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Thread: Likelihood of alternative synthetic oil in the next few decades?

  1. #1 Likelihood of alternative synthetic oil in the next few decades? 
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    Hello

    At the current rate, I've read that we'll run of oil in the next few decades, and oil powers over 95% of transportation.

    When hearing this, people usually react by saying that it's nothing to worry about because scientists will just come up with synthetic oil before.

    I don't have the education to tell, so I wanted to ask people here with a strong background in chemistry how likely it is that we'll indeed come up with a valid alternative to oil in next few decades.

    By "valid", I mean 1) with the same energy density, 2) with a comparable price (not more than $100/baril), 3) without using valuable agricultural land, and 4) without increasing global warming?

    Thank you.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Hello

    At the current rate, I've read that we'll run of oil in the next few decades, and oil powers over 95% of transportation.
    We won't.

    As for the synthetic part, our power plant shift is eventually going to have to go away from fossil fuels if we want to slow our impact via car emissions. There isn't anything we can combust which won't put CO2 into the air in some quantity.

    We've thus far not had great success with plant-based fuels, but biofuels have stepped up a bit. I don't think a lab-made synthetic fuel is going to be a price competitor with crude, though.


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    Thanks. What do you mean by "We won't"? That we'll have $100/baril oil for longer than a few decades?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Hello

    At the current rate, I've read that we'll run of oil in the next few decades, and oil powers over 95% of transportation.

    When hearing this, people usually react by saying that it's nothing to worry about because scientists will just come up with synthetic oil before.

    I don't have the education to tell, so I wanted to ask people here with a strong background in chemistry how likely it is that we'll indeed come up with a valid alternative to oil in next few decades.

    By "valid", I mean 1) with the same energy density, 2) with a comparable price (not more than $100/baril), 3) without using valuable agricultural land, and 4) without increasing global warming?

    Thank you.
    For transport fuel, alcohol from fermenting plant starch is already used and this could be extended. The CO2 this releases when burnt is exactly equal to the CO2 fixed by the plants during photosynthesis when they grow, so is in effect a way to convert sunlight to fuel without adding to greenhouse gases. But if one of your criteria is to avoid diverting agricultural land to its production, then this is no good.

    To meet all your criteria, one needs a synthetic transport fuel that is made from nuclear or directly from renewable sources, such as solar, water or wind power, i.e. a back-conversion from electrical energy to chemical energy. Hydrogen can be made this way of course, via electrolysis. But before going to this trouble one perhaps should ask whether better batteries cannot avoid the need for the double conversion step (via electricity as an intermediate), at least for some applications.

    Also, recently, there has been some published work on converting syngas (CO + H2) to liquid fuel:‘Solar’ jet fuel made out of thin air | Chemistry World

    My feeling is the solution to the problem will require one of your boundary conditions to be violated and the obvious one is PRICE. As hydrocarbons become in short supply, the alternatives will become more attractive. Governments can hasten the development of non-greenhouse alternatives via tax treatment, but they will have to convince their electorates that the drag on their economies is a price worth paying. So far, the Northern Europeans seems to be the only electorates that seem to have tacitly accepted this trade off. Without a degree of political leadership that has so far been absent, I suspect the rest of the world will be forced to the alternatives by price, after first doing a lot of work on better efficiency, and then finally embracing a totally new technology only when they absolutely have to.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    how likely it is that we'll indeed come up with a valid alternative to oil in next few decades.
    There will be no one replacement. There will be many partial replacements (ethanol, methanol, methane, batteries+renewables) that will "take the load off oil" so to speak.

    >By "valid", I mean 1) with the same energy density
    Yes, you can get a similar energy density with (say) biodiesel.

    >2) with a comparable price (not more than $100/baril)
    Nope. Oil is used not because it is an ideal fuel but because it is cheap. Alternatives are more expensive, and will continue to be so until the scarcity of oil drives its price beyond the price of alternativesl

    >3) without using valuable agricultural land
    Nope. Biofuels use agricultural land, EV's require land for solar farms (if it's going to be clean) - although that's generally less desirable for agriculture due to location.

    >4) without increasing global warming?
    All the above have a smaller carbon footprint than oil.
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    Thanks for the feedback.

    So it doesn't look as rosy as most people seem to think.

    Another thing that bothers me, is that cars are only one part of transportation, so even if we can switch to electric cars in the next twenty years, that still leaves the issue of how to power trucks, cargo, planes, and all motors used in agriculture.
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    Another thing that bothers me, is that cars are only one part of transportation, so even if we can switch to electric cars in the next twenty years, that still leaves the issue of how to power trucks, cargo, planes, and all motors used in agriculture.
    I'd suggest that electrification of public transport - and also of freight trains - would go a long way to deal with these problems. It would mean a reduction or a significant change in the use of road transport of some goods and of reorganising distribution and transport of lots of things. Seeing as we'd very likely change most of these things one way or another during the next 50-100 years, the move to convert as much transport as possible to electric forms will just become another constraint on the available options.

    More railyard collection and distribution points linked with smaller, lighter trucks capable of being run on electric power/batteries is the obvious option - to me - for now - but once people who know what they're doing set their minds to it with newer technology available, there'll be other options I couldn't even dream of. One obvious thing that could turn a lot of these issues on their heads is urban planning and redesign specifically to support different approaches to distribution of goods.

    My own thinking and many other people's thinking is predicated on the notions of supermarkets and shopping centres - because I've always lived in suburbs and worked in a city centre or a suburb. When you look at other places, the thinking of people there might focus on notions like the corner shop and farmers markets or similar weekly/transient arrangements. And there must be other options for organisation of living spaces in urban, suburban, smaller town and village style environments. Once people set themselves the task of looking at how the benefits and deficiencies of various planning options can be rejigged and transferred (or not) to doing things on a larger or smaller scale, the associated transport of both people and goods can be re-imagined to be more suitable for certain forms of power supply or more economical of power usage regardless of its source.

    Remember always, better urban planning means less use of any/all powered transport. When people can easily walk or safely ride bicycles for work and shopping and family travel needs, the total use of oil and/or electricity for these purposes can be designed right out of existence. Copenhagen on two wheels | VisitDenmark
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    Worries about oil running out have been around for dacades now and its availablity must decline in years in to come. In the UK, there has been concern recently about the decline of oil production from the North Sea oilfields. The other problem is the increasing demand from large emerging economies like China. Despite all this, there hasn't been any serious attempt to counteract our obsession with unnecessarily large road vehicles. In my lifetime, cars have become larger rather than smaller and there are far more of them. Even if we had cheaper and better all-electric vehicles, they would probably struggle to share the same road space with the more powerful petrol driven variety. Convincing people that a Ferrari or an enormous 4x4 (SUV) isn't necessarily the most desirable form of transport could be problematic
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Thanks for the feedback.

    So it doesn't look as rosy as most people seem to think.

    Another thing that bothers me, is that cars are only one part of transportation, so even if we can switch to electric cars in the next twenty years, that still leaves the issue of how to power trucks, cargo, planes, and all motors used in agriculture.

    When the energy industry (in which I used to work) speaks of transport fuels it includes all those categories, as the problem for them all is the same: the need for a light and compact portable energy source. I think that for aviation at least some form of synthesised chemical fuel is the most likely solution, whereas for land transport a combination of electric and synthetic chemical fuel may eventually be used. What I am fairly certain of is that, before this happens, the price of liquid fuels will go up due to demand exceeding supply and this will drive a search for efficiency which will modify the ways some of us live. And I think wise governments will use selective taxation to start driving the right behaviours before the crunch occurs. For example, the amount of tax the US levies on transport fuel is scandalously low, in my view and leads to great inefficiency in the way such fuels are used. Using taxes raised on fossil fuel to fund renewables or nuclear strikes me as the right sort of thing to do.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonG View Post
    Worries about oil running out have been around for dacades now and its availablity must decline in years in to come. In the UK, there has been concern recently about the decline of oil production from the North Sea oilfields. The other problem is the increasing demand from large emerging economies like China. Despite all this, there hasn't been any serious attempt to counteract our obsession with unnecessarily large road vehicles. In my lifetime, cars have become larger rather than smaller and there are far more of them. Even if we had cheaper and better all-electric vehicles, they would probably struggle to share the same road space with the more powerful petrol driven variety. Convincing people that a Ferrari or an enormous 4x4 (SUV) isn't necessarily the most desirable form of transport could be problematic
    I know! One might think the cost of fuel in Europe (due to taxation) would militate against SUVs etc, but apparently a lot of people are affluent enough to pay for the expense. Probably goes to show that convenience, fashion and or image, play such a big role in purchase decisions that running costs are ignored by comparison.

    Perhaps this shows the need for further measures aimed at image changing, as has ben done so painfully over the decades with cigarette smoking. Some of us Londoners tend to poke fun at "chelsea tractors", especially when we see some ludicrous vehicle trying to squeeze itself down one of our Victorian side streets, but there's along way to go before these bloody things become "uncool".
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    I must admit to being a bit ambivalent regarding large cars. I'm not a fan of 4x4s, but I do take a second look when, rarely, one sees one of those huge American cars which prowled around in the early 1960s - the type with twelve cylinders and a top speed of 60mph.

    But I suspect that there would be quite difficult problems in changing to battery-powered cars. Batteries usually take quite a while to recharge and, rather than recharging a battery in a car, it would be quicker to take it out and swap it for one that is already charged. But implementing such an approach would be complicated - we would probably have to agree on standard sized batteries, for example, and set up extensive facilities for recharging batteries which have been removed from cars. Another thing about batteries - why do they always end up deteriorating and becoming unchargeable? Lead/acid batteries do seem much better now than they used to be, but most others have a limited lifespan.

    And a totally, unrelated question. What I have written here should appear as three paragraphs. However, if I posted this on the Physics forum, it would appear to be squashed into a single paragraph. Does anyone know why that is?
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    Unfortunately, weaning from oil is a long-term project and a significant life change, while elections occur every few years. So it's unlikely that we'll make the necessary decisions in time. Just look how hard it is to get people to agree on building new nuclear power plants, bicycle lanes and public transportation.

    As for taxes on oil being high in Europe: They are, but even then, in percentage of people's income, gas is cheaper now than it was in the 70's, which explains why people are still driving an awful lot, even when they're making the minimum wage. And they think I'm crazy when I tell them most commutes can be done by riding a bike like I do.

    Incidently, a very interesting lecture by Cambridge physicist David MacKay: "Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Unfortunately, weaning from oil is a long-term project and a significant life change, while elections occur every few years. So it's unlikely that we'll make the necessary decisions in time. Just look how hard it is to get people to agree on building new nuclear power plants, bicycle lanes and public transportation.

    As for taxes on oil being high in Europe: They are, but even then, in percentage of people's income, gas is cheaper now than it was in the 70's, which explains why people are still driving an awful lot, even when they're making the minimum wage. And they think I'm crazy when I tell them most commutes can be done by riding a bike like I do.

    Incidently, a very interesting lecture by Cambridge physicist David MacKay: "Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air".
    Very true. We're all far richer than we were in the 1970s, the ideas of Thomas Piketty notwithstanding! Which suggest the price of fossil fuel has not yet got anywhere near where it needs to, to start driving change. Unfortunately.
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    Biofuels from sources such as algae could satisfy your requirements. These systems run on solar energy and use a hydrocarbon-CO2 cycle. The world has large amounts of desert where these factories could operate. They provide comparable energy density, probably lower price, doesn't use agricultural lands, and might even be able to sequester carbon.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Thanks. What do you mean by "We won't"? That we'll have $100/baril oil for longer than a few decades?
    I mean there is still enough oil in the world to fuel our addiction. If people are willing to pay $6+ a gallon to keep driving around in their trucks and SUVs, I don't see much changing in terms of oil production. Sure, we have more fuel efficient cars now, but we also have more and more on the road. With markets like India, China, and Vietnam adopting cars, there is still a massive market to be had and oil companies probably aren't sweating it.

    I'm more interested in replacing coal than the ICE, right now. It's far less regulated, less efficient, more polluting, and constitutes more of the overall emissions worldwide. The ICE is actually pretty well refined when it comes to burning things to make energy. As much as I want to see the oil industry go the way of the dinosaur, we are a petroleum society and that's not going to happen until there isn't a sip left to be had. We're wringing it out of oil sands that used to be considered a waste product of drilling.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Another thing that bothers me, is that cars are only one part of transportation, so even if we can switch to electric cars in the next twenty years, that still leaves the issue of how to power trucks, cargo, planes, and all motors used in agriculture.
    I'd suggest that electrification of public transport - and also of freight trains - would go a long way to deal with these problems. It would mean a reduction or a significant change in the use of road transport of some goods and of reorganising distribution and transport of lots of things. Seeing as we'd very likely change most of these things one way or another during the next 50-100 years, the move to convert as much transport as possible to electric forms will just become another constraint on the available options.

    More railyard collection and distribution points linked with smaller, lighter trucks capable of being run on electric power/batteries is the obvious option - to me - for now - but once people who know what they're doing set their minds to it with newer technology available, there'll be other options I couldn't even dream of. One obvious thing that could turn a lot of these issues on their heads is urban planning and redesign specifically to support different approaches to distribution of goods.

    My own thinking and many other people's thinking is predicated on the notions of supermarkets and shopping centres - because I've always lived in suburbs and worked in a city centre or a suburb. When you look at other places, the thinking of people there might focus on notions like the corner shop and farmers markets or similar weekly/transient arrangements. And there must be other options for organisation of living spaces in urban, suburban, smaller town and village style environments. Once people set themselves the task of looking at how the benefits and deficiencies of various planning options can be rejigged and transferred (or not) to doing things on a larger or smaller scale, the associated transport of both people and goods can be re-imagined to be more suitable for certain forms of power supply or more economical of power usage regardless of its source.

    Remember always, better urban planning means less use of any/all powered transport. When people can easily walk or safely ride bicycles for work and shopping and family travel needs, the total use of oil and/or electricity for these purposes can be designed right out of existence. Copenhagen on two wheels | VisitDenmark
    I personally like the concept of high rise farming for several good reasons.

    1. Each city can have it's own locally grown food that would use 90% less water than current farms do.
    2. Importing of food from all over the world would for the most part be a thing of the past.
    3. High rise farms can easily be scaled up or down per the current needs of the city.
    4. As our climate changes for the worse we will have less disruptions in our food supply.
    5. High rise farming will be 24/7/365 (no down time ever), which means no more waiting on the seasons. We will always have what we like all year round.

    It has been stated that the cost of high rise farming makes it less attractive. But as the cost of scarce water and transportation keep going up that will change. Also, for many of you that have never had very good produce because of where you live, you will be shocked at how good it can be if grown locally. I spent most of my life in Southern California and I've lived in many other areas of the US and no place has ever been as good as California. I really miss that about not living there now.

    http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2014/...-to-your-city/
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    Biofuels from sources such as algae could satisfy your requirements. These systems run on solar energy and use a hydrocarbon-CO2 cycle. The world has large amounts of desert where these factories could operate. They provide comparable energy density, probably lower price, doesn't use agricultural lands, and might even be able to sequester carbon.

    Thanks. Maybe we'll get lucky... or not, in which case, we'll live interesting times.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    we are a petroleum society
    Whereas "petroleum" literally means oil from rocks, the broader term "hydrocarbon" signifies any similar/compatible liquid fuel that burns using air, including ethanol that we now use in the E10 blend (ie, 10% ethanol and 90% gas) commonly bought at gas stations.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    we are a petroleum society
    Whereas "petroleum" literally means oil from rocks, the broader term "hydrocarbon" signifies any similar/compatible liquid fuel that burns using air, including ethanol that we now use in the E10 blend (ie, 10% ethanol and 90% gas) commonly bought at gas stations.
    I don't just mean in terms of fuel. You would be hard pressed to find objects around you that didn't utilize petroleum. From the phone with which I'm typing this message to the chair you're probably sitting in while you read it.
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    [QUOTE=JonG;571704]...

    But I suspect that there would be quite difficult problems in changing to battery-powered cars. Batteries usually take quite a while to recharge and, rather than recharging a battery in a car, it would be quicker to take it out and swap it for one that is already charged. But implementing such an approach would be complicated - we would probably have to agree on standard sized batteries, for example, and set up extensive facilities for recharging batteries which have been removed from cars. Another thing about batteries - why do they always end up deteriorating and becoming unchargeable? Lead/acid batteries do seem much better now than they used to be, but most others have a limited lifespan.

    /QUOTE]

    I'm a big fan of the possibilities of Cambridge crude. 'Cambridge crude' could let EVs refuel like gas-powered vehicles

    Two reasons.
    1. It allows us to stick with some of the familiar infrastructure and habits of ICE transport. Service stations, especially those in country towns, would continue to function in much the same way as they do now. The difference being that they will need very few/ no deliveries of the stuff they're selling. When each vehicle exchanges battery contents at the facility, that will be a substitute for tankers. The people buying and taking and the people selling and delivering are the same people. The "service station" simply use their own largish roof for solar panels to recharge or have access to power produced by wind - to start with it really wouldn't matter where the power came from, it's merely supporting a changeover in a different infrastructure. The charge for the exchange service would reflect that.

    2. For people who need to use a car for commuting, they can use their domestic solar panels for recharging the battery contents during the day even if the car is nowhere near the household for most of the day.

    Though I have to say I feel it's going to be a niche and/or transient technology. It has more and better potential than transport fuelled by hydrogen, but that's a very low bar to clear.
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    The only fuel that can combust and not have a "carbon foot print" is hydrogen. Hydrogen is at this time too expensive but it is the ultimate clean fuel. It will work just fine in an internal combustion engine and can also provide electric power in a fuel cell. It can be extracted form sea water with solar enrgy but the process is ineffecient. Currently comercial hydrogen is a by product of the petroleum industry and is therefor not "clean" or "green".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sealeaf View Post
    The only fuel that can combust and not have a "carbon foot print" is hydrogen. Hydrogen is at this time too expensive but it is the ultimate clean fuel. It will work just fine in an internal combustion engine and can also provide electric power in a fuel cell. It can be extracted form sea water with solar enrgy but the process is ineffecient. Currently comercial hydrogen is a by product of the petroleum industry and is therefor not "clean" or "green".
    I think a couple of points need a bit of clarification.

    1) Any biofuel leads to zero net carbon emission, as the CO2 released in combustion equals the amount fixed from the air in photosynthesis during the growth of the plant. The net conversion is thus of sunlight to fuel energy.

    2) Hydrogen can be produced by electrolysis, i.e conversion from electricity. This is fairly efficient, I believe. If the source of the electricity is renewable or nuclear, then there is no CO2 emission in the process.
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    People on this site have called me a pessimist so I can say that I doubt if there is a viable synthetic fuel matching petroleum in the future.
    However I strongly suspect we will get something better in about 20 years.
    Helium3 in fusion reactors stands a reasonable chance of becomming our next fuel source.
    Mining the Moon | MIT Technology Review
    Helium-3 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Nuclear Reactor Aims for Self-Sustaining Fusion | MIT Technology Review

    Artemis Project: Fusion Power from the Moon

    ps:
    I think The Artemis Project is slightly overoptimistic. Their idea of there being enough fuel for 10,000 years is based on the current consumption trends but trends never stay the same. (Also the page is a bit dated and is really just hype anyhow)
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    We more or less have reached peak oil, and now we have to mine the moon?

    Things are getting complicated :-/
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    1) Any biofuel leads to zero net carbon emission, as the CO2 released in combustion equals the amount fixed from the air in photosynthesis during the growth of the plant. The net conversion is thus of sunlight to fuel energy.
    Not at the moment it doesn't. afaik, maize and other biofuel crops grown without oil-based fertilisers are very rare occurrences. I know some people have calculated that we might as well supply the oil directly to the end-user vehicle rather than waste all the time and effort to produce the biofuel. After you've added up all the oil produced to supply the fertiliser, all the necessary transport and agriculture machinery and the refining/processing to produce the end product it's very little different to directly using it as transport fuel in the first place. With the bonus of not producing all those nasty nitrogen products into the air and water from the agricultural phase of production.
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    §roduced to supply the fertiliser, all the necessary transport and agriculture machinery and the refining/processing to produce the end product it's very little different to directly using it as transport fuel in the first place. With the bonus of not producing all those nasty nitrogen products into the air and water from the agricultural phase of production.[/QUOTE]

    That may be true today, when we have a mostly oil-based economy and biofuels are a sort of dilettante exercise in conscience-salving. However in the real, non-fossil transport fuel scenario we are thinking about, obviously the transport and agricultural fuel will all be biofuel too. And by the stage that we have ben forced to move away from fossil fuel even for transport (i.e. to tackle the last and most intractable problem of converting away from fossils fuel) we might reasonably assume that the fertilisers will not be oil-based.

    If there are studies showing that, even in such a fully non-fossil fuel scenario, biofuels are a hopeless prospect, then I'd be interested to see them.
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  28. #27  
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    Biofuels have such a low EROIE, they currently make no economic sense to use them in production although we should definitely keep investing in research.

    Lobbying at its finest.
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  29. #28  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Biofuels have such a low EROIE, they currently make no economic sense to use them in production although we should definitely keep investing in research.

    Lobbying at its finest.
    Yes the USA's use of maize is certainly a lot about pork barrel politics. But I notice there are several biofuel sources that have EROEIs around that of nuclear. So I would not dismiss biofuel at all.

    And, while we may scoff at the base motives at work, let us not forget that base motives are in the end what will drive the change we need, rather than conversion of the world's people into high-minded idealists.
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    Actually, I was very suprised by the very low EROIE of nuclear (5), much lower than wind (19), as wind/solar require standard power plants to run the 75+% of the time they aren't working over the course of a year (Germany and its coal/lignite plants...), in addition to significant spending to connect them to the grid (which, again, Germany must do to run power between their wind plants in the North Sea down to Bavaria).

    Could it be the article was written by some anti-nuclear activist?
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  31. #30  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Actually, I was very suprised by the very low EROIE of nuclear (5), much lower than wind (19), as wind/solar require standard power plants to run the 75+% of the time they aren't working over the course of a year (Germany and its coal/lignite plants...), in addition to significant spending to connect them to the grid (which, again, Germany must do to run power between their wind plants in the North Sea down to Bavaria).

    Could it be the article was written by some anti-nuclear activist?
    I was also a bit surprised the intermittent sources were so high. Possibly with nuclear some unfavourable assumptions have been built in regarding decommissioning costs or something. These are notoriously hard to assess objectively. I think myself that we should be trying all these avenues and letting competition do its work of optimising and selecting the more promising ones. Having lived through the 60s and 70s in Britain, I have no faith in a centrally planned attempt at picking the winners.
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    The problem with this strategy, is that the private sector is unable/unwilling to invest decades in the future, which is required when considering nuclear plants.

    Hence China building a new coal power plant every week, global warming be damned.

    The limits of relying on the private sector.
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  33. #32  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    The problem with this strategy, is that the private sector is unable/unwilling to invest decades in the future, which is required when considering nuclear plants.

    Hence China building a new coal power plant every week, global warming be damned.

    The limits of relying on the private sector.
    Actually yes you have a point with nuclear. Governments generally need to tilt the playing field a bit to get these built, it is true. What I meant really, though was trying to pick winners from the new technologies that are not fully developed.
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    Sure.

    Anyway, and contrary to what the green people pretend, the pressing issue is certainly not closing down nuclear power plants, but getting off oil and gas within the next few decades.

    This is especially true for Europe, which has almost neither of those left. The situation in Ukraine should be a wake-up call.

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  35. #34  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Sure.

    Anyway, and contrary to what the green people pretend, the pressing issue is certainly not closing down nuclear power plants, but getting off oil and gas within the next few decades.

    This is especially true for Europe, which has almost neither of those left. The situation in Ukraine should be a wake-up call.

    Unfortunately, in some ways, that graph does not represent the worldwide position, especially when oil and gas shale is taken into account.
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  36. #35  
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    Besides their environmental impact, oil and gas shale won't save Europe.
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  37. #36  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Besides their environmental impact, oil and gas shale won't save Europe.
    Not sure what you mean by "save". These are globally traded commodities. At the right price, it becomes economic to transport them from wherever they are found to wherever the demand is located. If Russia supplies China instead of Europe, then the supplies that China would otherwise have had to buy become available for Europe to buy. The only diseconomy is the freight differential.

    Recoverable oil shale reserves appear to be estimated at close to equal to the existing conventional reserves, thus doubling the quantities globally available: Oil shale reserves - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I say it is unfortunate as it puts off the necessary shift away from fossil energy and gives another line-of-least-resistance excuse to society to go on emitting CO2.

    But the good news is the US and China now seem to be moving at last on CO2 emission. If this sticks, it will be a legacy Obama can be very proud of. Let's hope the Koch brothers don't succeed in koching it up.
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    That's precisely a common mistake: They're only commodities as long as they are plentiful. As they become scarce, producers will only export the part left after they satisfy their own needs. For instance, Saudis will not stop driving so that Europeans can buy oil, no matter high the price. Volume is the important factor, not price, as is commonly thought.

    And since the North Sea oil is fast declining... the Scots might want to reconsider withdrawing from the UK.

    Europe has little shale oil/gas. Besides, unlike the US, resources found in the ground don't belong to whoever owns the land but, rather, belongs to the government/state and requires a license to extract.

    Also, Europe is geographically must smaller than the US, and Europeans just don't want their landscape to look like this:
    (shale gas)

    Hence, the utmost priority is to 1) build nuclear power plants* and 2) decarbonize the economy so that we no longer need coal, oil, and natural gas. The good news for Europe is that other countries will also need those technologies once they run out of oil/gas.

    How likely is it that humanity will voluntarily stop using carbon-based energies before they screw up the environment? Mmm...

    * Since they don't run on coal or gas, which must be imported and reject greenhouse gas
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  39. #38  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    That's precisely a common mistake: They're only commodities as long as they are plentiful. As they become scarce, producers will only export the part left after they satisfy their own needs. For instance, Saudis will not stop driving so that Europeans can buy oil, no matter high the price. Volume is the important factor, not price, as is commonly thought.

    And since the North Sea oil is fast declining... the Scots might want to reconsider withdrawing from the UK.

    Europe has little shale oil/gas. Besides, unlike the US, resources found in the ground don't belong to whoever owns the land but, rather, belongs to the government/state and requires a license to extract.

    Also, Europe is geographically must smaller than the US, and Europeans just don't want their landscape to look like this:
    (shale gas)

    Hence, the utmost priority is to 1) build nuclear power plants* and 2) decarbonize the economy so that we no longer need coal, oil, and natural gas. The good news for Europe is that other countries will also need those technologies once they run out of oil/gas.

    How likely is it that humanity will voluntarily stop using carbon-based energies before they screw up the environment? Mmm...

    * Since they don't run on coal or gas, which must be imported and reject greenhouse gas
    We are very far from your imagined scenario of states cutting off export supplies. This is in part because of the huge amount of shale supply that is untapped, as I mentioned. In any case, neither volume nor price is fixed. The higher the price, the greater the volume, since the recoverable portion of reserves is determined by the economic limits to extraction, not the physical limits. Look at the Wiki shale article: the estimated one trillion bbl is the "recoverable" amount and is about a fifth of the total. At a higher price, a greater proportion will become recoverable.

    No. All governments will continue to see oil and gas exports as a revenue earner for many years to come. The notion that we in Europe - or anywhere else - will soon suffer from a physical inability to find supplies at all is a myth. It is merely a question of price.

    Where you may have a point is that in Europe the crossover in cost between fossil fuel and other sources may occur sooner than elsewhere, due to the economics of importing.
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    Apart from the shale deposits, there are vast coal deposits that could be converted into liquid fuels. Its just a matter of price. Its all been done before. Of course, this wouldn't help out greenhouse gas emissions.
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