Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Future Energy Scenarios

People get paid big bucks to do detailed commodity futures analysis. This is free, so remember you are getting what you pay for.

Strategic needs seem to be the winner as far as short term driver of energy policy. The Global Warming guys have shot themselves in the foot and are still trying to figure out how that could have happened. I don't have a dog in that hunt, so I could not care less. AGW will probably be in the range of 1 to 3 C by the end of this century, worthy of consideration. Gas at 6 bucks a gallon by the end of the decade is more worthy. Doesn't really matter.

Transportation fuel is the biggest short term concern. Drill, Baby, Drill is now one of our new president's battle cries. He made the obligatory comments about staying the course even if oil prices drop so we feel comfortable again. Same message I have heard since the mid 70's. This time though, our fearless leader popped a few caps at the North African wing nut. Wing nuts are like red neck families, they fight all the time among themselves, but will take on all comers that slight fat cousin Betty. So expect more foreign oil supply problems.

Deeper and more remote areas will be drilled to get crude, even though California has crude burbling up off their coast. Coal gasefication for syn-fuels is on the back burner because of cost and the anti-coal lobby. Natural gas for large trucks is growing much more attractive and will really kick in with the trans-Canada gas pipeline. Bio-fuels are nearing their peak using food crops which should start a real push for non-food crop bio mass production. It will be at least a decade for that to gain traction.

Electric generation is switching to natural gas and higher efficiency coal. While more nuclear is likely, Generation IV reactors are still a couple decades off, spent fuel storage policy is killing rapid expansion. Wind is nearing its peak due to grid requirements. Solar is still the energy of the future, though the nanosolar concept is promising. The condition of the aging national grid and natural gas infrastructure will dictate what and where, until something real happens.

To make any major progress, somebody is going to have to take a get real pill. Hydrogen as energy storage will suck hind teat because it would require actually forethought to include it in the infrastructure build out. Something we are not noted for. The defense department is not going to be much help, because their needs are NATO based. The Department of Energy is throwing fair amounts of money at the issue, though the lion's share will need to be focused on infrastructure.

Nudging things toward a more optimum direction is complicated by the spent fuel issue, infrastructure and fear of nearly everything that happens to not be "your" idea. There is absolutely nothing new here, just restating the obvious. Real change, tailored to our future needs, will require what seems to be the lost Art of Compromise.

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