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March 22, 2006



I'm surprised they didn't mention direct carbon conversion fuel cells - unless they aren't aware of such technologies in the pipeline.

Michael Cain

I would like to see more attention paid to viable energy end states. My own opinion is that a much larger fraction of our total energy use will have to be electricity. I worry about how many transition stages we can afford. If we spend large sums (of money or energy, take your pick) on coal-to-liquids and coal to gases rather than on the means for using electricity instead of either liquids or gases, will we still be able to afford the subsequent necessary transition(s)?

Today the US gets about 25% of its energy from coal, uses about a billion tons per year, and has about 250 billion tons of reserves. Previously, we've used about 40 billion tons. Assuming coal production behaves like other resources, production peaks when about half of the recoverable total is gone. Half of 290 billion tons is 145, we've used 40, which leaves 105 to the midpoint. At current rates, we hit the peak around 2110. At double the current rate, around 2058. Bet heavily on liquids and gases produced from coal and you've got about 50 years before you start to have production problems.


You can bet the process for this will be expensive, keeping prices up and pushing other energy research as well, not giving people time to really settle on it. High oil prices + sufficient supply = good.


Coal will do as an intrim fuel source while research into alternatives continues. In the next 20 years or so I can imagine using genetic engineering to create bacteria that make something like gasoline or crude oil.

I'm especially optimistic about GreenFuel Tech and their emissions-to-biofuels process. We might get some full scale production facilities for that in a couple years.


I assume all of these create massive amounts of CO2 and therefore increase global melting. Ouch.


Speaking of which, didn't the government relax the anti-pollution requirements for power plants in the wake of Katrina? Does anyone know if those controls are back in place?


I they could recycled the CO2 and store it somewhere deep in the ground, it could be an ideal solution for a couple a decades.


Equivalent capital invested in wind, solar, electric vehicles, and geothermal heat pumps would solve global climate disaster, revive our economy, raise standards of living,stop oily wars of corporate empire, and restore the leadership of the US as a force for democracy and human rights.

All at the same time. Do not even consider coal as an alternative, it's a losing proposition.


Coal will bridge the gap between petroleum and renewables + other sources as of yet undiscovered. Pluggable hybrid vehicles are good, and better building standards for homes and commercial buildings would save a lot of energy.


Much of our energy is produced and distributed as market forces dictate. Despite price increases last year, coal continues to be the cheapest fossil fuel . External costs, like global warming, aren't included in market prices yet. Continued use of coal is thus inevitable for the foreseeable future regardless of fond wishes to the contrary.

Improvements in end-use efficiency create economic gains that don't always flow into reduced consumption--we drive our fuel-efficient cars more miles instead. That's still a net gain. All in all, it's not realistic to expect revolutions, but it's vital to continue progress in both supply technology and end use efficiency. The market will sort out how the gains are deployed. Redistributing capital by fiat is usually a very bad choice.


It is a bit of juggling game in the coal industry and coal prices from underground mines to ensure enough electricity and steel capacity worldwide while making sure the impact on the environment and people is minimal. www.coalportal.com

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