Sunday, September 28, 2008

Obama on energy at the September 26th debate

Obama: The second point I want to make is -- is the issue of energy. Russia is in part resurgent and Putin is feeling powerful because of petro-dollars, as Senator McCain mentioned.

That means that we, as one of the biggest consumers of oil -- 25 percent of the world's oil -- have to have an energy strategy not just to deal with Russia, but to deal with many of the rogue states we've talked about, Iran, Venezuela.

And that means, yes, increasing domestic production and off-shore drilling, but we only have 3 percent of the world's oil supplies and we use 25 percent of the world's oil. So we can't simply drill our way out of the problem.

What we're going to have to do is to approach it through alternative energy, like solar, and wind, and biodiesel, and, yes, nuclear energy, clean-coal technology. And, you know, I've got a plan for us to make a significant investment over the next 10 years to do that.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Federal support for non-carbon dioxide polluting energy technologies

by Marcel F. Williams

Management Information Services, Inc. of Washington D.C. has recently come out with a report that indicates that most of the US tax subsidies and R&D for the energy industry from 1950 to 2006 has gone to the fossil fuel industry. The oil industry led the way with 335 billion dollars in Federal Energy incentives. The natural gas industry was second with over 100 billion dollars in federal energy incentives. Coal was third with 94 billion dollars. So the greenhouse gas polluting fossil fuel industries have received over 529 billion dollars in Federal energy incentives from 1950 to 2006.
Amongst renewable energy technologies, hydroelectric power has received 80 billion in federal energy incentives, wind and solar has received 45 billion in federal energy incentives, and geothermal has received 7 billion in federal energy incentives. So the amount of federal energy incentives for renewable energy was 132 billion between 1950 and 2006.
Nuclear energy has received 65 billion in federal energy incentives. However, less than 6 billion dollars of federal energy incentives have been provided for light water reactors in the US which are the only nuclear power facilities that produce commercial electricity in the US. The rest has been for R&D for breeder reactors and other reactor types that have never gone on line commercially in the US.

While nuclear energy has received less than half the federal energy incentives of renewable energy systems, it currently produces nearly 20 % of electricity in the US while renewable energy systems produce less than 9% of US electricity. Solar, Wind, and Geothermal energy has been provided with 52 billion in federal energy incentives, yet , combined, they provide only 1.1% of US electricity.

So it is clear that amongst the federal energy incentives for non-carbon dioxide polluting technologies, nuclear power has produced substantially more electrical energy than renewable systems for far less money. And this is especially true when it comes to wind, solar, and geothermal technologies which currently produce nearly 20 times less electricity than nuclear power.

References and Links

1. Analysis of Federal Expenditures for Energy Development September 2008By Management Information Services, Inc. Washington, D.C.

2. Which Energy Industry Gets the Biggest Subsidies?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Plug-in Hybrid Revolution

by Marcel F. Williams

General Motors yesterday introduced the production model for their new plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) which they believe will be on the market by the year 2010. The four door Chevy Volt hatchback will be able to travel up to 100 mph and will be able to run solely on its lithium-ion electric batteries for up to 40 miles before its gasoline or E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) engine kicks in.

The Chevy Volt can be fully charged in 8 hours using a standard household 120 volt outlet. But if you have a 240 volt outlet, a full charge takes less than three hours. On average, it will be six times cheaper per mile to drive the Chevy Volt on electricity than on gasoline. But even the Volt's gasoline hybrid engine will get 50 miles to the gallon. Of course, for those who drive less than 40 miles per day, they will use no gasoline at all.

However, General Motors will not be the only major automobile company coming out with a PHEV in the next few years. Toyota says it will also be coming out with it own plug-in hybrid vehicle by 2010.

A report from the Pacific Northwest National laboratory in 2007 has estimated that 6.5 million barrels of oil per day equivalent could be displaced if most cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans were plug-in hybrid vehicles. The US currently consumes about 21 million barrels a day of oil. So approximately 31% of our total petroleum consumption could be replaced or more than half of our oil imports. It would also equally reduce carbon dioxide pollution from petroleum use in the US by 31%-- if electricity generation in the US is eventually totally replaced by nuclear and renewable energy resources within the next 25 years.

PHEVs in the future could reduce our total fossil fuel transportation needs by more than 50% if they ran on methanol fuel cell technologies which are approximately twice as efficient as gasoline engines.

While the PHEV's would only be a partial solution to the problem of using fossil and foreign fuels in our transportation system, they still would be a big step forward that would allow future carbon neutral synthetic fuels from biowaste, nuclear and renewable energy systems to only have to replace 50% to 71% of our future transportation fuel needs. Now its time for the Federal government and state governments and the future president of the United States to step up and help this revolutionary transition to a new mode of light vehicle transportation.
Links and References

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory November, 2007

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