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Energy

Crystal River Energy Complex
Crystal River Energy Complex

Showing Nuclear Plant CR3 (center) and Coal Fire Plants CR1 & CR2 (left), and CR4 & CR5 (beyond CR3).

Overview of Global and U.S. Energy Consumption

The United States Department of Energy issued their report on world demand and the United States demand within that on 27 July, 2010. Click here to see the report highlights.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) published in their 2009 review an illustration of U.S. Primary Energy Consumption by Source and Sector, 2008. Click here to see the 2008 source/sector diagram.

Energy Geopolitics

The disastrous explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on 20 April, 2010, helps us to focus upon the pivotal role of global energy today and for the future.

We need energy both for transportation and for generation of distributed energy (electricity and heat) and to fuel production of chemicals, plastics and fertilizers, and countless military, industrial, agricultural and domestic needs. Petroleum products meet approximately 95% of all transportation needs. Coal, oil, and natural gas are the fossil fuels used for some 87% of all distributed power together with electricity from nuclear reactors and hydro power systems.

The nature of discovery, extraction and processing of fossil fuels and uranium to produce usable energy occupies a lengthy timescale of expensive investment. Characteristically output from initial discovery rises to peak levels for a time followed by decline until geologic supplies effectively become consumed. Initially, these fuels are easier and cheaper to extract and then become more difficult as the easier sources become exhausted and new sources more difficult and hazardous to exploit from deeper underground or undersea. At the same time competition becomes more acute as demand from the likes of China, India and Brazil are felt and as diminishing supplies are perceived to be an essential component of a nation's security. Fuel rich nations act increasingly in politically motivated ways even to employment of arms diplomacy, giving military related aid and even active gunboat diplomacy. Moreover, greater competitive intensities abound as state actors assume roles once left to industry and commercial negotiations.

Michael T. Klare in Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, helps to gauge the effect of China, India and Brazil entering the global competition for energy. He reports China, having already exceeded its domestic capacity to produce sufficient oil and natural gas for its needs. By 2030, China's energy need will match the entire 2007 energy output of Europe, i.e. every power plant, refinery, reactor, hydro power, natural gas field and wind farm in Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and a dozen other countries - more than a fifth of the 2007 world energy consumption, a quarter of all CO2 emissions. Moreover, although India began to emulate China's growth ten years after China, economists predict India to have faster growth than China and even by 2030, India will lead all other countries other than the United States, China and Russia in net energy consumption. Note also that Russia, alone among major powers as a producer of more oil, natural gas and coal than it consumes, is able to flex its geopolitical muscle in this energy competitive world as none other. Russia has reverted its vast energy reserves to state control, become a major supplier to Central, Southern and Western Europe and has begun to acquire ownership of critical energy infrastructure in those regions!

Already the Caspian Sea basin, no longer under complete Soviet domination, is a competitive focus for countries and corporations from around the world eager to obtain and exploit rights to the oil and gas energy resources of the region. Major issues concern the pipelines to transport the products across asia to China and westward to European and American markets. Over recent decades the potential of African reserves attracted interests and investment from America which have now been joined by aggressive moves from Chinese activities in energy and mineral rich African nations. First China secured a controlling interest in the Sudanese national oil enterprise, although elsewhere American and European producers still predominate. The African tragedy is that once energy and mineral resources are depleted not much wealth will have percolated down to the needy masses of the people, as companies simply upstakes and move elsewhere leaving behind unemployment, empty promises and large empty holes.

Another potential arena for conflict is the boundary claimed by China and Japan over the extensive gas reserves of the East China Sea. Japan claims rights up to the median divider between Japanese island possessions of Japan/Korea and Japan/China. Whereas China claims right within the limit of their continental shelf which embraces the region claimed by Japan, The area of the gas reserves is named Chunxiao by China and Shirikaba by Japan.

The challenges of potential impacts on a global scale from Global Climate Change provide the ever present back drop for national leaders to consider and call for greater investment in alternative fuels. Natural gas and nuclear energy will likely be favored in preference to the higher carbon dioxide (CO2) emitting coal (foremost) and oil, until alternative economic liquid fuels can be developed. The most productive way to conserve and contain levels of CO2 emissions is to focus upon fuel economies. Wind and solar electricity generation are favored currently as alternative fuels. Emphasis upon ethanol and biofuels are discouraged by environmental groups as inefficient in regard to greenhouse gas emissions, harmful to the environment and food costs.

So many challenges exist as never before for national and industry leaders facing dilemmas posed by shrinking resources and the harsh effects of global climate change. A sane energy policy could have its starting point with a Sino-American partnership targeted at developing climate friendly alternative fuels to reduce the potential conflict of competing for increasingly scarce fossil fuels that some describe as otherwise inevitable. Neither nation has sufficient fossil fuel sources for its own needs. Before competition becomes truly hostile it would make sense for both to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels. In 2007, China and America together consumed 36% of the world supply of energy producing almost 40% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. By 2030, this is forecast by the US Department of Energy to have risen to almost 40% of the world's energy consumption and produce 45% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

Climate Change

The discussion of Global Warming and the Carbon Cycle illustrates the need for alternative energy sources to be developed which reduce the emissions of Greenhouse Gasses (GHG) and carbon into the atmosphere compared to the burning of fossil fuels. The term alternative energy is often used to include "renewable" or "sustainable" energy and embraces the concept of making more efficient use of traditional sources as well as developing novel means of generating energy, which not only reduce carbon emissions but also reduce the rate of consuming fossil fuels, and so prolong the time before they become seriously depleted and too costly as world energy demands grow.

Electricity generation accounts for more than a third of America's emissions of global warming pollution. Coal fired plants pollute the most, and fuels over half (c.52%) of the nation's generated electricity.

The Need for Alternative Energy

Together with water, food and shelter, usable energy is essential to our well-being. To rely upon fossil fuels (hydrocarbons) for our energy needs is no longer tenable as it becomes a scarce resource and competition for it among users becomes increasingly intense raising unit prices to unsustainable levels. Moreover, the atmospheric pollution from burning of fossil fuels is having an intolerable impact upon the planet that we depend upon for life.

Much useful information for this discussion is available from the Energy Information Administration, go to http://www.eia.doe.gov/ or, http://www.eia.doe.gov/kid, together with well written and researched information from the Energy Justice Network at http://www.energyjustice.net. A detailed independent analysis, devoid of subsidy and cost complications, has been achieved by Professor Mark Jacobson of Stanford University: Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security. A somewhat more confusing analysis can be found in the Navigant Consulting, Inc. report to the Florida Public Services Commission and the Florida Governor's Energy Office, in their document "Florida Renewable Energy Potential Assessment" (Draft of November 24, 2008), go to Florida Renewables Assessment (The Navigant Report).

Increasing demand now exceeds available supplies (referred to as Peak Oil) such that increasing costs can no longer be sustained by any economy. Unfortunately, time to harness alternative energy sources means that we will have to carefully execute a transition over a period of time from our traditional reliance upon hydrocarbons to other less harmful and more sustainable sources of energy supply. For the United States the problem is acute as the nation consumes more than 25% of available world oil supplies, while commanding national reserves of only 3% of world oil resources. Almost a half of all oil pumped from the ground is refined into gasoline for consumption in motor vehicles.

One essential feature of a viable alternative energy strategy is the need for portable energy in addition to distributed energy. Currently the electricity grids enable energy to be conveyed to various locations where there is demand for it. Battery technology developments allow for a degree of portability of stored electricity. However, this is not yet a feasible proposition for longer distance travel by motor vehicles, railways, ships or airplanes for either civil or military uses. Some large ships employ nuclear power for their portable energy needs. In some places electric trains take power from an electricity grid distribution system as surrogate for portable fuel. The urgent need is for alternative fuels both for the generation of electricity by the public utility companies, and also for portable supplies for transportation needs.

Public Citizen, an independent source, promotes increased reliance on wind, solar, and advanced hydroelectric sources of power, and argues that it is technically and economically feasible for a diverse mix of existing renewable technologies to completely meet U.S. energy needs over the coming decades. These technologies can reliably generate as much energy as conventional fuels without significant carbon emissions, destructive mining, or the production of radioactive waste. Public Citizen also calls for increased investment in energy efficiency, particularly in geothermal heat pumps for buildings. Only through aggressive application of existing technologies – and investments in new ones – can the United States make the transition to clean and sustainable forms of energy production that will protect public health, the environment, and move us towards energy independence and improved security. Others suggest that hydrogen can be employed to distinct advantage both for generation of distributed electricity and as an energy carrier for transportation use.

Above all is the paramount need to make more efficient use of the sources of energy available to us. This is the most effective way to buy time until alternative sources are developed and refined. A transition strategy and policies are urgently required.

Possible Alternative energy sources

Some of the sources of alternative energy are considered to be:

  1. Replacing coal or natural gas fired generation of electricity with cleaner alternative fuel for electricity generating facilities.
  2. Pursuit of increased energy consumptive efficiencies. This is the most urgent, technologically feasible, efficient and affordable endeavor available today. Increases in consumptive efficiencies are urgently needed to reduce the national demand for energy. Reportedly, increased efficiencies could reduce the national total energy consumption by between 19% and 25%. Among the methods being considered are:
    • Introducing more energy efficient products and devices.
    • Introducing novel energy efficient building designs to conserve energy, and for whole municipal systems.
    • Development of electrochemical processes, for example, hydrogen fuel cells, to increase vehicular fuel efficiencies.
    • Introducing new more efficient vehicular systems such as hybrid of internal combustion and electric systems.
  3. Introducing cleaner electrical generating facilities including:
    • Harnessing the power of the wind both on land and on the sea to drive electricity generating machinery (Wind Power, including Renewable Hydrolysis).
    • Harnessing the power from the sun to generate electricity (Solar power, including Renewable Hydrolysis).
    • Increased hydro electric power generation.
    • Harnessing the power in near-coast tidal and waves energy to drive electricity generating machinery.
    • Possibly tapping geo thermal energy from deep underground for energy generation (including Renewable Hydrolysis).
  4. More dubious alternative energy policies being considered include:
    • Increased Nuclear electricity generation.
    • Replacing traditional coal fired electricity generation with more efficient coal processes.
    • Utilizing vegetation and other materials to produce so called bio fuels or biomass to replace or complement burning of fossil fuels.

Comparing Efficiencies.

Recently attention has become focused upon risen crude oil prices, increasing gasoline costs and inflating costs of food and other commodities. Viewed environmentally, it is hard to understand the pressure to increase drilling offshore at this time – except in purely political terms. Especially as new supplies would only become available to affect the market a decade or more hence, and then in quantities too small to make a significant difference.

According to the Department of Energy, every day of the first four months of 2008 nine percent of U.S. refined petroleum products were exported (1.6 million barrels out of a capacity of 17.6 million barrels a day). This represented exporting more than a quarter of all products actually refined in that period, and equal to half of related petroleum products imported. Every day Americans burn up 20 million barrels of oil, which is what keeps us slaves to OPEC. Commentators point out that creating such "shortages" increases prices to the benefit of Big Oil at the expense of citizens. Furthermore, the oil companies are not starved of home resources, with 36 billion barrels of oil believed to lie on federal land, mainly in the Rocky Mountain West and Alaska, and almost two–thirds accessible or will be after various land–use and environmental reviews. Of the 89 billion barrels of recoverable oil believed to lie offshore, the federal Mineral Management Service says four–fifths is open to industry, mostly in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaskan waters.

When considering comparative costs we must take into account both the cost to build the plant in dollars and time, measured in terms of output capacity of the the plant ($ per watt), and the price per unit of electricity ($ per kWh – kilowatt per hour) delivered to the consumer. Confusion is induced when plant costs have long since been written down over the time a plant has been in operation. Sometimes plant maintenance costs are omitted. Moreover, costs of fuel converted in a plant to electricity vary, especially as commodity prices fluctuate, as for example with crude oil. There is also the factor of knock on costs both for GHG, and other prices to the consumer of food due to increased transportation costs and commodity costs, when food basic costs are inflated by higher prices paid for a commodity used as fuel rather than food, for example, corn ethanol, and other bio fuels.

For Nuclear energy electricity generation of particular cost impact are costs of dealing with waste radio active product and costs of decommissioning nuclear plants after their useful life of 40 years, plus a likely 20 year extension. Recent proposals to reprocess "spent" fuel rods is expensive compared to new fuel rods and moreover actually increases the quantity of radio active waste to be stored safely for very many years, so it fails to address the waste disposal problem, especially as the Yucca Mountain facility is an hold and all waste is stored at the plant site. Such local plant stores may well contain the radiation and be classed as safe in that regard, but can hardly be described as secure.

Discussion

This is perhaps best viewed through the lens of the introductory words and conclusions drawn by Professor Jacobson in his paper, reproduced below:

Energy & Environmental Science

Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security

Mark Z. Jacobson

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-4020, USA.

Received 12th June 2008, Accepted 31st October 2008

First published on the web 1st December 2008

This paper reviews and ranks major proposed energy-related solutions to global warming, air pollution mortality, and energy security while considering other impacts of the proposed solutions, such as on water supply, land use, wildlife, resource availability, thermal pollution, water chemical pollution, nuclear proliferation, and under nutrition.

Nine electric power sources and two liquid fuel options are considered. The electricity sources include solar-photo voltaics (PV), concentrated solar power (CSP), wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, wave, tidal, nuclear, and coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The liquid fuel options include corn-ethanol (E85) and cellulosic-E85.

To place the electric and liquid fuel sources on an equal footing, we examine their comparative abilities to address the problems mentioned by powering new-technology vehicles, including battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs), and flex-fuel vehicles run on E85. Twelve combinations of energy source-vehicle type are considered. Upon ranking and weighting each combination with respect to each of 11 impact categories, four clear divisions of ranking, or tiers, emerge. Tier 1 (highest-ranked) includes wind-BEVs and wind-HFCVs. Tier 2 includes CSP-BEVs, geothermal-BEVs, PV-BEVs, tidal-BEVs, and wave-BEVs. Tier 3 includes hydro-BEVs, nuclear-BEVs, and CCS-BEVs. Tier 4 includes corn- and cellulosic-E85. Wind-BEVs ranked first in seven out of 11 categories, including the two most important, mortality and climate damage reduction.

Although HFCVs are much less efficient than BEVs, wind-HFCVs are still very clean and were ranked second among all combinations. Tier 2 options provide significant benefits and are recommended. Tier 3 options are less desirable. However, hydroelectricity, which was ranked ahead of coal-CCS and nuclear with respect to climate and health, is an excellent load balancer, thus recommended. The Tier 4 combinations (cellulosic- and corn-E85) were ranked lowest overall and with respect to climate, air pollution, land use, wildlife damage, and chemical waste. Cellulosic-E85 ranked lower than corn-E85 overall, primarily due to its potentially larger land footprint based on new data and its higher upstream air pollution emissions than corn-E85. Whereas cellulosic-E85 may cause the greatest average human mortality, nuclear-BEVs cause the greatest upper-limit mortality risk due to the expansion of plutonium separation and uranium enrichment in nuclear energy facilities worldwide. Wind-BEVs and CSP-BEVs cause the least mortality. The footprint area of wind-BEVs is 2–6 orders of magnitude less than that of any other option. Because of their low footprint and pollution, wind-BEVs cause the least wildlife loss. The largest consumer of water is corn-E85. The smallest are wind-, tidal-, and wave-BEVs.

The US could theoretically replace all 2007 on-road vehicles with BEVs powered by 73 000–144 000 5 MW wind turbines, less than the 300 000 airplanes the US produced during World War II, reducing US CO2 by 32.5–32.7% and nearly eliminating 15 000/yr vehicle-related air pollution deaths in 2020. In sum, use of wind, CSP, geothermal, tidal, PV, wave, and hydro to provide electricity for BEVs and HFCVs and, by extension, electricity for the residential, industrial, and commercial sectors, will result in the most benefit among the options considered.

The combination of these technologies should be advanced as a solution to global warming, air pollution, and energy security. Coal-CCS and nuclear offer less benefit thus represent an opportunity cost loss, and the biofuel options provide no certain benefit and the greatest negative impacts.

15. Conclusions

This review evaluated nine electric power sources (solar-PV, CSP, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, wave, tidal, nuclear, and coal with CCS) and two liquid fuel options (corn-E85, cellulosic E85) in combination with three vehicle technologies (BEVs, HFCVs, and E85 vehicles) with respect to their effects on global warming-relevant emissions, air pollution mortality, and several other factors. Twelve combinations of energy source-vehicle type were considered.

Among these, the highest-ranked (Tier 1 technologies) were wind-BEVs and wind-HFCVs. Tier 2 technologies were CSP-BEVs, geo-BEVs, PV-BEVs, tidal-BEVs, and wave-BEVs. Tier 3 technologies were hydro-BEVs, nuclear-BEVs, and CCS-BEVs. Tier 4 technologies were corn- and cellulosic-E85.

Wind-BEVs performed best in seven out of 11 categories, including mortality, climate-relevant emissions, footprint, water consumption, effects on wildlife, thermal pollution, and water chemical pollution. The footprint area of wind-BEVs is 5.5–6 orders of magnitude less than that for E85 regardless of ethanol's source, 4 orders of magnitude less than those of CSP-BEVs or PV-BEVs, 3 orders of magnitude less than those of nuclear- or coal-BEVs, and 2–2.5 orders of magnitude less than those of geothermal, tidal, or wave BEVs.

The intermittency of wind, solar, and wave power can be reduced in several ways: (1) interconnecting geographically-disperse intermittent sources through the transmission system, (2) combining different intermittent sources (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal, and wave) to smooth out loads, using hydro to provide peaking and load balancing, (3) using smart meters to provide electric power to electric vehicles at optimal times, (4) storing wind energy in hydrogen, batteries, pumped hydroelectric power, compressed air, or a thermal storage medium, and (5) forecasting weather to improve grid planning.

Although HFCVs are less efficient than BEVs, wind-HFCVs still provide a greater benefit than any other vehicle technology aside from wind-BEVs. Wind-HFCVs are also the most reliable combination due to the low downtime of wind turbines, the distributed nature of turbines, and the ability of wind's energy to be stored in hydrogen over time.

The Tier 2 combinations all provide outstanding benefits with respect to climate and mortality. Among Tier 2 combinations, CSP-BEVs result in the lowest CO2e emissions and mortality. Geothermal-BEVs require the lowest array spacing among all options. Although PV-BEVs result in slightly less climate benefit than CSP-BEVs, the resource for PVs is the largest among all technologies considered. Further, much of it can be implemented unobtrusively on rooftops.

Underwater tidal powering BEVs is the least likely to be disrupted by terrorism or severe weather.

The Tier 3 technologies are less beneficial than the others. However, hydroelectricity is an excellent load-balancer and cleaner than coal-CCS or nuclear with respect to CO2e and air pollution. As such, hydroelectricity is recommended ahead of these other Tier 3 power sources.

The Tier 4 technologies (cellulosic- and corn-E85) are not only the lowest in terms of ranking, but may worsen climate and air pollution problems. They also require significant land relative to other technologies. Cellulosic-E85 may have a larger land footprint and higher upstream air pollution emissions than corn-E85. Mainly for this reason, it scored lower overall than corn-E85. Whereas cellulosic-E85 may cause the greatest average human mortality among all technologies, nuclear-BEVs cause the greatest upper-estimate risk of mortality due to the risk of nuclear attacks resulting from the spread of nuclear energy facilities that allows for the production of nuclear weapons. The largest consumer of water is corn-E85. The smallest consumers are wind-BEVs, tidal-BEVs, and wave-BEVs.

In summary, the use of wind, CSP, geothermal, tidal, solar, wave, and hydroelectric to provide electricity for BEVs and HFCVs result in the most benefit and least impact among the options considered. Coal-CCS and nuclear provide less benefit with greater negative impacts. The biofuel options provide no certain benefit and result in significant negative impacts. Because sufficient clean natural resources (e.g., wind, sunlight, hot water, ocean energy, gravitational energy) exists to power all energy for the world, the results here suggest that the diversion of attention to the less efficient or non-efficient options represents an opportunity cost that delays solutions to climate and air pollution health problems.

The relative ranking of each electricity-BEV option also applies to the electricity source when used to provide electricity for general purposes. The implementation of the recommended electricity options for providing vehicle and building electricity requires organization. Ideally, good locations of energy resources would be sited in advance and developed simultaneously with an interconnected transmission system.

This requires cooperation at multiple levels of government.

Alternative energy applications are in various stages of of implementation ranging from preliminary conceptions to proven installations. The following pages seek to explore some of the issues involved. One interesting application known as "Renewable Electrolysis" is aimed at overcoming the intermittency of renewables and converting electricity yields to hydrogen for storage, both for base load and reserve, for regeneration as electricity using fuel cells. The future U.S. power industry may find itself heavily reliant on natural gas and renewable energy. Under most scenarios, these technologies offer the lowest risk and are likely to face the least opposition.

News and Views
News Items

November 30, 2013
On environment, shortsightedness costs Florida big.
Scott Maxwell, Taking Names.
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October 9, 2013
Fuel Cell Today analysis.
The Fuel Cell Industry Review 2013.
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September 25, 2013
Fuel Cell Today analysis.
The Potential for Fuel Cell Prime Power in Japan.
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August 1, 2013
Duke Energy to cancel proposed Levy County nuclear plant.
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May 22, 2013
Fuel Cell Today analysis.
Electrolysers for Renewable Energy Efficiency.
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March 13, 2013
Beyond Electricity: Using Renewables Effectively.
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September 24, 2012
Sewer Systems Legal Filing.
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February 1, 2012
Fuel Cell Today update.
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January 13, 2012
Sewer Agenda.
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December 23, 2011
Scientist: Water account overdrawn.
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Novemver 14, 2011
Submission to the Citrus County Commissioner, 14 November, 2011.
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