Top Energy Stories of 2008: #3 The Obama Election

December 16 2008 / by joelg / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 5 Hot

By Joel Greenberg

Barack Obama's energy platform included goals for renewable energy, higher automoative gas mileage standards, support for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and targets for energy efficiency of homes...and that's just to start.  With the recent announcement of Nobel laureate and now former head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Steven Chu as Energy Secretary, Obama's administration can be the catalyst that makes alternative energy markets viable.

Will the Obama administration be successful in making the energy changes he promised in the election?

Obama's Energy Plan

Continue Reading other Top Energy Stories of 2008

Continue Reading

Is 'Clean Coal' Barack Obama's first great energy challenge?

November 05 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2010   Rating: 4 Hot


Could coal emerge as the biggest energy story of 2009? We think so!

Coal is likely to become President elect Barack Obama’s first great energy policy challenge- as evidenced by the coal industry’s ‘Congratulations’ ad on CNN.com

Why coal?
Big Story for 2009: Problems with ‘Big Grid’
As prices at the pump drop in response to the global economic slowdown, we can (sadly) anticipate less media and public attention to the long term challenges of oil. Fortunately we have a problem of equal magnitude- an aging, some say failing, electric utility grid run by large enterprises who are already rethinking their changing role in the next century.

There is a short list of big issues for ‘Big Grid’ – building a 21st Century ‘Smart Grid’ around software and storage, integrating utility scale renewables (solar, wind, biomass waste), addressing regulatory challenges of carbon emissions, and working with private sector entrepreneurs who are advancing technologies that could disrupt long-held pricing structures and operating principles of our antiquated grid.

Today, we cannot talk about the future of utility grid energy or global energy and climate issues without confronting the challenges of coal. ‘Clean Coal’ refers to various methods of capturing energy from coal while reducing the amount of pollutants. Critics argue that coal can never been ‘clean’, while supporters of ‘cleaner’ coal argue that we must develop cost effective strategies that can reduce the impact of coal being burned in the US, China and around the world.

3 ways to talk about clean coal

Continue Reading

Reality check for future of coal, China confirms massive 23 billion ton coal deposit

November 24 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2018   Rating: 4 Hot

While US activists prepare for a battle against the notion of ‘clean coal’, China’s coal industry continues to boom. A recent MIT report estimates that China’s power sector has been expanding at a rate roughly equivalent to three to four new coal-fired, 500 megawatt plants coming on line every week.

The real danger is not just the carbon emissions, but the wrong assumptions and perception that incremental solutions, protests, or stricter carbon regulations can somehow shift China’s current direction. Why worry?

The gap continues to widen between what activists want to happen with the global coal industry, versus the reality of coal’s expanding role as the world’s fastest growing source of energy.

Worse, is the misguided hope that cheap solar (which is coming 2015-2025!) can magically counter the existing growth trend lines for coal. Most of that solar power generation will just go to satisfy new demand, not take away from coal’s market share and prime access to national energy grids. If there is a viable solution for this reality, it must be algae or advanced bioenergy solutions that can scale and eat the emissions from the combustion of coal. We need carbon solutions, not just alternatives to coal.

What happened?
The People’s Daily Online reports that geologists have confirmed a massive 23 billion ton coal reserve deposit in the country’s Turfan Basin. ‘The coal mine occupies an area of over 300 square kilometers with a thickness of 169.69 meters, and a coal bearing ratio of 29%’. This is the second major reserve confirmed in the last six months.

That’s only the beginning! China does not appear to be limiting its reliance to coal on its own domestic supplies. Last week Reuters reported that China’s largest coal miner Shenhua Energy Co Ltd paid $187.4 million for a coal exploration license in Australia.

Another brutal fact? China now has the busiest coal port in the world.

Why is this important to the future of energy?

Continue Reading

IEA Warns: Oil 'Supply Crunch' Will Return

February 16 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2011   Rating: 4 Hot

Burning Man

Oil Supply Crunch ahead
The world's leading authority on oil markets is warning that these days of cheap ($40 barrel) oil are just a mirage and that the world is likely to experience 'an oil supply crunch' next year (2010) as markets begin to recover.

Reuters reports on IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka describing a potential short-term reality: "Currently the demand is very low due to the very bad economic situation, but when the economy starts growing, recovery comes again in 2010 and then onward, we may have another serious supply crunch if capital investment is not coming."

The Real Problem with Oil - No Alternative
Oil's biggest problem is 'lack of substiitutability'.  There is no other 'reserve' of liquid fuel that can compare to the energy locked up inside the hydrogen-carbon bonds of oil.

If we talk about using oil as gasoline for the transportation sector there is no commercially viable alternative that offers the same volume and performance.  Even 'Next Generation' biofuels from algae and cellulose-eating bacteria cannot provide the scale to fill even a tiny gap in global oil production vs demand.

People who push 'solar', 'wind' or 'nuclear' (which produce electricity) as an 'alternative to oil' simply do not understand the combustion engine. You cannot put electricity inside your gas tank.  We must either produce massive amounts of liquid fuel substitutes, or take a bolder step to kill the combustion engine.

Is the world ready to confront the real problem? The Combustion Engine

Continue Reading

Rinse your mouth, it's Greenwash!

August 21 2008 / by jcchan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2008   Rating: 3

Going green is a noble cause. Both corporations and consumers are picking up on the trend due to market pressure. There’s no question about it, buyers like me feel warm and fuzzy when they purchase a product that is truly both sustainable and Eco-friendly.

But although this movement has grand intentions, it is not without its demons. After all, how can you tell if a product is really Eco-friendly or if the manufacturer just wants to make a quick buck? Enter Greenwashing, the practice of tricking consumers into believing a product to be green.

Examples of this practice include slapping a nice palm tree on a bottle of corrosive chemicals or being ambiguous about their environmental claims. Increasingly, greenwashing is a growing trend that any informed consumer must watch out for.

In the GE Ecomagination commercial below, the company portrays a mining operation with sexy and slender miners having fun with the pick-axes and drilling machines. The message is that energy from coal is getting more beautiful because of GE’s emissions reducing technology. It is an abundant resource that’s for sure, with an estimated supply of 250 years.

But many of us know that coal is the dirtiest burning fossil fuel, releasing hefty amounts of sulfur-oxides that produces acid rain and greenhouse emissions. Coal extraction is also a brutal process that severely scars the environment from strip mining and unthinkable amounts of toxic sludge (read: Thousands of tons). So what does a company like GE have in their bag of tricks that would make coal a viable candidate for all our future power needs?

Continue Reading

Leaked IEA report suggests steep decline of existing oil fields

October 30 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2009   Rating: 3 Hot

[IEA’s official response to the leaked report]

The Financial Times has obtained a draft copy of the International Energy Agency annual World Energy Outlook. The Paris-based IEA is a highly regarded information agency on the global energy sector. The report, which will be officially released next month, states that the world’s largest oil fields have a natural annual rate of output decline is 9.1 per cent. This suggests that the world will struggle to add capacity against such a steep decline. [We will not know IEA’s official figures until November 12th, but the issue of new capacity growth should not be dismissed.]

Peak Production, not Supply
Peak oil relates to extraction, production and new capacity, not total supplies. Even though oil is a finite resource, we are not ‘running out of oil’ – especially around non-conventional hydrocarbon resources. The real concern relates to our ability to increase production to meet growing global demand. The real question is how much can we ‘add’ in new capacity, at what cost and how quickly.

The central element of this story from the IEA, and a key concept to peak oil production, is the ‘rate of decline’ of existing oil field output. The Financial Time reports from the IEA draft “…as they (oil fields) mature it is the single most important determinant of the amount of new capacity that will need to be built globally to meet demand”.

Who is going to add new capacity?
The big question is – where will the oil come from? Forget about claims of ‘known or proven reserves’, there is plenty of oil in the ground. We must ask ourselves which countries and companies can bring massive amounts of oil online at a reasonable cost. This is where things look more uncertain.

Richard Heinberg writes with the Energy Bulletin: “This (9% decline) is a stunning figure. Considering regular crude oil only, this means that 6.825 million barrels a day of new production capacity must come on line each year just to keep up with the aggregate natural decline rate in existing oilfields. That’s a new Saudi Arabia every 18 months.”

Bad news could get worse

Continue Reading

[Video] Clean Coal PR Failure! Industry group leaves door open for eco-ridicule with Coal Carolers

December 11 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2010   Rating: 3

Clean Coal CarolersThe Coal Industry marketing team must not be aware of web activist culture and its tendency to repurpose and ridicule messages that people believe miss the target.

Here come the Clean Coal Carolers!!
The coal industry group America's Power has developed a series of Christmas Carols to themes related to clean coal.  Viewers pick the winter outfits for chunks of coal and then the Coal Carolers appear at the door! Singing Frosty the Coal Man, O'Technology

Now, I am not 'anti-coal'.  I'd rather see a globally focused, pragmatic conversation about cleaning up coal, rather than a battle between industry and activist groups.  I am pro 'reality check' to coals expanding role in China and advocate advanced carbon solutions like algae.

In fact, I'm obsessed with the social history of coal.  Friends can confirm that I carry around small piece of anthracite coal in my pocket just to 'show and tell'.  I never miss a chance to ask people if they know what it is.  9 out of 10 do not.  They look at it, rub it, smell it, say 'it's light'.  But have no idea what it is.  It's also shocking how many people do not know that coal is ancient biomass. I'd much rather the coal industry focus on science than spoofy web cartoons.

The Decision behind Coal Carolers?
It's generating buzz.  But it also opens the door for web creatives to turn the message against the lobby group.  Who is the target audience seeing chunks of coal sing like chipmunks?!   I can already see it spreading among web savvy audiences who are already skeptical of coal.   Are they being converted?

Try a campaign about Science, not Cocky Satire
If the coal industry was actually clean, I'd say-- fine, have your fun. But the industry is far from clean.  And there is no near term strategy to convince us otherwise. 

I support people who want to enable solutions for the coal industry.  Retrofit the world's factories with algae bioreactors to address carbon emissions.   But let's not ask people to dress up chunks of coal and sing along to silly tunes.   Teach people about science and bioenergy solutions.  Don't give them another reason to avoid the challenging conversation about coal's future.

Related posts on The Energy Roadmap.com

Continue Reading

England, the Birthplace of Coal Power, Will Build Europe's First Gasification Plant

February 21 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2013   Rating: 3 Hot

Hatfield Mine

England, the Birthplace of Coal Power and the Industrial Revolution, will now build Europe's first advanced coal power generation plant based on a gasification process that should provide 90 percent overall carbon capture.

Honeywell's UOP has been awarded a contract by UK-based Powerfuel Power Ltd. to construct a 900 MW plant that transforms coal into a much cleaner syngas which is used to generate electricity.

The UOP Selexol(TM) process technology allows the operator to capture carbon (sulfur, et al) during the process of creating the hydrogen-rich syngas.

The Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant will be built adjacent to the Hatfield coal mining operation (picture) and should start operation in 2013.

Finding a way to talk about Coal
Coal is not the future of energy, but it has a future.  In recent years it has been the world's fastest growing source of energy, and is likely to gain market share in the years ahead even as renewables grow faster.  We cannot just wish it away and there are no easy, short term solutions that satisfy either side of the coal conversation.

If 'Clean Coal' is not possible, then 'Cleaner' coal might be the middle ground.  Some engineers are betting on shoving carbon into the ground, and construction of future gasification plants.  Other biologists are betting that we can retrofit existing plants with bioreactors of algae/bacteria that 'eat' carbon and produce a usuable hydrocarbon fuel that can be used onsite to generate electricity, or sold as a liquid fuel of biomaterial feedstock.

Continue Reading

[Video] 60 Minutes Clean Coal Program Misses Chance to Introduce Bio-based Carbon Solutions

April 29 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 3 Hot

60 Minutes recently aired a program on the future of coal power featuring Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers (an advocate of longer term 'Cathedral Thinking' carbon reduction) and leading climate scientist James Hansen (an advocate of a moratorium on building coal plants). 

The CBS report was solidly mainstream in framing coal as central to the conversation on energy, environment and global economic development- but it failed to move the conversation beyond ideas that have existed for several decades.

Time for Big Ideas, not Big Battles
Coal is the world's fastest growing source of energy due largely to growth outside the United States.  And despite all the rapid growth rates expected with wind and solar, coal is likely to gain global market share in the years ahead.

So this is not just a conversation about US policy and US-based utilities! And there is no way to just 'wish' coal away.  We must develop low cost carbon solutions that can be applied around the world within existing power plants.  And everyone agrees - these low cost solutions do not exist today!

CBS Producers missed an opportunity to introduce more advanced non-geoengineering strategies to carbon neutralization and left viewers stuck at ringside watching the same old 'pro' vs 'anti' battle.

Carbon's Molecular Dance between Oxygen and Hydrogen
Carbon is a 'sticky' molecule that interchangeably binds with oxygen and hydrogen based on its journey through biochemical pathways or via human induced energy conversion (e.g. power plants and combustion engine).   

Human beings have a choice to approach carbon solutions through geo-engineering (shoving it underground), or as bio-engineers who can bind carbon with hydrogen for use as a hydrocarbon fuel (for transportation or onsite electricity generation) or a bio-feestock for industrial applications.   CBS viewers would have been better off understanding the long-term view of carbon rather than watch a debate without a viable solution.  (Continue Reading Below).

Seeing Carbon through a Lens of Biology

Continue Reading

[Video] Oil 101: Geology Professor Reminds Us That Oil Does NOT Come From Dinosaurs But From Ancient Microbes

May 19 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 3

The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena should get bonus points for including an Energy 101 presenation at its recent 2009 Summit: Expanding the Vision of Sustainable Mobility.  Most conferences about energy and the environment skip science altogether leaving their audiences without a firm grounding in energy science.  Case in point?  Oil does not come from dinosaurs. The 'fossil' in 'fossil fuels' refers to a geological period, not the ancient remains of mammals.    

UC Davis Geology Professor Kenneth Verosub reminds us that oil (a 'hydrocarbon') is the result of bioenergy.  Ancient diatoms (shelled algae) that used light to bind carbon and hydrogen that died and then with help of geological processes became a viable 'fuel' for humanity. [Video] 

future of oil 101

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Eco-groups form 'Reality' Coalition to fight 'clean coal', setting stage for battle over different versions of reality!

December 05 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2010   Rating: 2

This is RealityLet the battle over 'Clean Coal' begin. 

Call it 'clean coal' or 'cleaner coal' -- the idea is still the same. Stop carbon from binding with oxygen (CO2) and floating up into the atmosphere.

How do you do it?
1) Think like an engineer
Sequester the carbon by pumping it underground 

2) Design new plants
Capture energy via 'gasification' (instead of combustion)

3) Think like a biologist
Retrofit coal plants with bioreactors that pull emissions into tanks of carbon-fixing algae and bacteria that bind carbon with hydrogen to form useful forms of energy (hydrocarbon chains biofuels)

Of the three carbon strategies, bioenergy (algae/bacteria) has the most potential as a 'game-changing' solution.  But it is also the hardest to talk about since systems are not tested commercially.

The Battle Ahead
We should not kid ourselves about the dynamics of this coal conversation. It is likely to get ugly as industry and activists try to demonize each other and paint their own version of 'reality'.   There are no simple, short term quick fixes.   What could happen depends on how the fight evolves around the focus of:

- emotions vs science
- coal energy inside the United States vs China
- present day challenges or exploring and enabling future solutions
- engineeing solutions, or biosolutions
- compromise, regulatory frameworks, or lawsuits

The Players- Industry, Activitists, and Entrepreneurs

Continue Reading

FuelCell Energy receives $30 million for a Post Combustion Era Solution for Cleaner Coal

January 13 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2018   Rating: 2

Stationary Fuel Cell

FueCellMarkets is reporting on a $30 million Phase II contract to expand testing of Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) coal syngas power generation.  This type of stationary fuel cell converts coal derived gas via electrochemical processes to produce electricity and heat.  The result of this scalable non-combustion method is higher efficiency and signficantly lower carbon emissions.

Advancing Global Carbon Solutions
Coal
is not going away anytime soon.  In fact, its global market share is growing as the primary source of energy for electricity generation.

Cheaper solar and wind does not, by default, mean less coal in a world economy expected to double energy production in the decades ahead. Coal is already embedded into global power grids, and it is not going to disappear overnight.

If we expect to address carbon emissions, we have to do more than develop alternatives.  We need scalable carbon solutions that move us beyond the age of combustion conversion and harmful release of emissions.

While coal will never be 'clean', there are cleaner ways of converting it that result in significantly less carbon emissions.  We have written extensively about algae, but fuel cells offer another path forward.

Fuel Cells, Coal Gas, & a Post Combustion Era of Energy Conversion

Continue Reading


   1   2