Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Geothermal Solution?

This article is certainly an interesting read:
At $100 a barrel there should be plenty of oil available. Such a high price is supposed to encourage production to fill the need and lower the price.

It hasn’t. It won’t. Oh the price will fluctuate, but it is going up. Someone reading trade journals such as World Oil might have noticed that world production of oil has been flat for some time. When price increases do not result in production increases of a commodity is the definition of a peak in production: Peak Oil. Usually when something starts to run out the price tends to run up. The price of oil has certainly done that, doubling in the last year or so. But what happens next?

In the case of luxury goods, high prices reduce demand or increase supply. That is the law of supply and demand. But is oil a luxury? Well now, try walking to work. Or the third world is perhaps a more meaningful example, try hauling water from a well without a pump. What is the line between oil as a “demand” and oil as a “need”? Maybe you can work closer to home, but do you have a well for water? If not then you are like the third world, access to oil is a matter of life and death. Does Peak Oil mean a peak in life or a peak in death?
Another interesting quote:
The interior geothermal energy of the earth is virtually inexhaustible since it is due to the radio active decay of elements within the crust. The interior of the earth only a few miles down is as hot as the surface of the sun 93 million miles away. Every place on earth, not a mountain, has access to geothermal energy by poking a hole in the earth.

Higher temperatures come with higher depths. Homes can be heated or cooled with a heat pump using pipes buried in the lawn. The depth of common oil wells is sufficient to drive binary cycle power plants of modest size. To replace a coal fired power plant or a nuclear reactor requires greater depth perhaps related to superior locations. The technology for deep wells already exists.