1. Rod,
    Few notes.

    On Obama, speculators act to help the market find the optimal price. As Drevna said they add liquidity to the market. Next time you see a speculator, thank them, they make often times as much as they loose. It is very high risk.

    On Drevna this is only about promoting Keystone XL. I think he is trying to force this issue as a campaign issue and more of a referendum of on the Administration. His focus and specific mention of Keystone XL alone to the exclusion of the “let’s crucify them EPA” along with the GHG regulations that just rolled out and the pealing back of the grandfather clauses under the clean air act are the Eastern front, and perhaps just as big a part of the war if not bigger.

    Until the alternatives are as abundant and as efficient as fossil fuels…its a pipe dream” Ahem nuclear anyone? The problem here is that nuclear alone does not have the transportability characteristics that make fossil fuels so desirable. That means liquid fuels. The only way for nuclear to get there is to start liquefying coal. This process adds 11% to the heat value by storing nuclear heat in chemical bonds. The Nuclear Coal to Liquids approach retains an additional 20% of the heating value of the original coal because it uses nuclear heat to drive the reaction than conventional Coal-to-Liquids.

    1. The problem here is that nuclear alone does not have the transportability characteristics that make fossil fuels so desirable.

      I think it would be more accurate to say that nuclear’s main disadvantage over fossil fuels is that it cannot be used in small, lightweight engines (because of the need for radiation shielding).

      1. The insinuation that nuclear is not a viable solution to the problems of fossil fuel use is a canard. It we could wave a magic wand and replace all electrical generation and heavy transportation with nuclear energy, we could live with using oil for medium and light transport for some time while developing viable alternatives.

        1. Nuclear powered ships are proven and reliable. Adapting LWR designs like mPower, to ship board use would be very beneficial. Coincidentally mPower is derived from the reactor modules on NSS Savannah. Coupled with new super light and compact power cycles like S-CO2 heat engines, the power to weight for these shipboard power plants would be even higher.

          The problem with these reactors is regulatory. We had in the Navy authorization to berth only in certain ports that were charted under treaty and through the efforts of the State Department. Commercial reactors would pose a regulatory risk along with an insurance risk all of which are non trivial and can make or break the business model.

          This is perhaps the most frustrating because we have steamed so many millions of miles on nuclear power already. We had shipboard reactors before we had commercial power plants. My point here is this would take a tremendous amount of political support (domestically and internationally) in order to enable this already cost effective solution.

          Technologically it is a canard. In practice it is not.

    2. I fully agree speculators are not the problem: Excessive profits are made possible either by (illegal to use) insider knowledge or government restrictions on competition (e.g. Canadian tar sands pose a threat to oil companies not invested in them, drilling in Alaska poses a threat to OPEC).
      If simply buying commodities at the right time and holding them for the right time would drive the price up for the consumers, or refiners, these could simply join the speculators and do what they do, and buy oil for the exact same (lower) price that the other speculators got it for. This is not happening – because speculation is not the reason for price increases. There are other reasons: cartels such as OPEC, oil embargoes (Iran), inflation of the currency.

    3. Sorry dude you need to do more research.

      It is actually cheaper to make carbon synfuels like diesel and methanol out of nuke hydrogen and cement plant or biocarbon than from $35 barrel petrol. Look up Shell’s Qatar GTL plant and report back.

      It is also a hell of lot cheaper to use nuke ammonia clean and green as a zero carbon propane substitute than it is to use petrol.

      EV’s are of course the ultimate route as costs drop.

      The one thing standing in the way is the ownership of all our shamefully corrupt politicians by Big Oil. The salvation may be China where corruption is far less prevalent than the USA and the government is run by engineers not lawyers.

      1. I don’t understand why big oil companies such as Shell, BP, ExxonMobil etc couldn’t make money selling synfuels just as they currently do selling petroleum-derived fuels. Surely, the Gulf Arab states and other oil-exporting countries, not the oil companies, would be those who had most to lose from synfuels…

      2. It is much cheaper to do the same with coal or natural gas as the feedstocks. It is economic in today’s market to use biomass as a feedstock.

        It is not economic to reduce CO2 through reverse shift reactions or directly using electrochemistry. The cost of the heat in these reactions is too high even for nuclear heat which is the cheapest. It is much more economical to minimize the production of CO2 and sequester the rest. If you use biomass then you don’t sequester, which gives a real savings on the capital and O&M, which makes up for the increased water content and lower heating values. Here location maters as biomass has higher shipping costs because fo the reduced energy density.

        Once the cost of reactors starts to come down and we get over this sillines of zero as a regulatory limit for anything, then we can see the viability of reducing CO2 using nuclear heat. Until then the math just does not work. You can thank Dr. Muller and Stern for inventing the regulatory restriction.

        Anhydrous ammonia goes for around $236/metric ton. Depending on the heat balance with the Haber-Bosch and how you go about producing the hydrogen makes a big difference. I haven’t sat down and crunched the numbers on this yet. It is technically feasible but you need to come up with a design first. The Haber Bosch process is done around 450C which makes SFR almost ideal.

  2. During Obama’s tenure crude oil production has increased 20% and methane production 25%. Did that lead to low oil prices? No. Why? Oil is sold on a world market. Unless US production were to reach impossible levels, increases have little or no effect on price. If we get more US production we don’t tell the oil companies they must sell it to us at some lower price … we could but we don’t.

    I don’t agree that nuclear cannot be used for transport. I know others disagree but I believe electric vehicles will be practical in a short time … the Volt is almost there now. There are too many good things happening in battery research now, for that not to happen.

  3. Transportable nuclear machines are just around the corner. However, the DOD seems to have priority on that option at the moment. It would not be the first time technology trickled down to the commercial market place once the cost of development is footed by the tax payers. Case in point is the possible conversion of the Cyclone Power Steam engine from combustion of carbon based fuel to nuclear steam from micro LFTR .
    This in tern would open the doors to increased plastics production made from oil to build durable lite weight cars and trucks requiring less powerful engines.
    It is no time to lament how the public has been exploited but time for change. Where the Hell is Change? It will be 20-30 years some say. People like Mr. Drevna will make certain oil does not loose market share to a nuclear Cyclone Steam Engine and keep it fueled with oil.

  4. I don’t think transportability is such an issue. The carrier molecule for fossil fuel energy is after all the heart of the problem. The distribution network for electricity exists and is reasonably safe. We need focus on creating better electricity storage systems.

    I agree more now Allison Macfarlane is probably not the right person for the job. As Obama desperately needs large projects with bipartisan support economically and to he needs to move forward meaningfully and reasonably on climate, his selection of Macfarlane was a stroke of ignorance and extremely poor planing.

    Its a shame that in a time that we need those that can deal with complex situations without fear and bias, really those with intelligence in scope rivaling the founders, updated to levels of current knowledge, we are stuck between the base ignorance, nostalgic anachronism and fear of groups like the populist greens on the left and the tea party on the right.

  5. While it’s true that there are additional untapped oil reserves in the United States, it’s also true that the price of a barrel doesn’t directly relate to the actual cost of extraction. Mr. Drevna is being totally disingenuous. Production is meeting demand at just the right price point favorable to their bottom line. And that’s why gas is $4.25 a gallon in my neighborhood even with several oil refineries right next door.

    I remember saying to friends a few years back when gas was getting around $2-3 a gallon that gas was still cheaper than bottled water. I have the feeling that meme found itself as a discussion point in a Chevron board room and they decided something ought to be done about that.

  6. Obviously if someone can make a battery for a car that can go 250 miles on a charge, takes less than 10 min to charge, and is highly recyclable then it’s a non-issue. I’m skeptical about those possibilities.

    What about hydrogen fuel cells by electrolysis with nuclear energy? Highly transportable and energy dense. Expensive now, but at least it exists…

    Being new here, I’m sorry if this is something that’s been discussed at length already.

    1. I would say those will almost certainly be here in a decade. Altair Nano is already there, albeit at high cost. Those cells are already of a similar power density needed to work in the Tesla Model S 300 mile battery pack, they can be charged in 6 minutes, and are recyclable.

  7. China has started with cheap nuclear power plants and made an offer to UK to stand in for absconding Germans. Is is also learning construction of floating nuclear power plants from Russians.
    In 5-10 years, you will have offer of leasing floating nuclear power plants from China. If the US or Europe are still in depression and do not need them, they can lease them nearer home to Singapore, Indonesia or Pakistan. I wonder if Japan would take them?
    I have earlier made the same suggestion to Indian DAE, who are offering PHWR @$1700/kW but I do not expect them to take it up before China does.

  8. The way our political leaders frame discussions of energy is usually ridiculous in the extreme, but you wouldn’t expect those with the freedom of expression to use it provide accurate information, would you? Reduction of fossil fuel consumption is without question a positive endeavor, as are improving in the efficiency of our automobile fleet (http://www.vaclavsmil.com/wp-content/uploads/docs/smil-article-2011-AAAG.pdf) and advancing understanding and promoting use of nuclear energy (of which you do an excellent job of, along with others at Neutron Economy, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Al Fin, etc). I always especially enjoy your exchanges with Cal Abel, very heady shit 😉 That said, I have two questions that I’d appreciate if each of you answered if you see this comment:

    1. Smil has written: “No rational long-range energy plan of any major modern economy should exclude the nuclear option. The debate shouldn’t be about whether to proceed
    but about how to proceed.”

    Rod, you’ve written: “My research has lead me to believe that a nuclear gas turbine is the right way to go.”

    If you could chose two directions (in both reactor design and waste disposal) in which to proceed, what would they be?

    2. Would you recommend entrance into the Navy as a way to gain the requisite technical knowledge to work in the nuclear industry? I’ve got a bit of a rebellious nature which Robert Graves wrote is “not easily overcome,” but also feel I could use the discipline at this point. I am 21, but have spent the last several years reading voraciously. This is beginning to cause me serious trouble, and it is time to take action. What can you tell me about your time in the military?

    1. @Dick

      Though I still believe that nuclear gas turbines provide a better path to lowing the construction and operating cost of nuclear power plants compared to steam turbines, the US regulatory framework that is currently in place has put up a barrier that requires more resources to overcome than I have at my disposal. I am therefore working on a project team that is developing a substantially improved version of a light water reactor with a steam turbine secondary plant.

      I highly recommend the Navy as a path towards learning as much as possible about the entire system required to operate a nuclear energy production facility. However, the Navy is not a place that is friendly to rebels that cannot contain their rebellious nature; it eats open non conformists for lunch. However, a sage friend of my parents gave me some excellent advice before I started my 33 year long naval career – “You can be anyone you want to be inside of a uniform.” The discipline of learning to fit in while not changing your being is extremely valuable. Most of the very best leaders to have come out of the military were non conformist rebels who figured out how to fit in while still thinking independent thoughts and coming up with creative solutions that would never be discovered or advocated by “yes men”.

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