Oil vs Lithium

 
pwaveswave
 
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pwaveswave
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10 September 2017 18:36
 

Sam, loved the discussion but I am always dissappointed when in climate change debate there is never any mention of how it is volumetrically impossible to replace easily transportable oil and gas with alternative energy sources.  This is a sad truth that should always be discussed when the climate change topic comes up.

 
Probus
 
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Probus
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11 September 2017 06:08
 
pwaveswave - 10 September 2017 06:36 PM

Sam, loved the discussion but I am always dissappointed when in climate change debate there is never any mention of how it is volumetrically impossible to replace easily transportable oil and gas with alternative energy sources.  This is a sad truth that should always be discussed when the climate change topic comes up.

I guess, you are talking about energy storage. There are other ways to store energy than in lithium batteries. For example pumped-storage hydroelectricity has been used for a hundred years to store energy. There are many others, and there is constant ongoing research. It’s true, that we don’t yet have the right technology for every single application. The fact that our lithium reserves will run out in the long term, is obviously a problem that needs to be addressed. This article, estimates that at worst we still have enough lithium for 50 years to come. Of course we need lithium for other things as well, so draining our resources clearly is not an option in first place. But, we will run out of fossil fuels as well one day. 

Yes, you are right that we most likely can’t simply replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources without drastically changing our societies. It’s highly unlikely that we will ever discover an alternative energy source that is as portable and easy to store as fossil fuels. But, that is a red herring. Moving towards renewable energy has just as much to do with energy efficiency and restructuring of the grid and our societies as a whole… as finding more efficient and practical ways to store energy. A sustainable society, has by necessity have to be a urban society where people mainly use collective means of travel, etc… At least in the short term, we can’t expect to be able to just convert to renewable energy sources while not drastically changing our patterns of energy consumption.

 
Skipshot
 
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Skipshot
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11 September 2017 09:29
 

Nor are energy sources an either/or discussion. Electric cars are good for city driving.  Solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric work well, too, in the right application.

 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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11 September 2017 15:00
 

After listening to the podcast (#95) with Sam and Joseph Romm, I felt optimistic.  But then I wondered, how reliable were the projections of Sam’s guest?  There is a long thread already on the topic.

I decided to ask my good friend, who works at the EPA, a question about electric cars.  Romm was very bullish on them.  He claimed that they could be charged in the evenings, when electricity use was down.  Sort of implying that they would be using excess electricity, as overall demand is lower at night. 

My friend confirmed my niggling doubt about this excess.  Seems that power companies trade around power a lot, so when power generated at one source is not needed on the grid, it can be put to use in other ways.  For example, sometimes hydro-electricity generated at dams in the evening is used to pump water back uphill to a reservoir so that it can generate power coming back down during the next day.  That sort of thing.  The upshot is that electricity for a significant number of electric cars would necessitate increased electric power generation—no getting around that.  (Unless homeowners are willing to forgo some of their appliances to charge their cars instead?  Hmm, not too likely.)

Could electric car owners power their cars using solar panels on their own rooftops, along with battery storage?  When I researched this briefly, I found that recharging would require quite a lot of solar panels, at significant cost.  Not a likely scenario for a middle-class family.  A long-term investment, for sure.