Thoughts on Energy
I'm hopeful that a decade from now America will have progressed on
our energy situation in the following ways;
More efficient transportation
I have no problem always getting over 50 miles per gallon in my car the
last 108000 miles, despite still seeing advertising by auto
that their new vehicles are gas misers at a whopping 30 miles per
gallon, and only on the highway at that. My car is a Civic, not
designed for ultra-high
miles per gallon but it does have an optional hybrid drivetrain, that
has long since paid for itselfin gas savings.
The public should not tolerate hearing that 30 or 35
per gallon is efficient, or that hybrids are too expensive or high on
maintainence. My hybrid maintainence has been zero. My
vehicle maintainence, including tire
rotation has been just oil, one set of tires, some transmission
fluid change once or twice and one little starter battery. The hybrid
stuff has had zero costs to me and and is warranted for 8 years
to see my mileage records. Each of the 150 or so tanks of gas were
along with the gallons of gas used, price paid, and odometer reading at
the time of fillup. Average miles per gallon, including waiting
for trains, trips with heavy loads, gridlock, sweltering air condtioner
days, freezing morning drives to work, is 53 miles per
gallon. MPG was calculated the old fashioned way, with
odometer readings and gas used at fillup, also occassional odometer
calibration checks from highway markers every six months.
Odometer readings vary less than 1.5 percent actual milage with either
of two sets of tires so almost no adjustment was needed to calibrate
Better and cheaper biofuel
I expect to eventually see a lot of auto fuel someday coming from
biologically derived products like butyl alcohol(not ethanol), produced
by hybridized or bioengineered bacteria from cheap source stuff like
sawdust and organic waste and cultured algea. I expect the butyl
alcohol or other light to medium weight biologically produced
liquid fuel to go into auto gas tanks. This will be
superior to diesel since the light to medium weight liquid will not use
the high 22 to 1 compression ratio of diesel and hence not be prone to
forming nitrous oxides from the air intake, which is the problem with
all newly designed "clean" deisel engines as well as all older ones.
(Air plus diesel compression ratios equals nitrous oxide and it has
nothing to do with the fuel itself)
As a petroleum geologist I believe there is still a pretty good amount
of undiscovered natural gas around the US, in both the Gulf of Mexico,
onshore Gulf Coast, and in source rock throughout the country.
This is good because natural gas is a lot
cheaper on a
BTU basis than oil and its carbon footprint is lower than oil or coal.
has about a 4 to 1 ratio of hydrogen to carbon while oil has around a 2
to 1 ratio of hydrogen to carbon ratio. Coal has a dismal ratio, being
almost pure carbon. Because natural gas has practically no
mercury as some coal does, and because it has a very low
it makes an excelent fuel for electricity generation with less impact
on global warming than those other fossil fuels. The last few
years we have found so much natural gas that it is really cheap.
Global warming is so far advanced already that two facts encapsulate
the situation pretty well.
First, there was only 20 miles of the several thousand miles of the
northwest passage still blocked by ice the last two years and sailboat
owners are watching for their chance to be the first to complete the
voyage, maybe this coming summer.
Secondly, my petroeum profession periodical for October 2010 (AAPG
Explorer) was advertising for technical papers on the second "Polar
Petroleum Potential Conference" to be held in Nova Scotia. There
was also an advertisement for the "Inaugural Artic Technology
Conference. The north pole is
melting. Developnment of the north
pole watere is about to commence.
I expect our nation will be able to increase its electricity
from wind turbines a lot more than many believe. The issues seem
to be mostly with site selection that minimizes harm or conflict to
birds, animals, and scenic aspects; as well as transmission
hurdles. Having read extensively on turbine-caused Golden Eagle
fatalities, it seems the turbine manufacturers have altered the
blades placement and rotation speed to be relatively harmless, to not
just eagles, but most other birds as well.
I expect solar energy to expand a thousandfold in about
a decade due to recent breakthroughs in the solar cell and
semiconductor technology that not only improves the efficiency of
generation, but drastically lowers the cost of the hardware. The
discoveries and improvements have already been made and should only
take a little time to scale up to large scale manufacturing.
But we have a ways to go. A high mileage auto is a very good
start for this interem period. Consider this:
By switching from driving my SUV to and from work; I have cut my carbon
footprint in half, paid less than half what I used to pay to foriegn
countries for oil, and I have more than paid off the fancy
drivetrain from the first four years of driving it. The
remaining auto's life will be saving me 760 dollars a year if
gasoline stays around $3.50 a gallon, more if the price creeps up.
I am very optimistic America will have a greatly improved and more
stable energy supply in about a decade.
I expect much more efficient vehicles at reasonable cost in a few
years, and not at luxury car costs.
I expect domestic natural gas, now cheap and fairly clean, will be able
to play an increased role in
keeping electricity both affordable and keeping the carbon footprint
from increasing in the near future.
I expect more diversified and affordable fuel sources for vehicles in a
decade that are less dependent on the middle east and likely
I expect, through greatly increased solar and wind produced
electricity, and source rock natural gas, that the cost of electricity
will not become unreasonable
in the future
I expect your next regular priced vehicle choice to be
one that cuts
your fuel costs in half as mine has. Make it so and not only will
you save, but our country will be more independent and our planet more
pleasant. Our kids would like that.