ($49 million) experimental installation is vital to developing wave power systems and helping combat global warming.
In the other, the surfers of Cornwall on Britain's southwest peninsula, many of whom moved to the region specifically to catch those waves. ...
Wave Hub's backers say the installation will also generate up to 20 megawatts of energy ... the installation, 10 miles (16 km) off the popular holiday ....more
This, one of the least disruptive technologies, hasn't got off the ground and the protests have started. I guess if your not a surfer you have a different point of view.
How much energy is in the waves in this part of the ocean that isn't being used? The majority I presume. And isn't the disruption of the ocean pretty much dissipated by the time the waves reach the area where they surf?
29 elementary and high schools in California are participating in a program to substitute energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) for conventional incandescent bulbs in students' homes.
The immediate goal of the exchange program was to substitute some 4,000 CFLs for incandescent bulbs during the 2006-2007 school year. The program's long-range goal was to swap 12,000 bulbs over three years.
But the energy- and money-saving idea caught on so well that in just four months -- and with just nine schools initially participating -- schools had to scramble to keep up with the demand for CFLs. When the dust had settled, more than 8,000 bulbs had been swapped in the fall semester alone. Now in addition to the original nine, 20 more schools are gearing up for bulb exchanges during the spring semester, with the potential of exchanging several thousand more CFLs and surpassing the 12,000 three-year goal in only one year.
VC Ratings blog provides a list of 26 renewable energy startups that Vinod Khosla's - Khosla Ventures' has invested in. He is well known for his investments in biofuel related companies, but the list reveals a much broader scope. Many, if not most, of these companies have a long way to go before they pay off, and some will not make it, but it interesting to see what he is doing. Here are the categories he uses and the specific companies (except for 5 that he labeled as stealth) that he has invested in.
Laurie J. Flynn, The New York Times, January 29, 2007
After five years of job losses, Silicon Valley is hiring again. The turnaround coincides with a huge increase of investment in the emerging category of clean environment technology. ...
In Silicon Valley, investment in clean technology — from alternative energy products, like solar panels and hybrid cars, to the use of nanotechnology to solve environmental problems — went from $34 million in the first quarter of 2006 to $290 million in the third quarter, according to an annual report released Sunday by Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, a research organization in San Jose, Calif. ...
The region first started to show a reversal in late 2005, said Stephen Levy, an economist with the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy, a trend he attributed to an increase in worldwide demand for technology products. “Silicon Valley sells more to international markets than any other region, so we can grow as the international market grows, even if the U.S. market isn’t growing.”
It is natural for photovoltaic companies to grow in the home of silicon. The high electronic content of battery powered cars, like Phoenix Motors and Tesla Motors provides an incentive for these companies to locate there. But this isn't the only place for green technology which is distributed pretty evenly across the country.
Several Southern California cities are gambling their future power needs on the development of sufficient alternative energy sources, such as wind power, solar power and power from IGCC power plants to meet their needs. Currently these sources are either too intermittent, too costly, or not well enough developed to meet their needs.
Anaheim, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Riverside, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power have told Intermountain Power Agency in Delta, Utah, that they would not be renewing their contracts for cheap, coal-fired power. They are instead going to seek cleanear alternative energy power sources by 2027, after their current contracts with the Utah company expire.
A new California law that effectively prohibits electricity purchases from conventional coal-fired power plants goes into effect January first and Intermountain had been pushing cities to renew their contracts ahead of that date in a move to circumvent the law, but these cities refused to budge. The law bans use of power from sources that generate more such gases than in-state natural gas plants.
SanDiegoDave100 writing in The Motley Fool ran some numbers on using Solar PV to provide 100% of his homes electricity and electricity to a Tesla electric car.
His current cost for 600 kWh per month costs $101 and gas for his car $180 for a total of $281.
At $0.25 kWh/mile and 1500 miles per month he would require 375 kWh of electricity, combined with 600 kWh for the house would require 975 kWh of solar power. He determined that he would require an 8 kW solar system, for a San Diego location, at an installed cost of $55,000 before rebates of $17,600 for a net of $37,820.
A home equity loan of $37,800 at the current 6.5% rate would be only $239/month, a saving of $40/month.
He neglected to state how he would store the electricity so he could operate his house and charge his car at night, but it still is an interesting calculation. Perhaps he could be tied to the grid and sell his surplus during the day and buy electricity at night, but he did not make that calculation. The rates might even be in his favor if he was selling at peak rates and buying at off peak rates.
Jory Squibb, Camden, Maine, built the Moonbeam, which cruises at 40 mph and gets 100 mpg. The "Microcar" was made from a 1987 Honda Elite 150 motorscooter in excellent condition for most of the running gear, controls and instruments. Additional parts were from a 1984 Elite 125, the frame and body were fabricated by Jory. It cost $2339 in materials and 1000 hours of labor.
The best cruising speed is 35-40 mph with occasional times of 45. The car goes 53 MPH on the level, but Jory finds that speed worrisome. Fuel economy has been tested many times. On economy runs at a steady 40 MPH, it gets 105 to 106 MPG. Around town, it's usually 80-85 MPG.
A well known Cambridge research firm challenges the notion that the world is running out of oil:
Global oil and liquids supply capacity could increase as much as 25% by 2015, with unconventional sources, including gas-related liquids and extra-heavy oils accounting for a major proportion of net capacity growth, according to Cambridge Energy Research Associates’ (CERA) July, 2006 benchmark field-by-field analysis of worldwide hydrocarbon liquids production capacity.
CERA’s examination of actual activity and production data covered existing fields and 360 new projects -- 250 new non-OPEC and 110 new OPEC development projects -- expected to start production by 2010. The analysis points to global productive capacity rising from 88.7 mbd in 2006 to 110 mbd in 2015
Autopia reported that in July, Toyota passed Ford for the number two spot, while Honda outsold DaimlerChrysler for the first time ever.
Sales of the Ford F-series pickup fell 43.5 percent last month, and the Explorer SUV were down more than 50 percent during July, according to The New York Times.
Toyota hybrids and small cars lead its passenger division to its best July ever. Toyota sold 5,023 of the Camry Hybrids and 10,137 of the Yaris subcompact (outselling the staple Ford Taurus, which dropped by one-third) . The Prius hybrid posted July sales of 11,114, an increase of 19.3 percent over the previous year. ... read entire article
It looks like gasoline prices are really having an effect. How long before Toyota will be the world's largest automaker. It will take years, if ever, for US automakers to catch up.
For those of you who have said that you would buy an electric car if it was available, here it is. Part car, part motorcycle, Myers Motors' (privately owned) new NmG (No more Gas) vehicle.
Manufactured entirely in Tallmadge, Ohio, the NmG is the nation's only all-electric, highway-legal vehicle that can hit 70 mph and costs less than $25,000, said Dana Myers, founder and president of Myers Motors. The NmG is a fully enclosed for all weather driving, single passenger vehicle with two front wheels and a single drive wheel in the rear. Charging takes four to six hours. It costs about 2 cents a mile for the electricity used to charge the batteries.
Most people drive fewer than 12 miles to work, so the NmG can be useful for commuters. It also can be driven in a high-occupancy-vehicle lane.
The Houston, Mississippi (population 4,079) Sundancer solar car team won the Dell-Winston School Solar Car Challenge open division championship trophy at Texas Motor Speedway for the sixth consecutive year. During the challenge’s four days and seven racing periods of three hours each, the Sundancer solar car traveled more than 619 miles (413 laps), at an averaged a speed of almost 30 mph, reached a top speed of approximately 60 mph and completed more laps than any of the 13 other cars competing in the race.
The BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2006 was released on June 14. Published annually by BP, the Review contains detailed data on worldwide energy production and consumption with this latest edition including data up to the end of 2005. Some highlights from the press release that announced the Review:
World energy growth slowed in 2005 with an increase of 2.7 per cent, down from the 4.4 per cent increase in 2004 which was the largest rise for 20 years.
Energy consumption in the United States fell by 0.1 per cent last year...the decline in US oil consumption was concentrated in the last four months of the year, after the hurricanes.
China also experienced a reduction in energy consumption growth, from 15.5 per cent in 2004 to 9.5 per cent in 2005.
Oil: Prices rose further, a development considered to be due less to 'fundamentals' than to the perception of risk, exacerbated by limited spare capacity. Growth in oil consumption fell from 1.8 million barrels a day to 1 million barrels a day. Oil production growth in 2005 was 889.000 barrels a day, equivalent to one per cent, with OPEC supplying almost all of the growth.
A New York Times editorial throws its support behind the Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act. Here are a few short excerpts:
The Senate, has before it the Enhanced Energy Security Act of 2006. ... The bill has impressive bipartisan sponsorship. ... Its stated purpose is to reduce oil dependency, but the strategies and technologies it encourages would also do much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ...
The bill would require the president to figure out ways to cut oil consumption by 2.5 million barrels — 12.5 percent of current use — by 2016, and cut it in half by 2031. ...
There is also real money here — $1.8 billion for hybrid "plug-in" vehicles, for instance, $1 billion for cellulosic fuels.
Now that's a bill I support, my two favorite technologies featured! And the reduction in oil consumption would be terrific. I don't know what the chances of this bill being passed are, but let your representatives know if you are in favor of this legislation.
Rueters conducted a global energy summit earlier this week and had several interesting topics, here are links to a few. I could have written a post on each one, but that would have been too much on the same theme and left you with no digging to do:
Oil industry investments to boost crude oil supply and refining capacity could combine with an economic downturn, due in part to high energy costs, to bring current lofty prices to an end in two to four years.
The refining business will continue to enjoy soaring profit margins until at least 2010, when new refinery expansion projects start to kick in, Tesoro Petroleum Corp.'s chief financial officer said on Wednesday.
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has recently released a preliminary report that develops four scenarios that explore a range of technologies critical to meet future energy needs, given 100 market drivers with a high potential impact on the evolution of the U.S. energy and electric power industries.
The scenarios provide an insight as to the trade-offs that might be made with differing environmental polices, fuel prices, the economy, etc. as they would effect usage of items such as coal power, nuclear power, distributed power, grid reinforcement, use of energy storage, fuel cells and use plug-in vehicles.
Rather than predict the future, these scenarios serve as planning tools for utility executives to strategically prioritize technological improvements to yield the most benefit in the future.
Don't expect any magic answers or details of technologies, just a discussion of some interesting possibilities. The answer is not in any one scenario, but some combination of the four. It may be boring to many, but I found it interesting to consider the various possibilities.
I must say that I agree with most of what U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman's said in remarks as reported in the referenced article, but they were too short, as mine are usually, to really reflect viewpoint. Our research dollars spent for biofuels and batteries may be in the right direction, but not enough is being spent soon enough and much too much is being spent on hydrogen. I believe that government spending for batteries and biofuels is a pittance and is worth it if it reduces the time until implementation by the smallest amount. I also think we should reduce all subsidies for ethanol production as soon as possible by tying them to the price of gasoline. Corn ethanol subsidies should be phased out as soon as cellulosic ethanol is commercial. Congress needs to appropriate the money for the cellulosic ethanol demonstration plants! I am glad to see that batteries are moving to the forefront, but they are so close to commercialization that I don't know how much government research can be justified. We will need more power plants powered by either coal or nuclear. I prefer coal with sequestration because they can be built faster and the nuclear waste problem is reduced, but a parallel building program may be required. No mention was made of conservation. The greatest amount of conservation occurs with electric vehicles getting their energy from advanced power plants operating at above 60% efficiency. The government has sheparded this development much faster than industry ever would have. Changes in lifestyle and better building insulation standards are very important also. The most immediate impact would be to raise vehicle efficiency standards immediately! But no matter how much conservation is used we will require more power plants. Renewable energy, although important, is not the subject of this discussion because there is no way it can significantly impact our power production in the next 10 years.
He was quoted that he's "surprised" that oil price increases haven't had a greater impact on the U.S. economy and that he is "worried" that the economy will suffer if oil prices stay above current levels. He further stated that "we are going to reach a limit and we will see a real impact of increased oil prices on our economy. Whether its $95 or something north of that I don't know. I can tell you I'm worried about anything above the current levels."
He went on to say that the administrations policy to increase research dollars for bio-fuels, hybrid battery technology and hydrogen fuel has the country on the right track. "But this country has been decades in getting itself into the fix we're in now. And it'll be a significant number of years working our way out of it."
He also called for the approval of the Yucca Mountain project to dispose of our nuclear waste. "This country doesn't need four (nuclear power) plants. We need 14 or we need 24." In order to support this kind of construction "will require Yucca Mountain be built." Bodman said demand for electricity in the U.S. will increase 50% over the next 20-25 years and "the only thing I see meeting that is nuclear power."
The FutureGen Industrial Alliance reported today that offerors in nine states (totaling 22 sites) have expressed an interest in hosting the FutureGen Project -- the world's first coal-fueled "zero emissions" power plant that will generate electricity and hydrogen while capturing and permanently storing carbon dioxide deep underground. FutureGen has an aggressive schedule to site the plant and begin construction within three years.
The FutureGen Alliance is a coalition whose members include some of the world's largest coal companies and electric utilities including: American Electric Power; Anglo American; BHP Billiton; the China Huaneng Group; CONSOL Energy Inc., Foundation Coal; Kennecott Energy, a member of the Rio Tinto group; Peabody Energy; and Southern Company. These companies provide energy to tens of millions of U.S. and international residential, business, and industrial customers in Asia, Australia, Canada, Continental Europe, the People's Republic of China, South Africa and the United States, among other regions.
On the first anniversary of The Energy Blog I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my thoughts on where we stand in The Energy Revolution, where we are headed and some of the things that I have learned during the past year.
My initial interest in starting the blog was that I was concerned that the price of oil was increasing because of a shortage of oil. I wanted to learn more about it. I soon became interested in the peak oil phenomena and was immediately sold on the idea that there was a finite amount of oil and that we were approaching the period of peak oil. What took me quite a bit of time to get through my thick skull was that the term peak oil was used rather loosely and misleading conclusions were being reached by many. What I have concluded is that we have passed the peak production of cheap, easy to produce conventional oil and we are now entering an era where oil is going to be increasingly more expensive. We have vast amounts of oil reserves in what is called sour oil, heavy oil, oilsands oil and shale oil. The quantity of conventional sweet conventional oil is declining, but is being replaced by the more costly oil at a rate that is keeping up with demand. Shale oil is still uneconomical and it will remain so for several decades, assuming no technological breakthrough in production costs.
QinetiQ, Europe's largest science and technology organization, has completed the first flight trials of Zephyr - a High-Altitude, Long-Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that has a 12 meter (39 ft) wingspan but weighs just 27 kilograms (59 pounds).
The trials took place at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA. Two aircraft were flown for four and a half and six hours respectively, the maximum flight times permitted under range restrictions. The maximum altitude attained was 27,000 feet above sea level.
The advantages of plug-in hybrids are probably quite familiar to most of the readers of The Energy Blog, but this article, via Felix Kramer ofCalCars, is especially well written. I especially like their comments in the next to last paragraph where they conclude that the efficiency of a plug-in is much higher than that of fuel cell car. If you want to read more than is below, you will have to fork over $4.95 at your local newstand. Felix nothing but praise for this article that is appearing in the current issue of Scientific American saying:
"Anything that goes into this 161-year-old magazine is exhaustively examined and 'vetted.' Thus, it's a major signal that hybrid cars have arrived when an article called "Hybrid Vehicles Gain Traction" appears on pages 72-79 of the April 2006 issue (now on new-stands). That's also true for plug-in hybrids when the cover promotes the article with the phrase 'Plugged-In Hybrid Cars.' This article provides a superb overview of hybrid technology, Then it positions PHEVs as the logical outcome of the evolution of advanced technology vehicles, and explains their benefits. We present a few excerpts below."
By then , next generation technology, called plug-in hybrids will offer motorists still better fuel efficiency as well as other perks: low-cost battery recharging overnight by simply connecting a 120-volt plug to an electrical outlet at home or work, very few trips to the gas station each year, and even the chance to sell surplus power back to the electric grid. Beyond the consumer benefits, however, the new plug-ins would help reduce the release of greenhouse gases by displacing emissions from millions of tailpipes to utility power plants. Today these facilities burn domestically supplied coal or natural gas, and in the future they should generate cleaner electricity from energy sources such as wind, solar or even advanced fossil-fuel systems that capture carbon dioxide for underground storage.
Prices for crude oil are above $60/bbl and gasoline prices are rising again. This excerpt from the March 15 issure of This Week in Petroleum expresses a rationale for continued high prices for crude oil and gasoline:
While it is true that crude oil imports over the past four weeks are down slightly compared to the same period last year, this is happening with crude oil prices $5 to $10 per barrel higher than a year ago, and with crude oil inventories nearly 32 million barrels (more than 10 percent) higher, as well. With prices significantly higher and inventory levels the highest in almost seven years, it may be somewhat surprising that import levels are as high as they are. But to many buyers, $60 crude oil can still be
I thought it would be interesting to share the view point of the CEO of one of the worlds largest oil companies on the future of energy.On 27 February 2006, Lord Browne, BP's Group Chief Executive, delivered a speech "The changing energy market." The following are a few brief excerpts from the speech. It is suggested that you read the whole speech to totally understand his perspective.
.... So let me offer you four facts, and one conclusion.
The first and most fundamental fact is that the demand for energy continues to increase, driven by population growth and by the gradual spread of prosperity.
Over the last twenty four hours, the world’s population has risen by almost a quarter of million – as it does every day, week in, week out. 10,000 new citizens every hour. ....
The second fact is that the United States, Europe, Japan and now China and India, are all significant importers - of both oil and natural gas.
And in each case the requirement for imports is likely to grow.
The forecast for ten years from now is that, worldwide, 70 per cent of total oil consumption and 40 per cent of all natural gas demand will be supplied through trade.
I recently received the book, Energy Storage: A Nontechnical Guide, by Richard Baxter, which I enjoyed reading and would recommend to anyone who would like a good reference on energy storage.
The book is written in a language that should be easily understandable to anyone, technically trained or not. It clearly explains how energy storage can decouple generation from demand, thus making possible a variety of uses including: storing power during off peak for use during peak periods, smoothing peaks and valleys in demand, eliminating or delaying expansion of generating facilities, dispatchable power, reducing the intermittency of renewable resources, making the grid more reliable and improving the quality of power.
Over one-third of the book is devoted to a description of 10 energy storage technologies. It goes through a comprehensive description of each technology from an overview to more details on several aspects of the technology, examples of installations and the status and challenges facing each storage technology. The design and operation narratives go into enough detail to fully understand the technology without bogging down the reader with theoretical details. His many examples of how energy storage is or could be used make it much easier to understand the technologies and how they can be used.
The chapters on how energy storage can benefit the electric power industries and the role energy storage could play with renewable energy generation are very insightful to understanding the potential of energy storage systems. The role energy storage systems can play in stabilizing our increasingly unstable grid while reducing the need for many new generating facilities and transmission lines is an important concept which shows that our grid can be more distributed than was once believed.
This Week in Petroleum for February 23, 2006 has a couple of reasons why the price of oil remains relatively high. The primary reason is fairly obvious to me: "the lack of spare capacity throughout the supply chain." The second is: "the market is in contango, which is defined as a market in which prices for commodities delivered in future months are increasingly higher than for those delivered in months closer to the present."
Their concise explanation of these two factors is worth a read.
The EIA Annual Energy Outlook is an annual report that is a necessary reference for those with a interest in energy topics. Their press release announcing the release of the newest version follows:
The Energy Information Administration today released the "Annual Energy Outlook 2006" ("AEO2006") full report on its website. In preparing projections for the "AEO2006," EIA evaluated a wide range of trends and issues that could have major implications for U.S. energy markets between now and 2030.
Accelerated Composites is developing a two seat, three wheeled hybrid car that is projected to get 330 mpg. The high mileage is made possible because the car is lightweight, weighing only 850 pounds and because it is extremely aerodynamic, having the lowest drag coefficient of any mass produced car. The company forecasts that the car will retail at $20 000.
The car named the Aptera TM, is made out of materials which give the car its incredibly light weight. Over 90% of the automobile will be composed of composites, including the seat structure, swing, and upper and lower control arms. The vehicle uses lightweight core throughout the sandwich panels, some of which use synthetic materials, while others are engineered natural products. Reinforcements used include carbon, glass and aramid (Kevlar) fibers.
Safety is not compromised despite the sleek look of the artist rendering. Its construction is based on the so-called driver-protection “crash box” that is typically used in Formula One motor racing. The area between the crash box and the body is filled with foam as a crush zone for increased safety of the passengers. The car, although technically classified as a motorcycle, will be equipped with air bags and seat belts. Rubber bumpers, not evident on the rendering, are blended into the front and back of the body to prevent damage from incidental contact with cars and curbs.
EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 10, 2006 release, overview:
Prices for crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas are projected to remain high through 2006 before starting to weaken in 2007. For example, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil, which averaged $56 per barrel in 2005, is projected to average $63 per barrel in 2006 and $60 in 2007. Retail regular gasoline prices, which averaged $2.27 per gallon in 2005, are projected to average $2.41 in 2006 and $2.33 in 2007. Henry Hub natural gas prices, which averaged $9.00 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) in 2005, are projected to average $9.80 in 2006 and $8.84 in 2007.
2005-2006 winter residential space-heating expenditures are projected to be higher relative to the winter of 2004-05 due to higher energy prices. On average, households heating primarily with natural gas likely will spend $257 (35 percent) more for fuel this winter than last winter. Households heating primarily with heating oil can expect to pay, on average, $275 (23 percent) more this winter than last.
Detailed information on all sectors of the energy market, along with graphical and tabular data for both projected and historical data can be found here.
The following is from this weeks edition of the EIA's This Week in Petroleum and is more relevant than their usual entries. These are even more reasons why the price of gasoline and diesel will remain at lofty levels this year.
Regulatory and industry changes to the composition of both gasoline and diesel fuel will be key issues affecting these markets in 2006. How markets behave during the transition to these new transportation fuel specifications will go a long way in determining how high retail prices may reach for these two fuels.
Specifically, five fuel specification changes, some due to mandates for cleaner-burning fuels pursuant to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, others resulting from the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) and industry responses to it, will stress the fuel supply system in 2006. Two of these changes, the ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) program, and the removal of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) from reformulated gasoline by many suppliers, are likely to be the most challenging to the market.
This lead in appears on Slashdot yesterday, I guess I can sneak this in as an energy topic, they have a wild discussion, as usual, going on about it if you go to the Slashdot site:
"Although a staple of Sci-Fi space travel, it is often deemed to be just that: Fiction. However, it seems that one is currently in development. "The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft. Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension."
An article from Fortune magazine via the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, gives a comprehensive review of General Electrics activities in the energy market. In perhaps the broadest and largest corporate effort anywhere, GE spent $700 million in 2004 on clean-energy R&D--ranging from hydrogen production to solar cells, cleaner coal plants, and biofuels. Their wide variety of activities include:
Their very successful wind turbine business has sold 5,500 turbines since 2002, with 1,600 to be installed this year. They hope wind power will eventually supply 20% of U.S.'s total energy.
They are developing hybrid electric locomotives that they have running on an eight mile long test track, which they will start selling in 2007.
They have many hydrogen related projects including solid oxide fuel cells for stationary applications, ICE engines modified to run on hydrogen, gas stations that use electrolysis to generate hydrogen, methods of storing hydrogen in man-made nanoparticles or in metal hydrides and thermochemical methods of producing hydrogen.
GE has been building new high temperature nuclear reactors in Europe and Asia.
They have teamed with Exxon Mobil and Schlumberger to study how to sequester carbon dioxide.
They are developing IGCC technology for producing electricity and hydrogen.
GE is pursuing three ways of using solar cells: developing more efficient solar cells, developing electrochemical cells that produce hydrogen, reducing the size of thermal solar farms from hundreds of acres to tens of acres by improving concentrating solar system efficiency. An example of their research in solar is the development of nanodiodes--whiskers 1/80,000th the thickness of a human hair--displaying a photovoltaic effect that converts sunlight into electricity.
John K. Reinker, who runs a team of about 60 scientists on hydrogen related subjects, is excited about the sheer scope of GE's energy R&D. "I don't think there is any other company in the world that is looking at so many energy technologies and as a result is able to understand which have the most probability of success." Thomas Edison, GE's original research scientist, would be proud.
Pacific Ethanol, Inc.(Nasdaq: PEIX)announced that it has signed a definitive agreement with Cascade Investment, L.L.C., the personal investment company of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, to sell 5,250,000 shares of Series A Cumulative Redeemable Convertible Preferred Stock, which will result in gross proceeds of $84 million. The shares of preferred stock will be convertible into shares of common stock at an initial conversion ratio of two shares of common stock for each share of preferred stock which, if converted immediately, would result in the issuance of 10,500,000 shares of common stock at an effective price of $8.00 per share.
Pacific Ethanol has announced plans to build five ethanol plants in the Western United States with an expected combined installed annual ethanol capacity of at least 200 million gallons. Construction has begun on the first 35 million gallon per year plant and permitting and engineering has begun on the next three.
November 17, 2005 -- A team led by Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) successfully demonstrated powered flight of the HiSentinel at an altitude of 74,000 feet. The development team of Aerostar International, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and SwRI launched the airship on November 8 from Roswell, N.M., for a five-hour technology demonstration flight. The 146-foot-long airship carried a 60-pound equipment pod and propulsion system. Sponsored by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, the flight was the culmination of a six-month preparation effort.
Future test flights will include multi-day missions with solar power and demonstration of the SwRI autonomous station-keeping autopilot. These low-cost systems will be capable of lifting small- to medium-payloads (20 to 200 pounds) to near-space altitudes for durations of longer than 30 days for communications, military and science applications.
The airship is shown fully inflated during preflight verification in a hangar in Roswell, N.M. It was later deflated and refolded in preparation for the launch. HiSentinel is the first in a family of long-endurance airships developed under the Composite Hull High Altitude Powered Platform program. SwRI designed the airship and provided the telemetry, flight control, power and propulsion systems. Aerostar International fabricated the hull and participated in the integration and test flight. AFRL developed the innovative launch system, provided facilities, and supported the launch and recovery. Each of the four organizations contributed funding, manpower, equipment and facilities for the collaborative effort.
HiSentinel is the first airship developed under the Composite Hull High Altitude Powered Platform (CHHAPP) program. CHHAPP is a spiral development program for a family of long-endurance autonomous solar-electric, stratospheric airships. The relatively inexpensive nature of the Hi Sentinel system will allow several test flights per year to take place. Designed for launch from remote sites, these airships will not require large hangars or special facilities. Unlike most stratospheric airship concepts, HiSentinel is launched flaccid with the hull only partially inflated with helium. As the airship rises, the helium expands until it completely inflates the hull to the rigid aerodynamic shape required for operation.
The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), in collaboration with industrial partners, demonstrated an unmanned aerial system (UAS) flight solely powered by fuel cell technology. The flight of the 5.6-pound 'Spider-Lion" lasted 3 hours, 19 minutes and consumed 15-grams of compressed hydrogen gas.
The 100-watt fuel cell system was designed and constructed at NRL largely using commercially available hardware and a fuel cell stack and components developed by Protonex. The "Spider-Lion" UAS was developed by NRL as a high-impact research platform for testing fuel cell technology. Research and development continues aimed at developing a fuel cell system capable of powering small military platforms currently in the field or in advanced development stages requiring extended operation that is not achievable using current battery technology.
Protonex develops and manufactures high-performance, long-duration fuel cell power systems for portable and remote applications in the 10-500W power range. Protonex products and platforms are based on patent-pending fuel cell stacks. Protonex stacks are claimed to deliver the industry's best metrics on virtually all dimensions including weight, size, durability, and lifetime performance. They have developed fuel cells that are powered by chemical hydride cartridges, direct hydrogen storage or reformers that can extract hydrogen "as-needed" from commercially available liquid fuels such as methanol, ethanol, propane, gasoline, diesel, and JP8.
The Spider-Lion project is a joint venture between NRL's Chemistry and Tactical Electronic Warfare Divisions and Protonex Technology Corporation.