Tag: energy

Electric vehicles will face stiff competition from eco-friendly gasoline-powered cars

Popular notions that electric cars will suddenly replace conventional gasoline-powered cars don’t acknowledge the possibility that there could be eco-friendly advances in conventional car technology. A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) finds that “internal combustion engines are improving their ability to cut CO2 emissions at a lower cost than expected, and, as a result, carmakers should be able to meet 2020 emissions targets mainly through improvements to conventional technologies.”

A key word there is should. It would take a concerted effort by automakers in several technical areas. Continue reading “Electric vehicles will face stiff competition from eco-friendly gasoline-powered cars”

Advertisements

Underground storage of carbon dioxide could trigger earthquakes

There’s been some talk of storing massive amounts of carbon dioxide underground in an effort to combat global warming. But the law of unintended consequences may have other ideas. “Sequestration” may not be easy to do because of the potential for triggering small- to moderate-sized earthquakes, according to Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback. “It may not take a very big earthquake to damage the seal of an underground reservoir that has been pumped full of carbon dioxide.”

The other complication, Zoback said, is that for sequestration to make a significant contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the volume of gas injected into reservoirs annually would have to be almost the same as the amount of fluid now being produced by the oil and gas industry each year. This would likely require thousands of injection sites around the world.

10 signals and trends

Gleaned from recent press reports and other sources:

These are boom times for U.S. makers of unmanned military aircraft (drones).

Sample Lab Ltd. opened a  “marketing cafe” in Tokyo that lets trend-setting women see and test new products.

With the recession crimping legal budgets, some big companies are insisting on flat-fee payments instead of law firms’ long-standing practice of the “billable hour.”

City “water cops” are handing out citations to people caught wasting water resources in drought-stricken areas.

Lumber mills that produce woods for hardwood floors and maple cabinets have been devastated by the U.S. recession’s double whammy: the housing bust and unavailable credit.

Some hospitals find that owning up to medical errors reduces litigation and helps them learn from their mistakes.

Despite a 25-year effort to improve U.S. education, the latest high-school SAT exam scores are disappointing. Asian-American students are thriving but the SAT gap for blacks and Hispanics widens.

More than half of Somalia’s population needs humanitarian aid, the U.N. says.

Software makers are scrambling to develop cell phone safety applications that prevent texting while driving.

Inexpensive mini-reactors may be an alternative to building giant nuclear powerplants, though there are technical, financial and regulatory hurdles.

Water issues give solar, wind power another advantage over traditional power plants

“Advocates for alternative energy are discovering that water issues may prove to be as important a selling point for the industry as reducing carbon-dioxide emissions,” according to an article headlined “Water Worries Shape Local Energy Decisions,” in The Wall Street Journal (26 March 2009).

Especially in the western U.S., where water can be scarce, communities are turning to wind farms or solar arrays — which have minimal water needs — instead of building traditional power plants that consume more water.

The electric-power industry accounts for nearly half of all water withdrawals in the U.S., with agricultural irrigation coming in a distant second at about 35%. Even though most of the water used by the power sector eventually is returned to waterways or the ground, 2% to 3% is lost through evaporation, amounting to 1.6 trillion to 1.7 trillion gallons a year that might otherwise enhance fisheries or recharge aquifers, according to a Department of Energy study.

The study concluded that a megawatt hour of electricity produced by a wind turbine can save 200 to 600 gallons of water compared with the amount required by a modern gas-fired power plant to make that same amount.

Twitter: RT @mitchbetts Solar & wind farms have another advantage over traditional power plants: They use a lot less water. http://bit.ly/1a4GCx

The next 100 years in geopolitical affairs

George Friedman — founder & CEO of the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor — has a new book coming out Jan. 27: “The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century.” Now Friedman acknowledges that forecasting 100 years into the future may seem audacious, “but, as I hope you will see, it is a rational, feasible process, and it is hardly frivolous.”

“In this book, I am trying to transmit a sense of the future. I will, of course, get many details wrong. But The Next 100 Yearsthe goal is to identify the major tendencies — geopolitical, technological, demographic, cultural, military — in their broadest sense, and to define the major events that might take place.”

I stumbled across this news at “John Mauldin’s Outside the Box” blog. Maudlin hints that the book can be hard to believe in places, but ultimately he calls it fascinating and thought-provoking.  “George’s strength is his ability to take geopolitical patterns and use them to forecast future events, sometimes with startling and counter-intuitive results,” Maudlin says.

For example, Maudlin notes that Friedman’s book forecasts the following:

  • By the middle of this century, Poland and Turkey will be major international players
  • Russia will be a regional power — after emerging from a second cold war
  • Space-based solar power will completely change the global energy dynamic
  • The border areas between the U.S. and Mexico are going to be in play again
  • Shrinking labor pools will cause countries to compete for immigrants rather than fighting to keep them out

————
Related: Anticipating wild cards in world affairs
Twitter: RT @mitchbetts Preview of George Friedman’s new book “The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century.” http://bit.ly/c8QX