Energy Archives

Free Market Update

It still works.

News flash: Skyrocketing gas prices are driving historic shifts in the habits of car buyers, pushing them away from thirsty pickups and full-size SUVs and into four-cylinder compacts.

What a surprise.

Might all the smart people behind tougher federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules be watching? If they are, do they understand what we are witnessing? Namely, this: It’s not arbitrary mileage goals, mostly unhinged from engineering reality and focused on a handful of companies, that are dramatically changing the behavior of the driving public. It’s the price of fuel, stupid.

Cars outsold trucks in April for the first time in a generation, according to industry figures compiled by Autodata Corp., and four-cylinder powered cars outsold those with six cylinders under the hood. The shift, clearly a blow to truck-dependent Detroit automakers scrambling to dig out of their deep hole, is confirmation that market forces are a swifter disciplinarian than the collective wisdom of Congress, career bureaucrats and the environmental lobby.

Daniel Howes continues to discuss how the market, better than any government program, quick fix or temper tantrum, has made fuel economy a big issue with consumers. 

[tags]Daniel Howes,free market,CAFE standard,economics[/tags]

After writing essays and giving speeches on the reasons he disagrees with the “consensus” that human-induced global warming is a direct threat to our planet, Michael Crichton, evidently, decided to write the techno-thriller State of Fear (2004).

In State of Fear he essentially presents the same arguments he’s made in his speeches, albeit in the context of a fictional story. The book follows the exploits of a lawyer, government security agent, and company, as they criss-cross the globe on the trail of eco-terrorists intent on causing massive catastrophes, all to further their cause (that being the universal acknowledgment of human-induced global warming of the doomsday variety). Unlike some of his other thrillers, Crichton notes that all references to real people, institutions, charts, and data, are documented (through his use of footnotes). Besides including a bibliography (for a work of fiction), he also includes a section titled Author’s Message, as well as two appendices.

In the Author’s Message, he clarifies his position on the topic of global warming, basically stating that we know very little about the complex process of climate change, that there is a variety of data on the subject, and that we do not have the knowledge or the ability to effectively manage the environment. Some have criticized Crichton for writing, in State of Fear, nothing more than a long op-ed piece. Yet, it’s his book, so why shouldn’t he write about what he wants?

In the first appendix, Crichton provides prose on why he considers politicized science to be dangerous. He gives an interesting history lesson on how a previous scientific theory predicting impending crisis, and was accepted as valid by the authorities of the time. The theory? Eugenics.

I found State of Fear to be an exciting page-turner of an adventure. There were a few slow points, mid-way through the book, as well as a few personality caricatures I thought to be too extreme. Note: There was also a fair bit of unnecessary sex, and quite a bit of R-rated language.

Recommendation:  I’d recommend reading the book if, for no other reason, than to get a glimpse of the data that is typically not found in the general media. Save your money though, and look for it at a used bookstore or at your local library bookstore (I picked up the hardback for $1.00 at our library bookstore).

[tags]michael crichton, global warming, CO2, earth first, ELF, greenhouse gases[/tags]

Technological Innovation is an interesting phenomenon (not to mention that it is mind-driven, and intelligence-based). It’s through such innovation that we have been able to progress from crossing the country in a covered wagon, to using a jet airliner. Yet, what of our dependence on fossil fuels, and the implications of such dependence? Current alternatives render electricity as a viable power source, yet current technology limits the means with which we can provide ample electrical power.

Consider, if you will, a future in which powerful batteries are small, very long lasting, and essentially universal in application. Would such a technological environment spell the demise of the domination of fossil fuel technology?

Enter three very interesting posts at ScienceDaily. In Sweet Nanotech Batteries: Nanotechnology Could Solve Lithium Battery Charging Problems, we read,

Nanotechnology could improve the life of the lithium batteries used in portable devices, including laptop computers, mp3 players, and mobile phones. Research to be published in the Inderscience publication International Journal of Nanomanufacturing demonstrates that carbon nanotubes can prevent such batteries from losing their charge capacity over time.

And in New Nanowire Battery Holds 10 Times The Charge Of Existing Ones,

Stanford researchers have found a way to use silicon nanowires to reinvent the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power laptops, iPods, video cameras, cell phones, and countless other devices.

…The greatly expanded storage capacity could make Li-ion batteries attractive to electric car manufacturers. Cui suggested that they could also be used in homes or offices to store electricity generated by rooftop solar panels.

Finally, in Newly Discovered Fundamental State Of Matter, A Superinsulator, Has Been Created,

Scientists could eventually form superinsulators that would encapsulate superconducting wires, creating an optimally efficient electrical pathway with almost no energy lost as heat. A miniature version of these superinsulated superconducting wires could find their way into more efficient electrical circuits.

Imagine, powerful, small batteries, capable of holding large charges for long periods of time. Will there be a time when one buys a laptop computer never expecting to have to recharge the battery? Will there be a time when one makes their monthly stop at the local “filling” station to  exchange a standard battery pack for their electric powered vehicle?

Would people, in such a time, view the internal combustion engine as quaintly as we now view the covered wagon?

[tags]battery, electric car, fossil fuel dependence, fossil fuels, nanotechnology, superconductor, superinsulator[/tags]

The Hydrocarbon Mother Lode

Scientists have discovered a hydrocarbon reserve larger than all of our current oil and gas reserves. Hydrocarbons, as you know, are those dregs of ancient dinosaurs and plants that we mine for energy. So then, where is this incredible field?

Oh, about 750 million miles away.

Before we get too excited here, let’s remember. There’s still an energy problem. Global warming, too. Nobody’s going to be importing oil substitutes from Titan anytime soon.

That said, data from the Cassini probe orbiting Saturn has shown that the ringed planet’s moon has “hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth,” according to research reported in the Geophysical Research Letters. The stuff is literally falling from the sky.

Lakes are scattered across the moon, with each of several dozen holding more hydrocarbon liquid – largely in the form of methane and ethane — than all of Earth’s oil and gas reserves.

OK, so it’s technically not the “mother lode” since it’s not physically connected to the oil and gas here. And it’s technically not biological in nature, since (and we’re pretty sure about this) dinosaurs and plants have never existed on Titan.

Which begs the question: Where did it come from, and are the same processes happening here on Earth? If so, perhaps oil isn’t from dead dinos. Worth looking into.

[tags]abiotic oil,Saturn,Titan,hydrocarbons,methane,ethane,energy,space,Cassini probe[/tags]

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