February 16 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2011 Rating: 4 Hot
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
Flying planes has been the sort of thing that, to most, seems daunting enough to avoid entirely. Pilot’s license, cost of the plane, upkeep, runway dues, etc. Luckily for us, there’s a company out there which designed a small airplane that’s cheap, easy to handle, and drives like a car. Meet the ICON A5.
Designed for the budding sport-flying enthusiast, the A5 is more affordable than most small aircraft (it will cost an estimated $139,000) and is incredibly easy to operate having taken much of its cockpit design from cars. Its carbon fiber body ensures that it will be lightweight, durable and corrosion resistant to water. The wings also fold back for easy transportation.
What does a product like this mean for me?
On the eve of the election, the FCC approved the use of the wireless spectrum left void by the national switch to digital television (commonly referred to as “white space”) for tech company use.
“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today adopted a Second Report and Order (Second R&O) that establishes rules to allow new, sophisticated wireless devices to operate in broadcast television spectrum on a secondary basis at locations where that spectrum is open. (This unused TV spectrum is now commonly referred to as television “white spaces”). The rules adopted today will allow for the use of these new and innovative types of unlicensed devices in the unused spectrum to provide broadband data and other services for consumers and businesses.” – FCC Website
Google, a long proponent of developing the strong white space spectrum for wireless internet, is ecstatic. Having lead the fight to free up the white space spectrum with other partners such as Dell, Microsoft and HP, Google must be feeling like they’re on top of the world.
CleanTech Group is reporting that Hyundai plans to sell commercial fuel cell electric cars in 2012 (not shown). The South Korean company is taking a bold step in anticipation that the future of electric vehicles will require tight integration of batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.
Electric Vehicle Roadmap includes Fuel cells
The key to commercializing electric vehicles is to develop advanced energy storage devices. Batteries appear to be good enough, but not a great long term platform for automobiles. We can also store electricity in the form of chemical bonds of hydrogen and as a physical charge inside capacitors. (Imagine lightning in a box!)
Electric vehicles are not iPods- and require very different energy storage and delivery systems to match the performance of combustion engines. The future of electric vehicles is likely to evolve around the tight integration of all three major energy storage systems.
Hyundai understands this long term focus on integrating battery and fuel cells and might be trying to position itself in this new era of electric vehicles.
Hyundai’s decision stands out from the string of recent announcements from GM, Nissan, Rennault, China’s BYD, India’s Tata who all plan to sell commercial all battery electric vehicles by 2011. GM, Honda and now Hyundai have all been clear that they are not likely to bet the farm on an all battery energy storage system given the cost and performance potential of fuel cells.
Where are we in the Hydrogen Fuel cell Hype Cycle?
October 27 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2011 Rating: 9 Hot
Want to think about a tough pill to swallow? Electric cars are not likely to make countries more energy independent. The US and Europe are likely to trade ‘foreign’ oil, for ‘foreign’ energy storage systems! And this might not be a bad thing. If we expect to transform the largest industries in the world (energy and transportation) it will have to be a global effort.
Key to Electric Vehicles – Asia & Energy Storage
If we look closely at recent announcements around electric vehicles, the future is looking very globally integrated and interdependent. Even as the US tries to grow its manufacturing base around ‘cleantech’ industries, Korea, China, and India are making strategic investments in the future of energy storage systems (batteries, fuel cells and capacitors) to power electric vehicles.
In the last few weeks Warren Buffet placed a $233 million bet on China’s BYD, a US firm purchased a Koren battery maker, India’s Tata announced plans to sell electric cars in Europe, and GM picked the unit of Korea’s LG Chem to supply batteries of its Volt electric car.
Today, Green Car Congress picked up a Reuters report that Korea’s number one refiner SK Energy is in talks with major automakers such as Daimler and Ford on the joint development of next-generation batteries used in electric cars. SK Energy is looking to leverage ‘separator’ components for lithium ion batteries that prevent overheating. SK joins the crowd of Exxon, Chevron and Toshiba who are getting involved in battery materials.
Selling a new message: The Eco benefits of being Global
In the months and year ahead leaders in the US and Europe might have to change their simplistic and nationalistic message of independence to reflect the complexities of the energy industry and the future. It will likely be globally integrated.
If the US and Europe expect to kill the combustion engine, and end the monopoly era of liquid fuels, they will need Asia and the rest of the world to join in the effort. This new message might better reflect the brutal facts of the global economy and fate of the planet – we’re all in it together whether we are talking energy finance, energy resources, energy emissions, energy software or energy storage.
The solar industry is growing globally. The wind industry is growing globally. Why not electric vehicles? Could that be an easier pill to swallow and a better image of the future?
Could China help the world move beyond the combustion engine
CBS Video on Future of Electric Car
Detroit to World-Nobody Killed the Electric Car
GM picks Korean battery company for Volt
You may have thought that beating the land speed record was old news — with people focusing on the race to space these days land can go fairly unnoticed — but a British team is looking to break their former record of 760mph (made 11 years ago) by hoping to reach speeds over 1,000mph.
Dubbed the Bloodhound SSC, it measures about 41 feet long and weighs in a little over seven short tons (14,109lbs). “To achieve its aim of adding more than 200 mph to the existing record, the car will need to be as tough as a submarine, withstanding 12 tonnes of force per square metre.” And with a bill of about $16 million dollars, the team is hoping sponsors will pick up the tab.
Construction on the vehicle is expected to be finished by next year with the record being broken in 2011. Check out the Bloodhound SSC site here.
Can we grow our own energy resources by feeding power plant carbon emissions to algae and bacteria? We have featured videos by Juan Enriquez and Steve Jurvetson- on the feasibility of growing energy using the power of biology. Now mainstream investors are starting to bet that this future might be closer than we imagine.
Investments are now flowing into next generation biofuels that should surpass corn ethanol. But if we expect to ‘grow’ energy then we need to make choices. When do we tap the power of plants versus algae and bacteria? Will we train our students to become chemical engineers or biologists and synthetic bio-engineers?
Our world is built upon ancient bioenergy
Most of our energy resources come via biology. Coal is ancient biomass- likely decomposed ferns. And oil is likely ancient microbes that lived in shallow oceans. We power our world by blowing up these hydrogen-carbon chemical bonds in our power plants and combustion engines. It is cheap but also inefficient and dirty because we release ancient carbon.
Two paths forward – chemistry and biology
Biofuels are expanding along two paths. One future is based on creating fuels using chemical engineering processes. Biodiesel uses a process known as transesterification which exchanges molecules from fatty acids (like vegetable and oil oil) to create usuable fuels. Corn ethanol uses a process known as fermentation. Chemical conversion processes usually tap oil (fatty acids) from plants, fruit seeds or industrial waste streams.
The other future uses the power of biological energy conversion. This is the world of carbon-eating algae that create biodiesel and hydrogen producing bacteria. Biological energy production usually taps carbon emissions or waste streams (e.g. carbohydrates and sewage) as its feedstock.
Advocates of chemically driven biofuels say they offer scalability and reliability. Biology advocates want to transform carbon emissions into a resource for algae and bacteria and think their solution has a lower cost advantage, safety and fewer waste byproducts.
While there are many reasons to imagine profitable biologically driven bioenergy solutions within five years, we have yet to see a company overcome the challenges of scaling up production. So the mood among investors and analysts is ‘cautiously optimistic..!
Latest announcements contributing the bioenergy hype
By Jack Uldrich
Cross-posted at www.jumpthecurve.net
Toshiba has developed a new gesture-based interface for flat-panel displays. It is easy to see how the technology might someday be used to replace the remote control, and it is also easy to envision how the technology will make for more interactive video games. But how else might the technology take root in the workplace of the future?
I envision a couple of possibilities. For one, doctors and surgeons will be able to access medical information without needing to touch anything (and, thus, not risk picking up any germs); students will be able to access educational information in new and innovative ways (imagine spinning around a complex 3-D molecule or a strand of DNA); advertisers will engage potential customers in unique ways; architects and designers will be able to more quickly manipulate models; physical therapists will be able to design programs that patients can practice on their television; athletes will be able to hone their reflexes on custom-made programs; and, more innovatively, manufacturers should be able to use a reverse version of the technology to show customers how to repair and fix things.
September 17 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: 2011 Rating: 12 Hot
General Motors is not afraid of the future. And it is not afraid to let go of the past.
On Tuesday the company released details of its production version of ‘Volt’ – the industry’s first Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) that will go into production in 2010.
And this is only the beginning.
GM’s plan to reinvent the auto industry starts with killing the combustion engine.
We believe the company has three strategies for the future:
#1 The Real Revolution is about Manufacturing
GM knows that in the next automobile revolution – it is not how you fuel a car that matters, it’s how you build it.
GM cares less about the price of oil, than it cares about the cost and complexities of building cars around the mechanical combustion engine. The Volt is important because the combustion engine is relegated to a new temporary task – recharge the batteries. The 21st century auto industry begins when we shift to modularity of electric motors (e.g. lower manufacturing costs, fewer factories).
#2 Design Matters
GM knows that design matters, and the bulky, mechanical combustion engine holds them back. If you eliminate the engine and regain 1/3rd of the vehicle chassis you can rethink how cars are built. Transition to ‘drive by wire’ systems for steering and braking – and you open up new potential for vehicle designs and upgrades.
#3 The breakthrough is Electric motors, not the batteries
GM knows auto-engineering. High performance electric motors have arrived. Now we need to develop systems to deliver the streams of electrons. The future of the automobile is not ‘all’ battery or ‘all’ fuel cell – it’s both.
The electric car is not an iPod. The battery is not our end game. It is merely one piece of the puzzle for electric propulsion. Batteries might have a short-term commercialization advantage, but the platform might struggle to evolve into the 21st century. The chemistry is bad. The costs are too high, and the performance is adequate at best. Future electric propulsion systems will integrate all three systems – batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.
Looking beyond the Chevy Volt
The GM Volt is big – because it is the beginning of the end of the internal combustion engine. R.I.P.
GM’s real revolutionary vision is not the Chevy Volt, but its AUTOnomy concept.
That vision starts with simple idea– skateboard kills car.
Then the industry uses the principles of modular design and manufacturing to change the cost structure of how cars are built, bought, sold and upgraded.
by Jack Uldrich
Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve
The government of New Zealand is reportedly planning on tagging all cattle with
RFID chips by 2011. The development is a
harbinger of things to come for the U.S. agricultural industry. In
addition to letting farmers and ranchers track individual cattle by
the age, sex and breed, the chips will also allow agri-business to
monitor the animal all the way from the farm to your local grocery
This tracability will allow consumers to know everything from
what anti-biotics the animal was injected with, to whether it was
fed with organic feed and raised in a “free-range” environment. The
tracibility will also ensure that businesses and governments are
quickly able to recall meat in the event of a disease outbreak.
When one further considers how “smart” smart-phones will get
in the future, I can easily envision consumers soon using their
phones to scan products in the store for information – including genetic
information – before they actually make a purchase. (cont.)
Google Inc, the uncontested leader in Internet services
announced it has shipped its 5 millionth “free” computer, only 14
months after starting up the “Free Computer Program”. The Google
Product Manager, Pierre Lindsely, stated he is overwhelmed by the
success of his project and they are trying very hard to keep up
People now have to wait more than three weeks to get their
“G-Tops”, as they have become known as, instead of the three days
when the program started. Pierre Lindsely: “People will wait for
anything if it’s free, so I am not worried that this will impact
the enthusiasm for this product. We are attracting some new
suppliers and we will see the waiting time decrease gradually.” The
free Google computers come with a free broadband connection that
connects only to Google WI-FI hubs (aka as G-Spots). (cont.)
By Jack Uldrich
Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve.net
ComputerWorld recently reported that NASA’s latest supercomputer will be capable of
10 quadrillion floating-point operations per second.
Now, 10 quadrillion is a rather large number. In fact, it is so
large that it can be difficult to wrap one’s brain around. Let me
try to put it in some perspective for you.
A few year’s ago I wrote an article about an IBM supercomputer capable of 70 trillion calculations
per second. As a way of helping the reader grasp the enormity of
the number, I noted that if that person had to perform a comparable
number of calculations but only had a hand-held calculator it would
take that person 60 million years to do what that supercomputer can
now do in a single second. (And this is assuming the person could
work around the clock 24/7/365.)
Today, supercomputers are performing 1 quadrillion calculations
per seconds. So, if you follow the analogy, it would now take
roughly 800 million years to perform a comparable number of
calculations. And, if you extend the analogy out to 10 quadrillion
calculations, it will soon take a person 8 billion years to do the
same chore. (cont.)