Migrating to New Energy Paradigms (6)
Creating NEW wealth
The preceding articles in this series were intended to enable readers to gain a clearer understanding of the real (as opposed to perceived) problems being faced by humanity. For ease of reference they are summarised in Appendix 1 hereto. We can now turn our attention to developing a plan to solve these problems in the shortest possible time and at the lowest possible cost.
Summary and Conclusions
This concluding article articulates a Vision which will allow for most of the defined problems to be addressed. As a side effect, the USA can once again aspire to become an export oriented country operating at a surplus. Debt levels can begin to shrink.
The Road Map below, if followed, will result in the creation of a cumulative $169 Billion new wealth over 10 years or so. More importantly, it will empower a broader base of humanity to become wealth generators. Even more importantly, after some modest pump priming, it will be largely self financing.
Shifting smokestack industries from the USA and Europe to China did not create new wealth for society in general. Empowering India to become a service provider to a wallowing world economy did not create new wealth. But these developments did provide the infrastructure of a launch-pad for take-off.
Once momentum has been achieved (in about 10 years time) the global target market for one of the three new energy technologies will have been penetrated to around 5% of total potential. Thereafter, new economy driving wealth (as opposed to recycled wealth) can be created at the rate of around $70 billion per year. Further spin off technologies will allow for the $70 billion to be increased by a large multiple – which is way out of the league of solar power, wind power or nuclear fission. The other two new energy technologies being targeted will add further new wealth of a similar order of magnitude.
In summary, within ten to fifteen years (provided we get our act together now) we will find ourselves at the commencement of a new era in human history which will take us beyond the Industrial Revolution, to phase of human evolution which is Beyond Neanderthal
Most important of all: With an ethical mindset and a “can do” attitude, the Vision is achievable.
Imagine a future where every individual within the world’s 6.5 billion total (and growing) population is presented with both the opportunity and the means to create wealth by the application of their own personal efforts. Whilst some, for cultural reasons, will not rise to the occasion with gusto, it seems reasonable to expect that most will be predisposed to want to improve their position.
There are many theoretical arguments why Third World countries are impoverished and will stay that way. After decades of pondering this particular issue I have concluded that the issue is not genetic, it is cultural. In tribal Africa, as an example, the ethic is “work so that we may live” as opposed to “live so that we may work”. We in the West can, and should, learn from this. Provided we don’t “work so that we may party” it leads to a better quality of life.
Arguably, the key factors which will encourage wealth creation activity in poorer countries are arable land, water and energy. Even if I did not have title to the land on which I was “squatting”, if I had access to unlimited energy and water, there would be no downside to my expending effort. Why would I not be predisposed to at least grow food for myself and my family? Why would I not be predisposed to grow just a little more than I needed so that I might exchange my surplus for other basic aspects of wealth such as clothing, housing, medicine? How much is a “little” more? There’s likely to be a Normal Distribution Curve of answers.
Yes, many Third World inhabitants have different value sets than we do in the West, but to argue that they are somehow different in their aspirations from you and me would be to assume some form of deformity of their human will. Genetically, we are all wired to survive. Darwin told us this, so it must be true.
Two thirds of the world’s surface is covered by water to an average depth of a couple of kilometres. There is no shortage of water. There is a shortage of potable (drinking quality) water.
In the end analysis, the problem boils down to energy. It requires energy to extract water from the oceans, desalinate it, pump it inland, prepare the land, sow the seeds, irrigate, tend and harvest the crops, transport the crops to market and store them in cold storage, if necessary. It requires energy to engage in industry.
This analyst has identified at least three (and possibly as many as six) energy technologies which, in combination, hold the promise to deliver the following:Desalination and/or purification of large (eventually unlimited) quantities of waterIncreased yields per hectare of farm landLower than current operating costs of energy production. (The emphasis will change from cost of consumables to amortisation of the capital cost of durable assets)A continuing ability to fuel the existing “inventory” of internal combustion powered vehicles throughout the world, until such time as these are worn out and/or may be replaced by vehicles with alternative motive power.Alternative motive power for transportation
A vision such as the above is not time specific. It might take anywhere between 25 and 75 years to empower (with energy) all of society across the planet as a whole. Nevertheless, it needs to be emphasised that humanity is alreadyin possession of the technological knowledge and expertise to facilitate its realisation. In a world where the entire population has the opportunity and means to create wealth, the level in the bathtub as a whole will rise substantially. Everyone will benefit because we are all symbiotically dependent on one another and on our environment. To date, our selfish (egotistical) mindset has led to our failure to recognise this fact. In turn, this failure is what is inhibiting our ability to overcome the obstacles which are currently manifesting. These obstacles will be relatively easily surmountable when we shift from a “me” (rights) to a “we” (obligations) oriented outlook. It’s a subtlety. Private Enterprise will remain unaffected. What needs to change is our degree of caring about others.
Deep inside our guts we understand this: E Pluribus Unum. We talk the talk, but we no longer walk the walk. ”I’m all right Jack.”
Given the awesome knowledge at our disposal, Humanity is quite literally standing on the edge of an era of prosperity and peace the likes of which our forebears could not even get their minds around, let alone aspire to. All that is required will be to straighten our thinking and lift ourselves above the level of egotistical self aggrandisement. We alreadyhave all the necessary tools!
To those doomsayers who are adamant that it cannot happen and that humanity is facing destruction, I say this: “Stand and watch or join in. It’s your choice. It’s going to happen anyway. The question is whether it will happen with accompanying pain or painlessly”. The Road Map below shows one way in which it could occur painlessly.
Why does the Vision place an emphasis on the Third World?
When setting a course for the attainment of any vision, it is useful to picture in detail what the outcome will be. Given that energy drives the World economy, and given that Third World countries will be the last to be incorporated into the Vision, a question which arises is: “What will the energy production industry sensibly look like in Third World countries?”
The answer is very unlikely to be “Centralised Production of electricity which is delivered by overhead cable to remote points of consumption”. Far more likely is: “Energy production at the point of consumption.”
Why? To begin with, if we in the West produced electrical energy at the point of consumption, we would save up to 25% of all energy produced. That is the proportion which is wasted by friction heat as the electrons travel through the overhead copper wires. For the same reason of wastage, centralised production also adds unnecessarily to environmental pollution.
To fully understand the dimensions of the opportunity to move from centralised energy production to point-of-consumption energy production, the reader is invited to think about the evolution of the computing industry.
UNIVAC 1 was the first commercially available mainframe computer. Introduced in 1951, it required a large air-conditioned room to house it. The first UNIVAC 1 was sold to the US Government as part of a three machine contract. Its price was US$159,000. The combined price of the next two machines was $250,000.
$159,000 in 1951 would be worth around $1,275,000 in today’s dollars.
The years passed and, eventually, IBM grew to dominate the Information Technology industry.
A forward leap came when dumb terminals were introduced. This empowered the remote user and opened our minds to the possibilities. I can remember personally carrying around a briefcase sized terminal into which I could plug a telephone handset to gain remote access to an IBM 360 mainframe.
Then came the Mini Computer and, eventually, the Personal Computer. The first PC I ever put into my own business in 1976 cost me around $2,000.That was $7,300 in today’s money. I was an early adopter. It had a mere 256k of RAM.
By contrast, a current day Personal Computer can probably do what the UNIVAC 1 could do, and you can buy one for around $1,000 in today’s dollars ($125 in 1951 dollars). Think about it: The price for the same computing power has reduced from $159,000 to $125 in constant dollars. There is a critically important enabling principle which emerges from this, as you will see below.
Turning now to the energy market:
One way to empower Third World Countries with energy will be to make energy available to every consumer (household, commercial and industrial enterprise) in a format that is the equivalent of the PC. If an electrical generator to power home requirements, delivering (say) 10 Kilowatts, was to be made available to all Third World consumers at a price of (say) $1,000 in today’s dollars it would not be necessary to install and/or maintain a multi-billion dollar electricity grid spanning the entire Third World country in which these consumers live. In any event, to put in an overhead cable system with power plants and transformers etc – where we know a priori that up to 25% of electrical output will be wasted – would not be a particularly intelligent thing to do.
Question: Is such an objective practically possible?
Answer: Yes! Technology has been evolving to produce a 5Kw – 10Kw generator which will have zero CO2 emissions, and an annual operating cost of less than (say) $250. Up to now, the issue has been “operating costs”. Until recently, no new energy technology could deliver similar or greater power at a lower operating cost than coal or oil. Now there are at least two alternatives which have peppercorn operating costs.
The catch is that the unit cost of production may be around $100,000. However, if such a power generator could be made available today in the Industrialised Countries at a price of (say) $100,000, we know for an absolute certainty, based on historical experience across various industries, that the day will arrive when it will eventually be able to be produced for the equivalent of $1,000 dollars in today’s money. (See appendix 2)
Specifically: Approximately 8.4 million Personal Electricity Generators (P.E.G.s) would need to be produced before the price fell from $100,000 per unit to $854 per unit in today’s money. Of interest, sales of 8.4 million P.E.G.s would represent around 11% of total potential in the USA market.
Given that the average household electricity bill in the USA is around $1,000 a year, why would those more fortunate people who pay (say) $1,750 a year in electricity bills not be prepared to buy and install a P.E.G. at a cost of (say) $5,000, if it will simultaneously save them $1,500 a year and release zero CO2 into the atmosphere? Reference to Appendix 2 shows that, once 262,000 generators have been produced, the unit price can be expected to fall to $3,000. At an average annual saving of $750 per year on electricity ($1000 minus $250), everyone will be able to buy one and pay it off (plus modest interest) out of cost savings in under five years.
Now here’s an interesting thought: If 25% of the US’s population purchased and installed one of these 5Kw – 10Kw P.E.G.s within 10 years, then up to 25% of the coal fired power stations could be shut down because most households consume less than 5Kw. The amount by which CO2 emissions would reduce would be calculated as:
100% (electricity consumed) + 33% (wasted electricity production) = 133% (starting point)
25% of 133% = 33%
Assuming a ratio of coal consumption to oil consumption at 2:1, CO2 emissions in the USA would fall by 2/3 of 33%, or 22% within a decade.
You wanted a reduction in CO2 emissions didn’t you?
Ah! But it gets even more interesting. There is a pleasant surprise in store for you.
As mentioned, there are currently two technological contenders of which this writer is aware which might be expected to facilitate the mass production of low operational cost P.E.G.s of the nature being contemplated. The primary reason such generators are not yet on the market is that the current unit cost of production would be (at a wild guess) $100,000. (Significantly less than UNIVAC 1).
Private Enterprise will not invest in the manufacture of such products because the anticipated Return on Investment cannot (yet) meet benchmark hurdles. Including $100 million start-up and marketing costs, at least $200 million capital investment will be required assuming there was a guaranteed off-take of at least 130,000 units (see Appendix 2). As there can be no guarantees in this world, these technologies will take many years to commercialise – unless ….
As a starting point, it is my understanding that the Nuclear and Coal industries are lobbying for up to $100 Billion in government guarantees – which is the same as equity investment risk but disguised to make voters think otherwise. (Come on! If it wasn’t to cover equity risk, the lending banks wouldn’t be asking for it. There’s that ethics and integrity issue again, and those politicians who are buying into it should be fired if not thrown in jail! There’s apparently a rogue sentence in Senator Bingaman’s new Energy Bill which gives carte blanche to the Department of Energy and which therefore leaves the door open to a continuation of this kind of behaviour. That door needs to be slammed shut, the sentence deleted!)
So, before we rush out like spoiled rich kids and commit this kind of money, why don’t we set aside (say) 0.06% of that amount to get Phase 1 below started.
Phase 1: Commercialising the 5Kw – 10Kw P.E.G.s
The total outlay of risk capital will be: $200.4 million
Internal Rate of Return to financiers will be 58.7% p.a. based on timing of inflows and outflows. “Pure” (technical) risk finance will be $60.4 million. Potential sources of this funding are:US GovernmentOther Government/s individually, eg Saudi Arabia or Venezuela or Kenya or Peru (This is by way of a “brick in the face” to get the USA politicians to focus. Any government could afford to do this, so take nothing for granted! The free ride for pork barrelling politicians is over. Roll up your sleeves guys, or get out of the way. There’s work to be done. J)Consortium of Governments representing the world’s community of Nations including Third World GovernmentsCharitable Foundation
Phase 2: Addressing the issue of “redundant” coal fired power plants
Okay. Here’s the pleasant surprise.
The act of putting P.E.G.s in the ground – the cost of which can be self funded by electricity cost savings – will have the effect of rendering an increasing number of coal fired power plants redundant.
Four positives can come out of this:
What is Fischer Tropsch (FT) technology?
The layman can think of it like this: Imagine a lump of coal placed into a steam filled pressure cooker that is so hot that the coal vaporises to become Carbon Gas. The Carbon Gas mixes with the Oxygen from the water to form Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen. These two gases can be combined to form a hydrocarbon gas known as “syngas”. With the aid of a cobalt or iron catalyst, when the syngas is passed through a Fischer Tropsch reactor, it is distilled to become a clean hydrocarbon liquid which is sent off to the refineries for further processing to become gasoline.
Most modern day coal fired power plants already convert the coal into syngas to drive their gas turbines. There is zero technical risk associated with FT technology. Adolf Hitler commercialised it in WWII roughly 75 years ago to produce gasoline to drive his armed forces’ cars, trucks, boats and planes. By 1944 Germany was producing 124,000 barrels of synfuel a day. Ironic isn’t it?
All coal fired power plants will be already capable of receiving, storing and processing large volumes of coal. The only modifications needed “may” be air scrubbers to further clean noxious fumes and particulates (which might up to now have been liberated into the air as waste) and an FT reactor.
I have in my possession a spreadsheet that is about eight years old and is therefore almost certainly outdated. Nevertheless, the key numbers are as follows:
One ton of coke coal cost around $93 in 2006 (Source: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/coal/page/special/feature06.pdf ). This will yield 2.25 barrels of oil at a raw material cost of $41.33 a barrel. To this must be added the costs of conversion – most of which will be the cost of generating the heat to gasify the coke, plus $5 to convert the syngas to synfuel.
Interim ConclusionsAn entire gasoline manufacturing industry can be created from scratch within a decade, using already installed equipment with massive capacity that will need minor retrofitting. Not one cent of Government finance will be needed for Phase 2 of the energy migration process. Indeed, capital will be liberated for debt repayment.By converting existing coal fired power plants to FT synfuel plants, the USA (and/or whichever other country/ies embrace this strategy) could become independent of the oil producers within a decade. Under certain circumstances, (by the application of newly emerging technology) the USA in particular could well become a gasoline exporterCO2 emissions will fall sharply
Phase 2a: Bringing Third World Countries into the world economy
By the time 8.5 million P.E.G.s have been produced the unit price will have fallen to less than $1,000. That will be within the range of affordability of Third World countries – even if the Governments of these countries (or aid agencies) have to subsidise their citizens with loans that will be repaid out of wealth yet to be created. (By bypassing large Public Works projects, the siphoning of cash by corrupt politicians will be avoided and the aid will find its way to the intended recipients).
Long before the full number of the initial 8.5 million has been produced, a few thousand will have been shipped out under the guidance of First World “mentors” who will assist Third World citizens to become productive – using these generators to pump and filter water and to power electric lights, light machinery and irrigation systems. In short, Western Experts will teach Third World inhabitants how to farm, and the rudiments of light industry.
Why will we do this? Here’s why: Remember that word ‘symbiosis’? Currently, 88% - 90% of the world’s population lives in the Northern Hemisphere, the agricultural industries of which will be savagely impacted by Global Cooling (see http://www.financialsense.com/fsu/editorials/bloom/2007/0710.html). Farm production will need to be shifted to warmer climates near the equator and in the Southern Hemisphere. The lives of those living in the North will come to depend on those living in the Third World countries. The wheel will turn. First World countries will become dependent on Third World countries for their survival.
Simultaneously, another (already identified) energy technology will need to be evolved – the one that can be used to stimulate increased yields per hectare. Because this particular technology is still in its infancy, significant R&D will be still be required to commercialise it.
Given that the rivers of cash that flowed into the coffers of the oil producing nations will very quickly dry up as a result of activities in Phase 2, two outcomes will be likely:
As an aside, the oil distribution cartel will be largely unaffected by the above (if they also behave themselves) because their existing infrastructure can be used to refine and distribute FT products instead of Crude Oil Products. Of course, if they do not behave themselves then the coal industry will establish its own refinery and distribution infrastructure. This will likely be a terrible waste of resources, because of the planned Phase 3 but, after all, we all agree that “Private Enterprise” should be the driver. Who are we to tell the coal industry how to behave?
In the meantime, as a gesture of Good Faith, the oil distribution cartel might move immediately to reduce the price of gasoline in line with what it will be when synfuel comes on stream. Maybe in this way they can win back some goodwill and trust. Certainly, outrageous bonuses that have been paid to senior executives will be history. As an aside, the Boards of Directors of all large legacy corporations which sanction massive bonuses to their Executives should be fired. Legacy corporations earn big profits and cash flows as a matter of course. There is no need to waste good shareholder money in this way. Why should the CEO of a retail bank, for example, be paid millions of dollars just because he thought of a new way of ripping off the banks’ clients by charging yet another esoteric $2 fee about which the clients are powerless to complain? The time has come for us to clean up our back yard.
Phase 3: Developing alternative automotive drive trains
There appear to be three alternatives if we want to migrate fully from fossil fuels:
Phase 4: Large scale desalination and/or purification of water
The P.E.G.s can be used on a small-medium scale to desalinate water using a process known as micro-filtration. One issue with this is that it is very difficult to push large volumes of water through holes that are so tiny that microscopic size suspended solids can be extracted. Capacities are therefore limited. Provided energy can be produced sufficiently cheaply, and in sufficient volume and power, evaporation might be a better way to go. The distilled water thus produced could be “doctored” to contain added nutrients as required. The world has passed Peak Phosphorous. Perhaps the nutrients could be recycled from human solid waste. There is also FT technology to covert human solid waste to synfuel, with a bye product being nutrients.
Large scale evaporation will require massively powerful energy generating technology. Nuclear Fusion might do the trick here. On November 21st 2006, representatives of the European Union, the United States, Japan, India, Russia, South Korea and China signed the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor agreement to build a ten billion euro Nuclear Fusion Plant at Cadarache, near the southern city of Marseille in France.
To be diplomatic, we might say that there are probably better ways to spend ten billion Euros if one is focussed on wealth creation as the outcome.
Alert readers will have noticed that I have given no significant information regarding what these new technologies might be. As alluded to in earlier articles, there is a “Not Invented Here” syndrome which needs to be finessed. Sufficient details of the technologies are presented in my novel, Beyond Neanderthal to allow support for these technologies to gain a head of steam. It will be helpful to all concerned if you registered your interest in acquiring a copy at http://www.beyondneanderthal.com/sample-chapter.html . Yes, I will benefit financially from this. No, that is not the reason I wrote the novel, the manuscript of which is currently being edited.
Welcome back to “we” oriented Private Enterprise.
Author’s note: Many of society’s leaders in today’s world will feel uncomfortable with the approach as outlined above. It makes no pretence of ticking any of the conventional boxes, and it makes no attempt to be politically correct. (See previous article #5 in this series). Specifically, it seeks to address the needs as opposed to the wants of society. In this spirit, its tone has been deliberately framed in entrepreneurial terms to emphasise starkly the inappropriate orientation of those leaders who may be feeling uncomfortable.
In simple terms, to the extent that our incumbent leaders do feel uncomfortable with the contents of this article, it is my contention that we have square leader pegs in round leadership holes – see Appendix 1 below.
The problems defined
Some years ago, using information originally generated by the aircraft manufacturing industry in World War II as a point of departure, the Boston Consulting Group developed a theory revolving around a concept called the Experience Curve.
In simple English, the BCG discovered that the more you do something the better you get at doing it. If memory serves, they also developed a rule of thumb method of calculating outcomes, which went something like this: “Every time accumulated output of production doubles, the unit cost of production falls by approximately 18%in real terms.” (This latter number may be inaccurate. It is the principle which is important)
Assuming a starting cost of $100,000, the following are the implications if the purchaser buys at cost and sells at a price of $5,000 each for the first 260,000 units; $3,000 a unit for the next 8 million; and $1,000 a unit thereafter.
Since 1987, when Brian Bloom became involved in the Venture Capital Industry, he has been constantly on the lookout for alternative energy technologies to replace fossil fuels. He has recently completed the manuscript of a novel entitled Beyond Neanderthal which he is targeting to publish within six to nine months.
The novel has been drafted on three levels: As a vehicle for communication it tells the light hearted, romantic story of four heroes in search of alternative energy technologies which can fully replace Neanderthal Fire. On that level, its storyline and language have been crafted to be understood and enjoyed by everyone with a high school education. The second level of the novel explores the intricacies of the processes involved and stimulates thinking about their development. None of the three new energy technologies which it introduces is yet on commercial radar. Gold, the element, (Au) will power one of them. On the third level, it examines why these technologies have not yet been commercialised. The answer: We've got our priorities wrong.
Beyond Neanderthal also provides a roughly quantified strategic plan to commercialise at least two of these technologies within a decade – across the planet. In context of our incorrect priorities, this cannot be achieved by Private Enterprise. Tragically, Governments will not act unless there is pressure from voters. It is therefore necessary to generate a juggernaut tidal wave of that pressure. The cost will be ‘peppercorn’ relative to what is being currently considered by some Governments. Together, these three technologies have the power to lift humanity to a new level of evolution. Within a decade, Carbon emissions will plummet but, as you will discover, they are an irrelevancy. Please register your interest to acquire a copy of this novel at www.beyondneanderthal.com . Please also inform all your friends and associates. The more people who read the novel, the greater will be the pressure for Governments to act.
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July 1st, 2022
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