To answer uncounted emails that basically ask, “What do you think . . .” your humble writer offers a basic guide for your reference.  To start, all government intrusions included, energy and fuels are going to be provided to people with market systems.

What people are paying for by buying is – energy assisted work. Whether its cooled food storage, hot food preparation, hauling people or things by car, train, plane or ship, making or building things, powering entertainment, information access and communications – it’s the work that everyone wants done.  The work is the goal, getting what is wanted done accomplished.

There are just three sources of energy, the ancient accumulated sunlight in coal and petroleum as the big examples, the current incoming energy of the sun and heat radiation from the planetary core, and what humanity can extract in atomic fission, hot and cold fusion, and the ideas yet to come.

Here’s a fact, until lately collecting solar radiation by gathering wood was nearly free, just collect the wood, do the work and build a fire to stay warm.  It’s a time-honored system hundreds of centuries old.  The last 150 years has seen industry grow to provide cut wood, the ancient coal chunks, oil products and natural gas ready to use at low cost.  Other than some lease costs – this kind of solar radiation energy stored in fuels is a free resource.  It’s getting it found, collected, processed and moved for our convenience use that drives up the costs.

That same is true of the nuclear fuels.  Heavy elements for fusion contain energy and the cost is the mining rights – nearly free.  Light elements that may be used someday for hot fusion are also in the environment, free but for the right to gather them.  The mid range elements that might be used in cooler fusion also don’t have a cost other than the rights to gather them.  Again it’s the finding, collecting, processing and moving them that drive costs.

Here’s the next fact, industrial scale can provide the energy to do our work at lower cost and more convenience than doing it ourselves.  Those home wind turbines, photovoltaic solar panels and thermal solar panels are still perceived as more expensive in cash and effort than the electrical grid supply and natural gas lines. That’s the outstanding example of industrial or commercial scale.

For each consumer job done there is a long list of stakeholders from the nearly free energy at the other end.

At a consumer position choices appear, become more efficient, use less, harvest your own.  All will, if the consumer has the resources, provide lower costs and more energy assisted work.  Upgrading with better energy using tools, cutting energy losses are the lowest cash costs to a better standard of living.  Trying to harvest your own is a whole other set of issues.  So far, getting electrical energy, heat or making a fuel is capital intensive, maintenance demanding and subject to insurance and weather damage.  It’s not for the faint of heart or those with less than abundant wealth, time for the education, and effort to do the maintenance.

At the energy source position many believe that finding energy sources is at a tipping point.  Its not, there are lots of petroleum and elements in the inventory.  The issue of the finding or discovery isn’t the finding at all, is what’s found economically possible to bring to market for a profit or will a company go broke trying.

Those stakeholder positions in the middle between finding an energy source and the consumer are where the action of the future is to be found.

Collecting raw energy sources is transportation in the simplest view.  The oil or natural gas pipeline, sea going petroleum transport and the sugar cane or corn grower are both getting the energy source, old and new solar energy, collected and moved to a processor.  This is where competition starts, and the costs of investment and operations soar.  Developing oil fields and growing crops are labor and capital-intensive businesses.

Collectors deliver raw energy to the refinery, ethanol plant or a photovoltaic solar energy inverter or wind turbine where the raw energy is processed into a finished energy or fuel product. Processors are also labor and capital intensive businesses that can last for decades.  The solar panel and inverter have to compete with managed businesses whose people are paid to keep them right versus an individual faced with dust, bugs, leaves and bird poo that needs washed away frequently or a turbine needing maintenance and lubrication on a schedule.

The stakeholders in processing are in the most interesting position.  From oil refineries, ethanol plants, power generating stations, algae processing, solar inverters, and an ever expanding list the potential here is amazing.  The question is cost of finished products.

Money is the means by which the measure is taken of the operations in each stakeholder.  A consumer will seek to have at a minimum, less spent, or less spent and more work done. Those finding energy discoveries are looking for huge resources that can justify the cost of collection.  Processors are looking for the lowest cost supplies, and lowest cost operations to sell at a lower price than competitors.  The opportunities are boundless.

The risks are boundless, too.  Make a profit or go broke.

Even as oil prices seem high now the consumer will in time get a better standard of living.  That measure of money and competition assures that the future will offer more efficient and sustained energy supplies at lower costs.  To compete, new energy will have to deliver finished fuels and electrical energy at a lower cost than the industry of today.

Stakeholders have to consider their niche in the whole of the energy and fuel system and ask if the system changes how or can I adapt?  There’s better than 150 years invested in the status quo, and the research continues vigorously to stay in business.  What change comes, will come gradually allowing most everyone time to adapt.  But fortunes will be made and lost.

Keep an eye out – a stakeholder disruption is a rare thing, yet combinations of new technologies can speed things up, one needs to consider how new technology will fit in the system. Watch the money . . .


1 Comment so far

  1. on August 1, 2017 8:47 AM

    I do agree wherein you earn more by spending less. When it comes to business with transportation, especially when it comes to trains, what would be the most effective energy source?

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