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The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
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Driving With A Black Sheep
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Alternative Energy, what is the logical next step for America Part III.

hydro wind geothermal alternative energy

G. David Felt
Staff Writer Alternative Energy - CheersandGears.com
September 25, 2012
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Alternative Energy, what is the logical next step for America Part III?
Join me as I write about the various forms of alternative energy and how I see them stacking up in today’s market place.

Hydro, Geothermal and Wind

While excellent in being renewable energy for use by homes and businesses, Hydro, Geothermal and Wind lack the ability to drive an auto by itself. When combined with alternative forms of creating energy, these three renewable forms of energy can truly make a difference.
Hydropower, water powered cars or hydrogen/oxygen powered cars using 100% water as fuel is real. Splitting water by electrolysis and creating hydrogen/oxygen gas or Hydroxy gas, the molecules are bonded together positively in a ortho hydrogen state. Due to the power of this gas, you do not store it so it must be made as you drive. The special alternator generates amps to run the special stainless steel cell that allows this gas to be created and used to run the engine. One can research Stan Meyer’s Water Powered Dun Buggy to see what this technology is capable of. Yet with all the potential possible, either we have a true conspiracy from the oil companies with this technology being killed off or a solid scam. You decide!

Now you have the alternative Hydrogen powered cars that rely on tanks, a hydrogen stations and what most engineers call the PEM (polymer exchange membrane) fuel cell. The PEM fuel cells have the advantage of being light and small. They consist of two electrodes ( a negatively charged anode and a positively charged cathode), a catalyst and a membrane. Hydrogen is forced into the fuel cell at the anode in the form of H2 molecules, each of which contains two hydrogen atoms. A catalyst at the anode breaks the molecules into hydrogen ions (the protons) and a flow of electricity (the electrons). The ions pass through the membrane, but the electricity has to go around. While it's doing so, it can be harnessed to do work. Just as hydrogen is forced into the fuel cell at the anode, oxygen is forced in at the cathode. The protons and electrons reunite at the cathode and join with the oxygen to form water, most of which become the fuel cell's exhaust. Fuel cells are designed to be flat and thin, mainly so they can be stacked. The more fuel cells in the stack, the greater the voltage of the electricity that the stack produces.

Fuel cells have two major advantages over fossil fuels. First, they don't deplete the world's finite supply of oil, which helps us preserve the existing supplies and they could also reduce our dependency on foreign oil. Second, the only byproduct from a fuel cell's operation is heat and water, which means fuel cells don't produce pollution. This is vitally important in a time when carbon emissions from cars are believed to be promoting global warming.

Perhaps a more important question is how the hydrogen itself will be produced. Given that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, constituting roughly 90 percent of the atoms in existence, you'd think that this wouldn't be a problem. Well, think again. Hydrogen is also the lightest element in the universe and any uncontained hydrogen on the surface of the Earth will immediately float off into outer space. What hydrogen remains on this planet is bound with other elements in molecular form, most commonly in water (H2O) molecules. And there happens to be a lot of H2O on the surface of the Earth.
But how do we separate the hydrogen molecules in the water from the oxygen molecules? And if we don't use water as a hydrogen source, where else can we get hydrogen?

The simplest way of getting hydrogen from water is the one that Sir William Grove knew about more than 150 years ago: electrolysis. If you pass an electric current through water, the H2O molecules break down. Similar to fuel cell operation, this process uses an anode and a cathode, usually made from inert metals. When an electric current is applied to the water, hydrogen forms at the cathode, and oxygen forms at the anode. Although this process is slow, it can be done on a large scale.

An alternative source for hydrogen is natural gas, which consists of naturally occurring hydrocarbons. A process called steam reformation can be used to separate the hydrogen in the gas from the carbon. At present, this is the most common method of industrial-scale production of hydrogen and would likely be the first method used to produce the hydrogen for fuel-cell vehicles. Unfortunately, this process uses fossil fuels -- the natural gas -- so if the point of building cars that run on hydrogen is to avoid depleting fossil fuel reserves, natural gas would be the worst possible source of this fuel yet with North America having the largest reserves in the world we have a 150-200 year step to the eventual holy grail of renewable energy with almost none if not truly no carbon footprint of green house gas.

Some experts have suggested that it might be possible to build miniature hydrogen plants that will fit in the average person's garage, so it won't even be necessary to drive to the local fueling station to fill up the car's hydrogen tank. The most extreme form of this idea has been the suggestion that electrolysis could be performed inside the car itself, which would make possible the astounding idea of a car that runs on water! However, the power for the electrolysis has to come from some sort of battery, so a water-powered car would need to be periodically recharged.

Your three biggest challenges to a Hydro car is cost of developing the hydrogen technology. Platinum is the most widely used catalyst in fuel cells leaving one with a 100K fuel cell cost. Storage is a thorny problem. Hydrogen is a gas that likes to spread out so compression into a reasonable size while dealing with expansion issues from warm days means that your tank would vent out and in a couple days you would have no fuel to run the car if it was sitting for days, this on top of the explosion factor due to being highly flammable. One only needs to remember the Hindenburg. Fortunately, hydrogen fires are not as hot as gas fires and less likely to start a secondary fire. Third challenge, Hydrogen is it really nonpolluting? A fuel cell only produces heat and water as exhaust but the process to create the hydrogen in not necessarily clean. Electrolysis uses electricity and that electricity will often come from plants that burn coal, a highly polluting source. And when hydrogen is extracted from natural gas, it produces carbon emissions, which is exactly what we're trying to avoid by using hydrogen in the first place.

Geothermal
Think back to your grade school science class about using the heat lying deep beneath the Earth’s surface. As we look to alternative ways to reduce our dependence on Fossil Fuels, it is not uncommon that every potential energy source is being considered as a replacement. How can geothermal power your car?
Geothermal energy resources include an array of earth-sourced energy, including heat found below shallow ground, hot water and rock found a few miles deeper, and even the extremely high-temperature molten rock known as magma, lying deep beneath the surface of the Earth, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Although it has garnered more attention of late, heat from the Earth, or geothermal energy, has been warming water that then seeps into underground reservoirs since the beginning of time. With temperatures reaching extremely high levels, from 225 to 600 degrees F, these reservoirs form a usable source of energy that can then be used to produce electricity. In fact, the U.S. has used geothermal energy from reservoirs such as these to generate electricity at power plants for the past 50 years. As research continues on how to extract and use this renewable energy, expect geothermal energy to continue to become more competitive on a cost basis with fossil fuels. As supplies of fossil fuels dwindle, geothermal technology will already be in place to shoulder the energy needs.

Currently, three types of electric generating plants have been developed to utilize geothermal energy. Used since 1960 as a replacement fuel for coal and other fossil fuels to generate electricity, technologies relying on geothermal energy have been developed primarily in three ways to power electric generation plants. One of these is known as dry steam. In this technology, steam from underground wells is used to turn a turbine that then activates a generator to produce electricity. However, due to a lack of underground steam resources, the only dry steam plant generation in the U.S. is at The Geysers in California. In binary cycle technology, heat from reservoirs of temperatures between 225 and about 350 degrees F is used to boil a working fluid that is then vaporized in a heat exchanger and used to power a generator. Water from this process can be injected back into the ground to begin the process again. But the most common kind of geothermal-powered electric plant is the flash steam plant that makes use of water from reservoirs of high temperatures, brought up through wells where it boils into steam and is then used to power a generator. Leftover water and steam can be returned to the reservoir for reuse.

Geothermal resources are geographically favored. Although geothermal heat pumps can be used throughout the country, electric generating plants and direct-use systems are limited in the western states because geothermal resources are geographically concentrated in the western U.S. Part of the reason for the geographical limitations are that drilling technology is current limited to development of geothermal resources from shallow water or steam-filled reservoirs, which again, are found primarily in the west.
So while this has enormous potential for clean power generation to power electrical cars, we have multiple limitations at this time for being a favorable source of fuel. One is the charge time for electric cars; two the distance an electric car can travel and three is the current state of development of geothermal power. For these reasons this is not a replaceable form of fuel for petrol.

Wind
The idea of a wind-powered car is nothing new. Back in the 1960s, Douglas Aircraft engineer Andrew Bauer allegedly created a working prototype of a "directly downwind faster than the wind," or DDWFTTW, vehicle. However, no official records exist exploring whether it was faster than the wind.

Today you have an engineer Richard Jenkins who dreams of creating a vehicle that can use air to power a auto and in the process set his own land speed record. You can find much on the Greenbird built by Richard yet while the autos are propelled and driven by wind. There is still the large scale production of such a car and the need for constant wind to make them a reality.

The issue of cars powered by wind electricity is less one of supply and demand, and more one of sociological and cultural shifts in habits and thinking. Going from miles per gallon to kilowatt hours per mile means more than plunking a battery where the gas tank used to be. It's about changing driving habits, travel habits and even our concept of working and commuting. But when (and if) these cultural traditions are changed, wind power would still come up short on supply. Sure, it could generate the necessary power, but only if there were enough wind farms and only if there were enough ways to distribute the power -- if and if and if. But the wind is a fickle beast, despite modern forecasting techniques. Wind is seasonal, wind is dependent on storms and wind is variable and changeable -- much more so than human behavior.

The best bet on wind is where wind is a constant, so that wind generators can create the electricity that can go into charging auto’s this can have a very small carbon foot print and yet we still end up with the shortages of an electric auto.

What we need to be asking ourselves and demanding for US independence is as follows:
What is the logical next step to remove our dependence on Oil from other countries while allowing us to move to the next better fuel for auto’s?
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First of all, lets get one thing straight. If alternative energy sources are economical, they won't need subsidies and laws encouraging, or requiring, their adoption to exist. The fact is that they aren't economical. Burning coal, oil and gas to generate power or to run you automobile remains the most cost effective means of powering our society's energy needs. This is true despite $100/barrel oil and $4 a gallon gasoline. It'll remain largely true until oil gets to about $300~500 a barrel and gas prices top about $12 a gallon.

Let's take the state of California for an example. The state passed laws requiring that utilities obtain at least about 1/3 of their power from wind, solar or other renewable sources. The result is that Californians now pay about 14.5 cents per kWh. Compared to states like Indiana or Texas where it is about 8 cents and 7.5 cents respectively. This is expected to go up even more in the next few years as California's Cap and Trade racket kicks in. California responded by implementing a tiered system which -- very much like progressive taxation -- gives lower rates to users who do not use a lot of power while punishing heavy users. While this placates some home users who are willing to conserve, it essentially drives industry from the state faster than the bubonic plague.

Make no mistakes about it, "green technology" does not bring jobs, they chase them from our shores. America's economic success in the past century wasn't built on our environmental zeal, it was -- in part -- built on the fact that we have always had cheap and plentiful energy. Unfortunately, this is something we are trying to change in the earnest. That we refuse to explore and extract cheap and available fossil fuel domestically is scandalous and flat out stupid to say the least.

At some point, fossil fuel will become sufficiently scarce and expensive enough that alternatives start to make sense. That is inevitable, but that is not today or couple of decades from now. From a purely economic standpoint we should let the market decide when to make that transition – very much like we let economics transition us from coal and whale blubber to oil and gas. We should not try to artificially hurry that process when the economics – the supply and demand – simply do not compute. This leaves only one motivation to promote, subsidize and require alternatives today – the misguided believe that somehow androgynous CO2 output is something we should worry about. I personally do not believe in the Global Warming hypothesis -- the planet is not currently warming and all the warming (and cooling) in the last century is not the slightest bit abnormal in the history of the planet's climate. I also happen to believe that there simply isn’t enough fossil fuel reserve for us permanently or tangibly alter the planet’s climate even if we wanted to. But, this post is not about the climate change hoax; it is about alternative energy so I am not going to spend any more time debating this issue. Instead, I will simply talk about what the future will bring in terms of how we power our civilization. This future, IMHO, is inevitable even if I disagree with the policies, reasons and viability of trying to accelerate its arrival.

To put it simply, the future is in nuclear generation, electrical grid distribution and battery storage.

Why Nuclear generation? Because it is the only alternative source of energy with sufficient generation density to power out civilization’s power demands. Wind, Solar and the rest while attractive in their various niches wouldn’t generate enough power to provide for more than 20~25% of today’s power demands even when fully exploited. They have no chance of replacing fossil fuel as the dominant energy source. The geo-political supply situation is also quite favorable. The new “Middle East” in the era of Nuclear Powser will be Australia and that is a firm and stable US ally.

Why electrical grid distribution? Because it is a efficient, proven and practical way of moving power. It certainly beats hydrogen – a near absolute zero cryogenic liquid or the lowest density gas in the universe. Why do you want to produce hydrogen then move it in 5000 psi gas tanks or cryogenic containers then use a fuel cell to convert it to electric power to drive a motor? It also beats micro reactors in your garage simply because of safety and economies of scale in power production.

Why Battery Storage? Because, apart from costs, batteries are fully capable of powering a car with the kind of range and performance we demand. The current price of about $400 per kWh for Li-Ion batteries – about $20,000 for enough electric juice to move a midsize car 125 miles can be expected to half in the next decade and ultimately stabilize at roughly the price of lead acid power cells – roughly $100 per KWh. That means that $10,000 in storage cells can get you 250 miles. This is something we can live with even if it is slightly less convenient than gasoline or diesel. Batteries’ biggest downfall – its need to take hours to recharge compared to gas tank’s convenient 2 minute fill up – is also not unconquerable. Instead of plugging-in your car and waiting for the batteries to charge up, if we standardize the dimensions and specifications of battery packs we can have an infrastructure where by you simply swap packs at a gas station. We can have standardized packs very much like we have D sized batteries in flash lights. You drive up, a robotic sled goes under the car, pluck one or more packs off and replace them with fresh ones. You pay for the cost of electric charge and the depreciation of the packs (about 1/1000th the cost of the batteries when new), they even credit you for remaining charge in the packs you left behind and you are on your way in a minute or two. You never buy new batteries the gas station does when it detects a pack that has run out of its useful life.

That is the future I see. I just don’t think we should be in a hurry to bring it about. What we need today is not dubiously green and exorbitantly priced energy. What we need is cheap and plentiful energy. So... yes... I'll say “Drill baby drill”!
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Not just "Drill baby Drill!" but "refine baby refine" too. Refining capacity has not appreciably risen since the end of the 70s. There have been upgrades in what existing refineries do since then, but not in actual capacity. The real problem with renewable energy is energy density. There are only two sources of power that have great energy density without the need for massive subsidies: fossil fuels and nuclear. What we could use is a far simpler tax code that terminates all energy subsidies. Also, ending direct subsidies and loan guarantees would help too. For once, let other countries subsidize renewables because they can afford it while we wait for them to make it viable.
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Not just "Drill baby Drill!" but "refine baby refine" too. Refining capacity has not appreciably risen since the end of the 70s. There have been upgrades in what existing refineries do since then, but not in actual capacity. The real problem with renewable energy is energy density. There are only two sources of power that have great energy density without the need for massive subsidies: fossil fuels and nuclear. What we could use is a far simpler tax code that terminates all energy subsidies. Also, ending direct subsidies and loan guarantees would help too. For once, let other countries subsidize renewables because they can afford it while we wait for them to make it viable.


Can we get a PUMP BABY PUMP?????

After all, Natural Gas is way cheaper, cleaner and except for making sure the supply has a good filtration so it is dry and any other natural contaminants from under ground are removed it would be a money maker with far easier delivery than petrol.

Just think of all the semi's you can take off the road when you are not having to deliver petrol as the gas lines just go right to the fast fill stations and then you have home users who do time fill.
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"Let's take the state of California for an example. The state passed laws requiring that utilities obtain at least about 1/3 of their power from wind, solar or other renewable sources. The result is that Californians now pay about 14.5 cents per kWh. Compared to states like Indiana or Texas where it is about 8 cents and 7.5 cents respectively."

- Texas has a competitive power market with over 400 companies competing on price. California no longer has a competitive market, so you're not comparing apples to apples here.

"Wind, Solar and the rest while attractive in their various niches wouldn’t generate enough power to provide for more than 20~25% of today’s power demands even when fully exploited."

- Incorrect. The American Mid-West is the Saudi Arabia of wind energy. Additionally, there are newer wind turbine technologies that allow turbines to operate at lower wind speeds and double or triple output at the wind speeds current turbines typically run. New Jersey has already mitigated the need for new power plants by installing rooftop solar across the state. Germany is able to generate 50% of their energy needs via solar power during the summer. We have a much more southern and much sunnier climate than Germany.

"Why Nuclear generation? Because it is the only alternative source of energy with sufficient generation density to power out civilization’s power demands."

- I like nuclear as well, and it would be a great complimentary power source to wind and solar mentioned above.

"So... yes... I'll say “Drill baby drill”!"

- the longer that oil in our territory stays in the ground, the more valuable it becomes as other sources dry up.
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Clearly, the guiding principle here should be the diversification of our energy supply. We should never again rely on a single source so heavily that it imperils our energy independence, our national security, and our economy.

That said, the most viable motor fuel to take us past oil is clearly CNG. It is abundant, cheap, domestic, and vastly cleaner than gasoline and diesel. No energy source is perfect, nor without compromise, but CNG is best positioned to take us to a much better place with minimal need for technological advances and monetary investment.

It would give us a century-long window in which to develop all of the other alternatives while vastly improving things right now.
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On windy days in Germany, Poland and the Ukraine have to disconnect themselves from Germany's grid because their own grids can't handle the flood of power...
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The biggest obstacle in the way of energy independence today, is the EPA itself.

That needs to be fixed.
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T Boone Pickens posted this in his LinkedIn Blog:


We all know how high gasoline prices have continued to rise, year over year. Higher gasoline prices are largely based on higher crude oil prices – likely to bounce between $90 and $100 per barrel for the foreseeable future – plus refining costs, transportation, labor, taxes and (dare we mention it?) profit.
But there is a hidden cost in what we pay for the oil we import from the Middle East. That is the cost of protecting the well sites, pipelines, and shipping lanes. We currently have two carrier battle groups stationed in and around the Persian Gulf to protect the oil coming through the Strait of Hormuz. According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, the annualized cost of keeping a carrier battle group at sea is $2.93 billion. Two battle groups cost about $5.86 billion per year. And there are discussions about moving a third group on station to deal with potential issues between Iran and Israel.
About 17 million barrels of oil move through the Strait of Hormuz each day. Two million barrels of that comes to the United States. The other 15 million barrels goes to China, India, Europe and elsewhere across the oceans.
We get just over 10 percent of the oil, yet we pay 100 percent of the costs of protecting it.
Oil is a very small player in the production of electricity – about three percent. Most of the oil we import is used as gasoline to run our national fleet of 250 million passenger cars and light trucks. More of it is used as diesel to fuel our eight million heavy-duty trucks.
It is too complicated logistically to try and create a massive base of natural gas-powered cars. However, heavy trucks – those 18-wheelers – tend to run the same routes week in and week out, so it is a relatively simple matter put natural gas refueling stations at enough truck stops along Interstate highways to handle their fueling needs.
If we converted all of our heavy trucks to natural gas we would reduce our need for OPEC oil by 75 percent. Without the need for Middle East oil, we would reduce the cost of protecting it by 100 percent. If the Chinese or French still need it, they can pay to protect it.
We need to get off OPEC oil and onto domestic resources. It can be done in about five years and would have a positive impact on our economy, our environment, and our national security.
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