Still No Hope

James Kunstler's blog has a new headshot up. Oddly enough, it makes him look like Al Gore. I know this will sound strange, but I think the look suits him. Gets him away from that unfortunate grinning shroom-devil look. As for any new content of substance, I must regretfully report that I sought in vain for it.

Wind, solar, bio-fuels, tar sands, coal-derived-liquids, used french-fry oil, nuclear fission -- none of these things will rescue American suburbia from the twilight of oil and natural gas. There is a great wish abroad in the land that these alt fuels would come to the rescue, but I believe it will never get beyond the wish stage.

Yeah, yeah, we're still doomed. I hope you're all getting comfortable with that...

We have invented a lot of nifty things in the past hundred years, but it has all been made possible by cheap fossil fuels and cheap electricity, which depends on the cheap fossil fuels. Even nuclear power, which was once (but no longer) heralded as "too cheap to meter," owes its existence to the fossil fuels that make all the mining, construction, and maintenance possible. The truth is, we have nothing better to plug into...

Same old same old. Here he is back in April 2005...

No combination of alternative fuels will allow us to run American life the way we have been used to running it, or even a substantial fraction of it. The wonders of steady technological progress achieved through the reign of cheap oil have lulled us into a kind of Jiminy Cricket syndrome…

And here's January, 2006...

Take a good look at America around you now, because when we emerge from the winter of 2005 - 6, we're going to be another country. The reality-oblivious nation of mall hounds, bargain shoppers, happy motorists, Nascar fans, Red State war hawks, and born-again Krispy Kremers is headed into a werewolf-like transformation that will reveal to all the tragic monster we have become...

The US is going to run short of its customary supplies for a long time. The idea that these things will not affect an economy of ceaseless mobility is not realistic...

By October, the hurricane season will be ending and the stock market crash season will be underway. It is hard to imagine that companies like WalMart really believe they will keep their profits up when their customers are paying twice as much as they did a year ago to heat their houses and fill their gas tanks.

Glad I'm too stupid to understand economics. Otherwise I might tremble myself to sleep every night. Is there no help on the way? No hope at all?

Perhaps. You may recall that Mr. Kunstler predicted our Pacific coast will be ravaged by Asian pirates. If so, we won't be entirely helpless. DOD's experiments with alternate sources of jet fuel have continued to bear fruit.

Syntroleum, a leader in Fischer-Tropsch (FT) technology, announced today that its ultra-clean jet fuel has been successfully tested in a United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress Bomber aircraft. The plane lifted off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., with a 50/50 blend of FT and traditional JP-8 jet fuel which was burned in two of the eight engines on the plane. This marks the first time that FT jet fuel has been tested in a military flight demo, and is the first of several planned test flights...

The jet fuel that was used today was produced from natural gas using Syntroleum's proprietary FT process, but the company believes the fuel can also be produced from the vast domestic coal resources.

So those Asian pirates better just mind their p's and q's. They're going to find it rather difficult to plunder Seattle without their pirate ships. Even better, we'll be able to blow them to bits in a cleaner, more environmentally sensitive way.

Syntroleum's jet fuel has shown superior performance characteristics compared to traditional aviation fuels. Prior testing by the military on the company's FT fuels have shown a reduction in particulate matter and soot emissions of greater than 90 percent depending upon the turbine engine type compared to aviation fuels produced by refining crude oil. The reduced particulate matter and soot emissions significantly improve engine efficiency, performance and overall air quality.

Green death from above. How droll. Is there any other good news? Why yes, more than I actually have time to tell you about. I'm afraid that just a couple of examples will have to suffice. If you'd like more, just search the Classical Values archives for "Kunstler".

HelioVolt has developed the fastest and most effective way to manufacture CIS (Copper Indium Selenide), the most reliable and best-performing thin film material for generating electricity from sunlight. HelioVolt's FASST™ technology can apply efficient CIS coatings in custom shapes, sizes, and tints to create power generating glass, steel, metal and polymers, making possible a new generation of solar power modules and photovoltaic construction materials.

How fun. And it's even greener than the jet fuel. Unlike the following...

Uranium fuel typically is formed into cylindrical ceramic pellets about a half-inch in diameter. The pellets look like a smooth, black version of food pellets for small animals.

In a three-year project completed recently for the U.S. Department of Energy, Hejzlar and Kazimi teamed up with Westinghouse and other companies to look at how to make a fuel for one kind of reactor, the pressurized water reactor (PWR), 30 percent more efficient while maintaining or improving safety margins.

They changed the shape of the fuel from solid cylinders to hollow tubes. This added surface area that allows water to flow inside and outside the pellets, increasing heat transfer.

The new fuel turned out even better than Hejzlar dared hope. It proved to be easy to manufacture and capable of boosting the power output of PWR plants by 50 percent.

Fifty percent? Impressive. So then, assuming it all pans out, with an aggressive retro-fitting program we could acquire the equivalent of one extra pressurized water reactor for each two that we already have. How very sweet.

Thanks, science guys! Thanks for actually knowing what you're talking about.

posted by Justin on 09.30.06 at 09:10 PM










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