Right Fuel for the Future

Note on 2-2-12: This update since my original study in October 2010 reflects the impact of fracking – hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas bearing rock – and horizontal drilling on the supply of oil and gas in the U.S. since 2008. These productive new technologies, with admitted environmental risks that can be mitigated, are increasing U.S. oil and gas production. France has banned fracking. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is cautiously pushing ahead, with concern about the impact of the chemicals used in fracking. But the results have been nothing short of phenomenal: in three+ short years, the downtrend in U.S. oil and gas production since 1970 has been reversed. In 2011, the U.S. has gone net energy production positive for the first time in many years. New technology has turned the trick. But the rest of the story from my 2010 report, with emphasis on the role of government whim in energy policy, is unchanged. The emphasis on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from burning of fossil fuels is still an urgent international priority, despite arguments from fossil fuel advocates to the contrary.

Hubbert Curve: We passed the peak of the Hubbert Curve for oil production in the U. S. in 1970, marked by a steady slide from then to 2008. Even with fracking and horizontal drilling we will not return to the 1970 level of U.S. production by 2020 while demand continues to soar. Worldwide oil production may have passed the Hubbert peak oil production in 2010, even with the impact of the new drilling technologies. The late Dr. M. King Hubbert, geophysicist, was an authority on the estimation of energy reserves and on the prediction of their patterns of discovery and depletion. His spring 1956 prediction of the peak of U.S. oil production in 1970 at the meeting of the Southern District of the American Petroleum Institute was not well accepted by his audience. Nonetheless, his prediction proved remarkably accurate. With new discoveries like shale oil and the oil under the Arctic shelf and fracking, peaking worldwide oil production is a bit murkier, but we are close. Oil’s days are numbered in this worldwide Exxon Mobil chart:

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Since about 1983, global oil consumption/production (black line) for Exxon Mobil is above global discovery, subject to future revision since the 2008 impact of fracking and horizontal drilling. Similar charts are available for other oil companies’ discoveries. Still, our global community, our Earth home, is being forced to take a new step in sourcing and using energy, either now or soon. Green, renewable and local are important factors when contemplating this new energy. The future energy scenario proposed here is probable, desirable, and a happy ending to the present day political, economic, and technical turmoil over dwindling fossil-based fuels. We should note, before we decide what fuel is right for us from now on, that fuels and car technology are evolutionary, not revolutionary, and that there is nothing new under the sun.  Electric cars were the most popular cars built in 1901 and 1902 and lasted into the 1920’s  E.g., the 1903 Krieger had electric and gasoline power and front wheel drive. This was the world’s first hybrid vehicle.  The first batteries used in earlier electric vehicles were not even rechargeable  Fuel cells have been around since 1839  Hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells were used for power on the U.S. Apollo Moon Missions through 1972  The first automobile powered by a fuel cell was achieved on April 24, 1998, in Palm Desert, CA In October 2001, a month after 9/11, I sent letters to President George W. Bush, Spencer Abrahams, Head of Department of Energy, and Christie Whitman, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, laying out a case for a better transportation and industrial fuel: hydrogen. Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, is a science teacher’s dream. Burn hydrogen and you get water and ZERO pollution. I was teaching science at The Francis Parker School in Linda Vista, CA. Parker, founded in 1912, is private, coeducational, and college preparatory, with over one hundred teachers stretching the minds of 1,240 K-12 students from diverse backgrounds. The only immediate response to my letters was a thoughtful, lengthy reply from Christie Whitman. She liked hydrogen, the zero carbon emissions fuel, but said the interest and efforts of private citizens are most important to the functioning of government and she appreciated me taking the time to express my views. Then, in January, 2002, Spencer Abrams announced at the Detroit Automobile Show that henceforth hydrogen would be the fuel of the future for the United States. Naturally, I do take full credit for this auspicious shift in national energy policy!
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Hydrogen All the fossil fuel that existed before we started burning it over the last 150 years could fit into a cube about 4.1 miles on an edge. Every day for the next five billion years (give or take a billion years) the Earth will receive an amount of solar energy equal to the energy in the fossil fuel cube (Hydrogen Today, Vol. 18 No. 1). Why not use this solar energy for transportation and stop burning carbon? Hydrogen’s cost for the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline in 2001 was, by my calculations, about $9.00. I worked with a chemistry professor at the University of California, San Diego, to arrive at this figure. We assumed electrolysis of water by electricity to make hydrogen. The cost of a gallon of regular gasoline in the U. S. at the time was about $2.50 a gallon. Who in his right mind would think hydrogen would replace anything? Well, Spencer Abrahams and Bud Suiter did, for two. In 2001, a gallon of gasoline in Japan or Western Europe was nearly $7.00/gallon, a closer horse race with hydrogen. Given that all oil used by the U.S., Europe and Japan comes from the same
places and costs the same amount at the wellhead, what does this tell you about the effect of politics on energy pricing and consumption? More on the subject of the government effect on fuel policy is covered below.

Hydrogen is made today mainly for industrial use from natural gas and costs about $5 to $10 per kilogram, more than double an equivalent amount of gasoline. But hydrogen fuel-cell cars also have at least double the energy efficiency of today’s spark ignition gasoline powered cars (overall energy efficiency of 70% vs. 35%), which helps offset the fuel price difference. Today the 2010 Honda Clarity FCX fuel cell car averages 60 miles per kilogram of hydrogen. But the Japanese Energy Department through Toyota estimates future prices for hydrogen will fall to $2 to $3 a kilogram. This was reported by Bloomberg News Service on August 6, 2010. Today, a gallon of gasoline costs $3. A spark ignition gasoline powered car would need to get 90 mpg to match the energy cost performance of the Honda FCX with hydrogen at$2/kilogram. Now hydrogen as a car fuel is starting to get interesting!

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Honda 2010 FCX Hydrogen-Oxygen Fuel Cell Car – on the roads of southern California Now in 2012, I would argue that hydrogen can be produced at home for free. If I’m right, why is there not a stampede to using hydrogen to power our transportation and our industrial furnaces? Bear with me on this idea, because I think you’ll agree this is an intriguing concept with a future. Government ‘Contributions’ Before getting to free hydrogen, though, let’s ask what the U. S. government is now doing about making hydrogen the fuel of the future, ten years after Spencer Abraham’s announcement. Our tax dollars have been spent to make the hydrogen policy come true, eventually, but of course we as a nation continue to maintain the status quo on coal, oil and nuclear energy, because those entrenched energy sources power the economy today, make wealth for investors, create many, many jobs, and validate past policy maker’s decisions. Stopping the use of these antiquated energy sources is hard to do, much like trying to stop celebrating Italian Christopher Columbus discovering America. We know many others had visited and ‘discovered’ America long before Columbus’ fabled voyages; the Portuguese, native Americans, and the Vikings lead by Eric the Red to name a few. After all, Columbus is in all our
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history books! We just can’t bring ourselves to change history books or national holidays celebrating Columbus’ non-achievement. By 2008, the U.S. government had contributed one billion dollars to making hydrogen the fuel of the future. Now the government is scrapping that investment. In May 2009, the Obama Administration announced that it will "cut off funds" for the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, since other vehicle technologies will lead to quicker reduction in vehicle emissions with a shorter development time. The U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu, explained that hydrogen vehicles "will not be practical over the next 10 to 20 years", and also mentioned the challenges involved in the development of the required infrastructure to distribute hydrogen fuel. Nevertheless, the U.S. government will continue to fund research related to stationary fuel cells. The National Hydrogen Association and the U.S. Fuel Cell Council criticized this decision arguing that "...the cuts proposed in the DOE hydrogen and fuel cell program threaten to disrupt commercialization of a family of technologies that are showing exceptional promise and beginning to gain market traction." The history of government meddling in the outcome of which fuel is favored is interesting. As noted above, and more by accident than design, in 1862, Congress passed the Internal Revenue Act to fund the Civil War. Alcohol was taxed disproportionately to oil ($2.00/gallon vs. $.10/gallon), resulting in the rapid growth of oil as a fuel since it was more economic than alcohol. Two dollars was a lot of money in 1862. The alcohol tax was not changed until 1906. By then oil was dominant as a transportation fuel. Government regulation of fuels, emissions, and automobile mileage has been extensive since the mid-1950s, and I would argue has been beneficial to the environment and to the improved technology and efficiency of transportation vehicles. Such regulation has certainly not been limited to the U. S., and a comparison with California’s efforts is useful. Public Policy in U. S.  Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 – Feds get involved, research starts  Clean Air Acts of 1963 and 1967 – national program, enforcement, research  Clean Air Act of 1970 – Established air quality standards, control of motor vehicle emissions, mileage targets  Clean Air Acts of 1977 & 1990 – More enforcement and added acid rain and ozone protection  Clean Air Rules 2004 – Cap and Trade added, control of mercury, diesel emissions  Tax incentives for hybrids placed in service after 12/31/05 and purchased on or before 12/31/10, up to $4,000. The Ford Fusion hybrid, for example, earned $3,400.  Tax incentives for electric vehicles purchased in 2009 were eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The amount will vary based on the capacity of the battery used to power the vehicle. The Tesla roadster qualified for the full $7,500. This tax incentive is in effect now and into the future with variations and reductions.
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 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009  $400 million allocated for electric vehicle research  $2 billion allocated for advanced battery systems research and vehicle parts  $3 billion allocated for more fuel efficient Federal fleet by 9/30/11  Fuel cell motor vehicle tax credit: up to $8K/each (this is the only incentive left for fuel cell vehicles!)  Alternate fuel tax credit: $.50/gal Public Policy in England  Clean Air Act of 1956  Reaction to Great Smog of 1952 in London which resulted in many deaths  New legislation April 2009 in Britain to jump start electric car sales starting in 2011: a 5000 Pound Sterling voucher will be paid to purchasers of electric vehicles (about the same as the U. S. incentive)  England spending 250 million Pounds for cleaner transport, including electric charging stations for these cars  Now 120 car charging stations are in place in England Public Policy in California  California Air Resources Board (CARB) – California is the only state that can set standards with Federal waiver, standards which are usually more challenging than Federal standards  13 other states follow California  Assembly Bill 1493 mandates maximum reduction of CO2 for major car companies: requires 42.5 MPG average for cars sold in state by 2020  SB 1 adopted January 2006 gives a 20% cash incentive for installing solar panels  AB 811 – Berkeley Plan allows financing for solar panels to be added to property tax base (part of the free hydrogen strategy noted below)  April 24, 2009 CARB votes to replace corn based ethanol and fossil fuels – 80% carbon reduction mandated by 2050  Result: requires 52 MPG average for cars sold in state by 2030 Who agrees with this new government push to electric vehicles? GM and Honda have stated they have more faith in hydrogen powered cars in the long run than electric cars, but the Obama administration has been adding to electric vehicle research while cutting back on hydrogen vehicle research. Battery research has been awarded $1.4 billion in 2009 by the Department of Energy. Contrast that with $1.0 billion spent on hydrogen research over the last eight years. “Fuel-cell cars will become necessary,” said Takashi Moriya, head of Tokyo-based Honda’s group developing the technology. “We’re positioning it as the ultimate zero-emission car.”
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Just a few years ago, in 1999, the U.S. government took the opposite tack from that of the Obama administration and cut back on electric vehicle research. GM was forced to scrap its electric vehicle program, known as the EV-1. Now that the government owns part of GM, this government change does not bode well for tax payers whose money was spent going in the opposite direction, or for GM’s four hundred hydrogen car engineers. California Air Resources Board, Department of Energy, and Department of Transportation studies reported in September, 2010 show that variations of spark ignition, diesel, and hybrid electric, partial hybrid electric and full electric vehicles are now forecast to be the vehicles of choice for the 2017-2025 period. Fuel cell vehicles are excluded. This provides the basis for government funding and rule making for emissions and fuel consumption for vehicles delivered during that timeframe. But let’s look closer at electric cars. If you use an all electric car 80-150 miles a day, you must recharge batteries in your garage every night. Then you must replace 600+ lbs of very expensive lithium-ion batteries every eight years as they wear out. That can cost as much as $15,000 or more in today’s dollars. The cost may drop as production increases. Let’s suppose you are driving to a meeting, but can’t get there for lack of charge. Now you must find a public charging station, harder than finding a gasoline station. When you find it, the best case with high speed chargers is for battery recharging to take hours, not minutes as it does to refill a gasoline tank. To avoid that charging time, one enterprising Israeli company in a venture with Nissan is offering to exchange your 600+ lb battery pack for a charged one. Imagine the mechanic forgetting to secure the electrical or mechanical connections every time you have to exchange? Guess how much time it will take in the recharging station to do the exchange. This electric vehicle fixation is an inelegant transportation solution at best and begs the question of government rationality. Fortunately, many government funded studies are underway now to see what consumers will do about charging their vehicles at public charging stations. The studies cover the 2010-2013 period. The answers may cause a reversal of government plans for future vehicle funding by 2013. Remember: recharging a hydrogen fuel cell car takes just minutes. Market Response to the Government Pressures A quick snapshot of reactions in the automotive marketplace to government standards, funding and regulation tells the story: go where the money is!

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 Tesla Motors announces all electric Model S sedan due in 2012 0-60 4.4 sec, 130 MPH, 300 mile range at steady 55 MPH, $98K for performance model The Tesla high performance sports car is available now and is faster.    NASCAR uses unleaded fuel since 2007 for all races American Le Mans racing series now uses E10 racing fuel, meaning 10% ethanol, 90% gasoline Proton HOGEN hydrogen generation systems available today for service stations, home use

 Fraser-Nash Namir: hybrid-electric car, all carbon fiber, 0-62 MPH in 3.5 sec, 187 MPH top speed, Giugiaro design, 2009  AC Propulsion, San Dimas, CA: Builds drive trains for Tesla and Mini E electric vehicles  Phoenix Motorcars, Phoenix, AZ: Converting new Korean trucks and SUVs to electric drive  Hi Performance Green Cars, Ontario, CA: Installing Alternating Current (AC) propulsion drive trains in Chinese two-seater vehicles  Heliocentris: Fuel cell stacks and H2 generators offered over a wide range of performance  Ballard Automotive Fuel Cell Division partnered with Daimler and Ford 1Q2008– “fuel cell vehicles are coming, but not until 2020” – Automotive Fuel Cell Company, AFCC, formed  All major car manufacturers now sell hybrids and electric vehicles  Daimler has sixty fuel cell buses on the roads of Germany Most major car manufacturers have fuel cell test vehicles on the road today Source: Road and Track, June 2009 updated in 2012 from other sources

What is the attraction of electric vehicles? For performance enthusiasts, electric vehicles can be rocket sleds. The electric motor at each wheel (in some designs) generates maximum torque at zero RPM. So zero to sixty miles per
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hour acceleration rates are fast (definitely sub-four seconds for Tesla’s sports car and FraserNash Namirs). Jaguar has just announced the C-X75 concept car with such an electric vehicle design plus a hybrid charging feature that uses two small gas turbines for recharging the batteries to extend the electric vehicle range from 68 miles to 560 miles. The motors generate 780 BHP and 1,187 lb-ft of torque and propel the car to 205 MPH. This is being made into a production vehicle for 2013 with engineering changes likely which will drop the gas turbines, is easy on the eye (see photo below), and some of its features could be in production on other models soon. Not only do these high end electric vehicles go fast, but the new exterior designs of electric sports cars are state of the art and are very attractive. The Chevy Volt on the market today looks like a standard sedan but doesn’t use the powerful motors and batteries of the latest electric sports cars in order to keep the cost down.

Jaguar C-X75 Concept Car Photo, 2010 The performance of high end electric vehicles is best demonstrated by looking at the power and torque curves for the new Tesla roadster. Note that maximum torque is generated at zero RPM
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and that the power goes right on up to 13,000 RPM. That is a range far beyond what most spark ignition or diesel engines can achieve.

Tesla Torque and Power Curves from Tesla Website

Alcohol and Natural Gas We can’t talk about fuels of the future without talking about fuels from the past. Ethanol, an alcohol derived from renewable biomass such as corn or sugar cane, is now being burned as fuel in cars. As noted above, California has just excluded ethanol derived from corn as a future fuel, at least for now – possibly because of competition with food corn pushing food corn prices up, and the high energy cost to produce and deliver a gallon of ethanol from corn.

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Ethanol has become part of the collective global consciousness and may even be part of your present tank of gasoline, from 10% to 100% of each tank full. Depending on your disposition, this may be better described as a thankful fuel rather than a tank full of fuel, since ethanol contains a lot less carbon than gasoline, and therefore emits a lot less carbon dioxide per gallon burned. Ethanol, C2H3OH, has two carbons per molecule burned, as compared with octane, C8H16, one component of gasoline, which has eight carbons per molecule burned. This is one reason why proponents of natural gas, CH4, are happy about natural gas as the fuel of the future (compressed natural gas is used in some San Diego buses): big reductions in carbon dioxide! Acid rain and climate change are reduced! Eureka! Summarizing the carbon impact of alternative fuels:  Methanol  Ethanol CH3OH C2H5OH

 Gasoline C7H16 Plus C8H18 mix, C8 is octane, but mix ranges from C6H14 to C12H26 plus other compounds  By-products of combustion: CO2 and H2O, plus CO, S2O, N2O……….. And …. HYDROGEN H2

 No carbon! The by-product of combustion is H2O only in a fuel cell; but you get some nasty nitrogen compounds if you use hydrogen in an internal combustion engine just like you do with gasoline or diesel http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/2001-04/987004809.Ch.r.html As described above, alcohol would be an even bigger part of the transportation fuel industry today if it weren’t for a political twist of fate in 1862. In 1859, Drake struck oil in western Pennsylvania, leading to a new fuel, kerosene, for lamps and lanterns. Acting to fund the Union’s efforts in the Civil War, Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1862 and a $2.00/gallon tax on alcohol. What was the tax on kerosene? Just $.10/gallon. This tax differential was not changed until Teddy Roosevelt withdrew the alcohol tax in 1906, by which time oil was established as the fuel of choice, subsidized for over forty years. As late as the early 1920’s, auto industry executives including Henry Ford still thought alcohol might be a better fuel choice, due to alcohol’s inherent anti-knock advantage. Then in 1924 E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. invented the gasoline additive tetraethyl lead which greatly reduced knock and gasoline immediately erased alcohol’s main advantage as an

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automotive fuel. Of course, tetraethyl lead was later banned by the Environmental Protection Agency as dangerous to human health and is no longer a component of U.S. fuels. Road Block The major last hurdle in the way of using hydrogen for transportation is the cost of hydrogen/oxygen fuel cells. Ballard Power Systems of Vancouver, Canada, with revenues of $27.4 million for the first six months of 2010, has licensed transportation fuel cells to Ford and Daimler in a 2008 joint venture, but the cost of a good fuel cell stack today is still high. The Honda FCX and other fuel cell cars running on the roads today are leased to owners because purchase prices would be too high. And Honda would not lease me one last year. The dealer said that if I really wanted one I should call Jamie Lee Curtis in Hollywood who might sub-lease her FRX Clarity to me if I asked the right way. The good news is that the price of a fuel cell stack has dropped by 50% over the last five years. The bad news is that they still cost too much. When Toyota made clear this spring its aim to release a hydrogen-powered fuel cell auto to the public in 2015 for $50,000, you can see why there is need for improvement. Although to be honest, in 2010 dollars, that is just $39,185, assuming 5%/year inflation. The Toyota fuel cell car is not expensive in today’s range of automotive prices. Further cost improvement on fuel cell designs looks promising. For example, recent research at Brookhaven National Laboratory could lead to the replacement of platinum by a gold-palladium coating which may be less susceptible to poisoning and thereby improve fuel cell lifetime considerably. Another method would use iron and sulfur instead of platinum. This is possible through an intermediate conversion by bacteria. This would lower the cost of a fuel cell substantially, as the platinum in a regular fuel cell costs around $1,500, and the same amount of iron costs $1.50. The concept is being developed by a coalition of the John Innes Centre and the University of Milan-Bicocca. (Wikipedia) Getting the cost out Until recently, building a fuel cell sufficiently powerful to run a car was costly - even more than a vehicle powered by electrochemical batteries or a hybrid drive. To attain the power levels of a standard spark ignition internal combustion engine in a midsize sedan, a fuel cell needs to produce from 60 to 90 kW. When NASA first started using fuel-cell technology in space in the late 1960s, a hydrogen fuel cell cost about $500,000 per kW. Today that price has dropped to around $500 per kW - but that means that a fuel-cell engine still costs about $25,000, which is around seven times the price of a typical spark ignition engine which runs about $3,500. Working for several years with specialists from Ford and Daimler (Mercedes), Ballard researchers studied the automotive industry's needs for low-cost, high-volume fuel-cell stack
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manufacturing and specifically designed the Mark 900 unit to accommodate them. "The key to developing an efficient supply chain," Ballard explained then, "is to choose low-cost, readily available materials and cheap, scalable, automated manufacturing processes. We did an actual commercial plant study for the annual production of 300,000 vehicle equivalents, considering the building, logistics, and other crucial details. Using a standard rule of thumb for value allocation in fuel-cell systems of 40% for the stack, 40% for the system components, and 20% for the electric drive and transmission, we determined that fuel-cell power plants could be sold at around $50-60 per kW, perhaps less as volumes increase.” (Automotive Engineering International Online, 2010). The likelihood is that fuel cells will continue to drop in cost and by 2025 should be competitive with other propulsion systems. This is especially noteworthy because the fuel cells have twice the energy efficiency of a spark ignition/gasoline engine. In the meantime, as of January 2012, California has twenty six hydrogen refueling stations – most are the more desirable high pressure stations - in operation with plans in the works for more stations: (http://www.hydrogenhighway.ca.gov/stations_cars/stations_cars.htm). California has one in five vehicle registrations in the U. S., and an aggressive California Air Resources Board pushing the Federal government on emissions, including mandating fuel cell cars (government interference again) and so is a U.S. leader in alternate fuel vehicles and support systems. Hydrogen is Free! Take this statement with a grain of salt, but there is a grain of truth in what is coming next. Let’s say you have a solar electric home. You generate more electricity than you use during the day and your meter runs backward. You have excess capacity on your system. How about installing an electrolysis unit for making hydrogen in your garage using this free electricity? The cost of the solar electric system is already in place on your roof. You’re just adding a new application. You will need a compressor, not free, to bring your hydrogen gas up to 10,000 pounds per square inch, and a small 316L stainless steel or metal hydride storage tank for hydrogen, also not free, but both are readily available. Now with a proper hose, you can refill your hydrogen powered car in a few minutes in your own garage and never have to visit a service station again. The idea for this in-house solution came from Amory Lovins’ research at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a widely acclaimed think tank. Lovins proposed years ago to make hydrogen in existing gas stations – from solar power – and eliminate the need for pipelines or tankers to transport hydrogen. Back then it seemed that pipelines would be a good idea to this writer, especially when you considered DOE’s plans to put a nuclear reactor in Idaho, the sole purpose of which was to produce hydrogen. Pipelines made sense to get the hydrogen to California where one in five U.S. cars operates. But a $100+ billion new pipeline system for shipping hydrogen around the country now makes no sense at all if you can make hydrogen locally in your own garage, or down the street at the
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service station, using the energy of the sun. Proton Energy Systems, Inc. and Heliocentris Energy Systems, Inc., among others, sell these hydrogen making and storing systems today. Free hydrogen: better than eureka! And this hydrogen is green, renewable and local. Bud Suiter Science Teacher/Electrical Engineer

 Rocky Mountain Institute www.rmi.org/  Amory Lovins www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1894410_1893209_1893457,00 .html  Ballard Forms Automotive Partnership www.autobloggreen.com/2007/11/08/breaking-daimler-and-ford-join-forces-with-afccto-develop-auto/  Ballard Power Systems www.ballard.com/  Tesla Motors http://www.teslamotors.com/ This web site has lots of information about electric cars. Elon Musk, the multi-millionaire South African, provided the seed money for Tesla Motors and has also funded SpaceX which is launching the space shuttle replacement Falcon 9 rocket system as this is written.  The Wall Street Journal, January 14-15, 2012, page C4: Matt Ridley speculates that we may be delaying Earth’s inevitable next glacial period by our carbon dioxide producing activities. He says that over the last million years, the Earth has been as warm as it is now or warmer less than ten percent of the time. A new paper from the Universities of Cambridge, London and Florida argues that the emissions may avert the return of the ice age. Nonetheless, expect the next ice age to start in about 1,500 years.  The Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2012, page B2, reports that in the fourth quarter of 2011, Brent crude oil rose 28% to an average of $109.06/barrel from 4Q2010. Brent crude is the European benchmark for pricing oil. This increase provides continued upward price pressure on refined products such as gasoline.  The Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2012, page B4, says that with the sudden surplus of natural gas from the new technology recovery techniques, the price of gas has dropped from $14/million British thermal units in 2008 to less than $2.40/million Btu today.
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Suddenly, all the economics change and imports are no longer needed. Methane, or natural gas, is a cleaner fuel than coal or gasoline, but still contains carbon as noted above.  The U.S. Energy Administration reports in early 2012 that U. S. oil production has increased faster than any other country over the last three years. The developing Bakken shale area in North Dakota, first discovered in 1951, produced an average 500,000 barrels a day in November 2011, with huge increases since 2008 through fracking and horizontal drilling. While the U.S. may have gone energy positive in 2011 (produced more domestically than used), the long term forecast puts us back in the soup: by 2020, the U.S. will use 19 million barrels of oil and liquids a day, but produce only 10.2 million barrels (research firm IHS-CERA). We’ll again be net importers of oil and liquids. To me, the most interesting statistic of all is that in 1970, the U. S. produced 11.3 million barrels of oil and liquids a day, and after bottoming out in 2008 at 7.6 million barrels a day, will be back to 10.2 million/day by 2020. In other words, the U.S. in 2020 with fracking and horizontal drilling will produce less oil and liquids than it did in 1970, fifty years earlier. The U.S. is still past ‘peak oil.’  The battle between the believers and disbelievers in global warming continues. ‘However, be aware that climate experts say the past decade is the warmest on record. The world is heating up and humans are primarily responsible. Impacts are already apparent and will increase. Reducing future impacts will require significant reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases.’ Kevin Trenberth, Sc.D., Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research, La Jolla, CA in a letter to the editor to The Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2012. This letter was cosigned by thirty seven other climate scientists who can be seen at OpinionJournal.com. The letter was in response to an OpEd in The Wall Street Journal entitled “No Need to Panic about Global Warming” on January 27, 2012. In the OpEd, scientists who work in fields other than climate science are quoted as saying that global warming is not occurring. Trenberth says that there are always dissenters and reminds us of scientists who said smoking does not cause cancer, long after the majority of scientists settled that matter. He also says that the scientists quoted in the January 27 OpEd were not climate scientists; equivalent to asking your heart surgeon to repair your knee. Burning fossil fuels is still an issue over the next hundred years (emphasis mine). After that, we’ll be out of fossil fuels and into the next ice age soon afterward. Then the argument becomes moot. Revised February 2, 2012 by Bud Suiter

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