Economics of Oil and Fruit Roll-Ups

In the first grade, my favorite part of my lunch was Fruit Roll-Ups.  My Mom used to call them fruit road kill, but to my first grade taste buds they were a gourmet fruit treat.  I quickly learned that my consumption of fruit rolls ups could not exceed my supply.  I had two primary supply sources of Fruit Roll-Ups:

  1. domestic supply from home:  those Fruit Roll-Ups that my mother purchased and put into my Spider-Man lunch box.

  3. non-domestic supply: those Fruit Roll-Ups that I gained from other sources, primarily through purchase or barter transactions with classmates.

Obtaining Fruit Roll-Ups up from sources other than my Mother was expensive and unreliable.  When supply for barter was available I would offer a cookie for an orange flavored fruit roll up or my place in line at the handball court for an apricot fruit roll up (my favorite flavor).  My Mother’s nurturing nature made domestic supply the most stable source of Fruit Roll-Ups.  I could rely on that one Fruit Roll-Up to always be in my lunch box.  I understood at a young age the hazards of upsetting my Mother, who among countless other things, could affect a disturbance of my stable domestic source of Fruit Roll-Ups  I knew that if that source was upset I would need to work hard to increase non-domestic supply or inevitably reduce consumption. Stated in its most simple terms, my consumption of Fruit Roll-Ups could not exceed my supply . Given that: CFR =  my consumption of Fruit Roll-Ups FRmom = Fruit Roll-Ups supplied by my Mom FRclassmates = Fruit Roll-Ups obtained through barter with classmates Then: CFR = FRmom + FRclassmates I learned this simple truth of the relationship between consumption and supply at a young age.  And every day as an adult I deal with the economic reality that my consumption of the things that I need or want cannot exceed my supply.  If one source of supply of anything I desire diminishes, I have no choice but to find a way to increase supply from other sources or reduce consumption.  The Fruit Roll-Up analogy might have been a long winded method to summarize this formula, but something inside of me just felt like blogging about Fruit Roll-Ups today. This same rule of supply and demand applies to our nation’s supply and use of oil.  The nuances of the economics of oil are substantially more complicated that those of Fruit Roll-Ups.  Oil supply and demand is impacted by a variety of domestic and global economic, social and political factors.  While these factors may resemble school yard economic, social and political factors, they are more complex if for no other reason than because of the amount of money and people involved.  But the fundamental restriction that consumption cannot exceed supply holds true. ((ignoring the impact of stock piles or borrowing.)) Continue reading “Economics of Oil and Fruit Roll-Ups”

Turboexpanders: Harnessing the Hidden Potential of Our Natural Gas Distribution System

turbineabstractMany of the innovations in green energy involve the recapture of otherwise wasted energy.  Regenerative breaking systems on hybrid automobiles recapture the kinetic energy inherent in the motion of the vehicle.  In a conventional automobile, as the brakes are applied, friction in the braking system converts this kinetic energy to waste heat.  But in a hybrid, a portion of this energy is converted to electricity and stored in batteries for future use.  Since this energy would otherwise be wasted, this is essentially free energy.[1] Similarly waste heat recovery systems recover energy that would otherwise be wasted from power generation facilities.  Most conventional power generation facilities covert approximately half of the energy in the fuel into electricity.  The remainder is lost as waste thermal heat.  Waste heat recovery systems recapture this heat so it can be put to good use, increasing the efficiency of power generation facility.  These are but two examples of innovative methods of recapturing otherwise wasted energy.  There is another unharnessed form of energy rushing through our cities and countryside every day: our natural gas distribution pipelines.

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JetLev-Flyer: The Flying Personal Watercraft

jpMS Watersports Gmbh out of Germany is now selling the JetLev-Flyer, a water propelled jet pack.  The design looks both novel and simple.  Based on a video from the company’s website, it appears the JetLev-Flyer works as follows:

  • The rider/pilot straps on a jet pack.
  • The jet pack is connected to a hose that runs to a float about the size of a personal watercraft that sits in the water.
  • The float follows the rider around. The float has a four stroke engine that pumps water up the hose to the jet pack and is shot out of the jet nozzles in the pack. The force of the water shooting out of the jet pack lifts the rider up. The rider can maneuver by controlling the direction and force of the jet.

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“The Capacitor Challenge” Wins XPRIZE Video Contest, Exemplifies Growing Interest in Energy Storage Technology

xprizewinnerToday XPRIZE Foundation announced that “The Capacitor Challenge”, a video calling for innovation in ultracapacitor technology, is the winner of their “What’s Your Crazy Green Idea” video contest [see my previous post about the contest].  The $25,000 prize was awarded to the video creators Kyle Good and Bryan Le of Irvine, California for receiving the most votes for their video entry in the contest.  The “What’s Your Crazy Green Idea” video contest was a call by the XPRIZE Foundation for ideas in the realm of green innovation that may serve as the basis of a goal for a future XPRIZE award.

The XPRIZE Foundation has not made an announcement about an official ultracapacitor XPRIZE yet, but the XPRIZE Foundation has a track record of offering very large prizes to encourage rapid innovation.  Several years ago they awarded a $10 million prize to Scaled Composites for launching the first reusable privately constructed vehicle into space.

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Video Calling for Ultracapacitor Innovation Makes Final Cut for X PRIZE Green Video Contest

imagesA video calling for innovation in ultracapacitor technology has made the final cut for the X PRIZE Foundation’s “Crazy Green Idea” video challenge.  The X PRIZE Foundation offers large awards for the achievement of one of their defined goals, typically involving scientific and engineering innovation.  They select goals with potential benefit to humanity.  In October of 2004 the X PRIZE Foundation awarded $10 million to Scaled Composites for the being the first private team to build and launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks.  The historical flight of the Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne spaceplane attracted international attention.

The “Green Video Idea” is a call by the X PRIZE Foundation for submission of videos containing ideas for future X PRIZE goals.  “The Capacitor Challenge” was submitted by Kyle Good from Irvine, California, calling for innovations in capacitor technology.

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Formula One Cars to Go Hybrid

F1Formula One (F1) racing appears to stand in contrast with current global trends. The fuel thirsty high performance vehicles thumb their nose at modern practical automotive trends of fuel frugality. However, Formula One racing is in transforming in a way that will make it a leader in high performance fuel efficient technology. Max Mosley, president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body for Formula One racing, sent a letter to the Formula One community laying out a process for Formula One race cars to become hybrids[1].  The process is already underway.

Mosley said: “Formula One is becoming unsustainable. The major manufacturers are currently employing up to 1000 people to put two cars on the grid. This is clearly unacceptable at a time when all these companies are facing difficult market conditions.

Also, with attention on energy problems world-wide, Formula One cannot afford to be profligate in its use of fuel.”

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Two Free Applications to Improve Your Tech Security

laptopsecureWant to increase the security of your online accounts and sensitive data? Here are a couple of free applications that I have found useful.
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Energy Storage: From Gasoline to Ultracapacitors

Energy cannot be created or destroyed.  Scientists have accepted this theory of conservation of energy for ages[1].  But this theory seems to be in juxtaposition with the conventional thought of energy being a scarce resource.  If energy cannot be created or destroyed, why are we always scrambling to find new sources of energy?  While energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can change form.  And there are only certain forms of energy that we can practically harness for use.  One of those forms is potential energy[2].  How we work with potential energy, transport it and harness its potential, is an area of significant evolution in science.

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