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How can America wean itself from fossil fuels when fossil fuels are so cheap?

America is supposedly the leader of the free world. What was the primary message during the presidential campaign? Energy independence, not the environment. We will continue to sacrifice our legacy, our natural resources that might better be left to subsequent generations rather than accept higher energy costs now that renewables, until now, can't supply economically (at least not without a carbon tax).

As long as our politicians can make campaign promises based on the cost of a gallon of gas, don't expect any negative news about the environment to make headlines.

While President Obama extols the virtue of clean natural gas, I live in rural Schoharie County which is ripe for fracking for natural gas. Never mind that it is a bucolic, pastoral part of nature. It has vast reservers of natural gas so, following President Obama's desire, it will soon be an industrial park and all the tourists who used to come here for our natural beauty will go elsewhere.

When you look at the cost of natural gas in America, it is about the fifth the cost of natural gas in Europe. Guess what? America is going to become the World's leader in natural gas exports. The "good" news is that natural gas has only half the carbon foot print of coal (we have billions of tons of coal to export to Asia---and there has been a massive ad blitz promoting "clean" coal).

Unless there is someone like a Randall Mills who can make low-energy nuclear reactions economic, fossil fuels are our albatross.

  • Nov 27 2012: First, when we say America, do we speak about the everyday people who wakes up every morning to work hard and pay taxes, bills, fuel etc? Or we speak, about the tycoon or rich politician that wins enough money to live without worries about the price of fuel. I think that the everyday worker, deserves clean and cheap energy.
    Clean energy for example ethanol is simple and easy to make. The technology for clean energy exists, and the minds that can bring up excellent solutions based on clean energy exist. But no president in this world will threaten the economic empires that live behind the fossil fuel industry. Even in countries with no fuel industry the government simply will stop any project that threaten the gasoline - diesel market. I know a specific case about this. Natural gas is just one thing, there are several solutions that can set us free from the grip of fossil fuels.
    Even some of the main oil producers of the world are working on a replacement for fossil fuels, because they have realized that fossil fuels are not forever, and they are working 24/7 in clean solutions to produce energy that can propel their projects. Lets not forget that the Model T by Henry Ford could run on Ethanol, Kerosene or Gasoline. But ban on alcohol in the 1920's gasoline was the fuel of choice and it have stayed.
    I will leave you 2 links that may be interesting
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFIlXaABU54
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_cFi_kKbJM&feature=related
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      Nov 27 2012: Hi, Roberto. Yeah, one very basic question is why it has been so difficult to advance energy technology in the direction of "free of charge" energy. My pet theory is that no energy seller is interested in something they cannot sell for a profit. Free energy is only interesting for the energy consumer, not for the producer. Of course the oil-producers are investigating alternative products. But they aren't really concerned about sustainability or renewability, just how much it can be sold for.

      Yet, somehow I think that if and when a technology emerges that really makes sustainable/renewable energy massively cheap, that will be the technology that takes over.
  • Nov 13 2012: It has been my experience that you should not expect individuals to lower their quality of life purposefully. It is possible, some willingly choose to replace flush toilets with composers or make their homes "green". These people are outliers though. They do not represent the majority of people.

    The best way to turn an ideal like green energy into a commonly accepted reality is to make it worthwhile. We can spend all day decrying the evils of capitalism, but the bottom line is an important consideration. Fossil fuels are, in a monetary sense, cheap. Green energy costs extra.

    Green energy has the potential to overtake fossil fuels though. Indeed, I believe it to be inevitable. Every ton of coal consumed is one ton less on the planet, which will eventually lead to the cost of coal increasing by the laws of supply and demand. Sunlight, wind, and hydro aren't bound by the same constraints. They will only get cheaper as the technology to utilize them improves.

    The big question, then, is how do we speed up the process?
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      Nov 16 2012: I agree. The day it becomes cheaper to run your car on sunlight rather than gas is the day it'll see widespread approval & not one day sooner. By then, the world is likely going to be a totally different place, but we'll also probably have quantum computers by then... so maybe things will balance out?
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      Nov 16 2012: I used to own all kinds of nice cars, but today I do not own any cars. I get around by bicycle. Even in the rain. Sometimes I curse that. But in the end, I can't tell you how much joy I get from biking around in the sun on most days. I am so fortunate because my commute often involves boating over the San Francisco Bay by Ferry. It's so great to be "sailing" over the Bay, sometimes through the fog. I get to ride my bike on to the Ferry, ride around San Francisco, and bring my bike up to the office (no parking charges!). Once in a while I need to rent a vehicle of some sort to get something done, or take a cab. But that's fairly rare. For the most part, it's biking, walking, ferry, bus, train. Maybe most people would consider this lowering their quality of life. It's been an increase for me.
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        Nov 17 2012: People just need to see that it can be done! If ever I could get away with it, I would do this as well. Commuting is a stressful facet of daily life for many, but who wouldn't enjoy a nice bike-ride to work!
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          Nov 27 2012: If you're referring to American invetor Stanley Meyer and his water fuel cell, my understanding is that he was found guilty in court of gross and egregious fraud with respect to his invention.
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    Dec 7 2012: Automobiles replaced horses not because people where looking to wean themselves from horses, but instead because they focused of finding something better.
    Focusing on reducing the negative is unproductive, whereas focusing on the a positive way to do it better has been proven to work countless time throughout human history.
    Rather it is food/diet, transportation, communication, education, politics, energy or anything, improvement come not from weaning, banning or restricting.
    You want to end obesity find a better tasting/cheaper/healthier replacement for sugar, because you are wasting your time trying to wean people off it. And the same is true of oil and gasoline.
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    Tao P

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    Dec 5 2012: Oil, gas and coal are heavily subsidized and their true cost is much more than the retail price. The exploration is subsidized, the fact they can rip the earth apart and not put it back together is a form of subsidy as well as how they pay no price for the pollution their product creates. The sustainable technologies are already for cost effective over the long term when all that is factored in. Oh, and the multi-trillion dollar wars are in a large part oil wars.
  • Dec 3 2012: A sad story about Ethanol based fuels
    In 2006, Panama, Central America. An engineer develops M4, a mixture of 87% Ethanol and 13% of a mixture of other ingredients. The M4 passed all the tests at Intertek Caleb Brett labs in England. So what else we needed? finally a cheap clean fuel. But no. Local authorities decided that the tests made in England were not enough, so they deviced a set of impossible tests so the fuel could not be sold in the country. The inventor of M4, was denied the right to sell M4 in the country, but he was authorized to export it. And the actual government allowed him to run for a political position. And M4 was silenced. By now who knows were or who is the owner of the patent for M4.
    In an enthusiastic marketing campaign back again in 2006 this engineer stood up with a tank filled with M4 and gave free samples to anyone who wanted to try. And many tried and where happy about it. It was tested by taxi drivers, truck drivers, you name it. It worked. But the first attack against M4 came from the car dealers who stated that their cars were not built and tested with M4 or any methanol based fuel, so they dont advice the use of M4 in new cars. Then came the politics stuff and the impossible tests.
    So what do we learn with this short story?
    That the big fish of the fuel industry will not let anyone, compete cleanly for the market they hold.
    Before i forget he was also working on M5, for diesel engine cars.
    At this date December 3 2012, no gas station in Panama is selling or even knows about M4
    I ask all of you now, if it was a good idea to reduce the cost of energy for the everyday consumer/worker, why its not being commercialized in the country?
    This is a true story i posted no links because most of them are in spanish but if anyone wants i can translate them for you.
  • Nov 27 2012: I just send a link almost to everyone i hope it contributes to this conversation
  • Nov 26 2012: The problem is we need to invest more into making wind and clean energy plants and factories, so when there comes a day we can take at least a small step into energy independeance. For example, have a group of large cities nation wide make enough energy to sustain them selves, so then they can jump off grid, and then so forth and so on
  • Nov 23 2012: Brillouin Energy's breakthru is much bigger than that.,

    The fact that they show nuetrons being "synthesized" to create isotopes of hydrogen to create this heat, radically changes everything from cosmology and astronomy, to chemistry and physics. Even entropy and conservation are back on the table.
    All cosmic abundances and stellar synthesis theory is radically changed, and the lithium problem takes on a whole new character. This is actually pretty cool in the planetary science field tho, it allows for the differences in isotropic concentrations in asteroid and planetary materials, without having to invoke racetracks in disc accreation theories.

    This is alchemy with pulsed DC, and will change materials science, and completely empower 3D printing , because of the ease of creating elemental powders and allowing the backyard tinkerer to play with super cool stuff like iridium and indium., and any alloy they can dream up.

    If the whole key to creating gold from copper is just hooking it up to a battery charger with a de-sulphation circuit, the people clamboring for a gold standard are a little behind the curve.

    http://pesn.com/2012/04/19/9602078_Brillouin--Understanding_How_LENR_Works_Will_Enable_Us_to_Be_First/

    coldfusionnow.org/more-news-on-brillouin-energy-corp-patent/
  • Nov 21 2012: America will wean itself from fossil fuels - the day after we use the last drop!
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    Nov 20 2012: We are (all of us in every country) are going to drain the energy buffers worldwide; all the oil, gas and water. This will cause earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis in increasing numbers and violence. The earth's surface will grind and shift with no shock absorbers between tectonic plates. The aquifers (what's left of them) will disperse and drinkable water will become harder to find and harder to get. There will be unimaginable suffering and violence among people. Clean energy is wishful thinking. Sorry, it's just the way it is. Any fool can see it. The only thing worth leaving to helpless generations to come is love.
  • Nov 20 2012: A DC graphene grid would actually be built in large rings. You want rings to balance out the energy density on the grid, and to give you a place to dump in huge voltages, available from the currently dangerous induction from solar flux.

    Building this new ring grid also gives you a new infrastructure path. The beauty of this, is that if you make it with a pipe filled with water, and graphene sheet, you also get a superconducting ring for high speed rail, and superconducting storage ring, for storing any unused power, in case a ring has to be disconnected from the rest of the "grid".

    Since it is superconducting, you can even put up lightning rods on hilltops, and drop all that energy directly onto the grid without damaging it, while harvesting it.

    Graphene sheet can be cheaply made by laminating graphite directly onto poly sheet, for easy handling, with common metal rollers. It has been shown in multiple sci papers that graphene itself will self assemble at the exact distance neccessary for it to work as a storage battery. Just add water.


    We need to put the country to work, and the folks that can't do 3D cad for 3D printing, need to have a job too.

    Some of the folks can do the little family gas stations again, based on the methane "natural gas" economy, but there is a real danger of allowing the oil companies to run a harvesting operation on the seafloor methane hydrates, as can be seen by the foolhardy way they are fracking.

    Look up "methane gun' and russian methane hydrate if you think CO2 is a hazard. You have been sheepled into letting corporations control you and increase your debt to them in another way. What needs to happen immediately is cutting soot, ethylene, ammonia, methyl bromide, and CFC replacement emissions, then we can work on CO2 last.

    http://depletedcranium.com/the-top-ten-things-enviornmentalists-need-to-learn/#comment-1999

    and

    http://depletedcranium.com/why-vehicle-to-grid-is-a-horrible-idea/
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    Nov 18 2012: Two things, fossil fuel are not eternal. Second fossil fuels pollute so it is not cheap the cost of certain types of asthma the population suffers from smog; cleaning the contamination of soils, loss of fish, crops from oil spills or contamination; the effects of mercury in the water; green gasses; certain cardiovascular diseases, and Global Warming if it ends up being true. So saying that fossil fuels are cheap is tricky.

    Besides the aesthetic effects and safety risks of fracking vasts pieces of lands for natural gas or removing mountain tops for coal is not worth all that fuel vanity. nature is not just out there to be exploited and raped at will.

    we need to contribute with more self-sustainable, renewable options not just because of the preservation of our natural beauty matters but to be ahead in the selling of those newer technologies before we come too late to that market.
    • Nov 18 2012: This is all true but the vast majority of Americans want cheap fuel; they don't want to sacrifice for their children. The natural gas producers have promised us 100 years of cheap natural gas; coal companies are pushing coal like crazy. You can quote statistics until you are blue in the face---like the fact that 500,000 people die every year from coal-related diseases or that coal costs the environment over $300 billion/year in damage to the environment---yet we are not willing to give up our "cheap" electricity.

      By the way in the UK the second largest source of mercury after coal is crematoriums.

      For all practical considerations fossil fuels are "eternal" i.e. last over 100 years. We can't get Americans to think beyond how much it will cost to fill up the gas tank in their car; global warming has completely dropped off the radar. Neither candidate addressed global warming during the entire campaign. Neither candidate talked about the horrible environmental effects of coal mining or fracking. The mantra was "drill baby drill" whether for oil or natural gas.

      The only thing that matters to the American public is energy independence; renewables play a minor role (if you believe the amount of rhetoric in favor of them). I don't have much faith that Obama will continue pushing for solar power now that we had the fiasco over Solyndra.
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    Dec 9 2012: Richard, You have hit on many things.

    1) Politicians will promise anything during the campaign. (list the 2008 promises and list the results)

    2) That dependance on fossil fuel will end when a viable and cost effective alternative is developed

    3) The power of unions and their money are more important than citizens causes.

    4) As long as Al Gore is the face of the green movement it will never be taken as really serious.

    5) Economics are never as important as political clout.

    6) As long as we allow Executive Orders to by pass Congress these issues will remain and be at the will of the office holder and become part of the unfunded national debit.

    7) Prior to elimination of fossil fuels there must be a means of replacing the power on the grids.

    Fossil fuels are not the elephant in the room. Economics are killing us. We just re-hired a man with out a plan and says that he will reject any plan that does not meet his criteria for taxes and a open pocketbook to be controlled by him. Now there is a plan to work together in a non-partisan relationship. Hello cliff. However, he goes on TV every day saying if we go over the fisical cliff it is the GOP fault. Buy stock in koolade. It is in demand.
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    Tao P

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    Dec 6 2012: If you do not believe in human induced climate change then what if we look at the health effects on individuals. Anyone living near a coal power plant is far more likely to develop cancer than someone who lives far from one. What about using these clean power sources for the health of our communities?
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    Nov 29 2012: This is a very good point. Gas is cheaper than bottled water.

    I have a few opinions on this matter. They are not based on data - just "feeling". These opinions are not "politically correct", but I'd like to know how many people share them.

    1. Until "green" energy becomes cheaper than energy from fossil fuels, I do not foresee drastic "weaning"

    2. The "carbon footprint" issue is highly politicized. I don't believe that humans are important enough to cause average temperature on Earth to rise by any significant amount. Throughout history, there were ice ages and meltdowns from natural causes. A tiny fluctuation in Sun activity can affect the climate much more than all humans combined. In 50 years from now, there may be a "global cooling". People always need something to worry about.

    This opinion makes sense to me.
    http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2008/07/08/shocking-scientific-discovery-plants-love-carbon-dioxide

    I apologize if I sound like a person who does not care about our environment. I do care. To me, it's more important to have healthy food to eat, without pesticides, hormones, and preservatives than to wean from fossil fuels. I'm also concerned that a huge number of children only a few days old are injected with live viruses, sometimes mixed with mercury. I doubt that carbon dioxide is responsible for increasing autism and a huge number of autoimmune diseases.

    I understand, there is data showing correlation between global warming and carbon dioxide. When we believe something, we tend to find data supporting our beliefs whereas we should be looking for data that contradicts them. Does anyone know of a systematic research considering alternative causes of global warming?

    If there is a climate change, why should we "fight" it instead of embracing it?
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      Tao P

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      Dec 5 2012: Yes just like we should have embraced small pox and other diseases so we can go on living according to the current status quo
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        Dec 5 2012: Small pox causes real visible suffering of human beings. Whereas, the problem of "dependence on fossil fuels" seems artificial to me. I don't see it causing any visible suffering. Not yet, at least. If and when it will, people will find a way to solve it. I'm not a fan of solving issues that are not yet causing much trouble. "Each day has enough trouble of its own." I'll wait for the oil prices to skyrocket, then I will dump my car and ride my bicycle everywhere as I did before I had a car. So will most people. Trying to make people pay premium for green technologies just because it's "chic" isn't going to work until gas is cheaper than bottled water.
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    Nov 27 2012: Like all problems, it's got to start in the home, and self-awareness needs to be encouraged. For example, 400 million people are told to buy a 4WD to look cool by tricky marketing and hi-fiving politician frat-boys. The shift has to come from a cultural change, so each person who goes from thinking "Yeah, I want to look badass in that fuel-wasting car" to "I want to be sensible and buy something that better society" is the key. The cultural change is in understanding that a child says "Me", but an adult says "Us".
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      Nov 27 2012: During the 1973 oil crisis, there was a group of architects who designed an appartment complex (In Seattle, if i recall correctly) that was a net seller of energy to the grid, not a buyer from it. They were using 1973 technology. (remember the 1970's computers? - big as a barn and with 4K of memory).

      If you were a potential home buyer would you prefer, for the same price, a home with a net annual energy income or a home with a net annual energy cost? The answer for 99.9% of buyers should be obvious.

      Why every home built after 1973 was not built with this simple equation in mind, is an utter mystery to me.
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        Nov 28 2012: 1973! Wow that's crazy! What is it then that seems to be not connecting with the logic part of our brain, and the taking action part of our brain? Is advertising and the media really so powerful as to stop us using common sense to such a huge degree? Maybe it's like the media uses "implied presence" to make us feel if we don't do what "everyone else is doing" then we'll be thrown out to the wolves because everyone is watching each other, never realising that we are actually the status quo and not something external to it... if that makes sense.
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      Nov 28 2012: It's hard to say why it has been so difficult to turn around market preferences. One problem is that many contractors and builders lack the competencies necessary to build green, and whenever you're building, hiring in specialists of any kind raises costs. That seems to be changing rapidly right now in many countries.

      Another problem is that power in many countries has been relatively cheap, meaning that home buyers haven't been too demanding when it comes to energy efficiency.

      A third problem is that the real estate market works very hard at selling whatever they have at hand, and that has mostly been old-fashioned energy inefficient units. I get the impression in this country (Norway) that having a state-of-the-art kitchen and bathroom is more important for marketability than state-of-the-art energy technology.
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    Nov 25 2012: The only possible way to make it, is to figure the cost of damage management of fossile fuels into the over-the-counter price. That would level out the playing field between eco-friendly, renewable and fossile energy sources.
  • Nov 21 2012: I didn't read all the comments, so i apologise if this has been stated, but:

    By creating a tax on fossil fuels. Simple. Make it more expensive to deter it's use, and to keep it on a more level playing field with the consumption of "green" energy sources.

    The tax should be spend on fundign the green movement, creating incentives to finding better, cleaner, more energy efficient alternatives.
  • Nov 20 2012: As for solar, build costs in energy used, are even worse than dollar costs, and should be reserved for window glass edges, where it can be piped in as if by fiber optic.

    Instead, you build with nanotower/nanohole carbon, over a graphene base. This gives you a full spectrum collection panel, from IR, all the way up to UV, and even gamma rays, with minimal fabrication costs.

    You can make these with window screen, copper foil, and a spray gun.
    Take a sheet of copper foil, and bond a piece of graphene sheet onto it.
    Now lay that sheet over the screen, and spray hard enough to punch holes in it. Now do it again on the other sheet. Take both sheets, graphene down, and sandwich, with holes offset. Spray graphite, or even carbon soot thru the holes, so they stick to bottom sheet. Raise top sheet a mil, and do it again. and again.

    Now the towers will cause all incoming radiation to "rattle" and ricochet around til the slow down enough to fall into the holes.

    Cheaper than the glass to protect them, or you can mix in epoxy and silk screen em on, and just redo it after hailstorms.

    Now, look at the build cost, energy cost, life expectancy and even danger of wind, and let it go.
    Nothing other than the standing stalks is worth the enviro costs.
    Most of the big tower farms are already broken, and out of service, and most are only a decade old !
      • Nov 27 2012: cant watch videos, on a 27kbs connection.

        Know the story tho, and there is another guy in prison in Cuba , and another actually missing, with a reward for helping to find him.

        It doesn't matter now.

        Know that Goede from Brillouin has published, the chain reaction (sic) is on.
        Synthesizing nuetrons out of the quantum foam really focuses on how wrong the QCD theory of the particle zoo is.

        There has been one guy every 10 years that points out that a nuetron HAS to be an interference pattern between electrons and protons, and they have always been laughed out of the arena.

        Was looking for the latest paper from the guy from India, but it's not showing up in arVix.

        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127130250.htm

        try the Lenr/Canr archive site
        http://lenr-canr.org/wordpress/?page_id=1127

        these guys are all stil stuck on a Dueterium reaction, related to the old cold fusion exp of Fleishman, but he didn't understand the reaction either.
  • Nov 20 2012: There isn't cheap oil, it is paid for with massive subsidies to oil companies, which then don't pay any royalties on the oil they pump out of the ground. Between the two of those, they are sucking us dry. That doesn't even include the costs of the rebuilding of infrastructure that they buy pipe from their own subsidiaries at huge markups.

    The answer to the question, is to go back to steam.

    Rossi and Defkalion are both doing LENR work, but don't know what they are doing.
    Brillouin Energy does.

    They are using a nickle tech too, but they understand how it works. They filed patents , that were then dissallowed by the US Patent Office, as they felt they related to the old Utah University cold fusion fiasco.

    The tech is simple, and no more dangerous than your current water heater, but it runs on a wall warts worth of energy, and the only trick required , is to figure out a low pressure generator, or to commercialize the benzene strip work put together by U of Az folks. They have found that a single, straightend chain of benzene, actually creates a true thermoelectric conversion, albeit at a small voltage. Benzene is a small molecule however, and they are expecting it to be a paint on solution. This will be able to convert ALL waste heat directly to DC. Vehicles engines, electronic waste heat, rooftop , whatever.

    http://www.azpbs.org/technology/play.php?vidId=2589

    The use of household Brillouin boilers will free up all existing generation facilities to keep powering industry, while we convert the rest of society over.

    Vehicles can be either steam, or electric, with these units. And when parked, they can become part of the grid storage system.
    Every energy expert hates the idea of using vehicles as part of the grid storage, as they point out that the conversion from DC to AC, thru existing inverters, is not just uneconomical, it generates even more waste heat.

    The solution here is to create a new grid, one engineered on DC, and constructed with graphene conductors.
    • Nov 20 2012: I've been following the cold fusion research for decades. Rossi is a kind of shady character and skeptics argue that none of his claims of excess energy have been done under rigorous, independent studies. He promises much but delivers less. I'll check out Brillouin a player that I'm not familiar with.

      For over a decade the patent office has screwed over cold fusion scientists. The hot fusion crowd got one of their own in the patent office who disallowed patents for over a decade because it was allegedly physically impossible; meanwhile scientists were getting patents in France, Italy, South Korea, Japan, etc.

      Randall Mills is another case. His research has been ongoing for about 20 years and his claim of creating "hydrinos" a type of hydrogen below the ground state has received much attention. What is somewhat suspicious is that he quotes scientists that worked at prestigious universities to bolster his claims only to find out that they left had those universities decades earlier. He also claims to have lined up four utilities who allegedly are going to install 8000mW of capacity, but I have seen no follow up to these claims which appear on his website.

      Low-energy nuclear reactions have been demonstrated countless times but the pathway to commercialization seems a long way off. Most of the results are in the milliwatt to watt range i.e. not even adequate to run a household much less anything more.
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    Nov 18 2012: The price point at which fossil fuels are no longer cost competitive with renewable energy is when the shift will happen.

    If you look at solar energy you see constant downward price pressure on the panels. Forecasting out the rise in efficiency, and decreasing price, you see a point where a family using just roof based solar can supply all their energy needs for less than fossil fuels. The main hurdles to a future like this is the cost and lifespan of batteries for storage.
    • Nov 18 2012: President Obama supported Solyndra and Solyndra went bankrupt but they maintain that the Chinese dumped cheap solar panels in the US to bankrupt the US solar market. Without massive subsidies I don't see how solar can compete with natural gas for electrical generation. You are still well over 10 cents for KwH for solar compared to maybe 6-8 cents/kWh for natural gas for the next 100 years. Hydrogen generation from solar is never going to be cost effective due to the inherent difficulties in transporting and storing hydrogen.

      Should we continue a subsidy for constructing roof-top based solar panels?

      Chemical batteries without a massive paradigm shift in technology will never be practical. The best chemical batteries are only about 50% efficient and show no signs of dramatic improvement. The only kind of batteries that make sense from an efficiency standpoint are pumped storage facilities i.e. you store, in the case of hydro pumped storage facilities, water at a high elevation during slack demand (e.g. nights and weekends) and release the water during peak demand to generate electricity with the reseversible pump/generators.

      At present this is the only cost-effective way to store large quantities of electricity.
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        Nov 18 2012: Several things will reduce the cost of solar and make it a cost effective alternative to fossil. First the cost of solar photovoltaics is dropping faster than predicted by the DOE NREL reports. We have already seen the spot price of solar drop to less than $0.70 per watt. Second we are beginning to see a minor but growing trend towards solar as an appliance, which will reduce the cost of installations significantly. 30% of the cost of a typical rooftop PV install is the panels, the rest is the install cost. This trend towards solar as an appliance will allow the average person to go to their local hardware super store and continuously expand.

        As to the storage issue, the reasons I didn't mention H2 (Hydrogen) are efficiency 7%-50% depending on the technology used, difficulty in transporting it over the current infrastructure, and cost of local storage.

        Also we are talking apples and oranges on storage. I am looking at this from the micro-grid, local generation perspective. Pumped hydro or air do not even enter into the equation due to cost at that scale.

        We have been seeing great advancements in battery technology over the last several years. With graphene and buckytubes leading the charge (pun intended) toward greater storage per unit volume and increased battery life. All in all it looks very good for solar with local storage.


        http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/03/16/smaller-cheaper-faster-does-moores-law-apply-to-solar-cells/

        DOE NREL report - http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/51847.pdf

        Solar as an appliance - http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-57432731-76/got-a-deck-solar-panels-now-a-plug-in-appliance/
        • Nov 18 2012: I can't tell you how much I hope you are right! The wild card in energy generation is whether such things as capturing zero point energy materialize; solar costs are going down and I wonder what new technology the Chinese feared that Solyndra was developing.

          Battery technology absolutely is improving, but there are upper limits to efficiency which I suspect are in the 60% range (I could be wrong, but it is a huge problem just getting from 50% to 55% efficiency---yes durability is improving)

          If you are right about the 70 cents/watt, that works out to $700/kW which places it below most other forms of carbon-based electrical generation. I proposed a massive nuclear power complex on Lake Superior which would bring down the cost due to scale, standardization of design, stable economic climate and workforce to about $800/kW.

          Even the most optimistic predictions of the AP 1000 Reactor by Westinghouse comes in at $1200/kW. MIT issued a report on nuclear power which had light-water reactors coming in at $4000/kW based on actual as opposed to theoretical costs.

          I don't know where this 70 cents/watt comes from but it seems hard to believe. It would lead, overnight, to a vast shift to solar. We are going to see a steady drop in installation costs as more robotic assembly takes place.
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        Nov 18 2012: "I don't know where this 70 cents/watt comes from but it seems hard to believe."

        Its funny, in the three or four months since I last checked, you can buy solar panels on Alibaba for $0.5 per watt. Its gone down 20 cents.

        Google "Solar panel spot prices"
        http://pvinsights.com/

        Or go to Alibaba to get actual prices
        http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/price-per-watt-solar-panels.html
        • Nov 18 2012: Your numbers don't jibe very well with the website called, "How Much Does It Cost to Install Solar on An Average US Home?"

          "At the time of this writing (April 2012) the installed cost of solar panels was about $7-$9/watt."

          Friends of mine installed solar panels and got a 50% rebate on the cost of the system from the utility. Without that subsidy the panels probably won't last long enough to reach break even as far as cost i.e. it would require something like a pay back of 40 years without the subsidy.

          "A 5 kW facility would cost $25,000-$35,000..."

          When you factor in that seasonal variations, location and cloud cover impact cost, it still looks like a subsidy is necessary to make solar cost effective (especially installation).
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        Nov 19 2012: "Your numbers don't jibe very well with the website called, "How Much Does It Cost to Install Solar on An Average US Home?""

        The problem is that the cost to install the system is greater than the cost of the parts. You have electricians, inspections, the actual solar installation company, and all sorts of BS charges tacked on. This adds up to 60-80% of the cost of the install. Which is why I am big on Solar as an appliance. With the ability to go to Lowe's or home depot and buy and install them yourself the price will drop substantially.
        • Nov 19 2012: My mother suggested something years ago that makes sense to me: Why not require for all latitudes south of say 35 degrees as part of building codes, absent a variance, e.g. not feasible, that all new construction must have passive solar? This could be rolled into the cost as opposed to requiring a home improvement loan at a much higher interest rate.

          I think the solar industry would really do much better if new construction was planned to accomodate solar panels. I suspect (but cannot prove) that it is a whole lot cheaper to get electricians to install the wiring on a new home as opposed to rewiring (retrofit) an older home.

          While some home owners may have the competence to install the panels, even though I owned a 6 unit apartment complex and did my own carpentry and plumbing, I'd never have the courage to try and install solar panels :)
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        Nov 19 2012: You said

        "I think the solar industry would really do much better if new construction was planned to accomodate solar panels."

        and

        "While some home owners may have the competence to install the panels, even though I owned a 6 unit apartment complex and did my own carpentry and plumbing, I'd never have the courage to try and install solar panels :)"

        That is why the regulations should make you install a high amp circuit, either 220 or 110 as an outlet to do the solar as an appliance thing when building a house. It frees the consumer up to do it on their own.
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        Nov 27 2012: A Tesla video, you couldn't do any better than that?
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    Nov 18 2012: More expensive fossil fuels
    Less expensive renewables

    Some of this will happen naturally.

    Individual and group political action and policy, legistlation can also make a difference.

    Our building code has so much more energy efficiency built in than a decade ago.

    Agree not everyone wants the cutting edge green home and lifestyle, but some of these cutting edge technologies lead the way to mainstream solutions.

    LED and Fluorescent lights make financial sense compare to incandescent.
    Smaller lighter cars save you money
    Roof insulation pays back in 5 to 10 years.
  • Nov 13 2012: Fossil fuels are not cheap.
    They are destroying the world environment.
    You consider that cost cheap?
    There are many other sources of energy that are renewable (fossil fuels ain't unless the death of billions of humans can decay into oil), clean and for all practical purposes, free.
    Wind, solar, tidal, wave, electric, geothermal.

    Take the money out of the equation and all can be done.
    Nothing costs money. Everything costs people and with the way things are going, it is going to cost everyone's lives and futures. That to me is expensive. Maybe not for you. Your life may not be worth much.

    People talk about, "how much is it going to cost? Who is going to pay for it?"
    Well, if you don't get off of fossil fuels, everyone will pay for it with the complete degradation of life, the planet, resource wars, starvation and so on. Pretty steep a price.

    Things don't "GET DONE" because of money.
    Things "DON'T GET DONE" because of money.
    • Nov 13 2012: What you say about the destruction of the environment is all too true. I've heard that the true cost of coal in America would be about $350 billion more than it is if you factored in environmental effects. It is also estimated that about half a million people die every year because of coal-related diseases.
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    Nov 13 2012: We need minds that can come up with fuels that use inexhautible sources or improve the refining process so that the pollution fossil fuels presently produce.are drastically reduced.
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    Nov 11 2012: I think that with our economy in the mess it's in, it's going to be very difficult to invest in the infrastructure and technology needed for change. Especially when oil and gas interests have such a strangle hold on our government, and they are allowed to invest unlimited sums into politics. I think it's going to take a crisis of some sort to motivate people individually and collectively.

    I wonder how many people after a hurricane invest in their own power systems? Although it takes some research, and investment, nearly every American household can purchase DIY solar and wind power for the home, as well as water heating. Why don't more people take advantage of that? It's the cost.

    How many people reading this chose to drive their car to work by themselves when more efficient options are available? How many cities are planned in such a way as to require everyone to get around by car?

    And don't even get me started about American energy companies. I recently interviewed with one of our nation's leading solar power companies, and I was shocked to learn that they had no interest or plans in using their own commercial solar power for their own buildings. Why? It was too expensive. I thought that was just horrible.

    So, I would say either a disaster or, hopefully, a brilliant energy invention that manages to survive the oil company strangle hold.
    • Nov 12 2012: You might be interested to know that Solyndra has filed a $1.5 billion anti-trust lawsuit against the Chinese. They allege a conspiracy exists between Chinese companies, banks and their government to "dump" cheap solar panels in the US with the expressed purpose of bankrupting American solar firms. Solyndra had developed a revolutionary new solar panel which "scared" the Chinese so they began dumping to shut down the American industry.

      Check out the progress in low-energy nuclear reaction technology, the Firestorm spark plug and modern versions of the Papp engine. These, as well as Randall Mills and his hydrinos, offer hope but not yet reality.
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    Gail .

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    Nov 10 2012: I recently learned about the growing interest in hydrogen power. It is easily made, and when fuel cells are improved, every home can have its own pollution free energy station.

    Fossil fuels are certainly our albatross. My neighbor's brother owns over 600 acres in Ohio. He was just offered more than a million dollars for fracking and gas rights that will pay him further royalties. She (my neighbor) thought this was great. When I reminded her about the cost to neighbors' water supply and future generations, she said that money is more important.

    We have to end capitalism with its inherent absence of ethics.
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      Nov 11 2012: Hello TED Lover, I agree about Hydrogen power. There is a marketing problem I'll call the "cold start problem": How do you get hydrogen fuel stations in place before there are a lot of hydrogen powered cars that want that fuel? And from the driver's perspective, how do you get them to buy the car before the fueling stations are in place? Around the world there are successful examples with city-level governments leading the way, mostly buses and other commercial vehicles.

      About capitalism lacking ethics - you are so right about that. I think In my experience, many CEOs of public companies would sincerely like to do the right and ethical thing, but they can not do so because they are legally beholden to the shareholders, and they have a legal duty to look out for the financial well being of the company. Some private companies can get around this, and of course that's the whole reason we have non-profits.

      There is a new class of corporation introduced recently, called a "B-Corp", that is in between a for-profit and a non-profit. I wonder if that's been able to help this lack of ethics problem?
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        Gail .

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        Nov 12 2012: There is a movement on to create efficient hydrogen fuel cells that create hydrogen on demand, bypassing the dangerous hydrogen tanks. There are already home-made hydrogen fuel cells that improve gas mileage significantly. They are made with Ball jars, tubes, wires and a 7 amp fuse. The hydrogen is fed directly into the distributor, and it draws a small current from that battery. (One kit on the market doesn't work well, but the other appears to. But you don't need a kit because you can create your own)

        The newer (not home made) fuel cells are very small and thin things that use some type of membrane for reasons that I do not yet understand. We could already be running golf carts and dune buggies on water through on-demand hydrogen creation, if what I have read is true. Then oxygen is the only by-product. Cars, weighing so much more, are still in the future, though there is already a hydrogen powered car that is not on the market for the reason you mention.

        I agree that many CEOs of public companies would have liked to do the right and ethical thing, but could not and cannot legally do so. I've pretty much concluded that publicly traded companies should be outlawed or SEVERELY regulated in the area of both pay and environmental damage. (Even though a portion of my retirement is from investments.)

        I am now reading about B Corps for the first time. Thanks for the heads-up. I am delighted to see the growth in the number of responsible consumers in the last few years. Yes, responsible consumers will make a great dent, but the problem of Goldman Sachs et. al. will still need to be dealt with, and that requires a whole new level of awareness.

        I suspect that when we become energy self-sufficient, we can do away with money altogether. Each home can grow its own food under grow lights, create potable water, provide heat & air conditioning, thus leave people free to invent and share, cooperate with neighbors, and improve their shared world.
    • Nov 12 2012: @TL: Hydrogen is a secondary fuel. http://userwikis.fu-berlin.de/display/energywiki/secondary+energy
      Unless we are talking about nuclear fusion, it means that hydrogen can only be used as a means to store energy. That's because we still need energy from a primary source to MAKE that hydrogen. Primary sources are like coal, petroleum, gas, wind, solar, etc.

      Think of hydrogen cells as a kind of battery.
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    Nov 10 2012: Yes!
    We can when we gradually understand that almost all fossil fuels are spent for INVALID happiness.
  • Nov 9 2012: "How can America wean itself from fossil fuels when fossil fuels are so cheap?"

    Fossil fuels are not really cheap, not in the quantities they're being used in this world, they're only cheap when you choose to leave out the costs of environmental degradation (and its associated health effects on people) and dependence on a non-renewable resource. Green taxation is in essence a way to account for the true cost of fossil fuels, even though many people don't see it that way.
    • Nov 9 2012: 43% of Americans believe in the Biblical account of creation. Getting them to believe in global warming when prominent scientists raise doubts (i.e. they may have a doctorate in something) is asking the impossible. It is easy to ignore climate change despite Sandy, so many Americans would object vehemently to any green taxation. Australia is going it alone when they only contribute less than 2% to global warming.

      We can't get Americans to agree on any new taxes. To suggest our populace would permit green taxation is asking for a "sacrifice" the overwhelming majority of Americans wouldn't agree to. I'll bet if you asked the average American whether they would agree to be taxed $500/year to support renewable energy 75% would say no way.

      We know the true cost of coal---and Americans ignore it. You need only go to West Virginia or Pennsylvania to see the true cost of coal mining and fracking, yet the average American "could care less". As a society we are gourmands who could care less about what we consume compared to the rest of the world than what is on the latest "hot" TV program. Getting Americans to agree to a significant green tax is less likely than getting Americans to get serious about the obesity epidemic.
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        Nov 9 2012: So if you are right in saying, that 'Getting Americans to agree to a significant green tax is less likely than getting Americans to get serious about the obesity epidemic., then the answer to your questions gets quite simple:

        North America can't.

        Unless you first rediscover slow-food and sport for the masses ...
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    Nov 9 2012: Green taxation before the rise in price due to natural shortage.