Ideas For Thankfulness

November 25, 2010 | 3 Comments

It’s a healthy tradition – thinking of the year, the things to be thankful for.  In our arena of energy and fuels 2010 didn’t see any major or abrupt market shifts in supply or demand to trigger price spikes.  On the other hand the supply to demand measure kept prices high enough that much of the alternative fuel and energy developing effort kept on track.  We’re only considering a year, but the year was productive.

The biofuel industry charged along quite well with the established base, mostly ethanol supply increasing nicely and offering those countries with an industry in place some security and a worldwide buffer in the gasoline market.  Ethanol’s opponents haven’t made much headway, but government policy isn’t something to ever count on: thus ethanol in North America is still at some risk.  But alternatives to crude have a solid foothold if policy can keep the market healthy enough to grow and drive to lower prices.

The cellulose based, algae, and synthetic alternatives are making incremental progress.  No big breakthroughs for the year, but the gap on production costs is closing, indicating that $70+ crude is good enough support.

Opposed to all of this is that consumer demand has adjusted, not happily to be sure, to oil’s higher price.  The market place has answered in the free world.  With biofuel products getting more competitive and more alternatives coming the oil business has answered as well with ever more discovery and more importantly better recovery techniques.

A good example is the Kern Oil field in California.  About a billion barrels has been pumped, and about a billion barrels are still there.  Its been going for 111 years. And there are lots more oil fields to re work.  All those efforts will produce more oil consuming healthy investment and using lots of well-paid labor and quality materials.

The liquid fuels market has been good this year and the future has gained improved confidence.

Power generation is a different story.  The main news is about small reactors and much more natural gas being used.  Natural gas for power generation still grows, which over time is sure to see a price peak again.

Yet a turning point has come in nuclear power.  2010 might be seen as the year with small reactors offering near full confidence in safety.  The proving is going to take time due to the hysteria of the past loading the regulatory framework slowing things down enormously.  But the science is getting around and many are offering the rest of us good insight on the science.

One prime example is the series of Nuclear Carnivals that seems led by Brian Wang and others.  Each of the Carnivals is a collection of articles, many of which are easily understood by ordinary people of average intelligence.  A review illustrates that safety hysteria, with some credence from Three Mile Island and especially Chernobyl should be history soon.  10 of the U.S. reactors are coming down with 104 remaining.  The power will have to be replaced. Small reactors and the reactor fuel thorium offer a sparkling future when the regulatory system catches up – if it catches up in a timely manner most worries could go away.

That brings us to fusion and others.  Eric Lerner, finally funded enough to get deep into the functional research has encouraging results.  The Nebel led Bussard fusion effort is going up a level.  Cold fusion has progressed nicely and might get firm physics answers that can overcome the naysayers soon.  The Blacklight Power idea has commercial traction started.  No big news, but good steady progress.  Yet the cold fusion research might help everyone soon . . .

Storage in 2010 has been incremental improvements.  Lithium ion holds the current lead, fuel cells are available in small sizes in Japan, catalyst work and cost cutting are making headway – the field is getting ever more complex and the new field of air batteries has a major push underway.

2010 has seen many points worthy of thanks to people, the creator and to nature.  The mind of man has made progress in understanding the physics, chemistry and biology of energy.  The comforting thought beyond the thanks – is the iceberg of knowledge has only been chipped.


3 Comments so far

  1. Mark Goldes on November 25, 2010 10:30 AM

    For more about new energy and storage see:

    The lead article illustrates the urgency of accelerated development.

    Moving Beyond Oil and Running on Water may also be of interest.

  2. World Spinner on November 26, 2010 5:13 PM

    Ideas For Thankfulness | New Energy and Fuel…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  3. J.P. Katigbak on November 26, 2010 5:59 PM

    The need for technological approaches to energy and transportation are of utmost importance for the world economy and for various societies across the globe.

    But before that, we, ordinary people, must challenge the so-called “growth skeptics” who impose a great deal of “growth skepticism” upon us, some of which the idea of Malthusianism is still there.

    The ‘culture war’ over economic prosperity and accompanying social progress continues to persist right now. It is time for us, ordinary people, to start taking action NOW before trouble sets in!

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