Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Big Al and the Big Dream

Ya gotta love Al Gore. Of any major politician, he come closest to telling the world the truth. Granted, he misses the mark by a humongous margin, but he really does seem to be the best that we have to offer. Sad state of affairs that.

So anyway, he proposes a crash course to replace fossil fuels. Sounds great. But what Al doesn't tell you or won't tell you is that we have to get rid of a lot of our baggage to hit that mark. Let's run down and take a look at this. Please criticize and correct any mistakes. This is just a back of the envelope look at the issue. I would genuinely like to refine this to come up with more accurate figures.

  • To the best of my knowledge, 70% of all oil goes to fueling transportation.
  • We currently import right around 20,000,000 barrels of oil a day.
  • Now a barrel of oil yields about 20 gallons of gasoline (give or take) and
  • a gallon of gasoline yields 36 kWH of power

The numbers to switch to Big Al's non-fossil fueled world looks something like this.

20,000,000 barrels
X 0.7 (percentage used in transportation)
X 20 gallons per barrel
X 36 kWH of power/gallon gas

10,080,000,000 kWH/day additional electrical generation capacity. or

3,679,200,000,000 kWH/Year additional electrical generation capacity.

Let's use nuclear for the sake of the heebie-jeebies that it gives environmental types. A pretty good sized plant is around 1,000 megawatts. A 1000 MW power plant, running at a 60% load factor, generates 5.3 x 10(9) KwH per year. So to replace all of our evil gas-guzzlers with happy-face wearing electrical vehicles would mean that we have to build a mere 693 one thousand megawatt nuclear power plants in the next ten years.

Now remember that we currently have 100 of these babies purring along. They provide right around 20% of our current electricity. So adding 700 more will more than double our current electrical output in this country. What will we have to pay for the distribution system to keep it going?

If you don't like nukes, do the math for wind power, or solar power, or any of them. If we get rid of fossil fuel, we simply go back to riding horses. The numbers just ain't there. What Big Al is saying is that we are really and truly fucked and we are going to have to scramble like hell to cobble together a system that will allow us a energy use 30% of our current levels.

When do we start?



Anonymous said...

Somebody who says it like it is. But you only touch on oil. Fossil fuels include natural gas and coal as well. Natural gas and coal combined equal just a little less than our current oil consumption in total energy use in this country.

To eliminate it all we have got a lot of work to get done. 700 Nuke plants isn't the end of it. We need to completely cover over deleware with windfarms. The entire states geography will be needed to replace just 10 coal power plants.

Its insane. Your right. Its time to start breading horses.

riverwalker said...

It's like most plans by politicians.

You can't get there from here!


Mayberry said...

The plants are less than half the problem. The big bugaboo is transmission..... That's a hell of a lot of wires, that nobody wants in their back yard...... Not to mention the substations. And there's currently only 2 plants in the world right now that build big transformers. It would take them 50 years to build enough to support that kind of juice....

Marine 83 said...

I have worked on a big wind farm project. The evironmentalists sued to stop it because it might harm the raptors. Horses it is.