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Thread: Why is it Taking So Long For a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels to Emerge?

  1. #1
    The User DemonDragonJ's Avatar
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    Default Why is it Taking So Long For a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels to Emerge?

    Currently, gasoline is very expensive, and I am certain that that announcement shall not surprise anyone here. The lowest price that I have seen recently is $3.51 per gallon, and I cannot recall the last time that it was below $3.00 per gallon, which is not good, at all, in my mind.

    Gasoline and other fossil fuels are gradually being depleted, so the process of obtaining them is becoming more expensive, which translates to higher prices at fueling stations, which, in turn, translates to higher prices for any items that are transported in vehicles that use that fuel (i.e., almost any item that is purchased at any online or physical store).

    This situation highlights the absolute necessity for people to find a viable alternative to fossil fuels, a source that is easily renewable and less expensive. I believe that electric cars are the best solution, since they do not burn fuel and have very few moving parts, which means that they have fewer point of failure, but electric cars currently are still very expensive, so I believe it shall be some time before they become as prevalent as gasoline-powered cars currently are. Therefore, I believe that, until electric cars are inexpensive and practical, it would be best to develop a new fuel that can be used in the current automobiles.

    Synthetic fuels, fuels manufacuted in laboratories or factories from organic waste, are currently an option, since they can be manufactured to be clean and efficient and doing so is less expensive that mining fuel from the earth, but they clearly are not very prevalent at the current time, since fuel is still very expensive at stations. I am wondering why this is; with gasoline becoming more difficult to obtain, and, thus, more expensive, why is progress in introducing an easily-renewable and less-expensive fuel source so slow? What is taking so long for a viable alternative to fossil fuels to emerge?

    I have heard some people say that oil companies are hindering the development of alternative sources so that they do not lose money, but, those companies cannot be that powerful, can they be? Surely, there must be other factors at play in this situation? Also, if the major oil companies fear a loss of profit, they can ensure their continued survival by making an agreement with the people who are developing the new fuel sources: the companies can fund the development and adoption of synthetic fuels, and, in return, they can collect a profit from the sale of those fuels. That seems to be an ideal situation, to me, for it satisfies all people involved: the major companies, the scientists developing the fuel, and the consumers of that fuel.

    What does everyone else say about this subject? Do you know why it is taking so long for viable alternatives to fossil fuels to emerge, and how much longer shall to take before renewable and inexpensive fuel is available to the general public? I eagerly await your responses.
    "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." -Thomas Jefferson.

    "Those who would trade their freedoms for security will have neither." -Benjamin Franklin

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Why is it Taking So Long For a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels to Emerge?

    While I don't know the background details of the "dealings" that may or may not be happening. I certainly would not be surprised if big oil companies and government were hindering the development and move to production of better alternatives. At least in the US.

    While they do have the all electric or even hybrid electric, IMO they haven't been able to match what we expect and will compare to our gasoline powered cars. Especially, like you said, for the price.

    I have seen natural gas (CNG) power cars around (commercial vehicles), but the fuel stations for them aren't readily available like electricity and standard fuel stations. cool site showing alternative fuel stations - http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/nat...locations.html

    In the US, most of us refuse to give up our big comfy suvs or cars (i own one of these). The catch is IMO, that honda insight, while eco friendly is not going to get my family of 4+dog and camping supplies from point A to point B.

    If I could afford a third vehicle, the wife and I would be driving around a budget friendly vehicle with the suv for family trips. For the price and our budget, we still wouldn't be looking for alternative fuel vehicles. The closest we get to that is our suv is able to run e85. Which e85 as a semi-alternative fuel takes more energy to create than it produces. I don't mind the 30+ cents a gallon savings though on a 30 gallon tank .

    I do hope that the development and production can meet our demands sooner than later. I would trade in my suv for an all electric version if; 1. I could afford it, 2. It can haul everything I need and 3. It can make the distances I need it to.

    Also, if you were a big money hungry oil company, would you give this up (I know it's dated now)?

    Image provided by http://thebrooksreport.org/energy/big-oil/

    Here is one comparing 2013 to 2012 in quarters...
    http://techcrunch.com/2013/04/18/goo...2013-earnings/


    Also, gas around here is about 3.20 gal for reg, 3.40 mid and 3.70 prem.

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    Undead Pirate d_stilgar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it Taking So Long For a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels to Emerge?

    I think the biggest issue has been price. Fossil fuels have been, even up to today, the cheapest source of energy. As a result, it hasn't made financial sense for people to really pursue other energy sources, and although there has been some research into alternative energy, most smart people have looked at the realistic probably outcome of that research and decided it wouldn't likely be profitable. There have been some groups of people willing to do it anyway, but it's been a relatively small number of people and small amount of money.

    But that is quickly changing. Peak oil has come and gone (2005) and it will quickly get much harder to get, and therefore much more expensive.

    In architecture school we talk a lot about this issue, since buildings account for 40% of CO2 emissions and 65% of electricity use. Cars are really a much smaller issue. Their lifespan is smaller. They have gotten much more efficient much faster than buildings, and it's a market that can change and adapt quickly. They produce new models every year, with major changes every five to ten, so it is possible to re-tool a whole line for a different type of vehicle quickly.

    The real crisis isn't an oil crisis, but an energy crisis. It really doesn't matter where the energy will comes from, we just need it. People look at is as a big oil scare, but we'll find other sources of energy, even if oil becomes super hard to find. I imagine in fifty years they'll be using electric powered tools to extract fossil fuels for hobbyists and enthusiasts who still want a gas car, but it will be much more similar to the way people still own and ride horses, but that it's mostly just for fun.

    Spain for instance actually has solar on so many buildings that municipal power companies are now completely overbuilt and unprofitable. They still need to run during the day, but that decision is more about maintenance and upkeep, and power demands are much lower at night (everywhere in the world) since businesses are closed, so the power plants are still oversized at night. Ultimately this is a good thing since we will likely increase our demand for electricity to meet their production soon enough anyway.

    So, solar really is a viable option today. PV cells have gotten very efficient and the payback times are reasonable enough in most places (depending on number of cloudy days) that it really isn't an issue. If you've been thinking about solar before but were turned off because it would take 30+ years to pay off the investment, try looking today. Most people can pay it back in 15 years or less. The cost has come down that much.

    Another very good option has been wind power. There's lots of controversy over them, mostly people think they are ugly (okay fine) and that they kill birds (they don't). I visited a company this summer that does a lot of PV and wind power. Wind is much harder to do at home or on any building really, but works at a scale, especially off shore.

    The bigger issues facing us now are in power storage. We really don't have a lot of cost effective ways to store energy produced during the day to use at night. There are a lot of experiments going on now to test different schemes, some of which I visited this summer while in the UK, but we'll have to see which wins.

    Battery technology is also finally getting the research money it deserves. This comes from people wanting longer battery life in their mobile devices as well as people wanting much better performance from electric vehicles. When electric vehicles can drive 10-12 hours without needing a charge, at a cost that isn't more than 50% more expensive than current gasoline cars, then we'll see mass adoption. I'm willing to pay $45,000 instead of $30,000 for an electric car if I know I can road trip from one charging station to another, but if I'm going to be worried about commuting, doing some errands, and being able to get home, I'm not interested, and neither are most Americans.

    Other options really aren't viable at this point, nor will they ever be. Biofuels take more energy to produce than they give back, and take agricultural land that we are quickly running out of. Hydrogen is not viable in cars really, not in the way most think of it. It is extremely unlikely that you will ever go fill your car with hydrogen and then keep driving on. Hydrogen might be a viable solution for power storage on a home scale, manufacturing it during the day and then converting back to electricity at night, but in cars we'll almost certainly never burn it and it's unlikely that we'll use fuel cells. It's just too expensive at this point and I doubt it will get cheap enough. Platinum is one of the most expensive metals there is and fuel cell performance has most to do with how platinum is used. You could fix every other issue and that one would still stand in its way.

    So, I don't think we're doomed, especially not from rising oil costs. Other means of energy production will come up to meet demand, and hopefully some things that were made worse due to cheap oil can be corrected for, like getting a nice rail system back. That is one thing that oil and car companies definitely did purposefully crush.

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    Anodized. Again. Konrad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it Taking So Long For a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels to Emerge?

    A simpler explanation is that, even with outrageous prices at the pump, alternative fuels cannot deliver the same performance (that is, high performance) of gasoline.

    The majority of the market always demands more speed, more acceleration, faster, more powerful - while fuel economy and the promise of long-term reliability are significant, the sad truth is that everybody is ultimately more impressed by raw speed. Nevermind that most of us hardly ever make much use of our maximum vehicle performance envelope, not everyone even knows how, the commercials make speedy sports cars and guzzling SUVs the toys that most people really want. I think it's ridiculous, but societies of human animals have never been about efficient (or even rational) logic.

    It seems rather obvious why the big automakers are not particularly compelled to invest in costly research and push the envelope of alternative fuels. They probably invest heavily in big oil, they certainly spawned entire automotive-related industries which are hugely oil-dependent. The big oil companies have access to enough reserves that they're not especially concerned yet either. It's not even necessary to believe in huge military-industrial-corporate conspiracies, invisible patent controls, and other such stuff - it's really only about money and right now there's enough gas available and enough people paying at the pump to keep the money machine rolling. Things probably won't change until this limitless cashflow dries up along with reserves reaching unsustainably expensive levels in the next few decades.
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    The User DemonDragonJ's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it Taking So Long For a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels to Emerge?

    I find all of these explanations to be very interesting but the major issue remains: customers are paying too much money to fuel their vehicles, currently, so my question is this: will there be some major breakthrough that decreases the price of gasoline and/or helps the customers save money on fuel at any point in the near future? I do not like paying $3.00 or more per gallon to fill my car, and I do not wish to do that for the rest of my life.
    "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." -Thomas Jefferson.

    "Those who would trade their freedoms for security will have neither." -Benjamin Franklin

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    Undead Pirate d_stilgar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it Taking So Long For a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels to Emerge?

    Nope. Gasoline will remain extremely expensive until a majority of people have switched to electric cars. Even then, my guess is that gas will be $10+ within the next 30 years.

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    Default Re: Why is it Taking So Long For a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels to Emerge?

    only when battery technology gets to the point that you can refuel in the same amount of time as filling up with gas, electric will not be a viable source for cars.

    currently we don't have the infrastructure to support charging more than a couple of electric cars per neighborhood without blacking out the neighborhood. so that needs to be fixed too.

    then there's the range... so far only teslas get a large enough range to make them viable.

    any performance differences between electric and gas cars has already been over come. look at the tesla roadster, the mercedes sl electric...etc.

    then take into consideration where your electric comes from. unless you are lucky enough to have nuclear power or close enough to has water power, your electricity comes from coal, oil or gas power plants. so all you are doing with electric cars is changing the source of the fossil fuels.

    next thing is how polluting it is to mine the metals for the batteries and the manufacturing. there's a reason all the batteries are made in asia. and most are made in china. it's too expensive to get around the epa regulations to do it here.

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    Undead Pirate d_stilgar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it Taking So Long For a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels to Emerge?

    I live in an area where my electricity comes from 70% renewables. I can even check it online.

    I disagree with not having the electrical capacity to charge cars at night. Most of the electrical load on the grid is during the day when office buildings and stores are open and operating. The load is severely reduced at night, which is why many utilities offer lower electrical costs at night as an incentive to anyone who can divert any of their use to that time.

    So, if most cars drive all day and charge at night, like most people are used to doing with their cell phone, then they'll mostly all be off peak . . . which will then kill the off peak rate, but in any case the capacity is there.

    I'm also fortunate to live in an area where my electricity is $0.11 per kWh, so going electric would actually be cheaper than gas. If your electricity costs more than $0.35 per kWh, then you're better off with a fuel efficient gas car.

    I completely agree with range. I'm not buying until I can have a normal around-town day without having to worry about my batteries. I'm willing to go by some version of public transit, or even own a gas-car-just-for-road-trips for any extended trip.

    The environmental impact of electric cars is overstated. They are made the same way and build of the same stuff as a conventional vehicle. The mining of lithium has been really bad in China, but that's more of a bad decision on China's part. The mining definitely can be done in a way to minimize the harm to ecological systems, just as long as we aren't lazy about it.

    Coal is as bad as lithium because both use strip mining techniques. Lithium only becomes worse when they just pour acid into the earth instead of removing the material and processing it through acid in a controlled environment.

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    Default Re: Why is it Taking So Long For a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels to Emerge?

    Thanks for sharing information,your information increase my knowledge.Your information very helpful for me.

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    100% Recycled Pixels. Twigsoffury's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it Taking So Long For a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels to Emerge?

    Y'all are missing one thing.

    Gasoline isn't expensive at all, Gasoline is just expensive HERE

    Today its 67 cents in saudi arabia for a gallon, 81 cents in Kuwait, 1.01$ in Nigeria, 1.14$ in Egypt, a quick trip across the Mediterranean and its 7.68$ today in italy, and almost 10.00$ in spain lol

    In china, A gallon of 87 E15 will run you 1.89$

    In California that same gallon would run you near 5.00$

    I'd guess as far as why we're not in laptop battery powered future mobiles... necessity is the mother of all invention, and we don't really "need" those automobiles to accomplish the task at this point.

    In 30 years when OPEC sees the light at the end of the tunnel from the auto industry? yeah, but i'm not concerened about what we'll power our cars on.

    I'm concerned what we're going to do about everything else we make with petroleum products.

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