The energy flow diagram below depicts sources of energy and their utilization. For example, petroleum is used by transportation (70%) and manufacturing (30%). The energy output of these two services flows into rejected energy and energy services (i.e., energy conservation). Natural gas is used for electrical energy generation, as well as heating for residential, commercial and industrial sectors. Numbers associated with each energy consumption block are stated in terms of quads (1 quad = 1000 trillion British thermal units). This chart, developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is used as dose of reality to understand the energy goals of the Department of Energy.
DOE Energy Goals and Reality:
DOE Goal: “Efficient transformation of the nation’s energy system and secure U.S. leadership in clean energy technologies”
Transformation Reality – Fossil Fuel Dominance: According to the energy flow chart, the United States is dominated by fossil fuel consumption with renewable energy sources playing an insignificant role. Renewable energies could help reduce green house gas emissions, but are not sufficiently plentiful to matter.
Transformation Reality – Imported Oil: The United States imports 60 percent of its crude oil needs. In about 11 years that figure will be 100 percent.
Transformation Reality – Millions of Passenger Cars Depend on Crude Oil: There are 250M registered vehicles in the United States and almost all operate on fuel derived from crude oil. Does the DOE have a plan to power that many vehicles based on a different fuel type? What about compressed natural gas as a fuel?
Transformation Reality – U.S. Leadership: “Denmark’s clean-tech investments equal 3.1 percent of GDP. Using that measure, China ranks second, spending 1.4 percent of GDP on clean tech. The U.S. ranks 17th, with clean-tech investments accounting for 0.3 percent of GDP.”
DOE Goal: “Enhance nuclear security through defense, nonproliferation, and environmental efforts.”
Reality – Unreliable Nuclear Plants: “Of all 132 U.S. nuclear plants built (52% of the 253 originally ordered), 21% were permanently and prematurely closed due to reliability or cost problems, while another 27% have completely failed for a year or more at least once. The surviving U.S. nuclear plants produce ~90% of their full-time full-load potential, but even they are not fully dependable. Even reliably operating nuclear plants must shut down, on average, for 39 days every 17 months for refueling and maintenance, and unexpected failures do occur too.”
Reality – Imported Uranium: The United States imports nearly 90 percent of its uranium needs. Russia supplies 23 percent, while Kazakhstan provides 15 percent, among others. Does that foreign dependency on uranium represent nuclear energy security for the United States?
Reality – Unsafe Nuclear Waste Storage: Storage of spent nuclear fuel has not yet been resolved. Spent fuel is stored at nuclear plants, and could lead to disastrous consequences caused by earthquakes.
Reality – Risk of Nuclear Plant Melt Down: Some nuclear power plants lie dangerously close to earthquake faults. Indian Point Energy 3 in Buchanan, NY and Pilgrim 1 in Plymouth, MA are examples. What plans do the DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRC) have for these and similar cases? Where is the nuclear security to prevent disaster?
Note: There are 11 government agencies that support the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Solicitations from these agencies are published several times during the year and contain dozens of problem topics. For example, many topics from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have a keen interest in energy efficiency and renewable energy, some of which may overlap the issues raised in this post. Small businesses, sometimes teamed with universities, may submit proposals in response to these topics and possibly receive awards for technology/process development.Tags: DOE Energy Mission, Imported OIl, Passenger Cars, SBIR, Spent Fuel, STTR, U.S. Energy Leadership, U.S. Energy Policy, Unsafe Nuclear Plants, Unsafe Waste Storage