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Businesses Technology

The End of the Oil Age 1100

Posted by michael
from the glug-glug dept.
geekstreak quotes "'The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.' Ways to break the tyranny of oil are coming into view. Governments need to promote them."
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The End of the Oil Age

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  • by tyler_larson (558763) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:19AM (#7299884) Homepage
    Thanks to rapid advances in thermal depolymerization [], oil will likely be the fuel of the future. Only, we won't be getting it out of the ground. Instead, we'll be manufacturing it the same way the earth does: heat and pressure. But instead of taking millions of years, it takes just a few minutes.

    And what can you make oil out of? Pretty much anything. Sewage, yard waste, paper, plastic, road-kill...

    Recycling at its best. And this isn't theoretically-possible technology. This is currently-profitable-and-expanding technology.

  • by Dark Paladin (116525) * <> on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:24AM (#7299940) Homepage
    The problem with humanity in general, except in rare occasions when a truly forward thinking person comes into power, is that they usually won't do anything until "it's just about too late."

    So yes, oil dependance for the world is a problem. It's allowed a single section of the world to weild incredible economic power over others, and has allowed a group of religious extremists more money than they really deserve. Saudi Arabians (not the entire country, mind you - just folks with way too much money on their hands) exporting schools to Afganistan with a branch of extreme Islam that pretty much hates, well, everybody, Iran putting a gigantic bounty of Salman Rushdie's head because he wrote a book he didn't like:

    "We will make the proper decision about the increase of the bounty at the right time and considering the circumstances," the Iranian Jumhouri Islami newspaper quoted Ayatollah Hassan Sanei, head of the 15th Khordad foundation, as saying.

    "Thank God we have the necessary finance to pay for the bounty," he said. (Brief on Iran No 839 [].

    So here's what I see happening:


    United States: Oil good!

    World: Oil good, pollution bad!

    United States: Fuck you, Kyoto Treaty!

    OPEC: Ka-Ching!

    50 years from now:

    United States: Oil good!

    OPEC: Damn - we're running out. Oil now $50 a barrel!

    United States: Fuck oil! Hydrogen and ethenol - good!

    OPEC: Damn.

    Religious Extremists Groups: Anybody got change for a rocket launcher? Anybody?

    Rest of the World: Damn it - now where are we going to get fuel from?

    Iowa Corn Farmers: Ka-Ching!

    It's a simplistic view, I admit - but I figure nothing will be done on a US national scale, let alone a global one, until there is A Problem With Oil Supplies.

    Which, I'm guessing at around 50 years. Perhaps by then we'll have fusion systems or some other cool way of gathering energy. Until then, nobody really wants to do anything because it will cost too much money.

    And in the end, that's what it's all about, isn't it?

    Of course, this is just my opinion - I could be wrong.
  • by Mysticalfruit (533341) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:27AM (#7299978) Homepage Journal
    I think one technology that has great potential for both recycling and reducing our need out foreign oil is "Thermal Depolymerization". Essensially, TDP uses heat and pressure to digest any hydorgen or carbon based organic material into it's base components + oil and gas.

    This technology had a couple false starts and inital designs sucked in terms of ROI for energy spent, but company called "Changing World Technolgies" built a demonstration plant that worked and then built a plant next to a turkey processing plant that digests the left overs from the turkey plant into 40 weight oil and gas (which it uses as fuel in the first stage of the digester).

    *puts down the pom-poms* I think this technology is great. It's not perfect because it still keeps us dependant on oil (just not oil from foreign contributors) however, I think it's a step in the right direction.

    I went looking for the link I read in the Discover magazine and it seems dead, so I've put in the google cache link instead.

    Anything into oil []

  • It gets worse. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:33AM (#7300039) Homepage Journal
    20, 50 or 100 years from now. Whenever this oil depedency has hit rock bottom. Countries in the middle east will simply blame america for their lack of revenue (assuming they don't move on to some other form of business, they must adapt, or perish). In 20-50 years the world will be much more tightly connected and it will only become easier for a country to sue another country. For example. all the damage Saudi Arabia has done to their people and environment by drilling for oil would be blamed on the US's massive consumption.

    Not only is the US gouged on prices, when the money runs out, these countries will turn around and litigate for more.

    I say the sooner we throw off the shackles of depedency on a tiny region of the world, the less damage they can do to us. America has always been fiecely indepedent, to the point of being pig-headed. I think we're due for some pig-headedness now. Cut ourselves now, to avoid worse wounding in the future.

    Of course I doubt anything will happen until the last possible second. Politicians don't seem to react unless it's an "oh shit" situation. Doing nothing substantial pisses off fewer people, and limiting the number of people you piss off is what it takes to survive in politics.
  • by Jack_Frost (28997) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:35AM (#7300066)
    The linked article (gasp I read it first) notes that hydrogen can be generated from any electrical source, even nuclear. Electrolysis is an energy intensive process - using the electrical output of a nuclear plant to crack water would be a waste of useful electricity. Radiolysis, the breakdown of water into hydrogen and oxygen by the action of neutrons, is a by-product of the nuclear reaction in water moderated reactors (virtually every commercial nuclear plant in the U.S.).

    Using the nuclear reactors to make electricity, sans greenhouse emissions, and siphoning off the hydrogen evolved from radiolysis is a much more efficient solution. One pound of nuclear fuel ( 5% U-235) can generate an absurd amount of hydrogen. A lot more than the electricity evolved from that same amount of fuel could through electrolysis.
  • by UserChrisCanter4 (464072) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:36AM (#7300081)
    (no attack on the original poster, as he was dead on)
    Hydrogen fuel cell discussions always chap my ass, because people miss the basic facts about the technology that will keep it from ever being more than an electric car-style gimmick.

    Hydrogen in a fuel cell is not an energy source in the global sense; it's an energy holder. Ie. the hydrogen in there was not simply pulled from some place at a small expense and placed in the cell. Generating hydrogen from water requires large amounts of energy, which will likely come from the usual suspects. Of course, the other great source for hydrogen is simple hydrocarbons (namely natural gas), but of course, that puts as back at sqaure one: dependant on oil, just in a slightly different manner.

    Now, the hydrogen production from water COULD be feasible, assuming we were willing to utilize different power sources than we are currently. Nuclear power, for example, is about the cleanest stuff out there, even factoring in the waste production. Solar power, assuming it was cost efficient (which it isn't currently, at least not in most places) might suffice as well.

    Last year, Bush said something to the effect that, "By the end of the decade, we'll be using hydrogen fuel cells in automobiles". The quotation isn't exactly accurate, so forgive me on that one. Fun Fact: Nixon said the same thing, almost word for word when he was in office. Bottom line: I'm not some oil shill and I don't drive some as-guzzling monstrosity. I'm just sort of calling it like I personally see it. Oil is cheap, even factoring in all the associated costs, especially for things like cars, trucks, trains, etc.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:38AM (#7300118)
    The half dozen or so hydrogen stations in California will extract their hydrogen from natural gas. Read here []
  • by panurge (573432) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:46AM (#7300206)
    And counts for little. But it is an interesting argument. In parts of the West a lot of people equate access to personal transport with "standard of living", but the truth is that in many places driving is increasingly unpleasant as a result of the sheer number of other people that want to do it. I am sure that the bulk buying of SUVs is partly a response to the fact that highway driving is rarely enjoyable nowadays. I look back to when I was a kid with a Triumph Bonneville. Roads where you could travel legally and, actually, pretty safely at 100mph. Traffic jams something that only happened in the very center of large cities. When I visit clients it can now easily take 2 hours to travel 70-80 miles. The answer is not necessarily more and better roads because they open up development: just look at the population growth in places like Arizona.

    The problem is that we have created urban (and suburban, and exurban) town patterns that are useless for mass transit. But all the "green" power sources - wave, wind, solar, nuclear (yes, I do think nuclear power can be perfectly safe if it is regulated and not used to produce military by-products) are large-scale or spread out so they favor mass transport designs. They will work well in much of Europe, China and, ultimately, India, but not in the US.

    The hydrogen economy remains a possibility - alternative power could be used to create hydrogen efficiently by splitting water - and if the storage and distribution problems can be solved, could fix the US transport problem. But it is a huge threat to the Bush family (and the Cheneys, and many party backers) UNLESS hydrogen generation can be linked to the use of oil or coal. It's a truly vicious circle: Oil is good for the Bushes because its price fluctuates, military and business savvy is needed to maintain supplies, and the US consumer thinks he gets cheap oil, not realising he is actually subsidising the same people that gave us Al-Queda. Terrorism or the threat thereof destabilises oil security, so actually benefits the oil industry by helping to keep prices up. A credible hydrogen economy based on alternative energy would actually reduce oil prices, weaken the corporatism of the US, and benefit the end user. So is it going to happen? Not while Exxon has a breath left in its body.

  • by Medievalist (16032) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:47AM (#7300223)
    Your attitude is the reason for this paragraph in the article:
    By introducing a small but steadily rising tax on petrol, America would do far more to encourage innovation and improve energy security than all the drilling in Alaska's wilderness. Crucially, this need not be, and should not be, a matter of raising taxes in the aggregate. The proceeds from a gasoline tax ought to be used to finance cuts in other taxes--this, surely, is the way to present them to a sceptical electorate.
    Myself, I already drive a car that gets over 40 mpg [], and the government *did* give me a tax break [] for it. Not as good a deal as they give rich people for buying Humvees [], but every time I see the price of gas go up a notch... I get a little chuckle.

    I didn't buy mine for the fuel economy, exactly; I bought it to cut Saudi funding for terrorism, to undermine support for ill-considered US military adventuring, and because the Prius puts out 90% less pollution than the typical gas-hogging Detroit POS.
  • by yintercept (517362) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:48AM (#7300234) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, what tripe...from the /. lead in:

    Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil

    Everyone knows that the oil age won't end when the oil runs will end when the oxygen runs out. We will always find a way to make more carbon based fuels. Too much of the economic infrastructure is depedent on oil consumption. So we are likely to burn up the other end of the combustion equation first. Oxygen is a public commodity. It is the commons that is ripe for trashing. So I would expect to run out of it first.

  • by TenPin22 (213106) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:48AM (#7300235) Homepage
    At the moment the world consumes 80million barrels a day (mbpd), 20million of those are used by the USA alone who only have 4% of the worlds population !

    The USA has oil reserves of 50 billion barrels and at the current rate of usage (which is predicted to rise by at least 1.5% per year) of 7.3 billion per year would exhaust its reserves in 7 years. Consequently the USA currently imports about 30% of its oil from the middle east and another 20% from Africa and elsewhere. 40% of all US oil usage is petrolium based for transportation. Based on this the US oil reserves will run out in about 14 years.

    The middle east controls 65% of the worlds oil reserves. Thats 685 billion barrels of the worlds 1050 billion. Saudi Arabia has about 260 billion and has the worlds largest reserves. Iraq, UAE and Kuwait have 97 billion, Iran 90 billion with others making up the rest.

    As far as I can make out from Google, experts only expect another 200billion barrels of oil reserves to be discovered at the most. This is only an estimate, not based on known oil wells whose reserves have not been measured but on a guess of "how much oil we don't know about".

    At the moment about 10 billion barrels of oil is discovered per year which has been steadily declining since 1965 and based on the current trend is expected to reach 0 by about 2020.

    At the current rate of world oil usage (80mbpd), with the current amount of reserves (1050Gb) that would give us 1050b / (365x80m) = 36 years.

    China is rapidly becoming the next economic superpower closely followed by India and Pakistan who together constitute over a third of the worlds population. This and many other factors mean that world oil consumption will continue to rise to 120mbpd by 2030 even with conservative predictions.

    Consumption is in fact never likely to reach these levels because by 2030 time the worlds reserve levels are likely to be so low that only a 3 or 4 countries will be supplying 90% of the worlds oil. This means that the rate of production will be greatly reduced because the maximum sustained rate of production of 4 countries may only be 40mbpd.

    According to this trend that predicts oil production rates will start to fall when we reach 50% usage of all oil that has ever existed, the supply rate of oil will increasingly fail to meet demand as time progresses.

    What with the USA invading Iraq obviously to secure the worlds largest oil fields (WMD lol ! Evil Dictator lol !) and establish even more military prescence in the region of the worlds largest oil reserves, I can see major conflicts between the USA, Europe and China, India, Pakistan and Russia with the middle east stuck in the middle as soon as 2020 and definately by 2030. Especially if you bear in mind that the USA spends about $500billion on its military every year and China with the most manpower on earth is rapidly expanding its military program and is the 2nd largest arms spender with a measly $30billion.

    Theres alot of talk about "renewable energy" and alternative power sources but oil supplies 40% of the worlds power needs and I'm extremely sceptical that we'll even replace 1% of our power needs with non-oil based power within the next 20 years by wich time it will be too late.

    Nothing to worry about but I reckon that the earth will be rather desolate and the population reduced by 2 thirds by 2040 if not earlier.
  • by NtwoO (517588) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:48AM (#7300236) Homepage
    My work is 70km (43mi) from home. I am looking to cycle to work with one of these []. It is true, for this to be a large scale solution, you guys need more cycle roads that are preferably flat. Furtunatly I live in the Netherlands. It is flat and the cycle roads are great.

    Cycling to work relaxes the mind and frees the body of excess stress. Try it. You will love it.

  • Re:My car (Score:2, Interesting)

    by letxa2000 (215841) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:48AM (#7300247)
    I read the article. It all was good and fine but I was wondering at what point they were going to suggest a tax. Answer: 2nd from last paragraph. Their solution is increasing taxes. Great. If raising gas taxes is the solution, why don't I see Europeans driving around in fuel cell cars even though they already pay too much in gas taxes?

    Rather than make alternative energy cheaper (by investing in alternative energy R&D) so that the market just goes to alternative energy all by itself, increase the cost of gas so much that it has the same cost as alternative energy. Bogus, but typical, liberal approach to just about any problem. Manipulate the market with taxes.

    We should tax being a Democrat. :)

  • by bartyboy (99076) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:51AM (#7300270)
    From the article:

    The best way to curb the demand for oil and promote innovation in oil alternatives is to tell the world's energy markets that the "externalities" of oil consumption--security considerations and environmental issues alike--really will influence policy from now on. And the way to do that is to impose a gradually rising gasoline tax.

    The effect of that will be smaller and more efficient combustion engines. Just look at what they drive in Europe and the gas prices there.

    The only way a gasoline tax will ever work is if alternatives (hydrogen, electricity, fuel cells) have an infrastructure equal to that of current gas stations. Until I can charge my car in 2 minutes or fill it up with hydrogen at any station, this won't happen.

  • by siskbc (598067) on Friday October 24, 2003 @09:53AM (#7300287) Homepage
    The article mentions hydrogen fuel cells as a way to break big oil. But last I heard, the most effecient way to make hydrogen is from coal, which is a dirty nasty process. (Or so I hear). Am I wrong on this?

    First, it would at least be better than now. First, the process of making H2 from coal isn't as bad as burning it. Second, coal is a resource that is a bit, ah, more evenly distributed in the world. For America, this would be a good way to get the hell out of the Middle East, for good or bad.

    Ultimately, it would be better to go to Methanol fuel cells, and I have yet to understand why they're not getting more press. First, methanol's a renewable resourse - as close to solar energy as we're likely to get. Also, it would be a resource that every country could take care of on their own - just farming.

    There are also engineering advantages to methanol over H2.

  • by mks113 (208282) <mks.kijabe@org> on Friday October 24, 2003 @10:00AM (#7300365) Homepage Journal
    You might want to desalinate it first. Electrolysis of salt water results in hydrogen and clorine. Where does the Oxygen go? SO2? Nasty.

    But I don't see why it has to be international waters. I'd just as soon not have a reactor in stormy waters -- a simple lake would do fine.

    And Nuclear -- It is pitiful, but the best we have. There are so many safeguards built in that it isn't likely to cause another Chernobyl, but we are told repeatedly "The first sign of the possibility of it happening again is the belief that it can't happen."

    I work in a nuke plant, I feel confident in the design and the operation, but it is burdened by safety concerns. 90% of the cost of construction and operation is all based on the premise that something major will go wrong.

  • Re:Not likely (Score:3, Interesting)

    by David Leppik (158017) on Friday October 24, 2003 @10:06AM (#7300417) Homepage

    Oils are used as a base ingrediant in plastics. While we may someday move a hyrdogen economy, and we might even eventually get away from the internal combustion engine. Were not about to stop using plastics. Petroleum products go into a whole lot more than our gas tank, something many people are oblivious too.

    Petroleum is hardly the only source of oil. Ever since I was a kid the nice people at the Minnesota State Fair were handing out plastic pens made from corn. Right now polymers made from corn and soybeans have relatively few applications (since it's more expensive to grow oil than to pump it), but they have a number of advantages, especially when you want a material that will eventually decompose. With plant-derived plastics, you have control over how biodegradable the polymer will be.
  • Re:My car (Score:2, Interesting)

    by todsr1 (718754) on Friday October 24, 2003 @10:06AM (#7300422)
    You might not see Europeans driving around in fuel cell cars but we sure as hell drive smaller, more economical, cars than alot of Americans do! Oh, and electric cars are begining to creep into our cities, esp. in places like Munich, Germany
  • by John Murdoch (102085) on Friday October 24, 2003 @10:07AM (#7300426) Homepage Journal


    While there is tremendous potential for hydrogen-based fuel cells, there's a little detail that seems to be overlooked. The vast majority of the world's production of liquid or gaseous hydrogen is produced from off-gases that are byproducts of oil refining.

    The world's leading producer of liquid hydrogen is Air Products and Chemicals [] of Trexlertown, Pa. I've done a lot of work for them over the years--and their hydrogen business is based on "HYCO" plants that take refinery gases, extract the hydrogen and return carbon dioxide (and sometimes hydrogen) back "over the fence" to the refinery. Key point: no refinery, no hydrogen. There are other means of producing hydrogen--but HYCO plants are by far the cheapest.

    A point of philosophy:
    Immanual Kant's Categorical Imperative can be expressed like this: if your philosophy requires having sinners to do the sinning for you, your philosophy is bankrupt. Getting hydrogen as a byproduct of petroleum production--and then expecting hydrogen to free us from dependency on petroleum--won't work. If everybody stops using petroleum and switches to hydrogen, there won't be any petroleum refined--and thus there won't be any hydrogen. In order to have volume production of hydrogen, you need gas-guzzling petrol users to do the sinning for you.

    As I wrote above, there are other sources of hydrogen. As the use of hydrogen increases (and let's not forget--liquid hydrogen is significantly more explosive than gasoline, and touching it will cause body parts to freeze and shatter) new sources of hydrogen will have to be developed, and new processes developed to extract the hydrogen cheaply. That will take time, ingenuity, and money. There's a lot of push behind the idea (if you're in high school, pursuing a college degree in chemical engineering with a focus on cryogenics and hydrogen in particular would be a VERY smart idea) but it will take time to appear. This will not be an overnight sensation.

    And don't forget the Saudis
    The Saudis are sitting on 2/3 of the world's oil. As they see their dominance dwindling, they will respond. The biggest challenge to the development of a replacement technology like LH will be economic: the Saudis and the rest of OPEC will simply slash prices. When gas costs $.30 per gallon (which still makes them billions) it will be difficult to justify the price per "gallon" of LH.

  • by simulate (323156) on Friday October 24, 2003 @10:17AM (#7300535)
    An entertaining tool for exploring U.S. oil consumption can be found here: U.S. Oil Policy Simulation []

    Most of U.S. oil is used for gasoline for cars. So the fastest way to reduce demand is by either driving less. Using some fuel other than gasoline can take a decade or more to have a major effect.

    Interesting quote from the simulation: "After Saudi Arabia, the U.S. is the second largest oil producer in the world []. But the United States also happens to be the largest consumer of oil []. Oil consumption in the United States and Canada is almost three gallons per person per day [], twice as high as in Europe."

  • Set up a simple electrolysis cell with a voltmeter and ammeter, and a thermometer. Fill with de-mineralised water and a drop of any available dilute acid or hydroxide. Plot temperature against time; between sample points, calculate how much power is going into apparatus, get some constantan wire and prepare a resistance that will dissipate the same amount of power at just 1 volt or thereabouts {not enough voltage to separate a H+ ion from an OH- ion; you can actually measure this voltage by turning down the PSU voltage till the ammeter drops sharply}. Remember, power in watts = volts * amps, resistance in ohms = volts / amps, and assume the resistance wire has constant resistance per unit length {it's deliberately made that way}. Do experiment again, but this time using your prepared resistance immersed in the electrolyte instead of carbon rods; adjust the PSU to get same the power dissipation, which will mean more current this time. Plot temperature against time on same sheet of graph paper.

    Qualitative analysis: If the temperature rises much more with the resistance than with the electrolysis cell, then obviously most of the energy supplied is going into breaking up the water into hydrogen and oxygen. If the temperature rises by nearly the same amount, then most of the energy supplied is ending up as heat.

    Quantitative analysis: Knowing the heat capacity of water is 4170 Watt-sec per kg per degree C, and neglecting the trace of whatever you used to make it conductive and the amount of water converted to H2 and O2, we can work out the expected rate of temperature rise from the energy supplied:
    temp rise deg. C per sec = volts * amps / 4170 * kg.
    This gives us an indication of the magnitude of heat loss to atmosphere. The initial slope of the time-temp. curve should follow this closely; because, at the beginning, everything is all at the same temperature so there is no heat loss. By drawing a tangent to the electrolysis time-temp. curve at t=0, we can determine how much energy went into heating. Then
    power wasted as heat = temp. rise per deg. C * 4170 * kg.
    efficiency {%} = 100 * [(volts * amps) - power wasted] / [volts * amps]

    Further work: Investigate what happens if you try to use a higher voltage than strictly necessary.
    Investigate what happens with different electrode spacings.
    Investigate what happens when you set light to hydrogen.
    If you can make enough oxygen to inflate a thin polythene bag, investigate what happens if a bag containing pure oxygen is touched with a smouldering cigarette end.
  • by cgb8176 (685935) on Friday October 24, 2003 @10:26AM (#7300640)

    The idea is to transition to an infrastructure that does not depend on any particular generation method. This opens the way for your car to be powered by anything-- not just gasoline. Once you can put hydrogen in, you're no longer tied to a single source. As more efficient generators and methods (nuclear, solar, excercise-club treadmills) come into play, your existing car will be able to immediately take advantage of them.

    Correct. But there are other instantaneous advantages also. While converting oil and coal to hydrogen may not be a clean process, it will at least be contained to isolated places (the conversion facilities). We get hydrogen out, which runs our fuel cells with no pollution.

    Contrast this against the current system, where we all get gasoline, and burn it to produce energy. This goes on in every gas-burning automobile (and lawnmower and leafblower and generator and...) to the point that the pollution, while partially controlled, still emits from every one of these devices, spread over the face of the planet.

  • Re:My car (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GMontag (42283) <gmontag&guymontag,com> on Friday October 24, 2003 @10:27AM (#7300646) Homepage Journal

    I find the biggest problem with vehicle longevity is the lack of proper care by the owner. Second problem, owners buying vehicles that they can not possibly maintain unless they are a professional mechanic.

    One moment while I give the gratuitous link to my web-famous Hydrogen Powered Hacker Jeep []. Seriously, it has 279,000+ miles, 1996 Cherokee, 2 Door, 4.0L I6, 5 speed manual trans, Command-Trac four wheel drive. Check journal for other posts about maintaining and modifying.

    The success that I have with my vehicles (previous vehicle was a 1986 Dodge Dakota, V6, 220,000+ miles) is just changing the oil and using synthetic lubricants wherever/whenever conceivable. This is NOT a secret, but you would think that it is by talking to most vehicle owners.

    Wal-Mart does synthetic oil changes for around $30, close to the retail price of the oil itself. I am pretty bad about flushing the radiator, and did have to replace one recently, probably due to my own neglect. I use Moble 1 gear oil in the trans and differentials, Moble 1 synthetic ATF fluid in transfer case.

    I also use plastic-safe silicone spray on all exposed seals/rubber. Pretty bad about waxing and washing the paint, but the engine is always clean. Try to find a brushless carwash with an under-body sprayer to remove corrosives picked up from the road.

    Under-coating promotes rust, so don't add any. Whenever a trim screw is removed, use silicone sealer on it before putting it back. Whenever a structural fastener is removed spray with penetrating oil a few days in advance, get the rust off, use anti-sieze on the threads, replace and paint over with Rustoleum if possible.

    Anyway, if you start with a vehicle built on the "heavy duty" side of the range and you can turn a screwdriver, use a rag, and/or drive to Wal-Mart, you can take care of your own vehicle indefinately.

    Now about this quip in the article: Ways to break the tyranny of oil are coming into view. Governments need to promote them. Replacing pseudo-tyranny with real tyranny is not much of a solution.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday October 24, 2003 @10:31AM (#7300678) Homepage
    here's the fun part. -- I fixed the link

    I submitted this 2 days ago but was rejected...

    water car []

    It's a link to a page that has "plans" to convert your car to run on hydrogen generated in a reaction chamber from water.

    I looked them over and think they are a bunch of hooey, but I have seen many claims to this regard recently one that was a water/gasoline hybrid running on 20% gas and 80% hydrogen+oxygen generated from water on the vehicle.

    maybe someone from slashdot that has the knowlege to look them over and either explain the possible merits or show where the whole thing is a ball of crap, making a gaseous mixture of hydrogen and oxygen is asking for a large explosion..

    anyways, it's interesting to read over.
  • by curtisk (191737) on Friday October 24, 2003 @10:43AM (#7300785) Homepage Journal
    n the U.S., we have significant reserves and production capacity.

    7 1/2 weeks worth of reserve is alot? [] a hair under 2 months?

    As far as domestic production goes

    • Domestic oil production has been steadily declining since 1970. U.S. petroleum production is expected to remain virtually unchanged (9.03 million barrels per day in 2000 to 9.95 million barrels per day in 2020) over the next two decades, but oil consumption in the United States is expected to rise from 19.7 million barrels per day in 2000 to 26.7 million barrels per day in 2020, a 35% increase (EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2002, Tables A21 and A11).

    from : US Dept of Energy []

    There's plenty of oil out there. Sure you would think so....again from our friends at Dept of Energy,(same link as above)

    • In 2000, the Persian Gulf supplied 12.4% of U.S. oil consumption; by 2020 it will supply 15.5% (EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2002, Table 107). This region will continue to increase its influence in world oil markets, as oil supplies in other regions are exhausted, because over half the world's known oil reserves are concentrated in the Persian Gulf (EIA International Energy Annual 1999, Table 8.1).
    • Several factors are contributing to America's increasing vulnerability. Oil and oil production facilities are concentrated in the Persian Gulf region. In addition, the Persian Gulf's share of worldwide petroleum exports is projected to grow from 45% in 2000 to 60% by 2020 (EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2002). At these levels, a supply disruption from this one region would have an immediate impact on oil supplies and prices worldwide.

    Sounds like in the near future the Mideast "influence" on worldwide oil will increase. At least based on what or agencies have to say about it.

  • by raygundan (16760) on Friday October 24, 2003 @10:54AM (#7300947) Homepage
    Sitting on a tank full of explosive fuel DOES sound pretty dangerous. So it's a good thing we don't drive cars with an explosive fuel tank now. Seriously-- i thought everybody on slashdot already knew that it was the *skin* of the hindenburg (essentially solid rocket fuel) that did most of the burning. Hydrogen rises, and dissipates quickly. Gasoline explodes, and has this nasty liquid peculiarity at normal car-operating temperatures that allows it to "flow" and "pool" and "coat" surfaces in the event of a leak, instead of just whooshing up into the heavens.

    Distribution and production infrastructure will definitely be rough, and slow coming. Which is why all the automakers are working on gasoline-cracking catalysts. The first successful fuel cell car will have to have a gas tank AND a hydrogen tank. If you put gas in it, the catalyst will strip hydrogen and fill your hydrogen tank. So, the gas will still cost you whatever gas costs everybody else.
  • True. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by raygundan (16760) on Friday October 24, 2003 @11:01AM (#7301040) Homepage
    They certainly don't care what KIND of fuel they have to sell you. What doesn't exist, however, is any incentive for them to encourage efficiency. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The more efficient stuff gets, the less people have to buy their products.

    I don't have a good solution or anything-- just pointing out the problem. A company that sells energy in a more-or-less pure capitalist economy is doing what they're supposed to do for their shareholders if they fight tooth and nail against efficiency. We can't expect them to do otherwise.
  • by kfg (145172) on Friday October 24, 2003 @11:01AM (#7301041)
    No, it isn't. The advantage to using hydrogen in a fuel cell instead of a battery is the ability to quickly inject more hydrogen and then go on our way. As we do with oil fuels.

    It's a convienience issue. Not an energy saving one.

  • by kfg (145172) on Friday October 24, 2003 @11:31AM (#7301395)
    No. It isn't. That's why we have oil. It is in large part the stored solar energy (with a dash of geothermal) of millions of years.

    That's why it will be the surest and cheapest source of hydrogen for many, many years to come. That's why the so called "hydrogen economy" will be an oil economy.

    When the oil runs out it's back to the wood pile and other forms of solar energy. Or nuclear.

    Now as it happens I can live on solar energy just fine. I already raise much of my own food. I ride a bicycle. I produce electricity with my bicycle and my food. My family has a 20 acre wood lot. I live this way because I enjoy living this way. Most look on my "lifestyle" with distaste.

    NYC is going to be fucked though. Nevermind Las Vegas.

    Can you produce enough solar energy to supply downstate NY with enough hydrogen to meet its current energy needs, and without starving them to death? 'Cause we already "sucked Niagra dry."

    Doing it without striping the Catskills bare would be a plus. We tried that once. It wasn't pretty.

    The world can live on solar power just fine. It did so for billions of years. It did so, however, without electric lights, automobiles, PCes and hydrogen fuel for them.

    And without so damned many people.

    Hydrogen fuels will not solve our oil crisis. It will only accelerate it. Once the oil is so far gone that it's too expensive the surest source of hydrogen is water, to which you must add energy.

    Back to the wood pile.

  • by panurge (573432) on Friday October 24, 2003 @11:36AM (#7301452)
    Actually, I live in a small town that is still a small town. In fact, I live in the "historic center". And we have a community. If I hadn't lived here for 20 years, I would not be able to afford to move here now. But we have just lost the fight to keep out Wal-Mart and I expect ribbon suburbanization to follow quickly.
  • by Ricdude (4163) on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:41PM (#7302186) Homepage
    A tanker carrying biodiesel was involved in a car crash, and spilled fuel all over the side of the road. The fire department responded immediatly, as soon as they heard a tanker truck was involved. They got to the accident site, found out it was carrying biodiesel, and went back to the station. Within a week, the bulk of it biodegraded, harmlessly.

    How do you think a tanker full of hydrogen would respond in the same accident?
  • Re:DEATH TO OIL!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ex-MislTech (557759) on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:55PM (#7302318)
    The death of oil may be sooner than expected : /h ydrogen000222.html

    We will still use it for plastics, but we will not
    need middle eastern oil .


  • by kfg (145172) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:05PM (#7302398)
    I have not forgotten the Sun, as you would know if you had read the whole thread before posting. The Sun is Lord. Ra, Ra, Ra and all that.

    The Sun is a rich but wise Lord. It does not toss us enough money to support us in decadence, but enough to live on if we live wisely. He warms and moves the air. He makes the waters flow over the waterfalls. He makes the trees grow. From these we may derive sustainence for our homes while he sleeps.

    He also gave us oil.

    If we live arrogantly and decadently we will have to waste the capital the Sun has bestowed upon us as our birthright. When it is gone, it will be gone.

    Then we shall have to live even more wisely just to live.

    I like to live by the Grace of our Lord the Sun and my muscles, which the Lord sustains. Most consider me a "bum" because I support myself rather than labor for others to earn my sustainence. I need no Lord but the Sun.

    Niether do you.

    But the Lord doesn't give a crap about your SUV, your PC, or your ability to read after he goes down.

    Hydrogen fuel cells are neat. I like hydrogen fuel cells. I wish I had hydrogen fuel cells when I was an electric car designer. I have nothing against hydrogen fuel cells.

    I spoke about the "hydrogen economy" that many believe will be the cure to our energy dependency on oil.

    Those people, as you yourself note, are deluded. Hydrogen is not an energy source for us unless we add the energy to it. That energy must come from somewhere, be it the Sun or the nuclear reactor.

    For many, many years, however, that source is going to be oil.

    I do not state that as my desire. I state it as fact.

    Me? I'd just as soon you and I took a bicycle ride to a lovely little apple farm I know, where we could sit by the Sun produced wood fire and drink some Sun produced Apple Cider while we watch the Sun set out the Window.

    Throw in a Sun produced violin and what more does a man need to be happy? Einstein forgot about the convivial companion.

  • Re:My car (Score:3, Interesting)

    by canajin56 (660655) on Friday October 24, 2003 @05:18PM (#7304931)

    Use the power to make hydrogen. Use said hydrogen to float zeplins and transport said hydrogen to other countries. Re-inflate with helium in storage tanks. Fly back, re-compress helium and reful with hydrogen. Repeat.

    I know, I know "Oh, the humanity!" But the Hindenburg didn't burn because of the hydrogen, it burnt because they used a highly flammable protective paint. If you fill a balloon with hydrogen, then burn it with a match, it won't explode. It will burn a little around the hole, until it is deflated.

  • by LinuxParanoid (64467) * on Friday October 24, 2003 @05:45PM (#7305130) Homepage Journal
    I've done hobbiest-class research into the topic of oil substitutes and here are two oft-neglected issues to keep in mind:

    1) Energy density. It's hard to improve upon oil/gasoline's energy-per-unit-volume with economical substitutes. Hydrogen fuel cells don't have nearly the energy density of gasoline. (Fuel cells tend to be far bulkier for this reason, or you can't travel as many miles with equivalent space.) I suspect consumers would accept a car with a smaller range; I dunno about other applications though. Technology and mass-production may drop fuel cell costs, but improving energy density takes some serious physics/chemistry.

    2) Saudi Arabia (and other low-cost oil producers) have plenty of room to drop the price. Sure, it's not hard to see plenty of economical substitutes showing up at $30/barrel (today's price, historically well above average.) And even matching the long-term average price of oil at $15/barrel is conceivable. But the Saudis can produce oil at costs of $1-$2/barrel. [] Now I'm comparing end-prices to costs here which is a bit unfair (so add a 50% margin to $1-$2), but even if a energy substitute could produce power matching today's oil prices, it'd have to reduce in cost 30-fold in order for us to long-term wean ourselves completely off oil. And that's assuming the Saudi's don't get more efficient in the meantime. At least from an economic standpoint, ignoring costs of externalities like security/pollution.

    So I see alternative fuel use increasing, but I don't see oil vanishing from the picture in my lifetime (or my kids'). Heck, I'd be delighted if we just cut our oil usage in half in my lifetime; that'd be a stunning success in my book.

    I suspect the Saudi's are just talking down their influence for current political reasons.

    --LP, probably posting a bit too late to get mod points
  • my parents use solar (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iriles (35702) on Friday October 24, 2003 @07:14PM (#7305641)
    My Step-Father just finished installing solar panels on their roof and it more than covers all the power needs for the whole house. They don't have any natural gas lines either so everything is electric. And my mom has a Kiln that she uses once a week (That's a huge power consumer)

    So solar power is completely feasable, at least for powering residential buildings. It's not that cheap though, it might take 30 or more years for the panels to pay for them selves at current energy prices. But if the panels where mass produced the price would go down.

    A few advantages are that the panels never break or wear out, since they don't have any moving parts. Also, you get credited for power you put back into the grid. The peak rate time just happens to be daytime when your at work and not using power at home, thus maximising the amount of credit you can get.

    It works pretty well for my parents and will definately start paying off for them when they retire. Rising residential energy prices will be one less thing for them to worry about.

Disclaimer: "These opinions are my own, though for a small fee they be yours too." -- Dave Haynie