[ExI] How slow is capitalism?

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Wed Apr 27 15:14:27 UTC 2011

On Wed, Apr 27, 2011 at 2:17 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:
> On Wed, Apr 27, 2011 at 12:38:02AM -0700, Keith Henson wrote:
>> Ground based solar and wind will not supplant oil.  SBSP, StratoSolar
> What do you do if after you produce 100% of peak demand from solar?
> Why, you produce 200%. And then 300%. So what do you do with
> that surplus? Use it, or lose it.

Turn it into liquid fuels.  In the such a future the net loading will
be constant with any current excess being diverted into hydrogen

>> or something out of left field might.
> I find it curious that you continuously dismiss terrestrial solar
> which favoring pie-in-the-sky solar, which is exactly like ground
> solar, but more centralized, more difficult, more expensive, and
> has a worse EROEI.

Certainly current ways of getting huge masses of power sat parts to
GEO don't have a decent return on investment or EROEI.  (ROI is
related to EROEI.)  But if there is a way to get parts to GEO for
$100/kg that would mean an investment of $500 per kg for the
transport.  There is no reason to think materials for the heavy parts
(reflectors, radiators) would be much more expensive than a few
dollars a kg.

If the cost per GW is $1.6 B then the power could be sold at 2 cents
per kWh and pay back the capital investment in ten years.  (Nuclear is
in the $5-8 range.)

If ground solar gets down to 2 cents per kWh (averaged over the whole
year and counting cost of storage) then neither power sats nor
StratoSolar will be built because of the glut of cheap power.  If the
energy return on energy invested isn't better than other big sources,
it won't happen.

> I absolutely can see how we can start producing SPS in 50 years,
> when we start starving the ecosystem of sunlight, but that time is
> not now.

50 years is post nanotech, most likely post human.  By then, if you
are still in a biological form, you may have a folding leaf in a
implanted backpack.  No need to eat, just lie in the sun for food.

>> Once you get primary energy under control, consider what it will cost
>> for synthetic oil plants (or other ways to make energy portable).  The
> I think the classical city-scale Fischer-Tropsch won't happen.
> We don't have the money, the time, the resource base.

The capital investment, based on what the Sasol plant in Qatar cost,
is $100 per bbl.  Given that oil is selling for that now, money should
not be a problem.  Energy is another matter.  The energy cost in a bbl
of oil is $10 per penny per kWh.  So two cent power would make
synthetic oil for $30 a bbl.  Ten cent power would make oil for $210
per bbl.

> What I hope will happen is scalable, modular synfuel from hydrogen
> to methane, methanol, and other synfuels, under relatively mild
> conditions.

Perhaps.  I don't care about the details, whatever works is fine by
me.  But since the energy dominates, I doubt it will make much of a

> And we should see electrification substituting a lot what today
> takes dead dinos.

No doubt, but it's harder than it seems.  Almost everything is.

>> US uses about 20 M bbls per day.  A billion dollar plant makes about
>> 40,000 bbls per day.  We will need 500 of them at a billion each.
>> They will draw around 2 TW at at least $1200 B per TW.
> Don't forget coal. Getting rid of coal, and oil, and after that,
> gas.

Coal would be the first to be replaced in making electricity, but the
coal might be converted to oil for a while.  It takes considerably
less energy in the early days before there is a total glut of energy.

> But we're so good at planning. Anyone still remember that IPv4
> ran out start of this year, and the first regional registry hit
> exhaustion a short while ago? And deploying IPv6 is *easy* in
> comparision to infrastructure work around fossil.

Which gives you the idea that people are not *that* desperate yet.


>> If it is done (and I doubt it) this will result in real returns on
>> real investments.
> --
> Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
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