Energy For a Changing World: A Credible European Energy Strategy for the 21st Century

On Friday 22nd February, I attended the above conference in Aberdeen. With presentations from the EU Commission, The European Parliament, Scottish politicians and leading academics, this was a high profile event. There follows an account of the key issues raised by the various speakers together with my own observations and opinions on these matters.

Peter Vis

Peter is a member of the cabinet of Andris Piebalgs who is European Commissioner for Energy. He has particular responsibility for climate change targets, renewable energy and bio-fuels.....

Peter provided an overview of the EU framework for staged targets in CO2 reductions and reported on the progress being made by various countries in meeting these targets. I gather the UK is not doing so well. The core of EU energy policy centres on reducing CO2 emissions combined with attention to energy security. On paper they are admirable goals.

However, do actions match the rhetoric? Peter conceded that bio-fuels had recently received some bad press and I believe he said that the EU was intent on rehabilitating this tarnished image and would proceed with existing targets for bio-fuel production.

I believe he also said that bio-fuels have the capacity to reduce CO2 emissions by 80%. Somewhat misleading I believe? It may be the case that Brazilian sugar cane ethanol with eroei (energy return on energy invested) about 7, may deliver around 86% CO2 reduction. However, with temperate latitude bio-fuels where eroei may range from 1.2 to 2.5 the CO2 reductions are much lower – roughly 17% and 60% respectively (assuming that fossil fuels provide the energy of production). And so the key question is this. Are these reductions in CO2 worth the cost of changing land use, soil depletion and the threat of famine caused by converting our food supply into liquid fuels?

No doubt new enzymes and cellulosic ethanol may address some of these issues. However, why not promote the simplest and most energy efficient route of putting renewable electricity in a battery in an electric car instead?

Professor Jim McDonald Chairman of the Energy Technology Partnership

Professor McDonald gave an overview of energy research groups in Scotland focussing on Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Hydrogen fuel cell research and CO2 sequestration were mentioned and since neither is to my mind an energy efficient way of dealing with energy decline these priorities leave me with a sense of frustration.

I hasten to add that using CO2 in miscible gas flooding of hydrocarbon reservoirs is a completely different matter and should be prioritised since the incremental increase in oil recovery adds to our national and energy security. There is a trade off between burying some CO2 at the expense of producing more fossil fuel energy that when combusted will produce more CO2. I sincerely hope therefore that a way is found to revive the currently dormant BP Miller – Boddam scheme.

In the discussion session I made the point that energy efficiency needs to be applied to energy production as well as energy use and Professor McDonald endorsed that point of view. Personally I would like to see energy efficiency as the guiding beacon of all Scottish and EU based energy initiatives.

Alyn Smith MEP

Whilst Alyn represents the Scottish National Party (SNP) at the European Parliament he dedicated part of his speech to criticising the administrative mess that the SNP government recently inherited at the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh citing the ability of small interest groups to block progress in new energy development projects.

Alyn is a full member of The Agriculture and Rural Development Committee of the European Parliament and is a substitute member of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee.

Alyn provided details of truly vast sums of money available for energy research and development projects within the EU and invited anyone or organisation looking for advice or assistance on such matters to contact him or his office.

I sensed a genuine desire to help so if you are looking for EU funding contact Alyn here.

Malcolm Webb CEO UK Oil & Gas

Malcolm observed that the European Oil and Gas industry accounts for most of the primary energy production within the EU, is the main provider of energy security and yet receives little attention within the EU energy strategy.

A curious paradox indeed which I suspect is related in part to declining oil production that will shortly be followed by gas and the need to replace these historic energy resources with something new.

However, I happen to agree with Malcolm that sustaining indigenous oil and gas production within the UK and EU should be a high priority and I personally would like to see the burden of taxation shifted away from the producers and on to the consumers. In this way the incentive to consume is minimised and the incentive to explore and produce is maximised. That is the path to energy security.

Very difficult to sell this to the electorate I know.

Jason Ormiston CEO Scottish Renewables

Jason provided an overview of the progress made in renewable energy developments within Scotland that was laced with a sense of frustration at the slow pace of development.

Those who have pursued and promoted renewable energy developments in Scotland are to be applauded. The reasons for the slow pace of development need to be identified and cleared away. I sense the new SNP administration is on the job.

Rt Honourable Brian Wilson, former UK Energy Minister

Now retired from politics, Brian Wilson is one of the UKs most experienced and knowledgeable politicians on energy matters.

Good will and good intentions were on prominent display at this conference and Brian rather laconically observed that this had been the case for decades and voiced a sense of frustration at the slow pace of progress in developing Scotland’s non fossil fuel based energy economy. He observed a gap between the rhetoric and the reality. “We are in the hands of destiny”.

In the discussion session I pointed out that the actual response of the UK to declining gas production had been to build pipeline links to Norway and 100 bcm per annum infrastructure for importing LNG. When the LNG cargoes do not arrive we will wish we’d done something different.

I share Brian’s sense of scepticism.

First Minister Alex Salmond

Alex Salmond is an economist, leader of The Scottish National Party and First Minister of the Scottish Parliament where he leads a minority administration with great skill. Throughout his political career Alex has worked tirelessly towards the goal of gaining full independence for Scotland.

Unfortunately I had to leave to pick up kids from school and missed the days keynote speaker. I gather he announced a new Green Energy institute would be built in Aberdeen – maybe I need to prepare a CV – I guess there is a first time for everything.

Euan Mearns BSc PhD
Editor The Oil Drum Europe
euan dot mearns at btinternet dot com

End note

The first question of the day came from a rather nervous student, who had just submitted his PhD, who asked why a space program was not part of the EU energy policy. He went on to explain that Planet Earth is short of 3He which is more abundant on The Moon. Sustainability of the human race lay at the core of this question which I imagine was lost on the majority of speakers and delegates. He went on to explain how 3He may be used as fuel in nuclear fusion reactors.

Brian Wilson mentioned the vision of those who built Scotland's Hydro dams in the post-war years from which so much benefit has flowed. We once again require vision of this sort that stretches beyond where the next contract or research grant is coming from. I'd offer this student a job.

I personally would like to see the burden of taxation shifted away from the producers and on to the consumers. In this way the incentive to consume is minimised and the incentive to explore and produce is maximised. That is the path to energy security.

Very difficult to sell this to the electorate I know.

Here in the US, like a lot of places, we are suffering from from a massive debt financed "investment" in consumption, and the general trend in political circles is to discuss various ways of encouraging ongoing consumption, and to tax energy producers.

Hello Euan & WT,

"Very difficult to sell this to the electorate I know."

Yep, the investment in ongoing consumption, as opposed to conservation, is the crux of the matter IMO. Thus my constant harping that widespread Peak Outreach Programs, to provide full public saturation and acknowlegement of the challenges ahead, is the best path forward to POP the MPP bubble and promote paradigm shift.

The funds required to get everyone up to speed would be miniscule in comparison to the funding required for the new postPeak infrastructure, yet the offset savings to the fast reduction of obstructionist BAU, NIMBYism, Denial, and potential violence would be huge.

Of course, this is just my speculation.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Jeffrey - the US more than anywhere else would benefit from significantly higher taxes on gasoline - as you are well aware. This would reduce consumption (to EU per capita levels?), raise tax revenues, lower the trade deficit, help balance your books, improve energy security, lower CO2 emissions, elevate your countries image abroad and delay an energy crisis.

But the fact is that average Americans place the right to drive a gas guzzler to the mall above all these benefits. If this were not so then Hillary and Barack and John would all be promoting this higher fuel tax policy.


However, I happen to agree with Malcolm that sustaining indigenous oil and gas production within the UK and EU should be a high priority and I personally would like to see the burden of taxation shifted away from the producers and on to the consumers. In this way the incentive to consume is minimised and the incentive to explore and produce is maximised. That is the path to energy security.

Good grief! It's running out, remember. How can maximizing exploration and production be the path to energy security?

Tax the heck out of both consumers and producers, I say. If there are purposes for which fossil fuels are rather difficult to replace, you want to conserve production for many decades hence. That means keeping producers on a very short leash and not listening to special pleading from oil interests.

In the long run, the oil and gas industry is headed toward serving niche applications only (or extinction). I think it would be wise to keep that in mind now.

Do you think higher taxation will have any affect on the economy? I think it would send inflation on an afterburner climb to a flame-out.
Isn't taxation now, mostly what the market can bear?

IMO, all higher taxation will do is open the gates to economic hell a lot wider.

Lowering taxation would probably have a wild effect too, akin to an injection of speed. The trouble is after the initial high, another injection is needed or the low can debilitate.

Tax the heck out of oil and gas production and consumption (coal too). I'm not saying we generally raise taxes across the board. In fact, it might make sense to lower income tax rates and raise taxes on non-renewable forms of energy so that the overall level of taxation remained the same.

You just described what the provincial government of British Columbia has proposed, and they intend to start this year.

The ball is rolling.

You tax fuel, you tax everything! Even several times over.
Food, production, wholesale and retail.

And so on. I'm sure you can think of many more.

If you raise taxes severely on fuel, be prepared for the probable immediate consequences.

The reasons why 'vision' paid off post WW2 may not apply today. The period 1945-1965 gave increasing returns with few visible negatives to rapid exploitation of soil, water and air. There were technological advances and the recent military mindset meant everybody was on the same team. Today it's cool not to make any effort or sacrifice.


From the Scottish Renewables link I see that wind is pretty similar to hydro in Scotland and it dominates total wind in the UK. In 2006 renewables were 4.2% of UK generation, about 40 GW typically. I don't know the breakdown of UK use of electricity, but it would seem to me that Scotland, taken on its own, must have a greater percentage of renewable generation, 15%? Was this figure discussed at the meeting?



It would also be interesting to hear if the Trans-Med idea for integrated wind and concentrating mirror solar is still considered an option:

This visionary program holds out the promise of improving the European energy situation and future, and bringing into the modern age the whole of North Africa. It could be a truly revolutionary step forward, and a vision for Europe for the 21st century.


Chris - I noticed that when I first went to this site. I'm guessing that the wind figure is installed capacity so you probably need to multiply by 0.35 load factor to get actual capacity. I'll email these guys to ask.

And yes, Scotland benefits from an extensive network of large hydro schemes which makes it much easier for us to achieve renewables targets. These large hydro schemes have done a huge amount of environmental damage - drowned valleys, some of the concrete dams are plain ugly, many rivers have been diverted and so on. A price worth paying? In an energy declining world I'd say yes.

We have one new large hydro scheme being built at present in a remote area - so it is still possible to do this. Personally I'd like to see more large hydro built - a trade off between energy security for humans and the welfare of salmon - and I'm a keen fisherman.


One way to do hydro so that fish are preserved is to build run of the river plants. This means that power is produced when the river flows rather than stored, but this also means that you can build your storage in a place that is less environmentally sensitive. This is partly because the extra altitude in a for-the-purpose pumped storage site means less water is needed for the same power capacity. You have Ben Cruachen and Foyers as examples.

When considering hydro power, it seems to me that the effects on the downstream and upstream ecosystem needs to be considered. Removing predator species such as salmon can have a big impact on the way things go in the surrounding ocean, for example. This may, in turn, affect carbon uptake by the ecosystem. one wants to know if these effects are comparable in scale to offsets in fossil fuel use. In the US, our hydro projects are often accompanied by irrigation and increased nitrogen runoff which tends to put a damper on carbon sequestration through the formation of sea shells. Changing the way farming is done can help, but absent such efforts hydro may have a larger net carbon impact through increased farming. It kind of depends upon the potential of the watershed and its esturary to sequester carbon compared to farming elsewhere without hydro, all balanced against fossil fuel use displacement.

Nationalism is Scotland looks like it might have an effect on how UK emissions reductions are counted. This seems like an interesting topic to explore.


One way to do hydro so that fish are preserved is to build run of the river plants. This means that power is produced when the river flows rather than stored, but this also means that you can build your storage in a place that is less environmentally sensitive.

If you do that, you lose the benefit of storage in your main hydro plants and have to build it separately.  That is going to add cost to the system, and you are going to have trouble building pumped storage systems with capacity to buffer seasonal variations.

If conventional hydro must be ruled out because of environmental impact, the main energy storage will have to come from supplies which are naturally harvested in storable form.  For this reason, we should be putting a heavy emphasis on R&D in e.g. direct-carbon fuel cells able to burn biochar; a stockpile of biochar is a compact buffer of energy and storable for decades.

Direct carbon fuel cells are interesting in that they have potential for very high efficiency. But, I am beginning to think of biochar a too valuable to burn because its micro structures seem to be quite good at buffering nitrogen. Buffering nitrogen seems to me to be key to land use changes that can help to restore the carbon sequestration potential of coastal waters while at the same time sequestering carbon in soil. I also feel that while one can get some parasitic energy production from making biochar, the inefficiency of rooted plants at collecting solar energy makes solar PV and wind power look much more attractive as energy sources. The electrification of transportation leads to about 0.5 days of storage total power consumption if batteries are used because transportation grade batteries are of such high quality that they are still useful after they have partially degraded. If the compressed air method of transportation becomes popular, then the air tanks and engines might also see a second life as stationary storage with the heat from compressing air being used for heating water and the cooling from use of the engines having application in refridgeration. Potentially, this could lead to even more storage than going with batteries and even greater overall system efficiency in the aftermarket application. So, just from converting transportation we will see substantial storage which should allow renewable penetration up to 70% or more.

The big advantage of standard hydro is that it can cover for the emergency shut down of a nuclear power plant because it is both large and responsive. This advantage seems to be disappearing in some places as decadal scale changes in precipitation reduce the availabilty of hydro power and the flow rate of rivers used to cool nuclear power plants. Further, I've been thinking in the last week about the sustainability of using biochar for sequestration, worrying about the ability of terra preta to regenerate itself. Could there be a problem with soils becoming carbon sinks that will continue to reduce the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration below 280 ppm because, once started, they continue to accumulate carbon on their own? We may want to make estimates of how much terra preta surface area should be created. In that context, your picture of retaining biochar as energy storage for decades seems a little like Joseph's interpretation of Pharaoh's dream. I wonder if there is a place for a strategic biochar reserve at some point in the future. This would clearly be a distributed reserve rather than centralized. I think, though, that as wind and solar begin to become our dominant energy sources, it may turn out that liquid hydrocarbon reserves will be produced using carbon dioxide and water as feedstocks wih less disturbance of natural ecosystems just because we are substantially more efficient than rooted plants at doing this. With Lake Mead projected to go dry within 14 years or so, rethinking the usefulness of large scale hydro as energy storage is probably in order.


Chris - you or EP are maybe good people to ask a couple of questions. What % of annual N hemisphere vegetation growth is agricultural? So what is the practical limit of "pumping down" CO2 by say converting to char x% of all agri waste?

And how does spreading all this char into soil affect the oxidation state of the soil? Will filling your soil with char not create strongly reducing conditions as the char will eventually start to oxidise - using all available oxygen - creating a "stagnant pond"?

I'd just pile it up for barbecuing the last camel.

I don't know what fraction of growth is agricultural, but one can project from The Billion-Ton Vision that some 300+ million tons/yr of carbon (equivalent of 1.1 billion tons CO2) is available from various non-food plant matter already produced in the USA alone, and it may be possible to increase this substantially (1.3 billion dry tons @ 45% carbon is 585 million tons carbon, equivalent to ~2.1 billion tons CO2).

Note that there are several versions of "The Billion-Ton Vision" on the web, with different covers.  I'm not sure how the contents differ; I'm citing the version linked from GCC (which also lists the authors prominently).

And how does spreading all this char into soil affect the oxidation state of the soil?

Almost not at all; the stuff appears to be stable on a scale of thousands of years.  Normal soil carbon is lost far more easily.

Hi Euan,

I'm working on your first question now. I'll give you the estimates from the Climate Code Red report (on p. 58), these are worldwide I think. Citing Marris in Nature News 2006 442 624 they give 9.5 billion tonnes of carbon per year: with a citation there to:
Lehmann, J., Gaunt, J. & Rondon, M. Mitigation Adapt.Strateg. Global Change 11, 403–427 doi:10.1007/s11027-005-9006-5 (2006).
This is more than we currently emit annually.

For crop wastes, another estimate they give is 1 billion tonnes per year from here:
but this estimate does not seem be well supported.

On your second question, soils oxidize mostly through microbial action. One usually wants as much carbon in soil as possible because it grows plants very well, but agricultural activity provides oxygen to the soil and so the carbon decays and you need to add more. Grasslands continue to build up carbon through their continuing root formation.
This difference is the reason why biofuels produce more emissions that fossil fuels. If you need to disturb previously untilled soils because biofuel crops are displacing food crops, then all that soil carbon decays and enters the atmosphere. The thing about biochar is that it does not seem to be eaten much by microbes so that it remains in the soil without decaying as quickly as other biomass (manure, compost, dead roots etc.). This appears to also set up an ecology in the soil where carbon will be built up in deeper layers at least in the Amazon.

The amount of air in soil is dependent on its porosity. Biochar should add to this since it retains some of the structure of the original plant. This is why it buffers nitrogen and retains water. Since it is not itself decomposing much, it should not be creating anaerobic conditions though I think this could occur if the land converts to wetlands.

Not a full answer, but I'm still learning myself. One of the co-chairs of our EcoAction committee works with Danny Day so I'll be picking his brain as I go along.

I thought camels were better for milk and blood than for barbecue?


Euan, I guess the student was referring to helium-3, 3He, and not tritium. Tritium is very unstable and does not accumulate on the Moon, but 3He is stable and can be found in the solar wind. It is trapped in moon rocks. It could be the source of a new fusion process, easier than D+T fusion. See here for instance.

Thank you Gilles. Indeed the student was talking about 3He and I've corrected the text - hope this is right now.

Fusion involving 3-He looks much harder to develop as an energy source than DT fusion. If this somehow turns out not to be true, there are easier ways of getting 3-He than going to the moon for it.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

The proponents of helium-3 for fusion want to use it as a fuel because it produces few neutrons(the main nuclear reaction is aneutronic).

They are less forth-comming on why neutrons are such a big deal however. So what if the reactor becomes weakly radioactive from neutron activation and you need fairly heavy shielding and a bit of remote handling? This is small potatoes.

The proponents of helium-3 for fusion want to use it as a fuel because it produces few neutrons(the main nuclear reaction is aneutronic).

Any D-3He reactor is going to have a fair amount of neutron production from D+D -> 3He+n.  The neutron is only 2.45 MeV compared to 14.7 MeV from D-T fusion, but it's far from aneutronic.

I once calculated the amount of lunar soil that has to be processed to get a gram of He-3 and it was in the million tonnes... I don't understand why this pipedream is being pushed over again when there is so much easier way - produce Tritium via irradiation in fast breeders and wait for it to decay - in 14 years a gram of T will produce 1/2 grams of He-3.

Compared to going to the moon this should be piece of cake. But even so I'm at loss why we need to do it, given that this reaction is so much harder and requires 80 times higher power densities than D-T.

Going to the moon for He-3 is an example of a scientific "possibilities" becoming detached from fundamental economics...

What is the EROEI on Lunar He-3? My guess is it is several orders of magnitude worse than corn ethanol.

I once calculated the amount of lunar soil that has to be processed to get a gram of He-3 and it was in the million tonnes...

More like one tonne, I think. If you made the same mistake I did, you assumed helium blowing out of the sun and being caught in moondust would have the same isotopic composition as helium on Earth. I learned better.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

I re-found the source I used for lunar He-3 concentration:

(28 ppm of lunar regolith is helium-4 and 0.01 ppm is helium-3)

0.01 ppm means that roughly 100 mln.grams. (100 tonnes) of soil need to be processed for a gram of He-3. I think I was off in my memories and I was calculating kilograms not grams - this doesn't change that the idea we need to process 100 thousand tonnes of soil to get a kilogram of He-3 is simply too crazy.

IIRC in the same calculation it was claimed we need 30 tonnes of He/year to power the world by He-D fusion, thus we need 3 bln.tonnes of regolyth processed. If the first 5cm. of regolyth is processed, this translates (at 2.8 g/cm^3) to a bit more than 21.4 thousand square kilometers of Moon surface for 30 tonnes of He a year. How possible would this be?

[edited because I noticed I was off 3 decimal digits in my original calculations]

to process 100 thousand tonnes of soil to get a kilogram of He-3 is simply too crazy.

The craziness is not there, it's in not acknowledging that no-one knows how to use the stuff as fuel.

IIRC in the same calculation it was claimed we need 30 tonnes of He/year to power the world by He-D fusion

I'm not sure exactly what 3-He enthusiasts have in mind for it, but I seem to recall two 3-He nuclei can do this,

2 (3-He)        --->    2 (1-H)     +   4-He
6.0320586               2.01565008      4.0026032

where the numbers are molar masses in grams. Mass reduction 0.01380532 g/mol, 0.00228866 grams per left-side gram, so energy yield 205.694 GJ per left-side gram. If that would sustain itself, it would make regolith that can yield 0.01 ppm 3-He about as good as the tarsands.

How shall the car gain nuclear cachet?

I'm not sure exactly what 3-He enthusiasts have in mind for it

3He + 2H -> 4He + 1H + .02 AMU as energy

They'll also get some neutrons via 2H + 2H -> 3He + n

They used to say that it was because D-T fusion produces more neutrons that can irradiate the walls of the reactor, but the ITER will use the neutrons to breed more tritium from lithium. So basically, this is a joke. It hasn't really been taken seriously since the `90s, and future plans are on DT fusion, DD fusion, or fast neutron reactors. But the oil drum still likes to poke fun at it, which I find annoying.

They used to say that it was because D-T fusion produces more neutrons that can irradiate the walls of the reactor, but the ITER will use the neutrons to breed more tritium from lithium.

But you can't use lithium as the wall of the plasma chamber, and neutrons even at fission energies cause damage to metals.  If the engineering problems of the "first wall" have been solved, it is news to me and you're holding out.  This gives you two options:

  1. Give us the good news and disabuse us pessimists of our mistaken notions, or
  2. Admit that you're BSing us.

All - thanks very much for all the input here. Is it safe to surmise that no one thinks mining 3He on the moon is a good idea?


Did anynone at the conference have the idea it is time to set aside - by legislation - some UK oil and gas fields for the sole purpose of serving as an energy input into all those projects which are needed

(1) to prepare us for ever declining oil production (e.g. rail electrification)

(2) to de-carbonize our economy

What I fear is that when finally the penny drops on understanding the double challenge of peak oil and global warming, all these projects will get stuck in diesel shortages.

Westexas, is it possible to introduce special retention leases for that purpose?


Matt - not too long ago the UK had a state-owned company called British Gas which had a monopoly on domestic gas supplies but also got involved in oil and gas exploration and production. I'm quoting from memory from a time when I didn't pay too much attention to these things. But I believe British Gas played roll as swing producer within the UK gas market - helping to provide for peak winter demand. In particular the large Morecambe Bay gas field was conserved for this purpose.

Upon privatisation, British Gas got broken into a number of pieces. The oil producing assets became Enterprise Oil (since taken over by Shell). Most of the gas producing assets went to BG Group - who are fast becoming a major force in the international oil industry (see Tupi). The Morecambe gas field went with Centrica - who are the utility that took over the domestic gas sales business.

There followed the liberalisation of the UK gas market with many gas producers selling gas to a number of utilities. The age of energy efficiency (hahahahhahha) was born.

This climaxed in the UK exporting gas for a number of years which hastened the day that we needed to import gas which was 2004. By 2020 we will need to import about 80% of our gas.

The moral of the story is that the UK is set on a course of liberal free markets that can conjure energy out of nothing. Profit and growth is all that matters - and to be candid I do my best to sample the gravy while it is there.

The dependence of the UK upon imported energy is growing rapidly with every year that passes. The notion that one day we may not have sufficient energy to build alternative infrastructure is alien to the "minds" of those that rule us.

To be a bit more serious. We will have enough energy to expand renewables and it will come down to prioritisation of resources which may mean rationing. You have to assume that agriculture will be top of the priority pile and I'd imagine that the primary energy industries may come next.

You have to assume that agriculture will be top of the priority pile and I'd imagine that the primary energy industries may come next.

Ok. But it's still a worry. And that's why it should be made clear to all that if you have a production decline of, say, 30% by 2020 the available fuel for discretionary gas guzzling in the cities will decline by much more than 30% because there are so many much more important uses for fuels which we have to keep at current or even increasing levels (sustainable energy projects) for as long as possible. We'll have MPs coming under political pressure from constituents to provide sufficient quotas on one hand but clashing with National or State requirements on the other hand.

It is vital that the electorate be educated to understand these future conflicts.

When you do such calcs, you'll quickly find that no hybrid cars, alternative fuels or engine technologies can fill that gap. In the Australian context I have estimated that Capital city motorists will have only 1/5th of current fuel supplies by 2020, assuming the above 30%. That requires a transport system which is a magnitude more efficient than private cars. It can only be electric rail (or trolley buses in hilly areas)


care to share you fag packet scribblings with us -I'm interested to see how you got the 1/5 figure. Also any views on air-travel which I am guessing is even more likely to suffer unless Richard Branson gets to use his new alternative bio-fuel, I don't know if you saw that on TV, it was something like 'Virgin on Nuts'...


Euan ... The "Green Energy Institute" to which you refer is just another academic type initiative involving Abd'n and the Robert Gordon Universities funded in part by EU money. Nothing to get overly excited about.

The issue for Scotland remains a lack of interest from private investors in getting involved in developing new energy technologies. Everyone thinks it's a great idea but few are prepared to put their hands in their pockets to make it happen. Our financial institutions in particular are not prepared to play unless they can see an almost immediate return.. So - windfarms OK - developing technology not OK.

There's also the issue of real economic gain. You and others get excited about the BP P'Head project. I don't because the gain will be limited. Why? Because the two most important chunks of technology (the H2 burning turbine & the gas reformer) were coming from a US and Norwegian company respectively. Scotland might have got the plumbing and painting/decorating jobs but the real value adding stuff would go elsewhere.

I guess I see things from a different angle.

I tend to separate the social and economic issues from the energy security issue. If we do not have sufficient affordable energy then our society and economy are well and truly screwed. Hence securing energy supplies, sufficient for our needs should be the top priority. If it means importing part of the infrastructure so be it.

When N Sea oil got going we didn't hang around waiting for a Scotsman to develop a new way of drilling wells - we imported rotary drilling technology from the USA - and Baker Hughes still have a massive operation in Aberdeen providing much employment. If you want a share of the profits you buy their stock. And the government gets their share of a number of different taxes.

I despair at the failure of the Miller - Boddam project for many reasons. BP claimed it was uneconomic - no doubt using $30 / bbl - and I don't know what cost / gain would be attached to the CO2 buried. But that project struck me as beautifully elegant large scale thinking. I think we were talking about a few hundred million in state grant aid to make the project fly - and this is a government that just committed the best part of 100 billion to a bank.

The real economic gain comes from the 40 million additional barrels of oil from Miller - that's worth $4 billion at $100 per barrel - and the employment from extending the fields life by 15 years. I imagine the engineering works are small beer compared to that. But admittedly this is all small beer compared to a single Rock.

Har Har, very funny:

"He went on to explain that Planet Earth is short of 3He which is more abundant on The Moon. Sustainability of the human race lay at the core of this question"

Why in the world would we bother fusing helium when its way, way easier to fuse deuterium, which already exists in abundance in seawater? As does uranium, which can be extracted using a fabric-adsorbent for use in fast neutron reactors. I think the oil drum deserves better than doom & gloom shenanegans.

Do I take it from this report there was no mention of worldwide PO at the conference?

Peter Vis acknowledged that indigenous primary energy production within the EU will fall and that we will become more heavily reliant upon energy imports. It seems to be beyond politicians and civil servants however, to make that leap and to extrapolate the EU experience of decline to the rest of the World.

In the discussion session I made the point about peak oil, peak gas and then peak coal all looming on the horizon and that we need to focus greatly on efficiency measures for energy production and consumption. Someone later commented that I was unduly pessimistic.

Fascinating as his boss is now a Peak Oiler.

Highlighting the potential gravity of the problem, Piebalgs noted that the oil crisis of the 1970s presented a discrepancy between oil supply and demand of only 5%, but that in a post-peak oil scenario, the gap between supply capacity and demand could widen by 4% annually, leading to a 20% gap within five years.

There comes a point where you have to stop assuming these folks don't know (well I do...) and start to assume they do know but are intentionally "economical with the truth" most of the time.

We just had elections yesterday here in Hamburg and the result is a possible local Green-conservative coalition government, the first in Germany, as an experimental trial. Apparently the Greens won't accept such a huge new coal power station but more smaller NG with imports from Russia, to reduce CO2 while we transition to renewables and drop out of nuclear. Of course the conservatives are nervous of dependence on Russia. From what I have learned here recently I should like very much to see the calculations for the total planning for the next decade or so with their presumptions. How many GW does Hamburg use now, from what sources and what mix is planned in what time period?

How do you run a large city on renewables alone if that is a long term serious plan? If people want to do that they will have to get used to candlelight nights and getting rid of their electronics and fridges. The more I stay here at TOD the more aware I become of all the potential difficulties, seasonal, load, pollution, halflives, battery storage,etc. It is very obvious in the politics also directly nowadays (see mad Ken Livingston) and not just on TOD, etc. The wife and I voted for the Left (ex commies) by the way(first time they ever were present in Hamburg parliament), as a sort of protst against the coziness of the standing parties with industry and general corruption. This five party system(CDU, SPD, FDP, Greens, Linke) will really tear Germany apart in the next few years. It should be lots of fun to watch. I hope the British have some interesting experiments due to PO/GW in politics as well (not BNP I hope, maybe more greens or leftist parties, not right of tories Labour party).

Oh why oh hasn't the politically correct energy strategy not produced the results they hoped for after all these years?

Maybe because that strategy was based on hope and rhetoric and not on science, engineering, and good business sense.

What's the old line about insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? EU policies are so counterproductive that one wonders if some are not always working to the best interests of the EU citizens.

As to 3He, too many prefer dreaming to doing the hard work necessary to keep the lights on. It can have no conceivable relationship to political decisions today. Even R&D funding has to focus on the underlying physics rather than engineering development (which is vastly premature).

Oh why oh hasn't the politically correct energy strategy not produced the results they hoped for after all these years?

Maybe because that strategy was based on hope and rhetoric and not on science, engineering, and good business sense.

Yes, hoping that political correctness will produce sound engineering results. A major part of this problem is that speaking out against it means demonisation. Universities, politicians and corporations are all obsessed now with doing what is popular and not what is right.

I'm working up to a very major rant on this subject that will focus on energy efficiency.

I'll be glad to read it when you get your rant written up.

I always thought that political parties are funny, you take them whole, a total ideology, the greens are so new age, alternate energy, open borders, etc.

I mean I like to take a hodgepodge of political policies that appear in lots of different parties. Life ain't like that. Left and right with stereotypical developed policies are political parties. Any politican who thought from moment to moment according to practical necessities would never be elected because political activists are always motivated by hardline ideological drives so a nonideological independent thinker could not get electedunless like Schwarzenegger, he just cameout of theblue on a referendum or like Bloomberg he jumped on the ticket wtih a billion dollar fortune. Kings are similar. Nixon going to China is the exception. You have to build up a lot of political capital to get a little out of your skin in politics. Only in a war situation or a state emergncy will real "technocrat" soltuions be feasible. Then like after 911 nobody will question what the prez says. This is dangerous. Strange that when politics reigns then nothing sensible gets done and when emergency reigns then maybemadness gets done.

"Universities, politicians and corporations are all obsessed now with doing what is popular and not what is right."

This isn't quite true, Universities do what they get can get the funding to do. In the 1970s there was a great wave energy department led by Stephen Salter at the University of Edinburgh. It was effectively cancelled after a government comittee meeting of major energy players (i.e. oil and gas men and the politicions of the day) from which he was excluded at the last minute. Following this the wave energy funding dried up. They managed to get around this slightly by producing papers such as "Bending moments in long spines" since politicions didn't know what long spines were and so on (it was really a long chain of wavemakers). We once had the biggest wave tank in Europe here in Edinburgh but the forethinking government thought a branch of tesco was a more economically advantageous use of the site.

Don't blame the Universities, you can't research without money.

Crobar - I'm not necessarily blaming the Universities but the PC system they are now locked into. Right now I am on a mission to question carbon sequestration as a sensible response to energy decline and climate change - more on that later. However, this is the latest bandwagon and speaking out against it results in irrational responses from certain folks - even though it is possible to promote much more sound alternatives.

One of my sons pointed out that right now the universities are competing to attract students as students equal money - and they are therefore anxious to avoid courting controversy and potential bad press that may affect recruitment - maybe, maybe not.

Political correctness is a cancer eating the heart out of our society. It is resulting in stereotyping and suppression of free thinking and free speech - IMHO.

I think your all arguing about the same thing and Euan's last comment hits the nail on the head. Competition amongst students is gradually being eliminated by a long and progressive reduction in the quality of the examination system. It was anounced a week or so ago that aural tests in language exams are to be abolished because they are too stressful. Its so ridiculous (the political correctness Euan is referring to) its funny. Competition for funding (via student numbers)also works against standards, since its quantity not quality that equals money and thus survival.
The government's target to get 50% of students to university was another preposterous idea. It should be based on academic ability. The government has also hinted at forcing some of our elite universities to take a proportion of students from poor backgrounds (more fiddling).
Another problem is science based departments are expensive to fund. I forget the numbers, but Exeter I think recently shut its chemistry labs and physics has also suffered, mathematics is so hard no one with any sense will risk attempting the subject. Its a downward spiral, a bit like a vortex.
I was the last mass intake of engineering apprentices at BREL, Derby. Two years later the training school shut and the engineering courses at the the two Derby colleges DCFE and DCHE were reduced and many of the best engineering lecturers took early retirement. BREL is long gone and what remains of the works is enought to make you weep, unless you like shopping outlets.
Good luck to all those in engineering, whether at the research end or the manufacturing end!

I had a birthday card from my sister (she's sad as well). It said: Due to the current economic climate, the light at the end of the tunnel has been -----Swiched Off.

I have a slightly different opinion. Behind the sheerly idiotic steps which EU insists to call "energy strategy" there are powerful vested interests. Let me identify some:
1) Financial groups eager to break away and privatize big (usually state run) utility companies, for a fraction of their real value
2) Intermediary companies profiting from hedging and consulting businesses flourishing in the complex and constantly changing environment of deregulation, carbon trading, mandates, ROCs, whatever-they-think-of-next.
3) Biofuel and renewable power producers pressing for the next chunk of taxpayers money. The case is especially apparent with biofuels, which enjoy legislative support even after the adverse economic and environmental consequences are already in front of us to see.

Not that the US political environment is that much better, but at least it lacks totally detached regulatory organs like the European Commission. In Europe - I don't think anything meaningful will be done until physical shortages are upon it, and even then it is unknown how adequate will it be.


I never believed any person could be more cynical towards the political elite than me; I have met my match here.
Education, Education, Education. Elimination of mixed sex wards in hospitals, imigration control, tough on crime bla bla bla.
Words words and more words, why should a sensible energy policy be expected? The expression "fiddling while Rome burns" comes to mind!

The uk and biofuels, consider this one:
The entire uk land area is about 250,000 square km. Oil seed rape yields 2.5 tonne per hectare. The uk uses 70 million tonnes of oil per year for transport, (approx 50 million gallons a day, half of which is consumed by private cars). Do the sums and you will see if we cover every square mm of the uk with rape seed, only 63 million tonne could be produced annually. I have been generous here and assumed no energy input to produce the crop.

Electric vehicles:
We would need 109 GW or 90 Sizewell B nuclear power stations to support the above. Even if we improve vehicle efficiency 3 fold the we need 30 SB's.

I think the scale of the problem we could be facing is huge. We have built our economies on progressively available cheap energy, mostly before we had to support a huge service industry based on the creation of regulations an a second to enforce them. The days of get on and do it are long past (we now argue about method statements, risk assessments, permits to work, safe working practices etc etc). The paper industry is itself very energy consuming yet governments keep creating the need to produce tonnes of paper work.

I must spend on average 2 hours a week sitting through safety inductions and answering a test at the end an 11 year old could have a good attempt at. My firm charges £70.00 plus an hour and I am just one person of thousands that are exposed to this routine and the cost.

Even if we assume limit less resources, money is the only known reward humans respond to. If that runs short, how will we build our power stations unless we can get people to work for food and shelter (the government would stop this happening anyway because it would bypass the taxation system). The goverment is assuming the private sector will cough up. Just as Virgin did for Northern Rock! Human beings are human nature is a major problem viz procrastination, somebody else will sort it, not my money not my problem. The government conveniently severed itself from all responsibily to its citizens when privitisation of the utilities took place. It can now blame the private sector for all ills. It bails out a bank, underwriting a £100 billion, yet reasures us it won't use taxpayers money to build power stations. Are politions smarter than yeast?

Sorry for the rant.

The uk uses 70 million tonnes of oil per year for transport, (approx 50 million gallons a day, half of which is consumed by private cars).... We would need 109 GW or 90 Sizewell B nuclear power stations to support the above. Even if we improve vehicle efficiency 3 fold the we need 30 SB's.

Assuming 35 MPG average economy and 250 Wh/mile for equivalent electric vehicles, 50 million gallons/day corresponds to 1750 million vehicle-miles/day or 525 million kWh/day.  This is an average power of just 22 GW, requiring a mere 14 Gen III reactors.

The future of ground transport may not be nuclear, but it is electric.

Turns out that today's bottleneck in new nuclear construction (other than experienced personnel) is in forgings for the reactor vessel. The one place that can make them today is Japan Steel Works (JSW).

One of their executives gave a speech where he claimed their capacity should be about 12 GW a year by 2010. That's not enough.

Of course, competitors could spring up in free market economies within a couple of years to increase capacity above that. I'm thinking that may be in the works at Barberton, Ohio.


I thought some one would be sad enough to check my figures, but may be I should have it done first but it was late last night and I could not be bothered but here is my second go. Transport in the uk uses nearer 60 million barrels a day than 70, but this does not radically change the point I was trying to make.

The figures on consumption are what I found a year or two back from a uk energy consumtion data base, but at an average of 35 mpg and 7000 miles a year for 30 million cars registered in the uk they are not far out. I think air travel accounted for about 17 million gallons a day and road haulage the remainder. But again exact figures are not important.

so for cars, using your value of 35mpg (4.54 litres/gal)and the 2005 figure for average uk car annual mileage of approximately 7000 miles, we consume 16.4 million gallons a day. (this is well below the 25 million or so values I have found quoted).

At roughly 10kwhr per litre (45 mJ/kg is a good approximation for liquid fuels)this gives 16400000*4.54*10=750 million kWhr/day. This equates to a continuous power consumption of 30GW, so using my original figure of 50 million gal/day gives 97 GW. As we write these notes, oil supply is in question and there are no production vehicles based on electric technology. IC engine based vehicles can be made from two very common metals, iron and aluminium, both of which can be recycled (admittedly the paint protection for the steel cannot). Electric vehicles need more exotic materials, I'm not sure how this affects their prospects in terms of cost and scalability.

250 Whr/mile at 60 mph (60 mph is a figure I pulled out of the air as an acceptable crusing speed) is 15kW. Is 15 kW enough to move any sizable and practical vehicle through the air at 60mph, if it is, then for 30 million cars this equates to 18GW, (not far off your figure above). I know it can be achieved, but I am talking about making a practical vehicle not a science project. Trains and trams are clear winners in all aspects if we end up with electric transport. Aeroplanes are the obvious loosers.

I'm not sure how electric road transport will play out. I cannot see road freight being powered by battery. Nuclear seems to be the suggested primary energy source with the best hopes, though I have no solid knowledge to base my opinion on, only what is published. Again the nuclear/renewable debate is so polarised it is difficult to know what or who to believe.

They could probably both work if our labour,energy and material resources were redirected to constructive work rather that jobs just created to administer the country's regulations and welfare. I think building 14 reactors will take a long time together with all the required infrastructure. As a nation, I think we have lost the ability to get things done. I repeat the problem is Regulations and the fact we have created an economy of non productive employment which will takes years to reverse, if it is even possible. Clever People want clean office jobs in finance an law these days. Engineering is just not fashionable and does not pay well. Money talks, but it will not replace energy and food. At what point this will become apparent I have no idea.

Partypooper - well argued rants and oodles of cynicism are welcome here.

AS EP points out, electric transportation is significantly more energy efficient than anything else. With batteries around 90% efficient and electric motors around 80% efficient you get many more bangs for your buck unit of energy in an electric car.

Bio fuels are grotesque. Setting aside all the well known ills - land use, soil degradation, low eroei, food to fuel - the minute you put ethanol or diesel into an ICE engine you are wasting another 60% on top of all the other waste. This is like taking 100 tonnes of corn to africa and setting fire to 60 tonnes of it in front of starving millions.

The politicians and civil servants running the EU need to be held to account. And as for Richard Branson - Virgin Vandal!


Do my arguments,rants and cynicism fall it that catagory?

I am not claiming EP is incorrect, infact I approached his argument from a different angle using sensible figures and got 18 GW as opposed to the fossil fuel use of 90 or so GW.

Trains and trams are so suited to electrification the mind boggles as to why diesel traction is so widely used (you and I both know the real answer to this). Tram cars were prevelent in cities in the early part of the 20th century and like the railways they were dismantled (thats foresight for you). I think for convensional road transport, paticularly freight, electrification will mean a radical rethink on how much we move around this way. The energy density of batteries is poor though I understand why efficiencies are high (I work in the power electronics industry). I was involved in designing battery traction equipment for use in the UK coal mines because it was clean (Margaret Thatcher put an end to that particular career of mine!). Diesel exhaust had to be scrubbed and was still acrid after treatment.
Low energy density and low rates of "refuelling" are a problem that may never match the IC engine. Refuelling a diesel tank can be done at 11 MW ish (10 gallons in a couple of minutes), batteries can get nowhere near this.

My argument (from an economic not energy view point) for the IC engine is not efficiency, though diesel engines approach 40% (but not in conjested traffic) but cheapness of construction from the two most common metals in the Earth's crust. Also we have the infrastructure that has taken 100 years or more to build that will not work with electric transport. When oil runs short biofuels will not support the IC engine's thirst, I fully agree. Unfortunately we are run by economics not energy availability considerations. This will soon have to change I think (repeated from above, though in different words).

My "fag packet" caculation was to illustrate in my opinion biofuels are a non starter whether coppice willow for power stations or rape seed for diesel. The sums imediately illustrate this as shown in my post above.
We have a major problem on our hands and there is no answer to date. Cost, scalability, labour resource, ability to hold society together during any transition, availability of raw materials (not in absolute quantity but in volume flow rates required and cost) are just a few issues that cross my mind.

IK Brunel and Thomas Edison worked wonders because they had a willing and abundant labour force and could con the establishments out of large sums of money (I mean raise capital due to their charisma). You worked or starved in those days, so most chose the latter. Brunel certainly did not like killing people, but he did have the odd disaster and without the HSE et al on his back. I also read the story of Thomas Edison and he seemed resonably respectful to his workforce (unless your name was Nikola Tesla).

Refuelling a diesel tank can be done at 11 MW ish (10 gallons in a couple of minutes), batteries can get nowhere near this.

Maybe close enough; Mitsubishi claims 20-25 minutes for the iMIEV.

Welding cable can handle a thousand amperes or more; if the batteries are the limit, AltairNano has shown that a full charge can be obtained in 6 minutes with their chemistry.  That's more than good enough for me.

The average uk home has a 100A fuse, thats 24 kW. There is no electrical infrastructure to support this sort of power density. 1000 amp welding cables are rather large! I have an Oxford oil cooled welder rated at 140 amps. 25 mm sq. cables are just about large enough. As I keep saying, its cost and material avaiability. Like the post below about Zinc. Do the sums, how much spare zinc is there? the density of zinc is 8000kg/m cube. I make no money from these industries, I just do some simple sums. There is no replacenment for oil in terms of cost, convenience, energy tranferability and energy density etc.
When oil runs short we will have pain!

The average uk home has a 100A fuse, thats 24 kW.

You may not have noticed this, but you can't fuel the average combustion-engine car at home at all (NGV's excepted, where gas is available).  The charging station with the 4-0 gauge cables is like the filling station with the diesel pumps, except that you'd not necessarily need to use it unless you're driving a lot.


Unfortunately I have noticed since I visit the petrol (Diesel) station too often. My carbon footprint is not good. I would be interested to know your speciality since you are so knowlegable. I was so stupid for thinking the energy density of hydrodcarbons was unique. I wonder why VW have just developed a new common rail diesel when they should be developing the battery car and paying for those 11 MW filling stations. What will be the voltage? a 400kV connection from the grid?

I thought you were talking about the electric capacity to the average UK home; when did the subject change?

24 kW would bring the Li-ion tzero to full charge in about 2.5 hours, or the Mitsubishi IMIEV in less than an hour.  If you had a circuit at 240 V 15 A, those figures would be more like 17 hours and 5.5 hours.  If you didn't need to charge any faster than that, you could do it all at home; on the road, you'd stop at high-power charging stations.  Can you stop evading long enough to tell me where the problem is?

50 litres of diesel is 500 kWhr of gross energy, 40% of which can be converted to mechanical energy in an automotive (or agricultural)diesel operating at mid power range giving 200 kWhr of useful work (50% for large diesel engines operating at constant load at optimum efficiency) Fifty litres takes up 0.05 m cube (370 mm side cube)of space and weighs 40 kg and can be contained in a simple sheet steel tank (low cost and establised infrastructure to support it). And farms do have diesel storage, its a cheap steel or plastic tank.

24kW in 2.5 hour is 60kWhr. If you claim an electric traction battery has a charge/discharge cycle efficiency of 90% (I havn't a clue on this) and an electric motor efficiency of 95% (doubtful, see below) and a power electronic efficiency of 95% then you have 48kWhr to do useful work. (you can tell me the size and weight of these batteries to which you refer)

The efficiency of an industrial 15 kW motor is typically about 90% (may reach 92%). This occurs when fixed losses equal variable losses (same for power transformers). An electric motor operating at variable load will operate between zero efficiency and maximum efficiency (same for an IC engine of course). Some motors reach maximum efficiency at around 75% of full load, but this need not be the case, it is based on economic copper and iron use. Efficiency increase with machine size because, for a given flux and current density, for a transformer kVA is proportional to the fourth power of linear dimensions, whereas loss is proportional to the third, ie volume. For a motor a similar idea applies, though torque and hence power is proportional to the volume of the rotor. The fact is less copper is required to generate a given mmf and emf, so copper losses go down in proportion with size increase.

So the maximum efficiency of an electric vehicle will not always be high, particularly under high acceleration at low speed, say town stop start. The advantage is, I accept, energy recovery during braking and zero power use at standstill (accept for a heater in winter and lights). This is where electric vehicles win hands down on IC engines and this is well understood, hence the enthusiasm for hybrids.

Lorries operate on long constant speed journeys, so hybrid technology has little advantage under these conditions, except it may allow the engine to operate near peak efficiency more of the time.

This discussion could go on forever, and at the end of it it will make no difference to what happens. My guess is electric vehicles will never have the range and convenience of IC engine vehicles. The petrolium infrastructure has built up over a 100 years or more. The electrical infrastructure is not in place to cater for the extra load (I accept it could be, but its down to getting our skates on and getting some one to invest before its too late).

Before you take little bits from my comments that suit you, look at what I'm saying in its full context and you will see I am trying to have a sensible discussion. The technology you are quoting is not widely available to the consumer. Even hybrid technology is low volume and India and China are building ICE cars in huge volumes. What can be achieved under development conditions and what will be affordable to the consumer are two different things. I repeat I have no compassion to ICE's, I just admire there oustanding durability and low cost, yes they have low efficiency, but so do most prime movers, Even ccgt only achieve 60% (ish). Electric vehicles charged from FF derived electricity only have a marginal advantage. The problems we face are time cost, burden of regulations etc. None of these were a problem a 150 years ago when we where effectively starting from scratch.

Despite battery technology claims, technology has never lived up to expectations. NiMh were supposed to be the answer to NiCd, they are still the weakness in terms of portable tools, they are expensive and have short life (just as Nicd did). The humble lead acid has all the text book weaknesses under the sun, but it is still probably the most widely used battery in the world, for both storage and traction. The reason is cost and it has a good life if kept charged properly.

Yes, yes, we agree that diesel fuel has more energy per weight and per volume than batteries (though this is CONSIDERABLY reduced when the mandatory weight and bulk of the engine is included).

But you went all that distance (2.5 screens worth) and didn't seem to arrive at a conclusion.  You failed to:

  1. Compare the costs and emissions of liquid fuel to batteries.
  2. Compare the benefits of being able to "refuel" from an electric outlet anywhere to the fueling speed of liquids (only really relevant if you're waiting for it instead of doing something else).
  3. Consider that there are many different styles of use, and that different technologies may have different niches.

I think you're missing a few very crucial points.  If the standard vehicle had the characteristics of e.g. a Tesla Roadster, then any service station or rest area with electricity could be a charging point.  Pull off the freeway to use the loo and stretch your legs, and plug in; fifteen minutes later, the batteries could be ready to go another 200 miles.  There are no issues involving tanks or flammable liquids, so these charging stations can be almost anywhere.  Noise and air pollution are nearly eliminated.  And unless you're on a long trip, you don't have to plug in anywhere except at home.  Even if these don't tip the scales for all users, they will make the electric car superior for many.  The higher the price of oil, the bigger that group will be.

I'm going to let you address any relevant details on the balances of merits, but unless you've got something really new to say I think I'm done here.

1) Unfortunately the cost of emissions has been zero. We have used the atmosphere as a free dumping ground. We may pay for it later, but to date we haven't

2)There is such an abundance of filling stations in the uk this has no relevance to most people I know.

3) I agree

4) You can't covenienly ignore the weight of the battery and traction motor on an electric vehicle. I expect this will exceed the engine weight by quite some bit.

There is no conclusion to be drawn. What will happen will happen or not as the case may be. The covenience of the IC engine vehicle will not be matched by battery traction. If you think this is so, thats your opinion, mine differs.

Batteries use exotic metals viz nickel, lithium etc which are expensive. IC engines can be made from iron/carbon and aluminium/silicon . These are very abundant elements. Its cost (we have had it too good if you like).

For heavy haulage road transport, zinc-air seems like a good match - very high power to weight as you don't carry oxygen around with you, and in an industrial context you can swap out batteries to refuel.
Alternatively you can feed in zinc in a slurry, and pump it out when it is oxidised.

As for air transport, hmm, that's a toughie!

Euan, thank you for reporting and sharing.

I wonder how many of the top EU politicians are aware of (as I see it) that EU is now gradually sliding into a double energy squeeze caused by declining oil and nat gas extraction from the North Sea.
Ref the diagrams in the post linked below;

Gradually EU will find itself in fiercer competition with other big world consumers about (soon and most probably) declining global oil supplies and an aware minded and increasingly dominant Russian nat gas exporter.

The recent Academy award winning movie with the title “There will be blood” could in the near future take on a new and different meaning.


Do you recommend the movie?


I have not seen the movie "There will be blood", but from the serious reviews I have read I have decided to watch it when the opportunity arises. From what I have read I expect some interesting metaphors.
The movie is also about oil.