Oil; Energy in general

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Desertrat, May 24, 2005.

  1. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #1
    tristan commented in another thread, "Isn't oil though just a 20th century bump in history? It's just a matter of time before some other source of energy gets perfected and takes the lead. Probably by GE. Then the middle east becomes Indonesia and we stop worrying about it."

    Okay, so the way I see it: Oil is a 20th and early 21st century basis for civilization as we know it. Even if alternative forms of power for transportation were developed, we'd still need oil and gas as raw materials.

    Because of the known coming decline in total world supply, and the known difficulties in delivering much of what's left, a mix of technologies is being developed to deal with this. For household and commercial/industrial electricity, we have Solar, Wind and Nuclear. And coal, but I'll talk about that later. Efforts at developing fusion-power have been stymied for at least 35 years that I know of (my ex-wife's present husband worked on the Tokamak project at UT-Austin for many years.)

    Transportation? I think that at some point, there will be no fossil-fuel IC-power outside of a museum, unless (again) from coal. Hydrogen can be produced as a by-product of other-use high-temperature operations, such as nuke plants.

    Coal: I'm reading that for oil above $35/bbl, coal liquefaction and coal gasification is cost-effective. Both China and the US have ample supplies for a few centuries--which could relieve--long-term--the competition for the declining amounts of oil. But these technologies lend themselves to producing transportation fuels. Cost per gallon-of-gasoline equivalent? Dunno.

    Depending on the source, China has 10 out of 12 or 8 out of ten of the world's worst air-pollution cities. Shanghai, the world's largest boomtown, is now some 17 million people with a smog problem equal to or worse than that of Mexico City. (Per "The Daily Reckoning" and "Strategic Investment" and others) Apparently Chinese coal-fired power plants don't have scrubbers. Further, China is falling behind in its internal growing demands for electricity in its industrial areas--the "why" of those pebble-bed reactors they speak of constructing.

    Japan imports 100% of its oil. To maintain an economy one-half the size of ours, their electric demand is being met more and more by nukes.

    So, yeah, there will be many changes, and the mideast could wind up once again merely as a source of camel saddles and brass trays and maybe rugs but not much else--except hatreds.

    'Rat
     
  2. Xtremehkr macrumors 68000

    Xtremehkr

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  3. Thanatoast macrumors 6502a

    Thanatoast

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    #3
    Oil will continue to be the most important fuel source for the forseeable future (at least in this country) because our leaders don't have the interest (Republicans) or the gumption (Democrats) to swing the market towards alternative fuels. Wind power has gotten a lot of press lately as a viable alternative, and even solar is getting more efficient. Oil is currently the easiest (on the front end if not the back end) and we will continue on our merry course over the falls until it's too late.

    I can't believe that *coal* will be the fuel of the 21st century. It's utterly ridiculous that the Bush administration is touting freaking COAL as the solution to our energy problems. Coal!?
     
  4. tristan macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    Well, even if our leaders are addicted to oil, it doesn't stop some company like GE from developing alternative forms of energy and marketing them to utilities. Just like it didn't stop Toyota from making hybrids. So I don't think it's in the leader's hands, but in private enterprises hands, which makes me feel better (given that I'm generally pro-free market).

    I guess I have a lot of confidence in science and technology to come up with something new - especially if oil prices remain high. But I definitely can't predict what will win and when it will emerge. Maybe nuclear, maybe wind, maybe solar. Yeah, probably not coal. :)

    I definitely understand that at the moment, oil is the basis for our civilization. About half our energy comes from oil, and it has many non-energy uses like plastic, synthetic materials, etc. I actually got to see an ExxonMobil plastic factory a couple years ago in Singapore. It produced little plastic pellets for manufacturers to mold as they please - interesting to see.
     
  5. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #5
    Xtremehkr. Sorry; no direct links. The Daily Reckoning is a free, daily email contrarian-investor newsletter. http://www.thedailyreckoning.com but I don't think you want to explore multitudes of days of the archives for bits and pieces. :) Strategic Investment is online, but it's a money deal.

    The editors and contributors to these (among others) wander all over the world, looking for ways to invest for profit. One arena is that of energy sources in general, with the problems here and the profit potentials there...

    Thanatoast, why not coal? If coal gasification technology can provide you with a fuel to keep your Prius running, why not use it? Were that already an off-the-shelf fuel, there'd be no push to drill in the ANWR. Exxon, et al, don't care if an operation makes fuel from oil or from coal, as long as they can make a profit. From what I've read, with oil over $35/bbl, transportation fuel from coal gasification would be profitable.

    Shell and a couple of other companies working in Indonesia are making gasoline from natural gas; "direct conversion", with palladium as a catalyst in the reaction. Exports are to Australia and NZ, among other local-area users.

    'Rat

    'Rat
     
  6. Thanatoast macrumors 6502a

    Thanatoast

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    #6
    Because replacing oil with coal means moving from one polluting, non-renewable resource to a different polluting, non-renewable resource. It changes nothing except which chemicals we shoot into the air. Renewable energy is an anethema to energy companies, because their power goes away when anyone can use infinite resources (wind, light) for free.

    It's just another way to ensure that Bush's buddies stay in power that much longer. They simply buy stock in coal.
     
  7. anonymous161 macrumors 6502

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    #7
    But when large energy companies buy up patents to alternate energy production methods and tuck the patents away for a rainy day- it makes the development of new tech quite difficult. Having Energy Industry funded politicians doesn't help bring new tax breaks or funding for alternative energy either.
     
  8. tristan macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    I dunno. If an oil company had a patent for a fantastic source of alternative energy that could make them a hundred billion dollars, don't you think they'd bring it to market? Or another company would mount a hostile takeover?

    But yes, I'll definitely admit that our govt favors oil over anything else. Not surprising, given Bush's background. Why didn't I buy oil stocks the day he was elected? I must be nuts.
     
  9. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #9
    Thanatoast, coal gasification means the grunge is removed before burning. Stack emissions are the same as with natural gas: CO2. And a multi-hundred-year supply lets YOU continue to live YOUR life with a job and a car and all that modern-coinvenience stuff. Without such a change, your imagination might let you figure out what will come to pass in another twenty-ish years, if not less.

    Purely my opinion, but natural gas is too important for home heating and cooking, and as a raw material for consumer products, to be "wasted" in electric power generation. Actions such as have been taken in California to use nat-gas turbine plants for electricity have led to both importing from Canada and to construction of LNG conversion plants. In Canada, new reserves are not being found as fast as existing reserves are being depleted. (Sorta like oil?) IMO, these LNG plants, for all that they so far have a good safety record, still strike me as large potential hazards.

    tristan, IMO, any "favoring" of oil over other energy sources by Bush et al is a short-term deal. We're in a time of transition away from oil, but it won't be an overnight deal. It can't be.

    The way I guess the Chess Game is being figured, if the ANWR does indeed provide the million bpd as anticipated, that's a very large factor in holding down the price of oil to no more than today's prices. That helps avoid a serious, long-term recession. (Not that I think we don't have one headed our way, anyhow. Or "stagflation", which well could be worse.) This all buys time for the new stuff to come online, whatever form it might take and whenever this transition finishes. But my crystal ball has a serious case of the murkies.

    anonymous 161, I do hope you're not implying something like the 100mpg carburetor...

    'Rat
     
  10. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #10
    And nuke plants don't?
     
  11. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #11
    No.

    1. Chernobyl is the same sort of design as the one at Hanford. Hanford, running at 40% of rated output, just sat there and made steam. Chernobyl, operating at some 120% or more, blew out in a chemical explosion. That design has never been used in Japan, North America or Western Europe for electric power generation.

    2. Three Mile Island was a $3 billion dollar loss. Insofar as radiation, the release was of radon. Radiation exposure to the local-area residents was about the same as if they had spent the summer in Aspen, exposed to more cosmic radiation. And TMI's overall system held together in spite of three major human errors and 22 minor errors in dealing with the problem.

    3. "The China Syndrome" was not a documentary.

    'Rat
     
  12. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #12
    Nothing about a nuke plant makes you think large potential hazard??? Not even dry cask storage?

    TMI wasn't a fiction of Hollywood.

    Crazy. No cases of LNG terminals blowing up and yet you are all a-twitter over the possibility. Nuke plants have come perilously close to going ka-boom before and you dismiss the possibility out of hand.
     
  13. Thanatoast macrumors 6502a

    Thanatoast

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    #13
    Ok, so you're saying this new method gets rid of all the heavy metals and nasty stuff, just leaving the CO2. I'll admit that's improvement, but not a solution. My other qualms still apply. There's still tons of greenhouse gasses being dumped into the air, and it's still a finite resource, which will stil have a cartel in charge of its distribution. Different names, same game.
     
  14. anonymous161 macrumors 6502

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    #14
    Because most of the ideas aren't worth much unless they are put in place- but it is hard for a competitor to put a process in place if they don't own the IP.
    The big oil company wouldn't spend R&D dollars on it while they were still making money on oil- I am just saying that if I owned a large energy company I would spend a little cash on all sorts of intellectual property to prevent an alternative from developing before I was ready for it.

    Not exactly, no.. I have heard of a few patents related to fuel cells and solar energy being owned by big oil, but I can't find the links right now, so I am not claiming anything.
     
  15. Xtremehkr macrumors 68000

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    #15
    It makes sense, people did the same kind of things with domain names.

    The other way to secure your business model is to outlaw potential competitors. Making them a class A drug for example, even when strains are available that are drug free.
     
  16. Hoef macrumors 6502a

    Hoef

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    #16
    Most analysis seems to forget that the oil supply chain is immensly vast (80 million barrels (or 80x42x1000000 gallons) of demand a day)! but also immensly efficient. Crude markets are very liquid and contra to popular belief crude is easy to come by. It is hard to imagine replacing this all at once. Indeed it will be a slow process. If I had to place my investment money, it would be in two things.... gas & new small nuke plants.


    .... Don't forget Canada, syncrude maybe better than coal liquification
     
  17. tristan macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    True - there is a tremendous infrastructure built around oil. On the other hand, we went from a rail-dominated society to an auto-dominated society in about 30 yrs. So maybe that's about how long it will take.

    There's also the scenario where oil isn't replaced, just greatly reduced. If in 2015, I can get a hybrid that gets 90mpg and can go for 1,200 miles without filling up my tank, then Exxon Mobil stock will trade for fifty five cents rather than fifty five dollars.
     
  18. pseudobrit macrumors 68040

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    #18
    Look at what happened to Davis-Besse. In the one major US meltdown at Three Mile Island, the containment building was overbuilt due to the island's lying directly in the approach path of Harrisburg International Airport. Other containment structures were not built up similarly.

    TMI's system did not hold together. I suggest you research the accident a little further. I can hardly begin to tell you how little you know about the subject.

    Raditation leaks were not of radon. Jesus Christ, do some bloody research before you spout this nonsense.

    Leaks were of xenon-133, iodine-131, strontium-90, cesium-137 and later, tritium. These leaks were deliberate and hasty actions taken by staff at TMI who did not disclose their actions to the State or the NRC until long after they'd done it.

    The system did not hold together. The core suffered a meltdown. Primary coolant was lost to the extent that 70% of the reactor core was uncovered. The sheathing of the fuel rods fully melted and pooled up at the bottom of the core vessel. The uranium fuel was a few degrees away from melting, causing the "China Syndrome." In several sections, the rods had slumped together in shape to go critical again.
    The reactor was totally out of control of human hands and was far beyond the "worse-case-scenario" engineering redundancies that were built in. A giant steam bubble had clogged the primary coolant loop and kept coolant from circulating.

    The amount of radiation the population was exposed to was roughly equivalent to the fallout levels during the atmospheric weapons test era. During those testing cycles, miscarriages and infant leukemia rates were seen to spike dramatically in areas as far away as New York. Similar increases were seen in the areas where the fallout from TMI fell.

    Strontium-90 acts like calcium and deposits itself in bone, from where it cannot be removed. It has a half life of 29 years.

    It was fortunate for me that the prevailing winds on the day they were venting were slowly blowing due north. Had they been blowing south, I mightn't be here.

    I was a four month-old fetus 20 miles southeast of the reactor.

    DO SOME GODDAMN RESEARCH, 'RAT. :mad:
     
  19. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #19
    pseudobrit, could well be that your info on TMI is more recent (and obviously more thorough) than the reports I read in the time-vicinity of the event. What I read was obviously different as to the release of radioactive elements. I'm not implying coverup so much as incomplete.

    Interesting about the steam bubble. My nuke design prof once commented that there should be a large volume of water available which could flow by gravity through the pressure vessel in the event of coolant-pump failure. The site of the reactor should be below some sort of large reservoir. Further, the damper-rods should be held up above the core by electro-magnets, so a loss of electricity would mean automatic shutdown via gravity. That was in 1962.

    I well remember the S90 arguments, when both the US and USSR were doing atmospheric testing. IIRC, the northern US and southern Canada bore the brunt of the USSR fallout. The physically-heavy particles mostly fell out before Japan and the lighter particles mostly passed over. I'm rusty on the differences in fallout materials between above-ground (USSR) and above-water (US).

    'Rat
     
  20. pseudobrit macrumors 68040

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    #20
    Quite. I can recommend reading wikipedia's entry for the accident as a basic primer.

    If you have time, there's a book available online by Ernest Sternglass which is quite comprehensive. link

    The reactor did scram (the secondary coolant loop shut down suddenly and caused a spike in temp) automatically, and the problem was not with the reactor not shutting down the fission reaction. The problem was that the decay effects (and intense heat generation) continue even after control rod insertion.

    Had the control rods not been inserted, the accident would have taken mere moments rather than hours to unfold.

    There were several systems designed to keep a LOCA from becoming a meltdown. The primary coolant pumps began to vibrate violently when steam began to separate in the core, so they had to be shut down lest they be destroyed.

    There were two high-volume, high-pressure pumps that were supposed to inject water into the reactor. They were turned down to a trickle because poorly designed instrumentation coupled with a faulty valve led operators to believe the reactor pressure was increasing when in fact, water was escaping from the pressure control tank and flooding the basement of the containment building.

    Also, the primary coolant loop was designed to be effective even without pumps. The natural convection action was enough to move water around the loop and prevent a meltdown. This could not happen because of the steam trapped in the loop.

    I could go on, but it's very complex and I'm probably boring most people.
     
  21. skunk macrumors G4

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    #21
    Wha? Sorry, must have dozed off there for a minute... :rolleyes:
     
  22. Hoef macrumors 6502a

    Hoef

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    #22
    Nope ... You still need to have the gasoline to go 90mpg and most demand will be outside the States (China among others). Hold on to your XOM stock!
     
  23. tristan macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    Well, China would have the same cars... and India, and Europe, and S. America, etc etc. Once oil consumption falls to a certain level, we won't have to import it anymore (though I bet we will anyway for cost).
     
  24. anonymous161 macrumors 6502

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    #24
    You think that all (or even the majority) of oil consumed goes into making gasoline for cars?
     
  25. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #25
    Surely you don't imagine the price will go down?
     

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