-thoughts and ideas

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

non-fossil fuel fuels

Another quick thought:

Are fossil fuels really the most overall effective fuels. I'm talking about total cost of production and implementation and also return on investment.

The good people at www.journeytoforever.org give good evidence and research for looking into alts.

Bio-Diesel will be a big player in the near future. That is to say an even bigger player. (Most farm diesel has some percentage of it as bio)


1 comment:

Jason Berberich said...

I'd say that historically, fossil fuels were the "cheap", easy energy source. It's a fuel and an energy source, if you get the distinction, making it inexpensive relative to ethanol, hydrogen, and other fuels that require some sort of conversion. The oil reserves initially tapped were the low-hanging fruit that cost next to nothing to deplete. But now, when we're needing to drill 30,000 feet to hit new reserves, it's easy to see why we're up at $90 per barrel.

The great part about $90 oil is that all of a sudden, alternative energy isn't that expensive anymore. Biodiesel is a great (and easy to implement) choice, as is cellulosic ethanol (i.e., switch grass). Personally, I hope corn-derived ethanol dies a quick death. It's just too expensive, inefficient, and political to be a good long-term solution.

These are all great for vehicles, which is a big chunk of our country's energy consumption. Unfortunately, there's the issue of scale. Currently, no alternative energy source comes close to fossil fuels when it comes to the energy we demand as a nation.

This page, written by a systems engineer who seems to know his stuff, talks about the issues involved with replacing oil-based energy and links to a ton of other, related articles.

This is his list of five properties any proposed alternative energy source must have if it is to make any real difference:
1. It has to be huge (in terms of both energy and power)
2. It has to be reliable (not intermittent or unschedulable)
3. It has to be concentrated (not diffuse)
4. It has to be possible to utilize it efficiently
5. The capital investment and operating cost to utilize it has to be comparable to existing energy sources (per gigawatt, and per gigajoule).

I think we'll eventually get there, but it's probably not going to be a single energy source that does it. I'm thinking it'll take a combination of energy conservation, nuclear, solar, wind, biodiesel and ethanol, geothermal, and whatever other new sources we cook-up.