Sam Redman's Musings

Random thoughts on a variety of subjects

Energy sources – who really knows the future?

Some are saying that the reality is that nothing much is going to change regarding our energy sources in the next 50 years. Read this article in the nytimes about what the oil companies are doing:

Click to read about oil companies ignoring “green” ops.

Sure, it is easy to dump on the oil companies as the culprits, but they are just profit entities. They don’t have an agenda, other than making money. If the investments in alternate sources of energy made sense to them, they would be right there, but they have scaled back recently, because they see the future in investment primarily in the Alberta Canada Oil Sands. Already the number two producer, soon Canada will surpass the middle east in production of oil imported into the US (maybe it is better to buy from nearby friends, than from fair-weather allies whose volatility is worrisome).

But the oil companies may be surprised by the emerging natural gas situation (although many of them are invested heavily there as well). Currently, there is a worldwide glut in natural gas production and prices are dropping. There are known worldwide reserves for natural gas taking us out several hundred years. So, the real future may, in fact, be natural gas as the alternative fuel. Many major truck fleets (including UPS and FEDX) have made the conversion and most truck lines will have done it in the next few years (google “T. Boone Pickens” for his predictions and data). Liquified natural gas has been used lately in some home electric generator systems, producing electricity cheaper than is available from the power companies. And natural gas (while not as clean as solar or wind produced energy) produces a fraction of the pollution as coal or oil and new technology shows promise of even cleaner “burns.” You can read about gas as a “clean” energy source here on the epa.gov site:

Read about “clean” gas on the EPA.gov site

Solar is the ultimate solution, of course, but it requires the nationwide availability of less expensive panels to have any impact on replacing other mechanisms of producing power. However, if breakthroughs occur providing low prices, where panels could be as inexpensive as roofing materials (yes, some foresee that, maybe within a few years), then we could literally see a revolution as millions of homes would go “off the grid” as fast as the new panels could be produced. It’s a good sign that we can now buy a variety of do-it-yourself panels on Amazon and at electronic stores like Fry’s (and the prices have dropped significantly in the past two years). A few years ago we never heard of cell phones and look at them now. Same with personal computers and the internet. And did anyone really predict those phenomena, say in 1980? No. That is why we can reasonably assume that the prognosticators might be just blowing smoke. A few simple improvements in solar panel production technology (the panels are great… they just need to make them more efficiently) and soon you might be able to convert to solar as easily as you installed that new flat screen tv in your family room (another revolution that happened overnight).

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This entry was posted on April 19, 2009 by and tagged , , , , , , , , .