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On What Happened to Advanced Biofuels? Let Me Explain

I am no longer amazed at the terrible decisions made by governments, VCs, and super-wealthy investors.Our economic system has deviated so far from the idea that a free market system uses capital to create valuable products and services that people will buy. It is so far down the road of speculative excess that the economists have recently come up with a new term to describe why the market is not working the way it is supposed to. They call it "speculative variance". See: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17506

The whole economic game with its "financial innovation" has degenerated into a hyped up con game where the rule is to create as much cash as possible without any concern about "value propositions" or other such old-fashioned concepts.

This corruption is preventing us from solving our problems. The money is largely going to the wrong places. And I am talking about trillions of dolars world-wide. This is a bigger problem than climate change, massive unintended consequences of the industrial revolution or wholesale contamination of all of our life-support systems on the land, in the air and in the oceans.

Why, because this kind of chasing after money instead of chasing progress and prosperity is corrupting nearly the entire population from  the minimum wage worker to the corporate titans in league with thier politician lapdogs. We have forgotten where we come from. Now its every man for himself and screw the "value proposition". As an older guy I am astounded that no one is objecting to our self created downfall. Well, I object. In business school we learned that ignoring any of your stakeholders was mismanagement. I am afraid we are in a mismanagement revolution. We have seen the enemy and he is US!

 

September 19, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

My calculations were done by PhD physicist trained in Germany at Tuebingen University. He has 90 patents to his name and over 100 academic papers and was an applied physicist at Honeywell Corp. as a specialist in combustion technologies. I feel confident in taking his calculations over yours.

August 30, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

By the way, I challenge your figure of $0.03/kWh in China and India since you neglect to account for those externalities that include the wholesale destruction of land, air and water, not to mention our health and prosperity. You should do some reading. ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130829112852.htm or these 3655 research digests http://www.sciencedaily.com/search/?keyword=climate+change )Your calculations are the stuff of industrial propaganda. Your ideas of serving these masters by promoting a technology CCS which to date is not even proven while at the same time acting scientific as you discourage the use of renewables which are already offsetting the carbon from hundreds of gigawatts of generation by fossil fuels is frought with fallacy and loaded assumptions. You, my friend, are in danger of becoming a dishonest broker of information.

Interesting that the electric utility research itself has already realized that it is relying on an unsustainable economic model. "Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the utilities trade group, warned members that distributed generation and companion factors have essentially put them in the same position as airlines and the telecommunications industry in the late 1970s." 

How is it that you think that your calculations are better than any one else's?

 

 

August 30, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

In areas with high cost of electricity like Hawaii ($0.44/kWh) electricity can already be provided by distributed solar with battery storage for ~$0.20/kWh without subsidies. If you think that the next generation of battery storage is an expensive pipe dream, you are misinformed. Toshiba already has a technology in mass-production called SCiB  ( http://www.toshiba.com/ind/product_display.jsp?id1=821 ) a  20-year, no-maintenance battery solution that matches well with photovoltaics.

The obvious benefits of distributed generation with maximized self-consumption of generated power is that it relieves the grid of having to provide increased and more and more expensive distribution infrastructure. The utilities are going to have to change their business model or become distribution-only enterprises. This is inevitable. 

August 30, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

The fundamental limitations of CCS?

Here is some good news for the as of yet unproven technology:

Patent Shows Promise for Improved Method of Carbon Capture

Aug. 27, 2013 — An innovative method for stripping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from industrial emissions is potentially cheaper and more efficient than current methods, according to a United States patent based on research by Dr. Jason E. Bara, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at The University of Alabama.

Nearly all commercially-available efforts at scrubbing greenhouse gasses, GHG's, from emissions use a liquid solution of water and amine, derived from ammonia, that contacts the stream, removing carbon dioxide, CO2, or other unwanted gases. The system patented by Bara would replace much of the water in the aqueous amine solutions with a promising class of molecules known as imidazoles, organic solvents with a low vapor pressure, or boiling point.

The patent, granted earlier in August to UA, claims the chemical make-up of the imidazole-containing systems for use in capturing CO2 and other gases from natural gas and post-combustion emissions such as those from coal-fired power plants.

"The advantages of imidazoles in carbon capture are that they are a class of solvents with tunable chemical and physical properties," Bara said. "This gives us a lot of flexibility in designing a solvent system that can meet process demands."

There are global efforts to reduce the human-made emission of GHG's that likely contribute to global warming by trapping the sun's heat inside the atmosphere, including emission standards and financial penalties on excess emissions. The most common and most studied method is introducing monoethanolamine, or MEA, into natural gas or post-combustion emissions, a process that can capture about 90 percent of CO2 from flue gas.

The use of MEA to scrub flue gas is energy intensive since recycling the solution requires boiling it to desorb, or rid, the CO2 before recycle of the MEA solution back into contact with the flue gas. The cost of the energy needed to use MEA in power plants, for example, would likely be passed onto consumers, Bara said.

Bara's work shows that swapping most of the water in the process with imidazoles saves energy since the solvent can be regenerated without the energy penalties associated with boiling large amounts of water. Bara's research shows the solvent system can capture the same or more CO2than MEA.

The cost of capturing carbon is one reason the energy industry has been reluctant to embrace carbon capture on a large scale. "That's why it is important to look at solvents and materials that are tweaks to what are already established if we hope to do very large scale up over the next decade," Bara said.

"What's really nice about this solvent system is that we're not starting from scratch," he said. "Many imidazole cores are already commercially available, and through some very simple reactions, we can synthesize the molecules we want in the lab. This should bode well in terms of solvent cost if we were to scale them up."

This technology has been licensed to the clean tech company ION Engineering in Boulder, Colo., with the hope of further developing this technology for carbon dioxide capture. Bara helped found ION Engineering, and continues as a science adviser with the company.

Bara's research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.

Other patents based from Bara's work with imidazoles are pending. U.S. Patent Designated No. 8,506,914 was granted Aug. 13.

***********

I wonder if anyone is thinking about the possible unintended side-effects of this new chemical cauldron in industrial quantities?

August 29, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

I agree with one thing you said. The multinational fossil fuel industry will fall without having to fight. Its business model is as obsolete as the carriage builders at the dawn of the automobile.

However, have you actually calculated the total subsidies for fossil fuels since the beginning of the subsidies versus the total subsidies for clean energy technologies. I would guess that total subsidies for fossil fuels has likely been as much as the annual GDP especially when you consider the subsidy of the  tax-payer supported standing military force and deaths required to secure the supplies.

This has nothing to do with idealism and everything to do with criminal behavior by these multi-national corporations in league with their political lapdogs.

August 13, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

I live in a mild rural area but it is very cloudy. I just got back from Germany. They are receiving 3 times more solar insolation than I amat the moment although that does not necessarily hold during the winter. If you want to talk about pragmatic use of solar energy, it should be deployed between 30 degrees south latitude and 30 degrees north latitude. It is really cost effective at the equator because the length of days is the same winter and summer so you don't need to oversize the system for the short season. To provide power four a four person household is probably 25-35% cheaper than, in a place like Seattle. By the way, I have personally not used subsidies. I find it to be a good deal even without government support.

 

 

August 12, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

The interesting thing is that some people focus on the failures of the politicians and policy makers while giving the corporations a free ride. That is a mistake of the first order. The problems we face are due to a corruption of values at every level of society. Somehow the idea that if we personally profit while ruining the world, that is somehow OK. Problem is, you are part of the world. If you ruin it, you are ruining it for yourself, your family and your community. How can that possibly be the right thing to do?

 

August 12, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

You wrote:

"Jonathan, entrepreneurs -- which seems to apply to you -- are by nature irrational. It takes a certain amount of delusion and what Greenspan called "irrational exuberance" (or Keynes' "animal spirits") to take big risks to create something that is yet unproven."

By your definition, I am not an entrepreneur because I have already proven over the past thirty years that PV bundled with battery storage works extremely beneficially to the owner, is far more reliable than utility power, is more secure from natural and man-made disaster, is uninterruptible (meaning no power outages), is easier on equipment because of the lack of surges and brownouts due to the ballast effect of the battery, is user-friendly, low-maintenance and affordable. I am now involved in bringing to market the next generation of this technology which couples PV to more durable, no-maintenance batteries and IT to provide solar-powered micro-island power stations that can also be paralleled for additive output and utilized extremely flexibly by homeowners or utilities.

I do not disagree that poor policy stands in the way of the solution of nearly every critical problem facing humanity. Sometimes that poor policy is as a result of the hubris and ignorance of politicians and their minions and other times, maybe more often the case it comes from the fact that bad policy has been purchased by lobbyists on behalf of their corporate paymasters.

For instance, the electrical utility industry is huge and utilizes a portion of its resources to prevent competition. Unfortunately this mindset also blinds them to seeing where their true interests lie. I am not so much an entrepreneur as I am an insurgent storming the walls of the intransigent energy lords. They want to continue to poison the world because they are too lazy to adapt, and my children, grandchildren, community and country are being ruined by this intransigence.

In any case I consider myself to be a loyal subject of the best of western values founded on free enterprise and fair play, while rejecting out of hand, the greed-based model that has taken hold of the world and is furthered by misinformation, propaganda and abuse of power.

During business school I read an interesting opinion from a successful executive. They said if you want change, look for it where it already exists as an insurgent activity and then support that insurgency with resources.That's me. I am the technology insurgent in the midst of the system.

 

 

 

 

August 11, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

Thanks for the tip.

Your "realistic" solution is only your opinion. I suggest you stop trying to discourage the very development that you say is necessary. That is a realistic replacement for our failed energy paradigm.

You might want to check into your own delusion and how it plays into the coming eco-collapse.

I have been living with solar energy systems with storage for 30 years, so I know it works. And that I can afford it. New durable, zero-maintenance storage technologies will make this even cheaper, more user- friendly and low-maintenance. And that to me is realism. I would rather use my disposable income to prevent eco-collapse than to buy a Harley Davidson, or a Corvette or an expensive vacation, for example. 

There are millions of other examples of people who are ready to do the same thing. I call that realistic. I call that a rapidly, no, an exponentially growing market whose benefit/cost ratio is rapidly rising. I call that realistic. I call that the biggest entrepreneurial opportunity in the history of the world, if we can survive that long. That to me is realistic.

 

 

August 10, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

I forgot to respond to one part of your question. What to do with old panels. I will keep using them until they no longer function. which could be as long as 50 years or more. (I'll be dead by then) PV panels degrade more or less evenly resulting in in reduced capacity. A 100 watt panel may only produce 80 watts after 20 years. It may only produce 70 watts after 30 years. Only when it produces insufficient voltage is the panel's usefulness over. You can easily make up for reduced capacity from gradual degradation by employing more efficient equipment or by adding more panels which will be cheaper in the future.

August 10, 2013    View Comment    

On The Fundamental Limitations of Renewable Energy

The first system I built was in a remote location and in place for about 20+ years before it was replaced by a grid connection by an old lady who did not want to bother add water to batteries. As far as I know it was working fine at that time. I am now living with a system that is seven years old. At the rate that solar panels are going down in price (projected to be $0.36 watt by 2017), I expect the systems to cost much less in the future than they do now. (Reasonable analysis of the cost trends suggest that it is possible to achieve $08kWh in places with sufficient solar insolation) The flooded lead acid batteries(FLA) that I use now are always recycled - the lead is too valuable to throw away. However, in the next generation of batteries, lithium titanate, there will be a smaller problem since they are 1/4 the weight per kWh of FLA and they last two times longer. However, I have read that because of the low value of titanium, and its non-toxic nature that it may not be economically viable to recycle it. Of course that may change if billions of batteries start being deployed.

August 10, 2013    View Comment