Pump Up the Storage

If we adopt solar and wind as major components of our energy infrastructure as we are weaned from fossil fuels, we have to solve the energy storage problem in a big way. An earlier post demonstrated that we do not likely possess enough materials in the world to simply build giant lead-acid (or nickel-based or lithium-based) batteries to do the job. Comments frequently pointed to pumped hydro storage as a far more sensible answer. Indeed, pumped storage is currently the dominant—and nearly only—grid-scale storage solution out there. Here, we will take a peek at pumped hydro and evaluate what it can do for us.

Review: Life Without Oil by Steve Hallett With John Wright

“Imagining a world without oil” describes in stark detail what might happen if one day the world decided to decommission all its oil tankers, rigs, pipelines and strategic reserves. The authors, environmental scientist Steve Hallett and journalist John Wright, expect that we’d initially see sky-high prices and long lines at pumps. After a few weeks, fuel wouldn’t be had at any price and even first-world citizens would struggle to stay fed and out of the elements. This is no Hollywood doomsday scenario—it’s a levelheaded extrapolation from current trends in the fast deteriorating world energy situation. [An essay prefiguring the book originally appeared in The Washington Post.]

The roads to our alternative energy future

How fast do we need to transition off of fossil fuels? What industrial capacity is available today for different alternative energy technologies and what is likely to be available in the future? What might we do if we can’t replace fossil fuels with alternatives fast enough, and what might the consequences be? I finally got around to re-doing these calculations, and wanted to go through the numbers.

Can renewable energy outshine fossil fuels?

I’m not popular with environmentalists when I tell them that renewables can only provide a small fraction of the energy that fossil fuels do in powering industrial civilization. In fact, I was recently called a liar at the screening of an anti-nuke film for suggesting so.

As nuclear falters, here is a practical, affordable (and safe) clean electricity plan

In the wake of the Japanese nuclear debacle, we need a practical and affordable clean electricity plan that does not rely on new nuclear power. This article presents just such a Plan. New nuclear is absent from the Plan not because of any safety concern, but simply because it fails the “practical and affordable” test. President Obama called for “80% Clean Energy” by 2035. This Plan presents how we can do it right.

A Pearl River tale, power and pride in China

For a few days last week, global news agencies pursued the peculiar story of the world’s worst traffic jam, which was reported to have lasted for around nine days and stretched across about 100 kilometres of a major highway leading to Beijing. China’s latest instance of leading the world, now in the scale and size of traffic jams, is a direct consequence of the modern uses and abuses of energy.

The peak oil crisis: countdown at the Guri

Now, if you are wondering why a falling water level in the Venezuelan highlands should be if interest to Americans, the answer is easy. Despite years of political tensions between the Chavez government and Washington, the U.S. is still importing some 800,000 barrels a day of crude from Venezuela.

Job Losses Push Need for Energy Bill

Millions of job losses are pushing the U.S. Senate to consider a Jobs and Energy bill, even though Cap and Trade appears to be on life support. What are Five Key Measures that must be in a new Bill to avoid being a “half-ass..d” effort? (term from Sen. Lindsey Graham descrbing limited climate bill)

Trolley canal boats

For many centuries, canal boats were propelled by men, horses or mules on the towpath beside the water. Before diesel power took over, engineers developed several interesting methods powered by electricity: trolleyboats, floating funiculars and electric mules. Many of these ecological solutions could be applied today instead of diesel engines.

Throwing our energy at impossible dreams…

“as mankind proceeded to get bigger and bigger we silently crossed a threshold”