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Thursday, February 3, 2011

GOOD AND BAD NEWS ABOUT OUR ENERGY FUTURE


"It's not like it's 10 years off," Chu said at a press conference on U.S. clean energy efforts on the sidelines of the climate talks. "It's about five years and it could be sooner. Meanwhile the batteries we do have today are soon going to get better by a factor of two."


Chu said car battery companies have to develop units that last 15 years, improve energy storage capacity by a factor of five to seven, and cut costs by about a factor of three in order to be make electric cars comparable to cars that run on gasoline and diesel.

The good news is that he says these better batteries will be available in five years.  The ridiculously inane news is that these batteries will need to last 15 years, improve energy storage capacity by a factor greater than five and reduce costs by three.  This total package is impossible...impossible.  Especially in five years and probably forever.  

The obvious solution to all the above needs is the direct methanol fuel cell.  But the Department of Energy has banned R and D on this option for the past decade.  Why?  Because the Farm Lobby told them so.  Well, I'm being a bit too harsh, for restrictions have lessened since the Obama administration, but there is no national mandate for this effort and a general negative attitude to anything biomethanol.

For the record, here are the types of possible fuel cells:


  • Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) Fuel Cells


  • Direct Methanol Fuel Cells


  • Alkaline Fuel Cells


  • Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cells


  • Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells


  • Solid Oxide Fuel Cells


  • Regenerative Fuel Cells


  • Comparison of Fuel Cell Technologies


  • Ready for more good news?  ExxonMobil predicts that annual oil demand will increase from 88 million/barrels today to 100 million/barrels in 2030, and, according to Vice President of Corporate Strategic Planning Bill Colton, the oil industry will have no problem whatsoever meeting the increased demand.  Is he joking or crazy or both?

    Let this register for a minute or so.  He is saying there is no such thing as Peak Oil, until 2030, that is.  Can you believe him?   I would bet my life that "something" happens to the price and supply of oil by 2030.  By the way, the title of the article by Jonathan Fahey of AP is:  


    In the article itself, Fahey indicates not a fall, but, more a leveling off for gasoline, but an increase for diesel, jet fuel and other transport oils.  Why they chose to run that particular heading mystifies me.  

    The only way petroleum can last that long is if the entire Middle East crashes (as might be possible), the world enters a 20-year depression and oil use drastically drops.  Meanwhile, Colton further remarked that ExxonMobil sees no breakthrough in a cheap, lightweight battery that stores a lot of energy.

    So who will be right regarding batteries:  Steven Chu or ExxonMobil?  Doesn't matter because the title of this posting should have been RIDICULOUS AND BAD NEWS ABOUT FUTURE ENERGY, ESPECIALLY BATTERIES AND OIL!!!

    -
    The Dow Jones Industrials crept up 31 to 12,073, with world markets mixed.  Gold jumped $19/toz to $1355, while oil settled, NYMEX at $91 and Brent Spot at $102.  However, Egypt is still rioting, Tunisia remains uneasy and there is growing unrest in Algeria, Yemen, Sudan and Jordan.  Has the tipping point been reached and are those pent up emotions close to erupting for most of the Middle East and Africa?

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    Tropical Cyclone Yasi, at 170 MPH, came and went with no deaths and $3.5 billion of insured damage (U.S. and Australian dollars are about the same today).

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    1 comment:

    Ron Shook said...

    Patrick,

    I think that you are very wrong about the batteries from all that I've been able to discover. Chu is essentially right. We'll see a two times leap in battery densities very soon and in 5 years a 5-10 times exponential leap in battery energy density in comparison to today in 5 years. It'll take another 3-5 years for the prices of this leap to drop to reasonable, but then we'll have all we need for short to medium range personal transport which will certainly drop in size and weight.

    Fuel cells (methonal and otherwise) are liable to be in the mix for heavier needs such as large trucks, buses, tractors and mining gear.