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Submission + - Biomass - A Panacea? (

Gooseygoose writes:

Below the fold is the 3rd in a series of posts providing analysis (and follow up) on the difficulties of maintain our current energy paradigm with renewable energy (generally, 'the fake fire brigade'). The main authors are Hannes Kunz, President of Institute for Integrated Economic Research (IIER) and Stephen Balogh, a PhD student at SUNY-ESF and Senior Research Associate at IIER. In this post, the authors show that even if we can double current extraction of biomass, this only represents approximately 6% of total U.S. primary energy consumption, and will likely never be enough to serve as a meaningful stabilizer in future energy systems.


Submission + - The 3-part view of power generation (

Gooseygoose writes: Here's a (very technical, perhaps wonky, but detailed and informative) article from The Oil Drum on the basics of electric power generation, how we think about electric power in the US ("base load" and "peak load") vs. how they think about it in Europe (a three-part model, "base," "intermediate," and "peak" load), and the place of electric "exports" and intermittent (solar, wind, etc.) renewables in the power mix. The article concludes with a few words about the prospects of de-carbonising electricity generation.

The Rise of Small Nuclear Plants 490

ColdWetDog writes "The Oil Drum (one of the best sites to discuss the technical details of the Macondo Blowout) is typically focused on ramifications of petroleum use, and in particular the Peak Oil theory. They run short guest articles from time to time on various aspects of energy use and policies. Today they have an interesting article on small nuclear reactors with a refreshing amount of technical detail concerning their construction, use, and fueling. The author's major thesis: 'Pick up almost any book about nuclear energy and you will find that the prevailing wisdom is that nuclear plants must be very large in order to be competitive. This assumption is widely accepted, but, if its roots are understood, it can be effectively challenged. Recently, however, a growing body of plant designers, utility companies, government agencies, and financial players are recognizing that smaller plants can take advantage of greater opportunities to apply lessons learned, take advantage of the engineering and tooling savings possible with higher numbers of units, and better meet customer needs in terms of capacity additions and financing. The resulting systems are a welcome addition to the nuclear power plant menu, which has previously been limited to one size — extra large.'"

Submission + - How We Cheat Ourselves about our Energy Future (

Gooseygoose writes:

On June 15, 2010, when U.S. President Obama responded to the dramatic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico during his Oval Office speech, he not only included the list of things the government wants to do about the imminent problem, but also urged the country to "transition away from fossil fuels" and to "jump start the clean energy industry". His pledge is in line with many of his predecessors, and with other leaders around the world, who for years now have supported renewable energy technologies. This is particularly true in Europe, where installed capacity for renewables has grown significantly during the past ten years. And even the U.S. — while slow in introducing renewable electricity technologies — to date has produced a significant amount of alternative fuels primarily through the mandatory addition of ethanol to gasoline.

For many people hoping for a future with less greenhouse gases and less environmental damage this focus on renewable energies might sound like a step in the right direction; for those who want low cost energy, maybe less so. But what both sides of the discussion forget is something quite simple: an energy future without fossil fuels will eventually arrive, and there is no way to extend current energy usage patterns and delivery systems into the future. In a nutshell: our current plans will fail. Let's explore why that is.


Submission + - Afghan Tech Minerals -- Cure, Curse, or Hype? (

Gooseygoose writes:

The Pentagon revealed last week that Afghanistan has as much as $1 trillion in mineral wealth, a potential game changer in the ongoing conflict there. Many news outlets have picked up this story, with some simply repeating the official talking points, while others raise serious concerns. Is this ‘discovery’ just hype, or will this truly alter the landscape of the Afghan war? Perhaps more importantly, can this mineral wealth (whether real or illusory) pave the way to a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan, or is it more likely to drive geopolitical feedback loops that plunge the region further into turmoil? Below the fold is a quick look at the as-of-yet unasked questions about Afghanistan’s buried treasure.


Submission + - Energy Transitions Past and Future (

Gooseygoose writes: Description:

Dr. Cleveland's (relatively long but interesting) essay provides an excellent big picture overview, especially for readers here new to the topic, of what supply side variables we need to consider as we transition away from our extreme fossil fuel subsidy. Replacing stock based (fossil) energy with flow based (renewable) is not as simple as one for one BTU substitution. Professor Cleveland previously wrote "Energy From Wind — A Discussion of the EROI Research", and "Ten Fundamental Principles of Net Energy" posted on Cutler Cleveland is a Professor at Boston University and has been researching and writing on energy issues for over 25 years.


The debate about "peak oil" aside, there are relatively abundant remaining supplies of fossil fuels. Their quality is declining, but not yet to the extent that increasing scarcity will help trigger a major energy transition like wood scarcity did in the 19th century. The costs of wind, solar and biomass have declined due to steady technical advances, but in key areas of energy quality—density, net energy, intermittancy, flexibility, and so on—they remain inferior to conventional fuels. Thus, alternative energy sources are not likely to supplant fossil fuels in the short term without substantial and concerted policy intervention. The need to restrain carbon emissions may provide the political and social pressure to accelerate the transition to wind, biomass and solar, as this is one area where they clearly trump fossil fuels. Electricity from wind and solar sources may face competition from nuclear power, the sole established low-carbon power source with significant potential for expansion. If concerns about climate change drive a transition to renewable sources, it will be the first time in human history that energetic imperatives, especially the the economic advantages of higher-quality fuels, were not the principal impetus.

Comment Re:about time (Score 1) 611

The pressures and other difficulties under the water made this a logistic nightmare--it was unprecedented. Worse, it was a one-shot game--they screwed it up, this thing gushed until the pressure eased. The media's butchered this coverage too. Knowledgeable people (like those over at The Oil Drum) thought this was all about right. I'm not an expert on the matter, but I believe they've been planning the top kill since they realized that it was leaking. Thing is, getting all the equipment together to do something of this magnitude usually takes a few months, the fact that the got it all together in one month is pretty frakking impressive.

Comment Engineers/Geologists on the Status of Top Kill (Score 5, Informative) 611

Pretty good stuff over at The Oil Drum on this...they just said they have two unconfirmed reports that cementing will start within hours on their twitter feed-

latest "live" thread with great insights in the comments:

Relevant links to top kill procedure (scroll to comments in each, they're very good.)

Deepwater Oil Spill - Permissions and Concerns about Top Kill

Deep Water Spill - Waiting for Top Kill (more updated tech)

The Gulf Deepwater Oil Spill - the Top Kill Attempt (the technical aspect of what just happened)

The Gulf Deepwater Oil Spill, barriers, flow rates, and top kill

Hope you find this informative...


Happy Towel Day 122

An anonymous reader writes "While Douglas Adams continues his attempt to set a new record for the longest extended lunch break, geeks all over the universe pay tribute to the beloved author by celebrating the tenth edition of Towel Day. Towel Day is more alive than ever. This year Richard Dawkins, one of Adams' best friends, has tweeted a Towel Day reminder to his numerous followers. The CERN Bulletin has published an article on Towel Day. There has been TV coverage and there will be a radio interview. The Military Republic of the Deltan Imperium, a newly formed micronation, has recognized Towel Day as an official holiday. In Hungary several hundreds of hitchhiker fans want to have a picnic together in a park. And there's a concert, a free downloadable nerdrap album, a free game being released, the list goes on and on."

Submission + - Engineers Discuss the Causes of the Oil Spill (

Gooseygoose writes:

Author’s Note: I am grateful to the many drilling and completion engineers that consulted with me on this post to arrive at plausible explanations and interpretations of what happened in the final hours on the semisubmersible drilling rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. The analysis that follows is based on these discussions as well as my own 32 years of experience as a geologist working in the oil and gas industry.

It is early in the process of discovering what really happened. Because of the gravity and potential impact of this disaster on the nation and my industry, however, I wanted to provide an early and more investigative perspective than much of what has appeared in the media to date. The risk, of course, is that more information will invalidate some of what follows. I, therefore, wish to clarify that this is a fact-based interpretation of what may have happened on the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010 but, in the end, it is an interpretation. — Art Berman

The blowout and oil spill on the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico was caused by a flawed well plan that did not include enough cement between the 7-inch production casing and the 9 7/8-inch protection casing. The presumed blowout preventer (BOP) failure is an important but secondary issue. Although the resulting oil spill has potentially grave environmental implications, recent efforts to limit the flow with an insertion tube have apparently been effective. Continuous efforts to slow or stop the flow include drilling two nearby relief wells that may intersect the MC 252 wellbore within 60-90 days.


Submission + - The Future of Capitalism - Profits and Growth (

Gooseygoose writes:

Growth is only possible when energy flow is increasing. It is pretty simple really. When energy flow is increasing in each subsequent time period it is possible to increase the amount of work devoted to increasing the asset base of society. Alternatively, if the energy flow is decreasing... Short of a miracle (let's pray for it!) energy flows are about to decline in a serious way. And as a result growth is an utterly fatuous notion. Unfortunately, the majority of the population, and especially the economists and politicians, don't get it. The economists still firmly believe that if energy costs (oil, coal, etc.) rise as a result of constraints on production then we will simply substitute other sources (wind, solar PV, etc.) and keep going as we have been for the last two hundred years. This is both stupid and foolish. It is a complete failure of intelligence and wisdom. Over the next several decades we (humans) will have to change our understanding of what is feasible and what we need to be doing to have a future. The future does not include growth of the GDP or profits. Capitalism as it has been practiced in the 20th century and now hanging on in the early 21st century is dead. Or rather, at this juncture in history, it is moribund. It served its purpose to raise mankind's understanding of what is possible in this world. It was a necessary step in the evolution of knowledge but its time has come and gone.


Submission + - Peak asphalt: the return of gravel roads ( 2

Gooseygoose writes: Peak oil is said to be an inversion of tendency of the economy; but also of many things of everyday life that seem to have started to go back to earlier times. The last inversion of tendency comes from a series of articles in the press that describe the return of gravel roads. For the time being, that seems to be happening mainly in rural areas of the US, as described, for instance in USA-today [] . In Europe, there are fewer reports on this point, although it seems that the same situation is developing in northern countries. In places such as Finland [] , the cold climate places a higher stress on paved roads and forces the return to gravel roads. But the lack of press reports doesn't mean that the problem is not there: if you travel to Italy this year, you'll see that a lot of paved roads are in a pitiful state: full of potholes.

One problem is the increasing costs of maintenance. A report of the University of Minnesota [] shows the progressive increase in the costs of maintaining roads which are paved with what is called "hot mix asphalt", HMA, the kind of paving which we came to consider as normal for all public roads. Asphalt comes from crude oil. It is made from bitumen which is a heavy and viscous form of petroleum; normally the residual of the distillation of crude oil. Could it be that with peak oil we don't just have a problem of availability of fuels and of energy, but also of bitumen for paving roads?

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