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Why methanol is not an option to replace gasoline or diesel

Why methanol is not an option to replace gasoline or diesel

Preface. Methanol, or CH₃OH, is primarily used to make chemicals for plastics, paints, and cosmetics. It is made from coal or natural gas. “Green” methanol is made from biomass or biogas from landfills or sewage plants. Or it can be made by combining hydrogen created with renewable electricity and carbon dioxide.

This post excerpts the methanol sections of a U.S. House hearing on alternative fuels. Just a few of the reasons why methanol is not an option are:

  • The California methanol effort was abandoned for many reasons, but especially because methanol was finding its way into water supplies and its toxicity was considered a significant health concern.  At high concentrations it is terribly toxic
  • Methanol reduces gas mileage
  • It is more expensive per energy unit than gas
  • Getting water out of methanol is even harder to do than ethanol, and water corrodes engine hoses and seals, and shortens engine lifetime
  • Pure methanol has safety issues — it burns with an almost invisible flame
  • There are no commercial facilities making methanol now

Shipping company Maersk is looking at using “Green methanol” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb air pollution in ports which can be used as a “drop-in” replacement for oil-based fuels with relatively minor modifications to a ship’s engine and fuel system. It’s also easy to store on board and, unlike batteries or tanks of hydrogen, it doesn’t take away too much space from the cargo hold. But it is extremely expensive to make, and very little is made, less than 1% of what ships would need (Gallucci 2021).

***

House 112–159. July 10, 2012. The American energy initiative part 23: A focus on Alternative Fuels and vehicles. House of Representatives. 210 pages.

Tom Tanton Executive Director, American Tradition Institute’ President T2 and Associates

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Book review of Fruits of Eden: David Fairchild & Americas Plant Hunters

Book review of Fruits of Eden: David Fairchild & Americas Plant Hunters

Preface. Botanist David Fairchild is one of the reasons the average grocery store has 39,500 items. Before he came along, most people ate just a few kinds of food day in day out (though that was partly due to a lack of refrigeration).

I have longed to eat a mangosteen ever since I read this book, Fairchild’s favorite fruit, with mango a close second. But no luck so far.

What wonderful and often adventurous work Fairchild and other botanists had traveling all over the world in search of new crops American farmers could grow. Grains that could grow in colder climates were sought out.

Since 80 to 90% of future generations will be farmers after fossil fuels are gone, who will be growing food organically since fertilizer and pesticides are made from natural gas and oil, it would be wise for them to plant as many varieties of crops as possible not only for gourmet meals, but biodiversity, pest control, and a higher quality of life.

As usual, what follows are Kindle notes, this isn’t a proper book review.

***

Amanda Harris.  2015. Fruits of Eden: David Fairchild and Americas Plant Hunters. University Press of Florida. 

At the end of the 19th century, most food in America was bland and brown. The typical family ate pretty much the same dishes every day. Their standard fare included beefsteaks smothered in onions, ham with rank-smelling cabbage, or maybe mushy macaroni coated in cheese. Since refrigeration didn’t exist, ingredients were limited to crops raised in the backyard or on a nearby farm. Corn and wheat, cows and pigs dominated American agriculture and American kitchens.

Fairchild transformed American meals by introducing foods from other countries. His campaign began as a New Year’s Resolution for 1897 and continued for more than 30 years, despite difficult periods of xenophobia at home and international warfare abroad…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Microprocessor Fab Plants need electricity 24 x 7

Microprocessor Fab Plants need electricity 24 x 7

Preface. I explain in both of my books, When Trucks Stop Running and Life After Fossil Fuels why heavy duty transportation and most manufacturing can’t be electrified, as well as why the electric grid can’t stay up without natural gas to balance intermittency and provide baseload and long-term power for the weeks when neither solar or wind are around.  Utility scale energy storage batteries aren’t going to happen, nor Concentrated Solar PowerPumped hydro energy storage, or Compressed Air Energy Storage.

Computer chip fabrication plants need to run continuously for weeks to accomplish the thousands of steps needed to make microchips. A half-hour power outage at Samsung’s Pyeongtaek chip plant caused losses of over $43 million dollars (Reuters 2019). Intermittent power will kill microprocessors.

Here are just a few devices that have microprocessors: televisions, VCRs, DVD players, microwaves, toasters, ovens, stoves, clothes washers, stereo systems, computers, hand-held game devices, thermostats, video game systems, alarm clocks, bread machines, dishwashers, central heating systems, washing machines, burglar alarm system, remote control TV, electric kettles, home lighting systems, refrigerators with digital temperature control, cars, boats, planes, trucks, heavy machinery, gasoline pumps, credit card processing units, traffic control devices, elevators, computer servers, most high tech medical devices, digital kiosks, security systems, surveillance systems, doors with automatic entry, thermal imaging equipment.

This is unfortunate for the Preservation of Knowledge, since so many books and journals are online only.

***

The US Energy Department recently reported that “the nation’s aging electric grid cannot keep pace with innovations in the digital information and telecommunications network … Power outages and power quality disturbances cost the economy billions of dollars annually” (DOE).  Val Jensen, a vice president at ComEd, says the current grid is “relatively dumb…the power put into the grid at the plant flows according to the law of physics through all of the wires.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Book review of Fruits of Eden: David Fairchild & Americas Plant Hunters

Book review of Fruits of Eden: David Fairchild & Americas Plant Hunters

Preface. Botanist David Fairchild is one of the reasons the average grocery store has 39,500 items. Before he came along, most people ate just a few kinds of food day in day out (though that was partly due to a lack of refrigeration).

I have longed to eat a mangosteen ever since I read this book, Fairchild’s favorite fruit, with mango a close second. But no luck so far.

What wonderful and often adventurous work Fairchild and other botanists had traveling all over the world in search of new crops American farmers could grow. Grains that could grow in colder climates were sought out.

Since 80 to 90% of future generations will be farmers after fossil fuels are gone, who will be growing food organically since fertilizer and pesticides are made from natural gas and oil, it would be wise for them to plant as many varieties of crops as possible not only for gourmet meals, but biodiversity, pest control, and a higher quality of life.

As usual, what follows are Kindle notes, this isn’t a proper book review.

***

Amanda Harris.  2015. Fruits of Eden: David Fairchild and Americas Plant Hunters. University Press of Florida.

At the end of the 19th century, most food in America was bland and brown. The typical family ate pretty much the same dishes every day. Their standard fare included beefsteaks smothered in onions, ham with rank-smelling cabbage, or maybe mushy macaroni coated in cheese. Since refrigeration didn’t exist, ingredients were limited to crops raised in the backyard or on a nearby farm. Corn and wheat, cows and pigs dominated American agriculture and American kitchens.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Population explosion to destroy 11% of remaining ecosystems and biodiversity

Population explosion to destroy 11% of remaining ecosystems and biodiversity

Preface. According to a recent paper in Nature Sustainability (Williams et al 2020), we are on the verge of destroying 11% of earth’s remaining ecosystems by 2050 to grow more food. We already are using 75% of Earth’s land. What a species! Reminds me of the ecology phrase “Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?”

But I have several criticisms of this research.

Proposed remedies include increasing crop yields, but we are at peak food, so that isn’t going to happen. We are also at peak pesticides, as we are running out of new toxic chemicals and pests adapt within five years on average. The second idea is to have homo sapiens stop eating meat and adopt a plant-based diet.  As long as meat is available and affordable, that simply won’t happen.  The third way is to cut food waste or loss.  That would require all of us to live in dire poverty given human nature, and then we’d all chop away at the remaining wild lands to grow more food. And finally, the 4th solution would be to export food to the nations that are going to destroy the most creatures and forests.  Which in turn would lead to expanding populations in these regions. Malthus was right about food being the only limitation on population. And it would be difficult to export food when there are 83 million more mouths to feed every year globally.

This research article doesn’t even mention family planning and birth control as a solution.

Or point out the huge increase in greenhouse gases that would be emitted. From “Life After Fossil Fuels: A Reality Check on Alternative Energy”:  The idea that biofuels generate less CO2 than gasoline stems from the fact that biofuels are derived from plants that absorb carbon dioxide…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Alice Friedemann’s LIFE AFTER FOSSIL FUELS A Reality Check on Alternative Energy

Alice Friedemann’s

LIFE AFTER FOSSIL FUELS

A Reality Check on Alternative Energy

Fossil fuels are the lifeblood of modern industrial society, and they’re steadily being depleted. Eventually, their rates of production will cease to grow and will begin to permanently decline, spelling disaster for a civilization dependent on ever-increasing quantities of ever-cheaper fossil energy. Their supposed replacements are pitiably inadequate, possessing nowhere near the necessary abundance, concentration, versatility, transportability and/or commercial viability. Given how long it takes to build an entirely new energy infrastructure, the time to begin doing so was decades ago. Since we didn’t do that, we now face not a continuation of our present lifestyles courtesy of alternative energy sources, but an involuntary “simplification” of every aspect of our lives, to quote energy researcher and author Alice Friedemann.

While many of the above facts are well known among those who follow the subject of fossil fuel depletion, they aren’t often presented as accessibly or concisely as in Friedemann’s book Life After Fossil Fuels. Friedemann excels at distilling the intricacies of our energy situation down into short, easily digestible chapters. Her writing is relaxed and witty, and she makes fine use of graphs, figures and future scenarios to illustrate her points. Her policy prescriptions are both eminently sensible and anathema to today’s mainstream sensibilities. (It’s difficult to imagine, for instance, a politician or pundit proposing the replacement of tractors with horses, no matter how great the benefit to fuel conservation efforts and the health of soils.) In short, herein lies a powerhouse of deftly conveyed information and insight into our current historical moment with regard to energy.

A Novel

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Government plans to reduce dependency on fossil fuels won’t work

Government plans to reduce dependency on fossil fuels won’t work

Preface. Yikes!  These government plans won’t help the energy crisis at all!  The only items I like are getting Yucca mountain ready to take nuclear waste – it’s my top priority of “what to do”. We need to sequester nuclear wastes while there is still energy so we don’t expose future generations for hundreds of thousands of years to radioactive materials.  It’s also a good idea to sequester CO2 by using it to do enhanced oil recovery.

But (A) electrify transportation?  I explain why that won’t work in When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”. Nor will (B) enhancing the nation’s electric system, because this book also explains why the electric grid can’t stay up after fossils are gone.  (C) Enhancing the biofuels system is the worst idea of all, covered at great length in of “Life After Fossil Fuels: A Reality Check of Alternative Energy”.

I think that a few items in section II. Increasing energy access: expanding domestic supply” are inevitable when the next oil crisis begins. But they won’t won’t work. Oil shale, methane hydrates, and coal to liquids are far from commercial and a negative energy return, as explained in my books.

My best explanation of why methane hydrates won’t be possible is in energyskeptic post “Why we aren’t mining methane hydrates now – or perhaps ever”.  The IPCC includes ridiculous amounts of methane hydrates to justify their worst climate scenarios. They desperately need geologists and energy experts on their committees to explain reserves versus resources, commercially proven, and energy return on invested before they build their 2021-2022 models.

Nor will the arctic and Alaskan oil / coal / natural gas be exploited because icebergs will knock out offshore drills and permafrost will buckle roads and topple drills, bridges, and buildings (see my arctic oil posts here).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Negative energy return of solar PV in Northern Europe

Negative energy return of solar PV in Northern Europe

Preface.  I once yanked this paper after huge blow back, but in the past few years, I have no reason to doubt Ferroni and Hopkirks methods, boundaries, or conclusions, so I’m putting this post back.

An ERoEI of less than 1 means there is a net energy loss. In this paper Ferroni and Hopkirk found the EROEI of Solar PV to be negative, just .82 (+/-) 15%) in countries north of the Swiss Alps.

The problem with EROEI is that there is endless arguing over the boundaries.  For example, Prieto and Hall’s 2013 book, “Spain’s Photovoltaic Revolution-The Energy Return on Investment” had energy data for over 20 activities outside the production process of the modules, typically NOT included in EROEI studies. But these steps are necessary, or the solar PV installation won’t happen, and Pablo Prieto built several large installations and was in charge of the finances, so he knew everything required — the road built to access the site, the new transmission lines, the security fence and system and more that EROI studies typically don’t include.

This paper goes beyond Prieto and Hall’s boundaries because it includes labor, the costs of the energy required to integrate and buffer intermittent PV-electricity in the grid (i.e. storage via pumped hydro, batteries, natural gas or coal backup plants), and the energy embodied in faulty equipment.  If Prieto & Hall had included these then their paper would have found a negative EROI, as Prieto wrote here. Though Prieto and Hall’s EROI of 2.6 : 1 in sunny Spain is still far less than the EROI of 10 to 14 many scientists believe necessary to maintain our current civilization.

Another important finding of this paper is that based on recycling rates of PV in Germany, solar panel lifespan is closer to 17 or 18 years than 25.  And that doesn’t count the solar panels that are abandoned or tossed in the trash…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Life After Fossil Fuels: A Reality Check on Alternative Energy


Preface to “Life After Fossil Fuels: A Reality Check on Alternative Energy”.

You can find the book here.


Fellow shareholders in the future of the planet Earth, I am not going to sugarcoat it.  We have trouble ahead.  In this book, we are going to be looking at the outlook for substitute, alternative energy resources come the day that fossil fuels decline. This is not going to be a quarterly report where we look ahead three months. Rather, we are going to be peering through the proper end of the telescope, focusing on the viability of energy alternatives for the years ahead, for the next generations.

Humanity has made inconceivable progress in the past 500 years. Books once were created one at a time by hand. The printing press opened a door to a revolution of knowledge. Cement and steel created the foundations of modern civilization. Wooden ships have been replaced by container ships that cross the oceans bringing fish from Chile, wines from France, automobiles from Japan, and everything from China. In 1869, the first transcontinental railroad crossed America, and 100 years later, the first human stepped foot on the moon.

Imagination and invention are the sparks that illumined this path. We humans can pat ourselves on the back for that. Ah, didn’t that feel good!  Yet all the while, our progress was fueled and enabled by something not of our own making, fossil fuels.  From the Industrial Revolution, fired by coal, to today’s global technology society, fossil fuels have been the indispensable element.  Economies are about work, and one barrel of oil does the work a strong human can do in four and a half years.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blackouts, firestorms, and energy use

Blackouts, firestorms, and energy use

Preface. Blackouts are more and more likely in the future from fires, hurricanes, natural gas shortages and more. Below is an account from a friend who had to evacuate due to a wildfire.

Blackouts in the news:

2021. Texas Was Seconds Away From Going Dark for Months.

***

This is a letter from someone I know about his experiences when PG&E cut his power off (and 2.5 million others).

Last Saturday around 2 pm we received notice that our area was under an evacuation warning owing to the huge Kincade fire that erupted on Wednesday evening (which we watched in terror and awe from our front porch). At 6:30 pm the order became mandatory. In the end, nearly 200,000 people, or about a third of the population of Sonoma County, were evacuated.

This was our first experience having to plan and prepare to leave on a moment’s notice. We found refuge with a friend in San Francisco, where we stayed until the order was downgraded to a warning on the following Tuesday. The experience highlighted a number of lessons for us.

First and foremost, do not ever evacuate without taking your dog’s favorite toy with you. This oversight necessitated a trip to a pet store to find the item in question. Having a dog certainly helped us keep focused and calmer, although I know she sensed that we were quite out of sorts for days.

Second, we discovered that fuel disappears quickly. We went out 15 minutes after the initial warning was issued, and the closest gasoline station already had 7 of 8 pumps taped closed. The second station had fuel, but long lines coming in from each direction. Of course, once the power went off, there was no fuel to be had at all.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Pentagon report: collapse within 20 years from climate change

Pentagon report: collapse within 20 years from climate change

Preface. The report that the article by Ahmed below is based on is: Brosig, M., et al. 2019. Implications of climate change for the U.S. Army. United States Army War College.

It was written in 2019, before covid-19 and so quite prescient: The two most prominent risks are a collapse of the power grid and the danger of disease epidemics.

It is basically a long argument to increase the military so it can help cope with epidemics, water and food shortages, electric grid outages, flooding, and protect the (oil and gas) resources in the arctic.

Since I see energy decline as a far more immediate threat than climate change, and the military knows this, it is odd so little is written about energy in this report. But then I looked at the pages about the arctic, and though the word oil doesn’t appear, you can see that the military is very aware of the resources (oil) there and the chance of war with Russia. Therefore they propose that the military patrol this vast area with ships, aircraft, and new vehicles that can traverse the bogs and marshes of melted permafrost. They propose sending more soldiers to the arctic for training, satellites for navigation, to develop new ways of fighting, enhance batteries and other equipment to be able function in the cold arctic environment, and more.

***

Ahmed, N. 2019. U.S. Military Could Collapse Within 20 Years Due to Climate Change, Report Commissioned By Pentagon Says. vice.com

According to a new U.S. Army report, Americans could face a horrifically grim future from climate change involving blackouts, disease, thirst, starvation and war. The study found that the US military itself might also collapse. This could all happen over the next two decades.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Compressed air energy storage (CAES)

Compressed air energy storage (CAES)

Figure 1. Potential salt dome locations for CAES facilities are mainly along the Gulf coast

Preface. Besides pumped hydro storage (PHS), which provides 99% of energy storage today, CAES is the only other commercially proven energy storage technology that can provide large-scale (over 100 MW) energy storage. But there are just two CAES plants in the world because there are so few places to put them, as you can see in Figure 1 and Figure i.

CAES is the most sustainable energy storage with no environmental issues like what PHS poses, such as the flooding of land and the damming of rivers. And Barnhart (2013) rates the ESOI, or energy stored on energy invested, the best of all for CAES. Batteries need up to 100 times more energy to create than the energy they can store.

A more detailed and technical article on CAES with wonderful pictures can be found here: Kris De Decker. History and Future of the Compressed Air Economy.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of  “Life After Fossil Fuels – Back to Wood World”, 2021, Springer, “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse ChroniclesDerrick JensenPractical PreppingKunstlerCast 253KunstlerCast278Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

***

How it works: Using off-peak electricity, compressed air is pumped into very large underground cavities at a depth of 1650–4250 feet (Hovorka 2009), and then drawn out to spin turbines at peak demand periods.

Uh-oh — it still needs fossil fuels. But a big drawback of CAES is that it still needs fossil fuels, since electric generators use natural gas to supplement the energy from the stored compressed air…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Heinberg on what to do at home

Heinberg on what to do at home

Preface. A quick summary:

Best investment: insulate exterior walls, ceiling, and floors for energy savings. Other good changes were to plant a garden and fruit-and-nut orchard, and buy solar hot water heater, solar food dryer, solar cooker, chickens, energy-efficient appliances

Lessons learned: It is expensive, especially energy storage. Solar cookers work mainly in the summer.

In the future there will ll be more bikes and ebikes than cars. There needs to be much more local production of food and other goods to shorten supply chains.

Bottom line: there’s very little we can do as individuals, we can’t mine for the minerals we need, few of us can grow all of our food, despite all these investments Heinberg still heavily depends on the greater world for food, electricity, and clothes, cars and most other objects in our lives can’t be home-made. What is required to make a transition is much bigger than most people imagine.

***

Richard Heinberg. 2020. If My House Were the World: The Renewable Energy Transition Via Chickens and Solar Cookers. Resilience.org

For the past two decades, my wife Janet and I have been trying to transition our home to a post-fossil-fuel future. I say “trying,” because the experiment is incomplete and only somewhat successful. It doesn’t offer an exact model for how the rest of the world might make the shift to renewable energy; nevertheless, there’s quite a bit that we’ve learned that could be illuminating for others as they contemplate what it will take to minimize climate change by replacing coal, oil, and gas with cleaner energy sources.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rationing. Book review of “Any way you slice it” by Stan Cox

Rationing. Book review of “Any way you slice it” by Stan Cox

Preface. I can’t imagine that there’s a better book on rationing out there, but of course I can’t be sure, I don’t feel the need to find others on this topic after reading this book. As usual, I had to leave quite a bit out of this review, skipping medical care rationing entirely among many other topics. Nor did I capture the myriad ways rationing can go wrong, so if you ever find yourself in a position of trying to implement a rationing system, or advocating for a rationing system, you’ll wish you’d bought this book. I can guarantee you the time is coming when rationing will be needed, in fact, it’s already here with covid-19. I’ve seen food lines over a mile long.

As energy declines, food prices will go up and at some point gasoline, food, electricity, and heating as well, all of them ought to be rationed.

Though this might not happen in the U.S. where the most extreme and brutal capitalism exists.  Here the U.S. is the richest nation that ever existed but the distribution of wealth is among the most unfair on the planet.  When the need to ration strikes, economists will argue against it I’m sure, saying there’ll be too much cheating and it will be too hard to implement.  Capitalism hates price controls. That’s why “publicly raising the question of curbing growth or uttering the dread word “rationing” in the midst of a profit-driven economy has been compared to shouting an obscenity in church”.

Republicans constantly want to cut back the affordable care act and the food stamp program SNAP.  Companies keep their workforces as small as possible and shift jobs and factories overseas to nations with lower wages and fewer regulations…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gen IV SMR nuclear reactors

Gen IV SMR nuclear reactors

Preface. Peak conventional oil, which supplies over 95% of our oil, may have peaked in 2008 (IEA 2018) or 2018 (EIA 2020). We are running out of time. And is it really worth building these small modular reactors (SMR) given that peak uranium is coming soon? And until nuclear waste disposal exists, they should be on hold, like in California and 13 other states.

And since trucks can’t run on electricity (When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation 2015, Springer), what’s the point? Nor can manufacturing be run on electricity or blue hydrogen (Friedmann 2019). Once oil declines, the cost to get uranium will skyrocket since oil is likely to be rationed to transportation, especially agriculture.

***

Cho A. 2020. Critics question whether novel reactor is ‘walk-away safe’. Science 369: 888-889

Engineers at NuScale Power believe they can revive the moribund U.S. nuclear industry by thinking small. Spun out of Oregon State University in 2007, the company is striving to win approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the design of a new factory-built, modular fission reactor meant to be smaller, safer, and cheaper than the gigawatt behemoths operating today (Science, 22 February 2019, p. 806). But even as that 4-year process culminates, reviewers have unearthed design problems, including one that critics say undermines NuScale’s claim that in an emergency, its small modular reactor (SMR) would shut itself down without operator intervention.

NuScale’s likely first customer, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), has delayed plans to build a NuScale plant, which would include a dozen of the reactors, at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Idaho National Laboratory. The $6.1 billion plant would now be completed by 2030, 3 years later than previously planned, says UAMPS spokesperson LaVarr Webb. The deal depends on DOE contributing $1.4 billion to the cost of the plant, he adds.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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