Constraints on growth even in a world with cheap electricity

If polywell fusion is developed, in what ways will the world change for better or worse? Discuss.

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hanelyp
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Postby hanelyp » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:42 am

Given a capacity to convert biomass into hydrocarbon fuel, there are very fast growing plants that can be cultivated.

Betruger
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Postby Betruger » Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:57 am

CharlesKramer wrote:Good gawd.

your best answer is "stay in space" and Ayn Rand fantasies.

Yikes!
If you say so.

CharlesKramer
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Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:20 pm

Postby CharlesKramer » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:26 am

hanelyp wrote:Given a capacity to convert biomass into hydrocarbon fuel, there are very fast growing plants that can be cultivated.

Where is that biomass supposed to come from?

And what is the maximum potential for biomass to replace petroleum as an industrial feedstock (or for any other purpose).

How many of the millions of things today made with fossil fuels as an industrial feedstock can today be made from plants?

When those questions are asked, I believe the idea of biomass to replace fossil fuels as an industrial feed stock doesn't stand up.

"Biomass" is imagined to come from corn husks and other agricultural leftovers. It might also come from switch-grass and other non-edible things that can be grown on land not fit for agriculture.

But today's agriculture depends on oil and natural gas which create fertilizer and insecticide and run farm and processing machinery. Oil and natural gas mean the yield per acre increased 5x (or more, for some crops) compared to 1900.

So in a world with oil and gas becoming expensive and scarce, there's going to be a lot less for agriculture. I'm all for using agricultural materials we waste now, but to expect them to replace oil and natural gas as an industrial feed stock is likely unrealistic.

Consider:

[1] Today we use 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of food (taking into account shipping, farm machinery, fertilizer, etc.). http://www.energybulletin.net/node/5045

[2] If we stopped eating and devoted all arable USA land to ethanol for transportation, we still wouldn't have enough land to keep us driving. Creating ethanol from corn uses so much oil and natural gas the net benefit is trivial; some even believe negative. http://www.peakoilandhumanity.com/delan ... thanol.htm

[3] changing plant life into things (such as plastic) which we currently make from petroleum is an interesting emerging field. But it's emerging. Maybe in time it will substitute for petroleum. For now, it's not commercial, and out of the millions of things made from petroleum, there is only a very short list of things science is even trying to make from biomatter. http://www.disinfo.com/2011/05/pepsi-un ... om-plants/

Is there a chemist in the house?
================================
CBK
Blog: http://www.provideocoalition.com/ckramer

KitemanSA
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Postby KitemanSA » Sun Jun 12, 2011 11:59 am

CharlesKramer wrote:
hanelyp wrote:Given a capacity to convert biomass into hydrocarbon fuel, there are very fast growing plants that can be cultivated.
Where is that biomass supposed to come from?
Alge? Algae blooms in the northern Gulf of Mexico? Central Pacific?
CharlesKramer wrote: And what is the maximum potential for biomass to replace petroleum as an industrial feedstock (or for any other purpose).
About 1000% (10x) using the equitorial Pacific.
CharlesKramer wrote: How many of the millions of things today made with fossil fuels as an industrial feedstock can today be made from plants?
100%.
CharlesKramer wrote: When those questions are asked, I believe the idea of biomass to replace fossil fuels as an industrial feed stock doesn't stand up.
You would believe wrongly.
CharlesKramer wrote: "Biomass" is imagined to come from corn husks and other agricultural leftovers.
Only by agri-corps like Archer-Daniel Midlands (ADM), though they MAY help.
CharlesKramer wrote:It might also come from switch-grass and other non-edible things that can be grown on land not fit for agriculture.
Still takes significant resources. Oh, you point that out next.
CharlesKramer wrote:But today's agriculture depends on oil and natural gas which create fertilizer and insecticide and run farm and processing machinery. Oil and natural gas mean the yield per acre increased 5x (or more, for some crops) compared to 1900.
Pacific Ocean algae could be harvested using wind and wave power. And with a small fusion reactor, it would be EASY.
CharlesKramer wrote: So in a world with oil and gas becoming expensive and scarce, there's going to be a lot less for agriculture. I'm all for using agricultural materials we waste now, but to expect them to replace oil and natural gas as an industrial feed stock is likely unrealistic.
There are many "bio-degradable" plastics made of corn and other such things NOW. And by using algae, any alkane you want can be formed thru simple bio and chemical means.
CharlesKramer wrote: [1] Today we use 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of food (taking into account shipping, farm machinery, fertilizer, etc.). http://www.energybulletin.net/node/5045
Foolish. Much of that could be nuclear.
CharlesKramer wrote: [2] If we stopped eating and devoted all arable USA land to ethanol for transportation, we still wouldn't have enough land to keep us driving. Creating ethanol from corn uses so much oil and natural gas the net benefit is trivial; some even believe negative.
All that shows is the ETHANOL from Food stuffs is a stupid way to do it! Guess that is why the government is supporting it. Provides massive subsidies to companies like ADM without actually having the capability to compete with the big oil companies.
CharlesKramer wrote: [3] changing plant life into things (such as plastic) which we currently make from petroleum is an interesting emerging field. But it's emerging. Maybe in time it will substitute for petroleum. For now, it's not commercial, and out of the millions of things made from petroleum, there is only a very short list of things science is even trying to make from biomatter. Is there a chemist in the house?
But making organic chemicals from algae is ABOUT as simple as making them from petroleum. Having a small fusion plant to run havesting and conversion machinery would allow those things that MUST be (or are much better to be) hydrocarbon fueled to be met with algae.

CharlesKramer
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Postby CharlesKramer » Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:35 pm

In response to KitemanSA

I see only conclusions. Conclusions without hard data is premature at best, and usually is just wishful thinking.

> Algae blooms in the northern Gulf of Mexico?

Back it up. And consider:

1. HOW MUCH algae would be needed to relace petroleum? In general, the energy from plant life that can generated in a year is much less than the energy we use in a year. In the case of ethanol, for example, there's not arable enough land in USA.

2. WHAT IS THE EFFECT ON THE SEA and SEA LIFE? The big lesson is what humanity does affects the world. If you can get the sea to produce enough algae, how is the sea affected?

> > How many of the millions of things today made with fossil fuels
> > as an industrial feedstock can today be made from plants?

> 100%.

Again, purely a conclusion. From what I read, the ability to transform any kind of plant life into polymers (or other things made with hydrocarbons) is (1) expensive, and (2) experimental.

> Pacific Ocean algae could be harvested using wind and wave power
> And with a small fusion reactor, it would be EASY

I see no research --- let alone proof of concept -- that shows algae + electricity = ANYTHING.

> There are many "bio-degradable" plastics made of corn and other such things NOW

In widespread use -- on an industrial scale? Examples, please. I know Pepsi is considering using such bottles, but they're still experimentals -- and that's for just ONE type of plastic.

>> [1] Today we use 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of
>> food (taking into account shipping, farm machinery, fertilizer, etc.).
>> http://www.energybulletin.net/node/5045

> Foolish. Much of that could be nuclear

You obviously didn't read the link I provided.

Oil and natural gas today are vital to make fertilizer and insecticide. Without them, crop yeilds fall 5x. "Use nuclear" makes no sense as a response.

>> [2] If we stopped eating and devoted all arable USA land to ethanol
>> for transportation, we still wouldn't have enough land to keep us driving.
>> Creating ethanol from corn uses so much oil and natural gas the net
>> benefit is trivial; some even believe negative.
> All that shows is the ETHANOL from Food stuffs is a stupid way to do it!

No, it proves more than that. Petroleum is unbelievably energy rich -- part of the reason why the USA "lifestyle" is considered the equivalent of owning 200 slaves in the ancient world (the only way to be confident of having hot water 24x7, and to be able to get carried around town).

The slave analogy was originally used by Admiral Rickover in his speech about energy in 1957 -- a speech well worth re-reading.

-- about the speech: http://www.energybulletin.net/node/31022

-- the speech itself: http://energybulletin.net/23151.html

> But making organic chemicals from algae is ABOUT as simple as making them from petroleum

And yet, no one is doing it on an industrial scale. Electricity would only help so much -- it's not a big component of most industrial processes (aluminum is an exception -- low grade ore may also be an exception).
================================
CBK
Blog: http://www.provideocoalition.com/ckramer

KitemanSA
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Joined: Sun Sep 28, 2008 3:05 pm
Location: OlyPen WA

Postby KitemanSA » Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:14 am

CharlesKramer wrote: In response to KitemanSA

I see only conclusions. Conclusions without hard data is premature at best, and usually is just wishful thinking.
Except I have hard data and I did the numbers. These are "conclusions" not guesses.
Then he wrote:> Algae blooms in the northern Gulf of Mexico?

Back it up. And consider:

1. HOW MUCH algae would be needed to relace petroleum? In general, the energy from plant life that can generated in a year is much less than the energy we use in a year. In the case of ethanol, for example, there's not arable enough land in USA.
True and I conceded that. The area needed for algae to replace the US petroleum need is consistent with the northern half of the Gulf of Mexico. And considering that there are already algal blooms there, it might be a good thing to start havesting them.
Then he wrote:2. WHAT IS THE EFFECT ON THE SEA and SEA LIFE? The big lesson is what humanity does affects the world. If you can get the sea to produce enough algae, how is the sea affected?
In the case of NGM, it is already blooming, due to excess fertilizer usage according to some, but the blooms are already somewhat destructive. Harvest them and it is a win-win!
Then he wrote:> > How many of the millions of things today made with fossil fuels
> > as an industrial feedstock can today be made from plants?

> 100%.

Again, purely a conclusion. From what I read, the ability to transform any kind of plant life into polymers (or other things made with hydrocarbons) is (1) expensive, and (2) experimental.
Yup. I have researched the hydrocarbon industry and understand that all of them can be constructed with basically 3 feedstocks (and a bit of spicing it up with other chamicals). H2O, CH4 and coal. The H2O is available pretty much everywhere. The CH4 and coal are both easily obtained from algae. So, yes, conclusion, but a good one.
Then he wrote: > Pacific Ocean algae could be harvested using wind and wave power
> And with a small fusion reactor, it would be EASY

I see no research --- let alone proof of concept -- that shows algae + electricity = ANYTHING.
Since I didn't say that, the fact that you are unable to imagine something is immaterial.
Then he wrote: > There are many "bio-degradable" plastics made of corn and other such things NOW

In widespread use -- on an industrial scale? Examples, please. I know Pepsi is considering using such bottles, but they're still experimentals -- and that's for just ONE type of plastic.
Yup,and one of the more difficult. At this point, the cost is such that only folks who are buying the "green-ness" of such products are willing to pay the extra cost. The small scale of the current operations keeps the costs high. Run out of oil, start a new way. Each way made better with small, energy rich power systems like LFTR and Polywell.
Then he wrote: >> [1] Today we use 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of
>> food (taking into account shipping, farm machinery, fertilizer, etc.).
>> http://www.energybulletin.net/node/5045

> Foolish. Much of that could be nuclear

You obviously didn't read the link I provided.

Oil and natural gas today are vital to make fertilizer and insecticide. Without them, crop yeilds fall 5x. "Use nuclear" makes no sense as a response.
You mentioned several things, not just fertilizer. I responded that "much of that" could be nuclear. How does the fact that you can't see how nuclear isn't helpful in the fertilizer part effect the rest of the statement?
Then he wrote:>> [2] If we stopped eating and devoted all arable USA land to ethanol
>> for transportation, we still wouldn't have enough land to keep us driving.
>> Creating ethanol from corn uses so much oil and natural gas the net
>> benefit is trivial; some even believe negative.
> All that shows is the ETHANOL from Food stuffs is a stupid way to do it!

No, it proves more than that. Petroleum is unbelievably energy rich -- part of the reason why the USA "lifestyle" is considered the equivalent of owning 200 slaves in the ancient world (the only way to be confident of having hot water 24x7, and to be able to get carried around town).
Nuclear power and Polywell fusion is also energy rich. The presence of inexpensive electricity can lead to conversion of algae carbon sources into all current hydrocarbon materials. The technologies all exist NOW.
Then he wrote: The slave analogy was originally used by Admiral Rickover in his speech about energy in 1957 -- a speech well worth re-reading.

-- about the speech: http://www.energybulletin.net/node/31022

-- the speech itself: http://energybulletin.net/23151.html

> But making organic chemicals from algae is ABOUT as simple as making them from petroleum

And yet, no one is doing it on an industrial scale. Electricity would only help so much -- it's not a big component of most industrial processes (aluminum is an exception -- low grade ore may also be an exception).
Why should they? "About" doesn't cut it for businesses. But when petroleum gives way, algeoleum is waiting. And would be made much more beneficial by the existance of small, energy rich power sources like LFTR and Polywell.

Indeed, algae should really be thought of as a carbon harvesting mechanism. If efficient ways can be found to directly harvest CO2 from the atmosphere, the algae could probably be ignored.


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