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United States Power Science

Government Report Examines Alternative Energy Research 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the fight-the-power dept.
coondoggie points us to a NetworkWorld story about the Government Accountability Office's report on the state of advanced energy technology. The report notes that despite continued funding [PDF], U.S. reliance on oil has only dropped from 93% to 85% since 1973. It goes on to evaluate how the most prominent fields of research have developed in that time period, and where they are likely to go in the future.
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Government Report Examines Alternative Energy Research

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday March 07, 2008 @07:48AM (#22673812)
    A baby drinks more milk as a percentage of its meals than a grown bodybuilder does. However the bodybuilder drinks a far greater volume of milk than the baby ever would.

    While the relative reliance on oil may have dropped 7 percentage points in that time, the total amount of oil consumed has grown by leaps and bounds. So while we have surely benefitted from the difference of what would have been and what actually is, it would be a mistake to assume that we are anywhere near weaned from oil. You could argue that based on the total volume of oil consumed that we are actually far more dependent on oil than we ever were.

    It is a good trend, however, and I hope that in the next 25 years that we can reduce that number by another 10%.
    • Fossil fuels != oil (Score:5, Informative)

      by sodul (833177) on Friday March 07, 2008 @08:04AM (#22673872) Homepage

      Come on the US energy consumption is not 85% oil it is not even half of that. Note that the article correctly state fossil fuel, the summary translated to 'oil' incorrectly. I guess 'oil' makes a better headline.

      Wikipedia numbers for 2005 [wikipedia.org]:

      in 2005, it was estimated that 40% of the nation's energy came from petroleum, 23% from coal, and 23% from natural gas. The remaining 14% was supplied by nuclear power, hydroelectric dams, and miscellaneous renewable energy sources.

      • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday March 07, 2008 @08:24AM (#22673946)
        However, if you look at the graph [wikipedia.org] showing the growth of energy production, you'll notice that non-renewable fossil fuel-based production is growing at a more rapid rate than the other sources put together. The only other source that could be considered growing is nuclear, and it's outpaced by fossil fuel production by quite a bit.

        While there are certainly positive geo-political ramifications of reducing our reliance on oil, there is also a significant benefit in reducing fossil fuel usage on the whole. The environmental damage done due to fossil fuel extraction and combustion can be decreased. Likewise, since fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource (in our lifetimes, at least), we cannot continue to see that line grow forever. We must be focused on becoming more reliant on renewable energy sources.

        Like any monopoly, having one source of energy as our primary source means that we lose flexibility if and when we are forced to consider other options. It is better to take the hit early (like Iceland) and reap the benefits down the road than to wait until the last minute and energy prices have climbed to astronomical levels.
        • Don't use a graph to confuse the semantic issue. OIL is not used to create power. OIL is used for the transportation infrastructure. FOSSIL FUELS such as COAL and NATURAL GAS are used to create power. Thank you.
        • by Gertlex (722812)
          You're looking at the wrong graph.

          Energy usage != Electricity usage

          Try this one [wikimedia.org], small though it is.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Rei (128717)
            What gets me is the graph in the report. They show "renewables" climbing by only one percent. They neglect to mention, however, that most of that "renewables" section is hydroelectricity, which has fallen as a percent of our electricity as it is no longer seen as a very "green" option at all. Generation by non-hydro renewables have expanded by several orders of magnitude since the 1970s.

            If I have a way to generate electricity cleanly and it costs $1/kWh, while coal is $0.08/kWh, almost nobody will adopt.
            • by sumdumass (711423)
              Hydrogen fuel cells might be idiotic in general but the fuel cell concept isn't- at least to the same extent. But something that isn't idiotic is is corn ethanol. It really serves more then one purpose which is very important in implementing alternative energy.

              First, We need a gasoline supplement if we are expecting to get off oil or fossil fuels for basic transportation or portable power needs. It will take something like 25-50 years to replace a new car by the time it gets sold to the less rich people and
    • by epine (68316) on Friday March 07, 2008 @09:09AM (#22674176)
      The consumption of oil has grown by "leaps and bounds" because oil was severely underpriced.

      http://www.sierraclub.org/globalwarming/cleancars/cafe/briefing_book.pdf [sierraclub.org]

      This document shows that American fleet-average fuel economy peaked in 1987 and has declined about ten percent since, despite improvements in fuel consumption technology.

      Seriously, with a correct oil price, America should presently have a 24 MPG fleet-average, a 10% improvement over two decades, not something hovering around 20 MPG after a 10% decline.

      The difference would offset the 20% of the fuel supply we are now frantically replacing with ethanol, without having to actually make any ethanol.

      I think the answer was pretty simple: allow the price of oil to slowly creep upward until the fleet-average fuel economy was tracking a 1 MPG/decade improvement curve. At some price, people will think twice about buying that SUV they don't really need. In my mind, that price would have been a good price, as it would have corresponded with sensible consumption choices.

      The whole thing could have been rather slow, steady, and painless, but no, apparently catastrophism is the American way.
      • by rapierian (608068)
        Actually, the price of oil is severely overpriced: Congress has stopped our oil companies from developing any of the new oil fields they've discovered since the 70s, and we haven't allowed them to build any more refineries since then either.
        • by Rei (128717)
          Not true. They have protected a number of fields (most notably in the eastern GOM and in ANWR), which certainly are the majority of known untapped deposits remaining in US territory/waters, but not *all* new discoveries. Plenty of little ones have come online, and there seems to be little attempt to stop the development of, for example, the deepwater supergiant Jack 2 field. Anyways, there's a heck of a lot more involved than oil fields in US territory, which are somewhat limited (ANWR represents about a
      • I thought malapropism was the American whey? Or possibly priapism [cialis.com]?
      • > apparently catastrophism is the American way.

        Of course, supply and demand. Big disaster = big demand for a fix (and higher prices can be charged for delivering it)

        We're not really unconcerned with global warming etc, we're just waiting until it's so desperate that billions can be made in the creation of underground cities or whatever 3rd late last ditch solution might work once desperation has reached its peak (and sensibility has been tossed out the window).

        Remember that a few idiots DID saran wrap t
    • Your as bad as the GAO report,who looks like they are spinning what has happened to date as insignificant in anticipation of a Democratic administration taking over in the next elections, remember the GAO works for the Democratic congress. Here's the point first we've reduced petro-oil 7 % relative to total consumption but for most of the time that reduction has been occurring petro-oil was running 40-60 dollars a barrel, while occasionally flirting with $70.00-80.00, and many of the alternative had break-e
  • I read the linked .PDF document. It is a request for money. It contains almost no useful information about what is being done with the money.

    Here is an example of how corrupt the U.S. government can be. It is a quote from the end of the document: "This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain copyrighted images or other m
  • don't tell anyone (Score:3, Informative)

    by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium@ y a hoo.com> on Friday March 07, 2008 @10:45AM (#22675040)
    For better or worse the GAO said the DOE's recent R&D focus in renewable energy has been in biomass-derived ethanol; hydrogen-powered fuel cells; wind technologies; and solar technologies.

    But Willie Nelson had the biggest effect by making biodiesel popular http://www.biowillieusa.com/ [biowillieusa.com]
    • That's just scary to see such marketingdroid behavior attached to BioDiesel! I guess that means that Green has really went main-stream.
      • by llefler (184847)
        That's just scary to see such marketingdroid behavior attached to BioDiesel!

        I didn't read the whole site, but I fail to see anything on it that is worse the biodiesel.org. If they can build a brand and push it to national chains, here is one thing that would be a big boost for BioDiesel:

        BioWillie® meets or exceeds national ASTM fuel quality standards

        One thing keeping big users of diesel from switching is that you roll the dice every time you buy from an unknown supplier.

        Some of the alternative/green pushes really don't make sense to me. Why push ethanol and hope to r

        • Exactly if you don't fix the power plant emissions, fixing the trucks is just everybody feeling good and singing Kumbaya, just like the soccer mom's saying everybody should be driving Hybrids then buckling Junior into the back seat of their Escalade. Still if the truckers are able to pull a "greener than thou" routine on the soccer mom's thing could get entertaining. Making Biodeisel to ASTM standards is just a matter of following the directions and testing, this method [journeytoforever.org] is pretty foolproof.
          • by llefler (184847)
            Making Biodeisel to ASTM standards is just a matter of following the directions and testing,

            I'm sure there are plenty of people making biodiesel to ASTM standards. There are also a lot of people brewing it in their garage. BioWillie biodiesel is the first one that I have seen guaranteeing it. I think that guarantee is what is needed to push biodiesel. Either from a single brand like BioWillie or a number of brands with similar guarantees. It needs to be available at every Pilot and Flying J across the
  • The article lists $57.5 billion as the amount the US government has spent on alternative fuels in the past 30 years. That sounds like an unbelievable amount of money. However:

    1. I would bet that a substantial portion of the money was spent on corn Ethanol subsidies, which (as has been debated endlessly) are not among the more efficient ways to generate a renewable fuel alternative to petroleum.

    2. As of 2000, the US used 98 quadrillion BTU in total energy, or the equivalent of 784 billion gallons of
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Friday March 07, 2008 @11:34AM (#22675640) Journal
    Wind has MORE than enough ppl doing the research. The tax credits will help keep pushing it. The research for it can stop. Solar is of the same situation. Hydrogen is a total joke, but some funding should be done for it. The place that absolutely needs funding is geo-thermal. Disregard the MIT study. Instead, look at the fact that it is the ONLY form of AE that can serve as base load. All others are intermitant. But shallow geo-thermal, has many ways to be developed. For example using old oil wells, can heat water to about 70C. Then during the day time, solar can push it to 100C or better. During the night time, we can use Natural Gas to push it. Of course, the other choice is to change the medium according to the time. During the night (cool temps), the steam can be ammonia which boils at much lower temp, while during the day time, water is used (hotter outside temps).
    And of course, deep geo-thermal has the potential to account for about 20-40% of all of America's energy. Combine with solar, wind, water, and nukes, and we can kick all the carbon out. All within 10 years.
    • Instead, look at the fact that it is the ONLY form of AE that can serve as base load. All others are intermitant.

      Ausra [ausra.com] doesn't say much about how they plan on doing it, but they claim they can store heat energy for use when the sun isn't shining.
      I'd say government research on storing thermal energy is worthwhile, but frankly, it seems like the private sector is doing that research already.

      -- Should you believe authority without question?

      • And that is called creation AND STORAGE. All of these can do it by increasing the costs. But fossil fuels, hydo, and geo-thermal that are NOT intermittent and can then work as true base-load power. The others are only as good as the storage holds up.

        BTW, they are simply going to store thermal in salt. A number of companies are proposing it. In fact, it is a great idea. I personally think that we should create distributed thermal storage systems. It would allow us to handle SO many issues. But energy stor
  • Mis LABELED AGAIN (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Friday March 07, 2008 @12:24PM (#22676272) Journal
    This budget is NOT about alternative energy research. It is about Advanced energy research. Alternative is just a SMALL portion of it. In fact, about 1/2 of the research goes to Fossil fuel research. another quarter goes to nukes. Of the remainder, the bulk goes to hydrogen and ethanol. IOW, damn little research is done on true alternative energy.
  • The evolution of transportation. Transportation seem to be in the very early stages of evolution. Dinosoars had many of the same problems . The increase of vehicle size that is needed to protect the passengers and its inability to operate safely in adverse weather conditions are just a few of the problems. These problems waste huge amounts of energy. I hope we can solve these problems before it is too late. It may help the transportation departments to take a closer look into how biological systems transpo

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