James “I am not Elmer Gantry!” Kunstler is forever going on about those easy motoring, cheese doodle crunching Americans and the doom that is even now bearing down upon them. Wishing, we are told, will not change the facts of life, and Jiminy Cricket notwithstanding, we simply cannot invent our way out of the “Long Emergency”.
Monkeyballs. The man is a broken record, stuck on peevish. Allow me to point out a few hopeful developments that illustrate the paucity of his historical perspective.
Composite core aluminum power cables

CTC‘s Aluminum Conductor
Composite Core cables incorporate a light-weight advanced composite core around which aluminum conductor wires are wrapped in a manner identical to traditional energy cable.
The composite cores lighter-weight, smaller size, and enhanced strength and other performance advantages over traditional steel core allows ACCC to double the current carrying capacity over existing transmission and distribution cable and virtually eliminate high-temperature sag.

Warm superconductors

Superconducting cables can offer the advantages of lower loss, lighter weight, and more compact dimensions, as compared to conventional cables. In addition to the improvement of the energy efficiency of the utility grid, this can lead to easier and faster installation of the cable system, fewer joints, and reduced use of land.
The high performance of the superconducting materials leads to reduced materials use and lighter and more compact cable technology. In this way, energy and cost is saved in the whole chain of manufacturing, transport and installation.

A merger of optimists

Open Energy Corporation… today announced that it has signed a joint development agreement with Infinia Corporation to integrate its products into a revolutionary power generation system.
Infinia’s free piston Stirling engines are currently used for aerospace and national security applications…Operating without internal combustion, a Stirling engine utilizes high temperature differentials to drive a piston and produce electricity.
The engineering teams at Infinia and Open Energy believe that the Suncone CSP solar concentrating power system can be modified to deliver over 700 degrees centigrade of solar thermal energy to Infinia’s engine, thus generating electricity on a cost effective basis…
“Infinia is already commercializing a 1 kW engine for residential heating and electricity in Asia and Europe. We will begin our product development utilizing a modified version of this engine to prove out the feasibility of the Suncone/Stirling system, before developing a larger version for distributed generation applications.”

Algae on the march

Nov. 13, 2006 — Green Star Products, Inc. today announced that it has signed an agreement with De Beers Fuel Limited of South Africa to build 90 biodiesel reactors.
Each of the biodiesel reactors will be capable of producing 10 million gallons of biodiesel each year for a total production capacity of 900,000,000 gallons per year when operating at full capacity, which is 4 times greater than the entire U.S. output in 2006…
Presently, the De Beers plant is now operating at 10,000,000 gallons per year on sunflower seed oil as feedstock and has contracted for additional feedstock for additional plants.
However, the final answer for biodiesel feedstock will not be oil crops – it will be algae. For example, soybean produces only 48 gallons of oil per acre per year, canola produces 140 gallons per acre and algae can produce well over 10,000 gallons per acre.
This figure has been verified in actual algae field production tests by the US Department of Energy in an 18 year Algae Study Program from 1978 – 1996. This makes algae the only worldwide feedstock capable of replacing crude oil. Making use of algae also means not competing with crops for food sources…
Mr. de Beer has entered into an agreement with Greenfuel Technologies Corporation, and has purchased and removed the MIT bioreactor from Cambridge, Massachusetts and transported it to South Africa. It has been reassembled on the biodiesel plant site in Naboomspruit, South Africa and is now awaiting the arrival of the algae to be inoculated to start production…
Most of the 90 franchised biodiesel plants are located close to electric power plants as well as other CO2 emitters, to utilize their stack emissions (CO2) to feed the algae farms when they switch over feedstock from oil seed crops to algae…
GSPI is proud to be part of this De Beers Fuel Limited Team in South Africa and has already set up operations at its 90,000 sq. ft. Idaho Facility to fabricate as many as 150 reactors per year to accommodate anticipated expansion of De Beers plant facilities into other countries…

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells for the lomg haul…

A prototype 5 kW-class complete system using the SECA technology has operated for 2,800 hours and continues to operate at the Siemens facility near Pittsburgh, PA. It has met or exceeded all of the DOE technical and economic objectives for Phase 1 of the SECA program.
The successful operation of the SECA system is especially noteworthy in that there has been absolutely no degradation of cell or system performance during the period of operation.

Lead Acid Batteries anticipate a quantum leap…

The approach used by Firefly Energy, a spin-out of Caterpillar, is radical but simple. The company’s new battery removes past obstacles such as heavy weight, extensive corrosion and sulfating positive and negative lead metal grids by substituting them with carbon-graphite foam, increasing the surface area, to enhance the chemistry taking place.
The result is a battery that can rival the advanced chemistries in performance, take advantage of an existing manufacturing base and address environmental concerns through the removal of one-half to two-thirds of the lead content…
Additionally, by replacing most of the lead with a much lighter material, Firefly has drastically lowered the specific weight of the battery, which can help by either increasing output from the same weight or in creating a smaller package but with normal power output.

There’s plenty more where that came from. More than I imagine you would ever want to know about, but I do hope that the basic point has been made. In the interests of good sportsmanship I’ll give Kunstler the last word…

November 13, 2006
Get this: the day is not far off when, for one reason or another, the flow of imported oil to the US will cease. But when that day comes, we will not be running our shit the way we have been running it. That day will be the end of the interstate highways, Walt Disney World, and WalMart — in short, the way of life we are fond of calling “non-negotiable.”
We are not going to run that shit on coal liquids or tar sand byproducts or oil shale distillates or ethanol or biodiesel, or second-hand french-fry oil. Nor on solar, wind, nuclear, or hydrogen. You can run things on that stuff, but not the biggies we run at their current scale.