Andris Piebalgs' Blog

Andris Piebalgs is the European Energy Commissioner with responsibility for shaping European Union (EU) energy policy. These policies may then be adopted by the European Parliament and will effectively shape Europe's energy future.

Mr Piebalgs has an informative web site where he has newly installed a blog inviting comments on EU energy policy.

I would like to invite all my fellow bloggers and all citizens to contribute your ideas.

Andris, I would like to thank you for providing us bloggers with this wonderful opportunity to relay our ideas and opinions directly into the heart of the European Parliament. But beware, not all ideas and opinions are born equal.

There's more under the fold.....

I have left a lengthy comment trying to emphasise the importance of energy efficiency:

Andris Piebalgs said:

“I would like 2008 to be the European year of Energy Efficiency. I’m proposing to table measures to increase energy efficiency in our buildings, in our energy devices, in the way we consume energy. What are your ideas?”

To which I replied:

I agree whole heartedly with this but need to draw attention to one glaring omission. The most important energy efficiency measure to consider is the efficiency of energy gathering / energy production systems. This must lie at the very heart of EU energy policy IMHO. And once this idea is taken on board then we will be on the road to our salvation.

The policy page says this:

Our sustainable future largely depends on increased use of renewable energies. The European Commission has proposed and the European Council has endorsed an overall binding 20% renewable energy target and a binding minimum target of 10% for transport biofuels for the EU by 2020. That means that in 2020 one fifth of the energy and one tenth of all transport fuels consumed in the EU will have to come from renewable energy sources.

My immediate reaction to this is one of unreserved endorsement combined with disbelief with respect to the biofuels targets. Until a way is found to grow temperate latitude biofuels with eroei over 7 that do not threaten our food supplies then my opinion is that further development of biofuels should be abandoned until such time. Internal combustion engines are at best 40% efficient. Thus taking bio ethanol with eroei of 1.5 and burning it in this way is tantamount to simply burning food piles for no beneficial reason.

This also caught my eye:

Technology will play a central role in achieving the targets of the new Energy Policy for Europe. For this reason the Commission will annually invest approximately €1 billion between 2007 and 2013 in energy technology research and innovation. Technology must help to lower the costs of renewable energy, increase the efficient use of energy and ensure that European industry is at the global forefront. The Commission will therefore prepare the first European Strategic Energy Technology Plan in 2007.

That is some €7 billion. Let us hope the money is spent wisely. I would feel inclined to replace "lower the cost of renewable energy" with "improve and prioritise the efficiency of renewable energies" - and then we will be on the right track.

And so if you were given an opportunity to give advice to the EU Energy Commissioner, what would you say? Post comments for discussion here or visit Andris Piebalgs' blog to tell him directly what you think. Remember this will be a rolling debate that will take place over many months that may hopefully culminate in the building of a trans European HVDC grid and electrification of all our transportation.

Let me join Euan welcoming Andris Piebalgs to the blogsphere.

I hope this initiative helps bringing to the Energy Commission the sense of urgency needed to properly address the current energy crisis triggered by the depletion of fossil fuels.

The United States are already diving into serious economic trouble, so far Europe has been shielded by a strong currency that has kept energy imports relatively affordable. This situation will not last forever, we must make haste.

TheOilDrum:Europe has had (and will certainly continue to have) its part on the European Construction, bringing together concerned Europeans on the matters of Energy and the Future in general. May this new blog have a similar role and bring closer EU leaders and its citizens.

In my opinion, the first and foremost card we have to play is conservation. This helps in so may ways, its hard even to list all the benefits in a small comment.

I would like to buy a car that does 100 mpg and costs no more than 5000 euro, excl tax.

The technology is available, all it takes is to create a market. Although oil is currently 67 Euro / barrel, this is not enough to convince people and carmakers that this is the way to go.

My proposal would be to increase the gas-tax and lower the income tax. That way, people can choose and car manufacturers are encouraged to build such a fuel-efficient car.

This is going to be politically difficult. Gas is about 0.50 euro per liter, but you pay 1.50 at the pump. tax would have to increase by 0.50 euro (=50% extra) in order to reduce significantly gas usage. Or at least stop growing.

And no subsidies please. Please stop the biodiesel craze. If we would substitute 5% of our transportation fuel with biodiesel, we would have to replace 20-40% of our agricultural land-use for this. This is nonsense.

I am an American, but I attempt to stay up to date on European developments in energy and technology.
I would ask of Commissioner Piebalg:
Please consider The Club of Rome Initiative:

This is the most forward thinking large scale renewable initiative available to not only assure a modern future for Europeans, but to assist in bringing the people of North Africa and the Middle East into a modern age of greater prosperity and more humane international relations.

The American (North and South) could create a similiar North American/South American integrated renewable initiative, but to this point has shown no willingness to think in terms of an integrated and potentially prosperous future for the new world. We must hope that the Europeans and North Africa will lead the world by example. Thank you.


The uncomfortable truth appears to be that of all the developed powers Europe is the most committed to solving PO and GW. Other countries such as US, Canada and Australia talk big but do little. Perhaps if Europe had more coal and tar sands they would weaken their resolve, with or without Piebalgs. In Australia's case there is a rush to embrace tree planting offsets banned by the EU with the same kind of flakey enthusiasm reserved for corn ethanol in US.

I also suspect Europe will be the first to carbon tax goods made in China if there is no emissions control in that country. I say keep up the good work.

Comment posted, although looking at the words and tone used, I'd suggest Andris is a typical career politician that will do the minimum possible to serve out his term. I see no great spark that would mark him out as being anything more - all plans and dictating, no action.

About Andris Piebalgs:

I was born in Valmiera (Latvia) on 17th September 1957, and in 1980 I obtained my degree in Physics from University of Latvia. During the eight years time after my university studies I worked as a teacher, later Headmaster of the 1st Secondary School of Valmiera. My career in the education system continued when I started to work as Director of the Department in the Ministry of Education of Latvia.

I am married and have three children.

He is exactly 1 month , 2 days older than I and has 50% more children. Born exactly 54 years and 3 months before the date of global peak oil production he may well be equally concerned about his and his family's future. A Latvian, Physicist, School Teacher - holding Europe's energy destiny in his hands - may well be seeking expert opinion from the broad European academic, industrial and commercial world that is the readership of TOD.

Whilst I am naturally deeply cynical, in this instance we need to give this initiative every chance of success. At the very least, all the technical advice and expert opinion that will now be offered to the EU Commission will be there for all to see - so long as they manage to get through their moderating backlog (the comment I posted Saturday a.m. was no. 23) - and for us to discuss.

Lets hope moderation doesn't turn into censorship!

Whilst I am naturally deeply cynical...

I've had to deal with EU bureaucrats before, so let's just say my cynicism reaches the molten core of the planet. Extremely political and thus anyone you see in a position of power is adept at maintaining altitude on the greasy pole. Facts and evidence tend to come somewhere lower in importance than the catering budget.

Still, hope for the best and expect the worst.

Svieks, Piebalgs Kungs

Follow up to Davidyson comment from previous thread on
syncrude EROEI:
1 barrel of crude oil = 5.8 MBtu
1 cubic feet of natural gas = 1020 Btu
1400 cubic feet of natural gas = 1.43 MBtu
5.8:1.43 gives 4.1:1 EROEI (with only natgas input)
Energy Efficiency and Climate Change

Syncrude did not meet its target for energy efficiency in 2004. Performance was 1.35 million
BTUs per barrel of oil produced versus the target of 1.26. Contributing factors included
higher than expected natural gas consumption at the Aurora mine due to the start-up of
Auroras second production train, lower than planned bitumen recovery and high energy
consumption caused by unplanned outages of major production equipment.

Mr Troll, if correct, your analysis is helpful. Very narrow bound gives a maximum eroei that also demonstrates exposure to resiliance. Taking into account embedded energy in infrastructure and transportation costs etc may reduce the 4.1 significantly?

This chart I posted the other day shows the utter futility of pursuing these low eroei energy sources - tar sands and biofuels - since we are simply pissing away vast amounts of energy in pursuit of that receding horizon.

These activities are being pursued to extend the life of our ICE based auto fleet - and here in lies the real danger. Every year that passes is one year less to start replacing this fleet with electric vehicles.

Syncrude and biofuels are merely sticking plasters on a ruptured aorta.

Power generation from coal generated by mine mouth power plants is more efficient in terms of BTU's per euro than oil, natural gas, or syncrude. Much of the world is inhibited by carbon taxes and lack of domestic coal from realizing the tremendous monetary advantages of having and using coal. There is a major problem in switching to electric cars. You might cause brown outs, black outs, rolling blackouts, days without electricity etc. There are problems in growth areas with existing electrical infrastructure becoming insufficient and a need to put more power producing facilities online while building more transmission lines. Like the previous call for biodiesel, ethanol, and cellulosic ethanol; the switch to electric cars is lacks forsight. You simply do not have the infrastructre to sustain a major switch in many parts of the world. One may see the current inefficiency of syncrude in EROEI compared to light onshore crude and new conventional gas fields, yet the advantage of syncrude is expected to shift in time as the older oil fields give out, smaller new fields give out, and shipyards cannot build enough semi-subs or floaters. The FSPO demand is expected to put additional cost factors on the EROEI deepwater equation. How many barrels of oil/tons of coal were consumed in manufacturing a floating storage and production tanker?

may i suggest one reads Shai Agassi's blog (

here we see someone who has gathered $200mln in seed capital, full cooporation of the Israel gov't and the Renault Nissan's CEO promise to deliver EV's (Megane sedan) in 3 yrs, with CSP as the electricity source of choice

nowadays he's visiting other countries to follow Israel in an open source / franchise model

as i see it, this approach works well enough to get started; he wouldn't have come this far when the obvious issues like grid capacity couldn't be addressed

the EU would be in for quite a ride when curiousity would lead:

Emil Möller

If I install a solar power system on my house I can run my electric car on that. Thereby reducing strain on public infrastructure. That is my plan, it will work for me, can it be applied in any way to "the big picture".

Great way to illustrate the concept of eroei, but a quibble. Shouldn't the line intersect the x axis at eroei of 1 (break even, all energy used to produce energy), not 0?

Welaka - you are correct. However, the scale on this chart actually runs from 1 to 50. I've checked my spread sheet and there is no easy way to modify the chart.

One more time, since this is the heart of the anti ethanol and bio fuels debate:

EROEI is an invalid except when it compares like to like as in apples to apples. Different fuels have different characteristics. Oil is finite and when it is gone it can not be replaced. Comparing ethanol to oil is an invalid concept. Leaving out the price factor which is critical to resource allocation compounds the error since there is no way to compensate for the reduced energy in ethanol. The fantasy of finding another energy source with the density of oil is unrealistic except in the form of conservation.

Electric cars using the grid are not the solution since electricity, unless produced by wind or nuclear, has a lower EROEI, if you insist on using that fallacious argument, than ethanol. Most American electricity is not nuclear or wind. Electricity use compounds the inefficiency of fossil fuel conversion with a high price and limited availability on a mass scale, since I doubt the grid could handled electric cars when it is overloaded already during peak periods by heater use in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. I use LP gas as a back up to my corn stove. LP has become so expensive that electricity is now very comparable price wise. In the near future more people will be using electricity to heat single rooms with space heaters. The grid will not be able to support this and cars too.

My favorite solution is hybrid cars running on a mixture diesel and biodiesel or gasoline and ethanol. This should work for some time until until the steep drop of post Peak Oil sets in. There is no permanent sustainability solution just as there is no solution that makes our individual lives sustainable and avoids death.

Practical and Rainsong - I believe Chris Vernon once reported that the official UK position was that UK electricity supply would have to grow by 20% to accommodate a total electrification of transportation (I'm not 100% sure of my facts here).

You are right that burning coal in old generating plant at 30% efficiency and using that electricity in transportation makes little sense.

My current thinking is that all this old inefficient plant has to be shut in favor of multi fuel combined heat and power systems that are 90% efficient - using coal base load topped up with urban waste and bio mass.

This is not crazy because I believe the Danes have already done this.

This system will produce 1/3 the CO2 and 3 times the power / energy for the same FF input.

We obviously cannot switch to electrical transportation - but at some point it is absolutely inevitable that we need to start phasing it in.

There is an order of magnitude difference in the electrical demands. depending upon the route taken for "Electrification of Transportation".

The Tube in London is not a major part of the electrical demand of London (certainly not even 10%, doubtful if 1%) but it is a major part of transportation in London.

High enough efficiency of electrified transportation is, in contradiction of practicals dictum, sustainable (if the rest of society can become sustainable).

Best Hopes for High Efficiency Electrified Transportation,


London Underground electricity consumption:

- no. 1 electricity consumer in the London area
- consumption c. 1.1 TWh p.a.
- accounts for c. 3.5% of the electricity consumed in City of London

Climate/energy performance per service unit:

- CO2 emissions/passenger kilometre: 68.9 g/km
- CO2 emissions avg. 0.47kg/passenger journey
- c. 150 Wh/passenger km

accounts for c. 3.5% of the electricity consumed in City of London

I think that should be "in Greater London". Technically the City of London is a tiny bit in the very centre of London, with only 10,000 residents, as opposed to the 7.5 million living in Greater London.

No. City of London.

Not London Metropolitan Area.

I think the problem may be if people charge their vehicles on mass when they get home from work. The peak load would be immense. A break in a major tv programme has brought the grid close to collapse when all the kettles are swiched on at once. The system has evolved with London underground electrification in place and can therefore cope.

That's why you give the utility control over the vehicle chargers, and let people specify if they want to pay the basic rate to have the car recharged just enough to get to work by morning, a higher rate to have it fully charged by morning, or premium price to have it fully charged ASAP.

As regards ethanol, Three things:

1. There are incredible amounts of fertile, arable land lying fallow, or greatly underutilized in the world. ex. One third of the U.S. (780 million acres) is broadly categorized as "grazing" land. Of the approx. 440 million acres that are categorized as "cropland," only 246 million acres are actually row-cropped. We pay farmers NOT to farm 36 million acres of that land that is categorized as "cropland."

President Lula estimates that Brazil has about 150 Million acres of fertile land lying fallow. Just imagine the rest of S America, and Africa.

2. With the amount of process heat that is being derived, more, and more, from the feedstocks the EROEI is "Exploding" for ethanol.

3. Due to the new engines' ability to harness the much greater OCTANE of ethanol the biofuel will be able to replace gasoline on a one to one basis.

Oh, one Other thing: With biofuels' ability to plow the CO2 produced back into the ground via biochar, and other means, acidic soils in the Americas, and Africa can be made fertile for the first time.

We're not in nearly as bad a shape as some would think, I believe.

One more time, since this is the heart of the anti ethanol and bio fuels debate

Actually, the dramatically lower net energy balance is just the lungs of the anti-ethanol debate. The heart is the absolute non-scalability of non-energy inputs like water, soil, and GHG sink capacity. Joules Burn earlier posted links to these 2 new articles in SCIENCE, pointing out how bad scaling of biofuels is for Greenhouse gas emissions. I have a similar paper pending on the water requirements for biofuels vis-a-vis conventional fossil fuels.

Two articles in the recent Science discuss enhanced CO2 emission due
to land use change (i.e. plowing native plants up for biofuel

Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt
Joseph Fargione, Jason Hill, David Tilman, Stephen Polasky, and
Peter Hawthorne
Science 29 February 2008: 1235-1238.
Published online 7 February 2008 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1152747]
(in Science Express Reports)

Increasing energy use, climate change, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels make switching to low-carbon fuels a high priority. Biofuels are a potential low-carbon energy source, but whether biofuels offer carbon savings depends on how they are produced. Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce food crop–based biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a "biofuel carbon debt" by releasing 17 to 420 times more CO2 than the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions that these biofuels would
provide by displacing fossil fuels. In contrast, biofuels made from waste biomass or from biomass grown on degraded and abandoned agricultural lands planted with perennials incur little or no carbon debt and can offer immediate and sustained GHG advantages.


Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through
Emissions from Land-Use Change
Timothy Searchinger, Ralph Heimlich, R. A. Houghton, Fengxia Dong,
Amani Elobeid, Jacinto Fabiosa, Simla Tokgoz, Dermot Hayes, and
Tun-Hsiang Yu
Science 29 February 2008: 1238-1240.
Published online 7 February 2008 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1151861]
(in Science Express Reports)

Most prior studies have found that substituting biofuels for gasoline will reduce greenhouse gases because biofuels sequester carbon through the growth of the feedstock. These analyses have failed to count the carbon emissions that occur as farmers worldwide respond to higher
prices and convert forest and grassland to new cropland to replace the grain (or cropland) diverted to biofuels. By using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly
doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%. This result raises concerns about large biofuel mandates and highlights the value of using waste products.

The First Rule for a life cycle analysis is to use the most recent data. Neither of these thesis did that. The Head of the Department at Iowa State even refused to sign off on that study.

They completely ignored modern farming methods (76% of corn is grown using "no till" farming; and, the idea that trees would be cut down in Brazil (with 150 Million acres of fertile land lying fallow) to plant soybeans is ludicrous (the illegal logging is carried out to get the logs. Later, come the "grazers," and only then do a few subsistence farmers try to get a couple of years of crops out of the substandard, stripped land before it's allowed to return to forest.

As for Indonesia, and Palm oil, they seem to ignore the fact that the palms planted retake the CO2 that's given off when the old trees are used as fuel in the process, or, in the near future, converted into ethanol.

It was a couple of strangely out-dated scenarios that make it hard to overlook the fact that the nature conservancy is supported by, two big oil companies (who have permanent seats on the board. Oh, and Searchinger? He has a Doctorate of Jures Degree, I believe.

It was effective advocacy; BUT, it wasn't Science.

They both made it through SCIENCE peer review, which I can attest, is not an easy feat.
Perhaps this review of paper by the National Academy of Science, that uses most recent data, might have been a better link:
The Implications of Biofuel Production on Water for United States Water Supplies

I agree; water will be a long-term concern (with, or without, ethanol.) The gist of the article seemed to be that it looks okay, now; but, we need to keep an eye on things. I, again, agree.

The study was done before corn ethanol was capped at 15 Billion Gallons. I believe that knowledge would have mitigated some of their concerns.

The fact that only about 15% of corn is irrigated, and that the refineries don't really use all that much water (I believe Minnesota, with all their ethanol refineries, found that they used more water irrigating golf courses than producing ethanol,) and that it's hard to imagine anyone irrigating switchgrass means, I believe, that this won't be a terribly worrying subject.

Look, water is going to be something we concentrate on, more and more, in the future. It just doesn't look like biofuels is going to be a Huge factor in those calculations.

Here is my comment to his blog I send just now. Currently there are no replies on his blog and my comment is 'wayting moderation'. I assume a lot of people here will be writing replies and he's going to get a flood from us on the first day :)

It's interesting to see which comments get moderated...

"What are your ideas? What measures would you like to see the Commission take? What would you include in the new legislation?"

The first thing that must be done, before any actions of new legislation can be taken, is to educate the people of Europe of the realities of the situation. Currently the people are not aware that we are running out of oil, even though they might suspect it. In their doubt and uncertainty they will blame the oil companies for the oil prices, demand subsidies to keep their current life styles, and not understand any energy conservation measures imposed by you while the rest of the world, especially India and China, can import their jobs away while continuing to waste energy and pollute the air.

Communication of the basic ideas behind your decisions is something the European Commission does badly. Here in Finland the cap on CO2 emission and the demand for each country to have their share of renewable sources in their energy budget has been met in the media and by the people as some sort of scam by the central european nations to harm our industries. The general complaint is that you there in Brussels do not appreciate how much more energy we here in the cold north have to use for heating and transporting goods long distances. And how the potential for wind and solar are very small here. There are a lot of valid arguments to criticise the EU commission's decisions and no one to defend your actions. The people do not understand why we should conserve energy and invest in renewables at the expence of our life style and jobs.

How you communicate your ideas is one thing. But what those ideas are is more important. They should include the concept of peak oil as well as its derivatives, the export land model and peak energy. After getting the idea across that cheap oil has effectively already run out, we need to remind people that in many way there are no alternatives. Oil was just too cheap, too high in energy density, too versatile chemically, for us to just replace it with 'something' without incurring losses to our life style. We have a lot of 'somethings' but all of them have their problems. Biofuel is the worst and should be vigorously fought against. It endangers the whole food economy of the world, threatens forests and their biodiversity, and most importantly, allows us in the west to keep smiling and driving our insane unsustainable vehicles for a few more years yet. And the one thing that must be done as soon as possible is get us the people on our way to change our life styles. We are like heroin addicts who need withdrawal therapy to survive. And its going to be painful. And you politicians have the almost impossible task of seeing us through it.

I don't know how far you have researched your this subject being a busy politician as not to have anything on his Agenda page yet (atleast no accessible with my browser). But here is a small list of sources to follow if you dare to delve into the darkness...

links, sources etc. omitted here

Biofuel is the worst and should be vigorously fought against.

A contrary argument: The biosphere will outlive all human endeavors. Human society is not possible without human life, and human life is not possible without a functioning biosphere. Biofuel feed stocks exist as a renewable resource in a functioning biosphere whether we use them or not. In short, the biosphere IS. Our job is to figure out how to live within it, because we certainly can't live without it.

Whilst there is no doubt that ethanol has evolved and developed a symbiotic relationship with Homo-sapiens - and I foresee my consumption increasing exponentially from here. I'm not sure this extends to producing liquid fuel for a several hundred thousand V8 engines.

While it is true that ethanol is a biofuel, biofuel is most definitely not ethanol only. Where did I say anything in support of ethanol? Biofuel is also fire wood, wood chips, corn stover, rice straw, etc. Every biofuel that I have investigated has its own special properties and limitations. Lumping them all together in a sweeping rejection is, IMO, unwise.

It's interesting to see which comments get moderated

Moderation may be a form of sensorship?


So, now that the blog is up and running with the comments, did everyone's contribution get posted?

I think so. If anyone's comment did not get posted they could comment here - and we can have a debate about censorship.

It will be interesting to see how they progress from here.

There seem to be a number of common themes among the comments - though I may be biased in latching on to those close to my own heart.

My comment on the blog (awaiting moderation)

Recent results of modeling with the Millennium Institute (soon to relocate to Riga) for the United States have significant implications for the EU.

We found that the best policy by EVERY metric (GDP, CO2, Reduced oil use) was a combination of a maximum push for renewable energy combined with a maximum push for a Non-Oil Transportation system (electrified inter-city rail, Urban Rail, bicycling, walkable neighborhoods). These policies are similar to current French programs, but at a faster rate.

THESE POLICIES GAVE THE USA THE LARGEST ECONOMY, as well as the least CO2 (-50%) and oil use (-62%) in 30 years.

I think that the EU could use a comparable modeling effort,

Best Hopes,

Alan Drake

I am staying near DC working with Millennium Institute till paper is finished,


alan -what is Riga?

and no offense, but if USA in 30 years is largest economy, how does the model account for aspiration gap of chinese and indian subcontinent? i am sure millenium institute models are as good or better than anything going on energy, but how can they include net energy, real geopolitics, impact of increasing GINI coefficient, and reaction to people that are unaccustomed to sacrifice, etc. I think what youre doing is great, but its subject to Liebigs Law of the minimum input into the model, which is human nature. Dont know how to address this other than permanently addressing the demand side, as opposed to supply side

Nate, Riga is the capital of the Baltic state of Latvia.

Antoinetta III

I'm sure Nate was joking - but it just happen to be Mr Piebalgs home state.

There was an interesting TOD discussion in Jan 2006 on the +1 trillion ton coal deposit under the North Sea. I think these can be developed by in-situ coal gasification. I think it would be worth a couple billion Euros to develop this technology( currently being worked on in Australia).

Of course, you would have to sequester the CO2 as is being done NOW at Sleipner in the North Sea aquifiers.

Perhaps Mr. Pieblags can get some a pilot plant going on this. If the coal was gasified to hydrogen, it could serve Europe for hundreds of years.

Maybe in-situ power plants to burn the gas and direct the CO2 straight back into the empty oil fields. The plant could run well in tandem with offshore wind possibly and greater connectivity

I think wind farm electricity is somewhat overrated when you consider the variability problem; you need energy storage. A better use of offshore North Sea wind farms would be electrolysis to hydrogen gas and oxygen gas which would be routed to the previously mentioned North Sea undersea in-situ coal gasification system.

H20+wind--> H2(gas) +.5O2-->.5O2+C(in-situ coal)-->CO
CO+H2(gas)-->H2+CO2(buried)+previous H2. Net 2H2.

Storing 3600 psi H2 gas at 2 MJ/l beats the hypothetical lithium ion batteries at ~1 MJ/l.

Oops.. that's CO+H20(steam)--->CO2(buried)+H2+previous H2(gas). Net 2H2.

Try clicking the "Edit" link, it works.

Storing 3600 psi H2 gas at 2 MJ/l beats the hypothetical lithium ion batteries at ~1 MJ/l.

Except the Li-ion battery is its own converter, while the hydrogen loses 50% or more between tank and terminals/crankshaft.

EP, may be we can agree on something here!

The worst figure for the hydrogen cycle (from electricity to road)I have seen quoted is 7% (Can't remember how this low figure was derived but it looked convincing at the time of reading), the best possible is about 30% Viz fuel cell 70% max (or spark ignition engine 35% max average 20%), compression uses 30% of the hydrogen's gross energy, and eletrolysis 70%. Then there transport and other miscellaneous losses that tend to get forgotten about.
Theses are typical figures, but they tell the story.

a Short one for for me, EP?

We do indeed agree.  Such figures are the reason why Ulf Bossel of the European Fuel Cell Forum is very negative on hydrogen (or maybe it is just PEM fuel cells in particular).

Except the Li-ion battery is its own converter, while the hydrogen loses 50% or more between tank and terminals/crankshaft.

MJ/l is about volumetric fuel storage.

A 1 liter (scuba)tank of 3500 psi H2 gas contains 2.19 MJ of energy. (700bar=10152psi/3500psi)=(4.7/x)^1.4;
x=2.19 MJ
2MJ of hydrogen will get you .84 miles in the current Honda FC car. 2.19MJ/143MJ per kg x 55 miles/kg= .84 miles on a 1 liter scuba tank. I used 3500 psi because that is the pressure used in CNG cars. If we had a 5000 psi H2 tank, we would get 2.833 MJ for a total of 1.09 miles on a 1 liter tank.

A 1 liter Li-ion battery contains 1 MJ.
1 MJ in a 4 mile per kwh car will get you .903 miles.

A liter of hydrogen at 3500 psi in a fuel cell car gets 7% less range in miles than an EV, but at 5000 psi the fuel cell car gets 20% more range in miles over the EV.

So it is obvious that Li-ion battery cars have the same volumetric 'tank' problem as CNG cars.

Tank sizes has been a problem with CNG/ compressed hydrogen cars in the past.
For example: CNG cars need tanks about 3-4 times larger than gasoline cars.

Because the energy density of battery cars is
no better, your car would end up being filled with batteries to get any sort of range.

Hint: lithium batteries will always be MUCH more expensive than hydrogen gas.

Car users don't care about energy efficiency, they care about how far their cars will go on a tank of gas.

That might be true if batteries had the same physical constraints as pressure vessels, but they don't.  You can build a layer of prismatic cells into a floor, put some under seats, down a center spine, and otherwise do things a 5000 psi tank cannot do.

The battery car also dispenses with the fuel cell and whatever constraints it has, and electric motors are considerably more compact and lighter than engines.  Combined with the existing electric infrastructure (compared to the non-existent hydrogen infrastructure), the electric car looks like it will own the road 20 years from now.

I agree entirely here. Liquid bio fuels and H are only obfuscating and delaying the inevitable death of the grotesquely inefficient ICE.

Someone just needs to start mass producing a sexy wee cheap electric 2 seater that can be used for myriad small scale commutes around town - shops, school, work etc - and incremental technology developments will take us from there.

a sexy wee cheap electric 2 seater

Sounds like an Aptera or VentureOne, with the exception of "cheap".

Euan, I am writing this because I think we need to consider how and why we have got where we are today. Looking back it may not have been the best solution energywise (infact we know it wasn't), but it was the most affordable, driven by natural selection process of economics. I think changing direction will pose some difficulty, despite the idealist views of some.

You are very Harsh on the poor old ICE. When matched with a constant load, the diesel engine is very efficient as prime movers go. Electric motors are not prime movers and have always been efficient in moderate to large sizes. The problem comes when using electricity that is generated from non transportable prime movers, such as wind, solar or nuclear. Wind power and solar are of orders of magnitude below 1 in efficiency if you look at heat source (the sun)to mechanical power output. The word that should be used is energy efficacy, not efficiency, as is the case to compare light sources (Luminous efficacy).

When oil was abundant and cheap an nothing else was considered, the ICE had a very high efficacy, since generating electricity from FF (perhaps by steam at the time) and feeding to an electric motor via a battery and charger was not as efficacious as the ICE, so the ICE made sense at the time.

Supposing our prime mover was a wind turbine. The most effective use of the power may be to couple this staight to the wheels of a car via a gear box (just as an ICE is) and miss out the electrical stage, but this is obviously not practical for several reasons, so we have to look at the most energy effective way of transporting this energy to the vehicle. As it turns out electrical conversion has considerably less losses than say electricity to hydrogen, hydrogen to mechanical power via an ICE. As you say, at this stage the ICE has no useful purpose if efficacy is the only consideration.

I think there are some hurdles to cross that aren't fully appreciated. cost, or general afforability is a major one. The ICE/steel monocoque vehicle combination has had the benefit of a long period of evolution, and to add this to the fact that the materials are abundant metals and the energy to extract them has been cheap and abundant has made this particular set up a commercial winner. Energy, rightly or wrongly was not part of the equation, but this was a result of short term economic policy, not technology.

The lead acid battery has every disadvantage in the book, yet is still the workhorse of industry. The reason is centuries of lead mining, combined with lead being banned from general use have made matallic lead abundant and cheap. There may be soon 1 billion cars to find lithium batteries for and the transition time available is an unknown quantity. Lithium occurs in the Earth's crust at 18ppm, compared to iron and aluminium (the main materials to construct an ICE and vehicle) at 62,000 ppm and 83,000 ppm respectively. In absolute terms, lithium resource may be limitless, getting the quantities at a price we can all afford, we are just assuming it can happen.

The NiMH battery has similar problems. The Toyota HBEV battery weighs 45 kg for just 1.7kWhrs of capacity. Another blow is that it cannot be discharged below 60% of its capacity if any sort of life is to be expected. Nickel is now very expensive due to supply constraints. It appears in the Earth's crust at 99 ppm and extraction "rates" due to resource limitation are finite.

Also there is a tendency to leave parts of an equation out that don't suit ones argument. Operational efficiency of Electric motors may be 90-95%, batteries 90%, battery chargers 90% (transformer and rectifier loss) electrical transmission 90%. It all adds to our problem, whatever the solution. This means we have to generate 20% more electricity than it may first appear just taking the vehicle it self into consideration, for example.

What will happen will happen. The ICE may well (probably will) go extinct, but there is no guarantee that anything affordable will replace it either. I think it is Pitt The Elder who likes to say something along the lines "Just because you want (or hope) something to happen does not mean it will"

Before someone calculates the volume of the Lithium in the Earth's crust @ 18ppm, This is not relevent. Its the amount of concentrated and economically affordable extractable resource thats important. No one knows this any more than they knew 10 years ago what the price of oil would be now.

Party - agreed that there are some significant hurdles to cross in introducing electric vehicles. But I've just been working on how we got to this point - a cross roads - and have the following efficiencies for cars;

The past:

gasoline ICE 29%
coal electric vehicle 22%

The future

Bio fuel Ice 18%
wind electric vehicle 65%

There's quite an astonishing turning of the tables - but we are right at the cross roads. The sums show how grotesque bio-fuels are - their production is not efficient and putting this in an ICE leaves you burning 82% of your food stack.

The weak link in coal electric is the low efficiency of the coal fired plant. Efficacy probably equates to energy quality - which is one important variable that needs to be considered.

We can probably improve the efficiency of the coal-fired plant.  IGCC hits 40% fairly easily, and it may be feasible to perform pre-combustion separation of CO from the syngas to both cut the energy cost of carbon sequestration and improve the potential efficiency.

If we can switch from coal-steam to DCFC running on de-ashed coal, efficiency roughly doubles.  The same plants could probably run on bio-char with few changes.  These are the high-reward paths we should be investigating as if our lives depended on them...which they do.

Whats DCFC mean? CCGT can achieve 60%, but it has consumed our natural gas resource in a decade or so. I assume a similar cycle using coal looses some of this gain in the coal gassification process, please tell me.

The CEGB of Great Gritain did much research into furure generation, but as it was dispanded, the research went with it.

DCFC = Direct Carbon Fuel Cell.

SRI International's cell hits 70% efficiency, John Cooper's has been measured at 80%.  These cells are based on molten carbonates, and run hot.  Waste heat from either can probabably be converted to electricity at 25% or better, so the total conversion efficiency may be able to hit 85%.  Another possibility is cogeneration for industrial process heat.

The repowered IGCC plant at Wabash River (Terre Haute, IN) hits about 40% thermal efficiency.  The gasifier has 76% cold-gas efficiency, which may be about the best one can do.  However, the conversion of gas to electricity could be improved.  Using a fuel cell topping cycle at 60% efficiency with the steam turbine bottoming cycle at ~25% and maintaining parasitic power at 30 MW (out of 630 MW fuel input) would yield 54% efficiency.  The possibilities with DCFC's go as high as 70% (after handling of the volatiles is considered).  We can do much better than we are doing now.

EM, We are basically in agreement I think. This is how I view H2 and BF

Using two prime movers to get from heat source to wheels is plain silly. I think hydrogen and biofuels are thermodynamically the equivalent of doing just this. Prime movers are a necesaary evil.

I suppose you could argue oil is really a biofuel but since we have it as a "gift" from the past I am taking the liberty to miss the first stage out, so:

With the ICE car you have oil, heat, ICE (Prime mover), mechanical power , transmission and load matching (the gear box), wheels.

The electric car you have; the Sun, wind turbine (prime mover), electricity, transmission and load matching (battery, motor/gearbox), wheels

The hydrogen car you have, The Sun, wind turbine (1st prime mover) electrolsis, ICE or fuel cell (2nd prime mover) motor/gearbox, wheels.

Theoretically motors and gearboxes can approach 100% efficient, ICE has a maximum depending on max source temperature/min sink temperature and is about 60% (max theoretical) with limits imposed by current materials, wind turbines can convert 16/27 of the wind power to mechanical power.

A question for EM or EP,

What is the theoretical max efficiency for a battery? Do they have a theoretical limit (because of internal potential barriers as in solar cells and other semiconductor devices that use a PN junction) or is purely resistive loss due to internal resistance (ie theoretical 100%)?

Lithium-ion batteries are roughly 95% efficient; lead-acid is closer to 70%.  I wouldn't be concerned about the last 5% with Li-ion, and with the current price arbitrage I'd be happy with lead-acid if it would let me stop buying petroleum.

I understand the last 5% is of academic interest only, its the law of diminishing returns. I used to work on the development of battery powered mining vehicles for uk coal mines, they used lead acid at 114V @ 240-1400 amp hour (1.5 to 4 tonnes in weight!), dc motors and thyristor choppers. Things have moved on with IGBT's and ac motors, Li batteries etc.
My question was of purely scientific interest about theoretical efficency. Lead acid efficency is highly dependant on charge and discharge rates, I know little about Li on this.
I am also a "peak oiler" and hence my constant attention to this site. My problem is I also think the ICE has economic and energy density advantage (at the moment) over battery alternatives. The result is we may not develop alternative transport until its too late. According to JHKunstler, the US ripped up its rail roads for road transport. The UK did similar. Nothing is more suited to electrification than the railways. I did my apprenticeship at BREL in Derby UK, the factory barely exists today. They also had a technical centre that was full of highly qualified and experienced rail transport engineers (just as the CEGB was run by power system engineers) and although the building is there today the engineering resource is not.
Its all about cost and I think its here we depart from agreement. I'm not convinced economics will deliver the goods in time, you seem to be less pesimistic on this than I am.

According to JHKunstler, the US ripped up its rail roads for road transport.

Some of them, and others were ripped from multiple tracks to single track to cut property values and property taxes.  But most rights of way still exist, and track is being re-laid in some places where it was removed.

I'm not convinced economics will deliver the goods in time

Oh, neither am I.  I think we need to push this with policy, if it's not already too late.  I was calling for a 5¢/month gas tax increase for 5 years (total $3/gallon) to get the response ahead of climbing oil prices, and there are a bunch of policy initiatives we could and should use to slash oil dependence, air pollution and a host of other ills.

The point is that based on volumetric energy density Li-ion batteries are no better than hydrogen gas( which is mainly empty space).

Which would be more dangerous in a crash? Hydrogen gas would be quickly vented but car batteries are rated something like 500 volts and would have to be installed throughout the car if there was any
kind of decent mileage. You'd probably end up being electrocuted in any kind of a major accident.

Incidently I don't promote hydrogen cars, I prefer methanol fuel cell cars with normal sized gas tanks.

The point is that based on volumetric energy density Li-ion batteries are no better than hydrogen gas

Why are you harping on this after its questionable relevance was pointed out to you?  You can put batteries in places you cannot put a hydrogen tank.

You'd probably end up being electrocuted in any kind of a major accident.

<rolls eyes>  I don't suppose it would be useful to tell you that the Prius battery is both isolated from the chassis and disconnected from the vehicle unless it is specifically energized?  Can you name anyone electrocuted in a Prius accident?

This is not the issue you think it is.  AAMOF, none of your "issues" are.  You're just fear-mongering, with the effect (if not intent) of trying to push back a technology that works today for one that is nowhere near market-ready.

A Prius battery is tiny, just 6.5AH.
A plugin Prius battery, worth 8 miles of electric driving is 13 AH. How big would the battery be to get 60 miles of electric driving? 40AH?

Do you even own a hybrid car?(rolls eyes)
I do. I enjoy the better than awful mileage, but it's not for everybody. Plug-in SUVs, trucks seem like a total fantasy to me. Call Calcars for a good deal. Electric cars would make sense on small islands like Hawaii though.

As far as electrocution goes, it's a potential hazard but the back seat is only so big and the more batteries you have, the greater the danger.
You're hyping battery powered cars and don't see their limitations IMHO.
I've talked to people who own plug-in hybrids and they acknowleged the limitations.

There are better solutions that plug-ins. Car pooling, mass transit,there are others.

More compact maybe, lighter not so sure. A modern 80kW car engine can be easily lifted by a single person (Rover K series for example). and motor cycle engines have better power to weight ratio than these. If you include gas turbines, then increase this by an order of magnitude or two. Battery aircraft? I will wait a few years before I bet on flying on one of these.

If you include the fuel source, then no way! may be in the future but no way at the moment. However weight may not be so detrimental to an EV due to recoverable braking energy, but unrealistic claims help no one.

20 years may be a little optimistic. You need to look at the cost and availability of battery materials viz nickel or lithium. I'm not sure how this will affect the show, if there will be a show to see.

With oil at 105 dollars a barrel and uk petrol prices heading for £1.50/litre, hope your right in anycase. I need a car with a 500 mile range at 65/70 mph to compete with my small diesel. I could tolerate a charge time of probably 4 hours without too much inconvenience 8 hrs at a push. Other than that I need to change my job!

As for flexibility, battery cells could certainly be distributed around the vehicle and I cannot see electrocution as in issue, more of a risk for technicians working on the thing than a driver. Hydrogen is a no brainer in anycase.

I think wind farm electricity is somewhat overrated when you consider the variability problem; you need energy storage.

My expertise in not in energy.

But I have an interest in future energy.

Nelson reported that wind electric power is being used to compress air in caves and other structures.

Look at the bottom line Compressed Air Energy.

This air is apparently release and combined with a small amount of natural gas and burned to drive turbine generators extremely efficiently.

Nelson cited installations in Germany as well as an installation in Alabama.

Spain apparently is experimenting with compressed air wind energy storage.

Nelson also reported that compressed air storage in old oil fields is being studied but possible problems of not being able to release the air fast enough and oil contamination which would damage turbines may be problems.


Natural gas generators run intermittently during peak hours of demand. The idea is to
use wind turbines to compress and store combustion air for gas turbines.

A 100MW gas turbine might use 900000 scf of natural gas per hour. The gas turbine efficiency depends on the pressure rise across the compressor. So compressor that boosts atmospheric pressure to 75 psi( 5 times atmospheric) might have an efficiency of 33% while a compressor that boosts the atmospheric pressure (25 times) to 360 psi might have a 60% thermal efficency. 60% efficiency is the practical limit of the Brayton cycle). At 60% efficency you would save 330000scf of natural gas for the same 100MW of electric output. So it saves 40% on natural gas.

The energy required to compress air to 360 psi
is around .037 kwh/pound of air or .0028 kwh/ standard cubic foot of air. 570000 scf of natural gas will need around 9000000 scf of air to burn, so that would require 25 Mwh of electricity to run a compressor to store that amount of air each hour. The energy would come from wind.

If natural gas generation costs $600 per kw, a 100MW unit which runs 4000 hours a year would cost $60 million dollars. Ten 2.5 Mwh wind turbine running 4000 hours a year would cost $25 million dollars. You would save 330000 scf of natural gas each hour for 4000 hours a year which would save $13200000 a year figuring $10 per 1000 scf.
So the wind turbines would cost at least $25 million dollars to save $13,200,000 in natural gas costs.
The basic problem is that natural gas is too valuable to waste for peak electricity generation IMO(better for heating). Besides, natural gas will probably start to run out in the next two decades per J. Laherrere in recent articles here at TOD.

I don't trust pumping the CO2 underground as it could leak. Better would be a buckyball carbon ladder to a satellite which pumps the CO2 into outer space permanently. That space is pretty much infinite so it would not matter at all. The CO2 would just disappear into deep space forever. If this is not possible then only reforming the CO2 into a hardened non gaseous substance of some sort would be adequate, but then you are probably looking at remaking coal which takes more energy than burning it of course so pretty ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as a nanoladder pumping mechanism to space.

Perhaps boring a well to the next mantel level in the earth or into a volcano where the CO2 would simply get burnt up in fire would be another alternative.

Lastly would be a biological alternative but somehow bacteria, etc. eating trillions of tons of C02 is also unlikely.

Basically my fundamental opposition lies actually in my conviction to the saving of the environment from destruction regardless of GW.

Better would be a buckyball carbon ladder to a satellite which pumps the CO2 into outer space permanently.

Climbing that ladder would require more energy than the burning of the fossil fuels produced.  Raising a mass to infinity against Earth's gravity requires roughly 63 MJ/kg; the heat of formation of CO2 from carbon is 93960 cal/mol, or 8.9 MJ/kg.

Perhaps boring a well ... into a volcano where the CO2 would simply get burnt up in fire

There's this thing called "heat of formation", one consequence of which is that CO2 doesn't burn.  It's described in books on chemistry; perhaps you've heard of it, but you obviously haven't studied it.

If this is not possible then only reforming the CO2 into a hardened non gaseous substance of some sort would be adequate

You mean carbonates?  Tests have indicated that this is what happens to CO2 injected into rock.

Yeah my last Chem class must be over twenty years ago in college as a prerequitie for some engineering course of studies I later dropped out of so I don't claim to be the expert. Still if I throw a freaky idea out there maybe some one will pick up the ball and run with it. I sort of figured it would take too much energy to pump C02 out of the atmosphere but worth a shot anyway to mention it.

So C02 would harden into carbonates if you injected it into rocks? That must take overenergy too (more than it's worth I mean- I hate saying EROI or stuff like that). Is there a calculation for that one? Experimnets done? What rocks are best?

Motivationwise basically hearing somebody say 1 trillion tonnes of coal under the North Sea available using in Situ gasification freaks me out, like this nightmare of global enviro destruction will just keep on going till Earth is a barren rock so I got creative in my thinking, necessity being the mother of invention. Thanks for informing me on the tech aspects. I personally would leave that coal in place but I would bet there are some highly motivated people who see profits wherever a piece of FF is buried that they can somehow make use of and will stop at nothing for personal gain.

galactic - the coal under the N Sea will unlikely ever be produced. It is known to exist because of thousands of wells that have been drilled. Many of the seams will be thin, and broken up by faults. To produce this by in situ gassification will require major engineering, to drill steam injection and gas recovery wells and to produce the steam for injection. Where would all that energy come from? And to do this would require government license - which even if feasibility was proven, would highly unlikely be forthcoming.

Easier to build windmills.

It has become fashionable (or useful) to ‘consult’ the public, to have ‘democratic discourse’ outside of established institutions, in effect by-passing these with a populist fig-leaf, and thereby gutting them.

(Ask the American public if Iranians are evil and have or plan to have or dream about having WMD and forget the El Baradei reports.)

Energy is the lifeblood of our societies. Grassroots initiatives, suggestions, and so on, have no/little impact. In this area, decisions come and will come from the deciders at the top, from politicians, from those with high level Gvmt. appointments, from industry owners, from what some call ‘big capital’, the military industrial complex, etc. if only because large investments are required.

France, for example, embarked on its nuclear energy program without any democratic debate or even minimal transparency. Nobody asked US citizens if turning corn into ethanol was a good idea. In Switzerland, the car lobby managed to halt public transport in some measure. The targets for ‘renewables’ in Europe are reassuring at best, duplicitous BS at worst.

Europe has dozens of energy experts who understand everything about the present situation. Cute forums (gotta get into the internets!) undercut that expertise.

The Soviet Union was an example of consulting the public after the decisions had been made. The cadres called it something like 'Democratic Centralism'. It does seem that the idea did not die with that government. People who gain political power take to it so naturally that I'm sure it existed well before Communism.

Maybe European energy experts, who understand everything about the present situation, don't have the political skills to effect a solution. Maybe they don't agree among themselves. Who are the experts? And how does one get to join that select group? Democratic centralism can be as messy as plain old democracy.

Yes, that’s right...geek... and I can’t name anyone specific, these people tend, in Europe, to be invisible Gvmt. functionaries, quietly struggling against the ambient hype, or working for the industry (independent or State Corporatism), and thus bound to some kind of silence. They are isolated and demeaned.

I saw one on FR2 (tv station), he was hyper nervous but simply laid out facts, not many of them either, not pushing PO or anything like that, staying right in his role of ‘measured expert’ (he was a reader of this site), and the interviewer nervously finished up with well that was all very complicated! But it looks like growing bamboo is good for the environment!

Yes, they might disagree. But that disagreement puts paid to rational science or analysis (which is always under review and can be faulty at time x), essentially telling the public, opinions differ, even amongst the experts, and all sides should have their say. (E.g. Evolution vs. creationism, all opinions are legit, etc.)

When scientists and analysts (see Bush regime) are co-opted, bought, or dependent, that is what you get. Cacophony.

It is done deliberately. The aim is, anything can be contested, anyone has the right to their personal opinion (anti nuke, anti bio fuels, pro wind, vegetarians, pro car, pro fusion, etc. etc.) and let the people argue, we move along.

Experts don’t have the political skill, because the mainstream does not accord them the position of experts. Their input is not required. They don’t belong to political class. Except for those who suddenly espouse some cause or another, that can be lucrative, and ensure a career.

true, but partial

be aware of the fact that the field we're living in is chaotic in nature

the involutionary forces you point at are competing with the evolutionary

the latter are helped by big business seeing new opportunities
- ev's being helped by the utilities (increase roi by selling electricity at night, realizing more -mandatory- res / less stand by power by v2g
- ev's owners pushing for electrons matching their zero emission, low noise conversation pieces: csp for base load, connected through super grid with other res
- emerging potential of csp for addressing problem of falling water tables kindles effective actions to bring about a renaisance of the eumena region. So people have reasons to flee *to* the n-sahara
- this delivers what all seek, effectively delivering a platform for the quality of life focus of the eu to manifest itself on the world stage

no pie in the sky; see earlier post

in for a ride!

emil möller

Dr. Paul Newendorp to discuss ‘The World Energy Situation’

Newendorp has a Ph.D. in petroleum engineering from the University of Oklahoma. His 30-year career began in 1959 working in the petroleum exploration division of Standard Oil.

“We are at a world oil production rate right now, which is essentially the peak oil rate and following this point the world’s oil production rate will start a gradual irreversible decline,” said Newendorp. “It isn’t that we are running out of oil. The reason that we are at this peak oil — there are two reasons. ..............

Thanks for the link, jmygann, Dr. Paul Newendorp's analysis is very level headed and astute.


€1 lousy billion per year?

Yup, we're freakin' doomed.

Let us hope the money is spent wisely.

One aspect of research is that you need to spend broadly to pick up the off-the-beaten-track possiblities which can end up being the main show in the end. Optimizing known technology might give you a 4% gain that is pretty predictable, while trying out something unorthodox could give you 200% or nothing. Worse, you don't know how many unorthodox approches you need to try before one of them pays off. A government's responsibility to spend wisely can seem in conflict with the need to cast our nets broadly yet these days it seems like only government can justify supporting basic research since shareholders demand faster return on investment.

It seems to me that having the appearance of spending foolishly on a range of projects that mostly won't pan out could be the wisest move in the long run. My experience with research is that if you are not headed down the wrong path at least 90% of the time, you are not at the forefront. You need to be foolish to gain knowledge in a manner of speaking.

Perhaps a way to do this would be to devote a portion of the funds to sure bets by offering industry some research subsidies. They'll gernerally stick to the incremental approach these days. Put another portion to peer reviewed grants. These are sometimes over cautious but they cover a middle ground. An important portion might be put towards grand challenge seed money. Setting goals like having solar 4 times cheaper than coal, or getting the same results from using one third the energy compared to current best practices might net results in surprising ways.


Normally I would agree with you here Chris. But when it comes to energy my thinking is always pretty well hemmed in by "energy can neither be created nor destroyed".

We never actually produce any energy. All we do is gather it in - be it fossil solar or current solar power. The secret lies in doing this as efficiently as possible.

My feeling on this matter is that there are many academics arguing for more research when in fact what we need is deployment of what we already have on a massive scale.

In Scotland the academics are always pleading form more money to research fuel cells. Christ there's already been billions spent and the conclusion is that they are expensive, rare, inefficient toys.

I also fear that now the EU will spend billions on carbon sequestration - now thats a great way of getting rid of energy when its scarce.

I'd grant that giant steps may be taken on energy conservation at the consumption end - but hey legislate for 1000 cc max engine size in a car - I just saved 25% of our nations liquid fuel bill. Can I have €100million for my efforts?

I'd like to see sizeable chunks of money spent on large demonstration projects of low energy towns - lets just see how low we can go on per capita energy spend per annum without compromising living standards (whatever that means) - and then roll it out across Europe.


I agree that right now, deploying renewables is going to accomplish a great deal on bringing costs down and setting building standards to attain currently demonstrated efficiency will also do quite a bit through standardization and such. Scale helps. And, I think we can do what needs to be done with current technology. Research should not be an excuse to wait.

But, if there is to be research, it does need a playful/foolish/naive aspect to be successful. Your take on fuels cells might be modified in the future by carbon fuel cells. It is hard to tell just yet. And, I can also kind of see Europe joining the race for 65% efficient solar panels or practical super conducting transmission.

And, sequestration is definately not ready for prime time. Finding a way to do it that produces some good, say energy or food, is really important. Sequestering carbon as carbon dioxide looks to be a bad idea to me. But, elemental carbon or calcium carbonate or even biomass if it produces new fisheries look like they may have potential.

I think your idea of demonstration projects is a good one. Perhaps that counts as research since you need to demonstrate the results.


"We never actually produce any energy. All we do is gather it in - be it fossil solar or current solar power. The secret lies in doing this as efficiently as possible". (how do you highlight a quotation in a grey background?)

And here lieth the problem, 99% of the population don't understand this and those that do can't agree on how to achieve it.

Here's a good example;

It was on the news today that Morgan (I think it was Morgan) have just released their "ZERO" emission vehicle based on the hydrogen fuel cell (It was BMW a few months ago). The reporter enthusiastically stated "all that comes out of the exhaust is water vapour".

Euan, See my post above on hydrogen fuel cell energy utilisation. It agrees with your statement above, but I am still waiting for some one to shoot me down in flames, EP for example, (as I write this)!

I don't quite share your enthusiasm on the overall efficiency battery vehicles (this may be down to my interpretation of what you say), but it far exceeds that of the hydrogen cycle no matter whose calculator you use and what buttons you press.

Meawhile oil hits $104 a barrel. But don't worry it is not down to shortage.

First up to start a grey box type a less than sign followed by the word "blockquote" and then a greater than sign. To finish the grey box its the same thing but with / ahead of blockquote. I can't type it here cos it will be interpreted as HTML and you won't see it. There is a way around this - which I've never used.

As for the zero emissions Morgan - I'm writing a post titled "The folly of climate driven energy policy". The fact that a device emits no CO2 is totally irrelevant to any debate about climate and energy. The overwhelming variable to focus on is energy efficiency. And as you and I know filling Morgans with hydrogen and Boeings with nut oil is quite simply bat shit crazy.

Yes, a 747 carries 150 tonnes of fuel and consumes 12000 litres an hour, the amount required to get one off the runway is also mind bogling.
Growing the quantity of fuel that would be required for all our aircraft and cars is beyond my mental grasp. As I have said before, if we covered the entire uk (every square mm) with rape we could just about produce the 60 million tonnes of fuel oil we require. This assumes a yield of 2.5 tonnes/hectare and no energy is required to process it (infinite eroei?).

Here's how you write it (you can just cut and paste these, I've inserted the HTML escapes to get them to print the way you write them):

<blockquote>your quoted text here</blockquote>

Try again.

Solar PV - Lasts 30 years, production costs covered in three years.

Every house has Solar, say 3 kW, no stress on public grid to charge up electric car.

Could someone point out the problems with this idea please.

The problem is that you have daily and seasonal variations in the supply of PV electricity, so your system needs other supplies or substantial amounts of energy storage.

Especially in the far northern hemisphere

Yes, well I am in Western Australia where the sun shines very bright nearly all the time.

I think I can make solar electricty work for me.

My feeling on this matter is that there are many academics arguing for more research when in fact what we need is deployment of what we already have on a massive scale.

Does nuclear fusion research fall into this category? I would be interseted to know how much resource has gone into that with no result yet in sight. "fusion is 30 years away and always will be" Even if its 30 years from now it may be too late to save the day.

Here's one to provoke you (Euan).

In Saturday's Daily Mail an artcle "Dim Wits"

Points that hit me are;
this will increase %age fuel consumption (particularly in stationary traffic), lamp maufacturing requirements and journeys to garages for lamp replacement. (provokes some economic growth)
But more importantly the article states it is seen as a safety substitution (particularly mentioned are Germany and Austria) to speed restriction. Speed restriction is the most effective and immediate fuel reducing policy any government could introduce. (I do a lot of driving so it would affect me, but I also know I get 65 mpg at 50mph and about 40 at 80mph! rough figures). What does our goverment do to save the world; Ban smoking in public places!. Smoking is voluntary suicide, therefore keeps the population down and raises vast amounts of tax. Win Win in my opinion. (I don't smoke)

Will we get our selves out of this comming mess, I personally have my doubts.

I think there is a unrecognized fundamental underlying assumption in our thinking.

It is something to do with our attempt to solve the problem "centrally", ie one big solution implemented by states.

We need to decentralize the solution. Make every individual invest in their personal solution and thereby implement a global solution.

Sorry for the fuzzy logic, that's my area of expertise.

Unfortunately, even if your right we are moving rapidly in the other direction (European constitution?). There are so many regulatory bodies in place now, creating a local economy would be sure to fall foul of regulationary interference thus increasing the difficulty and cost, irrespective of whether or not it makes sense.

Sorry to be negative, but thats how years of irrational government policy have made me feel, Its only my opinion, though I may not be alone.

A collapse of the transport chain or food supply will soon fix the legal problem.

Big is history guys. Mother nature will be knocking on our doors within 5 years.

Your probably right here also, but it may be an abrupt discontinuity. Most politicians are of a legal or ecomomic background. Only yesterday, was our minister for transport (in uk)was advocating opening up the hard shoulder of our motorways to increase capacity (or more politically correct, reduce congestion).
We are moving more and more towards unsustainability (in my opinion). Trouble is, nature will not tell us when that point occurs, it will take corrective action without warning! Naming dates can be dangerous to ones credibility, however trends and mathematics give some clues as to what may happen soon.

Animals can be trained (cooperate with man) by food reward only. Humans have become entirely detached from the natural world and can only be "trained" by financial reward. If you don't agree advertise a job and offer wages in carrots (or something like that)!

If the financial system breaks down, the collapse of society will follow. Same if energy falls short, because food production and distribution is a very complex function of money and energy flow.

I have the impression that the growing power of the EU comes at the expense of state and corporate power (eg. Microsoft's fines). That leaves us with more smaller actors, who will have more trouble completely eradicating grassroots movements.
Regarding the direction of the EU, it is too early to tell. It is far from certain where the EU will end up on the scale between megastate and federation of city-states.

Piebalgs, in an interview with Spanish financial paper El Economista yesterday, said:

"The markets are very nervous. Prices are going mad because long term
guarantees are needed that OPEC has enough resources to respond to the
increase in world demand," Piebalgs said in the interview.

"When I arrived at the European Commission in 2004, a barrel of oil cost
$52. In three years it has doubled. We cannot exclude that within three years,
in 2011, it could be at $200. What I am saying is, partly, a joke. But we
should not be surprised."

"We cannot rule out the $200/b because in the last two years we have all
been completely wrong in thinking that what is now happening was impossible.
The companies, the International Energy Agency were wrong... When someone said
we would get to $80/b, and then they said $100/b, nobody thought they were
talking seriously. I remember that Goldman Sachs said it three years ago,
everybody took it as a joke," he said.

"The only solution to get out of this situation is for OPEC to develop a
predictable and transparent long-term policy of investment and supply."

"I hope that OPEC shows that we are not being left without oil. And that,
in the medium and long term, it is capable of increasing its production."

more at:

Thanks Biff,

There is a major move of consensus on PO afoot. We also have this from Fatih Birol of the IEA:

The indications are that if the producers don't bring a lot of oil to the markets, we may see very high prices – perhaps oil at $150 a barrel by 2030.

To reach $150 / bbl by 2030 requires less than 2% per annum increase in the oil price. This guy needs a serious reality check.

Andris is forecasting $200 / bbl - but gives no time frame. This is like saying I think it might rain. I think we will see $150 this year with the annual average over $100 - the way things are shaping up.

And this part I find a bit amusing:

because in the last two years we have all been completely wrong in thinking

What he means is that all highly paid policy makers have got it wrong whilst several hundred bloggers and an elite string of investors have read the tea leaves with some skill.

One of my main messages for Andris is great - you got a grasp on the oil problem - but its now time to get seriously worried about nat gas and coal too.

If Piebalgs really said the above comments then he hasn't got a clue about geological realities of PO and neither about the motivation of OPEC.

Oil 104 dollars a barrel, OPEC aren't going to increase output, some OPEC countries calling for a cut. Interesting. Depends whether you are an optimist or pessimist what conclusion you draw from this. (a pessimist is an optimist who is aware of the facts)