Monday, February 20, 2006

Sustainable Fossil Fuels

Sustainable Fossil Fuels: The Unusual Suspect in the Quest for Clean and Enduring EnergyIn this book, Mark Jaccard doubts our prospects for moving away quickly from carbon fuels to renewable energy sources, and expects an energy system largely dominated by fossil fuels for the 21st century. This however does not need to be incompatible with a sustainable energy system, which the book defines in practical terms according to 2 criteria:
  1. The prospect for enduring indefinitely an adequate level of energy services
  2. Extraction, transformation, transport and consumption of energy must be benign to people and eco-systems.
One of the central themes is a strong move to clean secondary energy - e.g. electricity and hydrogen, with no harmful emissions at the point of use. On the primary energy side, we see a wider use of new emission-free transformation technologies converting fossil fuel into these carriers, or cleaner burning fuels.

In such a scenario, the prospects of energy efficiency would be reduced. Additional transformation steps would reduce the overall efficiency of the energy system. At the same time, world population & economic development will still result in a 3 times larger demand for energy services than today.

As for the nuclear option, as it is disliked by many, a more widespread use of nuclear power is unlikely unless the technology can produce a significant cost advantage.

Sustainable Fossil Fuels would add 25% to the cost of electricity, and the use of hydrogen in cars would increase personal transport by the same. Overall, household spending on energy would increase from 6% to 8% of income.

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