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Author Topic: Can we make electricity completely independent from fossil fuels?  (Read 9393 times)

Offline Karsten

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One day it will be more expensive to get fossil fuels out of the ground than the energy we get from it. I am certain that we will want to continue using electricity. Can we?

Currently fossil fuels run most (if not all) the machines to build any other machine or facility to generate electricity or to maintain those machines and facilities. Directly or indirectly to a large extend there are fossil fuels involved here. Additionally, the metals and materials required for construction are based on the energy we get from fossil fuels. Solar panels need energy to be made. Wind generators need energy to be made. Large water power plants need a lot of power to be maintained. Nuclear facilities cannot be constructed without construction machines, plastic, steel, and concrete. All this is driven by fossil fuels. Is there a plan for continuation of electricity generation without fossil fuels? Is there even ONE electric bulldozer in existence that can do the work that is done by the current large scale construction machines?

What's the plan? When do we start transitioning? Have we already started? How?


 

lyner

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Gas and oil have limited stocks. But I understood that there is as much coal available as we could need for generations.
If we stop using fossil fuels (and I hope we will) it will be as a result of choice and not due to coal running out.
 

Offline Bass

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Even disregarding the generation of electricity, it still has to be distributed- which requires copper or aluminum (aluminium for you tea sippers).  Mining, transportation and processing of minerals certainly requires fossil fuels at present.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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We already have wires.
The production of Al is electrolytic and you can get copper electrolytically too so, in principle, there's no need for fossil fuels in their manufacture.
If nuclear power or some such really did make electricity "too cheap to meter" then we could stop using fossil fuels quite quickly. Unfortunately we need to build the new generation of power plant (whether that's wave, solar nuclear or whatever) and the construction will need fossil fuels.
If we don't start soon we may run into a major problem.
If we burn the fuel to make the concrete for the new power stations we will force the greenhouse effect past the tipping point. If we dont then we will pass that point anyway.
 

Offline Mazurka

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I am curious as to how bauxite, or the various copper ores (or for that matter any other ore) could be extracted on the current scale without fossil fuels.

Yes, some large draglines are electrically powered - but typically through diesel fired generators.  I am not sure anyone has buit or even propsoed a battery powered dumptruck suitable for opencast sites.

For a bit of context - Uranium from a low grade orebody (of the sort that is beoming increasingly viable as the higher grade orebodeis are exploited) require as much as one million tonnes of rock to be crushed to a flour to produce one tonne of uranium ore, consuming around 18 tonnes of steel in the crushers and milling machines in the process.  The "yelow cake" produced then needs further refining before use as a fuel...   
 

Offline Bored chemist

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"Uranium from a low grade orebody (of the sort that is beoming increasingly viable as the higher grade orebodeis are exploited) require as much as one million tonnes of rock to be crushed to a flour to produce one tonne of uranium ore, "
No it doesn't.
From Wiki
"Uranium's average concentration in the Earth's crust is (depending on the reference) 2 to 4 parts per million"
So even if you didn't pick an ore body there would be several tons of uranium in a million tons of rock.
 

Offline Mazurka

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Absolutley.

Assuming you have a 100% extraction rate...
 

Offline AllenG

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My neighbors are making diesel fuel from chickens and using solar energy to render the foul.
It is not entirely free of petroleum products though as the processing vats are made of conventional plastics.

 

Offline Don_1

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My neighbors are making diesel fuel from chickens


Good grief! Does their car lay an egg in the mornings?
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Absolutley.

Assuming you have a 100% extraction rate...
Mazurka,
Did you actually understand the point I was making?
Rock phosphate as mined for phosphoric acid production typically contains 100 ppm of uranium and that's not what they are looking for. Uranium ores contain much more uranium than you said they do.
 

Offline Mazurka

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Sorry, I should have referenced the comment - ultimately it was from an article from the Minning Today magazine from about 7 years ago about extraction from a low grade orebody in west Africa.  Unfortunately I cannot find it online and no longer have easy access to it.

I was also mistaken - the 1 tonne from 1 million relates to U235 - although comments about extraction efficiency and the consumption of other resources in the extraction stand. 

 

Offline gurpal

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well now days we want to use renewavle feuls not feuls like coal because the are causing global warming and pollution and so i think we will stop using it and use things like biomass.we have a plentiful amount of coal and it is not expensive and as karsten said it might become expensive to get it so with the facts that is could become expensive cause other problems we might stop using it.
One day it will be more expensive to get fossil fuels out of the ground than the energy we get from it. I am certain that we will want to continue using electricity. Can we?

Currently fossil fuels run most (if not all) the machines to build any other machine or facility to generate electricity or to maintain those machines and facilities. Directly or indirectly to a large extend there are fossil fuels involved here. Additionally, the metals and materials required for construction are based on the energy we get from fossil fuels. Solar panels need energy to be made. Wind generators need energy to be made. Large water power plants need a lot of power to be maintained. Nuclear facilities cannot be constructed without construction machines, plastic, steel, and concrete. All this is driven by fossil fuels. Is there a plan for continuation of electricity generation without fossil fuels? Is there even ONE electric bulldozer in existence that can do the work that is done by the current large scale construction machines?

What's the plan? When do we start transitioning? Have we already started? How?
 

Offline Karsten

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So, we have some ideas but we have not started creating the machines and facilities that will make us independent of fossil fuels. We have no large construction/mining machines that operate on electricity yet. We have an existing distribution network but cannot construct more without fossil fuels. Alternative energy sources are dependent on fossil fuels and are not sufficient to do what we do right now with fossil fuels. Most people are not cutting back unless they are forced (by law or by prices). Billions are waiting to become bigger energy and resource users than they are today. Nuclear power will help to generate electricity if we begin building the power plants at a large scale now (which we are not) with the help of fossil fuels. No word on how to maintain them without fossil fuels. No word on whether nuclear power will create enough electricity to create more nuclear power(mining, processing, building the machines, distributing the electricity, maintaining the facilities, etc.) and have enough left over for 6.5 billion people who depend on fossil fuels or are spoiled out of their mind.

In addition I find it unlikely that nuclear power will remain safe in a society that is so dependent on fossil fuels but just ran out of it. The mind-set of people in energy poverty will range from cranky to desperate. Not the sort of people you want to put in charge of nuclear power plants (or governments, police force, making law, etc.). But that is besides the point. Burning coal may distribute more radioactivity than safe nuclear power plants and we will probably go back to that in a few decades at a bigger than ever scale. Safety will take a backseat when oil and natural gas begin to run low.

I say, it does not look good. This is just as depressing as I feared it would be. And it is getting worse the more I think about it. Maybe I should buy a pile of coal right now while it is still cheap and store it in the basement. At least I will be warm in 20 years.
 

Offline Naufal the B. S.

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Will my musket explode?a
« Reply #13 on: 26/07/2009 01:00:04 »
With coals, magnetic, copper, wood, and... FREE ENERGY DEVICE!!
With all at the top, i think, we can make
nuclear
electricity
heavy tool
fire
etc.

I think with tools at the top, we could build that you mentioned
 

Offline Karsten

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With coals, magnetic, copper, wood, and... FREE ENERGY DEVICE!!
With all at the top, i think, we can make
nuclear
electricity
heavy tool
fire
etc.

I think with tools at the top, we could build that you mentioned
If you are an engineer or scientist, please explain better what you are talking about. I have to admit though the FREE ENERGY DEVICE makes me wonder.

If you are not an engineer or cannot explain better what you are talking about please inform yourself better before getting your hopes up for a simple solution. For any complex problem there is a simple solution and it is wrong. And if it seems to be too good to be true, it usually is. We need good science and engineering (and people who appreciate and understand both) rather than magic and modern techno myths (and people who faithfully admire but don't understand).

So, what is the good science behind your idea?
 

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