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ENERGY: Nine Challenges of Alternative Energy by David Fridley

ENERGY: Nine Challenges of Alternative Energy by David Fridley

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"Unlike conventional fossil fuels, where nature provided energy over millions of years to convert biomass into energy-dense solids, liquids, and gases--requiring only extraction and transportation technolgy for us to mobilize them--alternative energy depends heavily on specially engineered equipment and infrastructure for capture or conversion, essentially making it a high-tech manufacturing process. However, the full supply chain for alternative energy, from raw material to manufacturing, is still very dependent on fossil-fuel energy for mining, transport, and materials production. Alternative energy faces the challenge of how to supplant a fossil-fuel-based supply chain with one driven by alternative energy forms themselves in order to break their reliance on a fossil-fuel foundation."
"Unlike conventional fossil fuels, where nature provided energy over millions of years to convert biomass into energy-dense solids, liquids, and gases--requiring only extraction and transportation technolgy for us to mobilize them--alternative energy depends heavily on specially engineered equipment and infrastructure for capture or conversion, essentially making it a high-tech manufacturing process. However, the full supply chain for alternative energy, from raw material to manufacturing, is still very dependent on fossil-fuel energy for mining, transport, and materials production. Alternative energy faces the challenge of how to supplant a fossil-fuel-based supply chain with one driven by alternative energy forms themselves in order to break their reliance on a fossil-fuel foundation."

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Published by: Post Carbon Institute on Aug 30, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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The Post Carbon Reader Seres: Energy
Nne Challenges of Alternatve Energy
By Davd Frdley
 
About the Author
David Fridley has been a staff scientist at the EnergyAnalysis Program at the Lawrence Berkeley NationalLaboratory in California since 1995. He has nearlythirty years of experience working and living in Chinain the energy sector and is a fluent Mandarin speaker.He spent twelve years working in the petroleum indus-try both as a consultant on downstream oil markets andas business development manager for Caltex China. Hehas written and spoken extensively on the energy andecological limits of biofuels. Fridley is a Fellow of PostCarbon Institute.Post Carbon Institute© 2010613 4th Street, Suite 208Santa Rosa, California 95404 USAThis publication is an excerpted chapter from
The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’sSustainability Crises
, Richard Heinberg and DanielLerch, eds. (Healdsburg, CA: Watershed Media, 2010).For other book excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing visit http://www.postcarbonreader.com.
 
NiNE CAENES F ATERNATiE ENER1 TE PST CARBN READER SERiES
The scramble for alternatives is on. High oil prices,growing concerns over energy security, and the threatof climate change have all stimulated investment inthe development of alternatives to conventional oil.“Alternative energy” generally falls into two categories:
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Substitutes for existing petroleum liquids (etha-nol, biodiesel, biobutanol, dimethyl ether, coal-to-liquids, tar sands, oil shale), both from biomass andfossil feedstocks.
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Alternatives for the generation of electric power,including power-storage technologies (wind, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, tidal, biomass, fuelcells, batteries).e technology pathways to these alternatives vary widely, from distillation and gasication to bioreac-tors of algae and high-tech manufacturing of photon-absorbing silicon panels. Many are considered “green” or“clean,” although some, such as coal-to-liquids and tarsands, are “dirtier” than the petroleum they are replac-ing. Others, such as biofuels, have concomitant environ-mental impacts that oset potential carbon savings.Unlike conventional fossil fuels, where nature pro- vided energy over millions of years to convert biomassinto energy-dense solids, liquids, and gases—requiring only extraction and transportation technology for usto mobilize them—alternative energy depends heavilyon specially engineered equipment and infrastructurefor capture or conversion, essentially making it a high-tech manufacturing process. However, the full sup- ply chain for alternative energy, from raw materials tomanufacturing, is still very dependent on fossil-fuelenergy for mining, transport, and materials produc-tion. Alternative energy faces the challenge of howto supplant a fossil-fuel-based supply chain with onedriven by alternative energy forms themselves in orderto break their reliance on a fossil-fuel foundation.The public discussion about alternative energy is oftenreduced to an assessment of its monetary costs versusthose of traditional fossil fuels, often in comparison totheir carbon footprints. This kind of reductionism toa simple monetary metric obscures the complex issuessurrounding the potential viability, scalability, feasibil-ity, and suitability of pursuing specific alternative tech-nology paths. Although money is necessary to developalternative energy, money is simply a token for mobi-lizing a range of resources used to produce energy. Atthe level of physical requirements, assessing the poten-tial for alternative energy development becomes muchmore complex since it involves issues of end-use energyrequirements, resource-use trade-offs (including waterand land), and material scarcity.Similarly, it is often assumed that alternative energy will seamlessly substitute for the oil, gas, or coal itis designed to supplant—but this is rarely the case.Integration of alternatives into our current energy
 
Alternative energyis essentiallya high-techmanuacturingprocess.

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