Category Archives: Energy

Alternative Energy Still Being Oversold

You have surely noticed, if you’ve been checking in on my blog, that I have been absent for quite a while. My age, abetted by my normal laziness, along with some minor health problems, are to be blamed. Maybe I just needed a special message to spur me to “get back to work.” The post below is such. Some of you may know that I worked in alternative energy for five years at GE just after the OPEC oil embargo in 1973 and have posted a number of comments on the subject in my blog. 

Finally, many of the utopian programs in wind and solar energy are bearing bitter fruit, resulting in more objective opinions of the area such as the one below by Lonborg. He is excellent in considering the total picture and I have included it in its entirety.

COPENHAGEN– One of the world’s biggest green-energy public-policy experiments is coming to a bitter end in Germany, with important lessons for policymakers elsewhere. Germany once prided itself on being the “photovoltaic world champion”, doling out generous subsidies – totaling more than $130 billion, according to research from Germany’s Ruhr University– to citizens to invest in solar energy. But now the German government is vowing to cut the subsidies sooner than planned, and to phase out support over the next five years. What went wrong? Continue reading

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Renewable(?) Energy

The following is a post taken entirely from one done by Matt Ridley. Ridley was educated at Eton College and then completed a BA and a PhD at Oxford in zoology. He is author of a number of successful books on science. (will1be)

What does the word “renewable” mean?

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a thousand-page report on the future of renewable energy, which it defined as solar, hydro, wind, tidal, wave, geothermal and biomass. These energy sources, said the IPCC, generate about 13.8% of our energy and, if encouraged to grow, could eventually displace most fossil fuel use.

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A Nuclear Change of Heart by a Well Known English Environmentalist

George Monbiot has been an activist in the environment field for years. He is an Oxford graduate and writes a weekly column for the Guardian, a comprehensive but very left-leaning newspaper in England. In the article below he calls himself a “neutral-nuclear” person, although his past writings would indicate that he has, at least, been somewhat on the anti-nuclear side. However accurately he describes himself, I found this recent column to be surprisingly objective. I hope you will also find it interesting.

Why Fukushima made stop worrying and start loving nuclear power

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Europe Continues Cuts in Solar and Wind Subsidies

Here’s today’s update by Peter Gosselin on the status of support and subsidies by European governments for the alternate energy sources of solar and wind. Cuts by the US Congress shouldn’t be far behind. Good riddance, in that the systems cannot compete economically in the energy generation field. And the subsidies just line the pockets of investors slopping at the government trough while adding to the electric bill of all citizens.

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Useless Ethanol – But Iowa’s Primary “Rules”

Any thorough analysis of ethanol you can read arrives at the same conclusion; it is not good for cars, not good for the atmosphere, and not good for the price/availability of food. Yet I am pessimistic that any helpful change will be made by our government.  The farm lobbies are very strong and the Iowa primary will support the government subsidies. All candidates that hope to do well in the Iowa primary must go public with an “Ethanol is next to Godliness” pronouncement.

There is a glimmer of hope though in that the German people are seeing the light now and that Europe may follow. Perhaps our leaders will become more aware of ethanol’s impact.

Below is a post by Peter Gossilin, a German scientist and blogger I read most every day, about the subject that I found interesting. He does not cover the problems of shipping ethanol. Continue reading

Random Memories No 2 – Saying Goodbye to the Solar System

The two Voyager spacecraft are about to say goodbye to the solar system and enter interstellar space after 33 years in flight. 

In the 1970s I was working at GE’s Space Division in Valley Forge as the energy engineering manager. One of my groups was responsible for the design of a radioisotope power supply that would supply DC power for the Voyager spacecraft. For details see http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/ We had won the contract to provide the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena the power supplies for the two spacecraft that were launched in 1977. A key reason for our selection was that we had supplied radioisotope power supplies before for Apollo Missions 13 and 14 experiments.

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Nuclear Power Slowly Gaining Acceptance

Chernobyl

I was reminded of this subject recently when I was sent some information about the Libyan bombing on April 15, 1986 which happened when I was on a European trip which lasted through April 26, 1986 when the Chernobyl reactor exploded and killed 47 workers who were trying to put out the fire. It had no containment structure such as is common in the rest of world.

There was quite a scare in Europe when radiation began being detected in Sweden and then some other countries. We were watching the news each evening as the announcers showed maps with the latest extent of the radioactivity which was drifting west. But, after 24 years it seems to me, after scanning various reports, that the damage to humans, animals and plants has been much, much less than the original panic indicated.

Japan, WWII

Nuclear energy came to the awareness of the world through the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the first, and until now, the only atomic bombs used in war. It is understood that the use of nuclear energy started out under a terrifying cloud, literally and figuratively. And our biases, as would be expected, still tend to be negative and resistant to efforts to change them.

B-29 bombers practically obliterated 15 square miles of Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, 1945, resulting in an estimate by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police of 125,000 casualties, more than either A-bomb attack, but that information is just a footnote in history today. But over 300 B-29s flew on the night, not just the one as was over Hiroshima. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Tokyo#B-29_raids

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Electric Cars: Comments, No. 1

From time to time I will continue to post some comments on various energy subjects. Here are the first ones on electric cars that I think help put the enthusiasm of advocates and promoters in perspective. The common mistake by most electric car supporters is that they either do not appreciate that the bigger picture must be considered, or they choose to ignore it to advance their case. These come from the London Telegraph and the Washington Post. Before you read them consider the following: A lithium-ion battery, at its best, packs 110 watt-hours of energy per pound. Gasoline has 6,000 watt-hours per pound. Now, a gasoline motor is inefficient, discarding 85% of the fuel’s energy–losing it to the transmission, wasting it on idling and discharging it as heat. Electric motors waste just 10%, but it still leaves gas with a 9-to-1 weight advantage. (And the cost of the battery today is likely more than the cost of the gasoline saved by going electric!) Here’s the reference: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0628/energy-autos-electric-cars-ibm-nissan-running-on-air.html

London to Edinburgh by electric car: it was quicker by stagecoach.

The BBC’s stunt of taking an electric Mini to Edinburgh reveals just how impractical rechargeable cars are, writes Christopher Booker of the London Telegraph.

van Gogh Sketch

Stagecoach, depicted by Van Gogh in one of his letters, Photo: Paul Grover

In its obsessive desire to promote the virtues of electric cars, the BBC proudly showed us last week how its reporter Brian Milligan was able to drive an electric Mini from London to Edinburgh in a mere four days – with nine stops of up to 10 hours to recharge the batteries (with electricity from fossil fuels).

What the BBC omitted to tell us was that in the 1830s, a stagecoach was able to make the same journey in half the time, with two days and nights of continuous driving. This did require 50 stops to change horses, but each of these took only two minutes, giving a total stopping time of just over an hour and a half.

Considering that horse power was carbon-free, emitting only organic fertilizer along the way, isn’t it time the eco-conscious BBC became more technologically savvy? Continue reading

Cold Fusion Going Commercial!?

My favorite blog is a very popular one and is called “Watts Up With That”, web address:  wattsupwiththat.com. It is written by Anthony Watts, a meteorologist who lives in Chico, CA. He just posted this and I thought some of you would be interested.

I was in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory fusion group when “Cold Fusion” was announced years ago by Pons and Fleischman. ORNL immediately formed a research team to duplicate the results and could not. All the furor from the announcement gradually settled down as many labs around the world tried but failed to match the described results. It will be interesting to see what becomes of this claim. It would be an amazing finding if there is really “a pony in there somewhere!” will1be

Posted on January 22, 2011 by Ric Werme

Nickel-hydrogen cold fusion press conferenceForeword: I gave Ric Werme permission to do this essay. I don’t have any doubt that the original Cold Fusion research was seriously flawed. That said, this recent new development using a different process is getting some interest, so let’s approach it skeptically to see what merit it has, if any. – Anthony

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Déjà Vu All Over Again – Wind Power

Once upon a time long ago, in 1973, OPEC “tied a knot in our gasoline hoses” and had us standing in long lines to fill up our cars. The country became panicky and a myriad of actions were proposed to alleviate the effects of the embargo. Many were band-aided into a package of salvation called Energy Independence, but not including such practical approaches as a surge in drilling for more oil. Included were the usual solutions or “hopey-changey” things like windmills and photovoltaic power that are also bundled into today’s salvation, Alternative Power.

One of the first acts of government in 1974 was to establish the United States Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) an organization to throw money at the problem, preferably into the districts of the congressmen who were in charge of the appropriations. It was formed from the functions of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) other than its regulatory groups. These groups became the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, essentially as it is today. The Energy Research and Development Administration was finally activated in January 1975.

While this huge, slow re-organization was going on, the government was pushing in many directions, including getting all government buildings to set their thermostats to 68 degrees, as I remember. President Carter made his “memorable” TV address in his cardigan sweater while admonishing us to get cool and stay cool.

Anyone who had any work with the government agencies knew that money was going to be flowing fast from Washington and there were many suggestions and proposals advanced to “help” the government spend it. Continue reading