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Old 8th April 2012, 07:05 AM   #1
WildCat
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Green Energy Stimulus You Can Believe In

Quote:
Batteries made in America for America and backed by America. That's how politicians hailed Ener1.

The company tapped the country's top scientists at Argonne National Lab in Illinois, and U.S. taxpayers pledged up to $118 million in federal stimulus funds and $80 million in state and local incentives to help Ener1 produce cutting-edge battery technology for electric cars and the U.S. military.

"This is about the future. And the question is which nation is going to seize the future. Some nation is going to grab it by the throat. One of the nations of the world is going to lead the world in green energy and technology," Vice President Joe Biden said in January 2011 in a speech praising federal support for Ener1 at its facility in Indiana.

That nation, it turns out, is Russia.

A little more than a year after Biden's visit to Ener1's Indiana manufacturing plant, the company's technology is owned outright by Boris Zingarevich, a Russian businessman with ties to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a fact that concerns some technology experts in the U.S.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/busine...,3261819.story

The perils of the government picking winners and losers in private industry...

Last edited by WildCat; 8th April 2012 at 07:06 AM.
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Old 8th April 2012, 12:36 PM   #2
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Actually, it is a good argument for subsidizing research with the provision tohat the technologies develeoped be put to use here. We subsizie the development of a superior computer processor that should put us years ahead of everybody else and it gets made in China. What have we gotten for it?

Trade polices that do not put up some kind of barrier to brain drain are doomed to failure.
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Old 8th April 2012, 01:36 PM   #3
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Or... we could stop fooling around with piddling little trinkets that can't do anything more than nibble around the edges of our energy consumption and start geting serious about energy by building thorium and fast breeder reactors.
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Old 8th April 2012, 02:01 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Sword_Of_Truth View Post
Or... we could stop fooling around with piddling little trinkets that can't do anything more than nibble around the edges of our energy consumption and start geting serious about energy by building thorium and fast breeder reactors.
The proponents of that technology do not donate enough money to the Democrats. (Or the Republicans, I'd wager).
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Old 8th April 2012, 02:07 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Sword_Of_Truth View Post
Or... we could stop fooling around with piddling little trinkets that can't do anything more than nibble around the edges of our energy consumption and start geting serious about energy by building thorium and fast breeder reactors.
You mean: we should get serious about subsizing them? If they're all that, why should they need subsidizing anyway?
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Old 8th April 2012, 03:14 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Newtons Bit View Post
The proponents of that technology do not donate enough money to the Democrats. (Or the Republicans, I'd wager).
It's probably got more to do with the bad image nuclear has to the general public keeping politicians away from it than anything else. And yes, I'm aware that some politicians fear monger off that bad image.


Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
You mean: we should get serious about subsizing them? If they're all that, why should they need subsidizing anyway?
That criticism applies to all forms of energy generation.
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Old 8th April 2012, 03:33 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Sword_Of_Truth View Post
Or... we could stop fooling around with piddling little trinkets that can't do anything more than nibble around the edges of our energy consumption and start geting serious about energy by building thorium and fast breeder reactors.
Exactly. That is the only path with a significant probability of success.
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Old 8th April 2012, 05:39 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by tyr_13 View Post
It's probably got more to do with the bad image nuclear has to the general public keeping politicians away from it than anything else. And yes, I'm aware that some politicians fear monger off that bad image.
This can be offset by donating more money.
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Old 8th April 2012, 07:49 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by tyr_13 View Post
It's probably got more to do with the bad image nuclear has to the general public keeping politicians away from it than anything else.
Surely another thing that is at least as important is whatever it is that's keeping investors away.

Quote:
That criticism applies to all forms of energy generation.
Some more than others, though. Right? Is that not implicit in the wording of the thread title? And is it not also an accurate observation that profits from energy produced (from various sources) and sold by private entities often end up in the pockets of foreign investors? Of the billions of dollars in US government subsidies that go to the oil industry every year, how much went to, say, Enron before that enterprise went toes up, and what portion of those assets ended up in foreign hands?

The OP's linked article quotes Michael Grosberg, chief operating officer of Global Technology Systems Inc., a Massachusetts-based maker of industrial and military batteries and energy control systems, as having said:

"The U.S. government should act immediately to ensure more taxpayer dollars are not lost and U.S. security is not compromised.''

So (to WildCat in particular):
Do you agree with that? If so, just what sort of action should the government take?
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Old 8th April 2012, 07:52 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
Surely another thing that is at least as important is whatever it is that's keeping investors away.
My guess is the uncertainty entailed in the possibility of endless lawsuits delaying the start for years, if not decades.

Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
So (to WildCat in particular):
Do you agree with that? If so, just what sort of action should the government take?
Clear the way for more certainty in the nuclear power industry.

Last edited by WildCat; 8th April 2012 at 07:54 PM.
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Old 8th April 2012, 09:34 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by WildCat View Post
Clear the way for more certainty in the nuclear power industry.
How?

I mean, I agree that lack of certainty is surely one of the things that gives potential investors cause for pause. The up front costs are bad enough even assuming no significant cost overruns (which would be a very dubious assumption to make), but calculating decomissioning costs involves a lot of what can only be realistically called guesswork. Even if the waste disposal problem finds a solution, who knows what the political and economic climate will be like by the time a plant reaches the end of its serviceable lifetime? We're talking, what? Fifty years? Sixty? We could be using human ears as a form of currency by then. It's not like we have a lot of experience to draw on, either, considering that no commercial nuclear power plant in the US has ever actually been, you know, fully decomissioned.

So what's the plan again?
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Old 8th April 2012, 10:44 PM   #12
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How many has nuclear power killed per Kwh?

How many has coal killed per?
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Old 8th April 2012, 11:05 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
You mean: we should get serious about subsizing them? If they're all that, why should they need subsidizing anyway?
Why assume that subsidies are needed?

The biggest nuclear disaster in US history wasn't Three Mile Island, it was Shoreham. Beginning construction in 1974, Shoreham Nuclear Generating Station in Long Island New York cost more than 6 billion dollars to build for an measly 800 megawatts of capacity. During the twenty years from when the first shovel was turned to its final decommissioning in 1994, Shoreham withered under a constant barrage of protests, regulatory hurdles, legal injunctions and politically motivated setbacks.

Shoreham never once generated a single watt of power. The government agreed to buy the unfinished plant from its owners transferring the entire 6 billion dollar cost to the New York taxpayers.

Americas nuclear regulations are a mess. The mission of the NRC is to assist and encourage the development of safe nuclear power, but it has gone way off mission and all but actively opposes nuclear energy. Someone needs to clean house at the NRC, the anti-nuclear zealots currently manning the helm need to be given their golden parachutes and sent home. Kickstarting the nuclear renaissance is one thing that can be achieved by reducing government involvement.
Particular attention should be paid to reforming the regulatory structure of
the nuclear industry. The current structure is both extraordinarily cumbersome
and restrictive in scope. For instance, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
is equipped to review only one kind of reactor design, a limitation that dampens
competition, stifles innovation, and drives up prices. Yet even review of that
single design can stretch on interminably. Seventeen applications for 26 units
are now pending before the NRC. It is little surprise, then, that the United States
has not issued a permit to construct a single new nuclear plant for more than
three decades. Compare that to France, where fifteen plants were built during
the same period*, or China, which has begun construction on ten plants in the last
ten years. As president, I will seek to streamline NRC procedures so
that licensing decisions for any reactors to be built with an approved design on
or adjacent to an existing site are completed within two years. And he will expand
NRC capabilities so that the agency is able to review and approve several types of
certified reactor designs in a way that ensures safety and reliability.

- Governor Mitt Romney

*Romney is incorrect, France constructed 56 reactors in 15 years

I’m calling on my President (yes, I voted for President Obama and probably will do so again) to recognize that the best course of action for the nation and for his political future is to tell [Nuclear Regulatory Comission] Chairman Jaczko to resign and to take his antinuclear activism with him. Failure to take that action promptly would demonstrate a significant lack of understanding and judgement that would encourage me to support someone else.
- Rod Adams, Procedure and Process Development Lead at B&W Modular Nuclear Reactors
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Old 8th April 2012, 11:19 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Sword_Of_Truth View Post
Why assume that subsidies are needed?
My point. Besides, government loan guarantees are available.

Now all that's lacking is investor interest.
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Old 8th April 2012, 11:42 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
My point. Besides, government loan guarantees are available.

Now all that's lacking is investor interest.
Right... short version then.

Layers, protestors and politicians are getting in the way.

Get rid of the lawyers protestors and politicians, nuclear becomes cheaper.

No subsidies needed.
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Old 9th April 2012, 12:06 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Sword_Of_Truth View Post
Right... short version then.

Layers, protestors and politicians are getting in the way.

Get rid of the lawyers protestors and politicians, nuclear becomes cheaper.

No subsidies needed.
Why not just get rid of everybody? Cheapest solution of all. No nuclear energy needed.
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Old 9th April 2012, 12:30 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by WildCat View Post
The perils of the government picking winners and losers in private industry...
Back to the OP, which is not about nuclear power.

WildCat, this old saw about winners and losers is nonsense. The government has always been making investments in every area you can imagine. Even prosaic things such as planning a road generates winners and losers. It is totally meaningless to say government should not pick winners and losers. Be specific, what would that even look like?
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Old 9th April 2012, 12:36 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by WildCat View Post
http://www.chicagotribune.com/busine...,3261819.story

The perils of the government picking winners and losers in private industry...
Other than garden-variety nativist hand-wringing, I don't see what the big deal is here. He was the highest bidder for a bankrupt company. These batteries are of fairly limited military potential.

Quote:
Theodore O'Neill, senior vice president of alternative energy for Wunderlich Securities, said it is unlikely the battery technology Ener1 developed was any more high-tech than what Russia had already acquired or developed.

Ilias Belharouak, an Argonne researcher who worked on the battery project, said the company didn't move forward with battery production because by then the auto industry had introduced plug-in vehicles, and the company's batteries were too heavy.
If this was an amazing breakthrough technology, why did the company go bankrupt, and why didn't any American want to pay more than $81 million to buy it?
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Old 9th April 2012, 08:40 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by SezMe View Post
Back to the OP, which is not about nuclear power.
I submit that this recommendation: "Clear the way for more certainty in the nuclear power industry" stands as evidence that the subject of nuclear power was, at least implicitly, part of thinking that inspired the OP.
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Old 9th April 2012, 10:32 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
I submit that this recommendation: "Clear the way for more certainty in the nuclear power industry" stands as evidence that the subject of nuclear power was, at least implicitly, part of thinking that inspired the OP.
It really is the only solution that is viable over large scales and long time frames.
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Old 9th April 2012, 11:43 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Sword_Of_Truth View Post
It really is the only solution that is viable over large scales and long time frames.
If one assumes continued economic growth with little fundamental change in lifestyles, then it's hard to see any solution as viable, nuclear energy included. I believe that we need to learn to think in terms of managed contraction.
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Old 9th April 2012, 12:23 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
then it's hard to see any solution as viable, nuclear energy included.
That's because you don't understand it well enough to come to an informed conclusion.

Quote:
I believe that we need to learn to think in terms of managed contraction.
Given the existence of an energy supply large enough to feed our needs for more than 7 million years at late 20th century levels of consumption, that would be a gobsmackingly stupid choice, to put it lightly.

That's like tying a tourniquet around your neck after hearing that the Earths atmosphere is only 20% oxygen.

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Old 9th April 2012, 01:31 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Sword_Of_Truth View Post
It really is the only solution that is viable over large scales and long time frames.
Strictly speaking, that's not true. Many renewable may be viable over large scales AND long time frames, but nuclear is the only one that is also currently viable.


As to the OP, I'm confused as to the major issue. A promising technology didn't pan out and the company that was invested in failed and was bought up. What specifically is the problem? That the government didn't pick the right technology/company or that the government didn't buy them out? That the government made the investment in the first place?
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Old 9th April 2012, 02:23 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Sword_Of_Truth View Post
That's because you don't understand it well enough to come to an informed conclusion.
I understand that nuke plants produce electricity, and we're not presently anticipating any shortages of energy in that form anyway. Our economic growth runs on liquid fuels, and converting it to run on electricity would involve a hell of a lot more than building the generating stations.

So all we have to do is "eliminate" all those who object to the idea of nuclear power (for whatever reasons, valid or not), and hey presto the quadrillions of dollars it would take to build enough nuke plants to replace the energy we presently obtain from oil would materialize out of thin air, and the plants would suddenly spring up like daisies across the land.

You're hallucinating.
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Old 9th April 2012, 02:39 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
I understand that nuke plants produce electricity, and we're not presently anticipating any shortages of energy in that form anyway. Our economic growth runs on liquid fuels, and converting it to run on electricity would involve a hell of a lot more than building the generating stations.

So all we have to do is "eliminate" all those who object to the idea of nuclear power (for whatever reasons, valid or not), and hey presto the quadrillions of dollars it would take to build enough nuke plants to replace the energy we presently obtain from oil would materialize out of thin air, and the plants would suddenly spring up like daisies across the land.

You're hallucinating.
You can use nuclear power to replace natural gas power generators and then use the natural gas to power vehicles. Natural Gas is currently 25% of our power generation.
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Old 9th April 2012, 03:14 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
I understand that nuke plants produce electricity, and we're not presently anticipating any shortages of energy in that form anyway. Our economic growth runs on liquid fuels, and converting it to run on electricity would involve a hell of a lot more than building the generating stations.

So all we have to do is "eliminate" all those who object to the idea of nuclear power (for whatever reasons, valid or not), and hey presto the quadrillions of dollars it would take to build enough nuke plants to replace the energy we presently obtain from oil would materialize out of thin air, and the plants would suddenly spring up like daisies across the land.

You're hallucinating.
I was going to disagree with Sword_Of_Truth dismissing your viewpoint as you not being well enough informed on the subject to come to an informed choice. It appears he may have been correct though. I understand hyperbole, but really?
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Old 9th April 2012, 03:42 PM   #27
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Why not just have a big energy competition, whichever company comes up with the most sustainable (yet practical) new energy system gets a $50 billion dollar Govt contract to put it into operation at govt facilities (or however much that would cost)

Have some physics or energy guy from MIT be the chair of the board (made up of a cross of major scientists ) that selects the winner.
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Old 9th April 2012, 03:55 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Dymanic View Post
I understand that nuke plants produce electricity, and we're not presently anticipating any shortages of energy in that form anyway. Our economic growth runs on liquid fuels, and converting it to run on electricity would involve a hell of a lot more than building the generating stations.
Nuclear Ammonia – a sustainable nuclear renaissance’s ‘Killer App’?
A key component of this energy revolution would be to find feasible ways of converting clean electricity (or heat) into a usable liquid fuel, to replace oil. Although biomass will provide for some of this demand, it is unrealistic to expect vast areas of arable land to be turned over to ethanol production, and as such, various synfuels (e.g., hydrogen and hydrogen-nitrogen or hydrogen-carbon derivatives such as ammonia, hydrazine and methanol) will necessarily be required, manufactured using energy inputs to liberate free hydrogen from water, plus atmospheric or concentrated gas streams to provide the other constituent elements (C, N, O). (A useful recent overview of this topic is Forsberg 2009, Is hydrogen the future of nuclear energy?).

The hydrogen used in synfuel production will likely come from either electrolysis at ~30 % electricity-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency, or via direct nuclear (or solar) heat via high-temperature thermochemical water decomposition, catalysed using the hybrid S-I or Cu-Cl cycles, at a 60 % heat-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency (Orhan et al., 2010). The ratio of future (c2100) direct electricity use to the final energy used in synfuel manufacture (via electrolysis and nuclear heat) was estimated to be 0.4 by Eerkens (2006, pg 135), although this figure did not include battery electric vehicles or biofuels.
Put simply, nuclear energy can be used to harvest feedstock, literally out of thin air, to produce unlimited amounts of ammonia or synthetic hydrocarbons.
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Old 9th April 2012, 04:02 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by LogicFail View Post
Have some physics or energy guy from MIT be the chair of the board (made up of a cross of major scientists ) that selects the winner.
That's exactly what WildCat is bitching about in the OP. He doesn't want anyone picking winners or losers except the free market ... whatever that is.
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Old 9th April 2012, 04:04 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Sword_Of_Truth View Post
That's because you don't understand it well enough to come to an informed conclusion.
Too bad JREF doesn't have a Hubris Award. This would have retired the trophy.
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Old 9th April 2012, 04:05 PM   #31
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In fact recent advances in electro-hol microbes can convert electricity into liquid fuel with fertilizer as a bi-product, although only at 15% efficiency if I remember correctly. But this brand new method obviously has huge advantages for nuclear and solar infrastructure.
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Old 9th April 2012, 04:11 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by SezMe View Post
That's exactly what WildCat is bitching about in the OP. He doesn't want anyone picking winners or losers except the free market ... whatever that is.
The market would still dictate what works and is practical. I don't think that the Govt would have the right to mandate switching to some new unpractical system. However it would go a long way towards stimulating some research.

Think of it like the prizes for the solar powered car or manned powered flight ...etc Perhaps no direct practical technology sprang from it, but I'm sure the research generated new avenues and views into new technologies.
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Old 9th April 2012, 04:25 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by SezMe View Post
Back to the OP, which is not about nuclear power.

WildCat, this old saw about winners and losers is nonsense. The government has always been making investments in every area you can imagine. Even prosaic things such as planning a road generates winners and losers. It is totally meaningless to say government should not pick winners and losers. Be specific, what would that even look like?
You don't see the difference between building a road and building a widget factory?
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Old 9th April 2012, 04:27 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by tyr_13 View Post
What specifically is the problem?
That the US government (meaning taxpayers) paid to develop technologies that are now owned by foreign interests.
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Old 9th April 2012, 05:22 PM   #35
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Why is that a problem?
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Old 9th April 2012, 05:30 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Peephole View Post
Why is that a problem?
Well, because such investment is intended to foster domestic industry.

I would have thought that kind-of obvious.

We clearly need to take steps to prevent that sort of thing.
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Old 9th April 2012, 06:05 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by tyr_13 View Post
In fact recent advances in electro-hol microbes can convert electricity into liquid fuel with fertilizer as a bi-product, although only at 15% efficiency if I remember correctly. But this brand new method obviously has huge advantages for nuclear and solar infrastructure.
I'd really like some sort of technology like that. I could have a solar panel on my roof that converted solar energy into liquid energy and stored it in a tank in my garage. Then when I needed to fill up I could do it at my own house. It would kill the energy cartels.
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Old 9th April 2012, 06:15 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by WildCat View Post
You don't see the difference between building a road and building a widget factory?
Two responses:

1) Not very much, no. Not, anyway, in the context we are discussing.
2) Replying to my question with a question doesn't answer my question.
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Old 9th April 2012, 06:17 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Newtons Bit View Post
I'd really like some sort of technology like that. I could have a solar panel on my roof that converted solar energy into liquid energy and stored it in a tank in my garage. Then when I needed to fill up I could do it at my own house. It would kill the energy cartels.
I agree that this would be a monumental change. Not only would it kill the energy cartels but it would make a huge reduction is electrical transmission losses.
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Old 9th April 2012, 06:27 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by SezMe View Post
Originally Posted by Newtons Bit View Post
I'd really like some sort of technology like that. I could have a solar panel on my roof that converted solar energy into liquid energy and stored it in a tank in my garage. Then when I needed to fill up I could do it at my own house. It would kill the energy cartels.
I agree that this would be a monumental change. Not only would it kill the energy cartels but it would make a huge reduction is electrical transmission losses.
Provided you have a roof the size of the Toronto Skydome.
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