The Impending Twin Crises
One Set of Solutions?

Complete Paper in .pdf Form

John H. Walsh
Energy Advisor


The relationship between the need to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and the impending peak in the world production of conventional oil is explored in this paper. The presumption is that vigorous action to address either of these issues will not be taken until there is a clear and present danger under crisis conditions. The order of occurrence of the two crises is important: it is a significant finding of this paper that it is easier to deal with both if the oil peak comes before the climate change imperatives rather than in the reverse order. A set of solutions is proposed for both crises which include the development of plug-in hybrid vehicles as a means of transferring a growing proportion of the energy needs for transportation to the electrical system so as to allow time for the deployment of the hydrogen option. Measures by which the electrical network could cope with this new requirement are considered which include the perfection of coal-based processes that can either generate electricity or produce hydrogen depending upon system requirements with the associated carbon dioxide captured and sequestered. The approach taken here is that measures should be sought that free people to live as they wish without their future determined by energy problems.

There are four appendices to this paper of which only the first - The Problem with Oil - was published. In this Appendix, the present oil position is examined in more detail. In Appendix 2 - The Intertwined Dilemmas Posed by Natural Gas and Nuclear Power - posits that the price of natural gas in North America will tend to be set at margin by the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG) delivered by cryogenic tanker from many overseas sources. Given that the peak in the production of natural gas in North America will occur before the peak in world conventional oil production which in turn will precede that of conventional natural gas, this price could be low enough under equilibrium conditions such that electricity generated in combined-cycle processes will be lower in cost than that of nuclear power. Because it is unlikely that equilibrium conditions will be achieved except perhaps during recessions and periods of relative success in domestic exploration activities, for much of the time the cost of generating nuclear power will in fact be lower than generation from gas thus creating conditions of major uncertainty for the industry. In Appendix 3 - The Coal Opportunity - the options opened by the successful development of processes for the capture and sequestering of carbon dioxide are considered. Appendix 4 - The Importance of the Electrical Network - deals with the possible evolution of the electrical network as it supplies a growing share of the energy needs of the transportation sector, and how the production of hydrogen could help keep the system in balance.

September 2005
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Tel: (613) 745-6279

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