Seven years in for this energy and fuel webblog lends a certain appreciation for what has happened. Looking back to 2007 can be instructive on our progress.

Out in front, to no particular surprise, is the oil and gas industry. Especially the free world’s private energy companies. Back in ’07, “Oil and gas looked to have had a bad year, on the surface. As a target for the “idiot’s press” and the “pander to the stupid” politicians the amount of nonsense is seriously hiding the progress and serves the interests of OPEC and the Axis of Oil.”

The progress in oil and gas has been amazing. In just seven years the U.S. has had a wild increase in both oil and natural gas production. An example is Pennsylvania’s turn from a huge natural gas importer to a huge exporter. Another is the oil production in America has turned the whole world’s oil price upside down. We were very concerned about the price of oil in ’07 and now the Axis of Oil is headed for its economic knees for a while and OPEC is dealing with keeping the desperate members in line on production. The free world’s economies should be on a tear.

Biofuels have come a long way. Ethanol has pretty well invaded the market and is factually a great benefit to the transport fuel industry. The oil and gas business still likes to gripe, but consumers are not. The environmental crowd isn’t thrilled, but the biomass feedstock, the pollution abatement and the added value in the U.S economy are now quite important. Even with the lingering anti ethanol auto repair folks still saying silly things ethanol has been in the U.S. fuel market coming up on 30 years. It is time to wise up. Oxygenated gasoline is a pretty good thing. Just check out what the LA basin smog was like back in the 1970s.

The nuclear folks have had a tumultuous 7 years. The fission business has had a horrible time and yet the U.S. is adding a couple old tech reactors, the Japanese have and will restart theirs after discovering that the 100 year event will happen. China and others are busily building and planning more. Meanwhile the “Gold Standard” U.S. industry has been focused on regulations and administering paper over getting on with progress. That blame lays squarely on the U.S. government.

Yet the mini reactor designs and new reactor designs keep coming, right up to the regulatory “Nuclear Wall” of the USA. It couldn’t get any more pathetic, self immolation by politics over the entire world’s economy and safety. Here tumultuous equal bizarre.

The fusion community has had a banner 7 years. Most every idea, hot fusion or cold, by whatever name of the technology might apply, has made progress. Fusion events are common, closing in on breakeven looks better all the time. Materials and engineering challenges are getting answers. Theory still has its bewilderments, but denial isn’t wasting much time anymore. The future holds more engineering and materials challenges, and most likely there will soon be some great work at the threshold of needing very large sums of capital to proceed and much more talent and innovation.

The real question faced by the fusion folks is can they raise the money and not get clipped or killed in a regulatory reach into their domain. There is a “Yikes!” thought for you.

The wind business is still on the breeze. With lots of on and off again incentives to overcome and the intermittent nature, the building goes on, worldwide. No real answer has come to commercial scale for production leveling through the no or low production periods, but those tax incentives have kept what has become a welcome and now ugly eyesore littering the landscape in ever increasing numbers. One day the U.S. Middle West will be seen from space as a giant red blink from thousands and thousands of red night warning strobes.

Solar has had a fairly good run over the years. Costs are coming down, efficiencies are going up. But research and technology improvements are coming in a wave so deep and fast that commitment to a manufacturing process is a huge gamble. Oddly, the technology opportunities are so impressive that the risks are nearly overwhelming. A multi million dollar commitment to a production process could be obsolete, well, tomorrow. Researchers have to realize that their efforts are products going to market. Unless that sale is made the consumer market will never know the tech exists.

Materials science is a big fast moving field. Catalysts amaze every month or so.

Your humble writer is off to a holiday. Since you’re here, throw in what you’ve noticed, I’ve overlooked, and what you think needs attention.

Happy Thanksgiving. Its a fine idea for an eminently worthy and useful holiday.


5 Comments so far

  1. B Cole on November 27, 2014 9:02 PM

    This did not get much play, but it is from a serious commercial enterprise, and they say lithium batteries with triple the power in six years–commercialized!

    Maybe, maybe not. But these are not academics in lab coats, blue-skying (which is very worthy, but not commercial).

    My take is Peak Oil is dead forever. At $100 a barrel, there is too much supply, and better products emerging. If lithium batteries eventually become obviously superior—and I think we are a handful of years from there—then who is going to buy oil?

    The PHEV may become common. Meaning effective mpgs of 100s of miles per gallon for urban commuters. We are taking cars with a 150-mile range and small gas tank for get another 100.

    Add on fuel cell cars.

    And cleaner air too.

  2. Will Brown on November 28, 2014 1:12 PM

    I would like to read your critical evaluation of this company’s wind power technology:

    It seems like a pretty straight-forward value-added proposition, and certainly less of an eyesore than the traditional construction, but I’ve not seen much evidence of it being adopted over the past several years.

    Also, I think a follow-up article on the strontium-90 battery would be in order. Since strontium-90 has a half-life of 28 years, how much of that equates to “service life”, a metric of great utility to a potential user/investor.

    A more detailed review of the recycling process and potential uses for the radioactively depleted metal would make another great post. For instance, how large of a “garden folly” would be required to house the batteries necessary to power a “typical” American house? How large would the batteries need to be to power a car? 20′ fishing boat? 4-passenger airplane (maybe a pusher/puller design)?

  3. jp straley on November 29, 2014 9:40 AM

    This site has consistently covered research and progress in cold fusion (or LENR…call it what you will). I have an idea that many energy “great leaps forward’ are brewing, and will come to market in the mid to late 2020s. I have an idea that LENR may be one of these marketable innovations.

  4. TopBlog on November 29, 2014 10:01 PM

    We shouldn’t blame U.S Government !!! It was not his fault….

  5. takchess on November 30, 2014 1:25 PM

    I have been reading your blog as well as Robert Rapier’s since 2007. There use to be a lot of argument about Ethanol and a lot of energy and cash around many different idea.

    Interesting things happening in Solar, Battery Research and shale/national gas since 2007.

    I appreciate the work you put in over the years and the indepth focus on each topic.

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