Al Gore has articuated a fantstic vision for our energy future, but his
vision is incomplete. Al left out one key element -- step #6 -- in his grand
plan for creation of a more sustainable energy infrastructure: decarbonizing
our massive investments in the storage and distribution of chemical energy
carriers -- natural gas, oil and coal. To achieve desired objectives any
grand plan must be global in scope and must include redesign and retrofit of
natural gas pipeline and bulk oil and chemical transport infrastructure to
carry low-carbon and zero-carbon chemical energy carriers.
Biofuels are a step in this direction, but society cannot place our energy
future solely on biofuels. It is my opinion that natural gas offers the only
commercially viable pathway to widespread deployment and use of hydrogen --
the only zero-carbon chemical energy carrier known to exist.
Pipelines and superships are the most efficient means of moving chemical
energy, renewable or otherwise, over long distances. Chemical energy
carriers, such as coal, oil, methane and hydrogen, are proven and effective
methods of storing and distrbuting refined energy products, renewable or
otherwise, to the places where needed.
The world energy infrastructure has been built around three fundamental
business models using the following technologies to store and distribute
electric and chemical energy:
1. the electric grid,
2. gas and liquid pipelines, and
3. bulk shipment of liquids and solids by ship, barge, rail and truck.
This entire infrastructure is robust and efficient because it is integrated;
like a sturdy three-legged stool. The system has also evolved slowly over a
period of several hundred years with periods of intense technology
advancement and deployment stimulated by war. The system has never been
centrally planned; it evolved and that is why it is so robust. And this is
why it will be so difficult to change.
But all of these infrastructure systems must change if we are to achieve
greenhouse gas reduction goals by 2050.
Unfortunately this integrated system of infrastructures is founded on a
fundamentally flawed concept that is in direct conflict with current goals
of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere: the system makes
universal use of chemical energy carriers that are compounds of carbon.
Since our existing prosperity is totally dependent on the efficient and
unrestricted production and distribution of these carbon-based gaseous,
liquid and solid fossil fuels, change is difficult and slow. The good news
is that the technologies needed to solve this problem already exist and are
in widespread commercial use. Unfortunately these low-carbon and zero-carbon
energy carriers are not being used to eliminate the release of carbon to the
Our challenge is to find ways to change existing industrial business models
to solve the climate crisis. Policy is needed that will direct investment to
the immediate and widespread commercial use of proven and emerging
technologies that eliminate the release of carbon compounds to the
atmosphere from all three legs of our global energy infrastructure.
The electric grid is an obvious target for government policy initiatives
because it is highly visible and highly regulated. In addition, electricity
is very efficient and millions of very smart people have made fortunes
learning how to use electricity to improve our quality of life and
information transfer. But to advocate energy policy and investment focused
solely on only one leg of this triad, the electric grid, is to invite
failure. This approach is like repairing only one leg of a wobbly three
legged stool. All three legs must be repaired at the same time.
Advocates for electricity are right; this nation needs a smarter and more
robust electric grid to manage the distribution of electricity. But we also
need a more robust method of managing the storage and distribution of all
forms energy, renewable and otherwise. Electric technologies, batteries,
flywheels, supercapacitors and high-voltage direct current transmission, are
fantastic technologies that must be deployed, but these high-risk and highly
specialized innovations should not, must not, be the only candidates for
development and deployment as we reinvent the global energy infrastructure.
A smart-grid must have smart energy storage; chemical energy carriers are by
far the most cost-efficient methods of storing energy. Hydrogen is the ideal
chemical energy carrier.
Electricity and hydrogen are complementary zero-carbon energy carriers; we
must develop policy that will create a robust and efficient integrated
energy infrastructure in ways that will meet all the needs of society. We
must develop a national, no a global, energy plan that includes the pipeline
infrastructure and the bulk transportation infrastructure. We must integrate
all elements of our massive investment in chemical energy carrier
infrastructure with Al's vision for a new, more efficient smart electric
Al needs to add point #6 to his grand plan -- global deployment of the ideal
carbon-free chemical energy carrier -- hydrogen -- to create an integrated
energy infrastructure that will actually reduce global greenhouse gas
emissions from all sources -- electric power production, transportation and
That's my opinion.
The Stone Age did end because the world ran out of stones; the oil age will
not end because the world runs out of oil; just cheap oil.
David E. Bruderly PE
Clean Power Engineering
920 SW 57th Drive
Gainesville FL 32607-3838
From: Bioenergy and Sustainable Technology Society
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Humphrey,Stephen R
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 12:55 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Al Gores's 5-point plan for a clean electricity system
Dr. Stephen R. Humphrey, Director of Academic Programs,
School of Natural Resources and Environment,
Box 116455, 103 Black Hall, University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-6455 USA
Tel. 352-392-9230, Fax 352-392-9748