Exploring Hydrocarbon Depletion
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Drivers may hate rising gas prices, but some companies are delighted as they watch the oil price soar. Firms like BMW and Airbus which are leaders in fuel efficiency actually benefit from expensive oil. They are just two of a growing number of companies that are already developing technologies for a post-fossil-fuel world.
But Norbert Reithofer, the CEO of BMW, seems surprisingly relaxed for an executive whose company's products depend on gasoline and diesel. "One could see this as a threat," Reithofer says. But the auto executive actually views the rising price of fuel as "an opportunity." He is convinced that his company will in fact "derive a benefit from this."
The Munich-based automaker has invested billions of euros in fuel-saving technologies, such as efficient engines, brake energy recovery and ultra-lightweight carbon fiber car bodies. BMW is now considered a leader in the field, and the company's record sales in 2011 suggest that this is something its customers are willing to pay for. And that, Reithofer believes, is why the company will ultimately benefit from high prices at the pump.
Airbus CEO Tom Enders uses a similar argument. He ought to be upset about high kerosene prices. They have sharply affected his customers, the airlines, whose profits are shrinking and who are investing less money in buying new planes as a result. Nevertheless, Airbus has never had as many orders on its books as it does today.
If every person on Earth used as much energy as the average person in the United States, today's known oil reserves would be exhausted within nine years.
A raft of new offshore wind farms and hydroelectric power plants are in the offing, after German energy companies and investors yesterday confirmed they are preparing to plough up to €60bn into overhauling the country's power infrastructure, following the government's pledge to phase out nuclear reactors.
The energy and water industry association BDEW issued a report on the first day of the Hanover industrial fair revealing that plans are underway to build or modernise 84 power stations with a combined capacity of 42GW.
The federal government offers incentives to place facilities in 17 designated areas in six Western states, including 154,000 acres in California.
The Obama administration unveiled plans Tuesday to ramp up solar energy production, offering incentives for solar developers to cluster projects on 285,000 acres of federal land in the western U.S and opening an additional 19 million acres of the Mojave Desert for new power plants.
The long-awaited plan also appears to rewind previous land-use decisions by the federal government. The pending policy rules out a long list of environmentally sensitive lands where the government — seeking to fast-track construction — had allowed solar development over the objections of environmentalists.
The plan places 445 square miles of public land in play for utility-scale solar facilities.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters on a conference call that the country had no solar projects in the planning stages when Obama took office, contrasting the situation with the current rush to build plants.
"We have turned that around," he said. "Three years later we stand at a proud moment in American history. It's hard to overstate what a significant milestone this is for our administration."
The plan establishes 17 solar energy zones in six Western states, including 154,000 acres in California. The zones were chosen because they avoided major environmental, cultural or other conflicts. The policy encourages developers to select sites within zones by promising minimal environmental reviews and expedited permitting.
In addition, the administration is completing work on a range of additional financial incentives, such as lower land lease payments and reduced costs of bonds.
Propellentless Space Propulsion Research Continues
1. Chinese scientists appear to have validated a propellentless space propulsion technology previously branded as impossible. Based on earlier British research, it is averred that the EmDrive concept provides sustained thrust at low cost and weight, but this has yet to be accepted even as a workable theory by the wider propulsion community.
2. This appears to be a violation the law of conservation of momentum. However, Shawyer says net thrust occurs because the microwaves have a group velocity (the velocity of a collection of electromagnetic waves) greater in one direction than the other and relativistic effects to modify the Newtonian mechanics. Shawyer compares the EmDrive to a laser gyroscope, which also looks like a closed system but is actually open and works thanks to relativistic effects.
3. Shawyer's analysis was challenged after the EmDrive was featured in a science magazine in 2006. John Costella, a researcher in relativistic electrodynamics, described the EmDrive as a fraud and argued that even with relativity there can be no net thrust. Shawyer built demonstration EmDrives to back his claims, including a 7-lb. version he said produced a thrust of 85 millinewtons (mN) with a 300-watt input. Skeptics, convinced of its impossibility, have not even tested the EmDrive.
4.There has been little interest in the EmDrive in the West so far, and Shawyer's government funding has ended. Boeing's Phantom Works, which has previously explored exotic forms of space propulsion, was said to be looking into it some years ago. Such work has evidently ceased. “Phantom Works is not working with Mr. Shawyer,” a Boeing representative says, adding that the company is no longer pursuing this avenue.
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