Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Power Transportation

Looking To Better Engines Instead of Electric Vehicles 570

Posted by Soulskill
from the electrons-are-overrated dept.
hlovy writes "Don Runkle thinks it's engines, not batteries, that will make automobiles cleaner and more efficient. 'We unabashedly say that we have the best solution,' says Runkle, the CEO of Allen Park, MI-based engine developer EcoMotors International. The startup, which brought in $23 million in Series B financing this summer from Menlo Park, CA-based Khosla Ventures and Seattle billionaire Bill Gates, has designed an opposing piston, opposing cylinder engine that uses fewer parts than traditional motors do and generates more power from each stroke of the engine, CEO Runkle says. He says the 'opoc' engine is smaller, lighter, and less expensive than the motors already out there, and a more viable option than switching automobile fleets over to electrical power."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Looking To Better Engines Instead of Electric Vehicles

Comments Filter:
  • energy density (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:40PM (#34091788)

    When you can store energy as densely as liquid hydrocarbon, you'll have a successful electric car.

  • So (Score:5, Insightful)

    by santax (1541065) on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:42PM (#34091804)
    An engine-developer and seller tells us that the future is in the engines that he happens to be able to sell you. Didn't see that one coming.
  • by ciaohound (118419) on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:42PM (#34091808)

    Now if someone would just rear-mount that in a cute little chassis, maybe one that looked kind of like a bug or something...

  • Re:energy density (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nadaka (224565) on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:45PM (#34091860)

    It isn't a flat limit, for sufficiently cheap power you can compromise on density.

    Better engines and hybrids make sense as long as gas remains a viable fuel. At some point in this century it likely will not be a viable fuel unless we perfect synthetic gas cheaply without compromising our farmland.

  • by mvdwege (243851) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:48PM (#34091884) Homepage Journal

    I see a lot of buzzwords, but the few words with some real content in it makes it seem like this is just a two-stroke boxer engine.

    More efficient? No shit Sherlock, that's always been the province of the two-stroke. The problem was how to keep the lubricants out of the combustion chamber so that it wouldn't be so damn polluting.

    Mart

  • Re:Damnit slashdot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nos. (179609) <{ac.srrekeht} {ta} {werdna}> on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:50PM (#34091938) Homepage

    Just because some of the world's power is generated by coal, doesn't mean it all is. There are plenty of places where renewable sources make up a significant if not a majority of the power on the grid.

  • by Little Brother (122447) <kg4wwn@qsl.net> on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:51PM (#34091966) Journal

    I don't know the limit of efficiency that this new engine design will deliver, but at any sane value this does not solve our biggest problem here in the United States (and probably other nations as well.)

    Everything we do is regulated by oil. Our food distribution runs on diesel, our manufacturing runs on diesel. Our military runs on diesel. Our workforce requires gas to get to work. Every facet of American life is dependent on oil based fuels without which our economy, our military, our industry, our agriculture and our commerce will fail. Even with extreme improvement in our ability to harness these fuels, it is extraordinarily unlikely that we can produce enough fuel to be self-sufficient. In short our national security and our very survival are in the hands of foreign powers.

    In the best of circumstances this would be worrying, depending on close allies for your ability to survive is harrowing, but sustainable. We are not in the best of circumstances, The nations that produce the majority of oil are not staunch allies, but nations with populaces that are predominantly anti-US. At any time the structure in these countries could break down and we could find ourselves at war with them. This would be a war that even if we win could destroy us as a nation. If we conserve all our fuel resources for the War effort, which we would have to do if we want to win with conventional weapons, we would find ourselves bereft of fuel and the fuel production infrastructure itself most likely in shambles due to the war. Our way of life would be over just as surely as if we had been conquered by a foreign power.

    We need to switch to electric not because it is more efficient (although it is) not because it will create jobs (though it will) not because it can be more environmentally sound (although it could be); we need to switch to electrical power because it keeps our vital infrastructure requirements in our own hands. It is a matter of national security, no nation can prosper if it id dependent on unfriendly nations for its very survival.

  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:56PM (#34092048)
    "On a grander scale, Runkle says the EcoMotors technology is ultimately cleaner than plug-in electric automobiles, because it produces more efficient power without having to tap grid electricity—much of which comes from burning coal."

    Again, burning fuel is always going to be the less than ideal solution, no matter what the power is used for.
    Clean, renewable energy is the way of the future.
  • Re:So (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Balthisar (649688) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:06PM (#34092190) Homepage

    It either works as said or doesn't, and he'll either sell engines or not. That's how markets work.

  • Re:So (Score:3, Insightful)

    by santax (1541065) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:10PM (#34092226)
    Yeah but he is claiming this to be the future and it isn't. It's still burning up precious sources that we need to protect for future-use. We have used up all the worlds oil-reserve that took millions of years to make in 150 year. That is insane. Who knows what we can use oil for with future inventions. The future of cars really is in the renewable energy. You only have to look at the Dutch University of Twente. Where they have engines that take you 1000km to a liter fuel. Why? Well the damn thing just runs on solarpower when possible. That is the future. This is just an engine that isn't the most efficient by a long shot. He should have made this engine 40 years ago, when the small savings of oil would have made a difference. In this day and time we have technology that is just years ahead of this engine.
  • Re:energy density (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gatzke (2977) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:11PM (#34092240) Homepage Journal

    Actually, we may, even using it as primary transportation fuel.

    We have 250 years at current rates, including about 50% of our electric generation.
        http://www.clean-energy.us/facts/coal.htm [clean-energy.us]

    Our coal usage for electric is almost exactly that of our transportation needs.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:USEnFlow02-quads.gif [wikipedia.org]

    So we could switch to nuclear for electric, some plug-in hybrids, coal for liquid fuels and be good to go for hundreds of years. Not even counting our Natural gas reserves.

  • Re:energy density (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:12PM (#34092258)

    We are stuck with coal and oil for a few centuries, methinks...

    50 years max.

    It's only a matter of time before we can engineer plants or processes which mimic the photosynthetic process or tweak it to minimize the amount of afterprocessing for biofuels.

    We can put jellyfish genes in piglets, make goats produce similar proteins to spiders, eventually we are going to figure out a way to have refinery plants that consist of... plants.

  • Re:energy density (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:13PM (#34092260)

    I agree, let's stall for more time and wait until we're actually in trouble before we do anything! Forget future problems, all that matters is now!

  • by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:17PM (#34092328) Homepage

    for sufficiently cheap power you can compromise on density.

    Comments so far seem to ignore the issue of mass/power: every kilogram of mass you tack onto a vehicle, reduces its performance. Because that weight has to be accelerated, and at the next stop sign that weight has to brought to a halt. And for most vehicles, "brought to a halt" means wasting the energy that was stored in the form of kinetic energy (vehicle's speed). An electrical vehicle may re-capture some of that kinetic energy, but never 100%. And if a re-capture system adds another 10 kg. to vehicle weight, that's another 10 kg. that rides along, that needs to be accelerated & stopped.

    So everything has both a + and - effect on overall efficiency, and driving style / area where a vehicle is used also counts. Cheap power doesn't gain you anything if using it reduces overall efficiency to the point where you started from.

  • Re:So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cgenman (325138) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:25PM (#34092430) Homepage

    He'll either convince some executive MBA somewhere without an engineering degree that it's a visionary future for their company, or he won't. That executive will run off and commit to using it in all of their 201X cars in exchange for an exclusive. That car company will then ship a series of cars that in practice will have only slightly better gas mileage than before, but will also have a fatal flaw that makes the damned cars impossible to use long-term or fix. Committed to the technology and career on the line, the car company in 202X will finally create a solid engine, by which time their reputation will have been sullied. Caught in the great vegetable speculation bubble crash of 202X, they will be bailed out and become property of their home government.

    That's how markets work.

  • Re:Damnit slashdot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:26PM (#34092442)
    Anyone who claims that electric vehicles generate zero pollution is misinformed. However:
    1. Electricity doesn't only come from coal. In some places, electricity primarily comes from coal, but in other places, it primarily comes from hydro-electricity or other sources. So, the environmental impact of electric vehicles depends on where the electricity comes from, and it's by no means as simple as saying "all electric vehicles effectively burn coal".
    2. By concentrating the polluting aspects of energy-production, it is easier to control. Getting millions of cars to upgrade (or even just maintain) their catalytic converters is a non-starter. Upgrading (or properly maintaining) the scrubbers on a single power plant is more feasible. As new technology enables greener power plants, the entire fleet of electric vehicles benefit.
    3. Even if electric vehicles currently rely (partially) on CO2-releasing energy sources (e.g. coal), the long-term possibility is to migrate to other kinds of electricity production. Relying on burning fossil-burns locks one into CO2-releasing infrastructure. However, electric cars immediately 'benefit' from switchovers in the energy grid, as, for instance, more solar-panel and wind-farm sources are added to the grid. Using electricity for intermediate energy storage/transmission, allows us to gradually rebuild our infrastructure to be greener, which softens the switching costs.
    4. For fair comparisons, one must also include every part of the chain in both cases. For instance it is true that electric vehicles require extensive mining and manufacturing, and incur transmission losses... but of course the use of fossil fuels requires extensive drilling operations (with associated spills, etc.), refining, and requires transportation (pipelines/tankers/gas-trucks). Each of these steps have variable levels of environmental impact. The intention is of course to have the chain with the lowest impact possible. The two chains are not identical in terms of environmental impact.

    Yes, there are tradeoffs, such as transmission losses and the environmental impact of mining materials for batteries. But the idea of investing in electric vehicles now, even though they are not perfect, is to migrate towards an infrastructure where our vehicles have a lesser environmental impact. The end state, where instead of having millions of separate combustion engines, we create power using higher-efficiency power plants (including many that do not generate CO2: nuclear, solar, wind, etc.), is a net gain (even taking into account the impact of transmission losses, mining, etc.).
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:33PM (#34092544)

    Damn, I don't think I've ever seen an n1 Godwin before!

  • Re:why not both? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EasyTarget (43516) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:34PM (#34092558) Journal

    Your futurology, like your sig. Does not make sense.

    Once you have a suitable storage system (battery) there is no point having the extra complexity and weight of a mechanical engine in the car.

    It's down to the batteries. If they become small and light enough to give good range on a car, we will go full electric over the following decades. The economies of scale for fixed electric generation will ensure this.

  • Re:why not both? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NatasRevol (731260) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:37PM (#34092610) Journal

    hybrid is too expensive now for most uses unless you have a lead foot or you live in your car and drive 50,000 miles a year. my new 2010 CR-V has a real time miles per gallon calculator on the dashboard and i can easily go above 30mpg at 65mph and at 30mph. speed is not that big a deal in mpg ratings. the only time it drops a lot is when i accelerate which is a lot since i'm in NYC and we have a lot of traffic lights.

    a lot of the SUV's have hybrid versions because most SUV's are modern versions of muscle cars. they are close to 300hp but with luxury and people buy them for the power of hitting the gas and taking off. the hybrid part helps if city driving with constant stop and go since you can get good acceleration with the engine turned off

    Sounds like numbers from the 1982 VW Rabbit...

  • Re:So (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:39PM (#34092634) Journal

    Yeah but he is claiming this to be the future and it isn't. It's still burning up precious sources that we need to protect for future-use. We have used up all the worlds oil-reserve that took millions of years to make in 150 year. That is insane. Who knows what we can use oil for with future inventions. The future of cars really is in the renewable energy. You only have to look at the Dutch University of Twente. Where they have engines that take you 1000km to a liter fuel. Why? Well the damn thing just runs on solarpower when possible. That is the future. This is just an engine that isn't the most efficient by a long shot. He should have made this engine 40 years ago, when the small savings of oil would have made a difference. In this day and time we have technology that is just years ahead of this engine.

    Fine. Halt all R&D on the ICE then. Let's keep chugging along with the fuel consumption we've got now until we reach the utopia of nuclear fusion.

  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:39PM (#34092640)

    Everyone makes that same sorry mistake, extrapolating an unfavorable curve to infinity as if problems don't have gradual solutions. Lost of Bruce Sterling et all sf postulated worlds full of junkies, so many that society fell apart. Marxists had their nightmare fantasies, and when the world moved beyond tose conditions, they refused to recognize it, failed to adapt, and killed hundreds of millions to prove it.

    The world just doesn't work like that, Hydrocarbons won't vanish overnight. They just get more and more expensive, and as the expense climbs, people come up with solutions.

    The English burned up all their wood, then found coal, then found oil, and that is how things work.

    It doesn't work by flying spaghetti monsters suddenly turning 90% of people into junkies, or sucking all the oil out of the ground in 5 seconds flat.

    The biggest problem the world has is the damned fools that think they, and only they, can see the future, and if the world doesn't start working on their pet solution RIGHT NOW, everything is going to hell in a handbasket.

    They refuse to believe that anyone else is smart, let alone smarter, that people have always found solutions, and that emergencies on a global scale just don't pop up out of thin air (except killer asteroids and rogue solar waves).

    Give it a rest, smarty pants. Get on with your life. Stop living a daily nightmare, you will just scare yourself to death.

  • Re:So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:45PM (#34092704)

    Don't forget all the government subsidies they surely hope to attract in the process.
    In America, that's how markets work.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:55PM (#34092820) Journal
    Actually, we were more centralized in the 40-70's. At that time, businesses worked with gov. to accomplish focused actions. Now, we have told businesses to seek the largest amount of short-term money, and that is exactly what is going on. They are moving to China. Much of that was accomplished by reagan allowing CEOs to have corporate stock, and by all nice tax cuts by reagan and W..

    To make matters worse, we no longer break up companies that are too large. For all of these companies that we bailed out, we would have been better off breaking them up as well, or even better, to simply invest into new companies.
  • by bkaul01 (619795) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:58PM (#34092848)

    The only reason IC engines are even competitive with the electric motor is because of the high energy density of the fuel carried on board. If you solve the energy storage problem for the electric motor, there is no way IC engines could compete. Not on efficiency, not on torque, not on emissions, not on noise pollution, nothing. You are held hostage by the fuel tank. Not the IC engine.

    Of course, but that's been the case since the advent of horseless carriages, and shows no signs of changing any time soon ...

  • Re:energy density (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:18PM (#34093172)

    Really? The Reagan administration is sitting on funding and permission for the United States Air Force to go ahead with a program in 2009 and 2010?

    Mainly because of a bill passed in 2007 by the Democratic majority that came into Congress following the 2006 elections.

    Zombie Reagan has more power than I thought.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/30/air-force-liquid-coal-fuel [guardian.co.uk]

    http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0109/013009kp1.htm [govexec.com]

    "We don't want new sources of energy that are going to make the greenhouse gas problem even worse," House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said in a recent interview.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23811258/ [msn.com]

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:19PM (#34093180)

    No, I don't know anything about this stuff. I just know how to use Google and Wikipedia.

    Which commonly results in the most insightful and well constructed arguments around these places! Well played, sir.

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:29PM (#34093350)

    "The biggest problem the world has is the damned fools that think they, and only they, can see the future"

    I never said anything like that. I was merely implying that people who think "oh, we have plenty of oil" or "oh, the oceans are big so that makes it okay to pollute them with garbage" are idiots. They actually don't have any sense of the future.

    "They refuse to believe that anyone else is smart"

    Again, I never said that.

    "Give it a rest, smarty pants. Get on with your life. Stop living a daily nightmare, you will just scare yourself to death."

    Yeah... it's much more comfortable to live in the now, uncaring. If no one worried about the future, there would be no warnings. Why investigate possible harm that a certain action could cause? We should just live in the now! No, oil won't magically vanish, but finding a better solution more quickly instead of procrastinating is preferred.

  • Re:why not both? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by robot256 (1635039) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:31PM (#34093396)

    What you described is a standard diesel-electric engine, which is essentially a diesel engine with an electric transmission. The engine was not always constant RPM; in most models, you actually controlled your speed with the throttle to the gas engine; forward, reverse and neutral were controlled by electrical switches. That configuration was invented almost a hundred years ago because it was physically impossible to build a 55,000 horsepower mechanical transmission. Battery-based hybrid locomotives have come into vogue in the last 20 years for yard switching, and more recently as long-haul engines, and were an obvious extension of the diesel-electric concept.

    I used to wonder like the GP about the absence of all-electric-drive hybrids. The reason why hybrid cars like the Prius and the Volt use an electric-mechanical combination transmission is because it is more efficient for the gas engine to power the wheels directly when you're going 70mph, since it's close to peak efficiency there anyways. Then you don't need a larger, more expensive electric motor, and avoid losses in the electric transmission whenever possible. On the scale of a locomotive, this is physically impossible, but in an automobile it is the desired configuration.

  • Re:So (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:37PM (#34093500)

    Link (since you couldn't be bothered): Napier-Deltic Engine [wikipedia.org]

    So, by "nothing new here", I assume you mean, "nothing new here except the use of only a single crankshaft which thereby eliminates the complexity of designing, building, implementing and synchonising THREE SEPARATE crankshafts" right?

    -AC

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:57PM (#34093758)

    Making H2 from water using solar/wind does not need to be the most efficient method, it lasts as long as the suns fusion reactor.
    It's clear that the process will also get better over time. A square meter of earth on a sunny day gets more than a Kw. A couple
    of sunny days on an acre of land gets more than a barrel of oils worth of energy. More than 50% of the energy that falls on
    desert area typically bounces back into space. The land area of 2 south western states could generate all the energy used
    by humans at the moment. We can beam energy from space...

    Besides you don't need to use H2 to create electron potential. You can distribute it easily enough, we have it ll over
    the place. Getting it live solves a lot of problems. Less storage in vehicles, less mass to store it in vehicles, no
    recharge time, no range limits... I ride on electric buses all the time, they climb the steepest hills around here
    packed with people.

    Electric motors are smaller, lighter and faster than comparable internal combustion engines. No unburned fuel,
    no C02 emissions or others that have a negative effect on your living.

    We use hydrocarbons because it's more convenient right now. Even when a better solution arrives we will not
    change because we already paid for the ICE engines in our cars and want to get the ROI on them. Same
    for producing vehicles. Companies want the ROI on plants, people, process. It's clear that we could
    build out an electric grid to support EV based transport, it is just not economic quite yet. Vehicles last 50+
    years, I see people still driving 60's cars. Even when we start switching it will take 50+ years to see a
    major impact. Even then ICE cars will roll on for ages. Jay Leno still drives his steam powered
    car on occasion!

    The real question is when is it smarter to start changing? In the SF Bay Area the pollution ruins
    the hiking during some parts of the summer. That lowers the value of living there, that lowers
    the price some people pay for housing... It is a small health issue as well, it takes a long time for
    us to get to dealing with activities that kill/damage a very small percentage of people. Also is
    it smarter to change first and become the leaders in a new market? Then there is the cost
    of buying fuel from overseas and what it does to our freedom here. Do we lower our standard
    of living? Less money for health care, education? What about the war's? Would we have cared
    at all about Kuwait? How many free people have died for it? Is that smart? What does it
    do to our greater wellness? Would you be subject to so many security hassles? Is that
    increasing or decreasing your freedom?

  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:59PM (#34093794) Homepage Journal

    This is actually the problem with the bad train infrastructures in the USA.

    France has approximately 31,939 km, or 19,845 miles, of track. The USA has approximately 233,000 miles of track, or over twenty times the track that France has. But the USA is only about 17.7 times the volume of France.

    The problem isn't that we haven't put effort into the rail system, the problem is that the continental US is so much larger than France. France is 543,965 sq kilometers; the USA is 9,629,091 square kilometers, or about 17.7 times the volume. By both rail-km and rail-volume, we actually have more track than France.

    It just isn't enough -- nine million square kilometers is a huge area to serve, and it is area that developed at a rate that was different than the rate rail expanded. In addition, France's population density is hugely higher than the USA; you have 60 million people, about 110 per sq-km, while we have 300 million, about 31 per sq km (and actually, because we have very high density coasts, that number is way too high for the US interior and way too low for the coasts.)

    France and the USA present two entirely different rail problems, and the same strategies can't be used to solve both. It's not practical to set up a rail grid that serves the USA in an equally distributed way -- it wouldn't save money, or fuel - it would lose money and waste fuel.

    We would benefit a great deal by moving to dual-track on many routes (the US hiline is one good example... many trains sit and wait for hours in sidings because there is only one track in many locations) and of course, with all that area, hi-speed rail would be lovely - but again, with 17x the area to serve, the amount of funding we're talking about is simply staggering.

  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:10PM (#34093948) Journal

    What I see is: Significant increase in complexity - three piston rods per cylinder, six crankshaft attachments to rods per cylinder pair - plus piston rods on the outside of the engine block.

    True, but: no camshafts, no timing belts, no valves.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:48PM (#34094478)

    The English burned up all their wood, then found coal, then found oil, and that is how things work.

    I don't think we did, otherwise we wouldn't have any old trees, or been able to build houses, ships, bridges, etc...

    We might have reached 'peak wood' where the collection of wood for burning reached a peak, the price of wood to burn or turn into charcoal increased and it became more economically viable to dig for coal.

    There's a joke in there somewhere...

  • by Cytotoxic (245301) on Monday November 01, 2010 @04:34PM (#34095028)


    Actually, I'd imagine it would take a ton of energy to push something through water

    The smart way to do it is not to push the metal through the water, but to get the water moving by pumping it around. It'll then carry the barges / vehicles without any particular fanfare. When you pump water continuously from one end of a canal system to the other (which can of course be directly adjacent to one another, and for transport purposes, incorporate locks so as to make the entire system continuous), the entire canal will move continuously. Anything floating on the canal will move as well, no extra charge.

    Hey, that's brilliant. Instead of moving a few hundred tons of barge through the water and deal with losses from turbulence around the few tens of meters of barge, move billions of tons of water through a canal, dealing with losses from turbulence along the hundreds of miles of the canal and support plumbing. That should be way more efficient!

    Ok, maybe that was a little too snarky. Sorry about that.... Still a dumb idea, but sorry for the over-snarkage.

  • Re:energy density (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bertok (226922) on Monday November 01, 2010 @04:51PM (#34095252)

    We have 250 years at current rates, including about 50% of our electric generation.
            http://www.clean-energy.us/facts/coal.htm [clean-energy.us] [clean-energy.us]

    Emphasis mine.

    That's your mistake, and the mistake of many politicians when planning for the future.

    Nobody seems to have paid any attention in their maths classes.

    Our rate of consumption of practically everything has been increasing exponentially for centuries now. A large part of that is increased population, but increased per-capita usage also contributes. Think about what will happen when everyone in China will want a car!

    "Current rates of consumption" doesn't even account for linear growth, let alone exponential.

    You'll find that we have less than 50 years of oil left, and when it runs out, we'll likely switch to coal for whatever we used to use oil for. That will increase coal usage massively, on top of the background increase in usage.

    Read about the Energy policy of China [wikipedia.org]: "China currently generates around two thirds of its electricity from coal-fired power stations.[15] It is progressing with the construction of 562 new coal-fired plants over the next few years.[21] In June 2007, it was reported that an average of two new plants were being opened every week."

    You might assume that "domestic coal usage will remain unchanged", but coal is a global commodity. If the price is driven up by the demand anywhere, it will be traded to maximize profits. Australia, where I live, is building multi-billion dollar docks to increase the amount of coal that can be exported to China. We export $22B AUD/year of coal now, and their demand just keeps going up.

    For the love of god, educate yourself (and your representatives) about the implications of exponential growth. There's a great series of videos on Youtube which you must watch, because "at current rates of consumption" is basically deluded. You may as well believe in Santa Claus.

    The Most IMPORTANT Video You'll Ever See (part 1 of 8) [youtube.com]

  • Re:energy density (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday November 01, 2010 @04:54PM (#34095312) Journal

    50 years max.

    It's only a matter of time before we can engineer plants or processes which mimic the photosynthetic process or tweak it to minimize the amount of afterprocessing for biofuels.

    What makes you think the company licensing the patent is going to allow [alternative] to be produced for less than the price of oil?

  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Monday November 01, 2010 @06:12PM (#34096218)

    Any decent history of England says that. Of course, the King's forests were preserved, so were the Royal Navy forests, and as firewood got more expensive, less and less was cut down. It never reached total destruction, just as when oil finally becomes really expensive, there will be a lot left when people switch to alternatives. But one of the reasons for the use of coal was because the price of wood rose so high that mining coal became worthwhile.

    It's EXACTLY the same situation as those fools who worry about running out of oil. It won't happen overnight, it will simply gradually get more expensive and alternatives will become worthwhile.

How many Unix hacks does it take to change a light bulb? Let's see, can you use a shell script for that or does it need a C program?

Working...