“We don’t give a damn about energy. What we want is power.”
~Power Hungry, Ch. 1
The difference between energy and power…
- Energy is the ability to do work.
- Power is the rate at which work gets done.
The two can be related using time:
- Power = Energy/time
We care about how much power we have, not how much energy. It is more power that allows us to move more quickly. Power is what accomplishes tasks – energy is just lip service.
This week, I read Robert Bryce’s book, Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. The book was published in January 2010 and for those who have grown tired of dated commentary that has lost its applicability, Bryce’s writing is a great find. The ideas and analysis presented run head-on into the tangle of political ideologies, propoganda, and other qualitative discussions – refuting them not through more words, but through more quantitative analysis and discussion of results. All presented in a readable fashion that doesn’t require an advanced engineering degree to decipher.
That being said, I should add that I do not necessarily agree with all of the conclusions drawn in this book. But, these differences occur not because of a lack of quantitative data to support Bryce’s conclusions. Rather, I believe that in the energy debate and drive toward a sustainable energy future, there are many paths that we could take. Bryce refutes several currently held beliefs in the energy community and presents his ideas on how our energy systems can most successfully evolve. While I like certain aspects of his energy development plan, if I were queen for a day (as he is king for the purpose of his book), I would choose a slightly different path.
Over the next (probably) few weeks, I will write about different arguments and discussions presented in this book.
First up – Americans vs. the Danes: Who’s winning outside of the pitch?
Flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico increased today, as BP was forced to remove a cap that they previously placed on top of one of the oil leeks. This cap has been collecting about 700,000 gallons (~16,600 barrels) per day, piping it into nearby tankers. This removal became necessary after an underwater robot “bumped” into the venting system. This system has been preventing the formation of the ice crystals that botched the first cap attempt.
According to Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the cap will be brought to the surface and then checked to ensure that ice crystals have not formed. If the system is still in operating condition, it could be placed back on the leak.
Kate Galbraith wrote a piece for today’s Texas Tribune on the smart grid concepts and how they’re being implemented in Texas. The article can be found here. In this piece, she mentions the Pecan Street Project, which I’ve previously written about and a project in San Marcos (just south of Austin).
This week, I’m diving into a book written by Austin-based author, Robert Bryce.
Of Bryce’s four books, I’ve decided to first dive into Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. This choice was ultimately made when this book was the first to become available via the Austin Public Library system. The book arrived at my local branch yesterday.
I’m currently on page 24 – my goal is to finish the book this week, while still finishing all required reading for my summer school classes, writing a chapter of my thesis, and meeting all of my research goals. Fingers crossed.
What I’ve learned (more accurately, what I’ve been told – I haven’t looked at the footnotes to check into the calculations yet) so far:
- Bryce puts a lot of emphasis on quantitative analysis – the data. (Sweet!)
- Quantitative analysis shows that a “green” energy future isn’t feasible unless we’re willing to forgo the cheap energy that has afforded the United States many of its opportunities for growth and advancement.
- The best option for the U.S. is to first transition to natural gas (short-term) on the way to nuclear power as the main energy source for the country (TBD how the transportation sector fits in here – assume Bryce will discuss this later in the book).
I highly recommend that y’all check out Sheril’s Kirschenbaum’s post today on Discover Magazine’s blog, The Intersection - which includes a video of John Stewart’s piece on energy independence. The video is not only informative and interesting, but quite funny. Definitely worth the ~8 minutes.
It’s interesting to see how this topic is not isolated to one party, but instead spans Republicans and Democrats over decades.
The BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf might find its technological savior in Hollywood. Kevin Costner, actor and apparent tech-aficionado, has a technology that is designed to separate oil and water to minimize environmental damage from oil spills. For more than 15 years, Costner has funded the company Ocean Therapy Solutions (OTS) and its team of scientists to work this technology, originally obtained from the Department of Energy in 1992-93 via a technology transfer agreement. Today, the company has a series of five machines that process 2-200 gallons-per-minute of contaminated water. Due to the scale of the Gulf oil spill, the V20 (200 gallon-per-minute) version is the likely front-runner. Another example of the long-term positive impacts of basic R&D funding.
Costner’s centrifuge technology separates the oil and water to a greater than 99% purity – meaning it gets almost all of oil out of the water. After initial testing by BP, the oil company has signed on the dotted line to purchase 32 of these machines for use in the Gulf. Each machine is capable of processing 200 gallons-per-minute of contaminated sea water, removing about 3,000 gallons per day of oil.
After two months of botched “containment” and failed “top kill” efforts, I am heartened to learn about a technological solution that might help in the situation we have now – where the oil has escaped and we are already experiencing the negative environmental impacts.
To watch a video on the technology, you can go here.
To see an interview with Costner on the technology, check out this video.
To learn (briefly) about Costner’s testimony on Capitol Hill, check out this link .
According to Mark Mykleby, it is time for us to pony up and make the choices in our lives that will reduce our dependence on oil – driving us to a more sustainable future. These views were expressed in a letter written by Mykleby, in response to the BP blame game, and became the subject of Thomas Friedman’s column this past week. The title of the column – This Time is Different – argues that we are our own enemy in the drive toward sustainability. I agree.
Thomas Friedman is one of the few columnists that I follow every week. His commentary on current events and America in an international context is consistently insightful and eloquently presented. More fundamentally – I like reading his pieces. His work challenges me, taking my mind in different directions that it might have gone on its own. It doesn’t shock me to know that Friedman has won three Pulitzer Prizes for the New York Times and is the author of at least 5 books (depending on how you count).
One of Friedman’s banner issues is global climate change. His book, titled Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – and How it Can Renew America is but one example of his numerous writings on the topic. His NY Times column is another example, that I personally find more compelling (it is a favorite of mine when I only have 10 minutes before class – not nearly enough time to read a 528 page book). Friedman’s column this past Friday was another case of clear, concise, and powerful writing on the topic from the desk of this NY Times author.
In this column, titled This Time is Different, Friedman presented a letter to the editor written by his friend, Mark Mykleby, for the Beaufort Gazette that is “the best reaction [Friedman has] seen to the BP oil spill – and also the best advice to President Obama on exactly whom to kick you know where.”
Quite a bold statement. OK, now I’m intrigued and must read this purported “best” advice. Here goes…
I’d like to join in on the blame game that has come to define our national approach to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn’t do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 didn’t do it; if the current economic crisis didn’t do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle. ‘Citizen’ is the key word. It’s what we do as individuals that count. For those on the left, government regulation will not solve this problem. Government’s role should be to create an environment of opportunity that taps into the innovation and entrepreneurialism that define us as Americans. For those on the right, if you want less government and taxes, then decide what you’ll give up and what you’ll contribute. Here’s the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up: bike to work, plant a garden, do something. So again, the oil spill is my fault. I’m sorry. I haven’t done my part. Now I have to convince my wife to give up her S.U.V.
Short, sweet and to the point. Nicely done, Mr. Mykleby.
In the face of the growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, we should all pause before placing the blame exclusively on the shoulders of BP and recognize our role in creating this mess. But, we should also recognize that acknowledging our role is the first step toward solving the problem (sound familiar?).
Ohio has reached a significant milestone in its plans to weatherize more than 32,000 homes as a means of achieving greater energy efficiency in the state. According to the State, as of April 30 they had successfully weatherized more than 36% of their target homes, making them one of only seven states to reach this 30% mark. These projects were made possible by $266.7 million in federal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
These targeted homes belong to Ohio’s low-income communities, where projects like replacing windows and adding insulation often do not make it into the household budget despite snow-filled winters and high heating bills.