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back to article Gas crunch: Jatropha, kudzu, algae and magic to rescue

Read the daily reports on what to do to counter high gas prices, and you'll see the importance of magic in US energy strategy. A rich variety of schemes have been put forward, literally within weeks of the gas crunch, delivered with the traditional slogan that occurs to every editorial writer who believes children's fairy tales …

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Was there a point to that?

Really can't see one.

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deliberate misrepresentation?

xx It was a remarkable thing to print since the consumption of any

xx carbon-based fuel, whether it comes from algae or kudzu, produces

xx greenhouse gas.

If you don't use the rhetorical device of stripping away the context, what was (presumably) meant was: No NET emission of CO2. And if conversion is done using the energy from the algae, no net emission should be achievable -- the algae absorbs CO2 to make algae.

Unless algae take significant carbon from non-CO2 sources to grow -- this might be true for plants, but for algae in water?

It may or may not be judged "economic", of course. But it's often hard to compete against the hundreds of millions of years of biological and geophysical subsidy that fossil fuel got to convert solar energy to hydrocarbon.

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Paris Hilton

What about peanuts?

Didn't Jimmy Carter get the prez job because unlike the other oil-rich perps,er prezies, peanuts can be made into a bio-diesel type fuel and so make him and the whole 'hidden govt' that runs the world spanking loads of cash.

Who else likes a spanking and has loads of cash....

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Happy

Algae

There is great deal of research been done into algae into oil. And it's worth looking at. There are even genetically modified algae that produce huge quantities of oil.

All they need to grow is sunlight and C02.

Of course, growing and processing them in anywhere near commercial quantities will throw up lots of gotchas, but I'm intrigued by the possibility of using waste C02 from a coal plant to feed carbon hungry algae.

If it's possible, it would be a nice solution.

Cheers

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Black Helicopters

Soylent Green

"algae as a cure-all for everything: carbon sequestration, water purification, automotive fuel and energy"

Algae. Yeah, right. Algae. That's what they said Soylent Green was made of.

Green biofuel is people!

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The point seemed to be...

That there's no point in trying to find additional energy sources, since you'll just attract mockery from the Reg.

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Anonymous Coward

The Point?

Just a reminder that there are no quick fixes to GW or alternative fuels. Given what I hear people say where I live, those reminders are needed frequently!

Whereas the ideas sometimes sound promising, it's the shear size of the problem, and the resultant efficiencies and production scales required, that make many of them non-starters. The numbers are just F****** HUGE.

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Jobs Horns

Kool-Aid-Fueled Kars

Bravo for a well-administered dose of biofuel herbicide. Whenever the inconvenience of high fuel prices becomes great enough, all of my fellow countrymen with a predisposition to right wing survivalist isolationism or left wing communal agrarian utopianism find common cause in touting miracle cures that are somehow in tune with natures own digestive processes.

Of course, I'm little different, as I've been convinced since I was 13 that the only viable energy strategy involves hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engines. Sure, generating hydrogen -- especially from water -- is inefficient, but a big investment in infrastructure will eventually amortize at any price. And vehicles using such a system will need to condense and save their exhaust for reclamation, otherwise Los Angeles really will be the land of perpetual rain like it was in "Blade Runner." Although maybe there's value in venting the exhaust in places like the spreading edge of the Sahara (where there are, what, 5 cars? 6?).

Yep. Those biofuel cranks are totally lining their brains with tinfoil, but we hydrogen cranks, we have the magic wand. Now let's get ourselves a tasty slice of that congressional pork pie!

Wait a minute. Do I see the bacterial crude guys gaining in the rear view mirror?

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Dead Vulture

I think the point was . . .

. . . that the only real solution at the moment is to use less fuel and what we do use to be more efficent about it. All the other proposed schemes are going to make a tiny impression.

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solution

Nuclear power plants (lots of them) plus some solar and some hydroelectric (every bit helps), mostly electric cars and trucks. Gasoline/jet A only for vehicles like airplanes and smaller boats, where straight electric isn't yet practical.

Nuclear for plenty of electricity - better insulation on houses, businesses, more telecommuting.

The "nuclear waste" problem is a straw man - it can be contained and disposed of pretty safely. Waste from coal or oil burning power plants is CO2 plus other pollutants - some of which are known carcinogens - and we are currently disposing of them directly into the atmosphere - you just can't see them, so no one is upset about them. They're only poisoning the world, right now, instead of "could" and "might" like the big bad nuclear waste boogie man the NIMBY crowd loves to hate.

If it were not for the rabid anti-nuclear crowd, we'd have had sufficient power capacity years ago (like France, a net exporter of nuclear-generated electricity) and there would BE no energy crisis, no OPEC (because no one would need very much of their product), and probably no war in Iraq.

Anything you do creates waste - at least we track and are careful to dispose of or store nuclear waste properly - while the waste from other sources we are busy breathing.

If we could cut all the politics and the fearmongering and the eco-bullshit out of the energy problem, we could put OPEC out of business in five years, and bring global warming to a halt.

You want to talk about it while you drown, or do you want to DO something?

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Boffin

re:What about peanuts?

Mr Diesel himself in his very first engine did infact use peanut oil!

And have you noticed that you cant buy ground nut oil in the supermarkets now?

yes oddly peanuts are good! they dont need much processing, but dont they need a reasonable amount of water?

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Bronze badge

Just use less

But thats a bit hard when the average human bieng believes

1) In a god who made this world and all its resources for humans to use at will

2) Someone else will fix the problem

3) in nothing but himself, who gives a shite what happens 10, 20 or 30 years down the line.

4) That companies need to expand, and that, for the share holders, they are allowed to do what the hell the want

5) The politicians (ignoring the fact that they are just making cash for their own little enterprises)

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Coat

Manhattan Project == Nuclear Fusion!

Isn't a lot of money being spent by many countries on a Nuclear Fusion reactor in France? Isn't that, quite literally, the modern equivalent of the Manhattan Project?

Mine's the one with the "Ready Brek" glow around it.

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Thank you Standard Oil

The core of the wealthly elite in America has its origins in fossil fuels...suggesting that Americans create/use an efficient/renewable mass transportation system is akin to becoming communist, hippy, tree-hugging, French speaking, metric users....

What next socialized medecine?

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Anonymous Coward

Stand by for action!

I have solved the problem people!

> The telly is off at the wall. <

My work here is done.

I didn't expect Dick Destiny to be anti-research on this one, I'd have thought he'd have liked the idea of throwing money at investigating the problem.

His bucket of algae might not produce much, but then a bucket of wheat wouldn't get you much bread either - how many buckets in the sea?

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Thumb Up

Forget Algae...

I saw an article on this in Wired, about some Silicon Valley types trying to create some bubble-type hype over this. It all sounds really exciting until they mention that one rather large reaction tank might produce 1 bbl/day under ideal conditions and that it would take a plant the size of Chicago to produce about 25% of the USA's needs.

Just build some nuclear reactors!

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Anonymous Coward

Cannabis?

Wouldn't Cannabis be a viable source of fuel?

Oil bearing seeds to produce fuel.

Fibres from the stems to produce textiles and paper.

Recreational products from the flowers to produce fun.

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Unhappy

Numbers PLEASE

We use around 88million barrels of oil p.a.

.

How many square miles of weeds, solar thermal or other?

How many m3 of water

How many $m invested

What proportion of key non-sustainable minerals needed

per million barrels p.a. of course.

Then we can see if the proponents or the detractors are fanticists!

Peter

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Anonymous Coward

Dear Dick

Hot effluent gases can be used in CHP technology, providing nice warm water for the algae to multiply and anabolise in, or even, where the plant is near population centres, hot water to actual dwellings, or 'free' steam to help extract the oil from the biomass.

Yes it'll take a lot, but there are a lot of power stations already. Spread the love.

You're right that it doesn't exist, but its potential hasn't even been explored yet, so why pooh-pooh the idea? Chlorophyll is a more efficient solar energy-capture mechanism than pretty much anything else we've got. A bit of (genetic) engineering stands a chance of producing a technology that might help reduce (not eliminate; there's not enmough solar wattage in the areas around electricty generation plants to where you'd want to pipe the gases to replace the inpout from black gold, but a supplement isn't impossible to achieve) the dependence on mineral oil and the amount of CO2 being added to the atmospheric mix.

It's not a "perpetual motion machine" any more than those solar-powered cars that race in Oz every year are: there's an external source of energy being proposed, i.e. the Sun.

Why have you bothered stringing so many half-baked counterarguments together, Dick? Are you being ironical, or dim? Or are you just suffering from imagination failure today?

No, it's not a magic bullet, but the reality of today is that if you don't oversell something, you don't get any funding to develop it.

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Boffin

Re: algae

Biofuel production is inefficient because plant metabolism is only as efficient as it needs to be to compete with other plants.

I've read (in New Scientist - and sorry! no reference to hand) that the highest yield you can get from biofuel production is equivalent to collecting 500 watts/sq.m. of solar energy. That boils down to under 50% efficiency in the UK and a lot less in sunnier places - and that's without figuring in the costs of refining and distributing the biofuel. Industrial solar energy capture in hot deserts like the US South-Western states or North Africa could do much better than that, thus providing a lot more energy from smaller and hence cheaper installations.

IMO biofuel is a non-starter without a massive drop in energy use and/or equally massive global depopulation.

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Bronze badge

Perpetual Motion

"...smack a bit of the old plans for perpetual motion machines."

Uh, except that the sun is a part of this system... Huge ball of plentiful energy that gets injected into the system.

Think about it this way:

You do X amount of work produces Y carbon.

You capture Y carbon in algae using solar power (via photosynthesis).

You then do Z amount of work, producing Y carbon.

So for Y carbon you can dor X+Z work instead of X work alone.

How *viable* the system is remains to be seen though.

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Go

Florida and Texas

"It does no good to mention that all of, let's say Florida, Texas or a couple other states, would need to be turned over to [Jatropha biodiesel production]."

It doesn't? Sounds like a great idea to me. The whole of Texas and Florida, nothing but weeds.

Indeed, why stop there? How many other states are there?

[NOTE: I'm joking... well, other than about Texas]

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Paris Hilton

@Nuclear power plants

Nuclear power plants. Three choices at the moment:

1) Fusion - tech not ready, but hopeful

2) Thorium (or other fissile) reactors - tech not ready, but

3) Existing fission tech - max 100 years fuel left in the ground, assuming no increase in consumption. Plenty in the sea, but extraction tech currently consumes more energy than the fuel can generate

4) Existing breeder fission tech - could extend fuel reserves by a factor of 60, and because of the problems above, is the only realistic nuclear option. Problem - we need to be replacing our old reactors with these, and building new ones now. And we're not, we're mostly sticking with replacement. Even if it only takes a decade or so to start building them, we'll have burnt most of the fuel before they come online.

The waster problem isn't as bad as the greenies say because theoretically, it's containable and can be made safe. Sadly, in the real world, we are proving incapable of doing it properly, and it's turning out to be hideously expensive.

Which leads further into the problem - nuclear is currently slightly cheaper for the end user than renewables. But only if you discount security and waste disposal (shouldered by government and hence the tax payers). Realistically, with peak-fuel approaching and demand increasing, it's going to get more expensive and it's going to do it exponentially. Also bear in mind that current fission is at the end of it's improvement cycle - we aren't going to squeeze much more out of what fuel we have.

So, yes, nuclear could tide us over until we work out fusion or something else, but in reality, it has a supply problem that we aren't doing anything about, it's too expensive, and we're too disorganised to do get together and solve the problems.

It is PART of the solution, but it's not enough.

Renewables aren't the whole answer either, but we can build them now, have them working in weeks or months, not years, and we can guarantee that most of them are going to improve in efficiency and cost, without causing any waste or security problems.

Paris, because she's better with a calculator than most of the nuclear industry

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Pirate

But surely

...AGW is all just a lot of nonsense by environazis and research-grant hungry "scientists" who are all secretly in the pay of Greenpeace. And anyway, I need my car to get to work. Sorry reality, my need to earn a living outweighs the laws of physics. Stuff Boltzman, have you seen the price of a pint these days?

Seriously though, since 1988 I've been getting steadily more and more pessimistic about the chances of humanity doing anything to even /delay the onset/ of the tipping-point changes that are going to wipe out industrial civilisation as we know it today. (Think I'm exaggerating? Try looking up world cities within 20m of current sea-levels. Now bear in mind that the world's ports are also going to be under water, so no more international shipping, and by that time the price of oil will have long made air travel an expensive luxury only available to the super-rich.)

Doomed, I tell you, doomed. Ha ha, only serious.

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Alert

re. Was there a point to that?

I think the point is that if the US (and by extension the rest of the world) wants to replace oil with some kind of farmed alternative fuel then it's just wishful thinking.

The point is that all the schemes outlined come to nothing when you try to scale them up to match the consumption of the US!

Any scheme that involves using farmland to grow fuel is going to come into conflict with the need to feed people.

The choices seem to be:

1) Use a lot less fuel per person (not popular in the US)

2) Have a lot less people (not popular anywhere really)

3) Magic fuel out of thin air (answers on a postcard please)

Yes, there's a lot of scope for creating electricity from nuclear power and renewables, but this isn't very useful for powering anything made in Detroit. Energy consumption for automotive use is the issue.

The world is going to change radically over the next fifty years (even if climate change isn't real, consumption of fossil fuels is); you can either start now and do it relatively painlessly or you can keep ignoring the issue and wait for the painful energy crunch.

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RE: Cannabis?

AC,

You got the order wrong.

If you start with "Recreational products from the flowers to produce fun" then the requirements for the other products reduce. The only travel required is to the fridge and then the grocery, when the fridge is empty!

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Boffin

Hombrew nuclear reactor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hahn

If some oddball kid could get the materials to build an almost viable nuclear reactor in his parent's shed, maybe its time that all of us consider cutting our home power and heating bills, with a little box which sits in the corner which we dont talk about.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hahn

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Sam

@ Martin Gregorie

"I've read (in New Scientist - and sorry! no reference to hand) that the highest yield you can get from biofuel production is equivalent to collecting 500 watts/sq.m. of solar energy. That boils down to under 50% efficiency in the UK and a lot less in sunnier places"

Err,shouldn't that be MORE in sunnier places? More sun..more energy?

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Happy

I've got an idea...

I was reading up on the global warming impact of the concrete industry (which is variously reported as being somewhere between big and huge, 'up to 15% of all man-made CO2 emissions' by some reports).

The concrete industry claim (I think they mean in the best case, the most energy efficient) that 40% of the CO2 from concrete comes from the fuel / energy required to burn the limestone, and 60% comes from the CO2 expelled from the burning limestone itself.

The next claim is that the 60% portion is all reabsorbed (from the atmosphere) into the crumbling concrete over the next few (many?) hundred years so it doesn't really count in the long run.

Anyway, here is the suggestion: A concrete plant is a perfect example of a major point source. So, whatever it costs, sequester the CO2 from all concrete plants. Just do it. The plants can even be relocated to optimum locations and the concrete moved around by train. You can't ask for better than major point sources where you can even adjust the schedule of emissions (unlike power plants). It doesn't get any better.

Now, with this plan, the concrete becomes a NEGATIVE source of CO2 as it reabsorbs CO2 (the 60%) from the atmosphere over the following few (many?) hundred years.

It's 1.6 for the price of 1.0 !!! And on major regional point sources that are already a best-case. And the concrete industry need not complain because if they accept this challenge, then we will throw huge buckets of money at them. They should get rich and deservedly so if they help out in this manner.

It's a no brainer.

Send the Nobel Prize via e-mail.

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Dead Vulture

I think this is the negotiation stage.

The stages of grief:

1. denial

2. anger

3. negotiation

4. sorrow

5. Acceptance.

The world is running short of cheap fossil energy, not just oil. No other energy source has the huge energy return on energy invested that a traditional oil well has. Modern industrial society is designed around cheap plentiful fossil energy. There is no plan B. Not even nuclear can make up the shortfall we are facing.

The global financial model is built on the assumption of ever increasing amounts of cheap fossil energy. That is even more insane. Even if we could make marginal schemes like algal biofuels work, we could never catch up with the demands of exponentially growing global GDP.

The global economy is going to contract in proportion to the global energy supply. We are profligate with energy, we can adapt to a low energy existence if we try, but it will not much look like industrial society. We have very little time left.

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Jim
Boffin

@ @Nuclear power plants

I think you are being a little too positive about nuclear power ;)

"2) Thorium (or other fissile) reactors - tech not ready, but"

I thought the usefulness of Thorium is that it can be bred into U233 (would be happy to be corrected on this) that leads on to...

"4) Existing breeder fission tech - could extend fuel reserves by a factor of 60, and because of the problems above, is the only realistic nuclear option."

The problem is that breeder fission tech has proved not to be a realistic nuclear option. It seems that expermental breeder reactors are being closed down and research halted in most places with only the French Phenix and Japanese Monju (when not on fire) experimental sites still functional. The Super Phenix is the only example of a commercial size reactor and that was unable to demonstrate anything like the theoretical 1.3 breed ratio, even during the brief intervals when it was operating at capacity. In fact they appeared to have major problems getting above 1. Personally, I find this disappointing as fast breeder tech certainly had a much brighter future than LWR - if they could have got it to work

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Silver badge
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Poor reporting.

You're wrong about algae.

Like bacteria, and unlike the higher plants that you rightly disdain as hopeless, algae grow exponentially until they run out of a critical resource. Mostly what they need is CO2 (from the atmosphere) and sunlight (the more the better). And some strains are 80% oil when you squash them - oil that's very easy to process into diesel fuel.

Algae can be grown both in saltwater (no shortage in the oceans) or in polluted freshwater (which they detoxify as they grow). They don't need much in the way of other nutrients, beyond having what's left after the oil is squished out of them returned to the pond for recycling into more algae. It's bio-solar power in its purest form, and (usefully for vehicles) it generates oil rather than electricity.

Yes, it would take a vast amount of land covered in ponds to supply our needs. No, that wouldn't be agricultural land. It would be barren desert. There's no shortage of desert. Much of it adjacent to oceans, for the water supply.

Algae are one of the three renewable technologies that could actually scale up to a big enough scale, the others being solar-thermal and solar-PV. All can make good use of desert land.

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Re: Nuclear power plants

And you don't want to be using oil in transport/processing of nuclear material or in construction of the reactor (or extraction of the materials for construction).

Because it means if you're still using oil, you are now increasing the cost of nuclear power because oil is scarce. Which is WHY you're moving to nuclear.

So you need to move your machinery over to electric FIRST. Then (if nuclear is cheaper than oil), you can power them from the electric you're generating from the stuff you're digging up. Or from local production (solar/wind/wave/gerbils/...).

Still people want to make reactors FIRST.

I dunno why.

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Re: Numbers PLEASE

Uh, do it yourself, Peter.

It's not like you don't already know what to ask, or that you won't be able to find answers.

Add to the system by doing something, rather than pooh-pooh it because you can only raise the energy to ASK questions rather than ANSWER them.

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"a tiny impression"

OK. So solar power will make a tiny impression.

Power reduction will make a tiny impression.

Biofuels will make a tiny impression.

Wave power will make a tiny impression.

etc.

Now, add them all together...

(heck, do you have trouble walking to the shops because it's a mile away and one step makes a tiny difference to the distance left to go, so why bother?)

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WTF?

What was that all about? Usually articles on El Reg are quite good, but that was just a directionless rant!

Obviously, Yanks need to learn to drive a lot less. Higher fuel prices will do that. Clearly, collecting weeds and squashing them to get the grease isn't going to directly replace all fossils fuels. Yes, corn-to-ethanol is just another Dubya tax-handout to his pals.

What exactly did that article say that wasn't already blindingly obvious?

Do you lot have editors?

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Jim
Pirate

@Solution

"The "nuclear waste" problem is a straw man - it can be contained and disposed of pretty safely."

Huh? Disposed of? You mean left in a swimming pool (high/intermediate level) or dumped in a hole in the ground and hoping no one finds it accidentally (low level).

Roughly every 20 years since the 40's, the nuclear industry has claimed that the waste problem will be solved within 20 years - still waiting. Though sub-critical reactors look hopeful for annihalation of the nastiest stuff, what is being done to properly dispose of the mountains of low level waste?

"Anything you do creates waste - at least we track and are careful to dispose of or store nuclear waste properly"

Tracked properly? So how come fuel reprocessing plants carry a significant inventory of missing material, ie stuff that supposedly went in to a process but never came out?

Stored properly? Most nuclear waste from civilian power is in temporary storage while awaiting permanent storage to be found some time in the future. In fact, in the US, all spent fuel is still stored in cooling ponds at the reactor sites.

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Anonymous Coward

US

Even if the US cut over to diesel cars they'd go from an average low 20s mpg (UK gallons) to late 40s.

If they learned to use the cars a little less (you don't need to drive across a car park to go to the next shop), turned off lights when they weren't in the room, didn't run their air-co to 16C this might not be such a problem.

However, while they do there's little point us doing much more.

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So what about hard numbers?

So if a group comes forward and says "we estimate we can produce 10,000 barrels a day via algae" - are you calling them liars, incompetent, what?

http://environment.newscientist.com/article/mg19826595.900-algae-oil-promises-truly-green-fuel.html

Or are you simply suggesting that because an alternative energy source cannot completely subsume current need, it is not worth pursuing?

This was a strange article.

(On the bright side, I had been under the impression that kudzu was brought to the States years ago nefarious Europeans (obviously looking to have some fun watching the US transform into one giant green carpet) - but sparked by this article to look it up in wikipedia - I now know it's the Asians that are to blame for the introduction of this noxious botanical menace to the glorious South ;)

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Journalists

Harness the energy of flatulent hacks.

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Boffin

Nuclear and Solar Power Satellites

Nuclear fission/fusion is a reasonable short term solution, however more energy is needed (huggies advocating "do less with less" should go live in a dank cave somehwere). We are a bit limited energy wise on the surface of this mudball, so what is needed is for the first world to start harvesting all that solar energy in space that is 'going to waste'.

Even better, America/Europe can do this, but the oil cartels so far can't. Well, we could if there was any national spine anywhere to be found....

Even a simple expedient of intensifying the insolation at specific areas to enhance algae growth is possible-- and cheap to orbit as a distributed constellation. We need to start somewhere and stop whining.

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"do less with less"

Why should they live in a cave? They don't advocate Doing Less With Nothing. YOU advocate that. At least you keep bleating on about living in caves.

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@ Soylent Green

Liposuction to the rescue!! If we could "harvest" 10 pounds of fat from half the population of the United States per year, that would be.... um... lots. Convert that to biodiesel and we have a renewable source of fuel that will never run out.

And now all those people who insist on driving their Hummer to their local MickeyD can feel good about themselves as they are actually "fueling the economy".

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Anonymous Coward

Netherlands could grow Algae

I reckon fusion is stuck in a rut, fifty years from now they'd still be building big hot plasma rings and still trying to make energy. That's not going anywhere without some magic spark to take them in a new direction.

Fission is reasonable, but short term, with unwanted waste.

Algae, well as carbon capture it's rubbish, since you need to find somehere to dump it that won't release the CO2 (I can't really imagine pumping it into the mines would work, CO2 would just escape).

But yeh, farming those big algae plumes are sea is possible not sure if it's viable for the energy.

I still like my idea of cutting a canal from the pacific to Utah salt flats, (with a tunnel under the rockies). Fertilizing it with excrement from the sewage plants and growing algae as it falls into the dessert.

I wonder if Netherlands couldn't grow algae in their many shallow diked ponds simply by dumping the sewage INSIDE the dike instead of OUTSIDE. You can see the alga plume here.

http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=51.426614,3.426361&spn=0.579691,1.078033&t=h&z=10

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Thanks for remembering me, Reg

Hey, I just want to say thanks for remembering that I commented on this very issue -- biofuels from algae -- a few months back. Glad to see you're all for it, in your usual "I don't understand this so I'll slag it off" manner.

Cheers. Let me know when you need some more stories. Or -- tell you what -- just do what I do and learn about the technology. It'll do you good.

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Ban fertilizer

The resulting price increase and natural scarcity of food will starve the excess population to death

Oh wait thats organic farming

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All to the good...

A few good technology scams to pull all of the speculators out of the commodities markets will help curb the inflation those goons have been contributing to the economy. There's really too much money in the hands of the investing class that they don't know what to do with and they're to greedy to give it up as charitable donations or taxes.

A good .fuel bubble would get them out of businesses that peoples' lives depend on and might even fund a Yahoo! or Google that actually produces a viable solution.

Incidentally, regarding the US Sugar buyout in Florida: It's a scam too. By the time the government pays off the bonds that they issue to fund the buyout, the Everglades area will be part of the Gulf of Mexico due to rising sea levels from GW. Figure 30 years tops. US Sugar is just selling ahead of the market.

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Anyone who thinks the world is only 8000 years old...

... will necessarily have a poor grasp of the concept of 'fossil' fuels, and how much time (and what kind of process) is needed to (re)create them. That's part of the problem. You don't just generate the energy equivalent of millions of years of forest sunlight in a few months, or even a few years.

I think this was a great article. Sober and necessary. As others have pointed out, 'the point' of this article is to remind us of the orders of magnitude involved in solving the energy crisis, and to reiterate that *using much less energy* needs to be part of any reasonable solution. This message needs to be stated over and over again, until the petrolheads get a clue, because it is very unpopular. We also need to realise that there is no *single* solution which will replace fossill fuels, which means we need to consider hybrid and combination solutions.

Assuming we discover a 'magic spell' to deal with the problem of nuclear waste disposal, nuclear fission will still never be 'the' solution because of the tricky little problem of 'rogue states' and atom bombs and all that. What are Iran and North Korea supposed to use as a energy source? Oh, right, 'we' just don't care. They don't deserve energy because they hate our way of life. Nice solution.

Well, Kissinger was pushing nuclear fission on Iran before the Islamic revolution. Imagine if their nuclear program had managed to get up and running before the Islamists took over? Wait a minute, what's happening in Pakistan... A 'friendly' country can become a 'rogue' state, and you then have to hope that they have no nuclear program, because by golly dey gonna wanna make dem bombs.

Thorny problem, but some people still say nuclear power is 'the' solution because they are not seeing the whole problem: Any solution to the energy crisis needs to do more than fit within the laws of thermodynamics, and the logistics of large-scale operation. It also needs to be a politically viable solution. Nuclear fission is, above all, too bloody dangerous for *political* reasons. None of the pro-nuke lobby ever deal with this issue, of course.

As for nuclear fusion... More 'magic'? Still a pipe dream (hope is good, but it wont solve the energy crisis on its own). What about harnessing the power of hamster wheels? If we had enough hamsters - deployed over an area the size of Texas... yeah... that might just keep Louisiana's richest districts going until we can think of something better. Don't worry, there's plenty of time. Some of our most reassuring politicians say the Hubbart oil peak is still a few years away...

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Paris Hilton

It's too late already

For those that are posting here thinking that the alternatives will save all the expensive real estate in low lying places from flooding, it's wake up time! It's already too late!

The ice caps melt - release trapped CO2, permafrost melts - releases CO2 and trapped Methane, desertification no carbon absorption, sea temperature change - release to deep bound Methane, this chain reaction has started and cannot be stopped!

Biggest worry - we have a non sustainable water consumption increase, we will be going to war over water in the near future!

Paris because she will always have bottled water at hand.

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@Cannabis

yes ..

1. it's the cellulous interior of the plant that can be fermented into ethanol, at about 3-4 times the volume per acre that's possible with Corn, with less water .. can be grown in a wide range of climates and altitudes

2.Hemp fixes nitrogen, it's deep roots improve the soil, good rotational crop, particularly for corn .. lowers dependence on chemical fertilizers that are made from, mostly, Natural Gas / Methane

3.Diesel designed his engine for vegtable oils, and Hemp seed is a good source, potencially more in weight per acre than corn oil per acre. Henry Ford wanted automobiles to run on Hemp alcohol, and had an exception for his own hemp plantations to run his personal cars on

4.Hemp fiber is the best natural fiber, rope made of hemp last in sea water, and hemp production had to be resumed for the WWII effort because the petroleum industry couldn't provide enough synthetic rope .. Cannabis = Canvas .. same word

5.Why do you think Hemp is illegal anyway ? .. it was a threat to the oil industry, an economic war between agricultural and industrial financial interests.

6.US keeps 80-90 million acres fallow, and while some of that is considered 'marginal' it's not so marginal for Hemp production

Need Nuclear power big time too .. I want a Nuclear powered steam car I only need to refuel once each 20-30 years :)

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