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We will NOT find an alternative to energy dense, easily transportable conventional oil in time to sustain indefinate economic growth.

All alternative energies have one or more disadvantages that do not let them compete with cheap conventional oil.

Given our industrial civilization depends on massive amounts of cheap energy, the reliance on conventional oil is enormous.

The only quick solution I see is a drastic downscaling of economic activity.

Topics: energy

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    Feb 17 2013: I have total faith in there being a solution to our energy needs. Of course petroleum is a finite resource, but demand for power (control) by the people supplying the worlds needs is much more powerful than petroleum itself. Energy is an unrelenting requirement, and those who control it will have the power to control us.

    These are not stupid people. They have the money and impetus to continue supplying the energy the world needs. I have no doubt there are practical methods in development that will replace petroleum when it becomes no longer viable. We all have a sense of urgency, but we will not see a change in energy type until petroleum is exhausted. The infrastructure for petroleum is in place at tremendous expense, and will not be abandoned until the last drop is used. Downsizing is not required.

    My optimism is not in the humanity of the people running the show but in the drive they have and tactics they will use to maintain their current level of influence over the rest of us. As for the requirements of density, easy transportation and economical, those are non-issues. It will cost whatever it costs (including the necessary profits to sustain their power and lifestyle) and we will pay. The only stop for this is through open sourced development and sharing by people who's sole motivation is not profit.
    • Feb 19 2013: If it costs too much then there will be less economic activity.
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      Feb 20 2013: I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying.

      There is no shortage of energy. Check this out (and technology has vastly improved since 2005)...
      .... less than 1% of UNUSED land needed at a PV efficiency of 10%. Considering that the worst PV cells are far better than that, and concentrated solar thermal can deliver power 24 hours a day using heat storage,

      Any talk of an energy shortage is either ignorance or market manipulation by adding the perception of scarcity (preying on ignorance).

      There is also the very real economic problem of the removal of the "value add" sectors of the fuel part of the current "energy market paradigm". This is:
      - The recovery of the fuel resource (mining/drilling, etc).
      - The processing/refining of the fuel resource.
      - The transportation of the fuel resource.
      This is a very large part of the energy economy and the energy economy is a very large part of the global economy.

      Solar energy is delivered basically free of charge. There may be an increase of transmission and distribution, but this would in no way fill the hole left by the removal of what I call the "value add" sectors above.

      Amortized over time, the longer the period, the cheaper renewable energy is. That virtually kills the income generated by the energy sector. This is where I think Amory Lovins falters in his talks. He sees the savings as a gain, which in the long run they would be, but what he fails to address is, "How do we fill that economic hole, at least in the short term?". Amory is an engineer, (he thinks like me,) but others see the money flow as of far greater import than the flow of energy.

      Of course what you say regarding those with the current controlling position do not want to lose that control, nor do they want to lose their current returns their investment yields.

      However, there are those trying to get past this. DESERTEC is one, but it is no easy road.
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        Feb 20 2013: I went to the sight and read it. Very impressive stuff. Thank you for the link, and your comments.
      • Feb 21 2013: Mark: Yes , there is a lot of "free" energy in the sun. But what you are overlooking is, that to "capture" it, is very far from free. In fact, it is basically a fringe activity, because it has no "Energy Density". You are not going to see practical airplanes powered by solar panels. For real power, you need coal or oil. Or better yet, Thorium LFTR power, which is a million times more energy dense than fossil fuels.
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          Feb 24 2013: Yes, and it costs fortune to build a coal fired power station and the coal mines to feed it, supply lines (truck, train or belt if you lucky to the close to the mine), then the waste, transporting ash to ash dams etc..

          Factual figures from a proposed upgrade to Mt Piper Power Station: A$2 Billion budget (2008) to 600MW upgrade to an existing power station. Then it will cost $162,240,000 (current price) extra in coal per year just to fuel that increase. That is only an UPGRADE to existing infrastructure!

          Based on the Andasol parabolic trough thermal system in Spain, a brand new installation would be just under $5 Billion at PROTOTYPE prices including the heat storage for 24 hour operation. A roll-out of 12 units (50MW/unit is what the costings are based on) of thermal solar will reduce costs with economies of scale, as it is duplication, over and over.

          Solar is mostly a one off cost, and if the initial capital is amortized over an appropriate period, it can be priced to compete on the market and will surpass the competition, as maintenance costs are also lower (far less moving mechanics - no belts, hoppers, ball/ roller mills, etc.)

          Just over a century ago, "horseless carriages" were a "fringe activity", Lord Kelvin said that there was nothing new left to invent, powered flight was a pipe dream, etc, then a couple of bicycle mechanics .. well you know the story.

          As Ian Fleming said, Never say never again.

          Check out this TED talk.... http://www.ted.com/talks/bertrand_piccard_s_solar_powered_adventure.html

          "So, you see that this airplane is more a symbol. I don't think it will transport 200 people in the next years. But when Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, the payload was also just sufficient for one person and some fuel. And 20 years later there were 200 people in every airplane crossing the Atlantic."

          NASA and others are working on getting biofuels from algae, Solar to hydrogen, etc.

          There are infinite possibilities once we free ourselves from paradigms.

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