21 thoughts on “The “Energy President”?”

  1. I’m interested in how much the Obama campaign will receive in “small” donations. Supposedly as of the beginning of January, he already had collected almost $90 million in campaign funds, the majority probably from untraceable small donations (apparently, his campaign reports donations under $150 as “small”, but not under the amounts under $100, the lower threshold for reporting donations).

    Given how unpopular Obama is and how disinterested his current supporters are, I wonder who is giving him money?

  2. OK, people, just indulge me with what may be a rhetorical question. Do Secretary Chu and President Obama know something that we don’t know?

    I ask this because there was a Wall Street Journal piece of this “North Dakota oil man”, an industry insider, expert, and oil driller who is developing the Bakken Formation. He was relating to the Journal his “face time” with Mr. Obama, trying to explain to the President what a bonanza the Bakken was going to be, especially with the new drilling technology. The oil man is quoted as claiming that President Obama was rather lukewarm, non-committal and unenthusiastic about what was presented to him, with the President saying something to the effect, “there is only a few years left for oil. Dr. Chu assures me that advances in battery technology mean we will have a practical electric car in five years time.”

    Again, I ask you to bear with me on this before people start piling on. The same thing could be said about the Bush Administration, that they had inside knowledge that if not justifying the Iraq War at least justifies a vigorous prosecution of the broader War on Terror. Again from the Wall Street Journal, President Bush had taken then Senator Obama aside and said something to the effect, “I know you will have to say what you have to say to conduct your election campaign. I am just telling you that if you are elected President, you will be privy to information that you don’t have know that will tell you about the dangers in the world. Say what you have to say publically, but don’t ‘box yourself in’ with regard to withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan or other aspects to the Global War on Terror.”

    Guess what. About the most far-left person who is probably capable of getting elected President of the U.S., with some exceptions that everyone is complaining about around here, had pretty much taken President Bush’s advice and has pretty much stuck to the Bush Plan.

    Yeah, yeah, conspiracy theories and plots of bad Hollywood movies about “what did the President know and when did he know it?” But what I am asking is if the President and Secretary Chu know something that we don’t?

    What I am also saying is that in the absence of any large scale energy storage system, all of this business with windmills and solar panels is a big fat waste of money, waste of time, and waste of human resources in this country. But what if there is some breakthrough in battery tech on the near horizon? That could be a serious game changer and make the rather environmentally dirty Canadian oil a waste of time, money, and human effort.

    Yeah, yeah, the Chevy Volt is a boondoggle and all of the other shibboleth’s of the Right Blogosphere. But the deal with batteries for large scale energy storage is not the bulk and weight, because the Chevy Volt points to how batteries can be used, not just to get a 20 percent reduction in gasoline use over an equivalent pure gas-engine car as with the Prius, but deep, game-changing reductions in automotive gasoline demand.

    But the limiting factor on batteries is initial cost along with lifetime, because if you have to replace a 10-20 thousand dollar battery back over the life of the car, that is not economy.

    So why do batteries wear out and we take it for granted that a gasoline engine is good for 4000 hours/200,000 miles? It is because batteries wear out owing to electrochemical “machining and etching” that takes place as you charge and discharge the battery. Piston engines also wear out, but there is 150 years of tech behind knowing how to design and lubricate them so they hold up.

    I like to think that I would have made a much better Energy Secretary than Dr. Chu. Dr. Chu has a Nobel Prize in Physics, but I can tell you in round numbers off the top of my head of how much oil we use, where it comes from, and how much it is used by sector, something he had to struggle with in his Senate Confirmation Hearings. On the other hand, I have attended seminars at the U about some of the tech that perhaps Dr. Chu knows a lot more than I do.

    Part of the so called “nano-technology” push is not really nano-technology as in Drexler assemblers and Borg implants. Rather it is a spinoff of the semi-conductor industry in terms of nano-scale imaging tech: electron microcopes, ion microprobes, atomic force microscopes, and the like. If people haven’t solved the problem of battery lifetime, they are at least beginning to understand the problem of how batteries degrade over charge cycles on a nano or even atomic scale.

    I am asking, when President Bush gave his WMD speech justifying the Iraq War, did he know something we don’t know and still don’t know because the stuff got smuggled out of Iraq and off the Syria and maybe North Korea? When President Obama decided to forgo the Keystone Pipeline, does he know something that Secretary Chu knows about solid-state physics and materials tech?

    1. For crying out loud, when will you get it in your head that the oil sands aren’t dirty? The old surface mines are no larger than coal strip mines, and they’re restoring the surface as they go. New mines are using different technology that doesn’t require surface mining. The CO2 footprint is about 10% higher than conventional oil production. Still better than coal, and we produce and export lots of that too!

      With respect to your theory about hiding the tech breakthroughs – no way. Government can never keep a secret like that. Somebody’s going to spill it.

      1. To make an omelet you have to break some eggs; I am thinking that tar sands tech may indeed have environmental “issues”, but I think we need the oil. We consume 20 million barrels of oil per day, and to bring in a cool 1 million barrels per day just in one project (the Keystone XL pipeline) makes a huge difference to our economy because prices are decided “on the margin” in econ lingo.

        With respect to the comparisons of oil sands and coal, here are some considerations. I was under the impression that you could get a barrel of oil equivalent in hydrocarbon liquids out of coal by simply heating it in the absence of oxygen rather than reverting to the President Carter Synthetic Fuels Corporation approach where they wanted to go with the water gas reaction to turn more of the coal to liquid fuel at the expense of releasing a lot of CO2. There were some articles on Wikipedia regarding the two ways of getting liquids from coal.

        When people thingkoil-from-coal as being really bad from a CO2 standpoint, they are thinking the WW-II German-Jimmy Carter-Apartheid South African method. If we took all of the coal we burn for electric power and simply turned it into coke, used the coal liquids as transportation fuel, and went ahead and burned the coke in the electric power plant boilers, that could make a non-trivial contribution to our gasoline supply without increasing CO2 emissions, and such a use of coal seems to be off people’s radar screens. Maybe because it could never replace all of our use of petroleum for gasoline but only part of it, maybe because the environmental lobby does not want to contemplate any role for coal.

        I was also under the impression that it took more than one ton of tar sand to make a barrel of whatever kind of synthetic petroleum they make from it, hence you have to surface mine a lot of stuff to get this kind of oil. Furthermore, you consume a lot of natural gas, both in the heating the tar sand to liberate the hydrocarbon gunk (bitumen? kerogen? heavy oil?) and I am thinking that you have to reform (consume) natural gas into hydrogen to upgrade the heavy oil into gasoline. The natural gas you use up could have been used to substitute for coal in electrical power generation.

        The tar sands may not be the environmental apocalypse claimed by environmental groups, but they may not be as “clean” as you are claiming.

        1. thingkoil – WW-II – German – Jimmy Carter – Apartheid South African method

          Are you sane?

    2. The oil man is quoted as claiming that President Obama was rather lukewarm, non-committal and unenthusiastic about what was presented to him, with the President saying something to the effect, “there is only a few years left for oil. Dr. Chu assures me that advances in battery technology mean we will have a practical electric car in five years time.”

      So what? What secret knowledge validates obstructing Keystone XL? This doesn’t.

    3. you will be privy to information that you don’t have know[sic] that will tell you about the dangers in the world.

      The reason he wouldn’t have been privy to that information would have been for reasons of national security. That reason doesn’t exist in regards to battery technology. It’s basic physics (even including your nano-based complications).

      The artical about Harold Hamm is here.

      When it was Mr. Hamm’s turn to talk briefly with President Obama, “I told him of the revolution in the oil and gas industry and how we have the capacity to produce enough oil to enable America to replace OPEC. I wanted to make sure he knew about this.”

      The president’s reaction? “He turned to me and said, ‘Oil and gas will be important for the next few years. But we need to go on to green and alternative energy. [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu has assured me that within five years, we can have a battery developed that will make a car with the equivalent of 130 miles per gallon.'” Mr. Hamm holds his head in his hands and says, “Even if you believed that, why would you want to stop oil and gas development? It was pretty disappointing.”

      Mr. Hamm’s question is perfect. “Why would you want to stop oil and gas development?”

        1. iPhone production is also up under Obama, as are CPU speeds. He is the great leader. All hail him.

          Domestic production is up on private lands where private companies are fracking like madmen. Obama is trying to get the EPA to stop them, but the EPA hasn’t been successful yet. But don’t worry, if he’s re-elected he’ll be able to get gas up to $10 a gallon, and then he’ll push through a program to give “gas-vouchers” and “oil stamps” to half of Americans.

        2. Who is stopping oil and gas development?

          Got your answers right here: U.S. in Contempt Over Gulf Drill Ban, Judge Rules
          Pull quote: The Obama Administration acted in contempt by continuing its deepwater-drilling moratorium after the policy was struck down, a New Orleans judge ruled.

          Politifact piles on:
          Domestic crude oil production, the [Energy Information Administration] says, is projected to decline by 110,000 barrels a day in 2011 and by an additional 130,000 barrels per day in 2012. The agency makes that projection based on expected production declines in Alaska due to maturing oil fields. Production in the Gulf of Mexico is also projected to decline. Both are partially offset by projected increases in the Lower 48 states, but on balance, EIA sees the numbers falling.

          EIA goes on to point out that under Obama: Oil and natural gas production on federal lands is down by more than 40 percent

          Bureau of Land Management gets in on the action: Under the Obama administration, 2010 had the lowest number of onshore leases issued since 1984.

          It’s almost like Americans are trying to recover the economy and something stands in their way…

        3. Liberals always claim it takes five to ten years for an oil project to come on line except for when they want to give Obama credit for something he not only had nothing to do with but actively tried to stop.

    4. I don’t think any breakthrough in battery technology would seriously change our energy structure, other than shifting from oil to coal and natural gas. Consumption would remain relatively constant, since the energy to charge batteries isn’t produced significantly more efficiently than petroleum fuels are used in gasoline and diesel engines, once all the grid losses and conversion inefficiencies are accounted for.

      Chu’s claim that a new battery technology might revolutionize everything is probably a key sign that he’s an idiot.

      Back during the Clinton Administration, Clinton’s Secretary of Transportation gave an interview with USA Today in which she said that we’d one day have flying cars because they’re more efficient, since flying cars don’t have drag. I’m sure that secret comes as a shock to aerospace engineers everywhere. All those years they wasted mounting Lycomings and Pratt & Whitneys when they could’ve just used a rubber band.

      1. At about 2x current energy density you would be looking at 500 mile range vehicles. Charging time – either slow charge at home or 15 minutes or less in service station. Service station would charge a bank of it’s own batteries – continuous, off-peak load would get a really good price for the leccy. Incidently, a nationwide network of filling stations storing watts would allow shifting night time power into the day for other uses – you could end up massively reducing the number of power stations required to make peak demand….

        So 2x energy density, longer life and hopefully faster charging would be your game changer….

        1. … along with a “nationwide network of filling stations.” Piece of cake if you’ve got a president who can pick up the phone and dial up another trillion in debt. But here’s your main problem: Eco-moon-bats will be fighting it every step of the way. Battery chemicals in landfills, increases in electricity generation, more vehicles on the roads, you name it. If it’s progress, they will be opposed.

        2. That’s not changing the game, that’s having the Red Sox win instead of the Yankees. The fuel to wheel efficiency of any battery technology won’t much exceed what we currently get with gas and diesel cars, and is currently quite a bit worse, due to the powerplants and distribution grid that actually provide the electricity to charge the batteries.

          At most you get essentially the same style of vehicle traveling the same speeds with the same range at the same efficiency as our current system. But before you get to that point (roughly the same place we are now), you have to overcome lots of technical hurdles (like finding a source for all the required rare-earth elements) and rework our infrastructure.

          1. I have it on very good authority that in 5 years, we’ll all have unicorns on treadmills at our houses generating all the electricity we need. What’s more, the unicorn farts will be harvested to cook our meals, heat our water and warm our homes! It’ll be utopia, I tell ya!

    5. If the regime is expecting a battery breakthrough for electric cars within 5 years, why isn’t it supporting the expansion in electrical capacity we’d need for all those electric cars? And don’t hand me that “green energy” garbage that costs twice as much for a less reliable resource.

  3. One more time…

    An internal combustion engine powered (ICE) car carries only its fuel, and gets its oxidizer from the air. A battery powered car carries both fuel and oxidizer. If an ICE powered car had to carry both fuel and oxidizer, it would have the same (short) range as a battery powered car.

    This isn’t nuclear physics, or rocket surgery, or any of other field that people regard as mysterious. It’s first year engineering. And there is no way around it. Anyone who tells you there is is either himself an idiot, or counting on you being one.

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