Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Site Search

The President’s clean energy breakthrough.

“U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan.” Reporter James Risen writes, “The previously unknown deposits – including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium – are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.”

The story line reads like a Hollywood thriller. But it isn’t. It’s mostly real. And like all good thrillers there’s a happy ending.

It goes something like this:

While lax government regulators look in the other direction, a greedy oil company shortcuts a sensitive and dangerous drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico. The well blows. Tired, poorly maintained equipment fails to stop the gusher. The drilling rig explodes into flames. Most escape, but nearly a dozen sadly don’t survive.

After two days of firefighting, the rig sinks. Pipes beneath the waves buckle and break. Oil billows into the water at alarming rates. Days, weeks go by. No one knows who’s in command. Both the oil company and nation’s president take the heat.

A loose chain of booms tries, but fails to keep globs of rust-red oil from marshes, beaches, and wildlife. Desperate attempts are made to save oil-soaked birds with dishwashing detergent.

Nearly a mile under water, the oil company tries untested attempts to cap the well. All fail. Another type of detergent is sprayed on and blended undersea with the oil without thought for the dispersant’s possible long term effects.

The cool, calm president makes it to the disaster scene, more than once. In an offhand remark there he says we need to transition to a clean energy economy, but a breakthrough or two is needed before that can happen.

A half world away – in the most unsuspecting place – one of those breakthroughs is being analyzed, being prepared for global announcement.

Back in Washington, worries about hurricanes grow. A cyclone in the Gulf would blow frothy oil in unknown directions. Only two weeks into the season an unusual Atlantic storm begins to swirl in the warm waters between Africa and the Americas. Alex will be its name if it holds together.

Just as the possibility of an the early season tropical storm is announced, the New York Times runs a story on its website, “U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan.” Reporter James Risen writes, “The previously unknown deposits – including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium – are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.”

“An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys,” Risen continues. He doesn’t mention batteries for electric cars and the president’s clean energy vision.

As those words are being read a chain reaction of discussion sets off in the business world. Because of Afghanistan’s new riches, estimated at $1 trillion, Obama gets his first clean energy breakthrough: plenty of lithium supplies in a partner nation where the US has a “presence” of 100,000 troops. Even if it takes years to develop Afghanistan’s resources, there’s confidence that there’s enough lithium on the planet to move ahead with battery electric car development.

Here the story thickens and turns to fiction. The president’s opposition begins asking questions. How long has he known about Afghanistan’s lithium? Did he know before he announced troop buildups? Was our commitment there more about a clean energy agenda than stabilizing a nation and ridding it of terrorism?

But with lithium for batteries secure for the future, the President gets his clean energy bill passed. With lithium supplies secure and costs dropping, there’s more investment in battery technology and electric cars. Jobs begin to grow.

As the story continues, the US economy improves with clean transportation at its core, especially when the two remaining breakthroughs for electric transportation are made: The technology to cheaply manufacture lithium-based batteries is perfected and the next generation of lithium battery chemistry emerges: lithium air. Lithium-air battery packs are developed that are no heavier than a tank of gasoline while holding the same energy content. Range on a full lithium-air battery pack is the same as a tank of petrol. Then lithium-air moves to new heights: electric powered aircraft.

Finally the thriller ends not in the Gulf but in Afghanistan twenty years in the future. Turbines churn in the reliable breezes funneling from mountain passes once the stomping ground for terrorists. Clean wind energy runs the mineral mining operations and the now wealthy economy as a whole. Once just a crossroad for trade in the days of Genghis Khan centuries ago, the nation becomes a destination. There are ski slopes in the infamous and deadly Khyber Pass.

Before this bright future can happen the Afghan government, and the Taliban, will need some convincing.


Geothermal Solutions Provider

According to the EPA “Geothermal is the most energy efficient, environmentally safe and cost efficient space conditioning system available today.”