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Opening Arguments

Hard times

Good lord. Nothing like giving a guy a Nobel prize to make him start taking himself too seriously:

The United States should be making all of its electricity with renewable and carbon-free energy in 10 years, former Vice President Al Gore said Thursday.

The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk," Gore said.

In a speech at Washington's Constitution Hall, Gore touched on an array of the nation's current woes, saying the economic, environmental and national security crises are all related.

"I don't remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously," Gore said.

To begin to fix all the problems, Gore said, "the answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels."

The country as we know it is at risk? More things going wrong simultaneously than at any time in our history? More than during the Civil War or the Great Depression? Barack Obama promises a role for Gore in his administration, which would be one of the strongest reasons to vote against him, except that John McCain is just a sentence or two behind them on the same page.

UPDATE: Steven Den Beste on the "alternate energy


Fri, 07/18/2008 - 10:25am

Gore can't catch a break. If he'd said

tim zank
Fri, 07/18/2008 - 12:32pm

Gore can't catch a break because he lacks even the slightest hint of common sense. WTF does Al propose we use to replace carbon based fuels the country over in 10 years? A magic frickin' wand?? Take away all the platitudes and "pie in the sky" crap and it proves Al is either a snake oil salesman or he is extremely incompetent. One small example...how ya gonna retrofit the hundreds of millions of existing cars, trucks, boats, semis, planes etc.???? Just think of the scope of THAT project for moment.


Harl Delos
Fri, 07/18/2008 - 2:16pm

Tim, you read that story too quickly.

The United States should be making all of its electricity with renewable and carbon-free energy in 10 years, former Vice President Al Gore said Thursday.

We wouldn't need to retrofit cars, etc., to meet that goal, since we're not making electricity with cars.

The problem is, we couldn't replace our existing electrical generation facilities in a decade if we used the existing power sources. We need to substantially increase our electrical generation in the next few years - few plants have been built since 1970 - and there's a question of whether we can do even that in time.

"Drill here, drill now" doesn't have anything to do with electricity. Our current crisis isn't so much an energy crisis as it is a transportation crisis.

As of 2002, we generated 40.3 exajoules of electricity in this country - 23.8 from coal, 6 from natural gas, 2.7 from hydroelectric, 8.6 from nuke, 0.04 from biomass/other, and we imported 0.08 exajoules.

Of petroleum, we got 15.7 exajoules, from domestic sources, and imported 25.6. Of that amount, 2.4 exajoules went to residences and 4.2 to industry as fuel oil, 5.5 went to nonfuel uses, and 27.0 went to transportation - gas, diesel, and oil.

We need to streamline the approval process for nuclear plants. If we get a standard "reference design" OKed, then approving changes needed for each individual site should let us build a lot of nukes quickly, at considerable savings. Nukes are great for baseline energy; they can't be ramped up and down quickly, which means we'll still be needing natural gas and coal for peak demands, but plug-in electric cars will mostly be charging overnight, which means we'll be evening out the load a lot more.

Of the 27 exajoules used for transportation, 80% of the energy is wasted, because internal-combustion engines are wasteful. If you build a hybrid, in which the car moves on electricity, but you use a gas engine that runs at a constant velocity, you can extract about 30% of the energy.

Just for reference purposes, about 70% of generated electricity is wasted. It's incredibly inefficient to distribute power over electric lines, which is why we run trains to haul coal from the mines to power plants near the user, rather than build power plants near the mines and ship the power over electric lines.

There aren't any easy fixes to the problem, and there's obviously a limit to how much you can do by improving efficiencies, but at this point, reducing inefficiencies seems like a relatively cheap and quick fix, compared to drilling.

tim zank
Sat, 07/19/2008 - 8:07pm

Perhaps I read too quickly, but my main point is still valid. He's a freakin' moron.

End of story.