The Energy Matrix
A Science Ebook e-zine
Fall 2007 Edition  
List of all editions

The Energy Matrix

The energy matrix examines the full spectrum of future energy sources and associated problems.  It is meant to be a thought provoking publication for students who will be our future technocrats, engineers, and physicists.  We will include concepts such as solar, DG, CHP and concepts that are not practical today such as ice engines.  Send Comments to




Cost of burning,  wood pellets, corn or coal compared.

I learned from a recent email that both wood pellets and corn could be burnt in stoves.  Modern split log, wood, or corn stoves produce 90% less smoke than older conventional stoves.  

I also learned that outside furnace systems were being used to efficiently heat homes in rural areas.  These pellet stoves had automatic pellet feeders and can work for days or weeks unattended.

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Coal at $35.00/ton versus $100.00 a barrel oil.

11/7/2007: With crude oil approaching $100.00 per barrel it is time for US to do some comparative shopping.  Windmills are great, but coal is here today and is used to generate half our nation's electricity.

Dollar Cost: (MMBtu=1000000Btu)
25 MMBtu/ton   $35.00/ton

Crude Oil:
5,6MMBtu/barrel  $98.00/barrel

Carbon Cost in pounds CO2/MMBtu 
oal- 208
Crude Oil- 164
Natural Gas-
117 pounds/MMBtu
Reference U.C. Irvine

Roughly 66% of energy of gasoline is wasted as heat by typical car during city driving.  Roughly 66% of coal energy is wasted in cooling towers or rivers at coal power plants.  Thus, both coal powered electric cars and gasoline or diesel cars have about the same thermal efficiency. 


Index for all Editions


Combined Heat & Power (CHP) 

DC Power Grid

District Cooling

Ethanol Viability

Hybrid Cars

Ice made with Coal

Ice Energy Density versus Battery

Heat Storage


Nuclear Energy

Solar Heat Storage in CO2

Solar Heat Storage in Water

Storing Carbon Dioxide

Stoves - Corn Burning

Stoves - Wood Pellet Burning

Stoves - Coal Burning

Tar Sand Oil


Yucca Mountain

Substituting Coal for Diesel

Compact Fluorescent Lights

































Energy Grows on Trees

The movie shows ice producing a rich harvest of tree branches.  Actually you cannot see the branches fall, but you can here them snap.  Almost every year in the Northwest, ice and wind storms ( bring down roughly a cord of wood per acre of woods.  This wood harvest is burnt producing billions of BTU of heat.  Note the tree continues to grow and convert carbon dioxide to oxygen.  That sounds like good news.  The bad news is that the burning is done outside during the spring or fall burning season.  Thus, they produce pollution, carbon dioxide and provide no beneficial heat or energy.

Trunk might get split for fire wood. Branches frequently are burned outdoors.  Typical Northwest windstorms generate a huge potential renewable source of energy in the form of branches.   Much of the energy goes up in smoke.


If the wood were gathered up and trucked to a wood burning power plant, it could produce electricity in relatively clean burning furnaces.  These power plants would actually produce zero net carbon dioxide. CO2(furnace) - CO2(outside burn) = 0. and a net negative smoke pollution impact.  Modern  wood burning stoves burn ten times cleaner than old conventional wood burning stoves.  Even old conventional wood stoves burn cleaner than outside fires.  The raw material cost would be negative.  Land owners would pay to have branches removed from their property, because the burning  of branches can be an all day process. 

Of course nobody wants a big chimney in their neighborhood.  We like to keep our chimneys close to the ground.  Car exhausts, open fires, and two or three chimneys on the roof (One for the fireplace, one for the furnace, and one for the gas hot water heater). 

Making wood pellets from tree branches or some garden waste might also be possible. Wood pellets are the cleanest way to burn wood.  Off course a modern stove is required.  See articles in left column. 


Brush Fires are sustainable
Have zero long term CO2 impact.)

I heard it said on the TV news, that as much CO2 was generated by Octobers Southern California's brush fires, as was generated by Southern California cars  in a year.  This calculation if accurate could still be mis-leading.  It infers these fires will have a net effect on global warming.  The truth is that the brush will grew back and photosynthesis will convert the CO2 back to carbon and oxygen.  Brush fires complete carbon cycle in a few years.  Forest fires may take 20 to 100 years to complete the carbon cycle.

What is relevant about these fires is that enough energy went up in smoke to power all the cars in southern California for a year.  To capture this energy the brush would have to be pruned, and the pruning would have to be converted to wood pellets or burnt in power plant furnaces.  This would reduce the US dependency on fossil fuels.  










Refining Tar Sand oil in great lakes region meets with  considerable opposition.

Nov 2, 2007
As oil prices top $95 a barrel, the US will look  more and more to Canada's Tar Sand Oil reserves.  Plans to pipe oil from Canada's Tar sands to refineries in US are meeting with a great deal of opposition from US environmentalists concerned with increased pollution of the Great Lakes. See Links below:






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