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Alternative Energy Sources. Presented by Community Solutions Yellow Springs, Ohio Energy Plan A – Fossil Fuel Based. So called “non renewables” Business as usual Develop tar sands, oil shale, nuclear Top Priority is “clean” coal (Bury CO 2 in ocean and land)

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Alternative Energy Sources



Community Solutions

Yellow Springs, Ohio

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Energy Plan A – Fossil Fuel Based

  • So called “non renewables”

  • Business as usual

  • Develop tar sands, oil shale, nuclear

  • Top Priority is “clean” coal

    • (Bury CO2 in ocean and land)

    • CO2 from coal – 2x natural gas

  • Corporate/Government View

  • President Bush, CEOs of Exxon, Cargill, GE, GM, BP, Ford

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Alternative Non-Conventional Fossil Fuels

  • Oil Shale

    • Does not contain oil – basis is kerogen – add water/ heat to get oil

    • Waste volume greater than ore volume – must be mined like coal

    • Needs lots of water – found in water scare areas – Colorado Plateau

  • Heavy Oil

    • Very thick – limited uses (bunker oil)

    • Major source – Venezuela

  •  Tar Sands

    • Less than 1% of world oil production

    • Located mostly in Canada

  •  Sizable but not huge potential – Currently about 4% of energy 

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Alternatives – Natural Gas

  • Natural gas is used primarily for space heating, electricity generation

  • Natural gas is the key ingredient in agricultural fertilizers

  • Main material for hydrogen (natural gas – 48%, oil – 30%, coal – 18%)

  • Not a viable replacement for oil – hard to ship – a regional fuel

    • U.S. only imports from Canada and Mexico via pipeline

  • One of the key solutions to the oil shock of the 1970s

  • Can be used in automobile engines

    • Honda selling a natural gas Civic with home gas dispenser

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Alternatives – Natural Gas and Depletion 

  • May deplete faster than oil – plateau followed by a sharp decline

  • Natural Gas peaked in the U.S. in 1973, in Canada in 2001

  • U.S. get 99% of its gas from North America

    • Simmons & Co International

U.S. Natural Gas Production

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Alternative – Coal

  • Major source electricity in the world – 40% of total

  • Abundant but dirty and inefficient

  • Less energy (1/2) per pound than oil/gas

Source: World Coal Institute

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Alternative – Coal

  • U.S. and worldwide coal production may peak between 2020 and 2030

    Source: Energy Watch Group, “Coal: Resources and Future Production” (April, 2007)

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Coal and Sequestration

  • Carbon Sequestration – A potential holocaust for all life

  • Remember nuclear waste ocean dumping?

  • Shows our desperation – and our culpability

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MIT Report on CCS

  • Coal will remain the fuel of choice in America

  • Clean coal programs like Future Gen fall far short of what is required to ensure coal remains a primary fuel in a carbon-constrained world

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Coal and Climate Change

  • Paradigm shift

    • We dare not burn remaining oil

    • Nor the coal, tar sands & shale!

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Alternative – Nuclear

  • Nuclear Energy – Only “new” (1945) energy source in centuries – U235

  • Relatively “safe” when operating – No new Chernobyl or 3 Mile Island

    • But accidents could be catastrophic

    • Price-Anderson Act law in 1957 passed exempting liability

      • Still in force – utilities won’t build new plants without it

  • Uranium will be available for some decades – but not forever

  • Fundamental issue is radioactive wastes – last for thousands of years

  • Lots of hype – Fusion reactors, breeder reactors

    • No successes after decades of efforts – $billions wasted

  • Number of reactors needed to carry most of load is phenomenal

    • One or two orders of magnitude over current installation

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Alternatives – Dams

  • Limited number of sites – U.S. “maxed out”

  •  Major ecological effect – destruction of species

    • In third world they destroy many homes and natural processes

  •  Dams will eventually fill with silt – not “renewable”

  •  Forced relocation of people – heavy human toll

  •  Nobody in U.S. is proposing dams!

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Energy Plan B – Non-Fossil Fuel-based

  • So called “renewables”

  • “Environmentally” oriented

  • Develop wind and solar

    • Nuclear being debated

  • Top priority is bio-fuels

    • Burning of food

  • Assumes new transportation options

    • Mass transit, fuel cells, PHEVs

  • Al Gore, Lester Brown, Carl Pope, Amory Lovins, James Lovelock

    • Many Solar and Wind companies; many NGOs

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Renewable Share

  • Wind and Solar make up only 0.18% of total energy use

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Alternatives – Wind and PVs

  • Wind turbines the most efficient options – and fastest growing

    • 2/3 of projected alternative supply is wind

    • Most of the rest is wood

    • But turbines are an old technology

  • Photovoltaics (PVs)

    • PV prices decreased 90% in 1st 12 years – flat in last 13.

    • PV efficiency went from 8% to 16% in first 10 years – little improvement since

  • Most renewables generate only electricity

    • Less flexible than oil or natural gas

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The Law of Diminishing Returns

  • Similar for wind – Basic steel, aluminum, glass, silicon

    • Sam Baldwin, Chief Technology Officer, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. DOE Energy: A 21st Century Perspective, National Academy of Engineering June 2, 2005, Cleveland, Ohio

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Understanding Net Energy

  • It takes energy to process fossil fuels for usage

  • Cheapest energy cost to process fuels is Saudi Arabia oil

  • Most expensive energy cost to process fuels are the non-conventional fossil fuels

  • Also energy costly to produce bio-diesel

    • Negative net energy

  • Vital to understand the concept of net energy

    • Explains poor prospect for many alternatives

    • Different than $$ cost

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Biofuels – Unsustainable Burning of Food

  • Net Energy Loser – it takes 43% more energy to produce ethanol than it yields. (Pimentel)

  • Myth of oil independence

    • 20% of our corn in the U.S. is used for ethanol, which gives us less than 1% of total oil use.

    • If 100% of the corn in the U.S. was used to make ethanol, it would only account for 7% of total U.S. oil use.

  • Would exacerbate topsoil depletion – currently we are depleting the soil 20 times faster than it is being replaced

  • Already resulting in skyrocketing food prices

  • Cellulosic ethanol – Still technical limitations, takes about five times as much energy required to make cellulosic ethanol than the energy contained in the ethanol.

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Energy Plans A and B – Common Points

  • Fuels or new sources (A or B Technology) will save us

    • Plan A – Clean Coal, Tar Sands

    • Plan B – Switch Grass, Wind and Solar

    • Nuclear Power supported by both to some degree

  • Lots of overlap between two e.g. GE

    • Biggest Wind Turbine Company

    • Biggest Power Plant (coal, gas, nuclear) Company

  • Agreement – Nation’s # 1 goal

    • Increase economic growth by increased energy consumption

    • We don’t have to consume less energy – just different energy

    • Technology is the answer

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But Can Technology “Save Us”?

  • This is a belief issue – it is not at all obvious

  • Technology = more efficient/innovative machines burning fuels

    • Could technology exist without fossil fuels

    • Will it continue when fossil fuels are gone?

  • There are high energy and low energy technologies

    • Cars, planes, power plants

    • Bypass surgery, most drugs, better golf clubs

  • We must consider an intermediate tech – low energy world

  • Recent energy technology breakthroughs are not impressive

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Alternatives Summary

  • Bio fuels, solar, wind feasibility – all in question

    • Proponents have not yet made the case

    • Tabulating sun energy per sq foot is not enough

  • Tar sands, oil shale not proven after more than 40 years

  • Government is committing to biofuels, coal, and nuclear power

  • Huge problem with both is poisonous waste

    • Sequestration is the “sales pitch” of the coal advocates

  • No new fuels are likely and old fuels still dirty

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Problem of Lag Time

  • “Peaking of World Oil Production–Impacts, Mitigation, Risk”

    • Hirsch, Bezdek, and Wendling

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Why Not Spend More on R and D?

  • In a century of technologic process only one new fuel source discovered (but Uranium first discovered in 18th century)

  • Nuclear power took decades to develop and commercialize

    • 1930-2003

  • After seventy years nuclear still provides only 8% of U.S. energy

  • All the other fuels (oil, coal, gas, biomass) were known for a long time

    • Biomass (mostly wood) for thousands of years

    • Coal for centuries!

    • Oil and gas since late 1800s

  • Early large dam was a marble structure built in 1660 in India

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Energy Investment Are Sizable

  • No one likes the allocation – that’s politics

  • Big private investments – GE $148B(rev) & Sharp $24B(rev)

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The Shocking Possibility

  • There may be no “satisfactory” alternatives

    • Satisfactory – Maintain current energy consumption rate

  • Eternal progress based on burning fossil fuels is not sustainable

  • We must change to a different way of living without the dreams of eternal material and mechanical progress

  • This may save us from ourselves

    • Planetary degradation based on burning fossil fuels

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Conservation – The Only Alternative

  • Sustainable conservation efforts are imperative!

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Plan C – Conserving in Community

  • A view of only using enough

    • Conserving, Sharing & Saving

    • vs.

    • Competing, Hoarding & Consuming

  • Means Curtailment – Cutting back

    • Not “token” conservation

    • Sharing resources now and with people in the future

  • Needs “Community”

    • Context for a new “Way of Life”

    • Cooperation Principle