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No More Cheap Oil

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Its quite interesting that the article is very similar (and by Nils Blythe) as one broadcast on the Today programme on Radio 4 on Monday Night.

However on the radio they talked to Matt Simmons and actually mentioned Peak Oil, whereas it appears they aren't about to mention the "peak" to the web reading masses just yet.

It does seem BBC are slowly disseminating information about energy insecurity.

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It does seem BBC are slowly disseminating information about energy insecurity.

Just what I was thinking. All helps to knock the 'feel good factor' on the head.

New car sales are down too, related perhaps!

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The 10 o'clock news on BBC1 are running a series about energy. Monday was Tar sands in Canada, last night was nuclear in France.

At least they have identified an important topic to report on.

Shame they gave the job to a load of arts-grads with no knowledge of physics or industry.

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Shame they gave the job to a load of arts-grads with no knowledge of physics or industry.

That's a good point, and one which angers me constantly. This country never ceases to amaze me the way it regards physicists and other numerate fields of knowledge. Broadly speaking, it thinks of them as "boffins" who are good at coming up with some sort of very specific bit of gadgetry or some arcane theory, but when it comes to real issues they should move aside. I've always believed the opposite; whenever physics underlies an issue for society (like energy production), physicists are the best people to explain it. There are plenty very articulate physicists, who could easily do a good job of putting a bit of investigative journalism together and presenting it, and in doing so would focus fully on the real issues, and not be prone to getting the relative importance of issues out of order. Of course this doesn't apply to all physicists, but most people would be surprised by the good powers of communication and clarity of explanation that many of them can give on topics such as this.

Fundamentally, physics is a science about reducing things to their underlying principles, and distilling problems down to their essence. Because of that, it lends itself well to making clear arguments about key issues. It is not about details that only boffins need to concern themselves with. And on the odd occasions when it is, then that means that the particular issue is just fundamentally tricky, and can't be meaningfully discussed in any other way.

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Another example is the media falling for the idea that moving to a "Hydrogen Economy" will end our energy problems. When pressed to tell us where the hydrogen will come from they triumphantly inform us that we will extract it from water - sorted!

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Another example is the media falling for the idea that moving to a "Hydrogen Economy" will end our energy problems. When pressed to tell us where the hydrogen will come from they triumphantly inform us that we will extract it from water - sorted!

There are huge issues here as said process is very energy intense.

Because of the scale involoved oceans would be the only viable source of water so the sort of facility required is thus:

Huge coastal plant drawing water from the sea into a desalination processing facility where sea water is boiled/evaporated to leave salt behind, which will need to be discarded. Condense the pure water back into a liquid form so it can be seperated into oxygen and hydrogen through the process of electrolysis.

Splitting hydrogen from water alone requires more energy than can be released from burning the hydrogen. So immense power stations would also be best placed on such a site, as the other two processes, evaporating and condensing the water, have massive energy requirements.

Imagine the economic importance of just such a facility, a facility central to a hydrogen economy. A hydrogen economy relies on a small number of immense regional coastal facilities to supply hydrogen fuel for regional outlets. Hydrogen is also highly explosive and has very low density making it difficult to store/contain.

A hydrogen economy is only really viable in juxtaposition with fusion power. Looks achievable but decades away

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Because of the scale involoved oceans would be the only viable source of water so the sort of facility required is thus:

Huge coastal plant drawing water from the sea...

No way would you need that much water. The desalination costs would kill any efficiency. Electrolysis plants could also be smaller and distributed, it's difficult to see an economy of scale.

Anyway, H2 economy is bogus for reasons discussed here before. Hydrogen is a means of storing energy but so are ethanol, biodiesel, rechargeable batteries, kinetic energy systems (yes, there are semi-practical technologies that store energy in a flywheel and use it to power a car).

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I've always believed the opposite; whenever physics underlies an issue for society (like energy production), physicists are the best people to explain it. There are plenty very articulate physicists, who could easily do a good job of putting a bit of investigative journalism together and presenting it, and in doing so would focus fully on the real issues, and not be prone to getting the relative importance of issues out of order.

I'm a physicist, here's my stab at energy related journalism:

Kuwaiti Reserve Reverse

It was cold, will it be cold when it matters?

Aviation White Paper Disaster

Bad News For UK Energy

UK Gas and Electricity Crisis Looming

Peak Oil: Two Approaches, One Answer

In my opinion there should be far more scientists in politics and the media.

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I'd like to see the flywheel that will store a few hours surplus production from a Gigawatt power station.

I guess you'd have to run it vertically to limit the area of destruction if it failed.

Petrol is an incredibly compact, and relatively easily handled store of energy (well, at least we have experience [remembers Buncefield <_< ]).

A nuclear fission or fusion power station creating synthetic petrol from water and carbon (maybe from CO2) would be greenhouse-gas-neutral and would allow us to carry on using a fuel that we have a vast body of experience with.

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A nuclear fission or fusion power station creating synthetic petrol from water and carbon (maybe from CO2) would be greenhouse-gas-neutral and would allow us to carry on using a fuel that we have a vast body of experience with.

If there are processes to convert heat or electric energy into hydrocarbons then why is anyone even considering hydrogen? How do you make petrol from H2O CO2 and energy?

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I'm a physicist, here's my stab at energy related journalism:

In my opinion there should be far more scientists in politics and the media.

Having trawled through that lot, I strongly advise you to stick to the day job. Journalism is a profession that should be left to professionals.

It annoys me that any fool thinks they can have a "stab" at it :angry:

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If there are processes to convert heat or electric energy into hydrocarbons then why is anyone even considering hydrogen? How do you make petrol from H2O CO2 and energy?

Of course there is a process - chemistry is just elements and energy. Some reactions are exothermic, like burning petrol in air, other are endothermic, like making petrol from H2O and CO2.

If you have the elements and the energy available you can make pretty much any stable chemical you want.

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Not one to miss a good debate...

No way would you need that much water. The desalination costs would kill any efficiency. Electrolysis plants could also be smaller and distributed, it's difficult to see an economy of scale.

Anyway, H2 economy is bogus for reasons discussed here before. Hydrogen is a means of storing energy but so are ethanol, biodiesel, rechargeable batteries, kinetic energy systems (yes, there are semi-practical technologies that store energy in a flywheel and use it to power a car).

Er... How many large enough rivers do you think there are to accomodate electrolysis plants?

We are talking about meeting the global transport energy demand in 2060?

Would you melt whats left of polar ice?

H2 can work but needs to be regional. It is bogus to move large quantities of hydrogen over vast distances.

Efficiency would be sh*te but if you have working fusion it doesn't matter. A commercial fusion reactor would require 380Kg of Lithium annually to produce 1GWe according to this paper by the Max-Planc institute

According to the Geochmistry Lab at the University of Maryland

Lithium makes up circa 0.25% mass of the earths upper crust. The Earths upper crust is 10^22Kg

So there are 2,500 Trillion tonnes of Lithium in the upper crust.

I make that ~ 6,580 Trillion GWe Years of energy

In 2003 I think the world produced ~16 Trillion KWh

So... and bear with me, if 1 GW Year = 365 days * 24 hours * 1000 = 8,760,000 KWh

Thus: The maximum possible energy produced from fusion is 8,760,000 *6,580

= 56.74 Billion Trillion KWh

In 2003 we (the world) used/produced ~16 Trillion KWh

So we could 'do' 2003 energy requirements for 56.74 Billion / 16 = 3.5 Billion years

Lets assume this new energy is 1000 times less efficient than the oil economy

It would then only last 3.5 Million years :( , or three times the age of the human evolutionary strand B)

The gain from having one huge plant is you do not need hundreds of miles of overhead cables with mega resistance. Distributed electrolysis would work, following the invention of super conductors, alas.

Hydrogen fuel cells will become more mature with time but will probably take many decades before they see wide spread use.

If you continue to burn hydrocarbons the Earth will eventually look more like Venus than the Earth we all know and enjoy

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Having trawled through that lot, I strongly advise you to stick to the day job. Journalism is a profession that should be left to professionals.

It annoys me that any fool thinks they can have a "stab" at it :angry:

I certainly intend to stick to the day job! I don't think we can leave journalism (and I think blogs are starting to impact this area) to the professionals though as they have shown over the last couple of years to be completely inadequate when it comes to Energy coverage. The UK is facing an unprecedented energy crisis over the next decade or so, Government is behaving hopelessly and the media aren't taking them to task.

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Having trawled through that lot, I strongly advise you to stick to the day job. Journalism is a profession that should be left to professionals.

It annoys me that any fool thinks they can have a "stab" at it :angry:

Professionals such as... who? I am not aware of ANY "professional" journalist who can write about technical issues with real insight. They make precisely the mistakes that Rock Doctor and clv101 complain about; failing to grasp the fundamentals; that energy cannot be created, likewise failing to grasp the concept of useful energy (entropy).

The reality is that when it comes to technical or scientific journalism, the specialists who have some command of the written word are a much better bet than the "professionals" who will never make up for their lack of years of education mastering the fundamentals of physics and the difficulties of technology.

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Having trawled through that lot, I strongly advise you to stick to the day job. Journalism is a profession that should be left to professionals.

It annoys me that any fool thinks they can have a "stab" at it :angry:

Well, I don't think he is a "fool" at all. And where are those excellent professional journalists? I read a lot of newspapers, magazines and journals, and a lot of the stuff I read in them is pretty second rate drivel, even just as a piece of writing. I think journalists are way over rated a lot of the time. Sure there are good ones, but not as many as they think. And it is easier for a physicist to learn to write acceptable journalism, than it is for most journalists to learn physics, I'll wager.

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Having trawled through that lot, I strongly advise you to stick to the day job. Journalism is a profession that should be left to professionals.

It annoys me that any fool thinks they can have a "stab" at it mad.gif

A little unfair... Have you read much so-called "journalism" on the BBC website? Re-digested Press Releases.

I find this sort of citizen journalism quite refreshing. People who aren't too bothered about the copy but get the facts out. Proper "journalists" should probably be a bit worried as people like myself are going direct to the source for their news rather than the mainstream media. I've enjoyed reading vitaltrivia.co.uk

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Only scientists should be allowed on TV.

Also no arts subjects should be funded in universities as they are a waste of money.

Bring on genetic modification and ban all spiritual and artistic societies / movements. What we want are hard facts and practical solutions. Richard Dawkins is a really nice man. Sue Blackmore is so wise too. Why can't we all be like them?

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Richard Dawkins is a really nice man.

I know you are taking the mike, but I'm curious why so many people hate Dawkins. He seems to generate a visceral dislike, even though (to my ears) he is only talking absolutes in the same way that the religicos do.

If one bunch of people believe in sky-fairies, why is it so upsetting for them to be told that they are wrong?

When I listen to religicos pontificate on R4's Thought for the Day I don't hate them, I just think they are wrong.

What is Dawkins doing to provoke you?

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I know you are taking the mike, but I'm curious why so many people hate Dawkins. He seems to generate a visceral dislike, even though (to my ears) he is only talking absolutes in the same way that the religicos do.

If one bunch of people believe in sky-fairies, why is it so upsetting for them to be told that they are wrong?

When I listen to religicos pontificate on R4's Thought for the Day I don't hate them, I just think they are wrong.

What is Dawkins doing to provoke you?

Maybe it is because he challenges me and makes me realise how weak, puny and insignificant I am in this vast, mechanistic and soulless universe?

Or it could be the way he seems so sure that there are no mysteries or spiritual dimensions to the universe. It just seems joyless and deathly. I am not so sure about these things because I only have experience of a tiny speck in the universe and wouldn't rule out anything. As far as I am aware we do not know what makes up 96% of the material universe but scientists sometimes give me the impression that they think they know everything. The way he comes across is arrogant IMHO.

But he has a large following and good luck to him if he can expose some of the more ridiculous sides of fundamentalist religion. If he could cool down and come across with more humility and respect then I might warm to him. I don't think he'll be losing any sleep over what I think mind you.

And in the end cheap oil looks like it is over so he is as much in the s&it as the rest of us. Not that that makes me happy though.

I'm a miserable dick aren't I?

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I'm curious why so many people hate Dawkins. He seems to generate a visceral dislike, even though (to my ears) he is only talking absolutes in the same way that the religicos do.

Well I think he is fab, and nearly everyone where I work thinks he is pretty good too. But hey we are all pastafarian molecular biologists :)

He is bound to get wound up and seem a bit pissy when those Intelligent Design monkeys are spouting their pseudo science, they can believe what they want but it is about as scientific as my **** is artistic.

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  • 301 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



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