Guest Post by Chris Uhlik. Dr Uhlik did a BS, MS, and PhD in Electrical Engineering at Stanford 1979–1990. He worked at Toyota in Japan, built robot controllers, cellular telephone systems, internet routers, and now does engineering management at Google. Among his 8 years of projects as an engineering director at Google, he counts engineering recruiting, Toolbar, Software QA, Software Security, GMail, Video, BookSearch, StreetView, AerialImaging, and research activities in Artificial Intelligence and Education. He has directly managed about 500 engineers at Google and indirectly over 2000 employees. His interests include nuclear power, photosynthesis, technology evolution, artificial intelligence, ecosystems, and education.
(Ed Note: Chris has written previously on BNC on calculating the cost of ending global warming)
In a hypothetical carbon-neutral future, we can still use liquid hydrocarbon fuels if they are synthesized from non-fossil carbon sources. This analysis looks at how much carbon we use today and which of those uses can be readily substituted by electricity and synthetic fuels.
I’ll use numbers for the United States as economic and energy use data are well published by various government agencies such as the National Laboratories and the Energy Information Administration.
Flows of fossil carbon in the US Economy: (Please forgive the excess precision)
Coal: 9.08e11 kg/year which I estimate to be about 64e12 moles/carbon/year
Petroleum: 19,498,000 bbl/day, (incidentally I was surprised to learn that only 46% of this ends up in motor fuel)
Natural Gas: 7.4e11 m^3/year produced + 1.1e11 m^3 cuft/year imported
Cement: 2.5e9 Mg clinker/year worldwide of which I estimate 24% is used in the United States (by ratio of USA GDP/world GDP)
This amounts to a fossil carbon flux of about 170 x 10^12 moles of fossil carbon being extracted and released to the atmosphere each year in the United States.
To what uses is it put?
- Electricity generation (coal and gas fired thermal plants)
- Automobiles and light trucks (light transportation)
- Highway trucks and rail trains (heavy transportation)
- Heating oil
- Steel production
- Cement production
- Fertilizer production
- Residential and Commercial gas
- Industrial gas
- other materials
By combing a variety of sources and making educated guesses, I break it down like this: