Saturday, February 2, 2013

Energy Resources and the Environment

Energy is essential, directly or indirectly, for everything we do.

Dr. Maria Barufet and Dr. Zeissig provided a very informative and controversial seminar on world energy resources and the environment. Energy consumption and the environment are issues that need to be taken into consideration now because if action is not taken, there could be adverse effects on future generations. The discussion encompassed non-renewable resources (oil, gas, coal), and renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydrocarbon, nuclear) discussing how the expected usage rates will show little change in the future. Where do you all think the future of nonrenewable resources and fracking is headed? 

How do you guys think the increase of energy usage in developing countries will play into the global plan to decrease global warming?

Concerning the Keystone XL pipeline, I think that Dr. Zeissig made a pretty convincing point saying that it would be more efficient and safer for us to refine the oil here in the United States rather than sending it elsewhere. Even though both options still weigh down the promise to take global warming into consideration, I don't think we will be able to stop the construction of the pipeline. What are your guy's personal opinions on the Keystone XL pipeline? Do you think the US will be able to become a net importer of oil and not be dependent on foreign resources?  

Thoughts or questions on the seminar? 


  1. I think Dr. Zeissig was very practical in his approach to the Keystone pipeline issue. However, I don't think anyone really addressed the future of energy and were focused more on the current state.

    One of Dr. Barrufet's slides had mentioned renewable energies and their relatively small impact on the total energy consumption of the U.S. Realizing this, what we need isn't more natural gas deposits and oil deposits, we need a an energy revolution.

    During my freshman year, I attended a energy lecture seminar featuring Dr. Nocera from MIT who was working on a technology to exponentially increase our energy potential through multiple avenues. Although I am not specifically advocating his approach, I think his mindset is correct in that we cannot solve the energy crisis with what we're doing at the moment.

  2. The biggest issue that this lecture exposed is the fact that the people with the technical expertise to make drilling more environmentally compatible do not see the problems, while those that have the understanding and belief in the problems do not see a way to solve them. What is needed on both sides is a better understanding of what is at stake. People like Dr. Barrufet need to have a better understanding of the technology that could help with the problems. People like Dr. Zeissig need to be willing to admit that drilling is not inherently safe, but must be designed with the intent to minimize environmental impact.

    When an engineering project is launched, one of the first steps is to list "Requirements" and "Derived Requirements". Until the Petroleum industry accepts that green considerations are as requirement, not a derived requirement sourced froim the fact that spills are bad PR, there will be little progress.

  3. During the weekend, Dr. Zeissig told one of my German friends that we will not run out of oil energy. He is very optimistic about fuel efficiency and less optimistic about alternative energy replacing oil energy. Indeed, it is quite clear that fuel efficiency has a lot to improve. I searched online and a website says that only 14%-26% of the fuel we use is moving our vehicle.
    On the alternative energy topic, I recalled an interesting but probably less credible notion of one of Nikola Tesla's "invention." Some conspiracy theorists believe that Tesla invented an energy machine that creates energy without using fuels or other unsustainable resources. But this invention is said to be hid by powerful businessmen for fear that they would lose their profits from oil. Funny as this movie may be, if you are interested the link is below.
    The movie:
    The director of this movie claims that he is a descendent of the Gamble family of P&G. I have many doubts about the experts interviewed by Gamble. But I do think it is a meaningful question to ask: will we one day invent an energy machine that exploit no unsustainable resources or inefficient sustainable resources to generate energy for everyone on earth?

  4. Hey y'all, I thought this article was interesting in that it discusses the safety problems the oil and gas industry face:

  5. Every engineer at A&M has to take Engineering Ethics so that students can see the types of ethical dilemmas they might face in the workplace. When I took it, we discussed the total cost of a product to a society. For example, the total cost of an ipod includes what most people would think of: materials, manufacturing, shipping, etc. But what about the less obvious costs such as the cost to dispose of it, the health costs to the people removing waste, the environmental costs that certain materials have?

    The article below shows that solar energy while attractive on the surface, is actually quite dirty if you look closer:

    How can we ensure that solutions to a problem do not cause problems in other areas?