I’m trying to come up with good ways of phrasing some energy related ideas. I’ve been listening to some talk radio, reading some news articles on the web, and I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody has a bloody clue when it comes to our energy problems.
For one, it seems like they don’t recognize that we actually have two separate problems. One is Stationary energy generation/collection, the other is Portable energy storage. Right now we use Oil for both of these but any technology we replace it with will probably not solve both as efficiently as oil.
For stationary, we have Nuclear, Solar, Hydroelectric, and Wind. In reality, all of these just boil down to different collection methods for Nuclear power. Our wind/weather system is powered by the sun. Solar is more directly from the sun. Hydroelectric is caused by the sun evaporating water and the wind carrying it to higher ground so it has more potential energy. Nuclear is direct uranium fission. The sun, of course, is direct hydrogen Fusion. There are other things we use for “generation” that are really just energy storage methods. Coal, natural gas, and Oil are two of these. Coal, NG, and Oil are just a stored form of solar power collected in years past. Storage methods are also useful because pure generation/collection methods are not always consistent. The ability to dump excess energy into some form of storage then use that energy later when your collection methods drop off is vital.
For portable energy storage, we have Batteries, Oil/Petroleum (Including that generated by TDP), Hydrogen, Ethanol, and Diesel (Including Biodiesel.) The main point people are missing with these is that even if you put more Stationary energy into these than you get back out of them, they’re still viable for the task we’re planning on putting them to. You don’t see people complaining as much about how electric cars use more power than you get back out of them, yet batteries are definitely not 100% efficient. The bottom line is, when it comes to replacing underground crude oil it doesn’t matter if you spend more electricity in generating it than you get out of it. You can’t use that grid electricity for the purposes we want these portable technologies for. The two things we really need to focus on are getting enough stationary energy to meet all of our total energy needs, then finding the most economically feasible method or combination of methods to convert that stationary energy to portable energy.
The lynch pin technologies in any future energy economy where we can’t rely on past stored solar is the ability to store the energy ourselves then retrieve a decent amount of that energy later. We could collect tons of energy with solar and wind, but unless we can store this for the times when there is no wind nor sun on the panels then the most you can ever supplement with this is about the same as the minimum energy usage of any given time of the day. (So long as you don’t have some other sink for that extra energy when your total demand drops below the amount generated.)
I don’t care what method we use to store our energy, we just need to get that method fully researched so that it’s available when we need it. We also need to build up our collection and generation capacity of sources that aren’t just burning stored energy. Nuclear, Wind, Solar. We’re pretty close to tapped out on hydroelectric already. Nuclear is actually the only generation/collection method that can be 100% all the time if needed. Definitely an important feature.