April 25, 2013

"What If We Never Run Out of Oil?"

"New technology and a little-known energy source suggest that fossil fuels may not be finite. This would be a miracle—and a nightmare."
In the 1970s, geologists discovered crystalline natural gas—methane hydrate, in the jargon—beneath the seafloor. Stored mostly in broad, shallow layers on continental margins, methane hydrate exists in immense quantities; by some estimates, it is twice as abundant as all other fossil fuels combined....

214 comments:

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Sorun said...

As long as we have oil, there's going to be people claiming that we're going to run out.

tim maguire said...

Peak oil was always Malthusian hokum. One day we will stop using fossil fues. Not because we run out but because techology provides a better and/or cheaper alternative. And we will miss crude oil then much as we miss whale oil now.

Freeman Hunt said...

My brother does IT for oil and gas exploration. We are not even remotely close to running out of oil. All the peak oil talk is nonsense.

Patrick said...

Have the Malthusians ever been correct? About anything?

wyo sis said...

The earth was made for man not man for the earth.
It's not smart to waste what is here for us, but it isn't smart to let what is here for us languish because of some strange idea that the well-being of the earth is more important than that of the people living on it.
You can love the earth AND use its resources.
Native Americans revered the earth and animals, but they didn't starve to death in order to preserve them. In spite of what revisionists say. When they found a resource they used it, every part of it and they never hesitated to use any new technology that came along.

Seeing Red said...

Some also speculate there's a substance on/in the moon which would really cause energy prices to drop, read about it a few years ago.

Nonapod said...

Seeing Red said...

Some also speculate there's a substance on/in the moon which would really cause energy prices to drop, read about it a few years ago.


I suspect you're talking about Helium-3, an isotope of Helium that's perfect for certain fusion reactions. It's extremely rare on Earth but is believed to be very abundant in lunar regolith.

SteveR said...

As the saying goes "an inconvenient truth". When I started my education in geology in the mid 70s much of the science and technology we know of today as giving us many many more years of usable fossil fuels were fairly well understood. It was only a matter of markets making things like shale and oil sands viable. In the meantime a few things have slowed the process down but right now its only Washington DC politics that are preventing energy independence and a tremendous economic boom.

traditionalguy said...

The smart folks all planned on Peak Oil coming soon and talked like it was a certainty. Jimmy Carter used it as his superiority credentials for running the world.

A Several times I told such folks that it was a totally false notion and was thereafter basically excluded from all further intelligent conversation with the group.

The Holy Science Religion is a powerful manifestation of Humanism that burns heretics at the stake faster than you can say good morning let's, reason together.

It is today's flat earth belief system. It is an assumed fact. See it is in the science cartoons we had made for the uneducated to believe in like old stained glass windows in Cathedrals.

Paddy O said...

We may not run out of oil, but we'll still have pollution, so it will pretty much make no change for attempts to limit our use of resources.

I keep hearing about this huge oil boom in the US, for instance, but am still paying $4 per gallon in gas. Supply is up, demand is the same. So, there's something in that middle process that keeps prices high.

Freder Frederson said...

We are not even remotely close to running out of oil. All the peak oil talk is nonsense.

How is peak oil talk nonsense? We may be arguable that we may or may not be close, but oil is a finite resource, there simply can not be an endless supply.

Freder Frederson said...

I suspect you're talking about Helium-3

Yeah, shipping helium from the moon to the earth will be cheap.

Patrick said...

oil is a finite resource, there simply can not be an endless supply

Your first proposition is clearly correct: the supply of oil is limited to the mass of the earth minus all material that is not (and cannot become) oil. That, however does not mean that the second proposition is also correct. It could be that the oil on earth is enough to meet all of the needs we will have until we come up with other ways of supplying energy.

El Camino Real said...

"Yet natural gas isn’t that clean; burning it produces carbon dioxide."

Dirty, dirty CO2. It's the fantasy pollutant that had to be invented by the Socialist Ecojerks in yet another attempt to discredit capitalism by squelching prosperity.

Freeman Hunt said...

Freder, it is not finite within your lifetime or that of your grandchildren.

Freeman Hunt said...

There are enormous oil reserves that are currently too deep for us to reach, but we learn how to drill deeper all the time, continually opening up new reserves to tap.

furious_a said...

So, there's something in that middle process that keeps prices high.

1>The last time a new refinery came online in the U.S. was 1976.
2>Mandatory seasonal re-formulations.
3>Ethanol mandates.

bagoh20 said...

If we could only get back all the joy sucked out of lives over the centuries by impending doomsdays that technology later swept away, we could have a hell of a party.

Freeman Hunt said...

My brother is also just about as liberal as Freder. But he's not at all in line politically on the oil thing. He's seen the data; he thinks "peak oil" is crazy.

El Camino Real said...

Eventually shipping Helium-3 from the moon will be cost effective. Or, we will simply not need it at that point.

Hey you Malthusians, here's a clue. We hairless monkeys are pretty darned bright and we make tools. This is what puts the lie to Malthus.

Nonapod said...

How is peak oil talk nonsense? We may be arguable that we may or may not be close, but oil is a finite resource, there simply can not be an endless supply.

It's nonsense because of the rapid pace of technology and the realities of estimations. Here's a sniopit from the article:

In 1949, after 50 years of drilling, analysts estimated that just 47 million barrels remained in reserves—a rounding error in the oil business. Kern River, it seemed, was nearly played out. Instead, oil companies removed 945 million barrels in the next 40 years. In 1989, analysts again estimated Kern reserves: 697 million barrels. By 2009, Kern had produced more than 1.3 billion additional barrels, and reserves were estimated to be almost 600 million barrels.

Again, those estimates were all based on what was known and what could be extracted with the available technology at the time. They amounted to educated guesses that proved to be way off.

What's more there are often strong political motivations to the peak oil doomsayers that have to be considered.

Patrick said...

So, there's something in that middle process that keeps prices high

Lack of refinery capacity. there hasn't been a new one built in decades.

El Pollo Real said...

Methane is abundant but methods for using it (aside from its outright burning) are still evolving. The technology is called "alkane activation" [CH4 is the prototype alkane]. In a sense, the CH bonds in alkanes are inert--paraffin derives from the words meaning little affinity--and while reactive it's still difficult to get them to react without overreacting to make CO2.

Research opportunities.

bagoh20 said...

We have scientists with answers, and we have scientists with problems. We just listen to the wrong ones too much.

Nonapod said...

Technology changes everything. When they figure out how to reliably extract natural gas from clathrates, our worlds energy "problems" will pretty much come to an end given the amount of the stuff scatter across the abyssal plains of the worlds oceans.

El Pollo Real said...

Lack of refinery capacity. there hasn't been a new one built in decades.

The oil industry is building refineries--just not here.

traditionalguy said...

There are plenty of real Peaks.

The need to make gasoline from subsidized corn is as stupid as it gets. It is Peak Stupidity.

The Canadian Oil sands that will supply this Continent and strengthen our ally Canada as well is being falsely slandered. But the Crony Capitalism hold on that simple pipeline reaches deep into the snake's lair at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. That is Super Peak Corruption.

The windmill subsidized builders, owners and rent seekers for a Net Loss electrical generation is normal Peak Corruption.

The unelected and unsupervised EPA Lying about CO2 pollution to Criminalize efficient Coal Powered electrical generation is Peak Tyranny.



El Camino Real said...

They're building them in North Dakota I believe.

furious_a said...

How is peak oil talk nonsense?

World Oil reserves have not gone into irreversible decline, despite doomsayers' frequent predictions that they already did, or just have, or are about to.

Mosty innovation driven by human ingenuity, which Peak Oil scolds consistently fail to recognize, assuming they understand it all.

Dante said...

Here in CA, the Monterey Shale is being considered. It has technically recoverable reserves of around 15.4B barrels of oil, or enough for about 4 years of US imports (3.8B per year, of which 1B comes from Canada).

Sounds like a good thing: get the illegals working, the economy revving. But, you know, it's CA.

gerry said...

Freder, did you read the article, especially the part about the MIT guy, who stipulated we will never run out of petro supplies?

Nonapod said...

They are indeed.

Tibore said...

Re Peak oil: I think too much of the problem is that people not in the know confuse exhausting easy to obtain oil with actual supply. Yeah, it's true that the shallow, easy to obtain supplies are being exhausted, but that's merely because they're low hanging fruit. Equating the diminishing supply of those with the overall supply is fallacious simply due to the presumption that the easy-to-obtain crude is indeed the majority of what's out there. That's disproven; for example, the difficult to extract shale oil known reserves nearly equal known crude reserves. If you count all the known existing shale oil resources (much is technically not a "reserve" because it's beyond current technology's ability to extract), then it actually exceeds current known conventional oil reserves several times over.

It's true that any resource on the planet is technically finite. That doesn't automatically mean that a given resource is nearing exhaustion in a short or even medium timeframe.

El Camino Real said...

I have a brother in law who lives in Northwestern Wisconsin. After a long stint of unemployment, he's found good paying work and commutes weekly to... wait for it... North Dakota.

Who'd have thunk it?

Ann Althouse said...

The linked article is long and all about methane hydrate.

Let's talk about methane hydrate.

Gene said...

It has always amazed me the way lefty environmentalists demonize CO2. They must have memorized the Saul Alinsky handbook. It's as if CO2 has nothing to do with making the grass grow, the flowers bloom, and turning all those overgrown Sequoyas into natural cathedrals.

The left just doesn't understand that energy is wealth. The more we have of it, the richer we are. The oil and gas we get out of the ground makes as rich just as the gold the Spanish stole from the South American natives made that country rich (until the gold ran out).

But energy will never run out. We've got high-efficiency, low-waste nuclear reactors waiting in the wings. Solar gets better every year. We got natural gas up the old wazoo.

If it wasn't for Obama and his energy-hating friends, we could have used Cash-For-Clunkers to buy ourselves all Cadillacs. We would be the richest country on earth again--assuming Obama doesn't stop new generation nuclear power along with the Keystone pipeline.

I don't know what is about being a community activist at some time during your life but apparently it makes you hate cheap electricity.

furious_a said...

Speaking of Peak-something...

With Fisker Car Co. going terminal as we post, perhaps we've reached 'Peak Venture Socialism' -- the irreversible decline of taxpayer subsidies for Obama campaign bundlers peddling infeasible green energy schemes.

Dad said...

The volume of the outer 5 miles of the earth's crust is ~1 billion cubic miles. The total volume of oil used by mankind to date is about 1.5 cubic miles.

Read Julian Simon's "Ultimate Resource II" and you'll never worry about running out of "resources" again.

traditionalguy said...

Freder....Air is a finite resource. The water in the oceans is a finite resource. So what are you saying we should do now? Tax ocean water and tax breathing air to save the world.

The Empires once taxed Salt from seawater or salt mines It was because of Peak Salt, I suppose. Or was it just lust for money and power? Hmmm.

Ken Lay at Enron has a deal for your simple mindedness too.

Nonapod said...

Ann Althouse said...

The linked article is long and all about methane hydrate.

Let's talk about methane hydrate.


It's not all about methane hydrates. You didn't read it all did youuu!!

El Camino Real said...

Okay then.

Methane Hydrate. (clear throat)

If it becomes a viable energy alternative, the progressives will hate it because it's

a) not perfect enough to meet their intentionally impossible environmental standards

b) will put the lie to their economic narrative and

c) it will not enrich their cronies.

Thank you.

Dante said...

There is a lot of Methane Hydrate. Someday it may be extractable. But it is not going to replace oil in cars anytime soon, because Methane is a small compound, and is hard to stop it from being explosive in cars, etc.

So I don't understand the premise it will replace "oil." Maybe, like methane has in CA, it will replace coal. But primarily it will allow the Japanese to be more self sufficient.

Great, there are many, many years of fossil fuels left, for instance 200 years of Coal in the US, twice that with Methane Hydrate at least. Great, what's it got to do with oil.

chrisnavin.com said...

Someone's gotta walk into the green inner sanctum and break the news....

If he isn't beaten to death or excommunicated, he's got to be a certified grief counselor.

But how will save ourselves from doomsday?

Won't they listen to reason?

We were so close to a new era of harmony amongst men and between man/nature....

It's a nightmaaaaaarrrrrre.

Marshal said...

Freeman Hunt said...
My brother is also just about as liberal as Freder. But he's not at all in line politically on the oil thing.


Funny how leftism is wrong on the subjects we know best. It makes you wonder what else it might be wrong about.

traditionalguy said...

Methane Hydrate sounds like another aspect of the fact that energy never runs short unless a Government creates an artificial scarcity so that it can Tax the people to death for receiving their energy issue.


The fear of methane being a Greenhouse Gas feedback is a false notion. Hint: there is no glass dome surrounding the earth's atmosphere.

Oh well, back to creating fake computer models and cartoons.

furious_a said...

Using Freder's, um, logic, we reached Peak Solar billions of years ago because the Sun will eventually consume its finite supply of hydrogen, fall of its main sequence, balloon into a red giant, consume the inner planets, and collapse into a white dwarf.

Seeing Red said...

I cannot take credit for this, I read it somewhere, maybe here, so I tip my hat to the poster who wrote it 1st:


Windmill energy gets you windmill economy.

Rusty said...

Ann Althouse said...
The linked article is long and all about methane hydrate.

Let's talk about methane hydrate.

It's a hydocarbon.
In a refinery it can be distilled and blended to make other products.

EDH said...

White dwarf privilege?

Scott M said...

1>The last time a new refinery came online in the U.S. was 1976.

Obama okie-dokie'd the first one in three decades about a month before the election. Kudos.

Seeing Red said...

Who knows what Earth's core is capable of melting?

Wasn't there an article years ago about some oil wells filling up again?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Seeing Red said...

Some also speculate there's a substance on/in the moon which would really cause energy prices to drop, read about it a few years ago.

Still have a few kinks to work out to get my internal combustion engine to run on cheese, but I've already applied for a patent.

bagoh20 said...

"Let's talk about methane hydrate"

Lines like that can make a man buy expensive jewelry, my dear.

Seeing Red said...

Canada has budget problems, the environazis strike again.

I wonder if they're gonna tinker with single-payer? Schools have to cut their budgets 10%.

bagoh20 said...

I want to be the first to warn us about Peak Methane. Oh yea, it's coming, it's bad news, and I told you first.

Nonapod said...

There's been different estimates to the actual amount of methane hydrates there may be out there. They've been found in ocean ridges and within arctic permafrost. Currently they seem to think there could be anywhere from 500-2500 gigatons of it to be found in the ocean. No estimates have been made of the amount that might be in permafrost in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Of course fusing deuterium offers orders of magnitude greater energy density than methane, propane, or oil, or coal, or just about any other conventional energy source.

bagoh20 said...

When I die, I want to donate my hydrocarbons. May my corpse get you to the liquor store and home safely.

Tim said...

I'm impressed by the author blaming Churchill for all the turmoil in the middle-east. No wonder our idiot president sent the bust of Churchill back to the British.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

bagoh20 said...

I want to be the first to warn us about Peak Methane. Oh yea, it's coming, it's bad news, and I told you first.

bagoh20-

Thanks to new technology, we will be able to produce almost unlimited supplies of methane.

exhelodrvr1 said...

We ned to start researching how to create methane hydrate from corn.

Michael K said...

" So, there's something in that middle process that keeps prices high. "

Named Obama and Jerry Brown.

Tim said...

USDOE has been funding MH research since 1982?

Has it been subject to the oh-so-cruel SEQUESTRAMGEDDON?

Probably not, given Bush's ties to the Oil Industry.

Oops.

Sorry. That was the last Administration.

Time to turn the page.

dreams said...

Liberals and their global warming religion.

n.n said...

What if oil, and other hydrocarbons, are multi-sourced, and not principally "fossil" fuels. What if there is an abiogenic process which does not consume biotic compounds to produce these compounds. We have observed the latter process on extraterrestrial platforms. There is evidence the same process is active on and within the Earth.

The more likely constraint for future hydrocarbon recovery, including other resources required for "renewable" energy, is economic accessibility and democratic tolerance.

AJ Lynch said...

Hopefully, someday Al Gore and his fellow shamens will be embarrassed to show their faces in public.

edutcher said...

If we never run out, we all go over to Albert Gore's house and yell, "The science is NOT settled!".

Michael K said...

"We may be arguable that we may or may not be close, but oil is a finite resource, there simply can not be an endless supply."

What if oil is a byproduct of the enormous biosphere that is mostly made of microorganisms. We are learning entire new Kingdoms of life, like Archea, that do not require the same conditions for life that humans do. I expect we find Archea like organisms beneath the surface of Mars, for example.

It is a theory that oil is a biological product from extinct animals and therefore finite.

Do some reading about the biosphere and extremophiles.

Read.

Tim said...

Here's the nut graph:

"“Methane hydrate could be a new energy revolution,” Christopher Knittel, a professor of energy economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told me. “It could help the world while we reduce greenhouse gases. Or it could undermine the economic rationale for investing in renewable, carbon-free energy around the world”—just as abundant shale gas from fracking has already begun to undermine it in the United States. “The one path is a boon. The other—I’ve used words like catastrophe.” He paused; I thought I detected a sigh. “I wouldn’t bet on us making the right decisions."

So, the left is concerned this new finding of potentially unlimited energy might/will/"could undermine the economic rationale for investing in renewable, carbon-free energy around the world."

Ok. Got that.

And the problem is?

Oh.

I see it now. This "economist" is less concerned about the economics underlying energy, and more concerned about "investing in renewable, carbon-free energy around the world."

So then.

He's an advocate.

He's no longer unique.

Could be Freder, for all we know.

n.n said...

dreams:

They are exploiting a "religion" to break old monopolies in order to acquire the pole position in political, economic, and social enterprises. We would be better served if they would embrace a diversity of resources and judge the value of each by their effective contribution in individual applications.

That said, the real threat posed by this "religion" is that it is highly irreconcilable with reality and thereby sponsors corruption of individuals and institutions, and science as an enterprise to advance the human condition.

Tim said...

edutcher said...

"If we never run out, we all go over to Albert Gore's house and yell, "The science is NOT settled!".

He won't hear you.

It's a faith-based initiative, after all.

Æthelflæd said...

PaddyO, your gas prices are still high because of refinery capacity.

Synova said...

Methane hydrate isn't jargon, and what the heck is "crystalline natural gas" supposed to be. "Explosive ice" is better, really.

The article, near as I can tell, is trying to claim that it was oil, and not politics, that caused problems and so the discovery of a new source of power (which is just plain old methane in the end... like cow farts) will be a disaster, create a new middle east and a new century of discord.

Wow.

Ironclad said...

I am a gas engineer and I had to deal with gas hydrates (clathrate hydrates) when we got water into the system with low temperatures. They resemble icy slush when you pull them out of a drain, only they sublime to gas and smell bad when exposed to atmospheric pressure.

It has been common knowledge that there was massive amounts of hydrates in the permafrost areas and under the seas. The problem with this material is that extraction is difficult since disturbing the material has a tendency to cause it to vaporize - which can cause a huge bubble of gas to form around the extraction equipment. The chief problem with getting it out is how to do it in a manner that doesn't trigger this effect through the field you are trying to "mine."

It is theorized that undersea earthquakes can cause sudden and massive shifts in hydrate areas that can release huge bubbles of methane into the atmosphere - potentially causing global warming events. There is real worry on this in the north sea area where there are large amounts of hydrates sitting on fault areas. Its said too that perhaps some ships have been caught in gas bubbles from small quakes and lost at sea.

Hydrates would be a big deal - but it's a tough technology to crack

Bryan C said...

FWIW, methane hydrate features prominently in the new 'Dallas' series on TNT.

bagoh20 said...

"We may be arguable that we may or may not be close, but oil is a finite resource, there simply can not be an endless supply."

Sure, but eventually sunlight is a finite resource too, but we don't worry about running out. Like meeting a bear in the woods, you only have to outrun one of your friends, and with oil we only need the supply to be unlimited compared to our need for time to replace it. Clearly we have the time now.

I for one will not worry about peak oil. I'm more concerned about Peak Liberty, which I think we are already passed.

Synova said...

So... did anyone *read* that article?

Now it's comparing the ecological "dangers" of fracking with the development of methane hydrate deposits. And what connects them? What makes them the same?

"But methane hydrate is being developed in much the same methodical way that shale gas was developed before it, except by a bigger, more international group of researchers."

METHODICAL

Both types of energy have been developed *methodically*... only BIGGER.

bagoh20 said...

"Both types of energy have been developed *methodically*"

That sounds scary, can't they do it all "willy nilly"? That sounds much nicer.

Bruce Hayden said...

What I think both the methane and the shale gas/oil does is to push out the timeline far enough that we will most likely have viable, cost effective, alternatives, notably, but not limited to nuclear, both fission and fusion. Of course, the left has managed to shut down Yucca Mountain as a repository for nuclear wastes, after upping the environmental impact requirements from maybe 100,000 years to 500,000 years, and then having Harry Reid kill it. But there have been major strides in designing small, modular, "fail safe" (meaning that they shut down safely if anything goes wrong) fission reactors, and it appears that some of these designs are starting to be implemented. And, of course, there are breeder reactors and the like that use spent fuel from other reactors. And, we are getting fairly close to break even on fusion. Much of this has been done in the last decade or two - just think of where we could be in the next couple of hundred years, given the opportunity.

Earth based solar and wind are essentially silly technologies that are unlikely to be anywhere close to competitive if governments were not massively subsidizing them and penalizing hydrocarbon and nuclear alternatives. Their limitations are mostly due to their physics, and throwing billions and billions more into them is a waste of scarce resources.

Now, if you really want solar, then the solution is really to figure out how to get energy from space down to earth (ignoring all the heat and energy that our biosphere would by necessity be importing). Simple to accumulate huge amounts of it in space, just not feasible, yet, to get it where it is needed. Which, BTW, is one reason that space industry is attractive - unlimited cheap energy and maybe close to unlimited natural resources. (Ok, in respect to Freder, not actually infinite, esp. if you have read Niven/Pournelle's "Ring World").

Original Mike said...

"Freder, it is not finite within your lifetime or that of your grandchildren."

Freder's grandchildren. That's just creepin' me out.

Rabel said...

"Let's talk about methane hydrate."

No, I'd rather pull out my toenails.

But if I was gonna...

traditionalguy said...

What N. N. so dispassionately said at 3:09. I get Peak Anger at the stupidity of Educated Fools letting Political creeps like AlGore get away with the Confidence Bunko schemes that a fifth graders know are false.

El Pollo Real said...

Ann Althouse said...
Let's talk about methane hydrate.

Methane clathrates are an interesting juxtaposition of immiscible opposites. Methane, being the prime example of hydrocarbons, is chemically related to oil. Everyone knows that oil and water don't mix because of forces of exclusion which is an entropic phenomenon.

So why do they mix? The water/ice must be putting on a hydrophilic face deep down there. And the little hydrophobic methanes must feel surrounded and trapped.

I recall several years ago discussions of the enzyme methane monoxygenase (MMO) which is found in methane-munching bacteria. The enzyme has a hydrophobic pocket which somehow coaxes methane inside for a chemically reactive party.

El Pollo Real said...

The enzyme has a hydrophilic pocket which somehow coaxes methane inside for a chemically reactive party.

Hyphenated American said...

"...oil is a finite resource, there simply can not be an endless supply."

I think Einstein was thnking of Freder, when he said: "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about th’universe!"

Today, it's pretty much agreed that universe is finite. Even then, there is an easy explanation why we can never run out of oil - simply because at some point getting oil out of the gground would be most expensive than using other sources of energy. "Whale oil" is clsarly a finite resource, but we did not run out of it. And yet, somehow, we did not run out if it. We just stopped using it in the end of 19th century.

Science is difficult, which is why liberals don't like it.



Synova said...

They think that the seasonal methane production on Mars might be clathrates melting.

Synova said...

"Windmill energy gets you windmill economy."

And what we need is a nuclear economy.

But no one wants to *do* that. Even though the only thing that makes fracking or (potentially) the extraction of clathrates economically viable is that energy costs are kept artificially high because of the greenies insistence on boutique energy production instead of scary scary nuclear.

Patrick said...

Well, that was a long but interesting article. While those who said that US oil production would eventually level off and decline were "proven right" when that happened in the early 70's, they were later "proven wrong" when new technology enabled us to extract oil that once made no financial sense to extract. Some guys predicted in 1998 that oil production would plateau in 2010. They were, more or less correct. Once again however this was short lived because the increased efficiency of fracking made new reserves widely available. This methane hydrate seems to pack in even more energy into a cubic foot. Alas, we have no easy way to extract it, and extracting it is hazardous.

So, the history of the energy industry is pretty much the same story, repeated.

Patrick said...

To say this article is about methane hydrate ignores a big chunk of the article.

Synova said...

The article seemed to be ABOUT how destructive and horrible any energy source is so that the discovery of an energy source is bad bad bad.

That's what the article was about.

The cool burning ice was beside the point.

Rabel said...

Now I'm feeling guilty about dismissing the instruction to talk about methane hydrates.

My research turned up this youtube video

Howard said...

Tim's on a rampage 'cause he's been snake-bit in extra innings the last couple days. "Why did they send Panda?"

Howard said...

CO2 is a greenhouse gas that causes warming, full stop. Petroleum and coal produce carbon black particulates that cause warming, full stop. Particulates also can cause respiratory illness and increase the risk of cancer.

Switching to natural gas from petroleum and coal reduces CO2 and carbon black. It solves about 1/2 the global warming potential and reduces toxic and cancerous pollution.

It's the bridge fuel. Also, the methane hydrate is more stable at higher temperature than compressed natural gas, it represents a safer motor fuel.

Fracking and methane hydrates takes the Middle East out of the liquid fuel driver seat.

It's not perfect, but is definitely a win, win, win.

Scott M said...

CO2 is a greenhouse gas that causes warming, full stop. Petroleum and coal produce carbon black particulates that cause warming, full stop. Particulates also can cause respiratory illness and increase the risk of cancer.

Care to comment on this?

AJ Lynch said...

Bago:

Peak Liberty is a catchy phrase- if only some Repubs would grab onto phrases like that.

Howard said...

ScottM

Yeah, it's a two day fart. When Leif Svalgaard and his colleagues start pushing solar causing the 20th Century temperature anomaly, then I start taking it seriously.

I still think there might be something to sunspots as well, but again, there are no hard numbers or proven mechanisms.

Patrick said...

The article seemed to be ABOUT how destructive and horrible any energy source is so that the discovery of an energy source is bad bad bad.

While it certainly gave voice to folks with those concerns, I thought it was more even handed than that, and did not avoid the inescapable conclusion that we either keep finding ways of extracting known resources, or finding new ones to use for energy.

cubanbob said...

n.n said...
What if oil, and other hydrocarbons, are multi-sourced, and not principally "fossil" fuels. What if there is an abiogenic process which does not consume biotic compounds to produce these compounds. We have observed the latter process on extraterrestrial platforms. There is evidence the same process is active on and within the Earth.

The more likely constraint for future hydrocarbon recovery, including other resources required for "renewable" energy, is economic accessibility and democratic tolerance.

4/25/13, 2:59 PM

Abiogenic oil has been presumed to exist at very deep depths and is presumed to have occurred as part of the earth's formation. If that is the case there may well be exceedingly large reserves of oil that are as yet not accounted for (albeit probably rather difficult at present to extract).

As for oil that is of biological origin presumably the process that created the known oil reserves are still occurring, it's not living things have stopped dying. The question is at what rate is biologically based oil being created versus the amount consumed versus the know recoverable reserves?

B said...

Scott M said...CO2 is a greenhouse gas that causes warming, full stop. Petroleum and coal produce carbon black particulates that cause warming, full stop. Particulates also can cause respiratory illness and increase the risk of cancer.

Care to comment on this?


I suspect that I won't be saying anything you're not well aware off, but...

Key concept - the sun regulates the amount of heat the planet receives and it is cyclical. Humankind could not inject enough greenhouse gas into the atmosphere to counter reduced solar activity any more than sequester enough greenhouse gas to counter increased solar activity.

Anthropomorphic climate change is a sham and its proponents charlatans operating under hidden/open agendas. Sometimes that is just as si - follow the money.

Get further up the slope and its the same old same old and per usual the cause of great human suffering for the good of everyone - social engineering.

El Pollo Real said...

Howard wrote: Also, the methane hydrate is more stable at higher temperature than compressed natural gas, it represents a safer motor fuel.

I believe that methane hydrates have been considered for bulk storage on ships and terminals. Nobody is yet proposing it as an onboard motor fuel with the water.

"Fill 'er up sir?

"Yes, pump me some methyl!"

Peter said...

"Coal in the US, twice that with Methane Hydrate at least. Great, what's it got to do with oil."

Methane + coal = liquid hydrocarbons==> replacements for gasoline, diesel fuel, etc.

IF you really need liquid fuels, instead of just using the methane directly.

Æthelflæd said...

Synova said...

"Now it's comparing the ecological "dangers" of fracking with the development of methane hydrate deposits. And what connects them? What makes them the same?

'But methane hydrate is being developed in much the same methodical way that shale gas was developed before it, except by a bigger, more international group of researchers.'

METHODICAL"

Perhaps "methodical" is code for government organized and subsidized, rather than done by capitalist fracking yahoos that we have no control over. That makes leftists unhappy. CONTROL!

Howard said...

El Pollo Real

Yeah, you are right. It's also a stretch because of the significantly lower energy density of the hydrate.

Rusty said...

bagoh20 said...
I want to be the first to warn us about Peak Methane. Oh yea, it's coming, it's bad news, and I told you first.

I'm manufacturing some as we speak.

Jack Wayne said...

"The linked article is long and all about methane hydrate.

Let's talk about methane hydrate."

In other words, "Look...a squirrel."

Jack Wayne said...

"The linked article is long and all about methane hydrate.

Let's talk about methane hydrate."

In other words, "Look...a squirrel."

Howard said...

B

It's not changes solar activity that heats or cools the planet. It's the changes in insolation via the Milankovitch cycles.

Rusty said...

Peter said...
"Coal in the US, twice that with Methane Hydrate at least. Great, what's it got to do with oil."

Methane + coal = liquid hydrocarbons==> replacements for gasoline, diesel fuel, etc.

IF you really need liquid fuels, instead of just using the methane directly.

I know, right.
Way cool.

jr565 said...

Peak oil is and always had been garbage posted by people trying to push an anti oil agenda.
Will it ever run out? sure. The world will end someday in the distant future.
Is it something we hVe to worry out in our lifetime, or our kids lifetime? Hell no.

Will we move off of fossil fuels by the end of our kids lifetime? I frankly, don't think so.

Synova said...

"Will we move off of fossil fuels by the end of our kids lifetime? I frankly, don't think so."

I'm sure that we won't.

Not that we couldn't, if we wanted to. It's just that anything that actually involves, you know, *energy* makes the self-appointed enlightened, the "pro-science", wet their pants because it's scary, just like fire was scary and dangerous to a cave man. So actually developing something powerful enough to out-compete fossil fuel isn't going to happen... even when we know exactly how to do it.

Foobarista said...

I've had a bet with a guy over what is the first newtech to become dominant in cars: pure electrics or self-driving tech. I've had my $$ on self-driving, as pure electrics are still awfully expensive and limited, and subject to real physical limitations, while self-driving tech is only limited by Moore's Law and legal stuff, but with obvious incentive for big players to spend big bux to push past the legal stuff.

And self-driver tech will likely end up saving gas anyway...

DavidD said...

It's only a nightmare to people who believe in the myth of AGW.

Scott M said...

I agree with Foob, but self-driving, particularly large area traffic management controls, kinda weird me out.

They will have to make them the most cyber-secure systems on the planet.

Original Mike said...

"while self-driving tech is only limited by Moore's Law and legal stuff"

You left out personal revulsion.

rhhardin said...

We can't run out of oil even if there's no new source. The price rises and substitutes then happen.

Phil 3:14 said...

So if we follow the pattern of the Middle East will our children have to deal with radical Lutherans from North Dakota

and our Grandchildren have to deal with radical Shintoism in Japan?

gutless said...

The abiotic theory of oil production makes more sense than the popular one that relies upon herds of dead dinosaurs.

gutless said...

The abiotic theory of oil production makes more sense than the popular one that relies upon herds of dead dinosaurs.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

For all these models of current trends projected into the future, I always have just one question:

Where does your model start to factor in the game-changing technology breakthrough that history shows always occurs?

Not in there? Then your model is not very useful at all.

It's that simple, really.

bagoh20 said...

"I've had a bet with a guy over what is the first newtech to become dominant in cars: pure electrics or self-driving tech."

I know which I want. In fact, I'd happily take a 50% cut in gas mileage to get the car to drive me nights, while I sleep so I can wake up in front of my hotel in some city 500 miles from where I passed out. I might even like a surprise setting that would randomly pick the destination for me.

Original Mike said...

"We can't run out of oil even if there's no new source. The price rises and substitutes then happen."

Without government assistance? Seems implausible.

Dante said...

Rusty,

Didn't find methane + coal --> liquid hydrocarbons, but given the below, I would guess it can be done (at what cost?)

Here's an Exxon patent taking methane + c02 and making gas type compounds plus hydrogen:

http://www.wvcoal.com/Research-Development/exxon-2010-co2-methane-liquid-hydrocarbons.html

CEO-MMP said...

It appears the article is in no way "all about methane hydrate". Appears someone didn't actually read the entire article.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Yee-Haw! Everyone knows that Republicans are spiritually prohibited from using any energy source that hasn't been converted to carbon so this is just fucking awesome in the extreme! Woo-Hoo!

furious_a said...

So far the fossil-fuel replacement tech requires more fossil-fuel-sourced BTUs (charging stations powered by watt?) to produce than they replace.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Don't tell Bag of Vinegar-Water about that Italian guy who in the 18th century invented something quaintly known as "batteries".

I'm sure his girlfriends and wives must know about them, though.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Methane is now aqueous, Chicken? What is today opposite day?

Nice going, Chemist Guy.

furious_a said...

want to be the first to warn us about Peak Methane. Oh yea, it's coming...

Pull my finger!

Rusty said...

Dante @7:17
Very interesting. Thank you.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

You guys are hilarious. Leave it to the fossil fuel extraction/refinement industry to patent a thermodynamically backwards energy process. Not sure it's the patent office's job to catch crap like that, but Republicans will find it endlessly fascinating.

Will their next idea involve pulling the sun to the earth and magnifying the strength of its rays?

virgil xenophon said...

All of this "concern" is predicated upon the belief in AGW--hands-down the greatest scientific fraud since Piltdown man..

O Ritmo Segundo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
O Ritmo Segundo said...

Whatever, virgil. Glad to know your scientific understanding of anything is so strong that it not only precedes you, it precedes anybody's recognition of it.

Synova said...

Dante, at the link you gave it says that methane can be recovered from any type of coal, (taking that at face value), so I wonder if it's methane + coal, or if it's just methane from coal... or something.

That link is pretty interesting, really. Thanks for sharing it.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

The link is a way to make yokel coal miners not believe that industry is just using them as always and that it actually cares about the innovation necessary for retaining its relevance in seven years.

Methadras said...

There should be zero arguments for or against Abiogenic oil or even oil derived from organics. It's still all oil that can be refined into other useful products. Even if oil is never again used for fuel, you will still need it for plastics, detergents, lubricants, surfactents, and a whole host of other things that make other products. Without oil, our way of life would essentially grind to a halt. The two most important things that have given us this world we live in come from the earth and start with the letter O, Oil and Ore.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Hopefully this is Methadras' prelude to breaking out into song and telling us that "'C' is for cookie, that's good enough for me!"

Methadras said...

O Ritmo Segundo said...

You guys are hilarious. Leave it to the fossil fuel extraction/refinement industry to patent a thermodynamically backwards energy process. Not sure it's the patent office's job to catch crap like that, but Republicans will find it endlessly fascinating.

Will their next idea involve pulling the sun to the earth and magnifying the strength of its rays?


Why do you even care where your energy comes from or how its used? You're cadre have been touting warming/cooling/doom since day one without realizing that the fiery ball in the sky 1AU away is the primary driver of all energy and weather on this planet and in the solar system.

The left does not have a monopoly on science, dummy. But hey, you keep on believing they do and thinking that conservatives are just creationist dolts that shun science at every turn. I will continue to laugh at you and how little your always let us know you know.

virgil xenophon said...

@Ritmo/

Increasingly with each passing day it appears that the difference between you and me is that, unlike you, I know how to read..

Methadras said...

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Hopefully this is Methadras' prelude to breaking out into song and telling us that "'C' is for cookie, that's good enough for me!"


Wow, right on time and right on cue. You're predictability is astounding. Man, you sure do get butthurt about a lot of stuff.

Synova said...

"yokel coal miners"

Gotta love the way liberals respect labor.

BTW, Ritmo, if you insist on making this political, because frankly I think everyone is bored to tears of you, why not discuss the thesis of the article itself.

Blood methane.

Go for it.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

You're cadre...

I am cadre. Hear me roar!

Nothing like being called a dummy by someone too buffoonish to remember the difference between possessive pronouns and states of being.

...have been touting warming/cooling/doom since day one without realizing that the fiery ball in the sky 1AU away is the primary driver of all energy and weather on this planet and in the solar system.

Oh, I'm sure this is just a HUGE oversight. Thanks for reminding us! Where would anyone be without Meth reminding science of the fact that the sun exists?

The left does not have a monopoly on science, dummy.

But it can be glad for having many less dummies among its ranks, Dummy!

But hey, you keep on believing they do and thinking that conservatives are just creationist dolts that shun science at every turn. I will continue to laugh at you and how little your always let us know you know.

Blah blah blah unoriginal political boilerplate I really meant to post this at RedState.com and got lost sorry.

Synova said...

The various research (and apparently patents) on how to convert something not very usable or even stable, by binding in CO2 or CO molecules, to produce longer carbon chains (or even the initial methane molecule with the right catalyst which they're doing at my University) lets us, potentially, create fuel out of thin air...

How is that not amazing?

bagoh20 said...

Well it WAS a good thread, but eventually when dealing with methane, the stink shows up.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Gotta love the way liberals respect labor.

Moreso than the way connies love to manipulate labor.

BTW, Ritmo, if you insist on making this political, because frankly I think everyone is bored to tears of you, why not discuss the thesis of the article itself.

The whole BORING (to anyone who took a college science course beyond Dinosaurs for Dummies) point of posting it was political in the first place. The idea that an planet-hating blogger who posts a daily "History of The Country of the Day" series cares a fig about science is laughable. So there, Hahaha.

That said, I'd find the article itself interesting. But not as fun as pointing out the buffoonishly predictable, politically obsessive right-wing hasty conclusions drawn from it.

Blood methane.

Go for it.


Ok. Well every now and then we can count on you as being the lone connie to post something not only mildly intelligent and uncontroversial, but mildly entertaining. If only meth-heads shared your mild mannered ways.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

How is that not amazing?

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.

I don't fail to find it interesting. I fail to see why connies find this so much more awesome than so many other interesting developments that are being made in energy development.

If -- and this is a big IF -- it ends up being thermodynamically feasible, then that would be cool. Environmentally it may be technically possible for it to be neutral, and that's good.

But again, my interest is in the conservative obsession with carbon. What's up with that? They seem to be anti-non carbon. This phenomenon really needs to be researched.

El Pollo Real said...

Synova: Methane or coal can convert to "syn" gas via Fischer-Tropsch chemistry. The Germans used it in WWII to make synthetic hydrocarbons and foodstuff (margarine). F-T chemistry, and Krupp, they were LBJ's nemesis, able to make both guns and butter at will. :)

Methadras said...

O Ritmo Segundo said...

You're cadre...

I am cadre. Hear me roar!


Oh darn, how will I ever get over being foiled by an apostrophe and the letter E without Schtikmo remind me about it. It's like I made his night by making this error just so he could reveal it to everyone on his daily oneupsmanship campaign of dull.

Meh, the rest of your little stream of thought bubbles is about as noteworthy as if you had gone to redstate and reposted it.

Just out of curiosity, whenever you open your mouth, do people laugh at you behind your back or to your face?

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Well it WAS a good thread, but eventually when dealing with methane, the stink shows up.

I think the buzzkill of forcing you to use a few brain cells caused the essence of putrescine and cadaverine to rise up from under your scalp.

Synova said...

Just wanted to say Phil 3:14, that this is more or less what I felt the take-away was of the Atlantic article. Only with way more words and much discussion of Churchill...

"So if we follow the pattern of the Middle East will our children have to deal with radical Lutherans from North Dakota

and our Grandchildren have to deal with radical Shintoism in Japan?
"

Granted, it's ludicrous on the face of it because Japan developing methane resources in the ocean isn't creating a power imbalance in the local economy... unless there are mermen in that trench.

El Pollo Real said...

bagoh20 said...
Well it WAS a good thread, but eventually when dealing with methane, the stink shows up.

There is lots of methane in farts; the stinky part is sulfurous.

Synova said...

As for the radical Lutherans... you people could only be so lucky.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Oh darn, how will I ever get over being foiled by an apostrophe and the letter E without Schtikmo remind me about it.

You won't. And you did it twice - again in your (you're?) 8:05 comment. It's funny because would-be scientists lose credibility when they betray a lack of concern for rigor.

Just out of curiosity, whenever you open your mouth, do people laugh at you behind your back or to your face?

How many people have you ever employed, taught, raised funds for, or otherwise impacted in something vaguely approximating an economically or socially redeeming purpose? Ever.

Inga said...

Isn't methane the gas that killed the canary in the coal mine?

Meth gas, hmmm.

El Pollo Real said...

@bagoh20: Ritmo is heavily invested in carbon-based fuels being wrong and sinful--almost as much as his spiritual advisor is over on "The Dish."

You'd think those self-taught science dilettantes would love carbon fuels based on putative and partially existing carbon taxes to fuel their socialist dreams of "curing" sundry inequalities.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

I dunno, Inga. I am being a tad mean and overly snarky tonight. I'll admit it. And this research is interesting - or would be, if it had the credibility of being published in a source that hasn't become infamous for whoring itself out to advertorials. But I just can't help making hay out of the way that connies are so planet-hating that they can't find any silver lining in any clean energy research that doesn't revolve around carbon. Carbon's interesting. But there's an obsession there that I'm trying to understand. Maybe they trust dirty things more.

It's like they refuse to acknowledge the existence and utility of other elements, or something. There seems to be a definite prejudice against so many of Mendeleev's other little discoveries. It just makes my heart weep, a little.

Inga said...

Ritmo, I was thinking about Meth's gaseous emissions in the form of his usual stupid comments.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Methamphetamine, methane, Methadras. It's all part of the same game.

El Pollo Real said...

@Inga: I am currently working up a chirbit called "Ask Ritmo Anything" based on Sullivan's vocal tics and quirks.

It could be a whole chirbit series.

Tibore said...

Folks, oil abiogenesis has been demonstrated to be extremely unlikely as the explanation of how petroleum is produced. Biomarkers are present in oil and thus indicate a biological origin. So does the fact that there's a strong association with anoxic periods with high sedimentation rates, thus strengthening the explanation that such oil is the result of organisms dying, settling, and then becoming covered by geological processes, thus eventually decaying into oil rather than something remaining in the surface biosphere. Furthermore, reasonable mechanisms for abiogenic formation of oil have not been proposed. Also, a practical series of drillings at the Siljan ring - a meteor impact area where the granite basement has been fractured and partially upthrust in places - have yet to show the presence of any petroleum, and that's in an area where any such non-biologically sourced oil should be present.

It's a nice dream, but it's been failing the practical test of reality for some years now. It's much better to concentrate on known reserves, plus the utilization of other sources, such as the methane hydrate so ubiquitously available, than to chase something that's failed every practical experiment yet, plus contradicts what we already know about petroleum (as a side note, no, crude oil isn't dead dinosaurs as much as it is a huge biomass of dead plankton, germs, and other microscopic organisms).

Look, I'd have loved for the theory to have been proven. It would shut up the doomish naysayers who want to keep on telling us we should implement deprivation practices and live like a medieval society rather than a modern one in order to conserve energy. But desires do not reflect nature, and so far nature's clues to us have indicated that petroleum is not created via abiogenic processes.

El Pollo Real said...

Inga said...
Isn't methane the gas that killed the canary in the coal mine?

No. It's carbon monoxide.

Synova said...

Wow, Ritmo... now we're wrong because everyone didn't start talking about non-carbon based energy sources in a thread about an article about methane clathrates.

What is it like to have everything confirm your world view that way?

O Ritmo Segundo said...

As with most of what Chickelit posts, I'm wondering what Andrew Sullivan has to do with any of this.

Maybe Chick fantasizes about us being involved in a gay tryst or something.

Pollo: There's plenty of material for chemical fodder in nearly every one of my comments tonight. Why not go to work on those? And start with why you called methane hydrophilic - as a correction of your own comment? What was up with that?

If it was just a double oversight, no biggie. But I'm really counting on you to bring the science to the conservy-connies tonight and I don't want you to let me down.

Inga said...

Chickelit, it's both I believe (I looked it up). But you being the chemist are probably right.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

What is it like to have everything confirm your world view that way?

What is it like to pretend that topic choice on an avowedly planet-hating blogger's website can't be criticized?

wyo sis said...

"I am being a tad mean and overly snarky tonight. I'll admit it."


So much for my suspicion that Ritmo is a particularly loathsome example of a leftest machine. He seems to posses some tiny degree of self-knowledge. Maybe it was programmed in to make him appear human.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Thanks Tibore @8:41.

And IOW (my own) thermodynamically fucked-up!

That's the shorter way of saying what you just did. Life organizes energy backwards for its own purposes. Non-living minerals do not.

El Pollo Real said...

Synova mused: ...create fuel out of thin air...

How is that not amazing?


How about making plant food out of thin air? That's what Fritz Haber did when he showed how to make ammonia from hydrogen and nitrogen (thin air). He won the Nobel Prize (1918) for that feat, despite having fathered Germany's poison gas war pogram.

But the French already had their best Nobelist on the poison gas thing too so it was a wash.

Patrick said...

Ritmo, The reason we like carbon for energy is very simple. It works. It's not perfect but it is much better than anything else.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

How about making plant food...

Isn't the lesson here that life usually already knows how to do something more efficiently than those who would commercialize it do? Is the Haber process more efficient than BNF? And isn't there a grand, over-arching lesson... that the way nature goes about doing something is usually more useful to emulate, rather than to upend?

It's a philosophical point, and not one as strong to me as certain less esoteric points on science and commerce. But I think it hits on a certain way that connies seem to prefer looking at things in that regard that I'd really like to understand better.

El Pollo Real said...

@Ritmo: my own correction was an error. You are correct. But the context of the previous longer comment makes it clear. You'd better screen cap it now before I delete it!

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Well, we're really going to have to disagree on your benchmark for "not perfect" Patrick and, oh yeah, have you looked at the cost trends (not present) for the competitors?

I really think that some people have a way of looking at energy that implies "Carbon is DESTINY". I can see the point of going from fire to fuel engines and thinking there's a never-ending progression there. But if splitting the atom has showed us anything, it's the fact that the paradigm is anything but never-ending.

Michio Kaku says solar's trend for being competitive with fossils will cross the curve in less than seven years. And that fusion technology's on the horizon for less than twenty. I don't know why I find more interest in the prospect of clean energy told to me by successful physicists than by businessmen. Maybe it has something to do with the difference between discoveries driving business (as is natural) and business bs'ing us into thinking it will come up with the discoveries that scientists aren't actually working on. Because, stocks and speculation.

El Pollo Real said...

Isn't the lesson here that life usually already knows how to do something more efficiently than those who would commercialize it do? Is the Haber process more efficient than BNF?

BNF works at ambient temperature and pressure; H-B requires elevated temperatures and pressures and uses catalysts. Plus the hydrogen must be made (typically from methane). BNF is still not understood well enough to harness it synthetically. Sure, we could rely exclusively on bacteria to fix nitrogen, but where would we be? Certainly Norman Borlaug would not approve of that message. Without Haber-Bosch today, more people would simply die of starvation or would never have been born which I guess is a leftist's dream: fewer people.

JPS said...

O Ritmo Segundo:

"Carbon's interesting. But there's an obsession there that I'm trying to understand. Maybe they trust dirty things more.

"It's like they refuse to acknowledge the existence and utility of other elements, or something."

I'm an inorganic chemist. I prefer thinking about, and doing research about, other elements.

But here's the thing: Life as we know it is carbon-based. I can get excited about hydrogen, hydrogen storage, or even ammonia - but God or Nature, depending on your point of view, wasn't thoughtful enough to leave vast underground lakes of any non-carbon-based chemical fuel just waiting for us to extract them and burn them.

So when I think about turning CO2 back into useful molecules (and I think a lot about that), I remember that the energy has to come from somewhere. Whereas with carbon-based fuels, that solar energy has already been stored. And those who see the world as it is, rather than as they think it ought to be, recognize that. Hence that "obsession" with dirty, dirty carbon.

Unless you'd like to join me in helping people sort out legitimate fears versus ridiculous paranoia regarding nuclear power. I joined an online discussion once on Fukushima Daichi and explained that of course iodine-131 levels at the west coast were elevated dramatically over background, because the background levels of such a short-lived isotope are almost nil. For my troubles I was called a shill for the nuclear industry.

JPS said...

O Ritmo Segundo:

"Carbon's interesting. But there's an obsession there that I'm trying to understand. Maybe they trust dirty things more.

"It's like they refuse to acknowledge the existence and utility of other elements, or something."

I'm an inorganic chemist. I prefer thinking about, and doing research about, other elements.

But here's the thing: Life as we know it is carbon-based. I can get excited about hydrogen, hydrogen storage, or even ammonia - but God or Nature, depending on your point of view, wasn't thoughtful enough to leave vast underground lakes of any non-carbon-based chemical fuel just waiting for us to extract them and burn them.

So when I think about turning CO2 back into useful molecules (and I think a lot about that), I remember that the energy has to come from somewhere. Whereas with carbon-based fuels, that solar energy has already been stored. And those who see the world as it is, rather than as they think it ought to be, recognize that. Hence that "obsession" with dirty, dirty carbon.

Unless you'd like to join me in helping people sort out legitimate fears versus ridiculous paranoia regarding nuclear power. I joined an online discussion once on Fukushima Daichi and explained that of course iodine-131 levels at the west coast were elevated dramatically over background, because the background levels of such a short-lived isotope are almost nil. For my troubles I was called a shill for the nuclear industry.

El Pollo Real said...

@Ritmo: BNF works fine for a growing plant's own needs but you can't get it to make excess usable nitrogen. It has what's called a diffuse yield. Highly efficient, but diffuse. And it's not like the plant stores it either--it converts it heterocycles and amino acids.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Without Haber-Bosch today, more people would simply die of starvation or would never have been born which I guess is a leftist's dream: fewer people.

Lol. Maybe China and India are onto something with their caste system, ruthless authoritarianism (and filth in China's case), and something else that those two countries must somehow have to teach us.

In any event, I'll admit to not knowing as much as you about the commercial implications of Haber - (yes, I know it's big), but don't count out commercialized, if insanely modified biological emulation. There's biotech, for starters, and now they're looking at using DNA-based evolution in AI. That chemical revolution that was growing exponentially by 1950, Chickie? It was big. But it won't end in plastics. It will end in biology. Nanotech. And beyond.

Probably, at least. But commercialized molec. bio's where the innovation seems to be surpassing straight-out synthetic materials engineering. Unless I'm missing something.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Life as we know it is carbon-based.

Especially dead life, lol.

I want to read more from an inorganic chemist's standpoint, actually. I just need to get a cheeseburger. I'll check in at the bar and if there's a short chime that will be worth ringing in from my phone, I'll do it. Until then (and especially if not), keep it interesting.

David said...

We will run out of fools before we run out of fossil fuels.

El Pollo Real said...

And isn't there a grand, over-arching lesson... that the way nature goes about doing something is usually more useful to emulate, rather than to upend?

Sure walking everywhere using just our God-given feet is swell but why not use cars, trains, planes, and bicycles, things not found in nature? BTW, all of those means of transportation rely on carbon-based fuels.

Learning from nature to solve the methane activation process raged about 15 to 20 years ago. A few crystal structures of the MMO active site and mechanistic reasoning has unfortunately not yielded a solution because the problem is not that simple. Synthetic methods have outpaced the "natural" ones.

virgil xenophon said...

@Ritmo/

I've had several personal conversations with Kaku and respect him a lot, but I feel he is very wrong about solar. Forgetting advances and cost-reduction in production technology, where are the best places considered for siting? Ans: deserts. What do deserts have in abundance? Ans: Sand and wind. How does one clean solar panels to insure max out-put? Ans: With water. What do deserts have the LEAST of? Ans: water. And this factor is just the first problem Secondly, all solar panels are connected in SERIES like those old-fashion christmas-tree lights.. And for cost considerations NO ONE installs a monitor on each panel, ergo, NO ONE can measure the effective output of each panel or the entire system. Google found out the hard way when part of one of it's solar farms got knocked down by maint workers and they couldn't measure percentage of loss of out-put.

Thirdly, the cost of the transmission grid from remote locations condusive to solar collection to the metro cities they are supposed to power are ridiculously/prohibitively expensive--in hundreds of billions--making solar cost prohibitive. Not only that put the VERY PEOPLE who agitated for solar in the desert are the VERY SAME people now opposing the route of the power grids via the NIMBY effect, driving projected costs up even higher if grids are re-routed from most direct to PC direct.

The upshot, Ritmo, I respectfully suggest both you and Kaku are very wrong about the future of solar..

Jay Vogt said...

It's an interesting speculative technology.

In the meantime though wouldn't it be cool if there were some domestic (USA) resource where a lot (say 10 bbls +/-) of sweet low-sulfur crude could be extracted using proven conventional technologies, processes and equipment.

And, wouldn't it be even cooler if that recoverable oil was locates in a state that actually wanted it to be extracted

And wouldn't it be cooler still if that exploitable oil tract would only be about 2,000 acres or so and located in a spot that literally no one goes to anyway. And, what if there were an existing world-class pipeline origin only a hundred miles away?

Hmmmm.

SteveR said...

This was a good conversation this afternoon, what happened?

El Pollo Real said...

In any event, I'll admit to not knowing as much as you about the commercial implications of Haber - (yes, I know it's big), but don't count out commercialized, if insanely modified biological emulation. There's biotech, for starters, and now they're looking at using DNA-based evolution in AI. That chemical revolution that was growing exponentially by 1950, Chickie? It was big. But it won't end in plastics. It will end in biology. Nanotech. And beyond.

I know exactly where your going with this: we should clone and tweak the organism already responsible for fixing nitrogen; get it to overproduce ammonia on an industrial scale. Or better, isolate just the protein responsible and get it to work outside the organism. At this point, it's like getting a womb to work outside a woman.

Synthetic nitrogen fixation (besides H-B) is still an active field of research. Yields and turnovers are still low. One the pioneers in the field, a Russian, Alexander Shilov, will probably win a Nobel Prize for his early work on both N2 and CH4 activation.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Virgil: What seems inevitable to me, and likely useful in this case, will be a transfer medium. Metal hydrides, probably. If you want to achieve a bipartisan goal of grid/source decentralization, a transfer medium is crucial.

Chick: Weren't da Vinci and every other innovator of air travel intensely interested in birds?

I guess if I'm going to be wrong, Virgil, I could do worse than throwing in with Kaku. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall during some of those other conversations. You are a lucky man indeed.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Chick - your analogy on wombs is interesting given how far medical research is progressing in the field of growing organs.

An interesting corollary here: Which non-living, organic scaffolds will best support the growth of these tissues into 3-dimensional organs. And how might that differ from organ to organ. Extracellular matrices is cool stuff.

El Pollo Real said...

If it was just a double oversight, no biggie. But I'm really counting on you to bring the science to the conservy-connies tonight and I don't want you to let me down.

I wish that oil companies would do more fundamental research into conversion of methane into useful products. American universities have adopted an open-source philosophy, essentially doing the world's research in an open way, often caring too little about propriety. Oil companies ("energy" companies) moved away from oil and gas conversion technology discovery since I was involved in it. They responded to political will {BP goes solar!] I suspect they will move back if they alreadu haven't. On the other hand, Big Farma (Agribusiness) is finding lots of new and interesting materials derived from plants. DuPont partners with them. That is a bright spot.

William said...

Methane hydrate sounds like the medical term for a wet fart. They need a catchier name if they want to sell it. Creme de krill. Plankton juice. Trough tow.......I'll keep working on it. But methane hydrate is a non starter.

William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
El Pollo Real said...

O Ritmo Segundo said...
Virgil: What seems inevitable to me, and likely useful in this case, will be a transfer medium. Metal hydrides, probably. If you want to achieve a bipartisan goal of grid/source decentralization, a transfer medium is crucial.

You might read up on magnesium as a storage material: MgH2

Chick: Weren't da Vinci and every other innovator of air travel intensely interested in birds?

Aerodynamics, yes, but the currency of the natural energy economy is denominated in phosphate bonds; our energy economy is denominated in units of CH bonds: BTU's per barrel of oil. ATP is very "soft" currency; CH and CC bonds are very "hard" currency.

Inga said...

"On the other hand, Big Farma (Agribusiness) is finding lots of new and interesting materials derived from plants. DuPont partners with them. That is a bright spot."

4/25/13, 9:59 PM

Yes! Like BioAstin in Hawaii.

El Pollo Real said...

William said...
Methane hydrate sounds like the medical term for a wet fart.

LOL! You could work Madison Avenue on the marketing.

Dante said...

Inga's right about methane killing the Canary. So does C0. Both do:

An allusion to caged canaries (birds) that mining workers would carry down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately.

El Pollo Real said...

An allusion to caged canaries (birds) that mining workers would carry down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately.

If methane kills, it is as an asphyxiant, much like N2 or CO2 would be. Carbon monoxide is actually a poison: it binds to hemoglobin. 100 ppm of CO is considered dangerous. Methane doesn't bind to anything in a human or canary's body (that I know of). It is a very inert molecule. Human exposures in the 10's of thousands ppm of methane are not toxic. In a coal mine, it is conceivable that methane concentration could be so high that effectively all the O2 is displaced. But given the much higher lethality of CO, I'd bet all the canary deaths were CO poisoning and that source is wrong.

El Pollo Real said...

Methane's big danger in coal mines is it's explosivity. Carbon monoxide is already partially oxidized and while still flammable is actually harder to ignite.

David Davenport said...

But again, my interest is in the conservative obsession with carbon. What's up with that? They seem to be anti-non carbon. This phenomenon really needs to be researched.

Then I can assume that your're in favor of more fission electrical power plants, which consume no carbon and emit no CO2?

Isn't the lesson here that life usually already knows how to do something more efficiently than those who would commercialize it do?

Then humans should stop trying to put out forest fires? After all, fire occurs naturally in Nature.

In any event, I'll admit to not knowing as much as you about the commercial implications of Haber - (yes, I know it's big), but don't count out commercialized, if insanely modified biological emulation. There's biotech, for starters, and now they're looking at using DNA-based evolution in AI. ...

So, you're also in favor of biotechnology and genetic engineering, unlike the Luddite European Union?

Dante said...

JPS: sorry to hear you were called a shill for nuclear. I don't understand the thought process, given the safety of Nuclear. It's like being concerned about big jetliner travel per mile vs. car crashes.

I've argued that one of global warming or Nuclear is worse, pick one, but the answer is "neither," we need to make expensive technologies and feed into government control. I don't get it. It seems anti-human progress to me.

Dante said...

I'm not arguing about C0 being more toxi in lesser concentrations than CH4, I'm merely supporting Inga's factually correct statement: Canaries were used to detect CH4.

And for the record, Inga Linga told me I was a neurotic bird plucking out my feathers a couple of days ago, but when youse right, youse right, and people ought not to step on that.

Hyphenated American said...

O rhino segundo

"Don't tell Bag of Vinegar-Water about that Italian guy who in the 18th century invented something quaintly known as "batteries"."


Yawn. As part of my work, I do work with battery enabling as well as different usage models and charging. What do you want to know about batteries?

Hyphenated American said...

O rhino segundo

"Michio Kaku says solar's trend for being competitive with fossils will cross the curve in less than seven years. And that fusion technology's on the horizon for less than twenty. I don't know why I find more interest in the prospect of clean energy told to me by successful physicists than by businessmen. Maybe it has something to do with the difference between discoveries driving business (as is natural) and business bs'ing us into thinking it will come up with the discoveries that scientists aren't actually working on. Because, stocks and speculation."

Of course the businessmen in this case just need the government permission to build factories and start delivering energy. The scientists need government funding.

And yes , fusion will be realized 20 years from now - but it's hardly news, since we were 20 years away from fusion back in the 60ies. I expect that by mid 21 century we will still be 20 years away from fusion energy.

Btw ,speaking "successful physicists", kaku is famous as a popularizer, he is no Feynman, landau, let alone Einstein or Borh.

Alex said...

I say no, we need more solar. Solar panels on every roof. Dismantle all the coal/nuclear/gas plants now.

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