Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Peak Oil Crisis: Technology Update

Gasoline prices in the U.S. are off on another tear. The national average just went by $3.57 for regular and due to a little problem of several major refineries that serve the U.S.'s East Coast shutting down, here in Northern Virginia we are running 20 to 25 cents a gallon higher than normal.

The wisest of the prognosticators say we should seeing circa $4+ a gallon by late spring so the Washington area will likely be seeing circa $4.50. In case you missed it, they are already getting $5 for regular down by the Kennedy Center. Somebody in Congress is sure to notice this soon.

While waiting to see how the latest settlement of the EU's debt crisis or any of the ongoing Middle East confrontations turn out, it seems like a good time to review a few of the hundreds of announcements of new energy technology that have made in the last few months. The 800 lb. gorilla of course remains cold fusion. While little new has happened in the cold fusion story recently, scientists from around the world continue to report that Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) really do take place and can make heat. So far two companies say they have developed the technology to the point where they can safely make useful amounts of heat and are preparing to bring heat-making devices to market. Unfortunately, both of these companies, for what they say are proprietary reasons, have refused to let outside scientists examine their technology to verify that it can perform as claimed.

This situation may be changing, however, for one of these two companies, a Greece-based organization called Defkalion, say they have arranged for teams of outside investigators to come in later this week and test their device. If this series of tests by outside scientists do take place, we should at least have some sort of independent verification that these "cold fusion" devices are for real, and not a scam as many believe.

In going through the energy-related announcements of technical developments that have been made in the last few months most seem to be related to motor vehicles and other means of transportation. It is clear that the global automobile industry is going through a renaissance so that in a few years the efficiency with which our cars and trucks burn energy will see dramatic improvements. Most of the announcements concern mundane, marginal, improvements - lower weight, less drag, more efficient or different kinds of power trains - but taken together could cut the need for motor fuels dramatically. The problem of course is that there are now about a billion cars and light trucks on the world's roads that will have to be replaced in order to realize the anticipated savings - a task that will take decades. More


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