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Gasification Technology - Page 4

 Introduction | History | Challenges | Benefits | Current Tech | Future Tech | Conclusions 

By Scott Miller — February 2011

Gasification Benefits

So if we as a nation decide to go this route, what do we gain? Let’s take a closer look at this overall proposal and see what the potential benefits for this project would be. We’re proposing building a total capacity of 10 million barrels per day of synthetic fuel manufacturing capability. This would be the equivalent of 250 facilities similar in size to the Great Plains Synfuels Plant in Beulah ND. Overall, this infrastructure would consume roughly 1.5 billion tons of coal and biomass per year for the production of transportation fuels. The total cost to construct this infrastructure is estimated at approximately $700 billion over a 15 year period, for an average of less than $50 billion per year.

Economics:

We start by taking over $250 billion annually that we currently send out of the country to pay for foreign oil, and hand that cash over to US workers. Construction workers, scientists, engineers, welders, steel fabricators, farmers and general laborers would all get a chunk of the pie. A lot of pipes and other steel will go into one of these plants. And 1.5 billion tons of feedstock doesn’t just hop up on its feet and walk itself to the plants. For perspective, merely operating the gasification plants themselves would require over 150,000 workers and this doesn’t factor in constructing and maintaining the plants or getting the feedstocks to the plants.

By using gasification, we can also bring stability to energy prices in general. In today’s oil markets, rapid fluctuations on the order of 50% or more are the norm. Shifting fuel and energy prices impact all areas of the economy and stabilizing this segment will help other industries maintain profitability. A stable domestic supply of energy at a reasonable price also helps in growing domestic businesses as it takes some of the risk out of the equation (in other words, they will always be able to get their goods to market for a reasonable cost).

Where this is especially important is with the projected growth in demand for transportation fuels for China and India as these nations continue to modernize. The population of each of those nations is three times the United States so the overall potential demand for fuel there is enormous. It simply isn’t reasonable to believe that third parties can continue to meet the demands of all three nations as China and India progress. This means that either price will skyrocket for transportation fuels or major conflicts will occur between these nations. This proposal is the equivalent of adding a permanent, renewable Saudi Arabia to the mix – one with a never ending supply of fuel.

National Security:

While many are unwilling to state it outright, a very large portion of our current national defense expenditures are for the purpose of keeping conventional oil flowing globally. This should not be perceived in any manner as a commentary on the US Armed Forces; I’m merely stating a fact regarding the strategic planning used for designing and equipping our military. And I’m not going to ask you to take my word for it. A comprehensive study by the RAND corporation (arguably the largest think tank focused on defense issues today) openly admits that at least $90 billion per year is being spent solely on “Protecting the Global Flow of Oil” when one combines the structural costs of the forces and the average operational costs of those units. And before scoffing at that number, know that the enormous costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom were not included in their calculations – they instead used the operational costs of the twenty years prior to the beginning of OIF in 2003.
Imported Oil and U.S. National Security size: 1.25 Mb - 127 pages

Operations in Afghanistan alone are averaging over $40 billion per year as of 2011. To date, over $1trillion has already been spent on the Global War on Terror and there is currently no reasonable end in sight. For a nation that already has over $14 trillion in federal debt and is running an annual deficit over $1trillion, this level of military spending cannot continue for long. Whether anyone likes it or not, US operations in the Middle East will come to an end; either through our choosing to end the wars or through national bankruptcy.
The Cost of War on Terror Operations Since 9/11 size: 560 kb - 57 pages

Developing this gasification infrastructure will give the United States the option of walking away from the Middle East should it choose to do so without negatively impacting the economy. Moreover, it would help in preventing any future potential conflict with China or any other nation over access to petroleum. While many would call this abandonment of national responsibility, the reality is that most Middle East oil does not come to the United States. Given the fact that the United States collectively is by far the largest consumer of fuels in the world, one could also state that it should be a national responsibility to provide more of these fuels to the markets.

Environment:

According to EPA estimates for 2008, the aggregate total of waste generated by the people and industries of the United States was a bit over 8 billion tons. Over 7.5 billion tons came from industry while the remainder comes from a variety of sources. Most of the metallic wastes can be recycled but this still leaves large amounts of plastics, wood, paper, cardboard and various other materials suitable for gasification. Municipal trash alone is estimated at around 500 million tons per year.

Currently, a lot of this material goes to landfills where it is buried and left to decay over time. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this process, as little as 10% of this overall supply of waste would be sufficient to meet 50% of the feedstock requirements of the proposed gasification infrastructure. Conveniently, a number of states, such as New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California and Florida are already transporting portions of their wastes to other states due to lack of adequate landfill space or other environmental issues. With transportation already built into their waste management systems, these areas are excellent candidates for gasification facilities.

Moreover, gasification is especially valuable in the destruction and management of biohazardous materials and wastes. These materials are typically incinerated to destroy the hazards but gasification would allow reuse of the elements of the materials while still destroying the hazardous portions. Here again, special collection and transportation methods are already in place for this waste stream so converting to gasification here where adequate quantities are available should be more economical.

 Introduction | History | Challenges | Benefits | Current Tech | Future Tech | Conclusions 

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