Category Archives: Fracking/Shale Gas

New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking—Part 2 Moonshot Policies and the Challenge of Scale


Continuing the serialization of the Mark Mills report, “New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking.

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Moonshot Policies and the Challenge of Scale

The universe is awash in energy. For humanity, the challenge has always been to deliver energy in a useful way that is both tolerable and available when it is needed, not when nature or luck offers it. Whether it be wind or water on the surface, sunlight from above, or hydrocarbons buried deep in the earth, converting an energy source into useful power always requires capital-intensive hardware.

Considering the world’s population and the size of modern economies, scale matters. In physics, when attempting to change any system, one has to deal with inertia and various forces of resistance; it’s far harder to turn or stop a Boeing than it is a bumblebee. In a social system, it’s far more difficult to change the direction of a country than it is a local community.

Today’s reality: hydrocarbons—oil, natural gas, and coal—supply 84% of global energy, a share that has decreased only modestly from 87% two decades ago (Figure 1).[3] Over those two decades, total world energy use rose by 50%, an amount equal to adding two entire United States’ worth of demand.[4]

The small percentage-point decline in the hydrocarbon share of world energy use required over $2 trillion in cumulative global spending on alternatives over that period.[5] Popular visuals of fields festooned with windmills and rooftops laden with solar cells don’t change the fact that these two energy sources today provide less than 2% of the global energy supply and 3% of the U.S. energy supply.

The scale challenge for any energy resource transformation begins with a description. Today, the world’s economies require an annual production of 35 billion barrels of petroleum, plus the energy equivalent of another 30 billion barrels of oil from natural gas, plus the energy equivalent of yet another 28 billion barrels of oil from coal. In visual terms: if all that fuel were in the form of oil, the barrels would form a line from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, and that entire line would increase in height by one Washington Monument every week.

To completely replace hydrocarbons over the next 20 years, global renewable energy production would have to increase by at least 90-fold.[6] For context: it took a half-century for global oil and gas production to expand by 10-fold.[7] It is a fantasy to think, costs aside, that any new form of energy infrastructure could now expand nine times more than that in under half the time.

If the initial goal were more modest—say, to replace hydrocarbons only in the U.S. and only those used in electricity generation—the project would require an industrial effort greater than a World War II–level of mobilization.[8] A transition to 100% non-hydrocarbon electricity by 2050 would require a U.S. grid construction program 14-fold bigger than the grid build-out rate that has taken place over the past half-century.[9] Then, to finish the transformation, this Promethean effort would need to be more than doubled to tackle nonelectric sectors, where 70% of U.S. hydrocarbons are consumed. And all that would affect a mere 16% of world energy use, America’s share.

This daunting challenge elicits a common response: “If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can [fill in the blank with any aspirational goal].” But transforming the energy economy is not like putting a few people on the moon a few times. It is like putting all of humanity on the moon—permanently.

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I like that last paragraph.    Next up is The Physics-Driven Cost Realities of Wind and Solar.  Part 3.

cbdakota

Can Wind and Solar Sources Replace Fossil Fuels by 2050?


Can wind and solar sources replace fossil fuels by 2050?   Beginning with today’s positing, I will let Mark Mills answer that question.  I plan a series of posting on this topic beginning with  a summary of Mills’ views. The summary is a condensation of his report titled “THE “NEW ENERGY ECONOMY”: AN EXERCISE IN MAGICAL THINKING “.  I plan to serialized the report as a follow-up for those who want to dig deeper.  I bet you will find the serialized posting to be enlightening and what little math is used is  limited to multiplication, addition and subtraction.

cbdakota

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Want an Energy Revolution?

by Mark Mills

Throughout history, some 60 percent to 90 percent of every nation’s economy has been consumed by food and fuel costs. Hydrocarbons changed the way that humans organize their productive capacity. The coal age, followed by the oil age, and now by the ascendant age of natural gas, has (at least for developed nations) driven the share of GDP devoted to acquiring food and fuel down to around 10 percent. That transformation constitutes one of the great pivots for civilization.

Many analysts claim that yet another such consequential energy revolution is upon us: “clean energy,” in the form of wind turbines, solar arrays, and batteries, they say, is about to become incredibly cheap, making it possible to create a “new energy economy.” Polls show that nearly 80 percent of voters believe that America is “capable of creating a new electricity system.”

We can thank Silicon Valley for popularizing “exponential change” and “disruptive innovations.” The computing and communications revolutions that have transformed many industries have also shaped both expectations and rhetoric about how other technologies evolve. We hear claims, as one Stanford professor put it, that clean tech will follow digital technology in a “10x exponential process which will wipe fossil fuels off the market in about a decade.” Or, as the International Monetary Fund recently summarized, “smartphone substitution seemed no more imminent in the early 2000s than large-scale energy substitution seems today.” The mavens at Singularity University tell us that with clean tech, we’re “on the verge of a new, radically different point in history.” Solar, wind, and batteries are “on a path to disrupt” the old order dominated by fossil fuels.

Never mind that wind and solar—the focus of all “new energy economy” aspirations, including its latest incarnation in the Green New Deal—supply just 2 percent of global energy, despite hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies. After all, it wasn’t long ago that only 2 percent of the world owned a pocket-sized computer. “New energy economy” visionaries believe that a digital-like energy disruption is not just possible, but imminent. One professor predicts that we will see an “Apple of clean energy.”

As it happens, energy does have something to do with the fact that today’s smartphones are much cheaper and more powerful than a room-size IBM mainframe from the 1980s. The essential feature of that transformation is that engineers collapsed the energy appetite and size of transistors, consequently increasing their number per chip roughly twofold every two years. In other words, computing power per energy unit doubled five times per decade. The compound effect of that kind of progress—formally dubbed Moore’s Law, after Intel cofounder Gordon Moore—has indeed caused a “disruptive” revolution. A single iPhone at 1980 energy efficiency would require as much power as a Manhattan office building. Similarly, a single data center at 1980 efficiency would require as much power as the entire U.S. grid. But because of efficiency gains, the world today has billions of smartphones and thousands of datacenters.

A similar transformation in how energy is produced or stored isn’t just unlikely: it’s impossible. Drawing an analogy between information production and energy production is a fundamental category error. They entail different laws of physics. Logic engines don’t produce physical action or energy; they manipulate the idea of the numbers one and zero. Silicon logic is rooted in simply knowing and storing the position of a binary switch—on or off.

But the energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature, whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, and thermodynamics—not clever software or marketing. Indeed, the differences between the physical and virtual are best illustrated by the fact that, using mathematical magic, one can do things like “compress” information to reduce the energy needed to transport that information. But in the world of humans and objects with mass, comparable “compression” options exist only in Star Trek.

If, in some alternative universe, the performance of silicon solar cells followed Moore’s Law, a single postage-stamp-size solar cell could fuel the Empire State Building. Similarly, a single battery the size of a book would cost 3 cents and power a jumbo jet to Asia. Such things happen only in comic books because, ultimately, physics, not policies, dictates the possibilities—and thus the economics—for energy technologies, regardless of subsidies and mandates.

Spending $1 million on wind or solar hardware in order to capture nature’s diffuse wind and sunlight will yield about 50 million kilowatt-hours of electricity over a 30-year period. Meantime, the same money spent on a shale well yields enough natural gas over 30 years to produce 300 million kilowatt-hours. That difference is anchored in the far higher, physics-based energy density of hydrocarbons. Subsidies can’t change that fact.

And then batteries are needed, and widely promoted, as the way to convert wind or solar into useable on-demand power. While the physical chemistry of batteries is indeed nearly magical in storing tiny quantities of energy, it doesn’t scale up efficiently. When it comes to storing energy at country scales, or for cargo ships, cars and aircraft, engineers start with a simple fact: the maximum potential energy contained in hydrocarbon molecules is about 1,500 percent greater, pound for pound, than the maximum theoretical lithium chemistries. That’s why the cost to store a unit of energy in a battery is 200 times more than storing the same amount of energy as natural gas. And why, today, it would take $60 million worth of Tesla batteries—weighing five times as much as the entire aircraft—to hold the same energy as is held in a transatlantic plane’s onboard fuel tanks.

For a practical example of the physics-anchored gap between aspiration and reality, consider Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) recently announced plan to replace an old gas-fired power station with the world’s biggest battery project—promised to be four times bigger than the current number one, a system Tesla installed, to much fanfare, last year in South Australia. The monster FPL battery “farm” will be able to store just two minutes of Florida’s electricity needs. That’s not going to change the world, or even Florida.

Moreover, it takes the energy equivalent of about 100 barrels of oil to manufacture a battery that can store the energy equal to one oil barrel. That means that batteries fabricated in China (most already are) by its predominantly coal-powered grid result in more carbon-dioxide emissions than those batteries, coupled with wind/solar, can eliminate. It’s true that wind turbines, solar cells, and batteries will get better, but so, too, will drilling rigs and combustion engines. The idea that “old” hydrocarbon technologies are about to be displaced wholesale by a digital-like, clean-tech energy revolution is a fantasy.

If we want a disruption to the energy status quo, we will need new, foundational discoveries in the sciences. As Bill Gates has put it, the challenge calls for scientific “miracles.” Any hoped-for technological breakthroughs won’t emerge from subsidizing yesterday’s technologies, including wind and solar. The Internet didn’t emerge from subsidizing the dial-up phone, or the transistor from subsidizing vacuum tubes, or the automobile from subsidizing railroads. If policymakers were serious about the pursuit of the next energy revolution, they’d be talking a lot more about reinvigorating support for basic science.

It bears noting that over the past decade, U.S. production of oil and natural gas has increased by 2,000 percent more than the combined growth of (subsidized) wind and solar. Shale technology has utterly transformed the global energy landscape. After a half-century of hand-wringing about import dependencies, America is now a major exporter. Now that’s a revolution.

Want an Energy Revolution?

 

 

Fire Ice–Biggest Source Of Natural Gas On The Planet


The US Geological Survey (USGS) cited estimates of the methane (CH4) trapped in global methane hydrate (aka methane clathrate, Fire Ice, etc.) deposits are 3600 times more than the 2016 US consumption of natural gas. The 2016 US   consumption of natural gas (natural gas is mostly methane), according to Donn Dears, was 27.5×10^12 cubic feet.

The estimate of trapped gas in the deposits ranges from 10^17 to 5×10^18 cubic feet*.  Those are estimates and further those estimates probably include some amount of methane hydrate that will never be economical to produce. Even so, oil reserves that were supposed to have peaked many years ago, keep growing because of new technology. eg. Fracking.  So, who knows?

*(For the non-engineer or scientist that might not know how much that is, it can be restated as 1 followed by 17 zeros to 5 followed by 18 zeros cubic feet of natural gas.)

Where are the hydrate deposits found?

Methane hydrate deposits are found (or predicted) to be associated with continental margins and onshore permafrost areas. The chart below global areas where deposits are to be found.


First, let’s discuss where the methane originates. Methane is largely produced by micro-organisms that act on the plankton that has accumulated deep in the ocean floor sediments.  In the upper layers of the sediment where the temperature and pressure are suitable, the rising CH4 bubbles are captured in very cold water and the hydrate is formed. While methane produced biogenically is considered the most widespread source, there is another source.  Thermogenic methane is produced where high pressures and high temperatures cook organic matter.

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How Energy And The Paris Agreement Fit In President Trump’s Plans To Make The US Economically Strong Again


A posting by sundance titled “Angela Merkel Reflects Fear And Loathing Amid EU Elites…”.  I believe provides an important perspective on the President Trump’s America First Strategy.  I have focused on Energy and the Paris

Agreement, but Trump’s strategy, as laid out by the author, sundance, is more that those two items.  It really is a plan to make the US economically strong again.

President Trump has put a jaw-dropping U.S. energy platform solidly into place.  You can learn more about them HERE and HERE.  The announcements last week are tectonic in consequence though seemingly lost amid the chafe of media reporting over twitter spats.

Everything President Trump’s team does is connected to a bigger, much bigger, picture than most people are paying attention to.  However, those who control the levers of multinational power are paying very close attention.

At it’s core and central elements ‘America-First’ is about prosperity and national security through the utilization of leveraged economic power.   For four decades, as he built out his empire of holdings, every-single-day at every-single-opportunity, Donald Trump voiced vociferous frustration that politicians were allowing the U.S. to be controlled, lessened, weakened and robbed by multinational economic interests.

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Media Ignorance Concerning The Paris Agreement


The ignorance shown by the media regarding the Paris Agreement leads me to wonder is it incompetence of just out-right lies.  The primary argument often is, quoting the editorial in the local newspaper, “By breaking ranks with nearly 200 nations, the United States joins only Syria (which is riven by civil war) and Nicaragua ….”  More on this paragraph below, but first about the 200 nations.  According to the Paris Agreement’s Green Climate Fund, the majority of the almost 200 nations are to be given money from this fund.  As of May 2017, 41 nations have contributed or have pledged money to this fund. Reviewing the data, we find that of the 41 nations, 22 of them are in for $10 million or less, 6 are in for $100 million or less, 7 are in for $500 million or less, 1 is in for $750million or less and 5 are in for more than $1billion with the US the major player at $3 billion. Beginning 2020,  the Green Climate Fund will require that the donor nations provide a total of  $100 billion per year! So what has been given so far is chump change.

Well, what do the other 160 nations have to lose by not joining?  Free money is what they will lose if they don’t sign up.  In fact, only about 13 countries are contributing any serious money. The nearly “200 nations” is a bogus issue.

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John Kasich (modern day Don Quixote) Tilting At Windmills


 

The Ohio legislature passed a bill which allowed communities to make Ohio renewable energy standards optional.

The present standard calls on Ohio utilities to secure 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources and increase their efficiency by 22.5 percent by 2025.

However, Governor John Kasich vetoed the bill saying he liked the idea of many fuel sources.

Renewables are still not competitive with natural gas and coal based electrical power.

Wow, and some people actually wanted to replace Donald Trump with John Kasich.  I believe the person that wanted that the most was Kasich.

The source of this posting is E&E News.

 

cbdakota

James Hansen Misfires Again.


Robert Bradley Jr  has made a posting on the MasterResource web site and I am reposting it in its entirety.    Bradley takes on James Hansen,  the so-called  god father of man-made global warming as well as Hansen’s  neophytes.  Hansen has long believed he knows everything there is to know about this issue.  He doesn’t of course and Bradley begins the posting with one of Hansen’s many bad predictions.   It is a good read.

cbdakota

James Hansen: Time to Go CO2 Negative!

By Robert Bradley Jr. — October 5, 2016

“We have at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions.”

– James Hansen, “The Threat to the Planet.” The New York Times Review of Books (2006).

“Contrary to the impression favored by governments, the corner has not been turned toward declining emissions and GHG amounts…. Negative CO2 emissions, i. e., extraction of CO2 from the air, is now required.”

– James Hansen, “Young People’s Burden.” October 4, 2016.

Ten years ago, James Hansen predicted doom if mankind did not “fundamentally” reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in ten years. This ultimatum to the world came due this summer.

 

But far from raising the white flag, the father of the modern climate alarm now demands via legal action that CO2 and other GHG emissions go negative “if climate is to be stabilized on the century time scale, as a result of past failure to reduce emissions.”

He continues: “If rapid phasedown of fossil fuel emissions begins soon, most of the necessary CO2 can take place via improved agricultural and forestry practices, including reforestation and steps to improve soil fertility and increase its carbon content.”

And:

‘All deliberate speed’ will be a dominant issue for climate.  Our governments have not accepted the reality dictated by the laws of physics and climate science: we must phase out fossil fuel emissions rapidly. Mother Nature will not wait for bumbling half-baked government schemes for reducing emissions. It will be essential that the Court not only demand all deliberate speed, but continually examine the reality of what the government is accomplishing, and that the government have both short-term and long-term plans of action.

Hansen states that a negative trajectory is possible. Don’t tell that to Americans or to the industrializing world. And don’t look to carbon capture and storage. Or politics.

The obvious question is: when will he throw in the towel and turn from government-directed mitigation to market-directed adaptation. Richer, freer societies adapt to change much better than command-and-control, CO2-rationed economies, after all.

Pretense of Knowledge

Dr. Hansen is dead certain that he understands the physics and economics of climate change to know the problem and the solution. He believes that climate models understand real climate, economic models understand real economies, and policymakers can implement ideals.

Hansen is the ultimate central planner, imaging not only that he has unique knowledge but that the real world will conform to his edicts. In short, Hansen is possessed by a fatal conceit.

It begins with computer models, which have over-predicted real world warming. “We do not know much about modeling climate,” climate scientist Gerald North of Texas A&M University once explained to me. “It is as though we are modeling a human being. Models are in position at last to tell us the creature has two arms and two legs, but we are being asked to cure cancer.” On another occasion, he added: “The problem is difficult, and there are pitifully few ways to test climate models.”

“Computer models just weren’t reliable,” James Lovelock recently stated in reference to his about-face on climate catastrophism. “I’m not sure the whole thing isn’t crazy, this climate change.” Which brings up the futile crusade of James Hansen, which is allowing a speculative, unsolvable problem to divert real resources from here-and-now human needs.

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