Podcast

Khosla Ventures: The US is Massively Underfunding the Innovations Critical to Its Energy Future

The U.S. is decidedly NOT treating the matter with the urgen
Friday, April 6, 2012, 4:23 PM

"The age of cheap oil is over," agrees Andrew Chung, partner at Khosla Ventures, arguably the most knowledgeable venture capital firm spearheading next-generation energy projects.

While perhaps more optimistic than Chris on the odds that the world can transition off fossil energy sources without experiencing some duration of lower overall energy output, Andrew is clear to point out that large and near-term capital investments are essential for such a smooth transition.

The size and scale of the investments necessary to evolve and replace our existing (and increasingly outdated) power infrastructure are enormous, and too big for private companies alone to address the issue on an acceptable timeline.

And as of now, the U.S. is decidedly NOT treating the matter with the urgency it deserves. Of the total U.S. budget, the Department of Energy receives only 8%; and only 0.1% of the total budget is directed to the alternative technologies we hope will one day replace our fossil-based sources. By contrast, China alone is dedicating $800 billion over the next ten years to help support the development and commercialization of alternative technologies and cleantech.

In the coming decades, the efficient and effective use of energy is going to be a real determinant between winners and loser across the global landscape. Affordable, sustainable energy will increasingly determine the prosperity of world powers -- and America is at a growing relative disadvantage until it starts talking honestly with itself about the un-sustainability of its current energy policies and prioritizing its resources (both monetary and human) accordingly.

Despite these concerns, Andrew and Khosla have a lot of optimism for the impact new technological innovations will have in addressing the energy challenge -- a number of which are discussed in this interview. And they encourage companies, capital and workers to enter the sector, as demand for expertise and solutions will be high for a very long time. And the future price of NOT investing ourselves wholeheartedly at this time is unacceptably dear.

On the End of the Age of "Cheap Oil"

I think that the scarcity of oil -- hitting Peak Oil -- and the increasing cost of being able to extract and discover new oil deposits is making it more and more costly. And importantly, the demand for energy and oil is going up dramatically with a lot of the emerging countries like China and India just exploding in demand as the countries develop into more urban economies.

If you look at the demand for electricity and energy in China, that has gone up tenfold over a period of about 15-20 years. India has gone up about fivefold, whereas the U.S. has only doubled in that period of time. So you can see that with these emerging economies being very aggressive in their domestic growth, the demand for oil and the demand for electricity is just going to go up dramatically and that is going to make the cost of oil at a minimum, stable, if not going up over time.

On the Obsolescence of the U.S. Energy Grid

We are looking at an energy infrastructure that is 40-50 years old. If you have ever been to an actual power plant or looked at the inside of a transformer substation, it is a spaghetti of wires that was designed in an era where we don’t have the computing capability and the circuitry and so forth that we have today.

So a lot of the initiatives right now are really around making the software on the backside much more up to date. The sensing capability, like the smart grid and smart meters that you would have at your home, and then adding additional infrastructure like storage capability that did not exist in a cost-effective form 10 or 15 years ago -- or even, frankly, two years ago.  So, there is a lot of opportunity over time to upgrade that infrastructure in a massive way to make more efficient use of the energy generation that we have right now. 

On the New Energy Arms Race

It is going to be difficult for the market to solve the problem alone without government intervention and capital dollars, just because of the massive scale of the problem. If you look at manufacturing, whether it is solar panels, or producing biofuel, manufacturing LEDs -- these are all large manufacturing businesses that if you want to even scratch the surface on the amount of energy that we need, fuel that we need, it requires substantial, substantial investments. 

When you are talking about the scales that you need to reach in order to make a real difference, again sources of capital can really help here  I think the government needs to really help support and foster these types of technologies so that promising entrepreneurs and promising startups don’t get lost in a private capital-unfriendly environment today. China, as you mentioned, is really trying to lead the way here, in a very aggressive way.They already are number one today in terms of the amount of capital that they are committing to alternative energy sources, electricity production, and fuels production. In their most recent announcement on their next five-year plan, they are essentially pledging $80 billion every year for the next ten years to help support the development and commercialization of alternative technologies and cleantech.  That is a massive number: $800 billion that is being committed over a period of a decade to do this. 

If you look back at what we were doing in Washington just several years ago with the stimulus package, there was a lot of excitement and strain and stress about putting several tens of $billions into the stimulus package for various types of renewable energy, energy infrastructure improvement. Today, some of that money has gone out, some of it may not get fully deployed.  Then, with a lot of negativity in the press today, a lot of the folks in Washington are actually pulling back a bit in terms of their support of the clean technology ecosystem. So, if you think about us putting the brakes on a relatively modest level of investment in clean technology and you compare that to what China is doing and other countries are doing (there are a number of countries in Europe, for example, that are investing a significant amount per capita in clean technology), it just puts us at a disadvantage relative to the long-term viability of scaling up alternative technologies in the U.S.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Andrew Chung of Khosla Ventures (runtime 44m:45s).

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Andrew, a Partner at Khosla Ventures, is interested in developing leading companies in cleantech, Internet, mobility, education, and genomics and also leads the firm’s China activities. He is one of six Partners at Khosla and is a director on the boards of Lanzatech (biofuel), LS9 (biofuel), EcoMotors (transportation), Pellion (storage), Biodiscovery (agriculture), and a stealth company (mobile).

Prior to Khosla, Andrew spent five years at Lightspeed Venture Partners and helped to build the firm's cleantech practice. He helped drive and manage Lightspeed's investments in Solazyme (NASDAQ: SZYM, biofuel), Stion (solar), LS9 (biofuel), Coaltek (clean coal), Leyden Energy (energy storage), Orbis Education (nursing), and Personalis (genome interpretation).

In addition to assisting portfolio companies, Andrew was Founding Chair of the Cleantech Board for The Indus Entrepreneurs Group (TiE) and is a long-time advisor to the Cleantech Open (CTO). Andrew delivered the keynote address at the CTO’s 2011 National Finals Gala and will be the opening keynote speaker at Cleantech Investment World Asia 2012, the largest conference of its kind in Asia. Andrew has also advised a number of government officials on cleantech-related policy issues.


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68 Comments

pnewton's picture
pnewton
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Podcast

Here's a podcast on Peak Oil you may all like:

http://petenewton.podbean.com/2012/04/04/ep31-irv-mills-peak-oil/ 

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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The Disruptive Technology

Preety pleese don't use the term "Energy conservation". It makes the dear bunnies put their furry paws in their ears and stop listening.

I tried to show Kalgoorlie Hospital how they could save 30% of their substantial energy bill by installing phase change materials. (Candle wax with a melting point dependant on it's carbon molecule length. The longer the molecule the higher the melting point)

More here. and here.

The dear nurses whould not have a bar of it. They just knew that I was a Energy Nazi and they had to protect their patients from me. They refused to even allow me to speak. If I could have spoken I would have said that PCM's would have been invisable to them, and they would not have even known that great things had been achieved.

The general public is only aware of energy when they see a light come on. Therefore they think that energy conservation is all about turning the lights off. Lighting energy accounted for 5% of Kalgoorlie Hospital's budget. In otherwords, if I had turned every light off in the establishment I would have made a 5% saving.

Did you notice how good I was and not mention, even once, The disruptive energy technology? I'll bet the Chinese wont have forgotten. How good am I?

KugsCheese's picture
KugsCheese
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Why Bother

I am not even going to listen to this podcast.   How about the FED inflated the cost of large scale projects (along with the lawyering) since 1913 so that they ARE DEPENDENT on the warm hand of government.   Bring the reset.  Default globally.  No other way.   The promises are jsut that.  Never materialized.  Systemic Psychopathy.   Have to have a reset/rebot globally.  Or as Jim Morrisson portended: "No one here gets out alive."

KugsCheese's picture
KugsCheese
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Arthur Robey wrote: Preety
Arthur Robey wrote:

Preety pleese don't use the term "Energy conservation". It makes the dear bunnies put their furry paws in their ears and stop listening.

I tried to show Kalgoorlie Hospital how they could save 30% of their substantial energy bill by installing phase change materials. (Candle wax with a melting point dependant on it's carbon molecule length. The longer the molecule the higher the melting point)

More here. and here.

The dear nurses whould not have a bar of it. They just knew that I was a Energy Nazi and they had to protect their patients from me. They refused to even allow me to speak. If I could have spoken I would have said that PCM's would have been invisable to them, and they would not have even known that great things had been achieved.

The general public is only aware of energy when they see a light come on. Therefore they think that energy conservation is all about turning the lights off. Lighting energy accounted for 5% of Kalgoorlie Hospital's budget. In otherwords, if I had turned every light off in the establishment I would have made a 5% saving.

Did you notice how good I was and not mention, even once, The disruptive energy technology? I'll bet the Chinese wont have forgotten. How good am I?

Cost /benefit analysis?  Or will take 100 years to break even?

gmome's picture
gmome
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energy

the mistake most folk make is assuming that the energy pictuer is too big for private enterprise. If and when the Giv. intervenes they always pick winners and loosers and skew the answer to wha they want. The market though works because it is set to pick what works and what will be purchased. To big/ no way, just get the Gov. out of the way, let the mkt. wark without subsidies, encourqgement, or gov. interference. Nothing is to big if the mkt is allowed to really work. Do we need a 100 Solyndras? that is the Gov. picking!!

dieseldawg's picture
dieseldawg
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Alternative Energy Myth

It's always astounding to hear the financial wiz-kids pointing to alternative energy as the solution to world energy demands.  It's simply not possible without changing the laws of physics.  Get a truly knowledgeable energy engineer to review your articles before you publish them, or explain how we will import our energy needs from another universe.

wisetraveler's picture
wisetraveler
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dieseldawg - well

dieseldawg - well said.

There are no alternatives to meet current our energy demands, much less growing need. We, as an industrial society, face the inevitable and slow decline of energy supply.

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Cost /benefit analysis?  Or

Cost /benefit analysis?  Or will take 100 years to break even?

Cost benifit analysis nothing.

I was not allowed to raise the subject. I was not allowed to present the subject to anyone for perusal. I was not allowed to spend time on it. What material I found went into the engineer's waste paper bin without comment. Trying to present the material to upper management resulted in it being sent back to the engineer.

My figures showed a 30% reduction in the $1 Million per annum that we spent on energy. They still do not know that because they would not look. $300 000 buys an awful lot of candle wax.

I have a big "Never to be re-employed by the health service" on my file. Was I rude? Never. I was the epitome of decorum. The engineer wanted a position in the big city, Perth. He figured that if he just warmed the seat in Kalgoorlie for the required time his ambitions were guaranteed success. He was right.

Engineer 10, Planet 0

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I Agree Dieseldawg...

...I was trying to get to the point in this interview that there is an enormous BTU gap between what fossil fuels currently provide and what alternative energy provides. That was part one of what I wanted to communicate....the scale of the gap implies decades of transitioning.

But more importantly I wanted to get to the net energy of the new projects - I really have no interest in whether they are profitable because this may or may not be relevant due to subsidies (both of the government monetary and hidden energy forms) - because that is what really matters.

Running a society on 100:1 returns is a very different place than running one on 5:1 returns.

While I have not yet run a full-scale analysis on any alternative energy project, I remain deeply skeptical that any of them can even remotely approach fossil fuels in terms of the rate of energy delivery, inherent energy density, and possibly total energy delivery (notwithstanding all the cute observations about how the sun dumps a year's worth of energy every few minutes...).

The reason I am so skeptical, even after reading studies that purport 20:1 returns for wind or solar, is because not one of these studies has drawn the boundaries far enough out. That is, they just measure the energy in the steel and composites and for the erection of the devices and then compare that against the energy that will be returned over the life of the project.

However, the workers and their lunches just magically appear and disappear from the work site, as do their personal cars, the roads that they drive upon, and the embedded complexity implied by the far-flung manufacturing and distribution networks required to keep these complex devices properly maintained and running.

As soon as we have a "closed loop" system, where everything - and I mean everything from start to finish - that got to or was involved in the fabrication of these alternative systems was built with the energy from that same system (typically meaning electricity, but it could be an alternative liquid fuel), then I will be a convert. I need to see this first.

The number of hidden subsidies in our currently 75% fossil fueled society are just too numerous and pervasive for me to overlook.

Perhaps we can find a way to build awesome 20:1 return energy systems using wind or solar or geothermal and then fashion all of society around the output from these devices in such a way that we can maintain the industrial complexity necessary to continue to build and maintain more and more of these same devices....then we'll truly be sustainable in terms of energy....perhaps.

But I'd really like to see this in action first.

Does this desire to see something come off of paper and into the real world make me a pessimist as some claim? Hardly.

Just note that the Biosphere project, a closed system where every parameter was thought through and controlled, using natural systems that already are known to work, with extraordinary levels of planning and expenditure was a flop. It failed. It turns out that what were thought to be relatively minor feedback loops - ones outside of the consideration of the bright minds running the project - turned out to be rather important.

Is it possible that we'll discover that the amount of net energy required to keep an exquisitely complex just-in-time economic delivery system is a rather important concept? As a betting man I have more of my chips stacked on "yes" than "no."

So, yes, it really would be good to have more engineering minds peering at our national efforts at energy production and delivery, especially ones that get the EROEI story on a very deep level.

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KugsCheese
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energy (Tesla)
gmome wrote:

the mistake most folk make is assuming that the energy pictuer is too big for private enterprise. If and when the Giv. intervenes they always pick winners and loosers and skew the answer to wha they want. The market though works because it is set to pick what works and what will be purchased. To big/ no way, just get the Gov. out of the way, let the mkt. wark without subsidies, encourqgement, or gov. interference. Nothing is to big if the mkt is allowed to really work. Do we need a 100 Solyndras? that is the Gov. picking!!

Tesla didn't need government handouts to invent A/C and all the equipment, and the buidling was done with Westinghouse funding.  The best won out against a vested competitior in Edison and his non-steppable D/C system.   Today the bankers know the research and building risk can be pushed on the taxpayer so that they can go rig the markets for better returns in a print-your-future money system.

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But alternatives already are cheaper.

The point is often made that we will face a liquid fuels crunch long before an electricity crunch. So I bought a Nissan Leaf which, as everyone knows, runs on electricity. Voila! Problem solved. I drive about 30 miles a day average and it costs around $20 a month to charge. It cost $40,000 to buy and over the lifetime of the batteries, say 10 years before needing replacement, I am fairly certain that the savings from the rising gasoline prices over that time, plus the higher resale value it will achieve because of that, will pay for the increased capital cost, especially considering it could then be retrofitted with another set of (better, longer lasting) batteries and be on its merry way for another 20 years since because EV's have so few moving parts to break down, they will last significantly longer than regular ICE's. Take advantage of low interest rates while they last!

We don't really need disruptive technology IMO, we already have most of our "solutions", it's just a matter of changing mindsets and behavior. There's no fundamental reason why every household could not have $10,000 of solar panels on their roof, an EV, a wood stove, and a heat pump. Bam, right there, problem basically solved. The problem of course, is time. I think the only disruptive technologies that would be helpful on a massive scale would be some artificial photosynthesis, and as mentioned in the article, when solar panels and LED light bulbs become cheaper than the alternatives on a direct purchase price basis.

That's why I don't buy into these arguments that because we don't have a workable plan for how alternatives are going to be able to scale up in time to meet the oil crunch, that we shouldn't move forward. I can't help but ask in response, "Well what else are we going to do????" Every year we waste humming and hawing about not having a perfectly laid out EROEI schedule for alternatives (as if we had one for fossil fuels), burns more precious fossil fuels that could otherwise be put to use building EV's so that people would still have the ability to haul bushels of corn to market when the US is forced to operate on 1/10th the oil it currently does.

As soon as we have a "closed loop" system, where everything - and I mean everything from start to finish - that got to or was involved in the fabrication of these alternative systems was built with the energy from that same system (typically meaning electricity, but it could be an alternative liquid fuel), then I will be a convert.

I think this can be fairly easily accommodated by deriving a simple cutoff "energy cliff" EROEI which the energy "production" mechanisms powering a society must remain above, and this then envelopes everything else incuding every librarian's lunch salami. Obviosly an EROEI of 1:1 is useless, since this merely powers the machines to extract more energy and leaves no excess. 3:1 is generally thought to be the energy cliff, but I think we'd need something higher than that really to incorporate all of the social and economic supporting mechanisms for energy extraction. So let's say 8:1 is the realistic overall energy cliff for oil, and for a society powered by electricity, make it higher because electricity isn't as useful.

The current calculations for fossil fuel EROEI's don't account for all these salami sandwich lunches, but they manage to "produce" energy regardless. The Alberta oil sands get 5:1 and that only includes the natural gas in versus crude oil out. None of the necessary infrastructure (upgrading facilities, gigantic trucks, pipes, workers' lunches, schools for their kids, etc. etc.) is incorporated into that calculation, whereas with solar panels getting 10:1, I believe that this is indeed factored into the calculation to a greater extent. So let's say the natural gas used to extract oil sands gets an EROEI of 40:1, then the overall EROEI for Alberta oil sands on a purely energy in/out basis is 200:1. But this is only economical when natural gas is cheap and plentiful, which likely won't be the case for long when it starts to substitute more for oil, and it will run out before Alberta oil sand does. Then the Alberta oil sands will be in trouble because their overall EROEI will begin to drop towards 5:1, below my hypothetical overall social energy cliff of 8:1. They could start burning the oil sand itself as a source of external energy but only if the extraction phase (versus the subsequent upgrading phase) has positive overall EROEI.

BUT, if electricity could be produced indefinitely from, say, solar panels (with a genuine 10:1 EROEI, including manufacturing costs), then that electricity could be used to power oil sands extraction and maintain it above its 8:1 overall energy cliff, and we'd have hydrocarbons to build more EV's for a long time. Sure, there's lots of complications regarding getting that electricity to where it's needed, etc, but who said the transition isn't going to be complicated? Again, what else are we going to do?

Since about 0.5% of global GDP is allocated solely to direct government subsidies for fossil fuel consumption, not including more systemic hidden subsidies, I think alternatives definitely are getting the raw end of the deal right now.

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Damnthematrix
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don't you love "markets"
gmome wrote:

the mistake most folk make is assuming that the energy pictuer is too big for private enterprise. If and when the Giv. intervenes they always pick winners and loosers and skew the answer to wha they want. The market though works because it is set to pick what works and what will be purchased. To big/ no way, just get the Gov. out of the way, let the mkt. wark without subsidies, encourqgement, or gov. interference. Nothing is to big if the mkt is allowed to really work. Do we need a 100 Solyndras? that is the Gov. picking!!

Yeah, I've noticed how well the markets work.....  when oil is cheap, waste it like there's no tomorrow!

Mike

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shudock
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Chris, your comment here

Chris, your comment here embodies entirely the reason why I read and recommend your site. Thank you. We see so many articles espousing all sorts of "we should do this and that" alternative energy ideas that never fully extrapolate out all the externalities. For years I have commented on Energy Bulletin articles and other websites (usually jumping into pie-in-the-sky discussions about "smart grids") - hardly anyone ever seems to understand what is truly involved in implementing ideas such as these, even before bringing up the sustainable closed system concept. As a former computer network engineer I spent years wrestling with putting into practice projects that were born in the marketing department of a major MSO. It just never, ever, ever pans out the way they think it will - if it pans out at all - and that was just speaking mostly in financial terms. Magical thinking appears to be rampant everywhere these days, and most people seem to incapable of recognizing where the rubber literally meets the road.

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Damnthematrix
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But alternatives already are cheaper.
Mark_BC wrote:

The point is often made that we will face a liquid fuels crunch long before an electricity crunch. So I bought a Nissan Leaf which, as everyone knows, runs on electricity. Voila! Problem solved. I drive about 30 miles a day average and it costs around $20 a month to charge. It cost $40,000 to buy and over the lifetime of the batteries, say 10 years before needing replacement, I am fairly certain that the savings from the rising gasoline prices over that time, plus the higher resale value it will achieve because of that

I wouldn't be so sure.......  most first gen Priuses were simply abandoned when their battery pack died, the replacement cost more than the car was worth!

Have you read the enrgy trap yet.....?  http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/10/the-energy-trap/

Mike

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Damnthematrix wrote:Mark_BC
Damnthematrix wrote:

I wouldn't be so sure.......  most first gen Priuses were simply abandoned when their battery pack died, the replacement cost more than the car was worth!

Mike

In contrast to what you say about the Prius, I read a report that the batteries on 10 year old Priuses were just as efficient as new ones based upon a research study.  Maybe Toyota has fixed the problem following first generation cars.

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 I think the market right

 I think the market right now is telling us oil is still the best performing lowest cost energy source.  Alternatives may not really take off until we feel enough pain from very high oil prices or limited supply.  Yes we have a lot of available known ways today to mitigate, though not solve, the peak oil dilema, and some day we will, but it's the transition that will be tough and we haven't really decided yet as a society to commit to that.  

Alternative energy sources typically have higher up front costs which is an obstacle too.  I got a quote for a grid tied solar system that clearly will save me money in the long run, but the up front cost and additional borrowing I would have to do for installation is a huge risk also.  And while the solar PV system might be cost effective for me with the government tax credit, does it benefit society as a whole? - I'm not sure. 

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DOE
gmome wrote:

the mistake most folk make is assuming that the energy pictuer is too big for private enterprise. If and when the Giv. intervenes they always pick winners and loosers and skew the answer to wha they want. The market though works because it is set to pick what works and what will be purchased. To big/ no way, just get the Gov. out of the way, let the mkt. wark without subsidies, encourqgement, or gov. interference. Nothing is to big if the mkt is allowed to really work. Do we need a 100 Solyndras? that is the Gov. picking!!

How long has DOE been in existence?  How much usable energy have they produced?  And how much money have they cost the taxpayer?

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RJE
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dieseldawg, Mark-bc, Robey

dieseldawg, Mark-bc, Robey and Chris...YES, YES, YES, and YES!!! These are my daily thoughts as I walk my 6 miles with my pooch, a Rottweiler named B-ASS. It comes down to this really: Preparations (it clears the mind and stressors), Professionals looking at the issue, and forming a Plan, convincing the public (or hospitals to take a look see), changing the things we can like purchasing an electric car, and then prove it up. After that...TIME, and lots of it.

We are late folks, haven't even started really. Boy!!! wait until Gregor reads this (just playing Gregor, and not married to any ideas...sort of), and for the record I sit firmly behind what Chris wrote today (this is my sort of, for sure feelings). To many variables to contemplate right now, and reality is facing us squarely in the face, and pocket books. That's my street level view anyways. Geez, I wonder if we can barrow more money just to look into these issues? I know this, we go to war with Iran, it will be unfunded, and that money could be useful here at home building what would be useful for our long term electrical infrastructure. Hell, use the money and buy electric cars for all the soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. That would put a dent in demand destruction.

Chris, your points were well established in the podcast, and I for one appreciated your realities. A pessimist!!!, yeah, I get that too, Just wait a month though, you may soften your views, then again, maybe not. I know I won't but my mind is open. Show me first, please.

An aside: Has anyone continued their studies on Fukishima? I am just amazed from a numbers or statistical point of view at the calamity known as housing unit number 4. The opinions coming from the risks of that building and a nightmare earthquake of a 7 would do is tragic, and humanities near term problem. That building falls, and it appears that Peak Oil may be the least of our problems. Chris, you spent some time on this, are more qualified the most of us, and IMHO you need to do a follow up. Politely of course.

http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-14-07/largest-short-term-threat-humanity-fuel-pools-fukushima

 

BOB

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RJE
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Woodson, I totally agree

Woodson, I totally agree that higher oil prices will get every one's attention, will cause another serious recession too in my opinion. The problem is we will have to use high oil prices to correct high oil prices, and that will cause high oil prices, and the end result will be the spacing between the last recession, and the next, will be shorter. Add infinitesimally unless we have a Plan, we don't, and have a Trillion or so to do the work. Geez, I think I read that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has cost our treasury 1 and perhaps 2 Trillion to fight. Not to mention the cost of our treasury to protect the free flow of oil past, present, and in the future. Plus the tax subsidies on the books to the oil companies, plus corn to ethanol (that was smart). We are managing things terribly, we are, and until we get some serious common sense leadership nothing will change. Unfortunately, I expect no changes until we have another crisis, banks fail this time, and the truth is finally known. You can't grow the economy without oil, paying debt of with more debt is illogical, no growth, no debt reduction the responsible way, and we have to have an expert driven energy Plan. Instead we use theory, and keep our figures crossed, that's a great plan. NOT! 

BOB

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Hrunner
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Caution and a Suggestion

Chris,

First, thank you for raising the level of discourse and bringing in interesting guests.  I second the appreciation for your rigorous requirement for all energy inputs to be accounted for before we accept a favorable EROI on alt energy.

Respectfully, I had a couple of issues with one topic discussed by Andrew Chung.  He (and  you?) seemed to very intent on pushing the involvement of government to invest to make alternative energy feasible.  It seemed that Andrew was pushing involvement at the POC/ commercialization stage.  Without an axe to grind I point out that Khosla has an understandable self interest in obtaining government subsidies in that it a) makes it more likely Khosla's investments will succeed and pay back to Khosla, and b) decreases the amount capital Khosla invests or has to raise from private investors.  I simply don't believe that companies (flush with cash it seems) can't fund this.  Either singly or as a private consortium.

In truth I am reflexively skeptical of government, but acknowledge there is a 'role' for government in alternative energy.  Can we not agree that at a minimum Solyndra had the appearance of corruption, perhaps in reality a payback for Obama fundraisers?  Republicans would be equally tempted by this process.  Can we not acknowledge that even a well-intentioned government is inefficient in that it has a high administrative overhead of collecting taxes, creating laws and committees to oversee investments, potential earmarks and constituent paybacks and then actually going through government hurdles to identify, review, develop applications for, etc, etc, etc.?

With that in mind, it seems to me that the best role of government is to support basic research, not applied research.  We also need a process whereby breakthroughs in basic research are made rapidly and freely available (non-exclusive licenses?) to any willing private U.S. companies to commercialize.  I appreciate from the interview that even applied research has a long time horizon.  However, again, applied is the domain of the private company.

With that premise, what would be interesting (interview suggestion warning!) is a guest(s) to propose the Top 5 basic science questions/ hurdles regarding alternative energy.  That would be something the government could make a contribution to and build a national energy policy around.  Something like a national lab or specialized center for each question.  America has had success with this approach- think atomic bomb (Manhatten Project), moon shots etc.  These things work because they are single-minded and goal oriented (not general 'alternative energy efforts'). For example, I'm not an expert but understand that solar energy is hampered by low efficiency of capture i.e. 8-10% of solar energy.  Why not make a 50% energy capture rate as a goal (laboratory scale)?  Ditto a dense, lightweight electricity storage technology (my computer barely runs for an hour and half unplugged).  Nuclear reactor on a household scale?  Surely we can at least agree on 5 key projects, however daunting they may be?

Take care,

Hrunner

 

 

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JAG
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Bring on high oil prices,

Bring on high oil prices, because it inspires innovation:

Liquid Metal Grid Storage in the works:

 

Solar Thermal Stirling PowerDish:

9 MW/year <$20K...No high temperature voltage drawdown....Before you call....they don't sell to home owners, yet.

 

Natural Gas Transition Plan:

Got Whale Oil?

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Zeroing In?

This article was posted to Zero Hedge on 4 April. In an exquisite twist of irony, which only the apocrophal Tyler Durden is capable of, another article was posted on the same page: this one about Dr Kari Norgaard, the Oregon University Professor who claims that Global Warming sceptics suffer an illness.http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-face-authoritarian-environmentalism. This article seems to suggest that the running down of much of our energy infrastructure is no accident.  

Norgaard last week attended the annual four-day ‘Planet Under Pressure’ international conference in London, where she presented her controversial paper to delegates on Wednesday.

The scientists behind the event recently put out a statement calling for humans to be packed into denser cities so that the rest of the planet can be surrendered to mother nature.

And fellow attendee Yale University professor Karen Seto told MSNBC: ‘We certainly don’t want them (humans) strolling about the entire countryside. We want them to save land for nature by living closely [together].

Ageda 21 is not a myth or a conspiracy, its a plan. Dr Norgaard is right on message with it. Expect to mear much more from the Dr Norgaards of the world but don't expect any significant investment, public or private, in expansion of the energy grid. We're set for a low carbon future.

Maxwellbach.

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correction
maxwellbach wrote:

This article was posted to Zero Hedge on 4 April. In an exquisite twist of irony, which only the apocrophal Tyler Durden is capable of, another article was posted on the same page: this one about Dr Kari Norgaard, the Oregon University Professor who claims that Global Warming sceptics suffer an illness.http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-face-authoritarian-environmentalism. This article seems to suggest that the running down of much of our energy infrastructure is no accident.  

Norgaard last week attended the annual four-day ‘Planet Under Pressure’ international conference in London, where she presented her controversial paper to delegates on Wednesday.

The scientists behind the event recently put out a statement calling for humans to be packed into denser cities so that the rest of the planet can be surrendered to mother nature.

And fellow attendee Yale University professor Karen Seto told MSNBC: ‘We certainly don’t want them (humans) strolling about the entire countryside. We want them to save land for nature by living closely [together].

Ageda 21 is not a myth or a conspiracy, its a plan. Dr Norgaard is right on message with it. Expect to mear much more from the Dr Norgaards of the world but don't expect any significant investment, public or private, in expansion of the energy grid. We're set for a low carbon future.

Maxwellbach.

I just wrote Karen Seto.  Here's what I said:

Dr. Seto:

I had seen this quote attributed to you and just wanted to check the accuracy of the source.

We certainly don’t want them (humans) strolling about the entire countryside. We want them to save land for nature by living closely [together].

Thank you.

Sincerely, ao

 

Here was her reply:

ao,

You are the 40th person to inquire about this.

First, I do not know the source of this quote, but I was not an attendee at the meeting, and therefore the source of the information should be questioned.

Second, the comment below is taken out of context and is misquoted. I had said that in the context of the world adding another ~3 billion people by the end of this century, urbanization offers multiple environmental benefits, including the opportunity to live more densely to save resources.

My best wishes,

Karen

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Jags, thank you

I watched your videos you left for us, and I have seen hundreds just like it for some years now, and they represented as Gregor was conveying in his essay. That being the market will move on to the next cheapest BTU.

So lets asses the situation post 2008, where are we? How has the narrative changed? Can we purchase a Natural Gas car? Has anything been scaled to handle either the purchase or conversion of 250 million cars or light trucks using electric or natural gas? Are they affordable will our cars warrantee be valid?, and where can we convert? Is the cost reasonabe to convert if scaled up? The answer isn't just NO or Hell NO,  the answer is we haven't even started. Truth is we are behind this issue, and the time gap is widening especially without a PLAN.

Now, what have we done? Talk, lots, and lots of talk, and zero actions. Everyone is looking for leadership, where is it? If starting a war with Iran is leadership then...? You watch, I'll be so surprised if the rhetoric during the start of negotiations with Iran on April 14Th doesn't begin with allot of fluff (like Obama started recently) isn't toned down quite a bit when they start because Obama needs cheep oil, and the market will certainly take oil down if the message coming out of these meetings hint of anything positive, So, I look for the rhetoric to be soothing as negotiations proceed. It is estimated by some that a $25 dollar per barrel premium is applied to OIL because of the Iranian issue. That's allot of discretionary spending folks. In addition, I DO NOT believe we do anything with Iran this year, an election year, if anyone up for re-election has anything to say about it. I would be shocked! So rhetoric that is positive makes the most sense. 

This same leadership of the last 4 years (both sides of the aisle) will be displayed again come September when the Treasury will have to raid some government pension plan somewhere just to pay the bills. Yikes!!! The savings that Boone Pickens is talking about is right now, helping the economy right now. The Congress is going to come up with a plan for our economy that is so back loaded to balancing our budget, and if it works, is followed through by our leadership well into the future (it won't) then great. I know this though, using natural gas, our natural gas is tangible, we can see it, measure it, will work for our economy immediately, and is a sure bet, and will bring jobs, yet nothing, inaction is the standard fare. Unbelievable! 

What is so incredible is that the savings from imported oil to a cleaner fuel, that can be scaled up, used for heavy lifting, and create hundreds of thousands of jobs is left in the ground because our Congressmen are either incredibly stupid or are owned by some special interest group that won't allow them to represent the people, and our interests. Crazy stupid, just crazy.

As an environmentalist myself (more than passive anyways) with common sense, I say 30% less carbon emissions is a carbon tax of 30% that cost me nothing, you nothing. Additionally, natural gas would be cheaper to fill my tank up with, that means less demand on oil, and would then add to supply, and oil barrel price would have to come down. Add to that the cost to our military to protect the free flow of oil, and it makes one helluva common sense arguement. Again, thank you for the videos.

BOB

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Though I don't find much

Though I don't find much fault with your argument above, Bob, I'm drawn to the old saw- "you can't solve a problem with the thinking that got you into that problem"- or something such.  "Filling your tank" is only a small portion of our problem- the development costs both resource-wise and $$-wise is probably more than can be handled in this current global market.  Mfg. costs, maintenance costs, infrastructure development and maintenance costs, consumables (tires, brakes, lubes...) for a new fleet of vehicles would be a tremendous challenge.  I think the days of one person-one vehicle are numbered.  Remember that recent article someplace about more young people eschewing new cars?  Maybe change is coming-from the only place that matters, the people, not the gov't.  Aloha, Steve.

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re: ongoing risks from Fukushima
robert essian wrote:

An aside: Has anyone continued their studies on Fukishima? I am just amazed from a numbers or statistical point of view at the calamity known as housing unit number 4. The opinions coming from the risks of that building and a nightmare earthquake of a 7 would do is tragic, and humanities near term problem. That building falls, and it appears that Peak Oil may be the least of our problems. Chris, you spent some time on this, are more qualified the most of us, and IMHO you need to do a follow up. Politely of course.

http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-14-07/largest-short-term-threat-humanity-fuel-pools-fukushima

BOB

Bob,

The Zerohedge post you link to describes some real risks.  However, even if both the unit 4 spent fuel pool and the common spent fuel pool explode, and 85 times more Cs-137 are released into the air than from Chernobyl, I doubt it will precipitate the end of civilization.  Chernobyl contaminated about 10,000-20,000 square miles of land, probably 1,000-4,000 sq. miles enough to require it to be abandoned for a long time.  For perspective, the earth has about 200 million square miles of surface, about 60 million of that land.  Chernobyl probably also caused or will cause a million or so cancers and birth defects.  Multiply this by 85 and you have a terrible disaster, but nowhere near the end of civilization - unless there are bigger risks from other isotopes that would be released.  Now the actual end of civilization and possible explosions at hundreds of untended nuclear facilities - that would be real bad.

Steve

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Oh boy....
robert essian wrote:

An aside: Has anyone continued their studies on Fukishima? I am just amazed from a numbers or statistical point of view at the calamity known as housing unit number 4. The opinions coming from the risks of that building and a nightmare earthquake of a 7 would do is tragic, and humanities near term problem. That building falls, and it appears that Peak Oil may be the least of our problems. Chris, you spent some time on this, are more qualified the most of us, and IMHO you need to do a follow up. Politely of course.

http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-14-07/largest-short-term-threat-humanity-fuel-pools-fukushima

 

BOB

Bob -

The ZH article is alarmist, analytically and scientifically unsound, technically inaccurate,  and basically a piece of garbage.  Any article that continues to cite Arnie Gunderson as an "expert" spills credibility faster than a dress hits the floor on prom night.  There will be no explosions, the decay heat rates are extremely low.  Even if the building were to collapse and somehow scatter fuel cells all over Japan, they most certainly are not going to explode, much less spontaneously arrange themselves in geometries that will support sustained fission on any scale.  Fukushima is now and will continue to be a localized event.

http://www.peakprosperity.com/comment/133487#comment-133487

The largest short term threat to humanity is articles like this - and anyone allergic to hyperbole.

Politely of course........

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thatchmo, honestly, I am not

thatchmo, honestly, I am not married to any idea, I truly am not. I would prefer an all electric, and clean fuel economy, and is why I strongly agree with a poster here who suggested that the best minds get together, and look at our energy problem, factoring all issues including our decaying or rusting (antiquated) system, and form a plan. Thatchmo, we will have to have energy on demand, and what exist right now can scale up using what we have in the ground, use a surcharge then to all consumers bills to pay for the transition.

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Steve, I never suggested an

Steve, I never suggested an "end of civilization" scenario. I did suggest by posting that particular article from ZH that we should look at the issue once again. Unit 4 topples, and grabs from Unit 3, 2,1 the cooling rods as the article reads, and what is most likely to happen within a few hours, and its possible effects on the world around us looks really, really serious. I am not an expert at all but Arnie G. seems quite concerned so I hug my Lady just a little firmer, and tell everyone else how much I love them. That's about all I'm qualified to do at this time. Be good Steve. Go Tigers-Red Wings 

BOB

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apology

I'm sorry Bob that I didn't make it clear that I was calling attention to the ZH post and it's alarmist nature (apparently even more alarmist based on Dogs' expert analysis).  I wasn't implying that you believed it.

Steve

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Thanks Steve, and Dog I

Thanks Steve, and Dog I don't know sh*t for a fact but from the article it wasn't a stretch for me to conclude that the island of Japan would appear to be in grave danger. It is why I asked Chris if he would re-address this issue because Chris basically set the table for me (perhaps others) when the incident first happened. The picture appeared dire then, and after all that has occured since, and at present I would think a redress would be appropriate. Again, I have no clue but Arnie G. has some serious credentials, and are referenced often so if I cannot rely on his expertise then direct me to someone who can so I can get the real skinny. If my memory serves me correctly it was Chris who brought Arnies name into my home so I trust Arnie G. is the Man. 125 (plus) million people live in Japan, and the big "IF" is deserving of a quiet moment of reflection for their safety in my opinion. Regards

BOB

 

PS: Adam and Chris, thank you for representing on Mish's unfortunate situation for all of us. Your actions showed compassion and class to our friend.  I have sent my check. BOB 

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Consider the costs
Mark_BC (post #11) wrote:

The point is often made that we will face a liquid fuels crunch long before an electricity crunch. So I bought a Nissan Leaf which, as everyone knows, runs on electricity. Voila! Problem solved. I drive about 30 miles a day average and it costs around $20 a month to charge. It cost $40,000 to buy and over the lifetime of the batteries, say 10 years before needing replacement, I am fairly certain that the savings from the rising gasoline prices over that time, plus the higher resale value it will achieve because of that, will pay for the increased capital cost, especially considering it could then be retrofitted with another set of (better, longer lasting) batteries and be on its merry way for another 20 years since because EV's have so few moving parts to break down, they will last significantly longer than regular ICE's. Take advantage of low interest rates while they last!

Mark_BC,

I bought a used Prius in 2003 for essentially the same reason. My wife drove it for years and was totally convinced that the operating cost consisted only of fuel expenses. She didn't consider the capital costs, maintenance, insurance, or the fact that it had limited utility. As a result, she made uneconomical decisions when it came to driving. As an example, she turned down employment (at a slightly lower wage) in the exurb we relocated to drive 35 miles each way to her existing secretarial job.

If everyone in your area followed your example, highway funding would diminish and/or new sources (taxes) would need to be levied to replace the funding. Since you are a pioneer, you enjoy a subsidy that is paid by your fellow countrymen. Does that seem fair to you?

Mark_BC wrote:

We don't really need disruptive technology IMO, we already have most of our "solutions", it's just a matter of changing mindsets and behavior. There's no fundamental reason why every household could not have $10,000 of solar panels on their roof, an EV, a wood stove, and a heat pump. Bam, right there, problem basically solved. The problem of course, is time. I think the only disruptive technologies that would be helpful on a massive scale would be some artificial photosynthesis, and as mentioned in the article, when solar panels and LED light bulbs become cheaper than the alternatives on a direct purchase price basis.

Will this work for people living in apartments? Time isn't the only problem. The big problem is that we live on a finite planet, yet we have infinite appetites. Many people live one paycheck from bankruptcy. Even if they could get a banker to loan them the funds to purchase these items, they would have to change spending habits to afford it. In general, people are more worried about today than tomorrow.

Mark_BC wrote:

That's why I don't buy into these arguments that because we don't have a workable plan for how alternatives are going to be able to scale up in time to meet the oil crunch, that we shouldn't move forward. I can't help but ask in response, "Well what else are we going to do????" Every year we waste humming and hawing about not having a perfectly laid out EROEI schedule for alternatives (as if we had one for fossil fuels), burns more precious fossil fuels that could otherwise be put to use building EV's so that people would still have the ability to haul bushels of corn to market when the US is forced to operate on 1/10th the oil it currently does.

EV cars, solar panels, wood stoves, and heat pumps all consume fossil fuels during their manufacture, transportation, installation, and use. (Solar panels may not need fossil fuels while in use.) Do you only use electricity when the sun is shining? Do you have an efficient battery backup system that has enough capacity to carry you through the night? My guess is that you still rely on the electrical grid to provide some energy. Again, if everyone followed your example, the price of electricity would skyrocket to cover the fixed costs to build and maintain the system.

You ask "Well what else are we going to do????" I don't have an answer that is palatable.

Mark_BC wrote:

As soon as we have a "closed loop" system, where everything - and I mean everything from start to finish - that got to or was involved in the fabrication of these alternative systems was built with the energy from that same system (typically meaning electricity, but it could be an alternative liquid fuel), then I will be a convert.

I think this can be fairly easily accommodated by deriving a simple cutoff "energy cliff" EROEI which the energy "production" mechanisms powering a society must remain above, and this then envelopes everything else incuding every librarian's lunch salami. Obviosly an EROEI of 1:1 is useless, since this merely powers the machines to extract more energy and leaves no excess. 3:1 is generally thought to be the energy cliff, but I think we'd need something higher than that really to incorporate all of the social and economic supporting mechanisms for energy extraction. So let's say 8:1 is the realistic overall energy cliff for oil, and for a society powered by electricity, make it higher because electricity isn't as useful.

The current calculations for fossil fuel EROEI's don't account for all these salami sandwich lunches, but they manage to "produce" energy regardless. The Alberta oil sands get 5:1 and that only includes the natural gas in versus crude oil out. None of the necessary infrastructure (upgrading facilities, gigantic trucks, pipes, workers' lunches, schools for their kids, etc. etc.) is incorporated into that calculation, whereas with solar panels getting 10:1, I believe that this is indeed factored into the calculation to a greater extent. So let's say the natural gas used to extract oil sands gets an EROEI of 40:1, then the overall EROEI for Alberta oil sands on a purely energy in/out basis is 200:1. But this is only economical when natural gas is cheap and plentiful, which likely won't be the case for long when it starts to substitute more for oil, and it will run out before Alberta oil sand does. Then the Alberta oil sands will be in trouble because their overall EROEI will begin to drop towards 5:1, below my hypothetical overall social energy cliff of 8:1. They could start burning the oil sand itself as a source of external energy but only if the extraction phase (versus the subsequent upgrading phase) has positive overall EROEI.

BUT, if electricity could be produced indefinitely from, say, solar panels (with a genuine 10:1 EROEI, including manufacturing costs), then that electricity could be used to power oil sands extraction and maintain it above its 8:1 overall energy cliff, and we'd have hydrocarbons to build more EV's for a long time. Sure, there's lots of complications regarding getting that electricity to where it's needed, etc, but who said the transition isn't going to be complicated? Again, what else are we going to do?

Since about 0.5% of global GDP is allocated solely to direct government subsidies for fossil fuel consumption, not including more systemic hidden subsidies, I think alternatives definitely are getting the raw end of the deal right now.

I've seen estimates of the Alberta oil sands EROEI from 3:1 to much higher. It all depends what gets included in the calculations. Speaking of which, you need to reevaluate your 200:1 calculation. Your 5:1 figure probably already includes the energy cost of natural gas. Then, you need to address the environmental issues surrounding the sites and the enormous amount of clean water needed to produce a barrel of synoil.

When I read your post, it reminded me of an excellent article I read on Financial Sense written by Gail Tverberg. http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/gail-tverberg/2012/01/04/obstacles-facing-us-wind-energy. I discussed this article with an engineer friend who works for Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a quasi-governmental organization that maintains hydroelectric (along with other sources of) power along with transmission lines. He said that BPA has to buy all the energy provided by the numerous wind farms in the Columbia Basin (at premium prices.) Now that there are so many turbines spread out over a large area, they can utilize a higher percentage of the power generated; however, they have gas and coal fired plants that they use to match demand. These other plants take time to gear up and gear down. They cannot power up instantaneously to meet a drop in supply or a spike in demand. BPA cannot afford the political nightmare of recurring brown-outs so they produce more than their models indicate and let the grid dissipate the excess.

He agreed with each of Gail's points. I asked him "if a wind turbine's energy were completely dedicated to producing (mining, processing, transport, installation, etc.) other wind turbines, how many could be produced before the turbine was worn out. His answer: Less than one. He said that the enormous torque produced by the spinning blades destroys the bearings and transmissions in as little as 2 years. In his opinion, the owners are gaming the system and living off subsidies. If the subsidies end, we'll have thousands of these monstrosities that will fall into disrepair.

It is for these reasons that we need to evaluate the long term costs associated with alternate energy sources. Going ahead blindly just so "we can do something" can produce long term consequences that are contrary to our long term needs.

Grover

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Government is not the answer!
Hrunner wrote:

With that premise, what would be interesting (interview suggestion warning!) is a guest(s) to propose the Top 5 basic science questions/ hurdles regarding alternative energy.  That would be something the government could make a contribution to and build a national energy policy around.

A lot is being done and has been being done for decades. For example:

Sandia National Labs Energy Research

I have invested in multiple alternative energy companies, including some that Andrew Chung mentioned.  There are a lot of people aware of the energy problems we face and are plowing money into potential sources.  I would invest even more but the governments keep absconding with capital that I could use for such endeavors!  You know to do things like build more roads, sports stadiums and prop up the housing market....

I strongly disagree that government should be involved, simply from the standpoint that central planning doesn't work.  We need many many people studying the problems, looking into many alternatives and when governments become involved they pick winners and losers - and generally not on merit or feasibility but political connections.  How many small companies could have been funded with the $500M loan made to Solyndra?. How much bureaucratic overhead was involved above that $500M?

How many companies were denied capital because the government decided corn based ethanol was the solution?  How many other technologies died because government decided to heavily subsidize PV and wind?  The problem is that technological development has to compete for resources and when a government favors one solution over others it may be killing off good viable alternatives.

You can also just look at the track record of governments.  Corn based ethanol, housing subsidies, oil subsidies, China and their over building of consumer manufacturing based on a debt laden consumer.  We can't even get accurate assesments of the problem, just look at the unrealistic EIA estimates.  Exactly why should we expect government to suddenly get it right?

I agree with Chris that none of the solutions currently on the table are a panacea and may not even be large scale feasible, but I would prefer we leave money in the hands of millions of investors with a profit motive to fund many different experiments.  I want companies to have to struggle to survive because it means they have incentive to make things work rather than simply pay large tax funded salaries to their executives.

 

 

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RHare Said.

I want companies to have to struggle to survive because it means they have incentive to make things work rather than simply pay large tax funded salaries to their executives.

You"ve got it.

No lucrative salaries in that field. No Sir. Only the most altruistic need apply.

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I have enjoyed everything

I have enjoyed everything written here, and it really brings to light the complexity of the problem, and why ramping up the next BTU is going to be time consuming, and frought with problems. That means allot more TIME, and a continued liquid fuels problem.

We need a serious move on a commercial battery storage system that scales. We need a Plan. We really need to get moving on this issue in a serious way.

What's all this mean then, it means that a gap exist that is growing wider by the day between liquid fuels and more liquid fuels. Even if we had every new gadget installed, the grid was superbly engineered and cost effective, we still need to get 250 million internal combustion engines off the road in the United States alone. That in and of itself will take a long time to accomplish (10? 15 years?), just to make a dent if employment/jobs are at 5% full time employment rate. That means employing millions of folks that will only add to oil demand sending the price much higher, and causing our economy to fail as we try building everything out.

Some here have asked that the government not be involved, and I agree. However, to move power over State lines will require emminent domain being declared so that the process isn't bogged down, and make the project way more expensive than necessary. In addition there will be the NIMBY crowd, and they MUST be contained, and made irrelevent as it is cheaper to go from point A to point B in as straight a line as possible (remember, I said perfectly engineered, I don't want the wire stretched across Yellowstone or the Grand Canton). An easy solution for this crowd is just turn their power off, that should do it (yes, I am trying to use humor at times to lesson my pessimism that creeps into my thoughts from time to time). Good Luck

A personal note: I would not know who to turn to, to discuss any of what I am researching and reading if not for the intelligence on this site. I do believe I would not be near as happy as I am today. What is discussed on this site is of a great relief for me personal, and intellectually. Thank you...Go Tigers-Go Wings

BOB 

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Solar is a natural resource like water, trees, ...
robert essian wrote:

Some here have asked that the government not be involved, and I agree. However, to move power over State lines will require emminent domain being declared so that the process isn't bogged down, and make the project way more expensive than necessary. In addition there will be the NIMBY crowd, and they MUST be contained, and made irrelevent as it is cheaper to go from point A to point B in as straight a line as possible (remember, I said perfectly engineered, I don't want the wire stretched across Yellowstone or the Grand Canton). An easy solution for this crowd is just turn their power off, that should do it (yes, I am trying to use humor at times to lesson my pessimism that creeps into my thoughts from time to time).

Emminent domain is almost never needed.  Eminiment domain is used for goverments to take from a private individual and give to another at a lower than market cost.  If someone wants to string a power line from one area to the next they can pay for the land to do so.  The zig-zagging referred to in the podcast is generally not due to private land holders, as they will generally accept some amount of money to allow the line, it's governments and environmental groups protesting crossing of public lands...

As in the podcast, the solution is probably not long runs of power lines but local solutions and highly distributed generation.  In the cases where long power line runs are needed, those that benefit and choose to live where energy resources are scarce should pay the cost of purchasing the land needed.   Perhaps those of us in sunny fly-over states will trade our abundant solar energy resources to those in the rainy places for food. :-)  It's always a trade-off on where to live and what natural resources are available in the area.

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rhare, I am long winded

rhare, I am long winded enough so I generalize sometimes, and leave it to you folks to understand I reference the experts, and in this case the engineers.

While crossing State lines or even within State borders it is necessary that through every county you would need a site plan, inspections, permits, so forth and so on. It is my understanding, and certainly I could be wrong but the power of the Executive Branch to override that of the States or County for the common good of all is of particular good use when a project this size is warranted. If it is necessary to take someones home that would be unfortunate, especially if it has been a family home for a century. However, our banks have many very nice ones in their shadow inventory that I think most displaced homeowners that would be uprooted wouldn't mind moving into. Just a guess because I have no clue how any one individual would react. My guess is that if the narrative changed in this country to one of a common goal, and was delivered in the spirit of our country as one big community working for the common good. I believe then that most everyone would be applauded their being inconvenienced for their country. Besides, we own the homes anyways, we bailed the banks out. So pick out the nicest one, on the tax payer, and make sure the title isn't bogus, and all the paper work is legal, no robo-signers, etc, and have a nice day. Regards BOB

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Stealing is stealing no matter how nice a term you have for it.
robert essian wrote:

the power of the Executive Branch to override that of the States or County for the common good of all is of

No it is not for the excutive branch.  In fact the federal government should not be involved in any way.

robert essian wrote:

My guess is that if the narrative changed in this country to one of a common goal, and was delivered in the spirit of our country as one big community working for the common good. I believe then that most everyone would be applauded their being inconvenienced for their country

It is THEFT!  Anytime you take something from someone involuntarily it is STEALING!  It doesn't matter if it's by proxy.  People find it so easy to steal from others when you don't have to pull the trigger yourself.  There has been an awful lot of evil done in this world in the name of the greater good.

  • Bailing out the banks, that's for the greater good.
  • Internment camps during WWII - oh yeah, that was for their safety and the greater good.
  • Hitler and other despots have used "for the greater good" for a lot of their actions.

At least own up to what you are advocating and don't hide behind the "greater good" rhetoric, if you think theft is fine, then at least admit that is what you are doing.  Just be aware that eventually that "greater good" may require great sacrafice on your behalf, as it won't always be others that have to be "inconvenienced for their country".

Here is one of my favorite articles that relates to this topic: Button Button

 

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rhare, I certainly respect

rhare, I certainly respect your point of view because I can visualize just such a reaction should this ever be an issue. I know this now though, if rules of law are needed to be retroactively changed tehy will be. Moral hazards have been created wherever it is required. So again, in the interest of costs, and time a straight line is always preferred over a spaghetti like look see while stringing cable. Rhare, good luck to you. Honestly, I just want an energy Plan,... BOB

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rhare, I have tried, no,

rhare, I have tried, no, have accomplished in my life the neccesity to treat others as I like to be treated. I wasn't under the impression that I was hiding behind anything. Anyways, when I say the common good then that's what I mean, the common good.

It is not my intention to have your home stolen for the common good but if practical, and cheaper to do then I'm sorry, you gotta go. As a commoner myself however, I always try and take a common sense approach. That being in this instance, and in no particular order is this, we need jobs, we need to preserve as much wasteful spending as we can. We have an infrastructure that is past its useful life, we need so much mass transportation that removes us off fossil fuels. We need to make this electrical build, and would be wise to build everything out together. Perhaps this article I have attached will show some of the issues we will face. Again, I am trying to be a part of the solution, and not part of the problem. Go Tigers-Red Wings

BOB

http://www.elawreview.org/elaw/394/the_trojan_horse_of_electric_p.html

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rhare, A Little Evidence in appropriate

rhare,

Thank you for your comments.

I think you may have misunderstood my perspective. 

First, understand that I am sure I'm on your side of the libertarian Maginot Line.  I want the smallest possible government period.  For the record, I don't want zero government (reference the U.S. Constitution on the right role of government.  I can't find social security, medicare, school programs, Pell Grants, FHA or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac anywhere in there).

I'm sure you appreciate the bulk of my comment was to keep the government out of the alternative energy commercialization space to the maximum extent possible.  I don't care if the Chinese are central planning and subsidizing their alternative energy.  They are also censoring every form of media they can from Google to Facebook.  They are disappearing people that disagree we the party (google Bo Xilai sometime).  They have childern of party leaders driving in Ferraris.

On the other hand, I have to be objective and point out that government investment (yes taxing and spending) in an area I know something about, basic biology, has yielded some rather significant private sector benefits and national economic benefits.  We have a biotech sector that is the envy of the world.   Yes we spend about 40 billion per year on the NIH.  Yes a lot of that is wasted.  Yes the granting process is deeply flawed (don't get me started!).  But we have untold thousands of DNA-based biotech products that  make billions, all of which were made possible by basic science breakthroughs that almost surely would not be funded by private companies.   Polymerase chain reaction, DNA sequencing, monoclonal antibodies to name a few.  Scientists make discoveries that move the ball down the field, entrepreneurs pick up the ball and make it possible for these discoveries to do things for the average person (at low cost!).

As much as I may want to begrudge government credit, the Manhattan project did indeed suceed (controveries re the atomic bomb aside).  Now it worked ultimately because of the skills of the physicists and engineers.  But the government played a key role in providing funding and as a catalyst to bring those minds together.  And it should not be underappreciated, to create the mission, the imperative and provide the urgency.

Make no mistake, I am not advocating the haphazard "energy policy" approach of an Obama-type president, which I think much of which is taxpayer funded payoffs to his constituency, the same could also be said of Bush.  And frankly most recent presidents.  I'm also happy to take away other programs to provide budget to fund these centers (corn subsidies are a good place to start).

The reason that Manhatten projects work is focus and scale.  Focus, focus, focus.  What is the key yardstick by which a national center will be measured.  For the Manhatten project it was simple.  Make an atomic bomb that makes a big boom.   For the human genome project it was "give me the sequence of the human genome".   I was trying to galvanize a discussion or at least ask does such an opportunity exist in alternative energy?  I have t believe there is.

Hrunner

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Your choosing force versus persuasion
robert essian wrote:

life the neccesity to treat others as I like to be treated.

When you, your family or your friends are those in the way of progress you may see this very differently.  The problem is when societies become willing to trample on the individuals rights and property it leads down a very dark path no matter how well the intentions.  It's also unnecessary.

What you are advocating is the use of force instead of persuasion because it is more expedient.  So what happens when we decide that we need a few million less people to be sustainable?  This is a reoccurring theme and often leads to tyrants in power, because once you decide the state is more important than the individual you end up with those at the top of the political class abusing others for personal gain.

robert essian wrote:

As a commoner myself

You clearly are already a long ways down the path the state desires.  Once you start believing some people are better than others you will sanction most any action as long as it's "for the greater good".  

The problem is that article you attached acknowledges there are problems caused by governments already abusing the property rights of others at the state level (via regulatory agencies) and advocates that just a bit more government from the Federal level can surely solve the problems!  It also a good example of the use of force via government to advance an agenda, in this "climate change mitigation".

So what are the lessons of the Crash Course?  Resiliency, self reliance, community?  I would say the approach you advocate is pretty much the opposite in every way.  No need to be resilient or self reliant because you can always take from others what you need.  No need to be local because if we just have a large enough gun we can make it all work.  Community - bah, who needs to work with others, just force them to do what's best.... 

As far as energy, it was also opposite one of key items in the Khosla interview, that we will become more distributed using local resources. If it's good to live local as far as food is concerned, isn't it just as valid for energy?  If you live in an energy poor environment then you need to use less energy. 

 

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rhare, you make so many

rhare, you make so many pointed, and unknowable assumptions about me that this hoped for mature conversation is now over. I just can't visualize houses on the speed lane of any Interstate Highway System not effecting the free flow of traffic.  Done now. Have a nice day. BOB

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Is government required for basic research?
Hrunner wrote:

I think you may have misunderstood my perspective.

...

I was trying to galvanize a discussion or at least ask does such an opportunity exist in alternative energy?  I have t believe there is.

Actually I wasn't very clear in my response.  The response to you was primarily the link to the Sandia National Labs website showing basic research into alternative energy at the national level is already being done.  The rest of my comments were primarily regarding the government intervention in the Khosla interview.

However, I still question the need for governments to be involved in even basic research.  In order to fund that research you have to take away money from the taxpayer to fund the priorities set by government.  Why is it assumed individuals won't fund the same type of research? We see all kinds of funding of things that have little/no chance of payoff to the individual.  We see donations for cancer research, open source software projects, art projects, etc.  Look at the whole model of entities like Kickstarter

In the end the problem is that any funding the government uses it must take via force, otherwise taxes would be voluntary (perhaps they should be - and governments could live within what people wanted to fund).

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......and I don't mean electricity!
robert essian wrote:

It is not my intention to have your home stolen for the common good but if practical, and cheaper to do then I'm sorry, you gotta go. 

BOB

OMG, that's downright scary; the foundation of tyranny. Got power................?

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Taking your toys and going home?
robert essian wrote:

you make so many pointed, and unknowable assumptions about me that this hoped for mature conversation is now over.

I made no assumptions, well other than that I assumed you probably don't want things taken from you by force. 

What I was trying to do was point out the conflicting views.  You say you want to treat others as you would be treated, but then you would take something forcibly from them.  It's the force by proxy that many people don't seem to appreciate when they talk about the "greater good". 

robert essian wrote:

I just can't visualize houses on the speed lane of any Interstate Highway System not effecting the free flow of traffic.

Neither can I, nor am I advocating that.  What I was pointing out is that you can just as likely reach a desired result through persuasion, market principles, and community than you can via force of government.  Everytime you use the force of government you reduce community - since forcing someone to do something is the opposite of them doing it voluntarily. 

The slow errosion of property rights (a life being a key property) is incredibly dangerous.  If you can marginalize a persons property you can eventually marginalize their right to live.  So while you may take your toys and go home, I hope you will at least give some thought as to what you are proposing.  It's very easy to say, "this is what we have to do, and if some people stand in the way, well they'll just have to be moved"- particuarly when it's not someone your know or they are in some far away land.

 Did you read the Button Button article? Here is a apropos section:

[quote=Button Button]

Such is the cold, impersonal ugliness of statism, and the subtle, de-humanizing way in which it works itself into our consciousness. Statists never stop to think about the individuals they harm because, politically speaking, individuals either don’t matter to them or else escape their notice. They consider themselves "big picture" people. They see only society itself, broken down into various competing subgroups to be crunched and graphed like so many numbers ("digital individuals," if you will). Civilization is their political blackboard, filled with social equations waiting to be brought into utopian balance.

 

 

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alternatives-fracking

I heard a conversation the other day on NPR that was novel to me.  I don't think this has been tried in the US, but it apparently has in Canada.

As we all know fracking normally requires large amounts of water.  There is now apparently an alternative, propane and/or butane.  According to the source in the interview, you can use these manufactured gases as the fluid to frack for NG.  He said that these gases could then be retrieved, but had to be separated from the NG.  There have apparently been a couple sizeable explosions in tests so far.  I gotta wonder what the eroei is on this kind of operation.  Has anyone else heard of this?

Doug

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OK, let me restate, you have

OK, let me restate, you have a barn, it is listing badly out back of your 20 acre spread, a good sized breeze will blow it down. We need it torn down for the common good of all. We want a windmill there instead, it will create 5 good paying jobs for at least 30 years. We'll give you a fair market price for this barn, say, absolutely nothing because we should have condemned the darn thing years ago as a community, as dangerous, even to yourself. Are you willing to move that then? Or have a sit in, and complain "THE MAN" is unreasonable"?

Is our government leaderless, YES!, over all. However, not in everything. Are concerns I have being addressed, NO, they are not. Do I vote for the candidate that tells me what I believe are my core principles, Yes, so I vote for him, and expect him to be honorable, and do what he said he would? Here's the rub though, other members of Congress get paid too, to do just the opposite of what I believe. So nothing gets done. Other than that I can do very little but what I can do is focus on my family, and I do that effortlessly.

Look, some things are done unfortunately that effect others lives. In fairness we make the transition as comfortable as possible but to live as though everything the government does is to screw each and every one of us is NOT how I am going about my day, so save all the gasps and OMG to someone who gives a sh*t. Listen, if someone, anyone wishes me harm, in my home, I assure you their feet won't hit the ground again until they have been blown fare enough to remove the threat of any harm to my Lady, Family or Self. I choose not to be so blunt most all the time except for using as an example of how I would react to any tyranny to my family or neighbors. Perhaps this unfortunate admission shows everyone the extent of my commitment to family and community, to anyone being wronged unfairly. 

How would you respond to me saying your parents were probably the ones who spit on the Vietnam soldier who while  in a wheel chair after doing what he thought was the honorable thing, then while returning home from what was a mind blowing event, war itself, was spit on, and degraded. I seen this happen. I also seen my own brothers, the national guard, shoot at and kill the students at Kent State, my president shot in Texas, and riots in the streets in a near by family home. These events galvanized me with how I have lived my life, what I expect of myself as a Man. I soldiered myself during the Vietnam experience and I apologize to no one, certainly not a complete stranger. Now these parents raise a bunch, such as yourself who got all the answers, gonna generalize that you somehow know me, take liberties on my character, behind a blue screen. Give me a break. Like you matter in my life. I'm from the John Wayne era, we talk face to face, get our stuff out of the way then sit, have a beer, and finish our thoughts.

The above paragraph is a harmful sample of grouping those you think have an apposing point of view, so instead of engaging, and getting a sense of who that person is, you take the easy road and just attack for the self gratification as a baby would without his binky. I am guilty too folks but admitting the flaw is to effect change. Talk folks, communicate, and listen. We do have our differences even though we all probably see critical issues the same. In any society unfortunate things happen. Most of us are fair minded, and usually, eventually, get things right. At least that is my optimistic view. BOB

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ummmm what?

BOB,

Either you are not valuing that barn / land correctly and your offer is BS, or certainly my neighbor will sell you 100 ft square to put your windmill up if I don't. I don't understand why you feel the power, need or desire to take it by force. One of us just plain doesn't get it. It may be me, but I'd probably accept a reasonable offer to put a windmill up on my place, so maybe it's you?

Rhare, sometimes there is no honor in fighting the good fight. I'm guessing your valuble time may be better used elsewhere.

Confused and annoyed,

R

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Try, try again....
Ready wrote:

Rhare, sometimes there is no honor in fighting the good fight.

I'm obviously tenacious (perhaps that's pig-headed).

robert essian wrote:

How would you respond to me saying your parents were probably the ones who...

Now these parents raise a bunch, such as yourself who got all the answers,

Bob, you have accused me of attacking you, of not knowing you... what exactly is the above?  I don't believe I have ever questioned your patriotism, your values, etc.  What I have tried to point out is that forcing others to give up property or liberty  for the greater good is a dangerous course and it's really easy to fall into that trap.  Lots of examples in history.

robert essian wrote:

Like you matter in my life.

This is exactly the reason it's dangerous.  You have decided I don't matter. Maybe I should just as well be done away with since I'm impeding your progress.? Do you not understand it's exactly that attitude and the willingness to trample on others for the greater good that results in great evil?  What happens when someone with views that are opposite yours on what should be done convince everyone it's for the greater good?

robert essian wrote:

Listen, if someone, anyone wishes me harm, in my home, I assure you their feet won't hit the ground again until they have been blown fare enough to remove the threat of any harm to my Lady, Family or Self.

This is a great example, so say I'm one of the many people that think guns are dangerous and bad to society, so we should just take them away from everyone, it's for the greater good!  After all it's been done in many other countries.  Do you have a problem with that?  Do you think you have a right to a gun, even if the majority say's no?  How about if it's not even a majority, but just a few elected officials?

robert essian wrote:

Other than that I can do very little but what I can do is focus on my family, and I do that effortlessly.

So why is that not enough?  Why is working with your family, friends, and community not a solution? 

Bob I wish you no harm and only the best for you and your family.  All I can ask is that you consider why my questioning you on this has brought out such hostility and anger.  I don't know if you looked at the "Button Button" article.  It really does a great job of showing the danger of which I'm concerned.

 

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