The Lightfoot Institute


Reserve H. Douglas Lightfoot as a Speaker

H. Douglas Lightfoot is available to give lectures. A general energy-themed lecture typically lasts 45 minutes, with a 15 minute question period. Lectures are well received by both technical and general audiences. For non-profit and educational institutions, we ask for travel and out-of-pocket expences to be reimbursed.

Depending on lecture length, you may learn some, or all, of the following:

Section 1 - Prisoner's Dilemma - fossil fuels & what energy means to us

In this section, you'll learn:
  •     Where fossil fuels come from.
  •     What they are.
  •     How much we use.
  •     How we use them.
  •     And how important they are to us.
In this section, you'll also learn:
  •     That fossil fuels are really concentrated solar energy.
  •     About fossil fuels and their relation to carbon emissions and climate change.
  •     Why the energy we use has contained less and less carbon over the years.
  •     The important difference between primary and secondary energy.
  •     That 1 gallon of gasoline was once how many acres of vegetation?
  •     Why trees are a better biomass source than producing ethanol from corn or switchgrass.
  •     The unforeseen dangers of peak oil.
  •     Why using renewable energy is like living paycheck to paycheck.
  •     And why using fossil fuels is like having a big fat bank account.

Section 2 - Aladdin's Lamp - how much fossil fuel is left?

In this section you'll learn:
  •     That we are using oil faster than we can find it.
  •     How big fossil fuel reserves really are.
  •     About the controversy over how fossil fuel reserves are estimated.
  •     The difference between reserve and production rates.
  •     Why the Alberta Tar Sands (largest reserves after Saudi Arabia) cannot solve peak oil.
  •     And that there is a 95% chance that the world will meet peak oil by 2047.
In this section, you'll also learn:
  •     Why world energy consumption is expected to grow 4 times by 2100.
  •     Why the US has more forests now than in 1850.
  •     That the steam engine made energy portable for the first time.
  •     How society changed via increased energy consumption and how it will regress with peak oil.
  •     Why liquid fuels are so important to us and hard to replace.
  •     How important liquid oil is as an industrial component.
  •     Where most agricultural fertilizers come from.
  •     What percentage of today's energy comes from renewable energy.
  •     And the upper limit to which renewable energy can grow.

Section 3 - Core of the matter - CO2 and the environment

In this section, you'll learn:
  •     If there were no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the earth's would be frozen solid.
  •     Why an enforced Kyoto Protocol only delays carbon levels by 10 years.
  •     Many other surprising things affect Earth's temperature.
  •     That many other surprising things create greenhouse gasses and may affect climate change.
  •     And we must have a secure and affordable energy supply to adapt to the effects of climate change.
In this section, you'll also learn:
  •     Why energy consumption and well being are closely related.
  •     Why energy consumption and carbon emissions are closely related.
  •     Why burning corn in a furnace creates fewer carbon emissions than using it to produce ethanol.
  •     Why international development guarantees increased energy consumption.
  •     Most plans to reduce carbon emissions will affect your well being.
  •     And how many people still rely on wood and animal dung for cooking and heating.

Section 4 - Common sense is not so common

In this section, you'll learn that common wisdom says climate change & energy supply can be solved by
a combination of:
  •     Carbon dioxide sequestration.
  •     The wide-scale practice of energy conservation.
  •     Improvements in energy efficiency.
  •     And the adoption of renewable energies.
This section explains some of the serious limitations and impracticalities with these ideas and how
common wisdom appears to be out of step with reality.

This section is the real star of any presentation. You'll learn:
  •     Why wind power can never supply more than 10% of world energy.
  •     Why all intermittent electricity (e.g., wind & solar) require an equal size fossil fuel back-up plant.
  •     Why some environmental organizations are trying to shut down wind power projects.
  •     Why some environmental groups protest new hydro dams, and advocate closing existing ones.
  •     Why people don't live near the best wind power locations.
  •     Why energy conservation is unreliable at best.
  •     Why energy conservation cannot be regulated.
  •     Why energy efficiency estimates are too high.
  •     Why energy efficiency often inadvertently causes a rise in energy consumption.
  •     Why each energy efficiency increase saves less and less energy.
  •     And why energy efficiency cannot increase indefinitely via regulation.

Section 5 - Can renewable energy replace fossil fuel?

In this section, you'll learn:
  •     Why switching to renewable energy makes the energy efficiency picture worse.
  •     Why tree-planting is not a reliable way to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions.
  •     Why world hydro electricity production can never more than double.
  •     And why most new hydro dams create refugees and require more flooded land than existing sites.
In this section, you'll also learn:
  •     Why biomass projects (e.g., ethanol from corn) were abandoned in the 1850.
  •     Why creating ethanol from corn threatens the food supply and drives up many prices.
  •     Why producing ethanol from corn provides very little net energy benefit.
  •     Why ethanol does almost nothing to lower carbon emissions.
  •     Why Net-metering does very little to lower carbon emissions.
  •     Why geothermal power cannot grow substantially.
  •     And why electric cars often produce 1.5 times more carbon emissions than regular cars.

Section 6 - The Hydrogen Economy: NOT a simple chemistry experiment

In this section, you'll learn:
  •     That hydrogen is not a source of energy. It is actually manufactured from energy.
  •     Why the Hydrogen Economy is not likely to mitigate peak oil.
  •     Why the Hydrogen Economy will not reduce carbon emissions in the short term.
  •     Why hydrogen makes a bad transportation fuel.
  •     The only way that the Hydrogen Economy works is with liquefied hydrogen.
  •     How much energy it really takes to liquefy hydrogen and how it affects the Hydrogen Economy.
  •     And why waste oxygen from electrolysis of water is a huge headache.
In this section, you'll also learn:
  •     Why the Hydrogen Economy is likely to reduces fossil fuel reserves.
  •     Why there are very few suitable locations for large-scale water electrolysis.
  •     How many blimps full of air are required to dilute waste oxygen to safe levels.
  •     That hydrogen is a challenge to store in large amounts.
  •     How often you'd really have to fill you tank if you drove a hydrogen-powered car.
  •     And that the Hydrogen Economy is 50 years away at best, and is not guaranteed to ever arrive.

Section 7 - Nuclear Energy - power to the people

In this section, you'll learn:
  •     How many nuclear power plants are under construction around the world today.
  •     How many million liters of gasoline it takes to equal a pound of uranium.
  •     How much carbon free energy the world needs.
  •     That humans must consume more energy, not less, to make it a more equitable world.
  •     And that all energies in the world are really derived from nuclear energy.
In this section, you'll also learn:
  •     How much nuclear fuel there really is.
  •     Why new nuclear reactor designs extend nuclear fuel reserves.
  •     Why waste from new reactor designs are far less radioactive.
  •     How existing nuclear waste can be used as fuel in new reactor designs.
  •     What the difference is between a thermal nuclear reaction and a fast nuclear reaction.
  •     How uranium prices affect utility rates.
  •     Why nuclear safety and proliferation are not a problem.
  •     And how quickly fast breeder reactors can be built.

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