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On Saudi Arabia Still Calling the Shots

Sorry, duplicate post.

October 18, 2014    View Comment    

On Saudi Arabia Still Calling the Shots

If the political leadership of the U.S. had any sense (it doesn't), it would establish a floor price for oil.  This could be done by purchasing oil and placing it in a tactical petroleum reserve when prices drop below a target price of, say $60 or $70 a barrel.  The reserve could be drawn down during price spikes, and would constitute spare production capacity under the control of the U.S.   Creating a floor price would ensure sustained investment in energy production of all types, and would discourage excessive consumption.

It was the failure to do this in the 1990's, when the oil price dropped to as low a $8 a barrel, the led to many of the problems with which we have been struggling ever since.

October 18, 2014    View Comment    

On The Catch-22 of Energy Storage

I congratulate the author for highlighting and quantifying the importance of the energy costs of storage in evaluating the feasibility of various energy sources.  This is a very important factor that is commonly overlooked by proponents of renewable energy sources, particularly solar PV.

There are problems, however, with the derivation and application of the threshold EROI value of 7 for the development of buffered energy sources.   A review of the referenced article indicates that the threshold value of 7 is derived by estimating the ratio of the “energy value” of an economy (i.e., (GDP)/(total energy consumption) to the average electricity cost in that economy.

A problem with this logic is that does not consider external costs or savings associated with various energy sources.  The external costs are both environmental and economic.  For example, not only does the widespread burning of coal act as a major source of greenhouse gas generation  and ocean acidification (with associated economic costs), it also has a strong negative economic impact in terms of health effects to humans.  The health effects greatly increase the cost of health care, in addition to lost productivity.  Another example of an external cost is the cultivation of biomass, which can result in the excessive diversion of agricultural land from food production, thus increasing food prices.

Another problem is that the high threshold value of 7 applies only to highly developed economies, such as the U.S. and Germany.  As is mentioned only briefly in the article, the threshold value for less developed countries would be significantly lower than for highly developed countries.  

The information presented in this article might be best used as a guide to a relative ranking in allocating resources in energy development in various circumstances, rather than as a cutoff criterion.  For example, it may well be beneficial in a developed economy to invest in buffered wind energy if it displaces coal, even though its EROI is well below 7, because of environmental factors and reduces health costs.  Similarly, it may be worthwhile for a less developed economy to invest in buffered wind, because its (GDP)/(total energy consumption) ratio is low enough to justify it.

September 1, 2014    View Comment    

On The Catch-22 of Energy Storage


August 29, 2014    View Comment    

On Update on US Natural Gas, Coal, Nuclear, and Renewables

Thank you for this synopsis.  It would be useful to prepare a synopsis that incorporates the energy investment that is required to produce the energy from the various sources.  For example the EROEI (energy return on energy invested) for corn ethanol is typically reported as being less than 1.5, which means that the net energy yield of producing corn ethanol is less than one third of the gross energy yield shown in figure 7.  

Taking this into account might portray the contribution of energy sources more meaningfully.

August 29, 2014    View Comment    

On Can Switching Heavy Duty Trucks to Rail Transport Reduce Carbon Emissions?


Thanks for the references.   I have been tied up the last few days, but I will read them as soon as I can.

July 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Can Switching Heavy Duty Trucks to Rail Transport Reduce Carbon Emissions?

I would appreciate your posting the parameters of your evaluation of the feasibility of converting HDV’s to natural gas for cross-country freight transport.  I have done a similar evaluation, and believe that it would be quite feasible.

July 14, 2013    View Comment    

On Can Switching Heavy Duty Trucks to Rail Transport Reduce Carbon Emissions?

I suspect that greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced more effectively and cost effectively by converting HDV's to running on LNG, rather than switching to rail transport.  That's not to say that it would not be worthwhile to switch as much of the freight transport to rail as is practicable, but considerations of flexibility would limit its effectiveness, as you note.

July 14, 2013    View Comment    

On Does Efficiency R&D Lead to Lower Energy Consumption? It's Complicated

A review of the graph in this article of per capita energy consumption demonstrates that the thesis that that increased investment in efficiency R&D  results in reduced energy consumption is not supported by historical experience.

Almost the the entire reduction in per capita energy consumption of 7,000 kwh observed in the U.S. from 1980 through 2010 is attributable to two events.  The first event was a decrease of approximately 9,500 per capita from 1980 through mid 1983, and the second was a decrease of approximately 8,600 per capita in the period from mid 2007 through mid 2009.   The per capita energy consumption in the remaining 24.5 years out of the 30 year study period actually increased by 11,100 kwh per capita.

The first period of decline was associated with a severe recession that was a consequence of a spike in oil price that resulted from the Iranian Revolution.  As the graph indicates, similar declines in per capita energy consumption occurred in Germany and Japan as well.  This decline had nothing to do with R&D or energy innovation.

The first decline event ended in mid 2003, when oil prices stabilized, and per capita energy consumption increased steadily until 2000, when oil prices began to rise.

The second decline event began in mid 2007, when the increase in oil price accelerated, culminating in a record high price of $134 (in March 2013 dollars) in June of 2008.  The decline continued until mid 2009, as a result of the recession caused by the credit collapse of 2008.  Here also, similar declines occurred in Germany and Japan, although they were less severe, because the oil consumption per capita in thos e countries is lower than that of the U.S., due to geographical and cultural factors.

In fact, the curves of per capita energy consumption over the study period are almost identical for Germany and Japan, except for the period of the 1990's, when per capita energy consumption increased in Japan, but decreased in Germany.  This is likely a result of the economic consequences of the cost of reunification in Germany, and had nothing to do with energy policy.

The bottom line is that there is absolutely no evidence that the variations in the trends in per capita energy consumption over the study period in the three countries has anything to do with the magnitude of R&D expenditures or energy innovation. 

July 4, 2013    View Comment    

On Spain In Trouble For Solar Energy Cuts

One could say the same of biofuels in the U.S.

June 17, 2013    View Comment    

On The Bigger Picture: Nuclear Energy vs. Fossil Fuels

Interesting comment, John.  Could you post a link?




June 14, 2013    View Comment    

On EU: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Here

I have often said that if you're truly worried about climate change, eat more chicken :)

Actually, I have given up meat from ruminant animals and dairy foods, consuming soy milk instead.  I figure I'm doing more to fight climate change than those who support installing solar panels and wind turbines where they make no sense.

June 14, 2013    View Comment