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With oil running out, where do we go from here?

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posted on Feb, 21 2007 @ 11:41 PM
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This post is more about alternative fuels than it is about peak oil, but it's pertinent to the peak oil discussion, as it lists our options for fuels in a post-oil world.

As we all know, we're running out of oil. We have, at best, assuming we NEVER increase our oil consumption again, 50 years of oil left. More realistically, figuring in the typical increase in oil consumption over the past 25 years, we only have about 25 years of oil supply left.

Where do we go from here? What fuel are we going to use to power our homes, cars, and other needs? I know this is a discussion that has been visited many times on ATS, with many different opinions. What I hope to achieve here is some scientific and practical evidence as to what alternative fuel sources are going to be.

The first option is a newly developed technique of recycling discarded oil-based products into burnable gasoline, no different from the gasoline we burn now. While the process is efficient and practical, we still have the issue of burning highly polluting oil-based fuel, and additionally, recycling oil-based products still relies on a finite base of source material. We only have, at best, about 100 years worth of petroleum-based products to draw on. Estimates on the lifespan of this process are meager, at best, at only about 20-30 years, given current oil needs of the world.

What do we really need to focus on for renewable and efficient fuel sources? Well, obviously, renewability is a key element, but we also need to look at emissions and environmental impact, as our current fuel usage causes a great deal of harm to the relatively fragile ecosystem of the planet.

We need a fuel source that is clean burning, and at least as efficient as the oil that we have all come to need. This brings me to my second option: alcohol.

Alcohol is a highly efficient fuel (100% pure alcohol is roughly equivalent to 115 octane gasoline), and can run in most cars existing today without any alteration (though less efficiently than gasoline). To make a current car run efficiently on pure alcohol (Ethanol is the preferred alcohol - the same alcohol found in alcoholic beverages), requires not much more than a tune up, simply replacing a few filters, altering the timing, and replacing a few hoses (typically costing only $100-150 at an average auto shop). Alcohol is also infinitely renewable. As long as we have fertile soil, we have a source for Ethanol. Ethanol can be made from corn, sugar, molasses, sugar beets, tomatoes, and any other vegetation containing sugar. Recent advances in ethanol production have made it practical to make ethanol from ANY plant, including basic lawn-variety grass. I see this as being the most immediate solution to the energy problems, as it's easy to make, infinitely renewable, doesn't make our current cars obsolete, and has zero emissions (the only emissions from burning ethanol is water vapor). Additionally, high-performance racing cars have been running on ethanol since the birth of auto racing - almost 100 years. Ethanol can also replace oil in our power plants with minimal cost (roughly $300,000 per power plant to convert, and when looked at over a cost distribution to all customers of that power plant, means only a slight increase in power costs initially [to the tune of only a few cents per month], with an overall cost reduction, because of the inexpensive nature of ethanol). It's also interesting to note that Richard Nixon promoted ethanol use during his presidency, and was largely rejected by the American public until the oil shortage of the early 1970s. Whatever the cause of the shortage (popularly thought of as being falsified by oil barons and oil companies in search of better profits), it still spawned the use of gasahol, which is a combination of regular gasoline and ethanol. To this day, most gasoline American consumers buy is still at least 10% alcohol, and in the midwest, use of gasahol, even as much as 85% alcohol, and sometimes pure ethanol, is common.

There's many other solutions out there. Another popular one is electric power for cars. While Tesla Motors has proven that electric cars can be sexy, high performance, and offer a GREAT range, the power to charge the cars must come from somewhere.

This power is provided by power plants, most commonly burning oil or coal to generate power. What other sources can we use to generate power? With current technology, we have a few options for clean burning alternatives for our oil and coal power plants. Nuclear power is one. With current technology, nuclear power is actually VERY safe (we'll never see another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl event). With current technology, especially in containment, even in the event of a catastrophic meltdown, the radiation would never escape the primary containment chamber. We've also learned enough about nuclear power to keep the reaction running with minimal chance of a catastrophic meltdown. Nuclear is a good source, but once again, we'll eventually run out of Uranium 238, which is the fuel for a nuclear reactor. What else is out there?

Solar power is something that has been in use for many years, but never really proven effective enough to be a practical power source. Well, that is, until now. Modern solar cells, using only a minute amount of petroleum products to produce, and using mostly water for light focusing onto the solar cells, have proven to be almost 800 times more efficient than prior solar cells. With this new advancement, solar energy becomes viable as a power source. It's still not that effective, though, as even with the new technology, it would still require roughly 200 acres of solar cells to replace just one oil-burning power plant.

Another alternative is wind power. We've had wind-farms worldwide for decades, all providing power at only fractions of what oil plants can produce. Recent advances in power generation have made wind power viable as a primary power source. In a package that's roughly the same size as the average current wind generator (roughly 350 feet high, with blades of almost 150 feet, tip to tip), we're now able to produce almost eight times the amount of power that was previously generated. This advance makes wind power practical.

Finally, and we'll probably live to see this in large scale practical applications, there's the hydrogen fuel cell. This is certainly the technology with the most potential in the long term. Hydrogen can be produced from water (after all, every molecule of water contains two hydrogen molecules). This is a fuel source that can be gleaned from basic water, the most common substance on the planet, and when burned, releases only water. This is a fuel source that actually renews itself. The process is actually remarkably simple. First, a plant splits water molecules, releasing both oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is captured for fuel. It's also now possible, thanks to recent advances in the process from scientists in Denmark, to generate hydrogen directly at the pump (thus saving transportation costs). The process at the other end - burning hydrogen to create energy, effectively only combines the hydrogen atoms with oxygen atoms, creating an exhaust of only water, thus renewing itself through the environment. Most of us will likely live to see this in action, but it likely won't become commonplace for roughly 20-30 years, as the evolution of cars occurs, replacing internal combustion with hydrogen-powered electric.

Beyond that, there's a million theories, with no conclusive evidence to support them. Who knows what we'll discover in the future.

The most likely future energy tech will be nuclear fusion. CERN labs has recently installed a new particle accelerator for the sole purpose of testing fusion theories. At the moment, they are able to generate a reaction that regains 60% of the power. Think about it.




posted on Feb, 26 2007 @ 01:26 PM
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As for where will we go with regards to Electricity production, we are pretty much left with Nuclear Reactors.

Alot of other places in the world are nearing the oil issue that the US is afraid of. Almost all of these countries are in the process of constructing nuclear reactors... (those who are allowed to anyways). Those who the US says cannot use nuclear technology, is doing so anyways... because lets face it, they're going to have to when their generating stations become too expensive to run because the cost of oil is too high.

As for mobile power? I actually see battery storage taking over. If you would have asked me last year, I would have said, not a chance. But battery technology seems to be taking leaps and bounds lately that I didnt expect at all.



posted on Feb, 26 2007 @ 01:52 PM
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Great post obsidian468:

There’s two possible answers to your question (Yes, I’m afraid to say there’s only these two):

a) We enter a runaway greenhouse scenario where all water ‘boils off’ the earth into space and all life ceases to exist. (Very likely to happen IMHO)

b) We go back to becoming hunter-gatherers with a total world population of ca. 6 million people. Yep, that’s about all Mother Earth was able to sustain in pre-agricultural times.

Here’s an excellent link, not nearly as radical as my views of course, but a very good article indeed
www.fromthewilderness.com...

Greetings,
The Wizard In The Woods

[edit on 2/26/2007 by Wizard_In_The_Woods]



posted on Feb, 26 2007 @ 02:01 PM
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The US needs to actually invest time and money into safe, economical, and renewable resources. Nuclear power is fine, until...you have to dispose of the nuclear waste. We seal all of this down in the earth, or wherever the government feels like telling us they put it. We can use wind energy to create electorlysis and from that electrolysis we can use the hydrogen gas to power generators. There are efficient ways to "split" water, yet the US government has oil lobbyists blocking their mass production. Stan Meyer, only refuted as a fraud by our government, had a great idea. There is a way to conserve energy to make power. Our government just has to suck it up and deal with the fact they will not be able to tax energy as heavily. It's more about money than anything.
www.waterpoweredcar.com...

[edit on 2/26/2007 by AlphaAnuOmega]



posted on Feb, 27 2007 @ 03:20 PM
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Seeing how oil plays very little in electrical production for the residential and commercial grid, we will have to go with coal and coal liquefaction and gasification if oil runs out.

Don't worry about oil, leave that to me. 3 years I'll be out of school steaming across the ocean looking for oil where people never thought possible. Consider that less than 1% of the earth's surface has been drilled, and a significantly less percent of the earth's total volume has been explored for oil. Besides, 20 miles from the USAF base in Colorado Springs is the world's largest diposits of rock oil, rocks covered in oil. We can use solvent or CO2/steam stripping to get the oil, though I'd rather nominate using a nuke to strip the oil off the rock. Stick one nuke down in the ground, let it go off, half trillion barell of oil is what you get. Put in a facility to strip the radioactive materials off and you half the world's largest deposit of oil.

That's not to mention the places here in the US that have been purposely left untapped and explored. If it comes down to it, watch more than just ANWR lose out to big oil. I can't begin to imagine the total volume of oil in this world, especially considering how easily people gave up looking for oil after the Saudi find of Gahwar and the subsequent Kuwait and UAE discoveries.

The question is, how explored has Africa been. The deep heart of the continent is too messed up to seriously explore, hell, BHP has a damn hard time as it is taking out rare metals and diamonds, oil production would take 10 fold the effort, energy and money. Nobody will invest in the heart until they start to ackrite. As far as the cost goes, there is still too much # going on there. Everybody wants to establish their turf, rebels, whites, chinese and everyone else. The wars in Sudan for oil are only the start, I'll hate to say it, but those west coast country are poor as #, but the second they discover 30 billion barells of oil, watch the gun runners and smugglers turn that place into complete #. Try watching the countries send rag tag rebel groups across the border. Wait, they already do that #, look at what Rwanda and Uganda are doing to the Congo. No one controls that area, so go in a # them.



posted on Mar, 1 2007 @ 01:11 PM
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Originally posted by etotheitheta
Seeing how oil plays very little in electrical production for the residential and commercial grid, we will have to go with coal and coal liquefaction and gasification if oil runs out.

Don't worry about oil, leave that to me. 3 years I'll be out of school steaming across the ocean looking for oil where people never thought possible.



Honestly, I'd rather not have any more oil found, for ecological reasons. Think about it: even if the world's oil supply were infinite, with the current trends in the increase of carbon-based fuel consumption (oil, coal, etc), within 100 years, we'll have completely destroyed the ozone layer, baked ourselves alive due to the sun's, then unfiltered, UV rays, and rendered the planet uninhabitable - not to mention that without the ozone, and the increased greenhouse effect, raised the planetary temperature by at least 10 degrees, resulting in either a new ice age, or starting a massive warming trend that could ultimately raise planetary temperatures by a few hundred degrees, not to mention initially flooding most land on the planet, and eventually causing the oceans to evaporate completely. Within 1000 years, Earth could be like Mars.

I'd far rather see the money currently spent on oil exploration put into research and development of clean energy sources such as Ethanol and Hydrogen, helping to ensure the longevity of life on Earth (assuming us humans can keep from blowing each other up, which doesn't seem likely - but that's a different thread for a different forum).

I think, for the long term, hydrogen is probably the best suited to life on this planet. Hydrogen is derived from splitting water molecules, and burning hydrogen returns water to the planet. Water is the most common resource on the planet, and the process of extracting hydrogen and burning it returns water to the planet. It is the ultimate self-renewing fuel. On top of that, the water produced by hydrogen burning is as pure as water can be. 100% H2O, with no other chemicals in it. It is so clean, that we can actually drink the water produced by hydrogen burning, with absolutely no treatment needed (except maybe an ice cube or two to cool it down).

Even if 99% of the world's oil has not been discovered, I'd still rather see alternative fuels in use. Oil is needed for things besides burning for fuel. Plastics require oil, Solar cells require oil, certain glasses require oil, certain metal alloys require oil. There's infinite uses for oil outside of burning for energy production. The other uses for oil will likely prove to be far more valuable in the future than the simple energy needs. I'd rather preserve the remaining oil in the world for use in such materials, and get our energy elsewhere.



posted on Mar, 1 2007 @ 01:35 PM
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Originally posted by Wizard_In_The_WoodsThere’s two possible answers to your question (Yes, I’m afraid to say there’s only these two):

a) We enter a runaway greenhouse scenario where all water ‘boils off’ the earth into space and all life ceases to exist. (Very likely to happen IMHO)

b) We go back to becoming hunter-gatherers with a total world population of ca. 6 million people. Yep, that’s about all Mother Earth was able to sustain in pre-agricultural times.


That's really a rather bleak outlook, Wizard.

As much as I hate to paint world governments (and whatever forces may be behind them) in a positive light, I feel that the greed of the world governments will not allow that to happen. World governments now are fighting over oil, because it's a dwindling resource, and integral to life as we know it. It's a good reason for them to go to war, and thus profit further from it.

However, in the (likely near) future, when oil becomes a lost cause, we'll see implementation of known alternative fuels, to keep their war machines running, and keep their profits flowing in. Many of these technologies are in use today (such as Ethanol and Hydrogen Fuel Cells), but not commonly. The world governments/NWO will not let civilization fail over something like fuel sources, when so many alternatives are already viable.



posted on Mar, 1 2007 @ 01:53 PM
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I don't think we're running out of oil. The amount of oil seems to be directly proportional to technology advances and cost. As technologies advance, we have the ability to claim oil where it hasn't been claimed before. As prices increase, it becomes profitable to obtain oil from sources that were too expensive before. Frankly, I'm not worried about running out within my lifetime and I'd be surprised if it happens during my kids' lifetimes either.



posted on Mar, 1 2007 @ 01:57 PM
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Originally posted by johnsky
As for where will we go with regards to Electricity production, we are pretty much left with Nuclear Reactors.



Interestingly enough, nuclear isn't our only option for private power generation. It may, perhaps, be the best solution for the near future, but it is possible that we may end up seeing power production on a much smaller scale in the future. Rather than having large, centralized power plants, we may end up with personal power plants. Let me explain:

Once (if) hydrogen fuel cell vehicles become the norm, they could also possibly produce power for our homes as well as the car. If you think about it, the average American driver is only in their car about an hour a day (I know that time varies significantly, based on the area a person lives in - between 10 minutes a day to 4-6 hours a day). Either way, we don't use our cars 100% of the time, and the fuel costs once a hydrogen infrastructure is in place would be very cheap (roughly an 80% drop in fuel-per-mile costs, inflation notwithstanding, due to the ability to produce hydrogen at filling stations (eliminating the need for shipping), and the simplicity and inexpensiveness of the equipment needed to produce the hydrogen). When the car is parked, it could be used to power our homes and charge batteries in our homes to power the home when the car is not there. Many homes could also be equipped with the new generation of highly efficient solar cells (generating roughly 800 times more power than current common solar cells), which would augment the power generated from the car.

The way the prototype hydrogen fuel cell cars work, is that the hydrogen burning runs a generator, that powers four electric motors in the car, one on each wheel, as well as all other electrical needs of the car - headlights, radio, GPS system, autopilot (yes, there are working prototypes at both BMW and Mercedes), etc. That same generator is the one that can power a home. The power needs of an average hydrogen-powered car is roughly equivalent to the power needs of an average home. Think about it - all power needs are paid for up front, all through the use of fuel for the car. If a central power grid is still in place, excess energy would be fed back into the grid, resulting in discounts/credits for the person, and taking fuel costs from the astronomical rate they are now, and reducing them to a negligible amount.

There are many options out there. Just take the time to research them.



posted on Mar, 1 2007 @ 02:10 PM
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Originally posted by AlphaAnuOmegaThere is a way to conserve energy to make power. Our government just has to suck it up and deal with the fact they will not be able to tax energy as heavily. It's more about money than anything.


While it is mostly about money, as cheap alternatives come into use (such as hydrogen, which you alluded to, and I've mentioned a couple times in this thread), the government wouldn't have to tax fuels as heavily, as they would be spending far less in fuel costs. I'd estimate that the US government, between overseas and domestic needs, uses roughly $10 million a day in fuel (and possibly more, knowing how much fuel our average military aircraft or tank/armored vehicle uses, not to mention that many government officials are carried around in gas-guzzling limousines, often stretched SUVs). Those government taxes also go to cover overall power costs (could be as much as $500 million/day), which are currently provided by oil, coal, or nuclear plants.

Imagine if the cost of power was reduced by 80%. The government would be spending a whole lot less on power, and thus would need to tax less on power sources. Greed would probably keep the taxes to the everyman just as high, but the government would be spending a whole lot less. If that happens, they sure as (expletive deleted) better provide us with manned interplanetary travel, or something else equally as revolutionary, for the extra money they'd have.



posted on Mar, 1 2007 @ 03:29 PM
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That is some powerful arbitrary and treasonous thought obsidian468. Humans have been burning fossil fuels for hundreds of years with no long term maleffect on the earth's ozone layer, and in fact much can be made by saying fossil fuels have been burned for thousands of years with almost no malside effect.

You if-illogical reasoning with hydrogen fuel cells is dangerous. Hydrogen fuel cells don't not exist in the market plane for consumers to use as a homemade heat resevoir. Atmospheric concentration of hydrogen is low and the only place to find significant quantity of hydrogen ata low heat cost is by steam cracking methane and ethane and other light oil runs.

There are no cheap alternatives, thermodynamics dictates that hydrogen cells, solar and wind power are explicity weak and unsatisfyingly noneconomical. Making these ideas come to life would be an endotropic disaster. The economy would absorb more energy than can be supplied with a rapidly large increase in disorder of the economy itself. This will not favor the end result of a cheap alternative.

We first burnt wood, then coal, then gas and now oil. Coal, gas and oil are the future for at least the next half dozen generations to play around with.



posted on Mar, 1 2007 @ 05:53 PM
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Originally posted by etotheitheta
That is some powerful arbitrary and treasonous thought obsidian468. Humans have been burning fossil fuels for hundreds of years with no long term maleffect on the earth's ozone layer, and in fact much can be made by saying fossil fuels have been burned for thousands of years with almost no malside effect.

You if-illogical reasoning with hydrogen fuel cells is dangerous. Hydrogen fuel cells don't not exist in the market plane for consumers to use as a homemade heat resevoir. Atmospheric concentration of hydrogen is low and the only place to find significant quantity of hydrogen ata low heat cost is by steam cracking methane and ethane and other light oil runs.

There are no cheap alternatives, thermodynamics dictates that hydrogen cells, solar and wind power are explicity weak and unsatisfyingly noneconomical. Making these ideas come to life would be an endotropic disaster. The economy would absorb more energy than can be supplied with a rapidly large increase in disorder of the economy itself. This will not favor the end result of a cheap alternative.

We first burnt wood, then coal, then gas and now oil. Coal, gas and oil are the future for at least the next half dozen generations to play around with.


Entire quote left for reference.

Apparently, you have not done your research. While you are correct that hydrogen fuel cells do not exist for commercial consumption, it is no secret that many city busses are running on hydrogen fuel cells (Baltimore, NYC, DC, LA, San Diego, just for instance), and the technology does exist.

As far as hydrogen only being available from the atmosphere (which we all know, hydrogen only makes up 1% of the atmosphere), you're sadly mistaken. A process currently exists to extract hydrogen from water, with water being the single most abundant resource on the planet. I'll support this with several references:

www.spiritofmaat.com...
witcombe.sbc.edu...
peswiki.com...:Hydrogen_from_Water
www.pureenergysystems.com...
freeenergynews.com...
www.physchem.co.za...


I can provide an entire google search (Google reports about 30,000 results, meaning that there's at least 100+ of worthy results) worth of more references. These are just the top 6 (searching on the keywords "hydrogen water"). There is PLENTY of scientific evidence of not only how to use hydrogen as a power source, but how to extract hydrogen from water. You'd probably find a whole lot more if you searched on "hydrogen energy".

In this regard, we would use NO atmospheric hydrogen, and only the extracted hydrogen, and in the use of such, returning the results of burning the hydrogen to the atmosphere.


In reverse order, to counter the information in your first paragraph, global warming and the environmental impacts of burning such fuel can also be supported with a simple google search:

www.globaleye.org.uk...
www.anr.state.vt.us... (PDF document - must have a free download of Adobe Acrobat reader to view)
response.restoration.noaa.gov... (Another PDF - see above)
www.newton.dep.anl.gov...
www.pca.state.mn.us... (another PDF document)
www.dar.csiro.au...

Once again, just the top six related topics found in a google search on "oil burning pollution". I did skip a few, as they didn't seem too related, but could be upon a further reading.

With these results, it seems that oil burning is harmful to the environment, and that hydrogen is the next great power milestone, with no adverse effects to the planet.

Just to add a few other pointers, check out the newest tech as far as wind, solar, and hydro power:


Wind power:
en.wikipedia.org...
www.awea.org...
www.otherpower.com...

These wind results don't suggest a power source that can replace other power sources, but can augment them in cheapening other power sources. These sources were gleaned from a google search on the terms "wind power".

Solar power:
en.wikipedia.org... (covering existing solar power)
home.clara.net...
www.solarelectricpower.org...
www.solarelectricpower.org...

Many more results can be found from a google search on "solar power"

Hydroelectric power:
en.wikipedia.org...
ga.water.usgs.gov...
www.tva.gov...
www.enviroliteracy.org...

Once again, many more results can be found from a simple google search with the keywords "hydroelectric power"

To address the final statement in your post, I'll quote again:


There are no cheap alternatives, thermodynamics dictates that hydrogen cells, solar and wind power are explicity weak and unsatisfyingly noneconomical. Making these ideas come to life would be an endotropic disaster. The economy would absorb more energy than can be supplied with a rapidly large increase in disorder of the economy itself. This will not favor the end result of a cheap alternative.



If you had done your research, you would have found both the cost effective and environmentally sound results of these power sources.

I strongly suggest that you read all of the links that I have provided above, as well as all the other links on the related google searches (keywords for which I have also provided).

Don't form an opinion until you know enough about it. You made assumptions based on unsupported ideas and theories that you didn't bother to back up.

Please, when you return to this thread, make an informed opinion, and provide sources.



posted on Mar, 1 2007 @ 09:54 PM
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where do you ge tthat free lunch at? How are you going to create electricity to create the hydrogen and oxygen? We have plenty of oxygen in the atmosphere from which we can distill, but not hydrogen, we have to use oil for that. Using electrolysis will create unnecessary amounts of oxygen.



posted on Mar, 2 2007 @ 02:35 PM
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etotheitheta,

Please read the entire topic. I have listed several currently available clean energy sources. Hydrogen is the best for running cars in the long term. As far as the energy needed to power the electrolysis process, that can easily be gleaned from other natural energy sources, such as wind, hydroelectric, solar, etc. In fact, Swiss scientists are working on an electrolysis machine with a simple solar panel on top, which provides enough energy to fuel the process, making the machine completely self-sufficient.

As far as releasing extra oxygen into the atmosphere, that's also not a concern, because as the hydrogen is burned, it is recombined with the released oxygen, to create water.

Please educate yourself on the topic before criticizing. I have provided a wealth of information in this thread. You have but to read it.



posted on Mar, 2 2007 @ 02:50 PM
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Pnuematic Engines are the future in my opinion. Combined with electric motors, I believe this will be a flawless, ecological friendly and cheap source of vehicle fuel. The only waste produced would come from producing the electricity, if it is created by a source that contains a harmful byproduct.

theaircar.com...



posted on Mar, 2 2007 @ 07:10 PM
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I've also heard about the air car. That's another highly viable alternative fuel. Compressed air to power the car. Why not - I've been using it to do body work and torque the nuts on my tires for years.

In addition to the French manufacturer you linked to above (and as far as I know, none of those cars are actually currently available for sale), there's actually a line of small vehicles (such as Gator/golf cart sized indoor light utility vehicles) already in use, running off of compressed air. The technology works, and possibly combining it with an alcohol or hydrogen fueled on-board air compressor, would make for a 100% clean burning vehicle, with the potential for a lot of power. Additionally, with omitting the batteries, it could make it potentially safer in a car accident, without having to worry about additional explosive or corrosive chemicals. There is always the compressed air tank to worry about, though..... it's well known that a ruptured compressed air tank can go through a brick wall, let alone a human.

It's definitely another technology worth looking at.

[edit on 3/2/2007 by obsidian468]



posted on Mar, 2 2007 @ 08:14 PM
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Zero Point Energy

en.wikipedia.org...

This is the future.



posted on Mar, 2 2007 @ 09:47 PM
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Originally posted by CPYKOmega
Zero Point Energy

en.wikipedia.org...

This is the future.



As much as I'd like to see this happen, it's not going to be utilized in the near future. Additionally, because of the general physics behind the theory, it would be best used in space travel, and now here on Earth.

If I'm wrong about current utilization of Zero Point, please let me know, and provide proof. Everything I've seen so far, however, says this is a far-off technology, if it's ever possible.



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