Strategy for energy

6 June 2010

Open letter to president Obama

Dear Mr. President,

First of all, my apologies for possible language errors and social errors. English is not my native language. And I have never been to the USA, so I do not really know your culture.

I just received your email about "The Gulf Coast", about the BP oil spill. This is not the first disaster with oil. You know about the disaster with the exxon valdez oil spill. But what about 9/11. If we would not be using Arabic oil, would that have happened? And Israel? If we are no longer addicted to oil, your international policy would be more free.

Advise: do not go nuclear

It is not my business, but I have to write you, that I disagree with your decision to build new nuclear powerplants. I do understand, that you can not turn back this decision, but perhaps this letter will stop you building more.

I am not like those people who are against things, without giving alternatives. I will give you a complete alternative energy strategy.

You are familiar with the problems with nuclear waste. I will not go into these problems. I will give you two other reasons, why you should not build nuclear powerplants.

  1. China is building a lot of new nuclear powerplants. If the EU and the USA will do the same, uranium could become very expensive.
  2. It takes many years to plan and build a safe nuclear powerplant. The costs are huge. If you close the plant after five or ten years, the energy would be to expensive. But is there demand for nuclear power after 2030? Imagine the development of solar cells. Let us assume, that we get 2 Watt per dollar in 2015, 4 Watt per dollar in 2020, 8 Watt per dollar around 2025 and 16 Watt per dollar around 2030. At what time will solar power become less expensive than nuclear power?

Mansholt-plan for solar energy.

Mr. Mansholt was a person from the Netherlands. After WO II he developed a plan to rebuild agriculture in the European Union. The EU (or rather it's predecessor) guaranteed that all milk and meat that farmers could produce, would be bought against a minimum-price. Because of this, farmers managed to increase production very fast. Hunger disappeared. In the seventies, we had mountains of butter and meat. We sold butter for about 0.1 $ per kg to Russia, because we didn't know what to do with it.

Imagine that the USA and the EU would adopt a variation of this Mansholt-plan. For the next 10 to 15 years, you guarantee manufacturers that ALL solar cells they can produce (given a certain minimum quality) will be bought at a minimum-price per Watt. Each year this minimum-price will be decreased a bit, until solar energy is cheaper than energy from coal.

If we support the solar industry in such a way, we would stimulate a solar revolution. The USA would become independent from foreign oil. Terrorists would get less funding. And your foreign policy would be liberated from energy-dependency.

Stop the production of cars running on oil-products.

Imagine: By 2015 or 2016 the USA and the EU prohibit the sale of new cars running on combustion-engines. New cars will be electric (or possibly but not very likely run on compressed air). The electricity will come from a battery or from hydrogen and a fuel cell.

Once this is decided, manufacturers would no longer invest in combustion engines. Between now and 2025 combustion-cars would disappear and our dependency on foreign oil would disappear to.

The oil price has become unstable. If we continue to use oil, our economies would suffer. If we diminish our use of oil, this would have a stabilizing effect on the oil-price and on our economy.

As I wrote above, oil has been the cause of many disasters. If we diminish our use of oil, we diminish disasters!

Peak-oil: Oil is coming more and more from difficult locations. When something goes wrong, things get really ugly. And: The energy that it costs to produce oil becomes to high. For example: Shell produces oil from tar sands in Canada. It costs 65% of the energy in that oil. So only 35% of the energy is available for practical use. If we compare the CO2 emissions for a kWh produced by coal or by oil from tar sands, coal is the better option.

The USA and the EU have enough coal for the next 30 years. If all cars run on electricity and the electricity is produced with coal, we don't need oil. We don't have to hand out money to supporters of terrorism in exchange for oil. And it is better for the environment.

The benefits can be much greater: There is a price-difference between cars running on foreign oil and cars running on electricity from our own coal. If the savings are invested in clean energy (solar cells, wind mills, etc.), we will have a clean environment in 30 years. The use of coal would first rise and then decline, while energy coming from clean renewable resources while continue to rise.

Gas-stations can stabilize the electricity-net.

If massive amounts of solar cells and windmills are added to the electricity net, this could destabilize the net. There is a remedy for this. Place hydrogen-production-units at each gas-station. When there is to much electricity on the net, they take it and produce hydrogen. If there is not enough electricity, these units are turned off.

Cars running on windmills.

I have never been to the USA. If I think of Texas or Arizona, I think of endless roads. Imagine a windmill every half a mile of these roads and electricity cables to gas-stations, where the energy is used to produce hydrogen. Imagine solar cells along these roads. In the future (say around 2025 - 2030) these roads should be able to produce enough energy for transportation.

Many coal-plants.

I believe it is impossible to produce and install enough solar cells and windmills for a fast change from oil-energy to green-energy. If this is true, than we need another energy-source to replace oil. And then I think about coal. Coal is available in the USA and the EU. If our cars run on coal and not on oil, we save a lot of money. This money can be invested in the Mansholt-plan for solar energy, as mentioned above.

If we think about coal-plants, we tend to think about a few massive plants, that cause a lot or pollution. There is an alternative.

We can produce a large number of small coal-plants. Say a few thousand or maybe ten thousand. Then they can be produced in larger series which would make them cheap.

Re-use of CO2 and heat.

Imagine: Each small coal plant is surrounded with a few hundred acres of green-houses and algae-plants. They re-use the CO2 and the heat of the coal-plant. This would diminish the impact of coal-plants on the environment and we would get food and algae. Algae can be used in chemical and pharmaceutical industry instead of oil.

Balancing needs in summer and winter.

During winter, the green houses would use heat but not in summer. During summer, solar cells produce a lot of energy, during winter they produce less energy.

In summer some coal-plants could be turned off for maintenance. So in summer time they would produce less heat, CO2 and electricity. During winter they could produce more CO2 than can be used by the green houses and algae plants. This CO2 could be stored for use in summer.

During the next 25 to 40 years we should expect a rapid but gradual growth of solar energy. As solar power grows, more and more coal-plants would be turned off during summer. Each year they would be used for a shorter time. Between 2040 and 2050 we should close the last coal-plants and have a green society.

With kind regards,

Andreas Firewolf

With Light and Love, Andreas Firewolf

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