Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Euros Are Getting Organized

The Europeans have some of the highest gasoline taxes in the developed world. Certainly higher than in America. And yet....

In common with the rest of the world, Europe is now having to face up to the fact that a cheap and plentiful supply of oil and other fossil fuels has led to a long term under investment in energy technologies. Public funding for energy R&D in the EU member states declined between 1991 and 2005 in real terms, when it stood at around €2.2 billion a year. Of this, almost three-quarters is concentrated in only three countries. Private sector investment in energy R&D shows a similar pattern.
We don't seem to have those kinds of problems in the USA. I wonder why?
As a result the process of energy technology innovation is riddled with structural weaknesses, such as long lead times to market, incompatible infrastructures and limited market incentives. In the era of cheap oil, the take up of new energy technologies was hampered because they were inevitably more expensive.

Now, as oil nudges $100 per barrel and the IPCC’s warnings on global warming become yet more dire, the European Commission wants to accelerate low carbon energy development and deployment. The strategy highlights 14 technologies it plans to promote, ranging from wind and solar power, to decarbonised fossil fuel and nuclear fission and fusion.
Dire warnings and $100 a bbl oil and the Euros can't find opportunities? Something must be strangling their economies. What could it be?
The problem is how to jump start energy research from its current low base. Although member states share some priorities, pan European cooperation is low, and until now there has been no setting of priorities at a European level. Yet the capital intensive nature of energy technologies – witness the ITER nuclear fusion project – makes it essential to find synergies and build economies of scale.
Oh yeah. ITER. The great Euro fusion boondoggle that will get us the practical knowledge to build a working fusion power plant in no less than 30 years.

America is a little different. We have lots of fusion projects going on and we are a member of the ITER club too. Let us start with a venture capital start up Tri Alpha Energy.

That is not all, we have Robert Bussard's Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion which is currently being funded by the US Navy.

The above reactor can burn Deuterium which is very abundant and produces lots of neutrons or it can burn a mixture of Hydrogen and abundant Boron 11 which does not.

The implication of it is that we will know in 6 to 9 months if the small reactors of that design are feasible.

If they are we could have fusion plants generating electricity in 10 years or less depending on how much we want to spend to compress the time frame (my best guess is that a crash program could build an operating power plant in 3 to 5 years - if the experiments now underway green light that course of action). A much better investment than the CO2 sequestration non-sense promoted by the EU.

BTW Bussard is not the only thing going on in IEC. There are a few government programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory, MIT, the University of Wisconsin and at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana among others.

The Japanese and Australians also have programs.

So let me ask. How is it the Australians can afford a program which may produce actual energy soon or at the very least is going to produce some knowledge on the cheap and yet the Euros can't afford it? It is a wonderment. It is kind of like they have killed off or driven out a major portion of their risk takers.

Welcome to America. Where all kinds of ideas get tried. Even long shots. Like ITER.

5 comments:

Nomism said...

It's interesting that a guy who spent the majority of his career as a little engineer building electrical control systems for aircraft is suddenly so knowledgeable about physics research. Especially since you've never done a lick of research in your life. You wouldn't know your head from your ass in a research lab.

linearthinker said...

Somebody forgot to put out nomism's little saucer of milk this morning?

Jeremy said...

"But the objective is so important that any enthusiastic person that joins this race is to be applauded not reprimanded." - Emilio Panarella


Having said that, I have become fearful that net power production may always be out of reach. Proton electron interactions seemingly require a quantum event to keep them apart enough for a meaningful reaction, requiring a few gigagaus of magnetic feild. This is not possible to generate. It may be that the solution is a tailored virus program, to reduce human poulation to a few hundred million.

M. Simon said...

Jermey,

An admirable stance. Now let us see if you have the courage of your convictions by eliminating your miserable existence from the earth.

Or are you the kind of guy that wants his own vaccine while the rest of humanity dies horrible deaths?

Proton electron interactions seemingly require a quantum event to keep them apart enough for a meaningful reaction, requiring a few gigagaus of magnetic feild.

All that is required to strip electrons from protons is a velocity for the protons of about 100 eV. Plus a little background gas.

Something tells me you haven't studied the Bussard Reactor in depth. Nor plasma physics for that matter.

LarryD said...

Nuclear industry in decline?
The report, commissioned by The Greens, a European parliamentary group, points out that many ageing reactors are due to close before 2030, and that 338 new ones would have to be built just to replace them.
"The world has five fewer nuclear reactors operating today than it did in 2002"


The Paris-based nuclear consultants who compiled the report argue that the industry is growing too slowly to meet this target, and may even be shrinking. The world has five fewer reactors operating today than it did in 2002, they say. Only 91 reactors are now being planned, and a further 32 are under construction, mostly in Asia and eastern Europe. Construction work on 11 of those has been under way for 20 years or more.