[ExI] Coal Gasification and CO2 (was Re: Whatever happened to peak oil by 2020?)

Kelly Anderson kellycoinguy at gmail.com
Mon May 13 23:23:20 UTC 2013

On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 12:07 PM, spike <spike at rainier66.com> wrote:

> *From:* extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org [mailto:
> extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] *On Behalf Of *Kelly Anderson
> *…*****
> ** **
> >…Ok, I think I'm following along... but if all you need is energy and
> raw materials, why start with Coal?****
> ** **
> You don’t have to use coal, but that is likely the cheapest carbon source
> and the one most likely to be economically viable with a wind and GB solar
> driven carbon to liquids process.

Ok, reading...

> ****
> >… Why not start with CO2 sucked from the atmosphere (should make the
> greens happy)…
> ** **
> Wrong-o.  Nothing will make the greens happy.

True that. The extinction of mankind would at least get rid of the last
unhappy green. ;-P

> But I digress.  The reason you wouldn’t take CO2 out of the air is that it
> takes too much energy.

So it is just an energy issue, as I suspected, not a chemistry issue.

> There is a possibility of using natural gas from fracking operations as a
> carbon source.  This one is possibly more viable than coal.  Another
> possibility is biomass, but this takes more energy than coal conversions.
> Biomass does pull down CO2 and brings in the hydrogen as well, so in that
> sense it might help get some political and investor support.  A combination
> biomass and coal conversion plant is a possibility.

Yes, plants are good at pulling carbon out of the air already...

> ****
> Regarding greens, unfortunately politics gets all mixed up in there, and
> politics will destroy anything it touches.

And since government seems to be on an exponential growth curve, we're
probably all screwed anyway.

> >… Yes, you have more latent energy in the coal, but if the energy is
> really free, then why not just create it from the atmosphere and bag the
> whole disagreeable matter of mining coal in the first place? You might even
> be able to produce liquid Oxygen as a nice side benefit…-Kelly
> **
> ** **
> ** **
> The energy isn’t free except in the thought experiment.

Sure. That makes total sense.

> Here’s how we unify the notions of the EROI and energy cliff.  We can do
> the math and realize the concept of EROI is telling us something important,
> and the energy cliff is real.  But my notion is that we can be OK in it if
> we see it coming and invest in energy infrastructure now while we have
> abundant cheap energy.  If we do that enough, then when the red queen
> effect becomes perfectly obvious to the casual observer, we will already
> have enough wind and solar powered coal to liquids infrastructure to power
> more wind and solar powered coal to liquids infrastructure.  Then we should
> be OK.

I understand EROI in principle. If I use N barrels of oil to build M solar
panels, and the energy output of M solar panels over their 20 year life
span is not greater than that which would have been extracted directly from
N barrels of oil, then you should not do that except in the case where the
solar panels are so far off the grid that getting oil to the location would
add additional energy and money expenses.

Whether we're anywhere near close to that... I haven't a good idea because
ALL of the data is tainted by someone or other.

> My question: are we doing the preliminary installation fast enough?  My
> intuition and BOTECs tell me we are not.  What worries me is that free
> markets may not be sufficient to anticipate and proact.  We already know
> that governments cannot and will not.

Hasn't the government of Germany done a lot of this?  I have been lead to
believe that one major problem with the economy of Spain is that they did
too much of this sort of thing.

Ok, so let me outline the problem as I see it. If I have the choice of an
ROI of 5 years for a new oil well, vs. 15 years for a solar installation,
then the simple economic decision is to drill baby drill. But if then I
don't have enough power to actually build solar panels after that, we're
all screwed. Makes sense, but it discounts human ingenuity a WHOLE lot,
doesn't it? Yes, we could all be living on Easter Island, and perhaps we
are... but why isn't it more obvious if that is the case?

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