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The Mirage of a Growing
Mathematically, drilling more oil is a losing game.
with permission, originally printed in the June 4th edition of
the New York Times, written by Evar D. Nering, professor
emeritus of mathematics at Arizona State University (A side
note: it is generally considered that we have about 50 years of
oil left, at the present rate of usage and current growth rate
of 5%--and growing--per annum).
When I discussed the
exponential function in the calculus classes I taught, I used
consumption of a non-renewable natural resource as an example;
since there is a national debate about energy policy, it may be
useful to talk about the mathematics involved in making rational
decisions about resource use.
hypothetical situation: we have a 100 year supply of oil—that
is, oil that would last 100 years if consumed at its current
rate. But the oil is consumed at a rate that grows by 5% each
year. How long will it last under these circumstances? It’s an
easy calculation, about 36 years.
But let’s say we
underestimated the supply, and we actually have a 1,000 year
supply. At the same annual growth rate of 5%, how long will that
last? The answer is about 79 years. Then let’s say we make a
striking discovery of more oil—a bonanza—and now we have a
10,000 year supply. At the same rate of our growing use, how
long would it last? Answer: 125 years. Estimates vary for how
long currently known oil reserves will last, but all are
considerably less than 100 years. But the point of this analysis
is that it really doesn’t matter what the estimates are; there
is no way that a supply-side attack on America’s energy
problem can work.
show that if consumption of an energy resource is allowed to
grow at a steady 5% annual rate, a full doubling of the
available supply will not be as effective as reducing that
growth by half – to 2.5%. Doubling the size of the oil reserve
will add at most 14 years to the life expectancy of the resource
if we continue to use it at the currently increasing
rate. On the other hand, halving the growth of consumption will
almost double the life expectancy of the supply, no matter what
it is. This math reality seems to have escaped the politicians
pushing to solve the energy problem by simply increasing supply.
Building more power
plants and drilling for more oil is exactly the wrong thing to
do, because it will encourage more use. To avoid dire
consequences, we need to find the political smarts and will to
reduce the growth in energy consumption to zero—or even begin
to consume less. I must emphasize that reducing the growth rate
is not what most people are talking about when they advocate
conservation; the steps they recommend are just Band-Aids. If we
increase the gas mileage of our vehicles and then drive more
miles, for example, that will not reduce the growth rate.
Reducing the growth of consumption means living closer to where
we work or play. It means telecommuting. It means controlling
population growth. It means basic conservation techniques that
work. It means shifting to renewable energy sources. It is not,
perhaps, necessary to cut our use of oil, but it is essential we
cut the rate of increase at which we consume it. To do otherwise
is to leave our descendants in an impoverished world.
|YOU MUST BE THE CHANGE YOU
WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD.
Wind power — right for
|There are several factors to determine the
feasibility of wind generation at your site; the first
is obviously a good average wind speed—at least 10 to
12 mph or better. Check with your local weather station
or airports to help determine this. Zoning requirements
are another consideration; will your community let you
put up a tower?
Utilizing efficient appliances and lighting in your
home will help make the system cost much less—every
dollar spent on efficiency will save you three to five
dollars in the cost of your power system, solar or wind.
To figure what components it would take for your
system, we need to know 1) your power requirements in
terms of watt-hours a day, or how much power you’d
like to make with this system 2) the average wind speed
3) your peak loads (the total watts of all appliances,
lights, etc., that might be running at one time—this
is how we size the inverter) and 4) any special load
considerations, like 240VAC loads, utility interactive
or not, battery back-up or not.
Bergey Windpower Corporation now offers another
option with their Excel 10 model: you can have your
system hooked to utility power without batteries—a
grid interactive system. When the wind blows, the power
you make goes directly against your loads, and when you’re
making more power than using, you can sell your power
back to the utility. If you’re interested in this type
of system, contact your local utility and ask what sort
of net metering plan they offer.
Bergey Windpower has a great web site with
state-by-state wind maps at www.bergey.com
your zone rating is "3" or higher, you‘re
likely in a very good site for wind generation. You can
print pricing, spec sheets, installation manuals and
tower options right off their site. For information on
small wind gennies for remote cabins with modest power
are links at the bottom with more information on other
components, basic wiring diagrams, etc.
Wind power is a vastly underdeveloped resource in
this country; there’s enough viable wind power in
eastern Montana and the Dakotas to supply the electrical
needs of all of North America! But if you have a good
site with consistent moderate to high winds, at least
you can put it to work for you.
Bergey Windpower Corp’s XL.1 Wind
|This is the most technically advanced
small wind turbine ever. It comes backed by a full five year
warranty. The XL.1 is designed for high reliability, low
maintenance, and automatic operation in adverse weather
conditions. The unit comes with its own PowerCenter (controller)
which includes the ability to add up to 30 amps of photovoltaic
capacity. Owner installations are a snap with tilt-up tower
options from 30 to 104 feet. . Units
currently available are for 24V battery charging systems; the
XL.1-S is in the forecast for next year, which will be a
grid-interactive unit for batteryless systems! More voltage
ranges are coming too.
|* Five year warranty
* Maintenance-free design
* Nearly silent operation
*Good low wind performance
|* Autofurl storm protection
* State of the art airfoil
* Direct-drive neodymium PM alternato
Bergey is swamped
right now—lead time is 4 to 6 months for these popular
units. Here’s data on the predicted energy production:
(above output is in Kilowatt Hours)
Energy Efficient Refrigeration by Vestfrost
|The ConServ refrigerator/freezers
offer an AC alternative for efficient refrigeration.
Available with stainless steel doors, and white exterior, their tall, slender
design is a handsome addition to any kitchen, and their
small "footprint" makes them desirable for
apartment dwellers or for anyone with a small or
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