Archive for the ‘Environmental Posts’ Category

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.Merchants of Doubt dust cover 2010

Title: Merchants of Doubt
Authors: Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway
ISBN: 978-1-59691-610-4
Published: 2010, Bloombury Press
Price: $27.00
Length: 355 Pages
Book Website: http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/index.html

In the past, tobacco use was socially acceptable and was allowed in most public places, including work and schools. When researchers learned that the scientific evidence was clear that tobacco use dramatically increases the chance of developing various cancers, they alerted the public and the government. In response, special interests mounted a PR campaign challenging that tobacco was bad for your health. Think tanks published papers refuting tobacco and cancer were related, ads aimed at placating people were run on radio and television; scientists and scientific data was attacked on a regular basis.

Why? Because the fact that ingesting tobacco products can cause cancer is inconvenient to companies making money selling tobacco products. Companies in the tobacco industry fought lawsuits for years, attacking the scientists and data and sometimes the victims themselves, in a bid to avoid accountability. Finally the US Government became involved, since the costs of treating cancer were costing so much money, and there was a settlement with the tobacco companies. That battle is over.

The new crisis our planet faces today is global warming. We have temperature records, using satellites and land-based and ocean-based temperature gathering sites around the planet, and that temperature data is readily available for scientists of every nation to examine. The data shows an important truth: the Earth is getting warmer. The Earth warmed up and cooled down in the past, but the data that concerns climate scientists today is the vastly elevated levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. These greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and methane – help trap heat on the Earth, reducing the amount of heat we radiate back into space, resulting in a warmer planet.

Why is a warmer planet a concern? Ice caps. Ice caps on Antarctica and Greenland contain a lot of ice, which, if melted, will raise sea levels around the globe. Why is that a problem? Because the majority of people on our planet live fairly close to a coastline, so rising water levels can harm or require relocation of many millions of people. Can you imagine how much it will cost to move millions of people from our coastlines to the interior of our country? And the cost to upgrade the existing infrastructures of cities far from the coasts to support much larger populations? Let’s just approximate it for now: a lot.

Another reason a warmer planet is a concern: weather. Meteorology 101: warm air holds more moisture than cooler air. Climate scientists predict that weather systems like hurricanes and monsoons, will increase in force as our planet warms. On average, one category 5 hurricane occurs every three years in the Atlantic. In 2017 alone, three Atlantic cat 5 hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria – made landfall, causing hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars of damage affecting millions of people in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. As of November 1st, 2017, months after Maria hit Puerto Rico, over half of the people there still lack electrical power, cellular phone support is spotty, and many people still have no clean drinking water.

The dangers of global warming are clear, and we need to act now to slow down the accumulation of global warming gases. We need to burn less fossil fuel, use alternate power sources with little or no carbon footprint, and use cleaner products like natural gas instead of coal. During the terms of President Obama, alternate power sources – wind, water and solar – were promoted and less clean fossil fuels like coal was de-emphasized. Unfortunately, the current US government under President Trump is actively suppressing and denying global warming. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) under President Trump removed climate change data from their websites, instructed scientists to not appear at conferences discussing global warming, and even replaced qualified advising scientists with fossil fuel advocates. Why? Because fossil fuel special interests have friends in the Trump administration.

Naomi Oreskes, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, and Erik Conway published a book in 2010 called “Merchants of Doubt.” This book has been identified as a classic for people interested in global warming, so I want to review it now, seven years after it was published. From what I saw, the material is not dated and it is still relevant. Let’s get started.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction
Ch 1. Doubt Is Our Product
Ch 2. Strategic Defense, Phony Facts, and the Creation of the George C. Marshall Institution
Ch 3. Sowing the Seeds of Doubt: Acid Rain
Ch 4. Constructing a Counternarrative: The Fight Over the Ozone Hole
Ch 5. What’s Bad Science? Who Decides? The Fight Over Secondhand Smoke
Ch 6. The Denial of Global Warming
Ch 7. Denial Rides Again: The Revisionist Attack on Rachel Carson
Conclusion: Of Free Speech and Free Markets
Epilogue A New View of Science

 

INTRODUCTION

There is good information in this section, so don’t skim over it. Two very relevant quotes:

“Why did they <climate change deniers> continue to repeat charges long after they had shown to be unfounded? The answer, of course, is that they were not interested in finding facts. They were interested in fighting them.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes, page 5

“Santer was reading the morning paper and came across an article describing how some scientists had participated in a program, organized by the tobacco industry, to discredit scientific evidence linking tobacco to cancer. The idea, the article explained, was to “keep the controversy alive.” So long as there was doubt, about the casual link, the tobacco industry would be safe from litigation and regulation. Santer thought the story seemed eerily familiar.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes, page 5

I’ve studied and followed science for nearly fifty years, and I’ve never met nor communicated with scientists that were not interested in the truth. Science is a self-correcting profession: when mistakes are found, they are corrected and our knowledge advances. The idea of scientists helping discredit valid data seems incredible, yet I remember how science and scientists researching tobacco and cancer links were attacked by people. It seemed incredible that, once science proved it was right the raised issue remained relevant to many people, but it did. At the time, it didn’t dawn on me that someone was trying to keep a controversy alive to fight the facts, but it makes sense in hindsight.

I am sure the scientists helping discredit climate change science have their reasons, but I don’t know what they are. I believe truth in science is mandatory, and that it is wrong to promote facts that are expedient to some political party or special interest or big business. I do not believe the bottom line is the most important thing in life. And in my opinion, any position that must be based on misinformation or falsehood is built on a wobbly foundation that will fail apart as soon as it is exposed.

When statements are proved false, why do the wrong statements still convince people. Let’s see what the authors of this book can show us.

CH 1. DOUBT IS OUR PRODUCT

This chapter shows that the tobacco industry used advise from a PR firm to create doubt about tobacco use being linked to cancer. They (the tobacco industry) used doubt to manufacture a debate to mass media that there two sides to the tobacco and cancer link, and the mass media needed to provide both sides equal time to argue. The mass media agreed and gave the tobacco industry a way to challenge scientific finds on tobacco use links to cancer.

A tactic used to counter prevailing science that tobacco use and cancer were linked was to cherry pick data and focus on unexplained or anomalous details. The purpose of this approach was to convert scientific consensus into scientific debate. Even when evidence mounted in 1964 that smoking increased the changes of developing cancer, the tobacco industry continued to fund research casting doubt on the facts.

Even into the seventies and eighties, when research that tobacco use was harmful, the tobacco industry was still quite profitable. It continued to market doubt by funding more research to counter scientific consensus on tobacco use links to cancer. Eventually, mass media realized that the argument that ‘the research raising doubts about tobacco use being linked to cancer’ deserved equal time to research showing ‘a correlation between tobacco use and cancer’ was wrong: it was not necessary to allow equal time to both sides. Why?

“While the idea of equal time for opposing opinions makes sense for a two-party political system, it does not work for science, because science is not about opinion. It is about evidence. It is about claims that can be, and have been, tested through scientific research – experiments, experience, and observation – research that is then subject to critical review by a jury of scientific peers. Claims that have not gone through that process – or have gone through it and failed – are not scientific, and do not deserve equal time in a scientific debate.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 32

The tobacco industry started fighting against the cancer links to tobacco use in the early 1950s, and didn’t start losing lawsuits until the 1990s. It is sad to note that:

“although the FDA sought to regulate tobacco as an addictive drug in the early 1990s, it was not until 2009 that the U.S. Congress finally gave them the authority to do so.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 33

An interesting correlation: the FDA didn’t get regulatory powers over tobacco until there was a democratic president and democratic majorities in the House and Senate in 2009. In 2017, there is a pro-business republican president and pro-business republican majorities in the House and Senate, and the US government denies that global warming is real or a threat to our planet – even though the scientific data and the rest of the world disagrees. Could that be part of the problem having a pro-business political party in power? I think you can be pro-business without attacking inconvenient scientific facts that prove some businesses are not good for people or our planet.

One point the authors make about doubt and science also should be mentioned:

“Doubt is crucial to science – in the version we call curiosity or healthy skepticism, it drives science forward – but it also makes science vulnerable to misrepresentation, because it is easy to take uncertainties out of context and create the impression that everything is unresolved. That was the tobacco industry’s key insight: that you could use normal scientific uncertainty to undermine the status of actual scientific knowledge.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 34

If you had a relative that used tobacco products and die from cancer, this chapter is an eye opener. And the sad thing, is that other industries continued to use the same tactics developed by the tobacco to counter science in other issues affecting our world. Next up, President Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars initiative.

CH 2. STRATEGIC DEFENSE, PHONY FACTS, AND THE CREATION OF THE GEORGE C. MARSHALL INSTITUTION

SDI – Strategic Defense Initiative – aka Star Wars, was Ronald Reagan’s ballistic missile defense system. It was predicated on the false believe that nuclear war was winnable. I remember the SDI, and how scientists said it wouldn’t work, and how the Reagan administration was determined to implement it regardless what the experts said. Scientists like Cars Sagan were actively against it and vocal in their opposition, and Reagan and his cabinet were just as determined to install it. It was another case of science being attacked because it presented inconvenient facts.

“The crux of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was to install weapons in space that could destroy incoming ballistic missiles. This would “shield” the United States from attack, making nuclear weapons obsolete.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 43

As Naomi and Erik point out in this chapter, there were a number big reasons SDI should never have been promoted. One, it was technically impossible to work 100% of the time, so some bombs would get through. Two, if the Russians believed it would work, they would build more bombs to be sure they could win, meaning the arms race would escalate. Three, if Russia believed SDI would work, they might launch a pre-emptive attack before SDI was implemented to win before SDI could protect the US. Fourth, SDI was not testable, since we would need to launch many missiles at ourselves to test it.

A PR campaign, like the one used by the tobacco companies, resulted in Congress approving and budgeting $60 billion dollars for Star Wars. Crazy but true. Star Wars really was a major military buildup. Then scientists studying the atmosphere of Mars realized their model could be used to study Earth and began examining the chance that an asteroid strike killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. They thought dust in the atmosphere would cut off light to plants, killing off the dinosaur food supply and killing off the dinosaurs. The scientists realized they could test the effects of a nuclear war, and discovered something chilling: nuclear winter. If we have a nuclear war, we could wipe ourselves out like the dinosaurs. Thus the TTAPS paper was written.

TTAPS, a nuclear winter paper, was examined by scientific peer review and only minor revisions were made, so it was considered valid. Before the TTAPS article was published in the scientific magazine Science, Carl Sagan published articles in Parade and Foreign Affairs, showing that we had too many nuclear weapons – enough to cause climate catastrophe. We needed to reduce, not increase, our nuclear arsenals from 80,000 soviet/US weapons to 2000 total. Some scientists were not happy Sagan published his Parade/Foreign Affairs articles before publishing the paper in Science, and some felt he left out important information that showed a more succinct picture of nuclear winter. Unfortunately, other scientists published papers criticizing the issues with the publications – Sagan’s decision to go public early was a problem for TTAPS.

Pro-SDI forces decided to counter the TTAPS nuclear winter paper, attacking the data and science and scientists. Following the same process as the tobacco companies, pro-SDI forces demanded equal time for their views and the media agreed, giving them an equal voice in the issue. These pro-SDI people attacked scientists credibility, as well as denying the validity of their views and data. This was when scientists were painted as left-wing political activists, instead of seekers of truth. They were making this into a political issue, which meant anyone disagreeing with it could dismiss it as political. This was the time that right-wing turned against science. This was when the Wall Street Journal started publishing articles critical of science.

CH 3. SOWING THE SEEDS OF DOUBT: ACID RAIN

The same time science was being attacking by Pro-SDI forces, a new issue – acid rain – was coming to light. The opponents of acid rain used the same argument as pro-tobacco forces: not enough was known, so nothing should be done about the problem.

INTERESTING FACTS: President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and signed the following important legislation: the Clean Air Act Extension, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. President Reagan moved the Republican party away from environmental concerns and started the war on science. These days, the republican party is against environmental laws and rules, shown by Scott Pruitt attempts to change the EPA into the EDA (Environmental Destruction Agency).

What is Acid Rain?

“Collateral damage is what acid rain is all about. Sulfur and nitrogen emissions from electrical utilities, cars, and factories could mix with rain, snow, and clouds in the atmosphere, travel long distances, and affect lakes, rivers, soils, and wildlife far from the source of the pollution.”
— Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 68

acidrain

How did Acid Rain Become a Problem?

“… the acidity was due to dissolved sulfate and the rest mostly to dissolved nitrate, by-products of burning coal and oil. Yet fossil fuels had been burned enthusiastically since the mid-nineteenth century, so why had this problem only arisen of late? The answer was the unintended consequence of the introduction of devices to remove particles from smoke and to reduce local air pollution.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 68

The environmental damage caused by acid rain includes leaching nutrients from soils and plant foliage, acidification of lakes and rivers, damage to wildlife, and corrosion of buildings. Studies showed that acid rain reduces forest growth as well as impact fish mortality.

Acid rain was studied for twenty-five years, then a summary article was published in Scientific American in 1979, introducing the science to the general public. The problem with acid rain, was that it was not restricted to the area or country where pollution originated. It affected neighboring areas and other countries, so it was a global threat. Under President Jimmy Carter, the US worked towards reducing pollutants that caused acid rain, but that was about to change.

Ronald Reagan became president in 1980, and Reagan wanted to: reduce regulations, decrease the reach of the federal government, and unleash the power of private enterprise. Sound familiar? It’s the same stuff touted by republicans today, and they have the same disregard for the environment. Acid rain was as acceptable a subject during the Reagan years as global warming was during the George W. Bush years – meaning not at all.

There was research into acid rain, and scientific views that immediate actions was needed, but the government took the side of the power industry and wanted more studies done and less concern raised to the public. Sounds like the situation with global warming these days, doesn’t it?

The only scientific research into acid rain reviewed by Reagan’s administration was modified to make the issue seem less critical than it was. There was no legislation during Reagan’s administration to fix acid rain, as

“the problem was too expensive to fix.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 101

Sadly, regardless of twenty-one years research on acid rain, the official position of the Reagan administration in 1984 was:

“We don’t know what’s causing it <acid rain>.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 101

Eight years after the Reagan administration suppressed the seriousness of acid rain, it was finally acted upon by the George H.W. Bush administration, which implemented a “cap and trade” plan that reduced sulfur emissions by 54% between 1990 and 2007. Sounds promising doesn’t it? It isn’t.

Are you ready for the bad news? Acid rain is still a problem. “Cap and trade” DID NOT FIX IT, and the same pro-business forces that fought against action during the Reagan years continue to downplay the issue, which is getting worse. The reason that is a problem, is that deforestation impacts global warming (reduce the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide removed by trees, means more in the air).

Acid rain was a concern during the Obama administration, but sadly it is no longer during the Trump administration. On 11/11/2017, a search for “acid rain 2017” on Yahoo yielded a link to the EPA. I went to the EPA link and selected “Cross-State Air Pollution Rule” under “What EPA is Doing” and got: “Page not found”. It has been removed from the EPA site, a common tactic Scott Pruitt has implemented to obfuscate science that threatens the technologies he and President Trump embrace. Apparently using more coal and gas is too important to allow people to see that the EPA knows that Acid Rain is still an issue. If this concerns you, please write, email and call your state and local representatives and ask them to investigate why the government is suppressing science to support industry.

CH 4. CONSTRUCTION A COUNTERNARRATIVE: THE FIGHT OVER THE OZONE HOLE

The public first became aware that our protective ozone layer was in danger was in 1970. This was a concern, because the ozone protects us from ultraviolet radiation, which is known to cause skin cancers, and a decrease in ozone meant an increase in cancer.

Initial research investigating the possible danger from Supersonic Transports (SSTs) looked at the impact of water causing problems with the atmosphere, but it was determined there wasn’t enough potential traffic to be an issue. Another venue studied was nitrous oxide compounds, which was a possible issue for ozone and it led to studies on emissions by the space shuttle, which used propellants that released chlorine into the upper atmosphere. Further studies focused on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which could degrade into chlorine and fluorine, which could reduce atmospheric ozone. CFCs were common, used in spray cans and air conditioners and refrigerators, and there were billions of pounds of CFCs produced every year for these uses.

CFCmolecule

Who would find this science threatening? How about the industries that used CFCs? And whom do you suppose mounted a PR campaign against the findings on CFCs? Yes, you are correct. Big business. Companies using CFCs argued against regulating or jumping to conclusions, but people eventually decided to use alternative products (roll-on deodorants, spray bottles) which made a difference. Then, in 1985, a hole was found in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

The ozone hole was verified by data from a satellite, but the amount of ozone depletion was unexpected. While people didn’t live on Antarctica, if the hole grew then it could affect people living in Australia and South America. NASA and NOAA began research in 1985 and sent researchers to McMurdo Bay in 1986 – the initial results confirmed the loss of ozone but failed to account for meteorological effects. NASA and NOAA conducted additional tests in 1987 to look at meteorological effects and found the weather conditions did speed up chlorine and ozone interactions.

Science studied the ozone hole and CFC issue, provided recommendations to cut back and eventually eliminate CFCs (thereby restoring Ozone coverage over time), and regulations were introduced to bring this about. It worked as it should, but there was still resistance from the CFC industry and skeptics, who continued to challenge ozone depletion after the science was settled. This resistance continued to propose that volcanos were the source of chlorine and that there was no need to regulate industry – the intention was to delay any action on CFCs to the benefit of the CFC industry.

The counter narrative to ozone depletion was driven by a pro-business group that decided to use their own facts to obfuscate science data to cause a delay in regulating CFCs. Is that right? Shouldn’t we want a safe environment for ourselves and the life on this planet, instead of merely making more money for some corporations? One of the people involved with producing a counter narrative to ozone depletion attacked the scientific community, and I want to share a quote I found astonishing when I read it in this book:

“It’s not difficult to understand some of the motivations behind the drive to regulate CFCs out of existence”, he wrote. ”For scientists: more prestige, more grants for research, press conferences, and newspaper stories. Also the feeling that maybe they are saving the world for future generations.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 129
NOTE: The “he” quoted above was neither of the authors – it was written by a skeptic.

EXCUSE ME?? It’s bad to want to save the world for future generations?? If that’s the case, I guess I’m in the same wrong camp, as I believe it is ethically and morally right to care what kind of world we leave our descendants. Perhaps I need to re-read Dantes’ Inferno to see where God sends people who care to save the world for future generations.

CH 5. WHAT’S BAD SCIENCE? WHO DECIDES? THE FIGHT OVER SECONDHAND SMOKE

In 1986, a new Surgeon General’s report concluded that second and smoke could cause cancer even in otherwise healthy non-smokers. When the EPA implemented regulations to limit indoor smoking, the pro business movement once again moved to attack, this time science and the EPA was the target.

In 1981, Takeshi Hirayama, chief epidemiologist at Japan’s National Cancer Research Institute did a study showing that wives of smokers had a much higher cancer rate than wives of non smokers. His study did as any good scientific study does: it demonstrated an effect and ruled out other causes. And, as you might expect, the study and the scientist was attacked by industry special interests. Health advocates responded to the attacks on Takeshi’s study and within five years forty states passed restrictions on smoking in public places.

The tobacco industry argued against second-hand smoke dangers, using studies to challenge the dangers to people around smokers. The EPA produced a report on the dangers of second hand smoke, linking it to lung cancer, bronchitis and asthma in infants and young children. One thing left out of the EPA report was the link of second hand smoke to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), as there was uncertainty at what point in development or life infants were actually exposed to second hand smoke.

To counter the science, special interests decided to attack EPA science as junk science. The intent: to slow or stop regulation of second-hand smoke. This counter narrative meant that the media should cover skeptics that fight science on the same level as science. Special interest also released a book “Bad Science: A Resource Book” aimed at challenging the authority and integrity of science. I did a search on Yahoo and easily found it. It appalls me that science and scientists should be attacked, and that more people are not outraged at the insinuations. In my personal experience with science and scientists, I found both far more truthful than any politician or business, and I hope that people without any science education would be less susceptible to accepting claims attacking the scientific community.

This book lists six key points that “Bad Science” uses to challenge and attack science and scientific findings. To sum up these six points: bad, bad scientists. Wow. Special interests want to be the authority figures to scold scientists and hold them accountable. Like, special interests have no “special interests” in the stakes. Right. And I have a nice bridge for sale, you can have it cheaply if you have cash and act now.

In addition to attacking science, special interests decided to attack the EPA. Using pro business scientists, they challenged that the EPA was fair and promoted the view that the EPA was motivated by environmentalists with a hidden agenda, not science. They also attacked how data was studied and suggested other approaches that would favor skeptics over science. Attacking EPA guidelines let special interests control the fight and slow down the EPA’s ability to regulate second-hand smoke.

It’s hard to do your job, when your credibility is constantly being attacked. If people doubt your credibility, they doubt your defense of yourself and your work. To attack science as being anti-business because of their work, means that people believe business cares as much about their welfare as about their spending. Do you believe that?

CH 6. THE DENIAL OF GLOBAL WARMING

I’ve read good, authoritative books on global warming – The Madhouse Effect, Dire Predictions, Unstoppable – so I understand global warming is real. Scientific research on climate change has been going on for over 150 years, so the science isn’t new. The lead organization on climate change is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and it was formed in 1988 and published its first report on global warming in 1990. IPCC released their 3rd assessment on climate change in 2001, their 4th in 2007, their 5th in 2014, and the 6th assessment is scheduled for release in 2019.

In 2007, I worked with a self-proclaimed global warming skeptic. He proudly stated that “the only law I accept is the law of gravity.” He chose to accept the propaganda of his political party instead of actually reading any of the four IPCC reports. Why? Because it’s easy to be a skeptic when you believe in conspiracies. In 2008, Barack Obama became president of the U.S. and during the eight years he led the government, President Obama focused the government on the dangers of climate change – he signed the Paris Climate Accord, joining all but two countries of the world.

In 2016, Donald Trump became president, and he withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Accords, and when the two remaining holdouts signed the accords, the U.S. was left as the only country in the world not to sign the Paris Accords.  As of November, 2017, 170 of the 197 nations that signed have ratified the accord.  That will be Donald Trump’s legacy, which is sad.

The facts are, 97% of scientists in the world accept evidence that humans are affecting our global climate and we must make changes to reduce our carbon footprint to reduce the impact to our planet. With the science settled, why are papers and websites still publishing articles that attack climate change science and scientists?

Why do we have climate change skeptics twenty-two years after the initial IPCC climate change assessment? Why does the current U.S. government want to erase the improvements we made reducing carbon emissions under President Obama? As you probably guessed, we can once again thank special interests for delaying action to reverse the effects of climate change.

To reduce global warming, we need to reduce greenhouse gases, which increase the greenhouse effect. What are greenhouse gases? Primarily carbon dioxide and methane. Both come from natural sources, but the increased dependency on fossil fuel energy sources has released a lot both gases into our atmosphere, causing the Earth’s temperature to increase over time until it is climbing at unacceptable rates, which will cause the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps to melt and raise sea levels so much that people living near our coasts will be forced to move inland.

a-3.greenhouse_effect

A sad fact about acceptance of global warming in the book:

“Yet many Americans remained skeptical. A public opinion poll reported in Time magazine in 2006 found that just over half (56 percent) of Americans thought that average global temperatures had risen – despite the fact that virtually all climate scientists thought so. An ABC News poll that year reported that 85 percent of Americans believed that global warming was occurring, but more than half did not think that the science was settled: 64 percent of Americans perceived ‘a lot of disagreement among scientists’.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 169

A TRAIL OF PRESIDENTIAL ACCOUNTABILITY ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The first official report on global change was given to President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, and the information was also made available to President Nixon when he came into office in 1968. Both Johnson and Nixon had more pressing matters at the time (social issues, Vietnam war), so climate change didn’t receive the attention it deserved. I would point out that Republican President Nixon did create the EPA and sign several important acts concerning climate change.

President Jimmy Carter was president from 1976 to 1980, and drought-related climate issues affected food supplies for Africa, Asia and the Soviet Union, demonstrating how our global food supply is affected by climate. In 1977 the Department of Energy (DOE) had an advisory committee look into carbon dioxide and climate, which recognized that:

“the acute sensitivity of agriculture, and thus society in general, to even small changes in climate: ‘The Sahelian drought and the Soviet grain failure … illustrate the fragility of the world’s crop production capacity, particularly in those marginal areas where small alterations in temperature and precipitation can bring about major changes in total productivity’.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 171
(referencing MacDonald et al., The Long Term Impact of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide)

This advisory committee developed a climate model that showed that doubling the preindustrial levels of carbon dioxide from 270 ppm would result in an increase in surface temperature of 2.4 degrees C. The model suggested that warming would be at the poles, with a temperature increase of

“10 to 12 degrees C – a colossal amount.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 172

NOAA knew and discussed this as early as 1977, and President Carter’s science advisor asked National Academy of Science president Handler to review the advisory committee study. Handler gave the study to MIT Professor Jule Charney to review, and he assembled a panel of eight scientists plus two climate modelers (Syukuro Manabe and James E. Hanson) that had created the most advanced climate models at that time. The new models showed there could be natural processes providing negative feedback, that could slow down global warming some, but these wouldn’t affect a substantial warming. The small things like negative feedback didn’t address the problem caused by the villain: carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas.

Charney’s group prepared a report which concluded:

“If carbon dioxide continues to increase, the study group finds no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 173
(referencing Verner E. Suomi in Charney et al., Carbon Dioxide and Climate viii)

Charney’s group knew they needed more data, as they didn’t know how fast the oceans absorbed heat, as:

“the more the well mixed the oceans are, the more heat would be distributed into the deep waters, and the slower the warming of the atmosphere would be.”
– Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway page 173

Essentially, the oceans act like a heat sink, delaying surface temperature increases. A positive from this news was global warming would be delayed. A negative from this news, was that the delay might mean people wouldn’t accept global warming until it was too late to change it.

The next report on global warming was written in 1980, and it focused more unsocial and political impacts – the authors suggested doing nothing, until more data was available, so we could continue burning fossil fuels. This report suggested that natural market corrections (voluntary reduced use of fossil fuels, alternative fuel sources) would be enough to address climate change – no need to regulate anything. Sound familiar? Yep, the same argument we hear today.

The next study on global warming had scientists and two economists. As you might guess, they had very different views to the dangers and facts of global warming. The report was written as chapters by each expert, including those by the economists. The chapter on sea level rise predicted a rise of 5 and 6 meters (1 m = 3.28 ft, so that meant 16.4’ to 19.6’ increase of sea levels). All chapters written by scientists reported that increased levels of carbon dioxide was bad and needed to be addressed immediately. The chapters by the economists disagreed – they argued that changes were too far into the future to matter at that time. The problem was this study, was that is focused on the chapters of the economists, not the scientists, and so it was not a true synthesis of ideas from all of the authors.

It may have appeared to be balanced, but it was not. The paper also downplayed the issues involving with moving people from affected areas to other locations – it is not trivial, but the paper presented that it was not an issue. When reviewed, the paper was criticized for failing to provide evidence to back the recommendation of doing nothing, which was contrary to scientific views on the issue. The comments from the reviewers were ignored, and the report (leaning 100% to the economists view) was published.

The problem with this new study, was that it was used to refute real scientific evidence about global warming, from scientists and from the EPA. It gave climate change deniers a report to back their stance and to attack climate change science. This paper gave the Reagan administration an excuse to do nothing for the years 1980 to 1988, while Reagan was president.

In 1988, the first organized effort to deny global warming began during the presidential election. James Hansen, climate modeler, testified at a congressional hearing that climate change was now visible and affecting the world. Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush promised to use the presidency to address global warming and sent Secretary of State James Baker to the first IPCC meeting. Unfortunately, deniers began attacking climate science in 1989 and climate scientists a few years later.

The deniers first blamed the sun as the source of increased surface temperatures on Earth. The deniers published a white paper denying global warming, and presented it to departments of the U.S. government – this caused the George H.W. Bush administration to deny climate change. This report suggested the Earth was near the end of a 200 year heating cycle and should soon begin to start cooling off. The problem with this paper, was it misrepresented the actual data and cherry-picking valid data to support the position of no global warming.

The first IPCC assessment, published May 1990, rejected that the sun caused the temperature increases as shown in the report by the deniers. Unfortunately the deniers continued to say the sun was the source of global warming and presented their stance on the road in 1991 and 1992, attacking the IPCC.

In June 1992, leaders of many governments went to Rio de Janeiro for the U.N. Earth Summit. President George H.W. Bush also attended and signed the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which came into effect in 1994. The framework was an agreement in principle on limiting emissions, and the real limits would be set at Kyoto Japan. Unfortunately, adoption of the Kyoto accord was blocked in the U.S. Senate by Senators Hagel and Byrd in 1997.

CH 7. DENIAL RIDES AGAIN: THE REVISIONIST ATTACK ON RACHEL CARSON

Rachel Carson revealed the dangers of industrial pesticides, leading to the ban of DDT in 1972. Since it was banned, Ms. Carson and her work has been attacked by deniers trying to create a scenario where any regulation is bad. This has gone on into the 21st century and is part of the new denial culture.

======================================================================

CONCLUSION

I decided to leave out the individual players in the different chapters because the authors did such a good job with the details and references. This review isn’t meant to replace the book, but to encourage you to read it, as it is very powerful, compelling and honestly somewhat frightening. When you see the link between the deniers of tobacco and the deniers of climate change, you may be as shocked and angry as I was.

I’ve always maintained that, if you need to lie to promote your views, your views are wrong, you lack the courage or wisdom to accept the facts, or you are more interested in protecting something than doing what is right.

I understand that special interests have an obligation to support their industries – I disagree it should be necessary to misrepresent or distort facts or attack researchers, but I understand the motives. They are interested in the success of their industries; the bottom line rules.

I find it terrible that the people we elect to protect us – members of Congress and some presidential administrations – failed to support science, the EPA, and their constituents. Our elected government should have our best interests at heart, not the interests of companies that donate a lot of money to their election campaigns. I cannot see how history will view the actions of politicians that helped special interests affect the viability of life on our planet. Perhaps they hope to rewrite the history books.

In 2017, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria made landfall in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico respectively. Of the three, I only recall one climate change denier say he would stay in his house that was in the path of Irma, but he “changed his mind and moved to be able to continue his broadcasts”. If climate change is so wrong, why do these deniers not line every shore that scientists predict will be hit by hurricanes? Those predictions, based on science, are good enough reasons for climate change deniers to move to safety, so why do they choose to ignore predictions of rising sea levels and increased air and water temperatures? Choosing which facts you believe and which you deny, based on what costs the least money, is indefensible. Unfortunately it is a common tactic of science deniers.

HOW TO ADDRESS THESE ISSUES

The truth is, we need to change how science raises concerns to adapt to the attacks by special interests. There will be more scientific findings in the future that will affect businesses, and special interests will continue to use the same type of attacks that worked for tobacco, ozone depletion and global warming.

SCIENCE: As long as some scientists are willing to put their economic or political interests ahead of the facts, more education isn’t the answer: we need an easy way to prove that science is right and has addressed some concerns already. There is a site online that contains a list of issues raised about global warming – I’ve not seen it mentioned on social media or in articles, but referring the media to it when skeptics attack should be done automatically.

THE PRESS: I cannot see how the press allows attacks on the scientific community, without questioning what attackers have to gain by these assaults. How can any members of the press promote that politics and big business as more trustworthy and reliable than people dedicated to seeking out the truth? Doesn’t make sense to attack the scientific community for having a political agenda, without questioning the political agendas of the people attacking science. The press needs to stop taking the view that there are two sides to every scientific issue and stop being used to slow down regulations that help people and the environment.

INTERESTED NON-TECHNICAL PEOPLE: Far too often people with little or no science background challenge scientific findings in newspapers and on the Internet. If you lack a basic science background in a topic, why do you believe you can challenge scientists? If you doubt climate change, read “The Madhouse Effect” by Dr. Michael Mann or “Unstoppable” by Bill Nye – both clearly explain the science, and neither author is making billions of dollars by selling books. They both want to educate people so people can make informed opinions on climate change. Curious people need to educate themselves, not with stories on the internet, but with solid information from people without a stake in the topic. Read a book, don’t watch a short YouTube video and consider yourself informed.

INDUSTRY: The government should reward companies that report issues with their products. If a company received a tax credit for coming forward about an issue, they would be compensated for their honesty. If they received a fine for failure to report, they also have financial motivation to be honest. If companies are shown to know about an issue but they decided to delay regulation, they should be massively fined and all people associated with that act sent to prison.

GOVERNMENT: Due to the complexities of science, we could use a special court to focus on science issues – this could lead to a new area of law in the near future. And regulatory portions of the government should be lead by non-partisan people that new political administrations can change, as Scott Pruitt has done with the EPA.

MY RECOMMENDATION ON THIS BOOK

I enjoyed this book – tremendous job by the authors on compiling so much relevant data and presenting it clearly and at a level most people can understand. The writing is logically organized and flows well, and it is easy to read. I give this book 5 stars out of 5. It is worth buying and keeping in your library. Buy a copy of this book for yourself and extra copies for family and friends that are interested in the subject.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Title: Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change 2nd Edition 2015 Product Details
Author(s): Michael E. Mann and Lee E. Kump
ISBN: 978-1-4654-3364-0
Published: 2008,2015 by DK Publishing
Price: $24.95 (hardback)
Length: 224 pages

Author Bios

Dr. Mann has undergraduate degrees in physics and applied math, a Masters degree in Physics, and a Ph.D in Geology and Geophysics. Dr. Mann has published books (The Hockey Stick, The Madhouse Effect) and over 180 peer-reviewed publications on global warming, and has testified in congressional hearings about the subject, as well as made himself available via social media to people with questions on global warming.

Dr. Kump has an undergraduate degree in geophysical sciences and a Ph.D in Marine Science. Dr. Kump has published over 100 peer-reviewed publications on global warming, and his work has appeared in documentaries produced by National Geographic, BBS, NOVA Science-Now, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

These two scientists are far more reliable sources on climate change than special interest commentators with an agenda to cast doubt on climate change. Let’s take a look at their book and see what the scientific data shows.

 

Table of Contents

Introduction – do NOT skip this section! Great intro to climate
PART 1: Climate Change Basics
PART 2: Climate Change Projections
PART 3: The Impacts of Climate Change
PART 4: Vulnerability and Adaption to Climate Change
PART 5: Solving Climate Change

 

INTRODUCTION

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. ”
http://ipcc.ch/news_and_events/docs/factsheets/FS_what_ipcc.pdf

Dire Predictions explains the findings of the IPCC on climate change, using clear and detailed visual graphics to demonstrate the data in the 5th IPCC assessment.
Note 1: As of 2017, there is a new assessment on the IPCC website (ipcc.ch).
Note 2: The IPCC/Links website page contains links to different government websites that contain climate change information, and the US EPA website no longer contains Climate Change data per President Trump and EPA Admin Pruitt – for pre-Trump information, see  https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climatechange_.html

 

CLIMATE VS. WEATHER

“We plan our daily activities around the weather. Will it rain? Is a storm or a cold front approaching? Weather is highly variable, and, although considerable improvements in weather forecasting have been made, it is still often unpredictable.

Climate, on the other hand, varies more slowly and is highly predictable. … Climate represents the average of many years’ worth of weather. This averaging process smooths out the individual blips caused by droughts and floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, and blizzards and downpours, while emphasizing the more typical patterns of temperature highs and lows and precipitation amounts.”
Introduction, Dire Predictions

Sen. James Inhofe (republican, Oklahoma) received a BA from the University of Tulsa in 1973, when he was nearly 40 yrs old, which is commendable. Checking his biography (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Inhofe and https://www.inhofe.senate.gov/biography), t I was unable to find out what he studied for his undergraduate degree, nor could I find any graduate school credentials for the senator. On Feb 25, 2015, Sen. James Inhofe appeared at the US senate and used a snowball for the reason his does not believe that global warming is happening (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/02/26/jim-inhofes-snowball-has-disproven-climate-change-once-and-for-all/). Yes, a person elected by the people of Oklahoma to represent them in government doesn’t understand the basic difference between weather and climate.

For the sake of people that don’t understand the difference between weather and climate, let’s summarize:
WEATHER: highly variable and unpredictable.
CLIMATE: varies slowly and highly predictable.
CLIMATE REPRESENTS THE AVERAGE OF MANY YEARS WORTH OF WEATHER.

THINGS THAT INFLUENCE CLIMATE

  1. Latitude (location on the Earth)
  2. The oceans
  3. The atmosphere
  4. Atmospheric Circulation – the Hadley Circulation

Fascinating information about ice ages in this section. When they did and didn’t occur.

 

GREENHOUSE GASES

It is important to understand what greenhouse gases are, since climate change deniers often attempt to claim these are not important or that science is wrong is stating certain things are greenhouse gases. According to scientists that actually study climate science:

“Greenhouse gases exist naturally in Earth’s atmosphere in the form of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and other trace gases, but atmospheric concentrations of some greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are being increased as a result of human activity. This increase occurs primarily as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, but also through deforestation and agricultural practices. Certain greenhouse gases, such as CFCs and the surface ozone found in smog, are produced exclusively by human activity.”
Dire Predictions, Introduction page 14

Something in this section is very important today, as current news in 2017 shows that the Greenland Ice Sheet is melting, and that ice sheet has remained intact during climate changes over the past 2 million years. The fact it is melting is extremely important, as it shows we are experiencing something today that hasn’t happened in 2 million years!

 

PART 1: CLIMATE CHANGE BASICS

THE ROLE OF SCIENCE AND SCIENTISTS IN UNDERSTANDING CLIMATE CHANGE

“Basic principles of physics and chemistry dictate that Earth will warm as concentrations of greenhouse gases increase. Though various natural factors can influence Earth’s climate, only the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations linked to human activity, principally the burning of fossil fuels, can explain recent patterns of global warming.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 16

Scientists study climate change, and often find themselves questioned by special interests or people hired to look for reasons to contest climate change. Scientists approach climate science the same way they approach other topics: using the scientific method (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method).

“Scientific conclusions arise from time-tested theories, accurate observations, realistic models based on the fundamentals of physics and chemistry, and consensus among colleagues working in the discipline.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 21

Real scientific conclusions are not based on what is politically correct, what pleases conspiracy theorists, or what is economically prudent. We do not live in a Star Trek universe where everyone has a theory, so the opinions of people that doubt climate science but lack a scientific education do not trump scientific theories.

 

IPCC 5th ASSESSMENT – WHAT IT MEANS

The 5th assessment of the IPCC makes predictions about the possible outcomes we can expect from climate change. I understand why possibilities that are low are not as alarming, but I do not understand why any politician would reject risks that 50% or greater probability of happening. Intensified cyclone activity, raising sea level (threatening coastal communities around the globe), rising surface temperatures (affecting plant and animal life, as well as humans), impacting the amount of sea life (reducing a food source for a growing population), and a change in long term weather patterns are serious. The IPCC report shows these dangers, yet many politicians ignore them and the outcome, endangering our children and grandchildren, as well as plant and animal life on this pale blue dot we call home: Earth.

Why do politicians argue against climate change? Ask your representatives in the US house and senate. And when (and if) they respond, ask them for the scientific data/peer-reviewed papers that back their position. And be sure to ask them why they disagree with scientific consensus, where 97% of climate scientists agree global warming is happening, is caused by human activity, and is a serious threat to humanity.

 

WHAT IS THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT?

A greenhouse lets sunlight in, reducing heat loss from wind and trapping the heat so the enclosed area is warmer than the outside. These are used in cold climates, as well as when there is a need for warmer climate plants in cooler parts of the world.

“The greenhouse effect occurs on our planet because the atmosphere contains greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are special – they absorb heat, which then warms the atmosphere. Not all gases are greenhouse gases.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 22

The greenhouse effect is simple:

  1. The Earth receives sunlight and warms up.
  2. The Earth begins to radiate heat.
  3. Radiating heat encounters greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane) that absorb and retain the heat.

When greenhouse gas levels increase in the atmosphere, more heat is retained and the Earth gets warmer.

Positive feedback loop – in global warming, it happens when one change (like increased carbon dioxide) causes another result (more water vapor in the air) – water vapor is a greenhouse gas, so more water vapor means warmer Earth.

Negative feedback loop – in global warming, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide causes increased amounts of water vapor (a greenhouse gas) in the air – clouds form. Some clouds trap heat, while others reflect heat, and so this isn’t as much of a factor as positive feedback.

Anthropogenic – human generated. A cause for concern, since we started burning fossil fuels over 200 years ago and have not done anything to remove the excess carbon dioxide. This anthropogenic greenhouse gas has been increasing without a mechanism to reduce the extra carbon dioxide, so our Earth is getting warmer.

Greenhouse gases can be studied in the past, by analyzing ice from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Scientists take core samples of the ice and analyze the air bubbles in different times to see how much greenhouse gases were present. Core studies show far more greenhouse gases are present today than in pre-industrial era air. Not good.

“If we use existing fossil-fuel reserves and do nothing to capture the Carbon dioxide released, atmospheric carbon dioxide will exceed anything experienced on Earth for over 50 million years.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 43

There was a myth that climate scientists in the 1970s predicted a new ice age was coming. This was published in popular magazines, not scientific magazines nor scientific journals, and was not the opinion of climate scientists. It was speculation and it was wrong.

The authors discuss climate models in this section, in detail and showing the strengths and weaknesses of them. Many climate change deniers argue that models are bad or inaccurate, but I have not seen any model complaint that was not addressed by scientists. Climate change models are being updated and enhanced, which proves that scientists want the best models possible. Science needs accurate data, but that does not mean we cannot use what we have now, even though it bothers climate change deniers.

 

PART 2: CLIMATE CHANGE PROJECTIONS

“researchers can draw certain conclusions given best-guess scenarios of fossil-fuel burning and the average projections of theoretical climate models.”
Dire Predictions Part 2 page 82

Some critics claim that climate change is false because we still have winters. Ridiculous. Climate scientists believe that, as climate change speeds up, there will be fewer frosty days (that doesn’t infer it will never be cold or frosty), longer heatwaves (that doesn’t mean we will only have heatwaves), and more intense rainstorms (that doesn’t infer we never had intense rainstorms).

Climate Sensitivity – the amount of warming to expect when factors controlling climate change. This shows how how much Earth will warm with increased greenhouse gas emissions.

We have limited real temperature data for land and sea, about 150 yrs for land and 50 yrs for sea, so scientists use tree rings and ice cores to estimate how average temperatures varied over time in the past. We can track solar activity and volcanic eruptions and greenhouse gas concentrations much further back than 150 years, and these help improve our climate models, by helping discern when climate change was influenced by natural or human factors.

By studying historical climate information, science shows that continued buildup of carbon dioxide results in warming of the Earth. Since burning fossil fuels adds greenhouse gases to the air and seas, increased reliance on fossil fuels increases the amount of greenhouse gases and so increases the temperature of our planet.

Recently, there was a false pause, where it appeared that global warming slowed, but that was a result in sparse data gathered, plus a few natural factors that offset global warming. These natural factors included volcanic activity, a short term reduction in solar output, and a series of La Nina events. When you factor in ocean heat content and arctic sea ice losses, the climate change models are still accurate – our planet is heating up, even though natural factors masked global warming during this false pause.

There have been IPCC projects for nearly 25 yrs, and the early ones have proven to be quite accurate. What should concern people living near the coast, is that sea levels have risen as projected for each of the earlier IPCC projections, A large percentage of global population live near the coast, so many people can expect to be impacted in the future, based on current expectations.

While some climate change deniers attack the IPCC findings by claiming they overstate the impact of global warming, actual evidence shows the IPCC predictions underestimated the effects of climate change.

The most conservative estimates for climate change over the next century are grim, with a 50% chance we will exceed 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) increase in average global temperatures. That 2 degree increase is viewed as a dangerous amount of climate interference by humans – called a tipping point. The most liberal estimates are far worse than 2 degrees C increase, with effects far more devastating.

Precipitation will be affected by increased average Earth temperatures, meaning more droughts and more floods. Cold seasons would see more precipitation and warm seasons should less precipitation, which is only good if you like plenty of snow in the winter and no rain in the summer. Increasing droughts could have a terrible impact on desert regions of the world.

Increased temperatures means we can expect to lose ice from our two largest continental ice sheets: Greenland and Antarctica. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, it would result in rising global sea levels of 16’ to 23’!  If the West Antarctic ice sheet melts, that would add another 16’ of rising sea levels. If you live in Louisiana, Florida, New York, or on any island in the ocean, you should be very concerned.

With the evidence we see from climate science, I cannot understand why people would choose to deny climate change and refuse to understand science. Harvey, a recent Cat 4 hurricane hit Texas, and most people were willing to accept the news from climate scientists about that hurricane, so they left endangered areas. Why accept some of what climate scientists say and reject other information? Because special interests promote doubt about climate change, but they don’t interfere with warnings about hurricanes. If you accept scientists are right on hurricanes, you must accept they are right on global warming.

 

PART 3: THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

If you are a climate change denier, this is the section you should focus on. Scientists expect human and animal habitats will be impacted by global warming, and that we will see mass extinction of many land and sea creatures which will affect animal and human food chains.

Climate change will result in less food to feed more people, so who gets to eat and live? We can expect wars as people lack what they need to survive and they will want with others have. We can also expect mass migration of people from less developed countries to the most developed parts of the planet. More people means less surface area to grow or raise food, meaning still less food.

We have already started to see rising sea levels affecting people in Louisiana (Katrina, 2005) and Texas (Harvey, 2017), and the heavily populated eastern seaboard will lose habitat land and heavy storm surges will cause increasing damage and property losses to people and businesses, affecting our economy – insurance companies aren’t in business to pay out more than they bring in, so insurance rates will soar.

If the Greenland ice sheet melts, we can expect over 19’ increase in sea level. Belgium and the Netherlands in Europe, the entire eastern seaboard, the gulf coast, and the west coast will lose much of the available land. And coral reefs like the Great Barrier Reef will be impacted by global warming too, impacting the sea life dependent on reefs and reducing parts of the food chain we humans need that eat food from the oceans. And with ice in the arctic and Antarctica gone, life that lives (like polar bears) in those parts of the world will be gone, except for the animals kept in zoos. That will be a tragedy as we learn from studying life in the natural environment.

Droughts, which we have been experiencing since the early 2000s in Texas, Oklahoma and California, reduce plant and animal food production and increase food costs for people everywhere. And flooding won’t just cause loss of life by drowning. Many infectious diseases spread in water, and having more floods means more people are exposed to those diseases and so health costs will also rise.

All continents will be impacted by climate change. Yes, even the US and Europe, as well as Africa and Australia. Less coastal land for people to live on, famine from reduced food production, more disease from floods, and economic chaos from skyrocketing cost increases in every aspect of life. And war, meaning too many people will die far from home and family and friends, trying to gain what they lack.

The only good news we have right now? That the amount of global warming impacts how much our world is affected by global warming. If we act now and reduce our carbon emissions into the environment, we can reduce the changes that happen in the future.

 

PART 4: VULNERABILITY AND ADAPTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE

For our economies to change, we need to reward use of alternatives to fossil fuels and to provide a carbon tax to reward companies that use less fuels that add to the carbon dioxide levels in our environment.

Rising sea levels means our global communities will need to either pump out the excess water like Holland, or move inland. The costs for either will be huge, to individuals and to each country.

We will need to find more fresh water, which could be done by desalination plants if we can find an economically feasible means to mass produce fresh water. We need to produce more food on less arable land, so improving the efficiency of growth/production, as well as reducing spoilage will help.

To adapt to climate change, we need to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we use for energy sources. Alternatives like solar and wind and tide power, as well as nuclear will reduce the fossil fuel we need for energy sources, which reduces carbon dioxide output to the sea and atmosphere. Alternative transportation – more trains, intercity mass transit, and electric-powered vehicles – will reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases is another way to adapt. Reducing carbon dioxide from cars by carpooling and improving engine efficiency will help reduce our carbon footprint. Reducing emissions from power systems – as President Obama did by requiring coal powered plants to decrease greenhouse gases – will help, as long as another administration doesn’t make changes that eliminate those emission savings.

Unfortunately, President Trump as made rolling back changes that help the environment a priority of his administration. Removing the US from the Paris Climate Accords was President Trump’s defining act that may well be his lasting legacy – and not for the better I am afraid.

Many ecosystems around the world are sensitive to climate, and many will be wiped out unless we make changes now. Our scientists have seen the effects of climate change on sea corral, and the changes have been accelerating in recent years as greenhouse gases increase.

The truth is, economically it is less expensive to address climate change now that after it gets far worse. We can’t expect to see things immediately return to pre-industrial era conditions, but we can hope to see lower temperatures and less dangerous weather systems. Climate Scientists have shown that higher concentrations of greenhouse gases will take a long time to remove from the environment, so the longer we wait to reduce emissions, the longer the recovery time.

We can do something besides reduce emissions. Implement a carbon tax to reward companies that produce fewer greenhouse gases. This is not popular among republicans, but we are all Americans first and our country’s needs should come before party needs. We are past the point where we can do nothing and things will fix themselves. The cost of inactivity will escalate the longer we ignore or fail to correct the problem. That should motivate anyone that cares about this planet more than profits.

 

PART 5: SOLVING CLIMATE CHANGE

Adaption will help, but we still need to do more to solve global warming. We need to work with the other countries of our planet together, as we all impact each other. Unfortunately, President Trump removed the US from the Paris Climate Accords, so a future administration will need to make alliances with other countries and get political buy-in to prevent some other politician from harming our environment for the sake of profit.

We also need to improve engineering processes to reduce power wasted by inefficient transmission, improve tools like stoves to use fuel more efficiently (reducing the amount needed). This chapter of the book shows graphs that demonstrate the potential places we can reduce greenhouse emissions, along with the costs for each place.

Creating more wind farms and tapping more water power sources like dams and tidal power systems will help. We also need to stop trying to get more fossil fuel from the Earth, so reduce or eliminate fracking (which has proven a problem in Oklahoma, where they are experiencing earthquakes up around 5 on the Richter scale) in 2017.

Using lighter colored surfaces on the roofs of homes and businesses and road surfaces means less solar energy to be absorbed, which will help as well. Using electric cars instead of gas burning cars will make a tremendous difference as well.

We also need to consider future building projects, to reduce power needs and to utilize alternate power sources like solar. We may want to eat less red meat, as cows produce methane, and wheat doesn’t. Nothing wrong with people adapting by having meatless days during the week, which is healthier for us too.

Planting more trees as well as rewarding countries that preserve trees will help. We can’t match the efficiency of trees to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, so planting more is a good option. Some people propose returning carbon to our environment, the same way that fossil fuel holds carbon. There are np good methods at this time, but that will change.

Each person on Earth can help in the fight against global warming. Reduce your use of carbon dioxide producing power systems. Add solar panels and energy efficient appliances to your home. Bike to work or work from home to save gas (and money) while reducing carbon dioxide output. Have a meatless day, where you eat no red meat one day a week. Add insulation to your home, turn off unnecessary lights, get rid of power-leaching power strips, and turn down your thermostat in the winter (and turn it up in summer). Communicate with people that doubt climate change and get them to see the reality of the problem. And write your government representatives and remind them they work for you, not the fossil fuel industry, and we need them to make laws to protect our planet. Plant a tree and a garden at your home.

We must act now. Global warming is real, and a serious threat to life on our planet. Sea life and land-bound life alike are at risk, and the effects will last a very long time, affecting our descendants who will rightly blame us for leaving them in this predicament. Climate change is a very real danger and we need to push our politicians to stop taking special interest money opposing climate change and to start fighting for us, their constituents. Inaction is no longer a realistic option.

 

CONCLUSION

This is an update to the first edition of the book, which includes updated scientific data. The pages in the book are thicker than normal and loaded with illustrations, graphs and images to help convey the information. The book is organized into five sections, which are easy to read sequentially or in any order you like. I hope that some people that embrace climate warming denial either buy or borrow this book from a library and read it with an open mind – I don’t see how any real, intelligent, and unbiased reader could go through this book and still believe global warming is not a real issue.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5 possible and strongly encourage that it be purchased and read by everyone in your family. This material should be easy enough for people with a high school education to understand, and it has enough detail for people with higher education to enjoy.

Title: Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the WorldProduct Details
Author: Bill Nye
ISBN: 978-1-250-00714-8
Published: 2015 by St. Martin’s Press
Price: $26.99 hardback
(Reviewing the Kindle version)
Length: 352 pages

 

Yes, another long book review (>6100 words), but this book is loaded with data worthy of an in-depth review.

Chapters

1: We’ve Got the Whole World In Our Hands
2: The Call to Greatness
3: A Hothouse of Disbelief
4: Putting a Price on Inaction
5: Inputs and Feedbacks
6: Thermodynamics and You
7: Fighting Global Warming with … Bubbles?
8: Talkin’ ‘Bout Electrical Energy Generation
9: Stop the Burn – Don’t Frack that Gas
10: Nuclear Energy: Too Cheap to Meter… Again
11: One More Reactor (No, Make it Two)
12: Power of the Sun
13: Is the Answer Blowing in the Wind?
14: Down to the Wire
15: Let’s Transform the Grid
16: Dude, Where’s My Battery Pack
17: Quest for Storage
18: Bottling Sunshine with Moonshine
19: NASCAR – A Catalyst for Change
20: Got to Get Moving on Moving
21: Moving Our Masses
22: Rise of the Taxipod, Robotruck, and Bioplane
23: The Water-Energy Connection
24: Time to Get the Salt Out
25: Feeding the World
26: Bringing it all Back Home to Bill’s House
27: Quien es Was Verde – or, Keeping Up with the Begleys
28: Bill and Ed in a Fight for the Sun
29: Bill and Ed Get Into Hot Water
30: The Tap is Off and the Garden is Green
31: The Case for Space
32: Building a Better Rocket Equation
33: Do Humans have a Destiny in Space?
34: Setting a Fair Price for a Better Planet
35: The Unstoppable Species

 

WE’VE GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN OUR HANDS

“Climate change is coming, and it is coming right at you. Regardless of where you live on Earth, you will live to see your life or the lives of your kids and their friends change due to the overall warming of the planet.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 1

Bill Nye is no climate change denier. He knows enough of the science to know climate change is a real threat to life on Earth and it must be addressed now.

Bill was in China at a science conference and a student became his guide around Beijing and loaned Bill his father’s bike, as his guide’s family was successful enough to now own a car. That prompted this observation:

“That desire – to get more done with less effort – multiplied by billions of people who burn fossil fuels to satisfy that desire, is the root cause of climate change.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 1

He points out that everyone wants what we have in our country: cars, planes, readily available electricity, more electronic devices, more more more.

I’ve heard climate change deniers state that “God wouldn’t let humans change or damage the world he created.” Poppycock! I always counter with “Did you ever hear about nukes? We have far more than needed to change our climate and wipe out all life – God didn’t prevent them.” Bill points out that another species – cyanobacteria – once changed our climate by producing oxygen, which in turn killed off life that couldn’t tolerate oxygen. We humans aren’t the first to affect our climate, although we can hope we will change it back for the better while we can.

When I was young, our total population was 3 billion, and scientists wondered if we could handle feeding 6 or 7 billion people. We are over 7 billion now, and we do feed them, but now our concern is how adding so many new users of fossil fuels adds to climate change. And as more people are born, that means more fossil fuel users are adding to the carbon dioxide contribution in our atmosphere, and carbon dioxide levels directly impact the temperature of our planet.

 

THE CALL TO GREATNESS

“I encourage everyone to reject both of those sentiments (“The climate has always changed in the past and it will always change in the future”, and “We have to save Earth”) and think instead, “We have to save Earth – for us! For us humans!”
Unstoppable, Chapter 2

The first sentiment is a head-in-the-sand view on global warming, and the second is a misunderstanding that the Earth will be destroyed if we do nothing to save it. Both are wrong. We need to act now to counter the effects of global warming, and we need to understand that the effects of global warming could make Earth uninhabitable for humans.

I really liked the author’s question for climate change deniers:

“Would you trust a scientist or a politician who insisted, pounding his fist on the table, that there is no connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer?”
Unstoppable, Chapter 2

For decades, politicians and special interests (the Tobacco industry) denied cancer and smoking were linked, and the approaches they used for denying the smoking-cancer link are being used for climate change denial. Too many people that believed the politicians and cancer deniers died, trusting those people over scientists. Are you willing to let your children and grandchildren go through that same experience? The difference between climate change denial and smoking-cancer link denial, is that everyone on Earth is affected by climate change – you can’t stay away from second hand climate change the way you could stay away from second hand smoke. And, unlike smoking, you can’t quit climate change denial. We have to reverse the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The author points out that, to address climate change, we will need to come up with solutions for energy to replace fossil fuels, better ways to transmit electricity, and better ways to store electricity. We also need to be able to convert seawater to drinkable water, grow more food and transport it using power sources other than fossil fuels.

 

A HOTHOUSE OF DISBELIEF

The author studied astronomy with Carl Sagan when he went to Cornell University. I read Sagan’s books titled ‘Cosmos’ and ‘Pale Blue Dot’, and Sagan’s Cosmos video series is still one of my favorite science series ever produced. I think that explains Bill Nye’s audience friendly approach to discussing science, as Sagan was excellent at making complicated subjects understandable by novices. I forgot was how Sagan developed a computer model that showed how the greenhouse effect warms Earth – fortunately the author describes that and gives a simple yet clear explanation of global warming:

“A carbon dioxide molecule is linear. It’s an atom of oxygen connected to an atom of carbon, connected to an atom of oxygen, all in a row. It’s the right length and of the right atomic flexibility (or floppiness) to allow visible light, with wavelengths ranging between 390 and 700 nanometers (billionths of a meter) to pass right by. But, these molecules block the longer reradiated infrared rays (heat), whose wavelengths are about ten times as long as those of visible light. That heat-trapping ability is a feature of the size and shape of carbon dioxide molecules, and the length of waves they trap or let pass. Yes, this really is somewhat like what happens in a greenhouse.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 3

That is one of the easiest explanations why carbon dioxide is directly involved in global warming. The author goes on to explain that the extra heat trapped by increasing levels of carbon dioxide alters weather patterns and local climates around the world. It’s amazing that climate change, which has scientific consensus for 30 years, is still contested by climate change deniers. It is disappointing that the media allows climate change deniers to quote an article in Newsweek published in 1975, that suggests we were heading for a new ice age, not warming. Newsweek is not a science magazine, and we know a lot more about climate science than they did in 1975, yet this is rarely called out by the media when they let deniers state that as evidence scientists don’t know enough about climate to predict changes. The media should stop giving deniers, especially those without education climate science, equal footing with climate change scientists. And a little more fact checking would dispel these old claims that have long been disproven but are still raised by deniers.

“People who should (or do) know better keep confusing weather with climate. Weather is what happens day to day in one place. Climate is what happens over many years to a large geographic area, or the planet as a whole.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 3

This happened in February 2015, where Sen. James Inhofe brought a snowball to the senate floor and declared it proved global warming was a hoax, because it snowed somewhere. Funny, and quite wrong. This senator doesn’t understand climate change. And the argument that more carbon dioxide is good for plants is wrong, as it ignores that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means more retained heat for our planet – not good, as that means some areas of the planet will become too warm or dry for plants to thrive.

Another concern climate scientists have concerns methane, as it has much more effect on global warming than carbon dioxide. Methane is trapped in ice, and will be released as more arctic/antarctic ice melts. Attacks on climate scientists, on the data used, on gases on that cause global warming, and on climate change models serves one thing: to delay a response to global warming.

 

PUTTING A PRICE ON INACTION

The author lists costal cities that will be impacted by rising seas, and it’s not good. New Orleans, Miami, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Venice, Mumbai and Qingdao will need major infrastructure changes to prevent being rendered useless. And these cities will be affected all too soon, as sea surges during storms will impact them long before the sea is thigh for the existing banks and dams. And don’t forget countries like the Netherlands that already have sea level issues. If people need to move inland to get away from the water, where will they go?

Transportation to new homes, food and water and clothing, as well as new equipment for jobs, updating existing infrastructures to accommodate new settlers, and creating new sea ports will cost a lot. And don’t forget, that land can be used for housing, work and food production – if more land is needed for housing, we will lose land that could generate food supplies.

And rising seas will result in flooding, which means water-born diseases and mosquito-born diseases, which will cost lives and time and money to address. And parasites normally unable to handle cold weather will flourish in new warmer climates. If we do nothing, the costs to address these problems will be overwhelming.

 

INPUTS AND FEEDBACKS

“A lump of coal is nearly pure carbon. When you burn it, each carbon atom hooks up with two oxygen atoms from the atmosphere to make carbon dioxide, CO2. An oxygen atom weighs one-third more than a carbon atom, so the greenhouse gases add up quickly. When you burn one kilogram of coal, you get 3 2/3 kilos of carbon dioxide.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 5

That’s a lot of gas that retains heat. In 2014, our atmosphere topped 400 parts per million for the first time in history. The author points out that the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere isn’t the problem: the rate of change is. The rate that carbon dioxide is being added to the atmosphere is accelerating because there are more of us each day. More people means more need for power and food and transportation, meaning more carbon dioxide.

Bill describes a feedback loop in climate science: adding heat increases water evaporation. Warmer air holds more moisture than cooler air, so as air warms up, more moisture is evaporated. And water vapor traps heat too, so this addition of water vapor to the air demonstrates a positive feedback in climate science. When water reaches a certain altitude, clouds form, and clouds reflect sunlight into space, causing the Earth to get less sunlight and less heat. This effect of reflecting heat by clouds is negative feedback. But that isn’t all. Clouds low in the atmosphere reflect heat, but clouds high in the air actually reflect heat back down to the Earth, so high altitude clouds have a positive feedback.

Another example of feedback is arctic ice. When arctic ice exists, it reflects sunlight, which is negative feedback. When arctic ice melts, the darker seas absorbs more sunlight and heat, which is a positive feedback. And warmer seas mean more ice melts, so even more positive feedback. Not good. And warmer seas means disruption in sea currents, causing changes in air and ice and sea elsewhere, causing an even bigger positive feedback.

 

THERMODYNAMICS AND YOU

“But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics (the law that entropy always increases) I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”
Sir Arthur Eddington, Unstoppable Chapter 6

“The energy of motion is converted to the energy of heat all the time in just about everything we do. …
It (the Second Law) constrains all the efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. In short, it is the foundational challenge to anyone who wants to improve the way we live without increasing the amount of energy we use.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 6

This chapter highlights one of the limits affecting the fight against global warming. Heat released as inefficient use of motion energy. There is only so far we can go to improve efficiency. Fascinating read and the one I’ve enjoyed most, so far.

 

FIGHTING GLOBAL WARMING WITH…BUBBLES?

This chapter deals with geoengineering, a proposed way to address global warming. The author explains that clouds and arctic/antarctic snow and water allow Earth to reflect around 30% of the solar energy that us, so we retain 70%. As we get warmer, there is less ice to reflect solar energy and so Earth gets hotter – not good.

One proposal to reduce the amount of solar energy the Earth retains is to inject bubbles into water. That works because bubbles are more reflective that calm water, and so the water with bubbles would reflect more solar energy. Another benefit of adding bubbles is that it reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation – very important in a world with dwindling natural resources like potable water. The author points out that, while this isn’t currently done intentionally, it could be worth the effort very soon.

If injecting bubbles could be done economically, and on a wide enough scale, it could reduce the solar energy we retain and help fight global warming. Other things that could help geoengineer Earth include adding more trees and more green growing things in the seas, as well as genetically engineer food sources to be lighter in color.

 

TALKIN’ ‘BOUT ELECTRICAL ENERGY GENERATION

This chapter shows we as a society have dependence on electricity, and that we need to reduce the carbon used to generate that electricity.

“Electricity is actually a moving energy field, the pure energy of the cosmos, and that field travels at the speed of light.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 8

“Volts measure electrical pressure, amps measure flow, watts measure power. Power over time equals the total amount of energy. That’s why your electric utility bills you in terms of watt-hours.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 8

 

STOP THAT BURN – DON’T FRACK THAT GAS

Coal generates power, but with a huge carbon footprint. so cleaner burning natural gas could be a temporary bridge to newer ways to generate electricity. Bill Nye points out that natural gas is, at best, a temporary solution and we need to leave it underground, due to release of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is even more of a heat trap than carbon dioxide, and methane can leak into the air when fracking to extract natural gas.

The author explains how fracking has evolved over time, from vertical to horizontal fracking. Some states ban fracking, while other states like Oklahoma embrace fracking. The thing is, Oklahoma started experiencing earthquakes after extensive fracking, and now sees earthquakes at level 5 of the Richter scale where none were experienced in the pre-fracking days. Cities and buildings have been damaged enough to warrant evacuation, and the lessons learned in Oklahoma should be recognized by other states using fracking for natural gas extraction.

Tar sands, like those proposed to be carried by the Canadian Keystone pipeline, are far more dangerous to our environment. That is why I was surprised one of President Trump’s first acts as president was to approve the pipeline previously rejected by President Obama. As of July 2017, the Canadian company wanting the Keystone pipeline is reconsidering the need for it. Hopefully Canada will be more environment-friendly than our current Trump administration.

With the Trump administration’s anti-environment, pro-fossil fuel stance, Trump’s EPA director has been rolling back or refusing to implement regulations designed to protect the environment passed during President Obama’s term. What should scare reasonable people, is EPA head Scott Pruitt’s decision to ignore regulations to control methane pollution (http://tinyurl.com/y9nvsbdc). The courts have recognized the validity of these regulations established during President Obama’s administration and have sided with our world against the Trump administration, but one has to wonder why Trump’s administration is so bent on harming our planet. If you die from pollution, how much good does it do to have more money?

 

NUCLEAR ENERGY: TOO CHEAP TO METER… AGAIN

Chapter 10 focuses on nuclear energy – cleaner power plants than coal/gas fired plants, but with their own risks. The author explains how nuclear energy produces power, but isn’t sold on it as a bridge technology from fossil fuels to a clean power system.

 

ONE MORE REACTOR (NO, MAKE IT TWO)

The author gives a simple and clear explanation on the fundamentals of nuclear power plants and the risks they pose. Bill suggests a reactor with thorium may be safer than uranium or plutonium, and he discusses fusion, which has been discussed but not possible for forty years. Fusion would be clean and cheap, but not something we can handle right now.

 

POWER OF THE SUN

Chapter 12 covers solar power: how it works, how efficient it is, and why it is a good carbon-free source of energy. We need better and less expensive solar panels on more homes, and that should happen over time. Bill points out that solar panels used in space are 40% efficient, whereas the ones homeowners can afford are around 15% efficient. Unfortunately, the US only produces about .4% of its power by solar energy and we need to make a lot more to replace coal-powered electricity to make a dent in our climbing carbon dioxide levels.

When I was young, people talked about having solar panels in space to gather energy and send it to Earth. Bill points out the difficulties with that approach and shows how individual power systems for buildings or a city would be more feasible.

 

IS THE ANSWER BLOWING IN THE WIND?

Wind power. Clean energy and the US currently produces ~4.5% of its electricity from the wind. I’ve seen the wind farms in Iowa, many large windmills I’ve never seen stopped whenever I pass nearby. We could have more, and our previous administration encouraged wind power development over coal (a favorite of our current administration).

The author makes a great point about the feasibility of wind power replacing coal powered electricity. Costs for wind power have dropped to 2.1 cents per kWh (kilowatt hour), whereas coal-powered electricity costs 1.2 cents per kWh, so the cost increase for wind powered electricity is not unmanageable.

Bill describes how some hobbyists have rigged a propellor on the top of a boat to catch the wind, and linked it to a propellor under water to drive the boat through the sea. He says that this type of sail boat can drive straight into the wind (something anyone that ever sailed on a traditional sail boat will tell you is impossible). I’ve never seen these myself, but they sound really interesting.

Unlike solar power, wind power typically isn’t reliable during the middle of the day, when electrical energy needs are highest. And the wind does stop, and wind isn’t available everywhere, but the low cost and no carbon footprint of it make wind power a valid candidate to replace much of our coal-based electricity in the US.

 

DOWN TO THE WIRE

Getting power from where it is generated to where it is used isn’t free nor simple. There are limitations to the efficiency of power being transferred. This chapter explains the details why there is power lost during transmission, so you understand why we need to get more efficient to reduce losses (and, in turn, reduce how much electricity we need to generate).

 

LET’S TRANSFORM THE GRID

Chapter 15 covers the power grid – how we distribute power from different sources like hydroelectric dams, to cities and homes. The important items for discussion here are magnetism and electricity: two of my fav topics. Bill says that increasing efficiency and reduces losses by electrical devices will reduce our need for electrical power. He also explains how transformers work, stepping up and down voltage as needed. But don’t let that cause you to skip this chapter. Bill gets into power transmission issues, buckminsterfullerene and nanotubes of carbon atoms. Nanotubes made of carbon atoms would provide almost no power loss of electricity over long distances, but we can’t make them very long now (50 nm max) – Bill points out that solving this problem would be huge and would change the world.

 

DUDE, WHERE’S MY BATTERY PACK

Chapter 16 covers electric-powered cars. In 2007 I worked with a guy that had an electric car and he was proud of it. Unfortunately, he had a short drive (under 20 miles each way) and had to charge his car once he arrived at work and again when he arrived home. It may have been quite, but he told me the cost to replace the batteries would be more than buying a new car. Newer cars do much better these days, and the author is right that we should do more to move to electric cars.

 

QUEST FOR STORAGE

This chapter covers the many many different types of power storage containers (batteries) we’ve used in the past and present. Interesting material, but near the end of the chapter Bill talks about gravity storage pistons, which are simple but potentially huge ways to store power for use when the sun or wind are unavailable. Fascinating subject and the first I’ve seen about it. Really really good information.

 

BOTTLING SUNSHINE WITH MOONSHINE?

In chapter 18, Bill discusses how batteries are not the only means of storing power for off-hour consumption. Food like corn gets energy from the sun, and in turn can be fermented into ethanol, which can be drank or burned. Unfortunately, sun-to-corn-to-ethanol is not efficient (2% according to the author) so it isn’t a good standalone solution over fossil fuel. Sugar from sugarcane can also provide stored power – more than 2x what corn provides – and sugar can be fermented and produce alcohol too.

Bill brings up catalytic converters also. I remember when they were introduced and how some opposed them as too expensive and not likely to help with pollution. As we know today, and as Bill points out, they made a big difference in reducing pollution and weren’t too expensive for their intended purpose. The same arguments many deniers and fossil fuel industry shills make today about reducing carbon dioxide output – and the deniers are as wrong today as they were in the 70s.

 

NASCAR – A CATALYST FOR CHANGE

I’m not a NASCAR fan. No problem with people that like it. Never developed a taste for it. Bill talks about NASCAR and how they use old auto tech to make races exciting, and (showing my age) I understood as I remember a time when cars had carburetors and pushrods. At least he didn’t bring up records yet (if you don’t know what they are, you are not old and you know how to use Google).

 

GOT TO GET MOVING ON MOVING

“almost a third of all energy we use in the United States goes to transportation. We use almost as much energy moving ourselves and our goods around as we use to produce or create those goods in the first place.”
Unstoppable, chapter 20

Bill points our our inefficiency moving power as a great place to start to address global warming. The author mentions that trains are 4x more efficient than a truck – a neat tidbit of knowledge – so trains are better at movement than trucks.

 

MOVING OUR MASSES

This chapter covers mass transit, pointing out that subways are far more efficient at movement than cars. The only unfortunate situation is that mass transit away from the New England area of the US (not including Chicago) usually relies on buses for mass transit, not trains or subways. I agree with Bill that riding public transportation lets passengers read or use their smart phones – something car drivers shouldn’t do while on the road (but, unfortunately, too often do while driving).

One year I worked as a consultant for a client that had showers onsite for the employees, as they encouraged their people to bike to work to conserve gas and reduce pollution. I wish this was the stance of more companies. For a while, many companies allowed their people to telecommute, but that policy comes and goes over time, and it has been cut back the past two years in the technology field.

Bill talks about the need for helmets when biking and I agree. I wear one when I bike outside, on a mountain bike or a road bike, and I wear a helmet when I ride a motorcycle. Being safe means more than looking cool to me. Biking is a great way to exercise, so any laws passed making it more convenient are ones I’ll always vote for – I hope you do too.

 

RISE OF THE TAXIPOD, ROBOTRUCK, AND BIOPLANE

This chapter covers automated cars. We’ve seen stories about self-driven cars the past few years, and Bill believes this will happen and become the major method of transportation within cities in the future. That would make Elon Musk happy.

The idea of flying cars appealed to me, until I earned a pilot license. Ground school and CFIs proved that flying takes a lot more mental work than driving a car. Too many people mentally disengage while driving to talk, text, or play games – you can’t do that in a plane and survive long. Self-piloting planes (or helicopters, like Iron Man used in Captain America: Civil War) would be far safer.

 

THE WATER-ENERGY CONNECTION

Navy ships and subs distill their own water while at sea, whereas cruise ships lack the power needed to distill water, so they use membranes to filter out particles from water. The author points out that this second method would work for cities needing water. This was what I thought, when I considered the recent droughts affecting California, and I suspect this type of solution will happen sooner rather than later.

 

TIME TO GET THE SALT OUT

Mangroves are trees that can handle salty water – they filter out salt for useful water, and eject the salt on their leaves. The author points out that this is what we need to create – a system emulating mangroves. There is a material – graphene – that would work, but the cost of production and utilization could be a problem.

 

FEEDING THE WORLD

“the economic sector that uses the most of Earth’s resources and produces the largest environmental change is our agriculture. Our farms produce greater volumes of more greenhouse gases than all of our cars, trucks, trains, ships and airplanes combined.”
Unstoppable, chapter 25.

With a growing population, this means even more climate change. And we waste too much food. Most of my neighbors don’t eat leftover food, so it goes in the trash. We had leftovers in my family when I was growing up, so I have no issue using leftover food for lunches. The author talks about using GMFs (Genetically Modified Foods) that need less food and water to grow more food, and GMFs have have fans and dis-tractors for many years, but eventually we will need to rely on them to feed our people.

 

BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME TO BILL’S HOUSE

Bill looks for ways to use less energy in his own home. He uses solar power and talks about paying $10 every other month for an electricity bill. Now that is incredible. And he uses other systems to reduce power needs for lights and heating water. What is amazing is that he estimates he saves a tremendous amount of power usage for less than it costs for a nice SUV, and that savings is paid for in 10 years. If only more people did as much as Bill – maybe this will motivate more people to do the same.

 

QUIEN ES MAS VERDE-OR, KEEPING UP WITH THE BEGLEYS

Bill talks about his eco-friendly competition with neighbor Ed Begley Jr., and this is the type of competition we need to see more often if we want to beat global warming. Striving for more efficient uses of power and resources can only help: us save money and the planet save resources and energy used to gather those resources.

Bill had a reflector installed in his fireplace, which reflects more heat into the room. When I spent some time in a Scottish castle, it had one too, and the amount of heat that a few logs gave to the room was impressive. I sat back 20 feet from the fire and could still feel the warmth.

 

BILL AND ED IN A FIGHT FOR THE SUN

This chapter covers solar power panels and the cost benefits. His solar cells generate more power than he needs, so that power is sold back to the power company and he receives the money instead of a bill. Bill’s solar panels are 15% efficient, but I found a company online that says it gets 22.1% efficiency from their solar cells, which is a nice improvement.

 

BILL AND ED GET INTO HOT WATER

The author uses solar power to heat water for his home, which is a cost saver. He also installed tankless water heaters, which I too have looked into, which instantly heat water and save money as there is no need to wait for running water to heat up. A good idea, and I plan to install solar heating and tankless water heaters in my next home for sure.

 

THE TAP IS OFF AND THE GARDEN IS GREEN

The author had a garden installed and used a system with multiple zones and a rain sensor to improve efficiency. I had a sprinkler system with the same arrangement (zones and rain sensor) installed after I built my home, and saw a 40-50% decrease in water used (according to water bills) than when using regular mobile sprinklers. It helped to be able to time the sprinklers to work during the middle of the night, and to be able to control the amount of water sent to each zone.

 

THE CASE FOR SPACE

Finally, some numbers that intrigue me: space flight. The author shows why calculus is needed for rocket science: because burning fuel changes the weight of a space craft constantly. According to Bill, a 100% efficient rocket needs 500 million joules to life one ton of cargo to 62 miles (the beginning of space). To get into orbit, you need twice that amount of energy. To get into geosynchronous orbit (1 day for each time around the Earth), it takes 5000 million joules of energy. This energy does not count the rocket mass and fuel itself.

Air pressure against a rocket decreases as altitude increases.

“When the decreasing static pressure and increasing dynamic pressure reach a maximum, it is called max-q.”
Unstoppable, chapter 31

Max-q is dangerous for the rocket as the pressure on the nose of the space craft is maximum. The location where a space craft is launched is important as well, since launching near or at the equator means the Earth’s rotation will add to a craft’s orbital velocity.

Returning to Earth means getting rid of the energy used to get into orbit. When in low Earth orbit (like the ISS), one ton of payload must dissipate 30 billion joules of energy, and the easiest way to do that is use the friction of the atmosphere to convert energy into heat (the reason for good heat shields on space craft).

There. Bill provides the information you need to plan how much fuel you need to get your own space craft to space and back again.

 

BUILDING A BETTER ROCKET EQUATION

The author states that most rockets use rocket fuel called RP-1 (Rocket Propellant #1), which is refined kerosene with chains of carbon atoms. All particulates are removed (which explains why the first launch in ‘The Astronaut Farmer’ failed so badly). Liquid hydrogen (used in Apollo and the space shuttle) contains more energy than RP-1.

A nice surprise in this chapter is the simple yet clear explanation of ion propulsion (xenon gas atoms propelled by electrical grid out of the craft, pushing it forward as the xenon leaves the craft. Since ion engines develop slow but constant power, they currently can only be used once in space, so you still need RP-1 to get to space.

Bill also talks about solar sail power. NASA launched their own NanoSail-D into orbit in 2011. The Planetary Society successfully launched LightSail in 2015, and they intend the next generation of this to launch in 2018.

The takeoff weight for airplanes is around 10% fuel, while the takeoff weight for space craft is 90%. Lighter materials affect both airplanes and space craft, and would lower takeoff fuel requirements.

 

DO HUMANS HAVE A DESTINY IN SPACE?

“this common goal – to leave the world better than we found it.”
Unstoppable, chapter 33

As global warming is a modern threat, just as dangerous as ISIS and other terrorists, our generation needs to solve the global warming threat to our planet. That would make the world a better place – for us and for our children and grandchildren. We also need to explore space to learn more about life here and out there.

Mars facts that interest maybe just me in this chapter: atmospheric consists of carbon dioxide, air pressure is .7% that of Earth, average noontime high temperature is -40 C/F. Space craft can only depart for Mars every 26 months (due to orbits of Earth and Mars)

 

SETTING A FAIR PRICE FOR A BETTER PLANET

A carbon fee or carbon tax will work, if conservatives stop opposing it. This is the best way to tie economic considerations into carbon emissions, and it could be our best hope to reduce greenhouse gases.

 

THE UNSTOPPABLE SPECIES

“When I decided to write this book, I did it with one enormous goal in mind: I want to help change the world.”
Unstoppable, chapter 35

The issues and optional ways to address them are well covered in this book. Reasonable people being logical should have no issue with Bill’s suggestions, unless they have a special interest agenda that provides economic incentive to ignore the dangers of global warming. That incentive means that some of our politicians and policy makers put the interest of the fossil fuel industry ahead of their own families, friends and fellow countrymen. Is money worth more that human life? It shouldn’t be, but unfortunately it is.

Global warming is real. Doesn’t matter your political or religious affiliation, facts are facts. Radio and internet personalities, political scientists, and people drawing paychecks from think tanks paid by companies promoting fossil fuel use do not know better than people with advanced degrees in science. If that bothers you, you are being unreasonable and are fooling yourself.

I’ve seen vicious attacks on climate scientists by trolls on Twitter, whose arguments were worthless but these trolls were blinded by hate and refused to be reasonable and refused to accept that uneducated people cannot know as much about a subject as subject matter experts with advanced education on climate science. Why trolls with no or little hight school education feel like they can challenge these people on climate science is beyond me.

Either we fight this battle now, or allow our children and grandchildren to face much greater (and potentially unbeatable) challenges that we do at this time.

 

CONCLUSION

This book is well written, flows well and breaks down technical items enough for anyone (except senators on the payroll of fossil fuel companies) to understand the danger of global warming and the technical difficulties we must overcome to make changes to reduce our carbon output.

This book educates and informs people that really want an education on climate science. Deniers should read it as it disproves denier excuses intended to delay our fight against global warming. I can’t see how an honest denier could read this book and still fail to understand the dangers of global warming. I’d think even someone with an advanced degree in political science would understand the science explained in this book, clearly enough to realize they are hurting, not helping humanity.

I give it 5 stars out of 5 and recommend purchasing it. Students and adults will learn a lot about science, and it is not partisan. It is real, it is true, and it must be a wake up call to people trying to harm our world by fighting the fact that global warming is the biggest danger to our species right now.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Title: The Madhouse Effect
Author: Michael E. Mann, Tom Toles
ISBN: 978-0231177863
Published: Columbia University Press (September 27, 2016)
Price: $24.95 hardback/$11.50 paperback/$13.49 Kindle (7/17)
Length: 208 pages

I’ve studied science since I was a child, and what still amazes me is how people with little or no science education find some science topics offensive.  When I was young, evolution concerned some religious people. The theory of evolution wasn’t intended to affront religion, as many scientists have religious beliefs, but the idea our world could be older than 6000 years angered some that calculate the age of the Earth using the Bible.  Scientists weren’t trying to disprove religion.  They were trying to understand why things on our planet changed to what we see today.

Another topic scientists studied when I was young was the dangers of smoking.  Smoking was socially acceptable, long after scientific studies showed smoking increased the risk of cancer.  Powerful special interests (the tobacco industry) did not want these scientific studies about the dangers of smoking to affect their sales, so they had others publish conflicting studies that tobacco was safe.  The tobacco industry’s fight against scientific studies lasted decades, until the tobacco industry finally ceased their war and settled huge lawsuits from people affected by smoking.  These days, some people smoke, but people no longer argue about the dangers of using tobacco.

The current scientific topic under attack by special interests is climate change.  The science concerning climate change is accepted by 97% of scientists trained in this area, but special interests that have products (coal, gas, oil) that contribute to global warming and have declared war on science.  These special interests pay politicians and hire their own experts to try to create doubt in the minds of the public.  Why?  So they can continue to sell products that are endangering our world.

I believe when you see something troubling, you need to learn more about it so you can discuss the topic intelligently.  No one of ordinary intelligence should want others to provide their own talking points, as that restricts how much is really known about the subject.  People should read this book because it was written by a scientist trained in climate change, and it is illustrated by an award winning illustrator that shows the issues with people attacking the science of climate change.  Let’s get into this fascinating book.

Book Chapters

Ch 1: Science: How it Works
Ch 2: Climate Change: The Basics
Ch 3: Why Should I Give a Damn?
Ch 4: The Stages of Denial
Ch 5: The War on Climate Science
Ch 6: Hypocrisy – Thy Name is Climate Change Denial
Ch 7: Geoengineering, or “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”
Ch 8: A Path Forward

Science: How it Works

The first chapter of this book explains science, so people without formal education in science understand how science works.  Why was this needed in a book on climate change?  Because many people believe there is some global conspiracy by scientists to promote climate change – completely wrong.  Some believe scientists gets rich researching climate change – ridiculous.  Let’s look at Dr. Mann’s explanation of science.

“Science is unique among human endeavors in the “self-correcting” machinery (to quote the famous Carl Sagan) by which it is governed.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 1

Self-correcting means science continues to study topics, trying to learn more and making corrections when it is mistaken.  Science embraces skepticism, as it strives to improve what it understands.  Dr. Mann points out a truth known by people that accept scientific consensus on global warming.

“Unfortunately, the term skeptic has been hijacked, especially in the climate change debate, to mean something entirely different.  It is used as a way to dodge evidence that one simply doesn’t like.  That, however, is not skepticism but rather contrarianism or denialism, the wholesale rejection of validated, widely accepted scientific principles on the basis of opinion, ideology, financial interest, self-interest, or all of these together.”

The Madhouse Effect, pages 1&2

It’s one thing to dislike something you hear.  It’s wrong to insist on new or alternate facts (a term used by Kellyanne Conway) that attack something you disagree with.  A professor at my college had an excellent sign on his wall, addressing this issue:

“You are entitled to your own opinions, not your own facts.”

But these climate change deniers don’t only want their own facts; they also attack the motives of scientists studying climate change.  These “skeptics” lack a college education, or never took a science course in an accredited college, and they believe that scientists have an economic advantage to promote global warming.  Poppycock!  I studied science in college (biology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry) and I never met a wealthy science professor.  The people I met in college studying or teaching science were motivated by learning and helping solve scientific questions and peer recognition, not money.   And climate science is far from the best paying fields these days.  I do not doubt there are some scientists that are wealthy, but people that study science are not in it for the money.

There is another misconception about science that is covered in chapter one: the belief that scientists are motivated to work together to promote something so they get research funds.  Baloney!  Scientists that find and reveal something different than what is widely accepted are the ones that get research funds and peer recognition.   Scientists are looking for issues with global warming, and it is to the benefit of any scientist to publish any studies that show if they find problems with the consensus belief.  And the mythological “super scientist” that tells all other scientists around the world what to say or teach or publish on climate change is rubbish.  Anyone suggesting a super scientist calls the shots in any field demonstrates they never took a science class in their life.

Special interests with an agenda affected by global warming use the same tool the tobacco industry used to counter studies that tobacco was dangerous: doubt.  They try to counter scientific evidence any way that causes the public to doubt the science.  This war on science is not new, but it is disappointing that many forget the tobacco industry attacks on science and how they parallel those used today against climate change.

Climate Change: The Basics

“The basics of climate science are actually very simple and always have been.  Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat, and we are adding more CO2 to the atmosphere.  The rest is details.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 15

I heard Senator James Inhofe (of Oklahoma in senate meetings) deny Carbon dioxide is involved in global warming.  Senator Inhofe is not a scientist, does not have education in climate studies, and is 100% wrong about carbon dioxide.   Senator Inhofe also brought a snowball to the senate and tossed it on the floor and proclaimed it proved that global warming was not an issue – rubbish!

There are other factors that impact global warming, but those factors do not change the fact that carbon dioxide is increasing in our atmosphere and carbon dioxide traps heat and so it contributes to global warming.

“Next time that cantankerous uncle of yours whom you see every Thanksgiving tells you that the greenhouse effect is “controversial new science,” remind him that it’s actually basic physics and chemistry that go back nearly two centuries.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 16

Scientists have studied climate change for nearly two centuries, and have known that carbon dioxide has a heat trapping property since the days of Joseph Fourier.  As Dr. Mann points out, Svante Arrhenius recognized the correlation that burning fossil fuels cause the earth temperature to increase.  That is enough evidence that climate study is a mature science.

We have ice cores dating back thousands of years, and scientists can use them to determine how much carbon dioxide was in the air in earlier periods, and are adding carbon dioxide at an alarming rate!

Global warming is indicated by more than regular heat waves, like we have been experiencing, especially in Senator Inhofe’s state of Oklahoma.  Climate scientists warn that wind patterns will start to change which can produce dry spells like those recently experienced in Texas and Senator Inhofe’s state of Oklahoma.  Other warning signs of global warming are increased flooding in same areas that have dry spells, such have also occurred in California.

A major reason for concern about global warming: rising sea levels, as they impact our coastal cities.  Dr. Mann’s book mentions the antarctic ice sheet melting as a problem, and a major part of that ice sheet broke off on July 18, 2017.  This trillion ton iceberg will be a navigation hazard until it melts, which will result in increased sea levels.

Dr. Mann points out global warming doesn’t necessarily mean that tornadoes will increase in frequency or intensity, but hurricanes should get worse.  Do we really want another Katrina?  Dr. Mann also points out that we can’t say for certain that global warming causes a specific heat wave or storm or flood, but global warming should increase how often these three events occur – increased events means increased damage.

Some of the dangers of global warming already are affecting us, but that doesn’t mean we should give up.  Decreasing carbon dioxide output by reduced dependence on burning fossil fuels will slow down changes we may not be able to recover from, but we still need to deal with too much carbon dioxide in the environment if we want to reduce the impact of this danger to our world.

Why Should I Give a Damn?

If you want a wake-up call to the seriousness of global warming, check out Tole’s illustration on page 30.  Not looking good right now.

“And if you think the effects <of global warming> will be felt only in some far away corner of the globe where only polar bears and penguins live, think again.  The consequences of a changing climate are occurring everywhere and, yes, likely right near you, affecting you, your family, your friends, your community.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 31

That’s right.  We are not alone in the world; we are all in this together.  Global warming doesn’t change based on politics, country borders (with and without walls), or fervent religious beliefs.  Everyone on Earth has a stake in global warming – some more so than others, but still we are all at risk.  This next quote of Dr. Mann should get your attention:

“Dreams of slowly adapting to climate change will have to be replaced with the hard reality of an ever-escalating pace of of disruption and unpredictability.

In what ways will the effects of climate change be felt?  In nearly every way.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 32

Do you want to know what will be effected by climate change?  This is a list:

  • Security – national and alliance security will be affected by changing shorelines;  people losing homes to rising seas need to go somewhere, and other countries as destinations will happen when the arable land of a country is gone.
  • Food – likely less food due to changing weather patterns, increasing temperatures affecting crop production rates and viability;  increasing population and decreasing food supplies is a sure recipe for conflict.
  • Water – more sea water, less fresh water, so another reason for water and land conflicts between haves and have nots;  the Keystone pipeline rejected by the Obama administration could potentially polute freshwater sources for millions of Americans, and that pipeline was approved by the Trump administration.  Ocean acidification is a very serious threat to the creatures living in it and to those of us dependent on the bounties of the ocean: food.
  • The Food-Water-Energy Nexus – using food sources like corn as energy source (ethanol) will be more problematic when more people need food.
  • Land – 33% of the population live within 60 miles of the ocean coastline, and 10% live within 30′ above sea level, and with rising seas and increasingly dangerous hurricanes, those people need to move inland – competing with agriculture and livestock for living space; we have a finite amount of land, so this is a problem when the population continues to grow.
  • Health – heat stroke, malnutrition, flooding and droughts affecting nutrition availability, mosquito-born diseases and water-born diseases, and asthma and allergies will kill a lot more than currently die.
  • Ecosystems – the Arctic, great barrier reef, and snow-covered mountains will be impacted by the rate of climate warming – shouldn’t we want these wonders to be around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy?  As ecosystems disappear, so will other species, and some reports show global warming could kill up to 1/3 of all living species within 50 years – that is a tragedy.
  • Economy – it will cost a lot to move food and water to areas lacking them, and it will cost money to pay for increasing health issues, and relocating people means increasing infrastructure costs as well as transportation and food costs; people making insurance claims to cover their losses mean insurance companies will raise rates to cover their losses, also affecting the economy.
  • Ethics – the current Trump administration is intent on rolling back changes made during the Obama administration that were intended to fight global warming.  The worse thing President Trump did was withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  This president’s cabinet is an assembly of people from the very industries (coal, oil and gas) that have a vested interest in keeping us dependent on fossil fuels, so we have President Trump to thafor vastly increasing carbon dioxide emissions, causing even more global warming than was forecast during the Obama administration.  The ethics of letting the very industries impacting global warming have control of the EPA and other government agencies intended to help and not harm Americans cannot be whitewashed – President Trump’s only legacy is that he did everything wrong climate-wise to help America and the world.

If you aren’t concerned after reading this chapter, you either plan on dying soon without an heir or are in denial.   In either case, this problem is the legacy of our generation if we do nothing to address it, or if we let politicians with a personal economic agenda destroy our chances for a better world in the future.

The Stages of Denial

“climate change is (1) real, (2) caused by humans, and (3) a grave threat, one might rightfully ask how it is that some of our most prominent elected officials can still deny that climate change is even happening.

The answer, of course, is that climate change denial isn’t really about the science; it is instead about the politics.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 53

The stages of climate change denial:

  1. It’s not happening – I do not understand why non-scientists believe they can reject the findings of scientists.  If you lack the education and background, why believe you know better than trained and educated professionals?  Of all stages, this one is the most puzzling one to me.  I’ve heard US senators deny carbon dioxide levels in the air has increased at all – EVEN THOUGH SCIENTISTS CAN PROVE IT HAS!Sometimes deniers cherry-pick data to use time ranges that don’t show temperatures rising, while ignoring long term trends that clearly show our planet is getting warmer.  It’s sad that some of these deniers rely on sites promoting inaccurate date or falsified data analysis sources, and worse that some of them state that organizations like NASA and NOAA would stoop to falsifying data to show warming trends.
  2. OK. It’s happening…but its natural – this approach tries to claim that temperatures were warming in the past, like the medieval times, but science has show the overall temperature of the Earth was cooler in the medieval times.  Essentially, this line of denial promotes the view that, since the Earth was warmer in the past, humans cannot be the source of current warming trends – poppycock!
  3. The problem is self-correcting anyway – WRONG!!  To believe that self-correcting environmental mechanisms will handle the unprecedented increase in carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere is wishful thinking or it is still trying to deny we need to make changes now to address carbon dioxide buildup.  The Tole illustration on page 60 covers this form of denial in a humorous manner.
  4. And it will be good for us – proposing that plants love carbon dioxide and will flourish with more, ignores the fact that regions of the world already borderline on high temperatures will reach conditions where plant production will decrease or cease completely.  How can rising sea levels be good for people living in coastal regions? Two prominent deniers (Bjorn Lomborg and Roger Pielke Jr, both with background in political science, not climate science) use this approach to argue against global warming or against the need to make changes to address global warming.  I doubt that people who listen to political scientists instead of climate scientists on climate change are probably not interested in scientific facts.
  5. It’s too late or too expensive to act – when you consider the costs to transport food and water to places unable to provide them, when you consider infrastructure changes needed to adapt to the loss of food or water, and the costs to provide medicine to those impacted by global warming, it doesn’t seem to be cheaper than developing and promoting technologies besides fossil fuel-driven systems.
  6. We’ll find some simple techno fix anyway – that’s optimistic but it may be inaccurate, and would you really want to try nothing now and make the problem worse for your children and grandchildren?

The truth about these forms of denial, per Dr. Mann:

“There is no simple way out.  Ultimately, we’re left with one real solution: reducing our collective carbon footprint.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 67

The War on Climate Science

Tole’s illustration on page 68 (at the start of chapter 5) does sum up denier mentality about their war on climate science.

“The war on science can be traced back more than half a century, beginning with the activities of the tobacco industry in the 1950s.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 69

Considering the current republican view on global warming (they deny it), it is amusing when Dr. Mann points out that President Richard Nixon (republican) created the EPA, considering the irony that current US President Donald Trump assigned former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the administrator to the EPA.

What I find interesting, is that republican presidents Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan signed legislation that was pro-environment and regulated industries that caused environmental problems, whereas President Trump seems intent on siding with industries like the coal, oil and gas industries against legislation protecting the environment.  Tom Toles illustration on page 73 is appropriate, and humorous.

What could motivate people to attack climate science?  Would an answer of “money” surprise anyone?  Industries producing coal and oil and gas generate a lot of money, and in turn can pay people to provide ways to attack climate science. A quote from Upton Sinclair is appropriate:

“As for money, the famous Upton Sinclair quip “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it” is once again relevant.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 75

While climate change deniers charge that real climate scientists have a motive to promote global warming, industry-financed think tanks actually paid people, providing a motive to deny climate change.  In this case, the people making the charge of money-driven-motives were actually guilty of that themselves.  This is similar to the approach of modern republican politicians that attack democrats and them decry the anger in modern politics.  Very hypocritical, to anyone being honest about the situation.

This chapter includes a list of prominent climate change deniers, as well as groups that promote climate change denial, and is a must read the next time you see someone claim that ‘climate science doesn’t prove global warming.’ Speaking of hypocrisy …

Hypocrisy – Thy Name is Climate Change Denial

Tom Toles’ illustration on page 90 sums up the concept in chapter 9: hypocrisy.

“The best examples of hypocrisy can, of course, be found in the words and actions of politicians who deny climate change. Many have quite literally buried their heads in the sand when it comes to the threat of climate change.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 91

Politicians are supposed to put the good of their constituents ahead of party or special interests, but many do not when it comes to climate change.  Why?  YOU should ask them at town halls, by writing letters and sending emails, and show up at their offices and ask why they disagree with educated professionals that know the subject of climate change better than any politician.  If you like poetic justice, you need to read about the attack on Dr. Mann (for the horrible sin of studying – are you ready? – climate change!) by Virgnia’s former attorney general (and now oyster farmer) Cuccinelli, who lost his bid for Virginia’s governor in 2013.  Cuccinelli lost to Govenor Terry McAuliffe, who is a politician that accepts scientists appraisal on climate change.

I am a native Floridian, and follow the news (and Dolphins) whenever possible.  I am unhappy to see how Gov. Rick Scott has done everything he could to fight climate change, even though most models show Florida will be devastated by rising sea levels.  I saw the news that Dr. Mann mentions: Gov. Scott banning the words ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ in all Florida state official communications.  Talk about putting special interests ahead of your own people!

I have family that live in Oklahoma, so I follow the weather there.  I’ve seen when their senator James Inhofe attacks climate change whenever possible.  I saw on CNN when he brought a snowball to the floor of the US Senate, dropped it, and proclaimed it was proof global warming was not real (Tom Toles’ illustration on page 96 is probably aimed at Inhofe).  Dr. Mann mentions two times he testified in congress about global warming, when Sen. Inhofe was trying to attack it, and the second time was interesting as Sen. Inhofe had invited science fiction writer Michael Crichton to testify.  Wow.  Why doesn’t he ask David Brin, a science fiction writer as well as a real scientist?  Because David Brin isn’t a climate change denier and I doubt he’d agree with Sen. Inhofe at all.

Joe Barton, representative from Texas, also is a climate change denier, and is well known for telling one of his constituents to ‘shut up’ during a town hall meeting.  He not only tries attacking climate science.  He also apologized to British Petroleum when they were called in to explain an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that did a lot of damage to the creatures in the area.  How can any politician apologize for asking a company to explain what happened during an ecological disaster?  And don’t forget that Texas lost a lot of cattle recently to a drought (yes, caused by climate change).  If Joe is your rep, you probably should be asking him why he doesn’t accept scientific consensus on climate change.

Texas Senator ‘Lyin’ Ted Cruz (President Trump gave him that nickname, not me) also embraces climate change denial as a way to get support for his political aspirations.   He ran once for president and will probably do so again. Sen. Cruz is not the most popular man in the senate, with his fellow senators, and Senator John McCain once famously called him a ‘wacko bird’.

Then there is Lamar Smith, another Texas republican representative, who uses his position as chair of the house committee on Science, Space, and Technology to attack science itself by redefining the science peer review process, issued subpoenas to NOAA asking for personal emails because they published a study disputing that global warming stopped, and he tried to cut NASA’s earth science budget to depress climate change study.  Rep. Smith is vocal and actively opposing climate change, and someone that prefers Breitbart News’ stance on climate change over scientists at NASA and NOAA.

Climategate was a contrived attack on climate science itself, and the people behind it cooked emails stolen from a server in the UK to make it appear that climate scientists themselves did not believe in global warming.  After numerous studies in the US and UK, it was proven that emails stolen from scientists were cherry picked for anything that cast a doubt on climate change.  The next time you see a reporter or politician rage about some issue on TV, maybe you should email or tweet and ask why no one is looking for the people behind Climategate?  Could that be An Inconvenient Truth?

The press, in an attempt to be fair, has given deniers an equal chance to state their opposition to climate change.  The problem with that, is that deniers don’t use valid science, they use contrived facts or situations to make their point, so the press has helped the deniers raise more doubt instead of showing them for being tools of special interests.  And Dr. Mann points out something I hope every denier hears and remembers:

“History will judge the actors in this debate, and many will be judged harshly.  By that time, unfortunately, it will be too late.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 115

The important thing to take away from this chapter, is that politicians have evidence of climate change – storms, hurricanes, droughts – and they still fight efforts to address it.  Isn’t it time to vote for people that care what kind of world we leave our children and grandchildren?

Geoengineering, or “What could possibly go wrong?”

Some climate change denialists promote that we will just make changes to our environment instead of needing to curtail use of fossil fuel.   Our climate is complex, so this ‘simple answer’ deludes people into thinking we can easily fix the problem down the road.  The danger of this is two-fold.

One – we stop trying to fix things now, with the hope of some tech advance in the future, which means our temperatures and seas continue to rise until that happens.  Two – that we come up with some tech solution but it has unintended side effects.  If you saw Chris Evans’ movie Snowpiercer, you  understand how this can be dangerous.

A possible solution, using artificial trees to remove carbon dioxide, is something I’d considered as viable, but the costs to implement as well as the development costs and implementation mechanism are still a too much to consider viable.

Some of the things proposed have never been done, have huge engineering issues to overcome, will not make the changes we need with any certainty, and will probably be outrageously expensive (which will cause politicians to again rage and say no).  It would be far less expensive, have faster results, and make life better for everyone, if we just deal with our excess carbon dioxide right now?  Wouldn’t it be safer and more responsible to use the means we have now – reduce use of fossil fuels and increase energy sources like solar and wind energy – than to risk the lives and health of our children and grandchildren?

The Path Forward

“The time for wishing for climate policy action has long passed.  The time for demanding it has come.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 131

Now for some scary facts:

“Human beings currently emit more than 30 gigatons (30 billion tons) of carbon dioxide pollution ever year.

If we want to avoid planetary warming of 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C)- or what many observers consider “dangerous warming”, though, as we have noted, others might reasonably argue that’s already too much – we have a very limited “carbon budget” left to work with.  No more than 1 trillion tons or so of carbon dioxide.

At the current rate of 30 gigatons per year, we will burn through our budget in about three decades.  To remain within the budget, we have to reduce emissions by several percent a year, bringing them down to 33 percent of current levels within twenty years.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 132

Why is this scary?  Because one way we could reduce our carbon output was negotiated through the Paris Climate Accord, which President Obama signed us up for, and President Trump removed us from this year.

The concerted effort of the Trump administration to remove all climate and ecological bills and rules implemented by the Obama administration is nothing short of blind trust in special interests and absolute blindness in trusting science.  The effects will be catastrophic, and we have President Trump to thank for causing incredible harm to our planet.  And our allies in countries that actually understand we need to make a change to save our world?  Well, they are shocked and appalled that the US would not lead the efforts to save our planet, and that our current administration is intent on making climate change even worse.

It shouldn’t matter what your political party is, as this affects everyone on our planet.  Removing the US from an agreement that all but two countries signed, which addressed climate change, is inexcusable.  That was no reason to do so, except that special interests in fossil fuel industry didn’t want us to cut back on using fossil fuel.

If you want to help save our world, stop accepting that politicians are more honest than scientists.  Stop accepting false statements from special interests, and start studying climate change from real sources, not shock jocks or people with agendas.  Write and email your congressman and let them know you care about your world.  Stop remaining silent when you hear people making false claims about climate change- that is silent support for their position.

Take a science class at a local junior college or university and see and speak with real scientists.  And realize that people with degrees in law or political science are not climate science, and climate scientists do not get rich promoting climate change.  In other words, you have to do something now, while we still can make a difference.  Be responsible, and make this world better for your descendants.  I promise you, they will remember what you did and did not do to fight this disaster.  You can make a difference.  It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile for this planet Earth.

Conclusion

If you read this book and still aren’t convinced global warming is a serious threat to life on our planet, I have a question for you.  If you are ill, do you go to a Political Scientist with a doctorate or visit a medical doctor?  Why should you follow advice from someone without the proper credentials and education?  Why would you trust the word of politicians over scientists?

This is an excellent book on climate change for everyone, especially climate warming skeptics.  As with any subject, you learn when you keep an open mind.  The writing flows well, is informative and logically ordered, and the Toles comics are a great addition that help provide humor and information to the book.  After reading The Madhouse Effect, I looked through all of Tole’s comics several times, and I still chuckled as he nails the deniers reactions.

I give this book 5 stars out of a possible 5, and strongly encourage people to read it.  Climate change is one of the most important issues of our day, and it directly affects our children and grandchildren, so people need to learn all they can.  What do we say about ourselves as people, if we pass along a world we destroyed to our descendants,  without trying to fix the problems?

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2012, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

This month I’m temporarily reverting back to earlier tid-bit type entries because I’ve be deluged by input. Being an information junkie requires not only a large hard drive, but also a fairly good memory – so far so good!   Enjoy

Note, many of the technologies I share are in various stage of first, development, and are often far from being a commercial success. Their inventors and supporters still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable, Remember There Ain’t No free Lunch and silver bullets too often turn to lead.

When and if you Google them in depth, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical because there is no easy way to for them into our systems.

I always, as 75 year old cynic, find it appropriate, to step back as I read and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me. In addition, most have no relationship to solving the problem that is being bragged about. I also object to TGTBT (To good to be true) since there never a free lunch and energy runs downhill.

I don’t usually do items with direct political implications, but the items below rubbed my sense of WIIFT.  Recently thoughts about announcements and new service information as well as headlines picked up by the news services. My thought — If its slick and there are no cross checked reference details, it’s probably a scam – legal perhaps but a scam. — As discussed in a recent Bloomberg Business Week:How about rating agencies, Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch’s, glowing credit rating (e.g., investor grades and better) just days-weeks-or one or two months before the firms bankruptcy declarations.

AIG (insurance)

Enron (Energy)

World Com (Telecom), or

Bear Stearns (banking)

Lehman Brothers (banking)

Washington Mutual (banking).

CIT (Financial Services)

MF Global (Baking)

…Tens of Others

I’ve ignored the American auto industry because the Feds both bailed them out and they are back in the black to profitability and job creation. However their bond and shareholders have are still ‘forever’ losers.) I also ignored the airlines because there were not apparently fueled by mis-ratingsReferences:Credit Rating Agencies – Need For Reform — http://ezinearticles.com/?Credit-Rating-Agencies— Need-For-Reform&id=788696 and Credit Rating Agencies — http://rru.worldbank.org/documents/CrisisResponse/Note8.pdf

Why Did Anyone Listen to the Rating Agencies After Enron?http://www.law.umaryland.edu/academics/journals/jbtl/issues/4_2/4_2_283_Hill.pdf

Also See Notable Bankruptcies of 2008: Final Tally | Robert Salomon’s Blog: http://blog.robertsalomon.com/2009/01/05/notable-bankruptcies-of-2008-final-tally/

22 Largest Bankruptcies in World Historyhttp://www.instantshift.com/2010/02/03/22-largest-bankruptcies-in-world-history/

Major Bankruptcies Firms in the Business Historyhttp://www.infographicsposters.com/finance-infographics/major-bankruptcies-firms-in-the-business-history

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Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • German Wind Power Blows Nowhere — Germany’s Wind Power Revolution in the Doldrums
  • How Are Permissible Radiation Limits Set? — How Much Is Science, How Much “Prudence”?
  • Feds Assess Using Abandoned Federal and State Owned Sites For Their Renewable Energy Potential
  • The Discussion Continues: Nuclear Power in Japan (Part I) and A Plea for Common Sense when Prioritizing Environmental Concerns (Part II) How does the danger from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors compare to other health dangers, such as Tokyo pollution?
  • Trying to Change a Climate Skeptic’s Mind?  —  Don’t Bother
  • Feed-in Tariffs Best to Deal with Climate Change Says IPCC Working Group III Renewables
  • Economic And Emissions Impacts Of Electric Vehicles

 

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German Wind Power Blows Nowhere — Germany’s Wind Power Revolution in the Doldrums

By Frank Dohmen and Alexander Jung

Fox News — January 02, 2012   

http://nation.foxnews.com/wind-power/2012/01/02/german-wind-power-blows-nowhere#ixzz1iVLl8hND

The construction of offshore wind parks in the North Sea has hit a snag with a vital link to the onshore power grid hopelessly behind schedule. The delays have some reconsidering the ability of wind power to propel Germany into the post-nuclear era.

Info

The generation of electricity from wind is usually a completely odorless affair. After all, the avoidance of emissions is one of the unique charms of this particular energy source.

But when work is completed on the Nordsee Ost wind farm, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of the island of Helgoland in the North Sea, the sea air will be filled with a strong smell of fumes: diesel fumes.

The reason is as simple as it is surprising. The wind farm operator, German utility RWE, has to keep the sensitive equipment — the drives, hubs and rotor blades — in constant motion, and for now that requires diesel-powered generators. Although the wind farm will soon be ready to generate electricity, it won’t be able to start doing so because of a lack of infrastructure to transport the electricity to the mainland and feed it into the grid. The necessary connections and cabling won’t be ready on time and the delay could last up to a year.

Read more: http://nation.foxnews.com/wind-power/2012/01/02/german-wind-power-blows-nowhere#ixzz1ko1pbebQ

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How Are Permissible Radiation Limits Set?How Much Is Science, How Much “Prudence”?

U.S. Regulatory Report NCRP-136 examined the question of establishing permissible radiation limits.  After looking at the data, it concluded that most people who get a small dose of nuclear radiation are not harmed by it, and in fact are benefited.  That’s what the science said:  Most people would benefit by receiving more radiation.

But curiously, the report’s final conclusion was just the opposite.  It recommended that our regulations should be based on the premise that any amount of radiation, no matter how small, should be considered harmful.  It made that recommendation just to be “conservative” or “prudent.”

Let’s think about that.  Why is it prudent to do just the opposite of what the science indicates?  Why is exaggerating a panicky situation considered prudent?  I’ve never seen a good answer to that question.  Whatever the reasoning or implied logic, that’s where we’ve ended up.

We’ve had three uncontrolled releases of radioactivity from serious malfunctions of nuclear power plants: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.  In each of these, fear of radiation proved to be much more harmful than the effects of radiation itself.  And announcing that no amount of radiation is small enough to be harmless was certainly effective in creating and nurturing phobic fear of radiation, when none was justified by the facts.

In addition, the problem is aggravated by the fact that we’ve been told for sixty years (two human generations) that nuclear terror is infinitely more dreadful than any non-nuclear threat, particularly when you blur the distinction between power plants and bombs.

But what Fukushima tells us that this abstract, academic position looks very different when you’re telling people they can’t go home – perhaps for years, because, well, it seems more prudent that way, even though radiation hasn’t actually hurt anyone there.

Radiation expert Professor Wade Allison, author of “Radiation and Reason, has cast the question in a new light.  He suggests, let’s set the permissible radiation limit the same way we set all other safety limits.  Not by asking how little radiation we can get by with, but how much can we safely permit?  There’s no intention of lowering the safety margin, and it will not be lowered.  That’s not the issue.  It’s a matter of working with the scientific data, rather than from a generic fear not supported by the science.

Prof. Allison concludes that setting the permissible radiation limit, with a good margin of safety, results in an annual permissible level about 1000 times the current figure.

Disclosure: Ted also reviewed and provided feedback on the high-school level book Dr. R. A. Deju wrote called Nuclear is Hot published by the EnergySolutions Foundation.

References

How Are Permissible Radiation Limits Set? http://www.learningaboutenergy.com/2011/11/how-are-permissible-radiation-limits-set.html

By Ted Rockwell – You Tube Video Talk to the Japanese People http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj8Pl1AiOuA&feature=youtu.be

About Ted Rockwellhttp://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/2005/rockwellbio.htm

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Feds Assess Using Abandoned Federal and State Owned Sites For Their Renewable Energy Potential

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have announced a plan to spend the next year to 18 months assessing 26 former landfills, brownfields and Superfund sites. The sites will be assessed for use as future solar photovoltaic, or other renewable projects.

The EPA plans to spend about $1 million on the assessment, according to the Associated Press. The assessment is part of the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative that started in 2007. The analysis will determine the best renewable energy technology for the site, the potential energy generating capacity, the return on the investment and the economic feasibility of the renewable energy projects.

The 26 sites are located in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Mississippi, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, California, Oregon and Washington. The sites include an open-pit copper mine, a former lead smelter, and various hazardous materials contaminated landfills.

The EPA said there have already been more than 20 renewable energy projects built on contaminated sites, and more are under construction.

Doc sez, if the site is being used constructively, monitoring costs become an integral part of doing business, not a burden to their communities and American taxpayers.

 

References

Power Engineering, November 7, 2011

http://www.power-eng.com/articles/2011/11/abandoned_sites.html

Associated Press, By Susan Montoya Bryan, Nov 4, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/feds-assess-sites-renewable-energy-potential-222043648.html

http://www.sify.com/finance/feds-assess-sites-for-renewable-energy-potential-news-environment+and+nature-llgvpdjiedb.html

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The Discussion Continues: Nuclear Power in Japan

(Part I)How does the danger from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors compare to other health dangers, such as Tokyo pollution?

This began as an answer to one letter writer in Friends Journal, and grew. The information that surprised me most is the answer to this question: How does the danger from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors compare to other health dangers, such as Tokyo pollution?

Karen noted that there were a number of responses to Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Power in Japan posting.

It is long past time for Friends to begin a conversation on nuclear power and the much larger issue of how we know what to believe. Many among us insist that what is overwhelmingly the safest of the large sources of electricity should meet standards that no other energy source meets. Many Friends insist that the scientific community is lying about the safety of nuclear power. And overwhelmingly, we as a community insist that solutions to climate change be only the ones we like, even when scientists and policy experts find these solutions partial or even counterproductive.

Karen shares her ideas, to which I thoroughly subscribe in greater detail with the underlying thought “Our simplicity testimony calls for removing obstacles to walking joyfully with God. At the best of times, this is a challenge. Today, there can be little joy in the most optimistic scenarios for climate change. Additionally, our integrity queries don’t seem to raise some vital questions: everyone’s wrong, a lot. When am I wrong? How would I learn that I am wrong, that like-minded people are wrong? A single standard of truth does not mean checking on the web to confirm our hopes and fears.” — Read on check the link(s).

Reference

By Karen Street, The Energy Collective (The moderated community blog for energy, policy, and environment professionals), November 29, 2011.

http://theenergycollective.com/karenstreet/70925/discussion-continues-earthquake-tsunami-and-nuclear-power-japan

Part II:           A Plea for Common Sense when Prioritizing Environmental Concerns

In addition Ted Rockwell recently noted, in Technology Review, an MIT Science, Engineering and Technology and magazine that:

New lessons are beginning to emerge from Fukushima.  Each new concern leads to additional safety requirements.  But some contradictions are beginning to raise questions:  Amid tens of thousands of deaths from non-nuclear causes, not a single life-shortening radiation injury has occurred.  Not one!  And while some people in the housing area are wearing cumbersome rad-con suits, filtered gas-masks, gloves and booties, there are many people living carefree in other places like Norway, Brazil, Iran, India where folks have lived normal lives for countless generations with radiation levels as much as a hundred times greater than forbidden areas of the Fukushima homes.

At Fukushima this is no abstract issue.  People are being told they cannot return home for an indeterminate period – perhaps years.  And efforts to decontaminate their home sites may require stripping off all the rich topsoil and calling it Radwaste.  People who were evacuated have been reduced to economic poverty, clinical depression, and even suicide.

There is good scientific evidence that, except for some hot spots, the radiation levels at these home-sites are not life threatening.  The current restrictions are based on a desire to be “conservative.”  No matter how well intended, this “conservatism” is cruelly destructive.  The respected radiation authority Wade Allison, author of Radiation and Reason, has proposed that the current annual radiation dose limit be raised 1000-fold, which he says is still well below the hazard level of clinical data on which he bases his proposal.  Other radiation protectionists are beginning to feel unhappy about the harm their rules have caused and are joining in the cry for quick action as the Japanese head into winter.

It’s time that the draconian measures are revoked.  A simple declaration of the known health facts about radiation from the proper authorities would be a good first step. — Ted Rockwell

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Kinks in the Road to Solar Power

– It’s about reducing environmental risk

This chapter discusses potential positive and negative environmental, social, and 8 economic impacts of utility-scale solar energy development. The types of solar technologies 9 evaluated include those considered to be most likely to be developed at the utility scale during the 20-year study period evaluated in this programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS), considering technological and economic limitations. These technologies include parabolic trough, power tower, dish engine, and photovoltaic (PV) technologies.

The purpose of this chapter is to describe a broad possible range of impacts for 15 individual solar facilities, associated transmission facilities, and other off-site infrastructure that might be required to support utility-scale solar energy development. This impact analysis will inform the design of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Solar Energy Program and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) programmatic guidance, including the identification of measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate potential impacts associated with solar energy development.

This 300 page chapter is well written, accurate, excellently referenced, and contains much information about issues that solar energy advocated prefer to bury in their search for both a silver bullet and their hatred of nuclear power. But that Doc’s mouthing off again against let me give you free lunch-ism’s and political and profit seeking corporate smoke and mirrors, solar or otherwise.

References

The Solar Draft Programmatic [DPEIS], Chapter 5 “Impacts Of Solar Energy Development and The Potential Mitigation Measures’ December 2010. Argonne National Laboratory — http://solareis.anl.gov/documents/dpeis/Solar_DPEIS_Chapter_5.pdf

Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Going In Wrong Direction

New Report Blasts Administration’s Public Lands Solar Policy — April 4, 2011

http://www.basinandrangewatch.org/solardoneright-PEIS.html

Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States (Solar Energy Development PEIS). You can link to download the entire 1100 page EIS, which is significantly shorter than those I usually read and review related to nuclear projects.            http://solareis.anl.gov/

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Trying to Change a Climate Skeptic’s Mind?  — Don’t Bother 

I’ve mentioned my convictions, yes beliefs, about changing the minds of the fervent 10% of the population — the believers of anything about an issue, whether conspiracy theory, the ‘revealed truth’ or even WIIFT driven.) This article focuses on climate change skeptics, rather the radiation phobia and measured risk or vaccine toxicity. But since we live in an open society, the rest of us can and do require and accept scientifically duplicated and peer reviewed evidence that is always grey. But don’t let that stop you from reading this well written article by Evan Girvetz.

Reference

The Energy Collective Blog, Written by Evan Girvetz
, Published on February 8th, 2011

http://theenergycollective.com/greenskeptic/51411/trying-change-climate-skeptics-mind-dont-bother

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Feed-in Tariffs Best to Deal with Climate Change Says IPCC Working Group III Renewables

Climate change is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. Its most severe impacts may still be avoided if efforts are made to transform current energy systems. Renewable energy sources have a large potential to displace emissions of greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels and thereby to mitigate climate change. If implemented properly, renewable energy sources can contribute to social and economic development, to energy access, to a secure and sustainable energy supply, and to a reduction of negative impacts of energy provision on the environment and human health.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge on climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.

This Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) impartially assesses the scientific literature on the potential role of renewable energy in the mitigation of climate change for policymakers, the private sector, academic researchers and civil society. It covers six renewable energy sources – bioenergy, direct solar energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, ocean energy and wind energy – as well as their integration into present and future energy systems. It considers the environmental and social consequences associated with the deployment of these technologies, and presents strategies to overcome technical as well as non-technical obstacles to their application and diffusion. The authors also compare the levelized cost of energy from renewable energy sources to recent non-renewable energy costs.

The IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) provides a comprehensive review concerning these sources and technologies, the relevant costs and benefits, and their potential role in a portfolio of mitigation options.

The Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) of the IPCC Working Group III provides an assessment and thorough analysis of renewable energy technologies and their current and potential role in the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. The results presented here are based on an extensive assessment of scientific literature, including specifics of individual studies, but also an aggregate across studies analyzed for broader conclusions. The report combines information on technology specific studies with results of large-scale integrated models, and provides policy-relevant (but not policy-prescriptive) information to decision makers on the characteristics and technical potentials of different resources; the historical development of the technologies; the challenges of their integration and social and environmental impacts of their use; as well as a comparison in levelized cost of energy for commercially available renewable technologies with recent non-renewable energy costs. Further, the role of renewable energy sources in pursuing GHG concentration stabilization levels discussed in this report and the presentation and analysis of the policies available to assist the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies in cli- mate change mitigation and/or other goals answer important questions detailed in the original scoping of the report.

A snippet of the findings includes:

The 135-page report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, especially Chapter 11 on Policy, Financing and Implementation, makes it clear that the overwhelming weight of academic studies conclude that feed-in tariffs — or fixed-price mechanisms — perform better at delivering renewable energy quickly and equitably than quota systems, such as Renewable Portfolio Standards in the U.S. or the Renewable Obligation in Britain. This is not the unsurprising conclusion from a surprising source: the IPCC’s Working Group III on Renewables. Below are some selected excerpts illustrating the themes that run through the report.

Page 5 — Several studies have concluded that some feed-in tariffs have been effective and efficient at promoting RE electricity, mainly due to the combination of long-term fixed price or premium payments, network connections, and guaranteed purchase of all RE electricity generated. Quota policies can be effective and efficient if designed to reduce risk, for example, with long-term contracts.

Page 53 — Although they have not succeeded in every country that has enacted them, price-driven policies have resulted in rapid renewable electric capacity growth and strong domestic industries in several countries — most notably Germany (See Box 11.6) and Spain (See Box 11.8) but more recently in China and other countries as well — and have spread rapidly across Europe and around the world.

There’s too much detail available in the report to neatly summarizing, in a page or two of this blog topic. However, it’s easy to get to the full or even the partial reports by linking to them. Note that there appear many legal ways, via the word trade association [WTO], of punishing the goods and services exported by non-cooperating countries like the USA by taxing/tariffing their goods and services, for not taking an active role in slowing or better yet preventing global warming.

 

This is not politically attractive to the European Union’s governance, but popular opinion could never the less bring the issue to an ugly head. Look at how, in the mid-90’s, American’s reacted to the acid rain killing their forests by cross-state boundary sulfur gas releases from coal power plants.

References

Excerpts: Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

By Paul Gipe, Contributor, Renewable Word.com Blog, November 8, 2011.

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/11/feed-in-tariffs-best-to-deal-with-climate-change-says-ipcc-working-group-iii-renewables?cmpid=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+renewable-energy-news-rss+%28Renewable+Energy+News%29

Full Report: http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report/IPCC_SRREN_Full_Report.pdf

Acid Rain  – Wikipedia 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_Rain

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Economic and Emissions Impacts Of Electric Vehicles 

President Obama during his 2011 State of the Union address stated that we should have one million electric vehicles (EV) in the United States by 2015. The benefits of that would be to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and to reduce emissions. These are worthy goals. This article looked at the economic impact of using electric cars, their emissions, and their impact on the electric grid. The analysis was focused on the Nissan Leaf since it is an all-electric vehicle.

Operating economics — The Leaf might be used primarily as a second car for commuting on a daily round trip of say, 50 miles, requiring a daily charge of 12 kWh. A typical home currently uses 25 kWh each day, so this represents about a 50-percent increase in the electricity use. The cost of that electricity varies, depending on where you live, but if we use an average residential rate of 11.3 ¢/kWh, we get a daily cost of $1.35, or a monthly cost of about $40.

This cost needs to be compared with the cost savings of not using the required gasoline. If we assume that a typical equivalent gasoline-powered car would get 25 miles per gallon, and if we assume $3 per gallon gasoline, we get the monthly cost of $180 (50 miles/day x 30 days/month x $3 per g/25 miles/g).

For a complete examination of the economics, we would have to consider the incremental cost of the batteries. The added expense would have to be properly amortized over their effective lifetime. Both the cost and the lifetime are presently difficult to determine because the cost of batteries is not listed in the specification and because experience on the lifetime is limited. A very rough estimate might be that the batteries cost $10 000 and last for five years. This implies that the amortization cost of $166/month, neglecting any interest charge ($10,000/60 months)

Also to be considered is the cost of maintenance, which may be less expensive for an electric vehicle because of fewer moving parts. So the cost of electric vehicle ownership may be about the same as owning a gasoline-powered car.

The article continues with a discussion of Impact on the Grid (infrastructure), and Emissions Reduction-Impact.

The author concludes that the adoption of electric vehicles can have a significant impact on the reduction of unhealthy automobile emissions, but in order to decrease the emissions from the production of electricity in general, nuclear power plants are the only emission-free power generators that can have a significant impact. Currently, they produce 20 percent of the electricity in the United States, with coal’s share being 50 percent. That ratio needs to change in favor of nuclear plants by building more of them.

References

By Ulrich Decher, Ph.D., ANS Nuclear Café Blog, Posted on February 15, 2011

http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2011/02/15/economic-and-emission-impact-of-electric-vehicles/

Factors Affecting Energy Prices (Electricity Explained), US Energy Information Administration, http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_factors_affecting_prices

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Endnotes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits:  — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that’s the found material I work with.

In addition, when copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

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In Closing

Related to Climate Change – It’s real, no matter who caused it!  I also know from the overwhelming amount of hard data, perhaps even truly believe, is this.

Disparaging data without contrary measured facts is like lying or preaching – its belief not science.

Defaming scientists and scholars with whom you disagree is like casting the first rock. I hope you and your kids have a nice safe asteroid at the Lagrangian point to live on independent of Earth; terra firma will not work.

For green or energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (or greenhouse gases and particles) and give out no subsidies, these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom.

With American ingenuity, Indian and Chinese too, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

Continue to remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to solve a problem, or about the problem is all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

Finally, since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click-through the provided link if you want more detail. In addition, <I hope often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).  Doc. … And yes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!

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QUOTES de Mois —

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” And, “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it.” — H. L. Mencken

“It is no secret that a lot of climate-change research is subject to opinion, that climate models sometimes disagree even on the signs of the future changes (e.g. drier vs. wetter future climate). The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’ — and readers’ — attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty.” — Monika Kopacz – Atmospheric Scientist

— Three National Academies Recent Studies

An Op-Ed Piece; doc’s eclectic views November 1, 2011

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved  — Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License


Introduction

As is my want, I periodically check the National Academies Press web pages for workshop notes/articles/reports that appeal to me, not as nuclear waste and energy expert. Rather I explore the various issues at times only ripples and at times tidal waves related to public policy in both American society and that of the world.

Hence this Op-Ed piece. Herein I COPY the prefaces or abstracts from three reports I found both distress and challenging. Unusual for me, I do not editorialize on them, that’s up to you, the reader. I do however highlight sections that made a deep impression on me by either underlining the (if short) or by enclosing them in a text box. I also could not resist my genetic editors syndrome so I split a few sentences in two, or added in italics, a linking word or two. Remember, my stuff is in italics.

Also the graphics are my idea, the NRC reports a captained extensive tables and figures, good technical stuff, but are not into Flesch–Kincaid readability test  levels for their narratives or illustrations. But my friends in the academies will not disinherit me because its all for an educational purpose. _        Doc.

…Read on!

A Renewable Biofuel Standard — America’s Quandary

Scientific Legal Evidence Revisited – Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence: Third Edition

Essential Health Benefits — Balancing Coverage & Costs

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Setting a Biofuels Renewable Fuel Standard

— Choosing an alternative, an all American Quandary [A NRC Study of the Potential Economic and Environmental Effects of U.S. Biofuel Policy]

“In the United States, we have come to depend upon plentiful and inexpensive energy to support our economy and lifestyles. In recent years, many questions have been raised regarding the sustainability of our current pattern of high consumption of nonrenewable energy and its environmental consequences. Further, because the United States imports about 55 percent of the nation’s consumption of crude oil, there are additional concerns about the security of supply. Hence, efforts are being made to find alternatives to our current pathway, including greater energy efficiency and use of energy sources that could lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions such as nuclear and renewable sources, including solar, and (also their) environmental consequences of increasing biofuels production. The statement of task asked this committee to provide “a qualitative and quantitative description of biofuels currently produced and projected to be produced by 2022 in the United States under different policy scenarios …

“The United States has a long history with biofuels. Recent interest began in the late 1970s with the passage of the National Energy Conservation Policy Act of 1978, which established the first biofuels subsidy, applied in one form or another to (mostly) corn-grain ethanol since then. The corn grain ethanol industry grew slowly from early 1980s to around 2003. From 2003 to 2007,ethanol production grew rapidly as methyl tertiary butyl ether was phased out as a gasoline oxygenate and replaced by ethanol. Interest in providing other incentives for biofuels increased also because of rising oil prices from 2004 and beyond. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 established a new and much larger Renewable Fuels Standard and set in motion the drive towards 35 billion gallons of ethanol-equivalent biofuels plus 1 billion gallons of biodiesel by 2022. This National Research Council committee was asked to evaluate the consequences of such a policy; the nation is on a course charted to achieve a substantial increase in biofuels, and there are challenging and important questions about the economic and environmental consequences of continuing on this path.

The National Research Council committee brought together expertise on the many dimensions of the topic. In addition, we called upon numerous experts to provide their perspectives, research conclusions, and insight. Yet, with all the expertise available to us, our clearest conclusion is that there is very high uncertainty in the impacts we were trying to estimate. The uncertainties include essentially all of the drivers of biofuel production and consumption and the complex interactions among those drivers: future crude oil prices, feedstock costs and availability, technological advances in conversion efficiencies, land-use change, government policy, and more.

“The U.S. Department of Energy projects crude oil price in 2022 to range between $52 and $177 per barrel (in 2009 dollars), a huge range. There are no commercial cellulosic biofuels plants in the United States today. Consequently, we do not know much about growing, harvesting, and storing such feedstocks at scale. We do not know other than for ethanol how well the conversion technologies will work nor what they will cost. We do not have generally agreed upon estimates of the environmental or Green House Gases [GHG] impacts of most biofuels. We do not know how landowners will alter their production strategies. The bottom line is that it simply was not possible to come up with clear quantitative answers to many of the questions. What we tried to do instead is to delineate the sources of the uncertainty, describe what factors are important in understanding the nature of the uncertainty, and provide ranges or conditions under which impacts might play out.

“Under these conditions, scientists often use models to help understand what future conditions might be like. In this study, we examined many of the issues using the best models available. Our results by definition carry the assumptions and inherent uncertainties in these models, but we believe they represent the best science and scientific judgment available.

“We also examined the potential impacts of various policy alternatives as requested in the statement of work. Biofuels are at the intersection of energy, agricultural, and environmental policies, and policies in each of these areas can be complex. The magnitude of biofuel policy impacts depends on the economic conditions in which the policy plays out, and that economic environment (such as GDP growth and oil price) is highly uncertain. Of necessity, we made the best assumptions we could and evaluated impacts contingent upon those assumptions. Biofuels are complicated.

“Biofuels are controversial. There are very strong advocates for and political supporters of biofuels. There are equally strong sentiments against biofuels. Our deliberations as a committee focused on the scientific aspects of biofuel production—social, natural, and technological. Our hope is that the scientific evaluation sheds some light on the heat of the debate, as we have delineated the issues and consequences as we see them, together with all the inherent uncertainty.”

Why No Conclusions or Recommendations? — “The statement of task calls on the committee to refrain from recommending policies but to provide an objective review of the policy instruments available, including an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each in affecting long-term trends in transportation energy use and emissions. Because of the multitude of ways in which individual policy instruments can be designed, targeted, and applied, it was not possible to examine all of their possible variations and outcomes for a sector as large and diverse as U.S. transportation. For example, how fast and by how much fuel taxes or vehicle efficiency standards are raised will profoundly influence the relative prospects of such options for implementation and their effects on energy use and emissions and on other areas of interest to policy makers such as transportation safety, the environment, and the economy. This study is not a modeling exercise aimed at projecting and quantifying the effects of many policy instruments, each designed and structured in alternative ways and applied across one or more modes. The more realistic study goal is to compare the main types of policy options with respect to the main energy- and emissions-saving responses they induce and the challenges and opportunities they present for implementation.”

There is much in this report to stretch you mental muscles. Too, often what we read is distorted by either the silver bullet or golden goose syndrome or by WIIFT. As is usual with NAS reports, there are occasional places where I differ from the conclusions of this consensus report; but consensus is just that — not perfect, just hopefully workable. Indeed where panel members are friends or colleagues, I’ve often argued particular points with them. However, over-all the reports are a very good source of information.

National Academy of Science-National Academies Press <2011> The PDF download is free!  PREPUBLICATION COPY – document is subject to editorial changes only.

Biofuel – Wikipedia, 2011 — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofuels

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Scientific Legal Evidence Revisited – Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence: Third Edition

On many occasions I have gripped about courts treatment of scientific evidence and at times written in praise of revising the tort system with the wider scale implementation science courts using well-trained certified peer accredited combinations legal experts and scientists, to assist the judge. Cases would not go to juries until the underlying scientific evidence had been evaluated. Why — just on example,  chrysotile based asbestos fibers are relatively low in toxicity so should not be painted with the same brush as Amphibole asbestos.

 This NAP document sings the songs I love to hear; belief and science have their own place.

Only then could a case enter the fault finding juried phase. I would much rather give jury applicants tests in scientific methodology and broad knowledge, but I suspect very few potential jurors would pass such a test. Yes, I hear the screams from lawyers deprived of their cut, civil libertarians and educators.

The NRC Report Summary

“Supreme Court decisions during the last decade of the twentieth century mandated that federal courts examine the scientific basis of expert testimony to ensure that it meets the same rigorous standard employed by scientific researchers and practitioners outside the courtroom. Needless to say, this requirement places a demand on judges not only to comprehend the complexities of modern science but also to adjudicate between parties’ differing interpretations of scientific evidence.

“Science, meanwhile, advances. Methods change, new fields are born, new tests are introduced, the lexicon expands, and fresh approaches to the interpretation of causal relations evolve. Familiar terms such as enzymes and molecules are replaced by microarray expression and nanotubes; single-author research studies have now become multi-institutional, multi-author, international collaborative efforts. No field illustrates the evolution of science better than forensics.

“The evidence provided by DNA technology was so far superior to other widely accepted methods and called into question so many earlier convictions that the scientific community had to reexamine many of its time-worn forensic science practices. Although flaws of some types of forensic science evidence, such as bite and footprint analysis, lineup identification, and bullet matching were recognized, even the most revered form of forensic science—fingerprint identification—was found to be fallible. Notably, even the “gold standard” of forensic evidence, namely DNA analysis, can lead to an erroneous conviction if the sample is contaminated, if specimens are improperly identified, or if appropriate laboratory protocols and practices are not followed.

“Yet despite its advances, science has remained fundamentally the same. In its ideal expression, it examines the nature of nature in a rigorous, disciplined manner in, whenever possible, (in) controlled environments. It still is based on principles of hypothesis generation, scrupulous study design, meticulous data collection, and objective interpretation of experimental results. As in other human endeavors, however, this ideal is not always met. “Feverish competition between researchers and their parent institutions, fervent publicity seeking, and the potential for dazzling financial rewards can impair scientific objectivity. In recent years we have experienced serious problems that range from the introduction of subtle bias in the design and interpretation of experiments to overt fraudulent studies. In this welter of modern science, ambitious scientists, self-designated experts, billion dollar corporate entities, and aggressive claimants, judges must weigh evidence, judge, and decide.

“As with previous editions of the Reference Manual, this edition is organized according to many of the important scientific and technological disciplines likely to be encountered by federal (or state) judges. We wish to highlight here two critical issues germane to the interpretation of all scientific evidence, namely issues of causation and conflict of interest. Causation is the task of attributing cause and effect, a normal everyday cognitive function that ordinarily takes little or no effort. Fundamentally, the task is an inferential process of weighing evidence and using judgment to conclude whether or not an effect is the result of some stimulus. Judgment is required even when using sophisticated statistical methods.

“Such methods can provide powerful evidence of associations between variables, but they cannot prove that a causal relationship exists. Theories of causation (evolution, for example) lose their designation as theories only if the scientific community has rejected alternative theories and accepted the causal relationship as fact. Elements that are often considered in helping to establish a causal relationship include predisposing factors, proximity of a stimulus to its putative outcome, the strength of the stimulus, and the strength of the events in a causal chain.

“Unfortunately, judges may be in a less favorable position than scientists to make causal assessments. Scientists may delay their decision while they or others gather more data. Judges, on the other hand, must rule on causation based on existing information. Concepts of causation familiar to scientists (no matter what stripe) may not resonate with judges who are asked to rule on general causation (i.e., is a particular stimulus known to produce a particular reaction) or specific causation (i.e., did a particular stimulus cause a particular consequence in a specific instance). In the final analysis, a judge does not have the option of suspending judgment until more information is available, but must decide after considering the best available science. Finally, given the enormous amount of evidence to be interpreted, expert scientists from different (or even the same) disciplines may not agree on which data are the most relevant, which are the most reliable, and what conclusions about causation are appropriate to be derived.

“Like causation, conflict of interest is an issue that cuts across most, if not all, scientific disciplines and could have been included in each chapter of the Reference Manual. Conflict of interest manifests as bias, and given the high stakes and adversarial nature of many courtroom proceedings, bias can have a major influence on evidence, testimony, and decision making. Conflicts of interest take many forms and can be based on religious, social, political, or other personal convictions. The biases that these convictions can induce may range from serious to extreme, but these intrinsic influences and the biases they can induce are difficult to identify. Even individuals with such prejudices may not appreciate that they have them, nor may they realize that their interpretations of scientific issues may be biased by them.

“Because of these limitations, we consider here only financial conflicts of interest; such conflicts are discoverable. Nonetheless, even though financial conflicts can be identified, having such a conflict, even one involving huge sums of money, does not necessarily mean that a given individual will be biased. Having a financial relationship with a commercial entity produces a conflict of interest, but it does not inevitably evoke bias. In science, financial conflict of interest is often accompanied by disclosure of the relationship, leaving to the public the decision whether the interpretation might be tainted. Needless to say, such an assessment may be difficult. The problem is compounded in scientific publications by obscure ways in which the conflicts are reported and by a lack of disclosure of dollar amounts.

“Judges and juries, however, must consider financial conflicts of interest when assessing scientific testimony. The threshold for pursuing the possibility of bias must be low. In some instances, judges have been frustrated in identifying expert witnesses who are free of conflict of interest because entire fields of science seem to be co-opted by payments from industry. Judges must also be aware that the research methods of studies funded specifically for purposes of litigation could favor one of the parties. Though awareness of such financial conflicts in itself is not necessarily predictive of bias, such information should be sought and evaluated as part of the deliberations.

“The Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, here in its third edition, is formulated to provide the tools for judges to manage cases involving complex scientific and technical evidence. It describes basic principles of major scientific fields from which legal evidence is typically derived and provides examples of cases in which such evidence was used. Authors of the chapters were asked to provide an overview of principles and methods of the science and provide relevant citations.

“We expect that few judges will read the entire manual; most will use the volume in response to a need when a particular case arises involving a technical or scientific issue. To help in this endeavor, the Reference Manual contains completely updated chapters as well as new ones on neuroscience, exposure science, mental health, and forensic science. This edition of the manual has also gone through the thorough review process of the National Academy of Sciences.

“As in previous editions, we continue to caution judges regarding the proper use of the reference guides. They are not intended to instruct judges concerning what evidence should be admissible or to establish minimum standards for acceptable scientific testimony. Rather, the guides can assist judges in identifying the issues most commonly in dispute in these selected areas and in reaching an informed and reasoned assessment concerning the basis of expert evidence. They are designed to facilitate the process of identifying and narrowing issues concerning scientific evidence by outlining for judges the pivotal issues in the areas of science that are often subject to dispute.

“Citations in the reference guides identify cases in which specific issues were raised; they are examples of other instances in which judges were faced with similar problems. By identifying scientific areas commonly in dispute, the guides should improve the quality of the dialogue between the judges and the parties concerning the basis of expert evidence. In our committee discussions, we benefited from the judgment and wisdom of the many distinguished members of our committee, who gave time without compensation.”

http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13163

The PDF download is free!  PREPUBLICATION COPY – document is subject to editorial changes only.

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Essential Health Benefits — Balancing Coverage & Costs <2011>

The academy committee, all volunteers, albeit knowledgeable, managed to stay clear of politicizing, an accomplishment I’m not sure I could equal.

“A critical element of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the set of health benefits—termed “essential health benefits” (EHB)—that must be offered to individuals and small groups in state-based purchasing exchanges and the existing market. If the package of benefits is too narrow, health insurance might be meaningless; if it is too broad, insurance might become too expensive. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Defining and Revising an Essential Health Benefits Package for Qualified Health Plans concluded that the major task of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in defining the EHB will be balancing the comprehensiveness of benefits with their cost.

“Not surprisingly, the work of this committee drew intense public interest. Opportunity for public input was offered through testimony at two open hearings and through the web. The presentations at the hearings reinforced for the committee the difficulty of the task of balancing comprehensiveness and affordability. On the one hand, groups representing providers and consumers urged the broadest possible coverage of services. On the other, groups representing both small and large businesses argued for affordability and flexibility. The committee thus viewed its principal task as helping the Secretary navigate these competing goals and preferences in a fair and implementable way.

“The ACA sets forth only broad guidance in defining essential health benefits, and that guidance is ambiguous—some would say contradictory.

First, EHB “shall include at least” ten named categories of health services per Section 1302 Second, the scope of the EHB shall be “equal to the scope of benefits provided under a typical employer plan.”
Third, there are a set of “required elements for consideration” in establishing the EHB, such as balance and nondiscrimination.
Fourth, there are several specific requirements regarding cost sharing, preventive services, proscriptions on limitations on coverage, and the like.

Taken together, these provisions complicate the task of designing an EHB package that will be affordable for its principal intended purchasers—individuals and small businesses.

“The committee’s solution is this: build on what currently exists, learn over time, and make it better. That is, the initial EHB package should be a modification of what small employers are currently offering. All stakeholders should then learn enough over time—during implementation and through experimentation and research—to improve the package. The EHB package should be continuously improved and increasingly specific, with the goal that it is based on evidence of what improves health and that it promotes the appropriate use of limited resources. The committee’s recommended modifications to the current small employer benefit package are:

(1) To take into account the ten general categories of the ACA;
(2) to apply committee-developed criteria to guide aggregate and specific EHB content and on the methods to determine the EHB; and
(3) to develop an initial package within a premium target.

“Defining a premium target, which is a way to address the affordability issue, became a central tenet of the committee. Why the Secretary should take cost into account, both in defining the initial EHB package and in updating it, is straightforward: if cost is not taken into account, the EHB package becomes increasingly expensive, and individuals and small businesses will find it increasingly unaffordable. If this occurs, the principal reason for the ACA—enabling people to purchase health insurance, and covering more of the population—will not be met. At an even more fundamental level, health benefits are a resource and no resource is unlimited. Defining a premium target in conjunction with developing the EHB package simply acknowledges this fundamental reality. How to take cost into account became a major task.

“The committee’s solution in the determination of the initial EHB package is to tie the package to what small employers would have paid, on average, for their current packages of benefits in 2014, the first year the ACA will apply to insurance purchases in and out of the exchanges. This “premium target” should be updated annually, based on medical inflation. Since, however, this does little to stem health care cost increases, and since the committee did not believe the DHHS Secretary had the authority to mandate premium (or other cost) targets, the committee recommends a concerted and expeditious attempt by all stakeholders to address the problem of health care cost inflation.

“An additional task related to that part of the committee’s charge directing it to address “medical necessity.” Medical necessity is a means by which insurers and health plans determine whether it is appropriate to reimburse a specific patient for an eligible benefit. For example, the insurance contract may specify that diabetes care is a covered benefit; whether it is paid for depends on whether that care is medically necessary for the particular patient—whether, for example, the patient has diabetes.

‘The committee believes that medical necessity determinations are both appropriate and necessary and serve as a context within which the EHB package is developed by a health insurer into a specific benefit design and that benefit design is subsequently administered. The committee favored transparency both in the establishment of the rules used in making those determinations and in their application and appeals processes. Indeed, since the design and administration of health benefits rather than the scope of benefits themselves are what appear to differentiate small employer plans from each other and from large employer plans, monitoring benefit administration is an important step in the learning process and updating of the EHB.

“Further, the committee stated that a goal of the updated EHB package is that its content becomes more evidence-based. The committee wishes to emphasize the importance of research about the effectiveness of health services and to emphasize that the results of this research, including costs, should be taken into account in designing the EHB package. New and alternative treatments, in the view of the committee, should meet the standard of providing increased health gains at the same or lower cost.

“Since the committee saw balancing comprehensiveness and affordability as the Secretary’s major task, it also recognized that any such balancing affected, and was affected by, individual and societal values and preferences. Thus, the committee recommends that both in the determination of the initial EHB package and in its updates, structured public deliberative processes be established to identify the values and priorities of those citizens eligible to purchase insurance through the exchanges, as well as members of the general public. Such processes will enhance both public understanding of the tradeoffs inherent in establishing an EHB package and public acceptance of what emerges.

“The committee recommended that the Secretary develop a process that facilitates discovery and implementation of innovative practices over time. A key source for this information will come from what states are observing or enabling them in their own exchanges. Moreover, the committee recommends that for states that operate insurance exchanges, requests to adopt alternatives to the federal essential health benefits package be granted only if these are consistent with ACA requirements and the criteria specified in the report and they are not significantly more or less generous than the federal package. State packages also should be supported by meaningful public input. The committee hopes that its work will be useful in assisting the Secretary of HHS to determine and update the essential health benefits and that its deliberations will be informative to the public. As with most issues of importance, the committee’s work involved balancing tradeoffs among competing interests and ideas. We hope this work is a positive step toward effective implementation of a key provision of the ACA.”

Since, in America the Litigative, the recommendations and implementation practices recommended by the EHB will be challenged in court, I recommend you read, if you skipped it, the previous topic on ‘Scientific Legal Evidence”.

A Reference and a Note

Essential Health Benefits — Balancing Coverage & Costs, 2011

http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13234

The PDF download is free!  PREPUBLICATION COPY – document is subject to editorial changes only.

A Note ASIDE:

Recent articles and studies on Implicit Prejudice, holding belief based and deeply buried prejudices, which daily affect your decisions. See: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ and Scientific American: The Implicit Prejudice 06/09/2006 Article [http://www.sciam.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=0004B0F0-7813-146C-ADB783414B7F0000] The implications of these hidden workings of our brains add much to how we make de3cision and ‘judge’ truth individually or in court.

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General References

The National Academies Press

Recent NAP Releases  [http://www.nap.edu/new.html]

NAP—Environment and Environmental Studies [http://www.nap.edu/topics.php?topic=285&t=p]

NAP—Energy and Energy Conservation | Policy, Reviews and Evaluations   [http://www.nap.edu/topics.php?topic=358]

Other recent NAS/NAE/NAP topics I skimmed and found interesting and at times quite troubling.

  • Chemistry in Primetime and Online — Communicating Chemistry in Informal Environments <2011>
  • Environmental Impacts Of Wind-Energy Projects <2011>
  • Informing the Future — Critical Issues in Health, Sixth Edition <2011>
  • Relieving Pain in America — A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention Care Education & Research <2011>
  • On Being a Scientist — A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research, Third Edition <2009>

Wikipedia for Background MaterialsYes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy! My Wikipedia checks are no different that my checking websites for whom their publishers represent and what causes they favor.

U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO]   [http://www.gao.gov/]
Recent Reports and Studies. The GAO is the non-partisan 90-year old investigative arm of congress. In a similar manner, to my learning from NRC/NAP reports, many of the technology reports published by the Government Accountability Office make facilitating, if troublesome reading. NAS committee’s to which I have provided expert knowledge specifically in the nuclear waste area are thorough, relatively unbiased and always accurate in using reference materials.

Congressional Research Service [CRS]

The CRS is known as “Congress’s think tank” is the public policy research arm of the United States Congress. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS works exclusively and directly for Members of Congress, their Committees and staff on a confidential, nonpartisan basis. CRS reports are highly regarded as in-depth, accurate, objective, and timely, but as a matter of policy they are not made directly available to members of the public. There have been several attempts to pass legislation requiring all reports to be made available online, most recently in 2003, but none have passed. Instead, the public must request individual reports from their Senators and Representatives in Congress, purchase them from private vendors, or search for them in various web archives of previously released documents.

The CRS is joined by two other congressional support agencies. The Congressional Budget Office provides Congress with budget-related information, reports on fiscal, budgetary, and programmatic issues, and analyses of budget policy options, costs, and effects. The Government Accountability Office assists Congress in reviewing and monitoring the activities of government by conducting independent audits, investigations, and evaluations of federal programs. [Partial Wikipedia Quote]

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End Notes:

Copyright Notice — Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Disclosure — Some of the articles quoted and listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educationally related purposes, which this column provides. They are likely covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.  Revision 2 (corrected 1/2/2012)

Introduction

Over the years there has been On-N-Off again interest in using thorium rather then uranium to fuel our energy needs. The interest came in part because of the greater availability and more widely distributed quantities of thorium in the earths crust. In addition the a thorium based fuel cycle seem to be significantly, despite nay-sayers, more resistant to diversion to weapons production (proliferation.) Recent studies, both at design phase and pilot plant size demonstrations have demonstrated that in an appropriate rector, the thorium based fuel cycle can both grow its own fuel, and burn up uranium fuel cycle based spent fuel treated as waste.

There are also detail assessments of the costs of such alternative technology, which I’ve ignored in this article. Why? For the most part in my studies, all such cost studies overestimate the end costs. This is in part due to the use of pessimistic values of input data and the use of conservative modeling assumptions.

Figure 1. The (simplified) Thorium Fuel Cycle

The discussions that follow are encapsulated gleanings from the main articles I reference, all published in the last several years. In addition, I skimmed my collection 60+ document collections on the thorium fuel cycle reference that, go back to 2005.

I attempted, within the time I had available, to determine whether any of the older ‘paradigm’ basic assumptions had been wrong in their conceptualization of thorium use for energy production. I found none, however many of the earlier documents differed by their use of then less accurate state-of-the art models. Such models continuously evolve, get challenged and improve  to get more accurate. Technologically, we both get smarter mathematically and computing power grows in accord to Moore’s Law.

In parallel to computational development, more realistic definition of model inputs and available experimental data based on the physics, and chemistry of elements of the thorium fuel cycle have occurred.

The Basic Historical Nuclear Energy Facts as I Know Them

Nuclear energy worldwide is based on a Uranium Fuel cycle.

The non-Thorium elements in this article can be either researched in Wikipedia or just googled. They are no a part of my normal reference practices which tend to focus heavily on the main topics under discussion in these blogs. I do suggest to stick with engineering and science oriented sites or those of the much larger international site that under obsessive peer review by anti-nuclear types. It is better to check out facts than to fight the belief battle with those who have received guidance from small voices in their heads or they’re under technology educated neighbors or media fear mongers.

Uranium fuel use for electrical energy generation is a legacy of US and German weapons development during WW II. At that time the US goal was to beat Nazi German to the super weapon punch. The allies won in Europe against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis by convention means including carpet-bombing of bother German cities, factories and infrastructure.

However to win the parallel war with Japan, our leaders decided to use these newly developed atomic bombs against Hiroshima an Nagasaki. This is not the place to deal with this history — its issues, geopolitical and moral. There are library full of such analysis. I include this background to give our less history minded readers a sense of the past.

The use of nuclear science and engineering newly discover during the US’s weapons program evolved rapidly. This was a result of initially, of general then President Eisenhower’s, Atoms for Peace program. It was paralleled or closely followed by a shared US and UN sponsored program to support the growth of nuclear energy for electricity generation with the nations of the world. There was at the time a hope for low cost, perhaps not needing to be metered, electricity.

The lead agency for doing so internationally is the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA.]

Again, this is beyond the scope of this article, this did not happen. As a result of a combination of accidents, some deadly, some just scary and a growing sense of nucleophobia, especially in the United States and more recently in Germany, nuclear energy became a dirty word. France, China, India do not think so. Apparently neither do Brazil, Russia and Saudi Arabia and it’s neighbors.

For them electricity from highly regulated and proven ‘catastrophe’ safe, nuclear energy remains a reasonable alternative to their options to deal with population growth, middle class aspirations for standard of living related energy shortages, and with energy security.

Even, when the sound and fury and fear factors die down, Japan will have trouble killing off its nuclear program. On the other hand heads should roll for their intuitional and corporative neglect. While the rest of the world made progress in understanding less frequent accident risks such as natural forces (tornedos – tsunamis – earthquakes) the Japanese corporations in bed with their regulators had their heads in the sand. It’s a time honored tradition — They have shamed the nation; perhaps Seppuku would be honorable.

Thorium Fuel Cycle Pro Arguments

Figure 2 - The Thorium Decay Chain

Enough said as background. Despite problems and issues that temporarily shut down nuclear energy programs and projects, almost all the nations of the world are seeking, if not publicly, to make nuclear electricity usually from uranium and a bit from thorium. In that effort, the Thorium Fuel cycle can perhaps play a key longer term role if I understand that ‘energy’ system.It appear to have been well documented, if not yet fully proven to the naysayer’s or for that matter to regulators around the world,Thorium Fuel Cycle is:

  • Safer
  • Cheaper
  • Proliferation Proof,
  • Creates Minimal high-level Waste
  • Eases recycling existing uranium spent fuel, and of course
  • Aiding the effort to become self reliant in Energy for their industry and transpiration needs.

One could now add:

  • Minimizing Greenhouse Gas production
  • Assuring low cost means of purifying sea or recycled and brackish or polluted water for drinking and agricultural purposes.
  • Lowering Transportation and its associated pollution costs

All of these uses have high-energy demands, usually in the form of inexpensive, reliable, safe electricity

For balance, most of the cons of using a Thorium Fuel Cycle have been specifically leveled the Liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) or the to early for it’s time (funding) Pebble Bed reactors.

Therefore I cover both positive and negative aspects of these specific solutions to using a thorium-based thorium, in the section below. Had Pebble Bed not happened in parallel to our recent economic meltdown, it might also have been an alterative.


Future Potential Path(s) Forward

Overview

  • Focus on spent fuel recycling by proven available chemical processing to recover uranium/plutonium for reuse, while minimizing waste and proliferation risks.
  • Progress with Advanced Reactor Design that initially creates intrinsically safe and ultimately inherently safe nuclear energy generation facilities.
  • Make significant International Progress with controlling the various aspects of the fuel cycle (mining though either waste disposal or reuse, to minimize costs to present and future generation, and of course maximize safety.
  • Expedite designing, testing and deploying alternate fuel cycles that avoid the problems caused by our use of uranium or uranium-plutonium fuel  [MOX] to generate electricity.

That’s where Thorium comes into play. In the section that follows I share the pros and cost of developing and ultimately relying on a Thorium based electrical generation cycle for our electrical needs.

The information below, shared at a summary level, described the myriads of pros & cons in slowly switching to a thorium based fuel cycle. These of course have been heavily discussed in both the scientific-engineering literature including the Internet, and on pro-and-con blogs on the issue. Of course adoption, all thing being equal, will likely happened faster in India, and China, … than in the US.

Unfortunately for clean energy advances which include energy independence and closed cycle nuclear power, since we seem to be a ‘fourth world’ (Doc’s New Label) nation with respect to tackling major global problems such as energy independence, climate change, and low-cost abundant safe energy to boot strap our economy and stamp out poverty.

Low cost sustainable energy will play an important role in economic development, especially approaching 2050 or after. India and China are planning very ambitious programs of nuclear power development. Both countries are planning rapid deployment of significant numbers of traditional Light Water and Heavy Water power reactors, while projecting the further development both Fast Liquid Metal Reactors [FLMR]] and Thorium cycle breeder reactors. (Barton I)

More below about thorium based aspects of these reactors types.

 

Liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) Pros)

  • From the nuclear physics standpoint, they are potentially, passively safe,
  • Past and present designs, and demonstration plants show that they are mechanically simple
  • These reactor types can be quite compact in size allowing them to used in the manner projected for other modular nuclear reactors or small stand alone factory built rechargeable battery style nuclear reactors/power generator systems.
  • They can in principal be deployed virtually anywhere and protected more ealy han large reactor facilities.
  • In preparing to build LFTRs we will recover valuable medical radioisotopes that could provide early financial return.
  • Operating LFTRs will generate electricity, desalinated water, and generate valuable radioisotopes for NASA and the medical sector where ever it is needed, requiring minimal expensive complex grid systems.
  • The possibility of utilizing a very abundant resource which has hitherto been of so little interest that its abundance has never been quantified properly seems worth investigating fully.
  • The production of power that creates fewer long-lived transuranic elements in the waste.
  • They, based on their nuclear physics, produce significantly reduced radioactive wastes.
  • Although I could not document this statement, I believe (yep the belief word) that the amount of radiation spread if battle hardened reactor is hit, would be about the same magnitude of the spent uranium ammunition were spreading now. If a war situation used nuclear weapons – shells – missiles or bombs…all bets are off. You are dead, end the environment doesn’t master. Gaia will recover in a millennia or two.

LFTR Cons

  • At the current state of knowledge, they have a high cost for fuel fabrication [e.g., due to the presence of 233-Uranium]
  • There are similar problems in recycling thorium itself due to highly radioactive Th-228 (an alpha emitter with two-year half life) is present.
  • There is some concern over weapons proliferation risk of U-233 (if it could be separated on its own), although many designs such as the Russia’s Radkowsky Thorium Reactor addresses this concern. There appear to be safe-cost effective solution to this issue.
  • The technical problems (not yet satisfactorily solved) in reprocessing solid fuels. However, with some designs, in particular the molten salt reactor (MSR), these problems are likely to largely disappear.

Much development work is still required before the thorium fuel cycle can be commercialized This is being done in India and China, The effort required seems unlikely while (or where) abundant uranium is available. In this respect, recent international moves to bring India into the ambit of international trade might or may not result in the country ceasing to persist with the thorium cycle, as it now has ready access to traded uranium and conventional reactor designs

Nevertheless despite the negative aspects that would limit, universally, switching to a thorium fuel cycle, the thorium fuel cycle, with its potential for breeding fuel without the need for fast neutron reactors, holds considerable potential in the long-term. It is a significant factor in the long-term sustainability of nuclear energy.

Gen IV reactor History and Safety Features

These have been universally claimed to be passively safe; that is, they remove the need for redundant, active safety systems. This is in part due to obviating the need for electro-mechanical safety-fail safe feature and any part for human action – The nuclear physics does the job. This is a result of the reactor is design allowing it to both safely handle high temperatures {No melt-down scenario.} The reactor can cool itself by natural circulation and still survive in accident scenarios, which may raise the temperature of the reactor to 1,600 °C.

LFTR type reactors will offer safe, sustainable and efficient nuclear power at a potentially low cost. LFTR and Pebble-bed reactors can also theoretically power vehicles. Why, they would be fail-crash safe, and there is no need for a heavy pressure vessel for containment. Furthermore, the pebble bed heats gas that could directly drive a lightweight gas turbine.

The use of the advanced thorium cycle in a fusion-fission hybrid could potentially bypass the stage of designing and building fourth generation breeder reactors in that the energy multiplication in the fission part allows the satisfaction (achievement) of energy breakeven point and the in magnetic and inertial fusion reactor designs. I have not discussed this somewhat still academic alternative lack of time,

Historically, in the United States, the thorium-fission fuel cycle, which I have not discussed for was investigated over the period 1950-1976 both in the federally funded Molten Salt Breeder 1976 in the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor Studies (MSBR) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Reactor (MSBR) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as well as in the pilot (ORNL) as well as in the pilot Shippingport fission reactor fission reactor plant.

It has also been used in the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) in a pebble bed and a prismatic moderator Reactor (HTGR) in a pebble bed and a prismatic moderator and fuel configurations. General Atomics Corporation (GA) did a large amount of documented-peer review-published work, which the US has ignored but not so the rest of the world.

The General Atomics (GA) Company built two prototype thorium reactors over the1960-1970’s period. The first was a 40 MWeMWe prototype at Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania operated by Philadelphia Electric. The second a 330 MWeMWe at Fort St. Vrain for the Public service of Colorado which operated between 1971 and 1975.

It now appears that the effort to building a Pebble Bed reactor [PBMR ] that was planned in South Africa failed because of lack of Investors/customers, rather then the albeit, large technical and regulatory challenge.

Figure 4. Molten Salt Reactor

.

Because India was outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons program, it was for 34 years largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant components or materials that had hampered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009. Due to these trade bans and barriers, and the lack of indigenous sources of uranium, India has uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium.

Indeed its expertise has made it the premier source of potential thorium fuel cycle expertise, technology and soon workable-licensable reactor designs. Will building thorium based reactor systems come next?

The Molten Salt Reactor [MSR]

The MSR is an advanced breeder concept, in which the coolant is a molten salt, usually a fluoride salt mixture. This is thermally quite hot, but not under pressure, and does not boil below about 1400°C. The higher temperatures enhance the efficiency of energy generation.

Much of this research has focused on lithium and beryllium additions to the salt mixture to enhance safety. The fuel can be dissolved enriched uranium, thorium or U-233 as fluoride salts. Recent international discussion has been focused on the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, utilizing U-233 which has been bred in a liquid thorium salt blanket and continuously removed to be added to the core.

The MSR concept and design was studied in depth in the 1960s, and is now being revived because of the availability of advanced technology for the temperature-radiation resistant materials and components. There is now renewed interest in the MSR concept in China, perhaps in Japan, Russia, France and even in the USA, and one of the six Generation IV designs selected for further development by DOE’s advanced reactor program is the MSR.

The Anti-MSR View — In his 2009 article, my colleague Arjun Makhijani, entitled Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power reiterates the widely published concerns about with implementing a commercial thorium fuel cycle. I agree with the listing of problems, so dies the rest of the nuclear engineering community both engineering and commercial.

I do ask, Arjun, what’s new other then trying to involve the public in another nucleophobic red herring. This is an IEER fault that I can seldom find in studies by the staff of the Union of Concerned Scientists who’s work on nuclear and other energy issues I also follow.

 

Conclusions

I leave it to the reader, especially the scientist, engineers, economists and science-educated politicians to think about this. I for one would rather pay a short term penalty (cost) for a safer cost effective, proliferation resistant fuel cycle that released except in mining, no green house gases, than the alternatives and comes closer to solving the HLW disposal problem than to throw that valuable asset away.

If wishes were horses (beggars would ride)and I could perhaps:

  • Convince the City of Richland (WA) and Oak Ridge (TN) to set up a municipal ‘battery reactor’ – Ups, NRC is mostly ignoring the licensing of this reactor, and will doubtless prevent us importing them from the UK.
  • If I were not risk adverse, I could invest heavily in thorium mines. However, by the time that licensing anywhere in the world occurs, these ores would become as inflated as gold, palladium or rare earth element ores are now.
  • Buy a real stake (ownership) of the iron and uranium mines that underground repositories create.

I would seriously consider investing my children’s-grandchildren’s future inheritances – what’s left after my wife and I pass on, or at least half of that amount in such a “certified and licensed’ and default insured ventures.


A Final Thought
— Over the many years I’ve know him, I’ve been troubled by my colleague Arjun Makhijani ongoing finding of problems in nuclear and other energy areas that for the most part can be dealt with minor tuning of the design of a project. Most of which has nuclear concerns when reviewed 3-5 years later, have been proven to be technical challenges rather that fatal flaws or perhaps unconventional red herrings. WIIFT anyone?

Doc

REFERENCES

The Thorium Fuel Cycle, Wikipedia, 2011 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle/

All About Thorium, The World Nuclear Association, March 2011.
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf62.html/

Thorium Costs, http://www.thorium.tv site; Undated       http://www.thorium.tv/en/thorium_costs/thorium_costs.php/

Nuclear Power in India, The World Nuclear Association, October 2011
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf53.html/

The Fusion Fission Hybrid Thorium Fuel Cycle Alternative <A Slide Presentation, Feb 2010>. University of Illinois. http://www.intechopen.com/articles/show/title/thorium-fission-and-fission-fusion-fuel-cycle/

Thorium Fission and Fission-Fusion Fuel Cycle, Nuclear Power – Deployment, Operation and Sustainability, by Magdi Ragheb (2011), Pavel Tsvetkov (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-307-474-0, InTech
http://www.intechopen.com/source/pdfs/19682/InTech-Thorium_fission_and_fission_fusion_fuel_cycle.pdf/

Thorium Fuel: No Panacea for Nuclear Power, By Arjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd, dated for the Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research [IEER.]            http://www.ieer.org/fctsheet/thorium2009factsheet.pdf/

Safeguards Approaches for Fast Breeder Reactors and Associated Fuel Cycle Facilities, Nuclear Security Science Policy Institure, 2010         http://nsspi.tamu.edu/topical-subsections/research/research-projects/safeguards-instrumentation-fast-breeder-reactors   

The Thorium Fueled Molten Salt Reactor News [MSR] Blog   http://thoriummsr.com/

Nuclear Batteries (e.g., Small Nuclear Reactors) By Eben Harrell Monday, Feb. 28, 2011, Time Magazine.http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2050039,00.html/

Pebble Bed Reactor — Wikipedia 2011.     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor/

Uranium-233 {formed in Thorium Reactors } – Wikipedia. 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium-233/

Sidebar Notes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles cited or quoted in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledged and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

The author considers, as do many experts, Wikipedia a reliable and accessible site for technical information, provided that the reference cited in the Wikipedia article meets the following standard.

My Standards for References Checks Are the references provided essentially complete or representative of the literature, and relevant?  Do they include both precedent and present work, including any referenced disagreement with any of the article author’s assumptions, methods or views?In addition I always try to glean WIIFT <what’s in it for them?> WIIFT is a neutral characteristic that sets the authors paradigm, some the reader needs to be aware of. It’s like who actually sponsors research, a political add, or ant means of trying to sway you viewpoint – OKAY enough preaching.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

Jest a bit of preachin’

I do have an attitude and am seldom politically correct, only well referenced in my sources and always biases to evidence, grey as it might be, in my opinions.  

Note, many of the technologies I share are in various stage of first, development, and are often far from being a commercial success. Their inventors and supporters still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable, Remember There Ain’t No free Lunch and silver bullets too often turn to lead.

When and if you Google the topics in depth, you will find studies saying the inventions/ideas are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical because there is no easy way to for them to become reality in our political-economic systems.

Most inventions die at the proof of principal stage, however the ones that count to make a difference survive as commercial success. Even the Chinese government knows that, however they chose to ignore such realty. Government as choosers are almost always losers.

A reminder, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence and our globe replaced the flat earth.

However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

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Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • ‘Solar Highways’ Transform Our Crumbling Infrastructure Into Something Useful
  • The Rare Earth Elements — Meet the Obscure, Useful Metals Lurking in Products All Around You
  • As Ecosystems, Cities Yield Some Surprises
  • Radioactivity Released in Petroleum or Natural Gas Production — The brave new world of natural gas.

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 ‘Solar Highways’ Transform Our Crumbling Infrastructure Into Something Useful

This is a collation/abstract of several articles dealing to both the potential advantages of Super Highways, aka Solar Highways, and the Western states endeavoring to install them.

At the end of the References on reports of achievements, I share a quick list of the most recent trade war associated references between US solar cell manufactures’ and those in China.

Unfortunately there are two significant problems with what many economist see in this trade challenge before the WTO/WTF.

First in the US and Europe it pit the many installers of solar powered services against the US manufacturers of such panels. These my hundreds of businesses use Chinese crystalline solar panels because not only are they less expensive but also at times reported to be higher in quality and durability then those made by older technology, made in America.

 The second reason this song and dance seems to be farcical, sound and fury signifying nothing, is that it is unlikely the World Trade Federation, will be able to reach a decision in this complex matter, in less that 18 months according to experts at Bloomberg’s. I’ve provided a few references at the end of the main solar related list that provide insight into this mess.

One of the great things about photovoltaics is that all they need is an unobstructed piece of ground, and some basic maintenance, and they pump out electricity all day long. But finding a piece of ground that can be devoted solely to solar collectors can be a challenge, especially in the populated areas that need the power the most, so you will often find solar panels perched atop some structure, where they are exposed to higher winds, and are more difficult to maintain. But the solution to this problem might be on your way to work every day, in the unused spaces that surround our national grid of highways.

Up north in Oregon, as I share below they have been building a some test examples of ‘solar highways‘ that are using the empty space around and alongside roads to generate electricity, and this has been a successful experiment. The solar highways are already supplying a considerable portion of the power that is needed to light a highway around Portland from light that falls on the highway itself. That project, having proven itself, has now spawned more in the area.

But, really, doesn’t it make more sense to build projects like this in places that have a bit more sun than overcast Oregon? What about places like California? If Republic Solar Highways has it’s way, this sensible plan can become a reality, and soon. They plan to use 65 acres of unused roadside land around highway 101 to build a 15-megawatt solar collection network, and with the backing of the California Department of Transportation the project seems on track to break ground within the next year.

Hopefully, this will be just the beginning. There is so much unused land around our nation’s roads that could be supplying a generous flow of electrons to the people around them, rather than just being a money sink. After all, most of this unused space has to be cleared and mowed regularly to prevent fires from breaking out and making a mess of travel. And, looking forward, there are multiple proposals for using the roads themselves as solar collectors. In fact, our roads are currently acting as such efficient solar collectors that they are changing the environment around them by putting off so much heat. There are certainly better uses for that energy, and it’s time we started collecting it.

Okay, we know YOU ride your bike everywhere. But the country’s 4 million miles of roads, and 50,000 miles of interstate highway, probably aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Isn’t there anything productive we can do with this giant car playground? Well, we can cover it with solar photovoltaic panels, so it’s at least providing some energy.

Oregon’s already is testing the idea, installing panel arrays along highway shoulders. Others want to embed the solar panels directly into the road surface, and have already received funding to test the idea. California wants to try it along parts of Route 101.

If you think about it, roads are a perfect place to put solar: They’re already public land, they’ve already been cleared and graded, they’re adjacent to infrastructure like towns and power lines, and they’re super accessible for repair and upgrades. Also, they’re already sitting out in the sun all day.

Mathew Preusch also reports “Here’s another benefit  of today’s sunny weather: The new solar power array at the intersection of Interstates 5 and 205 is breaking power generation records”.

You can track the Oregon “Solar Highway” project’s power output at its nifty home page. As of this afternoon, the site said the 8,000-square foot array was generating about 58 kilowatts, but at mid-day production peaked at closer to 85 kilowatts.

The first of its kind in the country project, installed last year by the Oregon Department of Transportation Portland General Electric, feeds into PGE’s grid. But it is only designed, for now, to supply about a quarter of the power needed to illuminate the interchange.

REFERENCES

ABOUT SOLAR HIGHWAYS

Solar Highways Turn Public Liabilities into Assets, by Aaron Fown, July 18, 2011 Clean Technica Blog.

Solar Highways Transform Our Crumbling Infrastructure Into Something Useful|
BY CHRISTOPHER MIMS, 20 JUL 2011. For the GristList Blog. http://www.grist.org/list/2011-07-20-solar-highways-transform-our-crumbling-infrastructure-into-somet

Oregon’s “Solar Highway” Breaking Records Today. Published: Wednesday, July 01, 2009, By Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/07/oregons_solar_highway_breaking.html

Oregon Installs First Highway Solar Project. Update: Friday, August 08, 2008, 8:04 AM, by Dylan Rivera, The Oregonian http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2008/08/oregon_installs_first_highway.html

Oregon Monitoring Data (PGE/OR-DOT) on America’s First Solar Highwayhttp://www.live.deckmonitoring.com/?id=solarhighway

Republic’s Super Highways Projects; California Here We Come: http://www.cloverleafsolarhighways.com/sites/

Solar Photovoltaics  – Wikipedia, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaics

SOLAR TRADE WAR REFERENCES ADDENDUM

U.S. Solar Manufacturers Request Duties on Chinese Imports, by Mark Drajem and Eric Martin, October 20, 2011, in Bloomberg Business Week.
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-10-20/u-s-solar-manufacturers-request-duties-on-chinese-imports.html

A Trade War With China Over Solar Panels Will Burn US, by Vahid Fotuhi, Oct 30, 2011 I n the National.   http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/energy/a-trade-war-with-china-over-solar-panels-will-burn-us/

Solar Execs Wary Of Trade War With China, CNET News & Reuters, October 20, 2011.  http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20123327-54/solar-execs-wary-of-trade-war-with-china/

Solar Panel Trade War, by Tim Worstall, Forbes Contributor, October 23, 2011.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2011/10/23/solar-panel-trade-war/

Solar Trade War Officially Starts Today, by Eric Wesoff: October 19, 2011 at GreenTech Solar   http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/solar-trade-war-officially-starts-today/

U.S. Solar Manufacturers Request Duties on Chinese Imports, by Mark Drajem and Eric Martin, October 20, 2011, in Bloomberg Business Week.
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-10-20/u-s-solar-manufacturers-request-duties-on-chinese-imports.html

PS: Not only does this involve China and the US, but also pits a small group American and other non-Asian manufacturers of crystalline solar cell against American would be users of such cells. KISS is not a geopolitical concept. It does not protect our national security interests, but governments mostly make bad technological business decisions. Look what happened solar panel maker Solyndra that follows similar bankruptcy actions by Evergreen Solar and SpectraWatt. It’s a great Google topic!

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The Rare Earth Elements

— Meet the Obscure, Useful Metals Lurking in Products All Around You

Without the rare earths, there would be no iPods and no hybrid cars. But who has even heard of erbium or ytterbium?

The name rare earths made sense to the 19th-century mind:  rare because it seemed at first that they came only from Scandinavia, and earths because they occurred in an earthy oxide form from which it was exceptionally hard to obtain the pure metal.

Today it is clear that the rare earths are hardly rare. The most common of them, cerium, ranks 25th in abundance in the earth’s crust, one place ahead of homely copper. Yttrium is twice as abundant as lead; all of the rare-earth metals (with the exception of radioactive promethium) are more common than silver. The “earths” part is also misleading. These elements are actually metals, and quite marvelous ones at that. The warm glow of terbium is essential to high-efficiency compact-fluorescent bulbs. Europium is widely exploited to make vivid displays for laptop computers and smart phones. Rare earths also pop up in more unexpected places like baseball bats, European currency, and night-vision goggles.

With their growing popularity comes new value, and even political notoriety. Terbium and europium recently overtook silver in price, reaching $40 an ounce. The growing demand for rare earths has become the subject of numerous government reports and a bill that passed in the House of Representatives. The reason these elements are causing such a stir is not their scarcity but their inaccessibility. Rare earths tend to occur in hard rock such as granites, where they lump together in a uniform way that makes them difficult to extract.

Separating out the desired elements demands a toxic and dangerous process, and China has the best infrastructure for doing so economically. China holds about 36 percent of the world’s 110 million tons of recoverable rare-earth ores, with the rest scattered worldwide, principally in the United States, India, Australia, and Russia. Yet China currently produces as much as 97 percent of the world’s rare-earth oxides, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Pekka Pyykkö, a professor of chemistry at the University of Helsinki, puts it this way: “Not all the deposits are in China, but the processing capacity right now is.”

Supply would not matter if not for demand, and the demand comes  from the unusual electrical properties of the rare earths—or lanthanides, as chemists prefer to call them, because they mostly follow lanthanum in the periodic table of elements. The lanthanides share similar chemical properties because they all react similarly, mostly with their three outer electrons. (An atom’s arrangement of electrons is what determines most of its physical and chemical attributes.) Like copper, iron, cobalt, and other more familiar metals, lanthanides form many colored compounds. The magic happens when those outer electrons change energy states and release visible light. But the rare earths are especially valuable for their property of fluorescence: They can absorb light or ultraviolet rays and re-emit the energy as an eerie glow of certain colors specific to each element. The brilliant emission of red and green is the reason why lanthanides are indispensable components of today’s television sets and compact fluorescent bulbs.

From a technological perspective, a more intriguing trait of the rare earths is that some of them are highly magnetic. Alloyed with other metals, they make extraordinarily strong and compact magnets: perfect for computer hard drives, cordless power tools, microphones, and headphones. An iPod takes a triple sip of rare earths: to store digital music, to re-create it in ear-buds, and to display what is playing. An iron alloy containing terbium and dysprosium has a particularly useful property: It expands and contracts efficiently in the presence of a magnetic field. Sensors, actuators, and injectors commonly use such materials, for instance to regulate the flow of gasoline into an automotive engine.

Okay, ‘nuff said, click though and read on. The last reference I provide focuses on the geopolitics of the rare earth elements, one more global trade conflict to worry about. The previous topic discussed solar cells for energizing our sunnier highways; there to a trade was is underway.

REFERENCES

The Rare Earth Elements By Hugh Aldersey-Williams. From the July-August special issue; Discover Magazine         http://discovermagazine.com/2011/jul-aug/12-meet-obscure-metals-that-lurk-products-all-around-you.

The Rare Earth Elements, Wikipedia, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_Earth_Elements

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As Ecosystems, Cities Yield Some Surprises

In Boston, scientists measuring the city’s greenhouse gas emissions have found what they call a “weekend effect,” a clear drop-off in the amount of carbon dioxide entering the city’s atmosphere on Saturdays and Sundays. In Fresno, researchers have discovered that backyard water use increases with wealth, as does backyard biodiversity. And in Los Angeles, ecologists studying the city’s “ecohydrology” have calculated that planting a million new trees, an idea with fairly universal appeal, would have the drawback of increasing water consumption by 5 percent.

The researchers, who presented their findings this week at the  Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting in Austin, Tex., are all involved in a nascent program to understand the nation’s cities, home to 80 percent of the population, as functioning ecosystems. The goal is to educate urbanites about their environment and how they can act to make it more sustainable.

The program, called Ultra, for Urban Long-Term Research Area, is a joint effort of the National Science Foundation and the Forest Service. A total of 21 projects are under way, including two in New York City. In establishing financing (known as Ultra-Ex grants) for exploratory sites in 2009, the science foundation called urban sustainability one of “the greatest challenges to the long-term environmental quality of the nation.”

At a research site in Fresno, Calif., overseen by Madhusudan Katti, an ecologist at California State University’s campus there, the aim is to untangle the interactions between city water policy, outdoor water use at homes and biodiversity to help inform policy. On the average, wealthier households in Fresno use more water in their yards, yet not because the water is more affordable for them: the city has no metering system, so residents pay a fixed monthly rate.

Reducing water use is considered crucial to guaranteeing long-term sustainability, yet Dr. Katti found that using less water could cause local bird diversity to decline.

“Half the population globally lives in cities, but we don’t have a conceptual understanding of how cities work as dynamic systems,” Dr. Katti said. “We need to generate that understanding.”

Nathan Phillips, an ecologist at Boston University who runs one of the city’s two Ultra-Ex sites, told the audience at the conference that his project, which includes rooftop plant experiments both in and outside the city as well as measurements of greenhouse gases, had revealed a “pulsing type of urban metabolism. However, Just as these research sites are beginning to reveal how such urban ecosystems function, federal budget cuts are calling their future into question. There’s more details and a few reference links, online.

Why is such research necessary?
Well Cities are growing like Topsey or Jack’s Bean Stalk according to published references, by international agencies, university demographers, national governments and international charitable organizations. Although estimates vary depending on the grown (migration plus birth-death rations) assumptions made by the demographers and the boundaries used in the predictive models the increase is almost beyond belief.

In 2008 according to the United Nations, half the people in the world lived in cities.

In the 20th Century citied grew 10-forld from 250 million people to 2.8 billion. The UN predicts that by 2050 the world population is expected to surpass nine billion with six billion living in cities.

Cities, not villages or towns, which seem to be defined as urban communities large than one million people.

Many of these urban areas already exceed ten million people or more. For a list of the 20-cities that exceed 10-million in population check Wikipedia (2100) which contains links to the demographic studies.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_metropolitan_areas_by_population

One would hope that understanding the environmental impacts of urban areas and how to modify them for the better should matter, if not to all of our present readers, then perhaps to their children’s, children.

REFERENCES

As Ecosystems, Cities Yield Some Surprises, By Hillary Rosner, August 11, 2011 for the New York Times for the New York Times
http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/11/as-ecosystems-cities-yield-some-surprises/

What Drives Cities’ Runaway Growth? By Felicity Barringer, August 22, 2011 for the New York Times. http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/the-city-limits-are-expanding-everywhere/

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Radioactivity Released in Petroleum or Natural Gas Production

— The brave new world of natural gas.

An After thought – Doc’s jest scratchin’ an itch.

Perhaps I’m just a dumb chemist, not a philosopher, or politician, but based on demonstrated reality, The Dose Makes the Poison. A fine book with this title by Patricia Frank and M. Alice Ottoboni can be obtained from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+dose+makes+the+poinson&x=0&y=0

There are assorted run of the Internet Quotes and Clips I collected in 2010-2011

Radium and other naturally occurring isotopes are a common  concern with any petroleum or gas mining operation.   Radium is a daughter product of uranium and thorium, so they obviously will naturally occur in nature.   The existence of the uranium itself is not the primary concern.

Radium is water-soluble and its salts can concentrate in pipes, valves and other mining equipment generating measurable radiation doses.   Levels can be high enough to set-off radiation detectors at local landfills.  In rare cases, they may approach levels, which require radiation monitoring of the workers … though mainly it requires radiation surveys to ensure that further controls are not necessary.  Since this is a form of Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM), it is subject to control at the discretion of the specific state radiation protection agency.   It does not come under the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. There indeed is uranium, not enough for use an an ore, but high enough to be of health concerns under some condition in Marcellus Shale

While he uranium concentrations in the geologic formations are too low for economically feasible removable, the concentrating effect of the radium disposition, in addition to its mobilization for a subsurface to surface location, can produce radiological concerns which do not exist in the naturally occurring material. Processes such a fracking to recover natural gas provide an excellent escape route. However, the radiological aspects of the process is definitely not the most significant environmental concern for the process, but it should be addressed as minor part of overall regulation. “Anthony DeAngelo, CHP” ardeangelo@aol.com 10-28-10; Written Pre the current natural gas recovery bonanza

In response, Charles Barton, a knowledgeable and well-respected Philosopher of Science and Technology and science history author responded on Oct 28, 2010 [ANS SocialMedia.] He is also the author of the Nuclear Green blog, which serves as a forum for separate ng science fro m mere belief,

“Uranium found in Marcellus shale.] Note these deposits are also one of the potential premier sources of natural gas by fracking.

Michael, I (Barton) discussed the potential role of fracking shake,  in Uranium extraction last March in a post titled ‘Radon as harbinger of a cornucopia.”  I wrote: A November 2009 story in Pro-Publica, titled Is New York’s Marcellus Shale Too Hot to Handle. It states, …The information comes from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which analyzed 13 samples of wastewater brought thousands of feet to the surface from drilling and found that they contain levels of radium-226, a derivative of uranium, as high as 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink.”

To which I added; So it is clear that the presence of radon indicates the presence of uranium and/or thorium, and since radon has no other natural source, finding a lot of radon, enough to be dangerous means that a lot of uranium and/or thorium must be around.

And then I pointed to the implications of fracking for uranium mining:

A major limitation to the in situ approach would seem to be that while there is a whole lot of uranium and thorium locked up in shale rock, shale is not permeable, and thus not currently seen as a candidate for in situ mining. That is where fracking comes in.     – Charles Barton

Doc Sez: Google “Marcellus Shale + Natural Gas” It’s not just uranium that of interests in these tight shale deposit.  Perhaps the purveyor of this misinformation should be invited to drink “purified” bottled water, from fracking for natural gas. After all turn about is fair play.

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 Endnotes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides. Since they are likely covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

Sources & Credits:  — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot. … And yes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy! Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).

In Closing

Readers please read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

I always find it appropriate, as 75 year old iconoclast and cynic, to step back as I read and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me. In addition, most have no relationship to solving the problem that is being bragged about. “What’s in it for Thee

Yes there will be pain, whatever changes we need to make to get our energy, health, climate, and security system to work, for all Americans and the other effected citizen of the world. Vested interests will scream about require transparency in their claims to truth and the benefits (to whom) their proposals. Casting the light, creating Transparency of their WIIFT is in part key, as is science literacy. I’d rather not have my children and grandchildren grow up either in a slow cooker, or dry roaster oven or go bankrupt staying healthy.

As an example, as alas sea level continues to rise slowly  for now… Tomorrow – tomorrow and a mere decade of tomorrows; perhaps good-bye New York, Seattle, New Orleans and even Los Angeles. I’m too uptight about this to talk about India, China and the flood plains of Africa… extinction is not, in America, a ‘socially acceptable’ subject.

One perspective, mine, is that the Dutch can and do continue protect their land with massive gates and dikes, and the British so far can do so for London. However Yankee ingenuity could not protect New Orleans from what will seem historically as a relatively small and temporary rise in sea level caused by a hurricane named Katrina. Hmmm!

Doc.

QUOTE de Mois

A Computer Lets You Make More Mistakes Faster Than Any Invention In Human History – with the possible exceptions of a handguns and tequila.

Shucks I do love both Patron Tequila straight shots {also Cognac) and my iMac! Anguish, woe is me… I’m doomed to Murphy … Happy Halloween.

http://celebrationgoddess.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/a-computer-lets-you-make-more-mistakes-faster-than-any-invention-in-human-history-with-the-possible-exceptions-of-handguns-and-tequila/

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

Note, many of the technologies I share are in various stage of first, development, and are often far from being a commercial success. Their inventors and supporters still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable, Remember There Ain’t No free Lunch and silver bullets too often turn to lead.

When and if you Google them in depth, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical because there is no easy way to for them into our systems.

I always, as 75 year old cynic, find it appropriate, to step back as I read and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me. In addition, most have no relationship to solving the problem that is being bragged about.

I know, perhaps even truly believe, is this. For green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases) and gave out no subsidies, these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, Indian and Chinese too, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

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Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • Abu Dhabi Plans to Go Nuclear — The UAE capital, undaunted by Fukushima, says it will proceed with plans for a civilian reactor
  • Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated
  • Vertical Farming in the Windy City and Elsewhere
  • Food vs. Fuel, Redux: The Biofuel Dilemma
  • Electric Motors — Nikola Tesla’s Revenge
  • Rocks on The Menu — Mineral-munching bugs to extract metals
  • Climate Change – It’s Complicated, But It’s Real
  • Would You Buy A $40 Light Bulb and Other Lighting Options
  • The Thorium Fuel Cycle is Catching On
  • QUOTE de Mois — Correlation is NOT Necessarily Causation

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Abu Dhabi Plans to Go Nuclear

— The UAE capital, undaunted by Fukushima, says it will proceed with plans for a civilian reactor

Even as radiation leaks from crippled plants at Fukushima,  countries from China to the Middle East are forging ahead with nuclear power. On Mar. 28, Abu Dhabi confirmed it would proceed with plans for a civilian reactor despite the Japan disaster. “It’s a technology we should bring to the region,” said Abdulla Saif al-Nuaimi, director general of Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority, at the Arabian Power & Water Summit. Nuclear generation remains the most realistic option, says Jarmo Kotilaine, chief economist at National Commercial Bank in Saudi Arabia: “It’s cost competitive, addresses some of the environmental risks involved in burning crude, and can be built on a large scale.”

Power demand in Abu Dhabi is rising at about 10 percent a year, and nuclear energy is necessary to help make up for a lack of natural gas to burn in new generators, says al-Nuaimi: “With a shortage of natural gas here, we need to find other ways to produce power.” Plans are for a reactor to be operational in 2017.

Efforts to increase power from sources such as solar energy aren’t likely to be sufficient to meet demand. The sheikdom wants to generate about 7 percent of its power from renewable energy by 2020. That would require 1,500 megawatts from projects such as wind and solar plants, says Bruce Smith, an adviser to the Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority.

The bottom line: Far from backing away from nuclear power, Abu Dhabi plans to build its first civilian nuclear plant to meet rising energy demand.

Folks, this is about power for the people (homes) industry, desalinization, and of course ultimately electric cars… read the rest of the article.

Anthony DiPaola, Bloomberg Business Week, March 31, 2011.

PS: 6 More Arab States Announce Plans To Go Nuclear. The countries involved were named by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the UAE have also shown interest…

Nuclear momentum accelerates in MENA [Middle East and North Africa], Nuclear Industry Insight, 11 August 2011

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Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated

Pro Publica Fracking Background Introduction

The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, but cases of water contamination have raised serious questions about the primary drilling method being used. Vast deposits of natural gas, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. The drilling technique being used, called hydraulic fracturing, shoots water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas. The Environmental Protection Agency has declared the process to be safe, but water contamination has been reported in more than a thousand places where drilling is happening. Gas companies, exempt from federal laws protecting water supplies, may conceal the identities of their chemicals as trade secrets, making it difficult to determine the cause of contamination.

The EPA is now conducting a deeper study of the drilling, New York State has blocked drilling in New York City’s watershed, and lawmakers are pushing for closer oversight of the industry. The industry — in the form of millions of dollars spent on lobbying, a slew of court cases, and a robust public relations campaign — is pushing back.

 

Abstracted From Abrahm Lustgarten’s Article


The United States is poised to bet its energy future on natural gas as a clean, plentiful fuel that can supplant coal and oil. But new research by the Environmental Protection Agency—and a growing understanding of the pollution associated with the full “life cycle” of gas production—is casting doubt on the assumption that gas offers a quick and easy solution to climate change.

Advocates for natural gas routinely assert that it produces 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal and is a significant step toward a greener energy future. But those assumptions are based on emissions from the tailpipe or smokestack and don’t account for the methane and other pollution emitted when gas is extracted and piped to power plants and other customers.

The EPA’s new analysis doubles its previous estimates for the amount of methane gas that leaks from loose pipe fittings and is vented from gas wells, drastically changing the picture of the nation’s emissions that the agency painted as recently as April. Calculations for some gas-field emissions jumped by several hundred percent. Methane levels from the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas were 9,000 times higher than previously reported.

There’s a whole lot more information on fracking and the potential of environmental damage vs the use of home ‘drilled’ nominally low cost hydrocarbons with the lowest potential greenhouse emissions. The detailed reader comments are also information full, I call them to your attention.

By Abrahm LustgartenPro Publica, Jan. 25, 2011

 

A Few Interesting Fracking Related References

Keep in mind there’s a wart on fracking fact sheets, but until the peer reviewed R&T and characterization is done, both side are shooting PR loaded blanks and media pyrotechnics. Doc!

Hydraulic Fracturing, Wikipedia, 2011

Hydraulic Fracturing 101, Earthworks, an Environmental Blog,Undated but ca. 2006

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting from the Petroleum and Natural Gas Industry – The latest emissions tally from the EPA (November 2010)

Baffled About Fracking? You’re Not Alone, By Mike Soraghan of Greenwire Published: May 13, 2011; Source — The New York Times

About Hydraulic Fracturing  – Facts by Chesapeake Energy Company, April 2011

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks – An April 2010 EPA greenhouse gas report, now outdated

Preliminary Assessment of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Natural Gas Obtained by Hydraulic Fracturing – Cornell University

Comparative Life-Cycle Air Emissions of Coal, Domestic Natural Gas, LNG, and SNG for Electricity Generation – Paulina Jaramillo, Carnegie Mellon University

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Vertical Farming in the Windy City and Elsewhere

 Vertical farming is a concept that argues that it is economically and environmentally viable to cultivate plant or animal life within skyscrapers, or on vertically inclined surfaces. Despite contemporary notions of vertical faming, there is a long history of ‘vertical farming’ that can be divided into three categories. Check out the Wikipedia article for more background information.

Doc sez, this is sort of a left hand take on Robert Heinlein’s teen-readers book, “Farmer in the Sky” which was doomed because space became an unfocused virtual frontier rather than a goal for mankind. The current concepts of vertical farming seem more appropriate to our times. Reality, alas, populations grow become urbanized, farmland gets destroyed by population growth and climate changes or just plain natural forces become more destructive. Vertical (upwards) growth in urban populations is a fact – Megacroplis’ are on their way… It’s either urban sprawl or up in the wide blue yonder’. Therefore, they appear much more relevant to urban ecology and living modes.

A WAG scenario — New York City as a breadbasket of the East Coast — How? I suggest that the combination of vertical farming, nuclear powered water desalination, and all combustible residues be converted to biodiesel and electricity for car.  It would take a combination of a Bloomberg a Bill Gates and T. Boone Pickens to kick start this, although it might be faster if done in the Middle East, say by Abu Dhabi.

In Chicago’s meatpacking district, developer John Edel  hopes to reinvent the urban food supply with a $4 million, four-story indoor produce and fish farm called The Plant. Edel and his colleagues have already planted 3,000 square feet of hydroponically grown lettuce and other greens and installed 1,400 tilapia fish in tanks.

The fish farm and gardens are connected by a 9,000-gallon water circulation system: Wastewater from the tilapia tanks, rich in nitrogen-based nutrients, flows into the hydroponic beds, where it irrigates and fertilizes the lettuce. The crop roots then filter that water before it returns to the fish. Edel and student collaborators at the Illinois Institute of Technology are also building a custom-designed digester that will turn the project’s leftover vegetable and fish waste into fertilizer and biogas to power a heating, cooling, and 280-kilowatt electrical system. The Plant will offer its first bounty for sale this fall, supplying greens, mushrooms, and tilapia to farmers’ markets and local restaurants.

The Plant is part of a growing push to bring farms into metropolitan areas. Small-scale, multilevel farms have sprung up in Britain and Wisconsin, and an organization called Growing Power hopes to break ground on a five-story project in Milwaukee within 18 months. Such efforts make fresh food more accessible to inner-city residents and could help to reduce the cost and energy of shipping produce. According to an analysis from Iowa State University, conventional produce travels about 1,500 miles on average to its destination, causing the release of 5 to 17 times more carbon dioxide than food from regional and local farms.

Stan Cox, a plant-breeding researcher at the Land Institute in Kansas, points out that while leafy vegetables grow fairly well indoors, staples like wheat and corn require far more light energy. But Columbia University ecologist Dickson Despommier says large-scale projects can still have a big impact: He calculates that a 50-story building occupying one New York City block could feed 50,000 people.

By Christina Couch, for Discover Magazine, May 2011.

 

Other Related References

 Vertical farming, Wikipedia, 2011

Vertical Farming Studies in El Paso By BRYAN WALSH Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008, TIME Magazine.

Vertical Farming – Does it really stack up? The Economist, Print Edition, December 9, 2010.

Growing Skyscrapers: The Rise of Vertical Farms, By Dickson Despommier for Scientific American. November 16, 2009.

Can Urban Agriculture Feed a Hungry World? By Fabian Kretschmer and Malte E. Kollenberg, The Spiegel Online, July 22, 2011.

Vertical Farming — Advantages – Disadvantages – Barriers, Climate Lab Wiki, 2010.

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Food vs. Fuel, Redux: The Biofuel Dilemma

 

A Straight Paste – No ad-libs, just (err) food for Thought The references are click through if you want more to stratify your curiosity cravings. – Doc.

 

Today’s Washington Post includes a noteworthy opinion piece from Tim Searchinger of Princeton University concerning the impact of expanding biofuel production on global food prices and availability. Food vs. fuel competition made headlines in 2007 and 2008 but then subsided during the recession and financial crisis. This year, with global crop yields down and food demand up, and with food-derived biofuel production at record levels, the issue has returned. The relationship between biofuel output and food prices is certainly complex, but it is significant, particularly for those who spend much of their incomes on unprocessed grains and vegetable oils. And both population and biofuels demand will continue to increase from today’s levels.

You might recall Mr. Searchinger’s name in conjunction with a high-profile scientific paper in 2008 casting doubt on the value of crop-based biofuels in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Global land use impact” entered the lexicon of environmental consequences as a result of his and his collaborators’ work, and it had a significant influence on the EPA’s updated Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) regulation, even if the agency’s final version of the rule softened its application in constraining the least efficient corn ethanol facilities. So you might say that Mr. Searchinger is no great friend of first-generation biofuels in general. However, the issue that he’s writing about today, while no less controversial in energy and policy circles, is much more straightforward to understand than the carbon debt of newly cultivated cropland.

As he notes in his op-ed, numerous studies have demonstrated a link between biofuel production and food prices in 2007-8, even in the US, where the basic inputs subject to this kind of price competition constitute a small portion of the retail prices of the processed foods we eat. It affects US food price inflation, but mainly indirectly through routes such as raising the price of livestock feed. Among others, the Congressional Budget Office looked at this issue in 2009. Most of the studies I saw also showed a significant effect on food prices from rising energy prices, another phenomenon that has reappeared in the last year. However one interprets all this, it is inescapable that a bushel of corn turned into ethanol is not available for export to countries that are experiencing a combination of rising demand and disappointing harvests.

As long as US harvests were increasing at a rate that  kept pace with the growth of ethanol output, thanks to increased cultivation and better yields, that wasn’t a zero sum game. Until recently, the corn that went into making ethanol was corn that might not otherwise have been grown. But in a year like this one, when annual ethanol consumption set to rise by another billion gallons while the corn harvest is 5% smaller than the previous year’s, something has to give. In fact, the US Department of Agriculture expects that ethanol plants will take 40% of this season’s crop, compared to just 23% in the 2007-8 “market year.” That exerts a lot more pressure on corn prices, which are pushing $7 per bushel for the first time since 2008.

If anything, the conclusion of Mr. Searchinger’s op-ed downplayed the risks ahead. With output from the nascent cellulosic ethanol industry still minuscule, the EPA will be under tremendous pressure to allow corn ethanol to continue to expand beyond its current 15 billion gallon per year limit under the RFS. That’s one reason the industry was pushing so hard to increase the maximum allowable percentage of ethanol in gasoline from 10% to 15%; it needs that headroom to continue expanding output beyond last year’s 13 billion gallons. At 20 billion gallons per year–a quantity that I heard one USDA expert suggest several years ago was achievable–ethanol would require the equivalent of 55% of 2009-10’s record US corn crop. It’s hard to envision that happening without concerns about food vs. fuel rising to a much higher pitch.

Posted February 11, 2011 by Geoffrey Styles for the Energy Collective Blog

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 Electric Motors — Nikola Tesla’s Revenge

  — The car industry’s effort to reduce its dependence on rare-earth elements has prompted a revival

 ONCE again, worrywarts are wringing their hands over possible shortages of so-called “critical materials” crucial for high-tech industries. In America the Department of Energy is fretting about materials used to manufacture wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells and energy-efficient lighting. The substances in question include a bunch of rare-earth metals and a few other elements, which—used a pinch here, a pinch there—enhance the way many industrial materials function.

It is not as though the rare-earth elements—scandium, yttrium and lanthanum plus the 14 so-called lanthanides—are all that rare. Some are as abundant as nickel, copper or zinc. Even the two rarest (thulium and lutetium) are more abundant in the Earth’s crust than gold or platinum.

A decade ago America was the world’s largest producer of rare-earth metals. But its huge open-cast mine at Mountain Pass, California, closed in 2002—a victim mainly of China’s drastically lower labor costs. Today, China produces 95% of the world’s supply of rare-earth metals, and has started limiting exports to keep the country’s own high-tech industries supplied.

The rare-earth element that other industrial countries worry about most is neodymium. It is the key ingredient of super-strong permanent magnets. Over the past year the price of neodymium has quadrupled as electric motors that use permanent magnets instead of electromagnetic windings have gained even wider acceptance. Cheaper, smaller and more powerful, permanent-magnet motors and generators have made modern wind turbines and electric vehicles viable.

That said, not all makers of electric cars have rushed to embrace permanent-magnet motors. The Tesla Roadster, an electric sports car based on a Lotus Elise, uses no rare-earth metals whatsoever. Nor does the Mini-E, an electric version of BMW’s reinvention of the iconic 1960s car. Meanwhile, the company that pioneered much of today’s electric vehicle technology, AC Propulsion of San Dimas, California, has steered clear of permanent-magnet motors.

Clearly, a number of manufacturers think  the risk of relying on a single source of rare-earth metals is too high.

Read on about Toyota’s efforts to replace rare earths in it’s electric motors and the re-discovery of tech ology invented by Nicolas Tesla an American inventor, back in 1888. Check out Tesla’s own automobile A Tesla Engine Drive Piece Arrow. In addition the article also discussed the topic “Who needs a gearbox” in an electric car.

The Economist, Technology Quarterly, Jun 2nd 2011.

Tesla Roadster, Wikipedia 2011

Tesla Electric Car, Wikipedia 2011

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 Rocks On The Menu

— High commodity prices have encouraged the use of mineral-munching bugs to extract metals from waste or low-grade ore.

 

Bioleaching is the extraction of specific metals from  their ores through the use of living organisms. This is much cleaner than the traditional heap leaching using cyanide. Bioleaching is one of several applications within biohydrometallurgy and several methods are used to recover copper, zinc, lead, arsenic, antimony, nickel, molybdenum, gold, silver, and cobalt.

EVEN the sleekest gadget depends on the mucky business of digging stuff out of the ground. Mobile phones and computers use copper for their wiring and rely on cobalt, germanium, lithium, nickel, platinum and tantalum for other components. Electric motors need magnets made of “rare earth” elements such as neodymium. But rising metal prices and China’s tightening grip on supplies of rare-earth elements (it accounts for 97% of production) have heightened the appeal of finding other sources of supply. The result is growing interest in the use of rock-eating bacteria to extract metals from low-grade ores, mining waste or industrial effluent.

Rock-eating bacteria such as Acidithiobacillus and Leptospirillum are naturally occurring organisms that thrive in nasty, acidic environments. They obtain energy from chemical reactions with sulfides, and can thus accelerate the breakdown of minerals. Base metals such as iron, copper, zinc and cobalt occur widely as sulfides, and more valuable metals such as gold and uranium are also present in the same bodies of ore. With a little help from the mineral-munchers, these metals can be released in a process called bioleaching.

This approach has its pros and cons. To recover large quantities of metals quickly from ores with a high metal content, smelting remains the most profitable route. Bioleaching is slower, but it is also cheaper, making it well suited for treating ores and mining wastes with low metal concentrations. It is also generally cleaner. Material containing poisonous elements such as arsenic is unsuitable for smelting because of the risk of pollution.

For many years bioleaching has been used to recover gold from ores that are hard to break down using heat treatment (known as “roasting”). The bacteria are set to work in huge stirred tanks, called bioreactors, containing ground-up rocks and dilute sulfuric acid. The bacteria change one form of iron found within the ore (ferrous iron) to another (ferric iron) and tap the energy released. In acidic solutions ferric iron is a powerful oxidizing agent. It breaks down sulfide minerals and releases any associated metals.                       …

Interest in bioleaching shows no sign of abating. As part of a European project called ProMine, geologists are mapping Europe’s mineral resources to a depth of 5km (3.1 miles) in an effort to stimulate the mining industry and reduce dependence on imports. Integral to the project is further development of biological metal-recovery methods. In Europe, at least, mineral-munching microbes can expect long-term employment—and lunch.

Read on — There’s Lot’s more!

Bioleaching References

Bioleaching, Wikipedia 2011.

What is Bioleaching — A tutorial, Talvivaara Publications. May 6, 2010.

Bioleaching technology in minerals processing, By John Neale, BioMine Wiki, September 2006

What is Bioleaching? – Includes mechanisms – InovateUS Blog, 2011.

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Climate Change – It’s Complicated, But It’s Real

 

So, the engineers at GPS mission control need to use Einstein’s relativistic theories to make sure your iPhone tells you precisely where you are, whenever you want to know. Similarly, neither Newton’s or Einstein’s equations allow scientists to properly predict the subatomic interactions within the electronics of satellites or iPhones. For that, you need to reference the weird world of quantum mechanics.

Each of these model systems – Newtonian, Einsteinian  and Quantum physics – produces some contradictory predictions, and gaps in understanding remain. The theories have not yet been unified, for instance, to the lament of Einstein and his successors.

Yet the vast majority of us – the average Joe and Josephine Public – are not confused or worried about GPS and iPhones, for the simple matter that we don’t try too hard to understand how they work. After all, it’s plain enough to our eyes, immediately and incontrovertibly, that they do! So we just accept it, like we do for most forms of technology.

Climate science is now treated rather differently, however. This is because although the stochastic and chaotic systems involved are, in their own way, just as complex as relativity and quantum theory, many people just don’t want to take the underpinning science and evidence for granted.

They WANT to know and understand this stuff (which is good, from a science education perspective), and their motivation usually comes about because they feel threatened by it, or guilty about it, or whatever. Dylan’s example of not wanting to be responsible for suffering poor people underscores the point.

Yet, at its core, much of the math, physics, chemistry, models, theory, and so on, which together make up the many fields of climate science, can be really difficult stuff. It takes a lot of learning time, and lots exposure to the many lines of scientific evidence and the general practice of doing science and dealing with uncertainty, to appreciate the complexities and nuances involved.

So when people don’t ‘get’ the science and are left confused by media sound bites, it’s typically because they haven’t got the time, experience or training to really grasp the interconnections, feedbacks and apparent contradictions.

The other obvious problem is that climate model forecasts are not tangible and deterministic – unlike the GPS or iPhone, there is no simple, repeatable test of whether they ‘work’ or not. Climate change is also not being painted on a ‘blank canvas’ – extreme weather has always been with us, for instance, so how to tell what can be attributed to natural versus human-caused effects?

It’s tough, no doubt about it, and there is a huge scientific effort dedicated to identifying the ‘fingerprints’ of human activity amongst the many ‘smudges’ caused by ever present natural influences on weather and climate. There’s more – click trough

Well we can always do the ostrich thing, or we can at least insist that our decision makers demonstrate a competency in the scientific method, and understand science is grey, and each new set of data changes our knowledge base. Our and their jobs are to do no evil (they Hippocratic oath), and be protective — Katrina and the Gulf Spill did not need to happen, and 8if you buy land in a flood plain w/o insurance tough — We neither evolved in a welfare state or a wimp-fare state, mankind kind got where they are now be out toughing nature, and all their enemies.

Article by Barry Brook, The Energy Collective, Posted February 12, 2011.

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Would You Buy A $40 Light Bulb and Other Lighting Options

 

Now don’t think I’m biased against politicians, trying to stem energy use growth, here and abroad. After all there are the folks who deny climate change, manmade or not, while sea levels rise and weather, for now and predicted for the next half-decade, worsens. They also gave us a 15% corn ethanol limit despite auto manufactures plea that that would corrode engines and lower overall fuel efficiency. It also continues raise food prices without doing much, if anything about green house gasses. Another case of WIIFT.

However, life would be so much simpler if a carbon tax, for light bulbs as a low risk example, were implemented.  Tax these by wattage, assigned to all new light bulbs sold starting in 2012 or 2013; obviously much lower for  not to compact fluorescents, LEDs or other low energy alternatives.

The tax rate should be gradated say starting at 10-15% per bulb and rising to the prohibitive level in ca 10 years, increasing the way auto efficiency standards do. This would allow the industry to accommodate the change, allow individuals an alternative on what lights they want to use and how energy efficient. As I’ll share in the next column, the Scandinavian Countries have effectively started doing so, with none of the awful consequences preached by our technically undereducated lobbyist bought, politicians.

Furthermore, The US Government’s aim to ‘outlaw {aka phase out} incandescent bulbs, starting with 100 Watt models in 2012 and they will be mostly gone by 2014, will just create a black market. It’s done so for every other government introduced PROHIBITION around the world.

I’ve wondered whether once Europe and perhaps China adopt more stringent green house gas rules, perhaps by adopting a workable, a gradually imposed and flexible carbon tax, whether they could impose a VAT on US products? None of my economist-international scholar friends know how the Europeans (e.g., Court of Justice of the European Free Trade Association States) would deal with America exporting pollution, albeit indirectly?

Now the rest of the story…

Would You Buy A $40 Light Bulb?

Maybe you should.

This week, Philips Lighting said that its Ambient LED 12.5 watt bulb  — which, just to confuse you, is also sold under the Philips Endura LED brand — has qualified for an EPA’s Energy Star rating. That means that it’s an efficient and, quite possibly cost-effective alternative to the 60-watt bulb, even with a $39.97 list price at Home Depot. <No price listed for Amazon.com yet… jest you all wait!>

Here’s how the math works, at least according to Philips: A conventional 60-watt bulb lasts about 1,000 hours, uses 60 watts of electricity (duh) and costs $180 to run for 25,000 hours. The LED equivalent lasts 25,000 hours (nearly three years if you left it on 24/7), uses 12.5 watts and costs $37.50 to run for 25,000 hours.

That assumes electricity costs of 12.5 cents/kwh, slightly higher than average across the US but a lot less that you pay in high-cost states like California. Practically a bargain, no? {Doc Sez Perhaps?}

The Energy Star rating matters because it means that the bulb, which is evidently the first LED bulb in its category to qualify, can earn you a rebate from your local utility. There’s more on the rebates here from the U.S. Department of Energy. Each state has its own rebate program, forms to fill out, etc. Fun. Better news is that for now Phillips is offering a $10 cash rebate on the bulb.

There’s more — it’s not a silver bullet, but this makes it easier to see the light and lower overall energy costs.

Posted February 15, 2011 by Marc Gunther for The Energy Collective

Once-Scorned C. F. L. Light Bulbs Are Advancing

–It’s amazing how technology improves given an incentive, and profit has always been a better stick, in America, than regulation, when it is written intelligently. No WIIFT!

In my Pragmatist column in Thursday’s Home section, I describe the latest advancements in energy-efficient light bulbs in response to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, part of which takes effect next January. Much of that discussion focuses on so-called C.F.L.’s, or compact fluorescent light bulbs. While they have improved in recent years, the technology continues to be hampered by worries about its environmental impact in landfills because C.F.L.’s contain mercury.

Environmentally minded consumers who hope to shave a few dollars from their electric bills by using C.F.L.’s can take solace in the fact that some groups consider C.F.L.’s greener than the bulbs they replace. In 2008, for instance, the Natural Resources Defense Council published a paper suggesting that C.F.L.’s do less environmental harm than standard incandescent bulbs.

For example, C.F.L.’s require one-quarter the energy from coal-fired power plants that incandescents do, the council wrote. If all consumers changed to C.F.L.’s, the group argued, those plants would send less pollution into the air. The council’s paper cites research by the Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association into toxic waste levels from C.F.L.’s.

If you choose to buy fluorescents, you’ll still need to dispose of your old C.F.L.’s properly when they die or break. Home Depot and Lowe’s both accept C.F.L.’s for recycling, and you can find more information about disposal locations, among other topics, here.

Safety, of course, is another issue, since light bulbs are so easy to break. The amount of mercury contained in a C.F.L. is roughly equivalent to the amount of ink on the tip of a ballpoint pen and about one-fifth the amount in a watch battery, the council’s paper says. But the bulbs can leak mercury vapor when broken, so ventilation is important when cleaning a broken bulb, the council says in its paper. Some manufacturers now produce C.F.L.’s with protective coating; the EcoSmart Shatter-Resistant C.F.L. is one example.

By Bob Tedeschi, For The New York Times, August 11, 2011

The New Law — “The End Of The Light Bulb As We Know It” By Marianne Lavelle, For US News And World Report December 19, 2007

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Thorium Fuel Cycle

In the beginning… India got it, now China is getting on board

All of a sudden the pro nuclear professional media is asking the question  “Thorium: the miracle cure for a new nuclear backbone? … And in case anyone asks, both Uranium and Thorium are Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM)

“You can run a civilization on thorium for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s essentially free,” says Kirk Sorensen, former NASA engineer and one of today’s forward looking nuclear technologists. This week we look at the progress that has been made in developing thorium-based nuclear reactors, global stores, and why China and India believe this ‘miracle metal’ could be the next best thing.

Thorium versus Uranium — A tonne of thorium – the slow-decaying, slightly radioactive metal – produces as much energy as 200 tonnes of uranium, or 3,500,000 tonnes of coal. Besides being much cheaper, thorium is three times more abundant than uranium, so much that miners treat it as a nuisance. After all it is a radioactive by-product when they are digging up rare earth metals.

Unlike uranium, thorium is a low-carbon metal, and although not fissionable, it can be used as a nuclear fuel through breeding to fissile uranium-233 (U-233). Thorium decays its own hazardous waste and can expel the plutonium left by uranium reactors. Also, thorium cannot melt down and does not produce reliable fuel for bombs.

Both uranium and thorium are mined as ore and then detached from the rock, but thorium is four times more prevalent in Earth’s crust than uranium.

“Thorium has the potential to be the backbone of our energy future, and we need to move quickly towards it,” says Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA rocket engineer and now chief nuclear technologist at Teledyne Brown Engineering.

Typical nuclear power stations use uranium as their fuel source, but thorium reactors can offer greater safety, vastly reduced waste and much higher fuel efficiency. While only 0.7% of uranium’s energy is extractable, energy from thorium is 100% extractable.

“Once you start looking more closely, it blows your mind away. You can run a civilization on thorium for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s essentially free. You don’t have to deal with uranium cartels,” says Sorensen.

The article goes on to discuss

  • What if thorium was used to power nuclear reactors?
  • Economy leaders race to thorium
  • Locating the world’s thorium reserves (aka the US and Australia)

By Heba Hashem, Middle East Correspondent, Nuclear Energy Insider, February 17, 2011.

http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/industry-insight/thorium-miracle-cure-new-nuclear-backbone?utm_source=http%3a%2f%2fcommunicator.nuclearenergyinsider.com%2flz%2f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=eBrief+nuclear+17+Feb+11&utm_term=Thorium%3a+the+miracle+cure+for+a+new+nuclear+backbone&utm_content=537963

Other Thorium Fuel Cycle References

Thorium Fuel Cycle, From Wikipedia, 2011.

John Ritch, World Nuclear Association: “Nuclear Waste Is The Duty Of Governments,” Nuclear Energy Insider, August 20, 2010.

An Academic Take On The Future Of Nuclear Energy, By Elisabeth Jeffries, for the Nuclear Energy Insider, October 4, 2010.

The Fusion Fission Hybrid Thorium Fuel Cycle Alternative, by Magdi Ragheb, University of Illinois, Feb 2010

About Thorium, World Nuclear Association, March 2011.

Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke, By Richard Martin for Wired Magazine, December 21, 2009.

Drive to Build Thorium Reactor Prototype Launched In U.K., Posted September 8, 2011 by Dan Yurman for The Energy Collective

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Endnotes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

On occasion, where it irritates me, I change British spelling to the US alternative, but not for words like Tonne, which is a difference unit that the US Ton.

Sources & Credits:  — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

Readers please read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).          Doc.

… And yes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!

QUOTE de Mois — “Correlation is NOT Necessarily Causation”,  although you’d not know it from the gab of the nation’s talking heads and would be US Presidents. Science IQ, as a means testing for public office? A corollary to this is the demonstrated finding that you can’t change the beliefs of a true believer, fortunately they are only about 10% of our population; I do exclude water boarding and brain washing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All rights Reserved.

Greening Introduction

REFERENCES AND THEIR USES – A late night musing

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is making changes to improve its scientific integrity. The move comes in part because of mistakes discovered in the panel’s 2007 assessment, including the incorrect statement that Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035.

Last year, the Inter Academy Council, a coalition of national scientific academies, recommended changes to IPCC to address these and other issues (C&EN, Sept. 6, 2010, page 15). At a meeting in mid-May, IPCC adopted a procedure for evaluating and correcting errors in its assessments. The group also established a standardized method for addressing scientific uncertainties in its reports, and it approved a new conflict of interest policy.

The present approach is compliant to the reviews of the IPCC by leading British and American Senior Technical advisory groups (e.g., NAS)

In addition, the panel set a benchmark for scientific literature used for its assessments. This gives priority to peer-reviewed studies but recognizes that reports from governments, industry, and research institutions may provide crucial data even if they aren’t peer reviewed. It states that magazines and newspapers are generally not valid sources of scientific in formation and bans the use of material from broadcast media, blogs, social networking sites, and personal communications of scientific results.

Note that the criteria the panel espouses are comparable to those I use in determining whether or not to use a reference in one of my articles.However, there is one major difference. I seldom use primary references (e.g., journals) as examples for further exploration for you my readers. First, such use of such would be counterproductive as a communications tool on the basis of knowledge accessibility.

Many of you, including my self, would be swamped by journal article contents in areas we had not studied Alternately if long ago studies, has evolved to the point where can not easily connect either with the concept details or newly evolved semantics. There for the contents would be, in terms of understanding, inaccessible to us!

Second, the entireties of journal articles are not easily available via Google and other publicly accessible search methods. Although, the abstracts of the article are, they are not detailed enough to serve as serious information even to a casual ‘knowledge-hungry’ reader. Again it’s a matter of access.

You can access full journal articles through a public library or local college library, only if the local agencies have individual subscriptions to that service. [No I’ve not tried the Library of Congress for journal\access detail.] Buying articles for archive reference copy use w/o the academic and public library discount is pricy… Certainly, as a routine expense, out of my budget. Indeed getting access to an occasional primary reference is the primary reason I maintain local library cards; other information is as easily available from my desktop iMac.

Therefore all of my references will remain secondary and shall only be used after a sanity, logic, and check on WIIFT <What’s in it for them>.

Check out my approaches to topic selection in the endnote entitled Sources and Credits.

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 The New Snippets and Topics ——— Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order

 References and Their Uses – A late night musing

New Reactor Harnesses Sun’s Energy Like Plants The science keeps getting us closer but we’re a long ways from commercial or even breakeven costs.

Carbon Sequestration Core NETL R&D — The DOE Program

The Commuter Bike Redesigned and Electrified — If I was a rich man…

Pollution & Global Warming — Climate change in black and white

Symbiotic Coupling Of Wind Power And Nuclear Power Generation Finally someone serious about merging green power, renewable but intermittent Wind and greenhouse free baseload effective nuclear.

Nuclear Efficiency — With new fuel formulations, reactors could extract more energy, and reduce hazardous waste

Is the Coal Killer Flying Thousands of Feet Up in the Sky? — A new meaning to go fly a self powered kite.

IAEA Fujushima Dalichi Fact Finding Mission Summary and Initial Findings

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 New Reactor Harnesses Sun’s Energy Like Plants The science keeps getting us closer but we’re a long ways from commercial or even breakeven costs.

Researchers have unveiled a prototype reactor, which mimics plant life, turning the Sun’s energy to make hydrocarbon fuel. Developed by a team of scientists from the United States and Switzerland, The device uses the Sun’s rays and the mineral ceria (cerium oxide), to break down water or carbon dioxide into energy, which can be stored and transported.

Harnessing the power of the sun has been but a pipe dream, as conventional solar panels must use the power they generate in situ. With the ceria-fueled reactor, this issue is solved

The scientists, who include Caltech professor Sossina M. Haile and Swiss Institute of Energy Technology professor Aldo Steinfeld, wanted to figure out a way to harness the sun efficiently, without incredibly rare materials. They decided on testing ceria, a relatively abundant “rare-earth” metallic oxide with very special properties.

The solar reactor takes advantage of the ceramic ceria’s ability to “exhale” oxygen from its crystalline framework at very high temperatures and then “inhale” oxygen back in at lower temperatures. “What is special about the material is that it doesn’t release all of the oxygen. That helps to leave the framework of the material intact as oxygen leaves,” Haile explains. “When we cool it back down, the material’s thermodynamically preferred state is to pull oxygen back into the structure.”

Why start the long hard journey to practicality… click the link.

From: FoxNews.com, January 20, 2011

An alternative approach to generating solar power, based on making more effective use of Thermoelectric devices then have been previously been possible is referenced below.

Solar Tower—The Third Way. (A new method of making electricity from sunlight has just been tested) Reported in the May 12th, 2011 Economist.

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 Carbon Sequestration NETL Core R&D — The DOE Program

Many of you know that I have grave doubts about carbon sequestration, putting carbon, as a gas, in underground geological repositories.  Nevertheless, in the interest of fairness, DOE’s efforts on the topic are summarized below, the information taken from their The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) web pages. I am pleased to note that other, international efforts are approaching the demonstration stage, but still fear for the risks associated with diverse environmental (geohydrologic-seismic) environments for any site-specific demonstration of long-term storage or disposal. Each and every location, not just environmental setting, must be proven safe for the so-called ‘disposal’ period, despite effect of plate tectonics (earthquakes) and perhaps climate change. [Think nuclear waste repositories.] 

Therefore herein, I am sharing only information focused primarily on the two areas of Pre-Combustion Capture and CO2 Utilization. However, the references I, link to all the current DOE efforts, my interests continue to mainly focus only on areas where the long term economic risk is a more important factor than the environmental ones.

The DOE Core Research and Development (Core R&D) focuses on developing new carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to a pre-commercial demonstration level. The Core R&D Element includes five technical focus areas: (1) Pre-Combustion Capture; (2) Monitoring, Verification, and Accounting (MVA); (3) Geologic Storage; (4) Simulation and Risk Assessment; and (5) CO2 Utilization.

From my perspective, until the issue of ‘licensing’ geologic site for long storage [… let’s say 100 -300 years> or disposal < ≥ 1000 years> is actually address and consensus reached on it resolution, the most useful part of the pram is the isolation, capture and reuse of the CO2 we emit in generating electricity from coal, oil, and natural gas. Remember, CO2has no half-life. If we don’t concert it to a solid mineral form or release it to challenge the next ice ago, it will do damage whenever it get released back in to the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) capture is defined as the separation of CO2 from emissions sources or from within the CO2 emission process. When CO2 is recovered from emissions sources, such as power plant flue gases, it is in a concentrated stream that is amenable to storage or conversion. Currently this process is costly and energy intensive, accounting for the majority of the cost of storage.

The Carbon Sequestration Program (Pre-Combustion Capture Focus Area) is focusing on developing technologies used to reduce the cost of capture and separation of CO2 in pre-combustion systems. Pre-combustion capture is mainly applicable to Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plants and refers to removal of the CO2 from the synthesis gas (syngas) prior to its combustion for power production. CO2 is concentrated and at a high-pressure as a result. A simplified process schematic for pre-combustion CO2 capture is shown below. Near-term applications of CO2 capture from pre-combustion systems will likely involve improvements to the existing state-of-the-art physical or chemical absorption processes being used by the power generation industry.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) utilization efforts focus on pathways and novel approaches for reducing CO2 emissions by developing beneficial uses for the CO2 that will mitigate CO2 emissions in areas where geologic storage may not be an optimal solution. CO2 can be used in applications that could generate significant benefits. It is possible to develop alternatives that can use captured CO2 or convert it to useful products such chemicals, cements, or plastics. Revenue generated from the utilized CO2 could also offset a portion of the CO2 capture cost.

Processes or concepts must take into account the life cycle of the process to ensure that additional CO2 is not produced beyond what is already being removed from or going into the atmosphere. Furthermore, while the utilization of CO2 has some potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, CO2 has certain disadvantages as a chemical reactant. Carbon dioxide is rather inert and non-reactive. This inertness is the reason why CO2 has broad industrial and technical applications. Each potential use of CO2 has an energy requirement that needs to be determined; and the CO2 produced to create the energy for the specific utilization process must not exceed the CO2 utilized.

Want to know more about potential uses of captured CO2, check out the link.

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 The Commuter Bike Redesigned and Electrified — If I was a rich man…

This week, most people on the East Coast were hunkering down indoors, prepared for this winter’s fourth Snowstorm of the Century. I (Dave Pouge) on the other hand, was riding around a hotel ballroom on a YikeBike. And I’ll be straight with you: I had kind of a Segway moment.

Remember that? After inventor Dean Kamen first gave secret demos of his self-balancing upright scooter to industry hotshots, their awed reactions included remarks like, “They’ll redesign cities for this thing.” Of course, the Segway never did become as commonplace as the bicycle, and the YikeBike won’t either. But what a cool idea.

It’s an electric bike. Top speed is about 15 miles an hour. Buttons that are right under your thumbs on the handlebars smoothly controls the accelerator and brakes. The handlebars themselves are at your waist level, which might seem odd but makes sense—you ride sitting fully upright instead of bending forward, as on a bicycle. That design also means that you can jump forward off the bike in a crisis; there’s no hardware in your way.

Here’s the twist: the whole thing folds down into its own front wheel. You undo four stainless-steel latches, then snap the back wheel, seat and handlebars into the front one. It takes about 10 seconds. (Watch the video embedded in the linked post to get the idea.)

After providing lots more details, David notes,I’m not sure how many takers of the high tech carbon composite the YikeBike will have at $3,600. But I really admire Mr. Ryan’s lean, green folding machine, and I wish him the best of luck.”

The YikeBike on Pouge’s PostsThe Latest in Technology from David Pogue, June 30, 2011, for the New York Times.

You want another choice…

After YikeBike Its Turn Of Honda’s U3-X!Another fun one-wheeler?

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 Pollution & Global Warming—Climate change in black and white

As noted in a recent Economist article, black and white (data) has many grey aspects. When air pollution hurts people’s health and heats up the climate it makes sense to do something about it. But, what about pollution that cools the planet?

An ideal fossil-fuel power plant would produce power, carbon dioxide and nothing more. Less-than-ideal ones—not to mention other devices for the combustion of carbon, from diesel generators to brick kilns and stoves burning dung—also emit various gases and gunk. These often cause local environmental problems, damaging lungs, hurting crops and shortening lives. And some of the gunk, notably soot or “black carbon”, can warm the planet, too.

Next week (February 28, 2011) ministers attending the governing council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi will be presented with the summary, which I could not find, of a new report on how fighting air pollution can help the global climate (the report itself is due to follow a couple of months later). The summary makes a powerful case for acting on two short-lived climate “forcing’s”, factors that change the amount of energy the atmosphere absorbs, as carbon dioxide does, but stay in it only briefly. One is black carbon and the other is ozone. The later is both vital for blocking ultraviolet rays in the stratosphere but hazardous in the bits of the atmosphere where plants live and people have to breathe.

According to the UNEP report, implementing measures known to be effective against these two pollutants over the next 20 years would have “immediate and multiple” benefits. These include (1) average world temperatures between 0.2°C and 0.7°C lower than they would otherwise be by 2050 and (2) the saving of between 0.7 and 4.6 million lives with improved air quality. For black carbon the measures are largely in the form of more efficient ways of burning things; for ozone they mostly involve reducing emissions of methane, which encourages reactions in the atmosphere that make ozone. The black-carbon measures save a lot more lives than ozone control, but are trickier to assess in terms of climate

Beijing, but it could have any major urban industrial community in Asia.

The article continues with a discussion of the history of UNEP’s interest in black carbon including observations initiated by Veerabhadran Ramanathan, of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, and Paul Crutzen, a Dutch climate scientist who was one of the first to theorize about “nuclear winter”. These studies revealed the hitherto unappreciated extent of an “Asian brown cloud” thousands of kilometers across and fed by fires, diesel fumes and all manner of other things.

The article then focuses on the climate politics, as opposed to the science of black carbon; since reducing CO2 release internationally seems stalled politics takes the forefront. [Check it out, this is not intuitive. It’s an interesting read for the non-politicians amongst us.]

The article, lengthy but well written, ends with a straight forward section called “Clouding the Issues” that deals with both potential warming and cooling effects of atmospherically distributed and surface settled carbon soot. Who said science is black or white?

There’s no punch line but the realization at times, due to doubling effects, more R&D is needed before any action makes sense, especially from regulatory forcing factors.

Indeed, if the Arctic is warming faster than might be expected, other parts of the world are warming slower. One reason for this, widely accepted by scientists but little appreciated by policymakers, is that the sulphur given off by coal-fired power stations and some other industrial fossil-fuel use. Sulphur is very good at forming reflecting aerosols that can also make natural clouds both whiter and possibly longer lasting, which provides an added cooling effect. Acid rains anyone?

It is no coincidence that a non-governmental organization active in the fight against air pollution, America’s Clean Air Task Force, now strongly advocates more research into the pros and cons of geoengineering. Jason Blackstock, at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Canada, points out that black carbon; sulfates and geoengineering are all neglected by the institutions that govern climate policy. He is looking at ways to bring the topics together in the broader context of how nations make choices about the climate. If human action on the climate is ever to be properly deliberate, it must first be properly deliberated.

This is a thought-provoking read that should threaten any ‘nature is simple paradigm’. I’ll be doing an Op-Ed analysis on Geoengineering for release in July; keep clicking to keep me honest and on schedule.

The Economist Magazine, a staff report, Feb 17th 2011.

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 Symbiotic Coupling Of Wind Power And Nuclear Power Generation Finally someone serious about merging green power, renewable but intermittent Wind and greenhouse free baseload effective nuclear.

I’ve copied the abstract from the peer reviewed Proceedings of the 1st International Nuclear and Renewable Energy Conference (INREC10), Amman, Jordan, March 21-24, 2010. The paper by Kate Rogers and Magdi Ragheb from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A bit of disclosure, I got my Ph. D. in Organic Chemistry for the U of I at Urbana.

Why?  It has always perplexed me why so little has been published about use of coupled technologies (e.g., nuclear and wind or solar; and perhaps geothermal and wind power) in trying to get cost effective and function solutions to our energy needs while minimalizing direct worsening greenhouse gas releases? The life cycle releases still remain since you must mine-smelt-manufacture the facility, deal with land use footprint and water issues. However these environmental costs are a small portion of the pollution costs of facility based on transporting and burning hydrocarbons for 20-40 years. Okay, here’s the abstract. Check out the whole article…as Arthur Stanton Eric “Arte” Johnson would say on Laugh in, ’it’s verrry interesting.

The coupling of wind power production as an intermittent supply to nuclear power generation as a base load supply is discussed. Wind turbines on a standby operational mode are net importers of power for their control and yaw mechanisms. They need a supply of about 5 kW of power from an existing grid. They also require the vicinity of a power grid with excess capacity to export their generated power. A choice is the construction of wind farms in the immediate vicinity low population density population zones around nuclear power plants.

An example, used by the authors, is the Grand Ridge wind farm adjacent to the LaSalle nuclear power plant near Versailles, Illinois. Since the best wind resources in the USA are located far from the industrial and population centers there is a need for connection to the grid trough High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC). Due to ramping considerations, the planned introduction of 20 percent of electrical wind production in the USA by 2020 would pose challenging grid stability issues. Energy storage alternatives such as hydrogen production, compressed air, flywheels, superconducting magnets and pumped storage, need serious consideration. Doc agrees as long as the results are integrated into life-cycle system operations consideration… To misquote John Donne — no widget is an island!

Another related and more current reference

Hybrid Power Plants: Could They Bank Roll Nuclear Power? Nuclear Insider, 19 May 2011

http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/industry-insight/hybrid-power-plants-could-they-bank-roll-nuclear-power?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=nuc&utm_campaign=1905

Except casually, I’ve not searched this particular mother lode of greening information so any feedback from readers would be welcome.  Doc.

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 Nuclear Efficiency — With new fuel formulations, reactors could extract more energy, and reduce hazardous waste

When it comes to nuclear energy, the world is not exactly an early adopter of new technology: The vast majority of nuclear reactors running today falls into the so-called Generation II category and uses technology from the 1970s. Generation III reactors—the ones being built now or in the near future—are fundamentally based on the same water-cooled design, with improvements in safety, reliability, and efficiency.

It is in the development of Generation IV reactors—the ones that will start up around 2030—that nuclear energy will see a significant change in technology. The six models put forth by the Generation IV International Forum, chartered in 2001 to carry out nuclear energy research and development, aspire not only to be even safer and more reliable than previous generations, but also to get a greater return from the energy source—by extracting up to 90% of the available energy in their fuels instead of the 5% more typical of today’s reactors. In some cases, the reactors will use reprocessed or recycled waste fuel from other reactors. The fuels may also incorporate some of the longest lasting radioisotopes from waste fuel, including americium, curium, and neptunium, thereby turning these radiotoxic isotopes into less hazardous materials while providing a little extra energy in the process. To reach those goals, and especially to reach them safely, nuclear scientists are working to develop and evaluate new fuel formulations and materials.

Current reactors use either uranium dioxide or a mix of uranium dioxide and plutonium dioxide. The fuel powder is pressed into pellets that are about 1 cm in diameter. The pellets are then inserted into thin tubes to form rods. The tube material, known as cladding, is considered an integral part of the fuel. In traditional reactors, the cladding is a zirconium alloy.  After the rods are sealed, they are assembled into bundles of dozens to hundreds of rods; several hundred of the bundles make up the core of a reactor.

Jyllian N. Kemsley goes on to discuss, in a well-written and clearly illustrated fashion, the Generation IV reactors and how they will and can achieve bowered costs, safer operation and minimal need to dispose of high-level long lived radioactive waste. What I drew me to this article was the realization that outside of the US, that future is becoming now!

Article by Jyllian N. Kemsley, originally published in the ACS’ Science & Technology Magazine, September 13, 2010.

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 Is the Coal Killer Flying Thousands of Feet Up in the Sky? — A new meaning to go fly a self powered kite.

JoeBen Bevirt is building an inventive, flying turbine in a bold bid to make wind power practical. Bonny Doon, California is hardly the place one thinks of visiting for high-tech thrills. Once an old logging camp, the tiny hamlet northwest of Santa Cruz, California, sits at the end of a country road, past miles of empty beaches and strawberry farms. Hang a left before you reach the vineyard and you find a short dirt track leading to a barn. And then, amid hundreds of acres of redwoods out back, you encounter an avatar of the future—a whirring black gizmo, about the size of a bread box, zipping around overhead. The strange flying object is controlled remotely by a cluster of giggling engineers. Their leader, a tall man with the build of a gazelle, windswept blond hair, and a permanent grin, starts extolling the possibilities of his device before he remembers to introduce himself.

To inventor JoeBen Bevirt, the flying black box holds our clean-energy future, a world in which wind turbines lift off the ground and fly among the clouds. His company, Joby Energy, designs these turbines from scratch. “In order to have truly sustainable energy, we’ve got to beat coal,” he says. “We are going to need game-changing technology. I believe that technology is high-altitude wind.”

In concept his idea makes sense: Wind power from the sky would strip turbines of their expensive, heavy towers and oversize blades, allowing them to collect energy unobtrusively from the richest lode of wind in the world. Winds at an altitude of 30,000 feet carry 20 times as much energy as those near the ground, representing a source of power that could be a fraction of the cost of coal. The challenge, observers say, is keeping such turbines aloft. ——— Enjoy, read the rest of the article summary-The full version is, alas, available only to subscribers like me.

By Erik Vance; photography by Sean Fenn In Discover Magazine, February 8, 2011.

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 IAEA Fujushima Dalichi Fact Finding Mission Summary and Initial Findings_ A reference masquerading as a topic. I will deal with this topic in March of 2012, when most of the sound and fury has died down, and the facts have been collected, subject to peer review and published.  Meanwhile, we likely be watching the field days being enjoyed both by the anti-nuclear greens and the folks at big oil-coal and gas who profit as the earth appears to warm. From their perspective the only significant competitor, in the absence of a carbon tax, of CO2 and other green house gas free energy is being politically assaulted. No the nuclear renaissance is not dead, some government’s believe both killing their people with smog, and supporting the onward going warming is wrong.

I’ve been wondering whether the European Union, and perhaps the UK and Japan might impose a Value Added Tax [VAT] on product produced with electricity generated by pollution based plants. How? It’s naively simple. The VAT should be the ratio of ‘clean to polluting energy generated within the exporting country, other than transportation related. I know it’s in constraint of trade, but so are likely rising sea levels and the drowning of our port cities.

IAEA International Fact Finding Expert Mission Of The Nuclear Accident Following The Great East Japan Earthquake And Tsunami  Tokyo, Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP, Fukushima Dai-ni NPP and  Tokai NPP, Japan   24 May- 1 June 2011     Preliminary Summary

IAEA Fact-Finding Team Completes Visit to Japan (1 June 2011) – Preliminary Assessment

IAEA links to the Japanese Reactor Accidents and their Aftermath.

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Endnotes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits:  — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

 

In Closing

Readers please read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes before flaming me… I show and tell my beliefs and paradigm at:

https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s). … And yes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!       Doc.

QUOTE de Mois — A Richard Feynman Cornucopia

  • The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.  I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.
  • For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
  • Scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man’s struggle for good and evil seems inadequate.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

I am again this week taking advantage of the harvest of clippings I gathered during March and April while I was tied up with other work and family matters. Do remember, yes I trust Wikipedia as a secondary source of information, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!

You may wonder why there are a number, larger then usual in a non-nuclear specific article, of nuclear related items below? It my reaction to the media and the public’s Shakespearian overreaction to the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami tragedy, which far out weights that from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident.

What you ask?         It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5.)

Enjoy!

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • Biofuels Aren’t Really Green N Cultivate inorganic energy sources instead of biofuels
  • Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water
  • Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech?  — A New York Times Debate Feature
  • The Hybrid Electric Car Victory – or at least its seemingly positive progress.
  • Small and Medium Reactors (SMRs) — The cases for and against
  • Assumptions for Land Needed by Wind and Solar — An Analysis
  • Stories vs. Statistics — A reality check

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Biofuels Aren’t Really Green

Cultivate inorganic energy sources instead of biofuels

Interesting, although several a older studies have been published in peer reviewed sources, they appear to have been ignored by politico’s and silver bullet seeking subsidy hunters. Un-green biofuels also  goes against the current governmental biofuel creation goals and subsidy trends.

Has any done a recent updated system study on the effect of all variables on the issue of biofuel potential? The best of what I’ve googled focuses primarily on the transportation sector. Not often, and only weakly is there consideration given to its use for generating electrical power generation in which biofuel would replace, coal, natural gas and perhaps grid linked efficient solar or wind power.

Sustainable, green, renewable, organic—the words come up so often in energy and climate debates that they tend to sound as if they mean the same thing. But of course they don’t. Nuclear reactors emit no carbon and are therefore in a sense green, but uranium is nonrenewable; hydropower is green and renewable but may not always be sustainable, because the ecological consequences can be bad and reservoirs are not limitless; coal is organic, but its carbon emissions make it the very opposite of green. All that is obvious enough. But even so, it may be jarring to hear—as the authors have found and will describe — organic biofuels can’t possibly fuel a growing world economy in a sustainable manner, whereas, in principle, inorganic fuels could.

That inorganic might beat organic contradicts fashionable prejudice, which like all fashion changes with the season. Take the case of the United States: First came the enthusiasm for corn ethanol, its extravagant subsidization, and a farm-industrial miniboom. Then, when corn’s limits started to become better known and its costs more glaringly obvious, we started to hear about the promise of switch grass, a native species of the North American prairie that promises high energy-conversion efficiencies.

All of this knowledge ignored, in parallel to our scientifically trained American legislators allowing and by implication promoting the increased of corn based ethanol. To 15% in gasoline, despite marginal or perhaps negative fuel efficiencies, known engine corrosion problems and the shortage of corn for food world-wide. To mix metaphor, these folks really know which side of their bread is buttered. It’s a shame that there is no legal way to shame them and their staff, as well as the industry lobbyist into using the 15% adulterated fuel for six months to a year.

President George W. Bush first mentioned it in a 2006 speech to the nation. Before long, Al Gore was chiming in too, promising that with adequate government support for research, grass-based fuels could free us from the dual specters of energy shortage and runaway climate change.

In Germany rapeseed has been all the rage; in India, jatropha; and in Brazil, sugarcane ethanol. Yet the plain fact is that nobody really knows when or whether organic fuels will be competitive with hydrocarbon based fuels (gasoline and or natural gas, except under unique circumstance such as hold in Brazil.  Engineering breakthroughs, by their nature, are unpredictable—that’s what makes them exciting. So to evaluate whether organic fuels could ever be in a position to power the world, we looked at them purely in terms of physical resource availability, assuming that the costs would eventually become competitive. We asked how much land and water would be needed to make the quantities of biofuel that a prosperous world would need. We also asked whether there were other sources of fuel and energy that might put less strain on resources while adding less greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.

To our own surprise, the authors note, the model we constructed showed that there is simply not enough land and water to support a prosperous biofueled world. At the same time, it suggested that inorganic sources, such as photovoltaic cells, could in principle do the job. There’s the rub… the words in principle.

There’s much more so read on — make up your own mind, but remember that the 2009 premises input to the authors’ model was already outdated when published. There is, as you all know no thing as constant as change itself. Also check out the last topic in this blog called “statistics and stories. (Doc.)

Article by Deepak Divan and Frank Kreikebaum, IEEE Spectrum November 2009.

See Also:

Biofuel from Wikipedia, 2011

Sustainable (Green) Energy from Wikipedia

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Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water

I’ve combined inputs from two of Rod Adam’s articles to give you a taste of his ideas on nuclear energy related issues. They include his views on nuclear related costs issues and other red flags. I am in total agreement with Rod’s thesis and logic, based on independent reading. No I’m not an economist, venture capitalist, or investment broker, but I am a pretty good systems engineer. Since I’m on a Shakespeare kick, Rod’s articles are as much about “much ado about nothing: but neither does it credit the impossible dream as American nuclear  naysayer preach.

Guys-Gals, France, China, Russia and India are not going either broke by supporting nuclear. Neither will Japan, after they slowly recover from the earthquake-tsunami. Owing ones soul to either the company store or to the international oil magnates is not my version of the American dream. Is it yours?

Why Select Rod’s Articles! — First, he writes for what Steve Jobs would call the rest of us. Experience wise, he is a pro-nuclear advocate with extensive small nuclear plant operating experience and a former engineer officer, USS Von Steuben. He is also the host and producer of The Atomic Show Podcast. Adams and is a frequent contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.  …Mostly, although I’ve looked, I’ve not found any errors in the logic behind his analysis or the validity of his sources.

For the majority of human history, people used their own muscles to provide almost all of the work required for survival and development. A thin slice of humanity achieved a moderate amount of personal comfort and leisure because they were able, often through an accident of birth, to control a portion of the daily work output of hundreds to thousands of their fellow humans. The only sources of work—in the engineering sense—that were not either human or animal muscle came from capturing falling water or intermittently by capturing the breezes through devices like cloth sails or wind mills.

Humans understood fire. They used it to keep warm, to process their food, to produce some implements from metal, and as a weapon of destruction. It was not, however, until inventive people with names like Savery, Newcomen, and Watt started to work out ways of using the hot gas produced when fire boiled water that humans learned how to become masters of the earth’s vast store of combustible materials.

The seemingly simple act of boiling water provided humans the means necessary to gradually invent and manufacture their way out of a life of drudgery. Steam power was the key; H2O had always been important for people, but when they learned to pump it as a liquid, heat it into a pressurized gas, and condense it back down into a liquid, H2O became he vital working fluid that could turn heat into work and force machines to become the drudges in service of human beings. It is not an exaggeration to note that without the act of boiling water to create and use steam, getting rid of serfdom and slavery would have been virtually impossible.

I would bet that most of the people who nod their heads at that phrase have never had to cut and carry enough wood to boil a large pot of water, say for doing a week’s laundry. I am sure that few have ever spent much time watching a coal conveyor steadily feed a large boiler that is producing some of the electricity that feeds the electrical sockets and stoves in their homes. Boiling water is not only important, but it is not as simple as it may seem. It generally requires the consumption of a vast quantity of increasingly expensive materials and it requires a tacit {implied} agreement on the part of everyone in the area of the fire to accept their share of the waste products that are spread far and wide from every fire.

The exception to that general rule is the water that gets boiled by the heat released from atomic fission. Once the work of the talented engineers and builders is complete, operating a fission-heated boiler is a rather simple task. The task is not made simple by sets of complex automation or hard working pumps and conveyors; it is enabled by physics. Once a moderate amount of fuel is loaded into a nuclear reactor, it will reliably and simply produce heat for somewhere between 18 months and 33 years (the later for a Virginia class nuclear submarine) with relatively little additional effort.

There’s a tad more to this historic tale — click the first reference…

Rod concludes the fact is that nuclear energy is a cheap, clean, and even simple way to perform the vital act of boiling water

To get a taste of the economic issues, that red flag nuclear, check out the second link. Rod makes a lie out of many of ways the most virulent anti-nuclear activists have begun focusing almost exclusively on spreading the assumption that nuclear energy means expensive energy. They have been helped in this effort by statements from the established nuclear industry that claim that new plants are so expensive that they require government assistance and incentives in order to get them financed and built.

The fundamental aspect of nuclear energy that the rest of us need to understand is that fission heat is actually quite cheap. The average total production cost from a US nuclear power plant today is just 1.86 cents per kilowatt-hour. That total is normally broken into two pieces – fuel costs and non-fuel Operations and Maintenance costs. For 2008, nuclear plant owners in the US spent an average of just 0.49 cents per kilowatt-hour for fuel and 1.37 cents per kilowatt-hour for non-fuel operations & maintenance. Data from the Nuclear Energy Institute is provided in Rod’s article that describes what is included in those numbers.

Also enjoy the outdated, but still qualitatively appropriate data on US Government and State energy subsidies — =talk about picking favorite or free market distortions.

Okay enough said so just click through. Also relevant, but not part of this articles are the lowered costs when consider either small nuclear power plant (batteries) and modular reactors such as those being designed by Babcock & Wilcox Company for near future licensing.

Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water. Posted on February 1, 2011 by Rod Adams in the ANS nuclear cafe Blog.

Nuclear Energy Is Cheap and Disruptive – Controlling the Initial Cost of Nuclear Power Plants is a Solvable Problem. Posted February 6, 2010 by Rod Adams for the Energy Collective.

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Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech?

— A New York Times Debate Feature

When reading this article or the ones I referenced, I wonder whether this competition stuff is a smokescreen. Does it really matter who the ever changing statistics is number one. By all estimates the projected markets are so huge that they can’t likely be monopolized. (Green tech, please note is different from controlling a narrow commodity such as rare earth elements (of recent headline fame) or OPEC and petroleum supplies. America is known for its inventiveness, creativity and ‘venturous’ spirit. However that does not mean that we don’t  need to re-assert, despite the risks, our ability to get our competitive manufacturing up to snuff; or we’re back to hind teat.

After all the jobs and profits go to those who manufacture, not the inventors. That why jobs are exported to the lowest cost technically savvy  ‘competent’ producer – iPad’s from China and flat screen TV’s from Japan and South Korea, with some of manufacturing in part outsourced to China. In addition everything I read, that is based on peer reviewed hard science is that small business do not have the ability to create more than a few jobs, it’s all about mega manufacturing, in America, that creates jobs and raises living standards — more of that in a future article.

The Obama administration has sought to promote green technology as a growth engine in the U.S. But even with some government support, new firms have a hard time competing with foreign producers. The U.S. currently accounts for just $1.6 billion of the world’s $29 billion market for solar panels, with China, using aggressive policies, to become the dominant maker of equipment like solar panels and wind turbines. Congress was so concerned about unfair trade practices harming American manufacturers that it recently approved a provision to require the Pentagon to buy only American-made solar panels. Anyone for a trade war?

What are the obstacles for American companies trying to win global markets in clean energy industries? Read the NYT discussion. Can green industries take off in the U.S. and compete globally? What might stand in the way? The topics discussed in the NT sponsored debate and Op-Ed include:

Pitfalls in Public Policies— Robert N. Stavins, Harvard UniversityWe Need a Manufacturing Agenda — Joan Fitzgerald, Northeastern University

Ways to Recapture the Lead — Robert E. Scott, Economic Policy Institute

How We Gain From China’s Advances  — Matthew Kahn, UCLA. Institute of the Environment

Government Should Be a CatalystVan Jones, author, “The Green Collar Economy”

Our Comparative Advantage — Frank A. Wolak, Stanford University

Understanding the ObjectiveDavid Roberts, Grist.org

 

 

See Also:

Welcoming The Competition, Like It Or Not, The Economist, June 10th 2010

Senator Harry Reid: US Must Compete With China To Lead On Energy By Matthew Daly, Associated Press Posted Wed Apr 27, 2011.

Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech? –We Need a Manufacturing Agenda, Posted on 19 January 2011 by Sara Haimowitz. For the ‘Trade Reform’ Blog.

US Must Cut $100 Billion from Defense to Compete with China on Clean Energy: Expert, by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York  on January.12, 2011 for the Tree Hugger Blog11.

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The Hybrid Electric Car Victoryor at least its seemingly positive progress.

Calcars.org founder Felix Kramer tells the plug-in hybrid story in this re-post.  For background, see “Plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solution.”

The details:

(1) On the evolution of the hybrid electric car, and perhaps an all electric car.

(2) The lessons learned during their development by their major manufacturers and the

(3) Challenges ahead for this energy saving-petrochemical use reducing transportation alternative.

…All are described in an article entitled “The Hybrid Electric Car Victory” for the Energy Collective by Joseph Romm, Posted December 22, 2010.

Romm, as an early pioneer and advocate for hybrid cars, Romm’s narrative is folksy, anecdotal and easy to read — tune in you enjoy the doing so.

…And while I’m at it my next <used> car is a 5-7 year old Toyota Prius – Consumer Reports tested a 2002 (nine year old model) with 206,000 miles on the odometer and found minimal if any degradation of its operating systems including the battery. Alas, there hasn’t been a used Prius for sale in the used automobile advertisements for the last 6-9 months.

 

More Reading

Hybrid Vehicles, …And… Hybrid Electric Vehicles, In Wikipedia 2011.

How Hybrid Cars Work, by Karim Nice and Julia Layton in How Stuff Works. 2011.

Hybrid Vehicle, The Next Step In The Evolution of the Automobile! By Kjartan Bergsson, Blog Editor

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Small and Medium Reactors  — The cases for and against

Challenges in getting large nuclear projects off the ground seems to have renewed interest in small modular reactors. But not everyone is convinced there is a market for smaller plants. Can the SMR developers play ball with the big boys of nuclear?

This year the nuclear energy industry is thinking small, or at least a segment of it is. Everyone from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Nuclear Energy Insider is staging an event or carrying out a study into small modular reactors (SMRs), while manufacturers are gearing up new product designs.

Is the hype justified? It depends who you ask.

SMRs (the acronym also stands for small and medium reactors, defined by the IAEA as having ratings of under 300MW and up to 700MW, respectively) have been around for a long time and have not exactly shown great commercial promise throughout their existence.

The article discusses a variety of efforts ranging from the failed pebble bed SMR to the ongoing active international approaches in a race that appears to be running almost neck-to-neck relative to technology alternatives. The one thing these designs have in common is the concept of using a small sized 50-100 MW nuclear battery maintenance free unit that is installed underground, used for it’s lifetime, retrieved and recycled by it’s manufacturer. No extra external cooling systems, earthquake proof to NRC or IAEA standards, no refueling, no active safety systems… it’s just a battery. The image is the Hyperon Reactor concept.

Take the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor originally planned in South Africa by the company of the same name, in association with African electrical giant Eskom. After six years of development the project was shelved last September, allegedly due to a lack of customers and investors. Poor management and planning, or the world economic downturn?

On the pro side, However, Steve Kidd (deputy director general of the World Nuclear Association) acknowledges that it is probably current energy generation economics that is driving current interest in SMRs: “You don’t need such a large dollop of front end capital to get a programme underway,” he accepts.

Adrian Heymer, executive director of strategic programs at the USA’s Nuclear Energy Institute, adds: “Interest is being driven in part by smaller utilities looking at different types of energy generation and which cannot afford a large nuclear plant. “If you add capacity in 50 MW to 300MW increments it’s easier on the planning. You can bring the units on in stages, so you are still getting 600MW to 700MW in a 10 to 15-year period but you can finance it as you go forward.”

Another advantage of an SMR design, Adrian says, is that because most of the components can be shipped ready-built from the manufacturer, “it doesn’t take as long to build. You can assemble most of the plant in a factory.”

According to Jay Harris, an independent consultant, a further reason why some utilities might be keen on SMRs is because they provide greater base load flexibility as intermittent renewable energy sources are increasingly integrated into the grid.

The danger for a utility that is bound by regulation to accept renewable energy is that if most of its base load comes from a single nuclear source then a peak in renewables could mean a portion of the base is no longer profitable, and there may be further costs if the plant has to shut.

There lot’s more here to tweak your interest, and while you’re reading check out the supplementary references. Of particular interest are the enhanced safety features, and life cycle, including low construction costs and minimal maintainability, advantages. These are in essence small On the negative side, a terrorists may chose to fly a large helicopter with a sky hook and lift it top drop it where it will ‘scare people’.

It’s Just a BIG Battery

ThreeMmodules in the  B&W Concept

Note that what I report in this topical is not the modular reactor concept, which will be the source of another future article. Modular reactor are large scale reactors which can be built and centrally operated using some installed prefabricated modules to fit power needs, but closely resemble the newer generation of standard nuclear power plants. These are being explored as a means of lowering up front capital costs without a need to significantly change the licensing requirements and regulatory approval process

Nuclear Energy Industry Insight, by Jason Deign, February 9, 2011.

More Reading

Small Modular Reactors.           …And…         List Of Small Nuclear Reactor Designs. Wikipedia 2011.

Small Nuclear Power Reactors. World Nuclear Association, April 2011

Are Small Nuclear Reactors Safer? The Celsias (climate) Blog, by Timothy B. Hurst

Interim Report Of The American Nuclear Society President’s Special Committee On Small And Medium Sized Reactor (SMR) Generic Licensing Issues, July 2010.

The economy of small: how SMRs have captured the imagination of US policy makers and industry leaders. By Jack Craze, October 18, 2010, for the Nuclear Energy Insider.

Small Nuclear Reactors Are Becoming Big Business – The race is on to develop refrigerator-size reactors that could power small towns or plants. Published in Bloomberg Businessweek, By Jeremy van Loon and Alex Morales, May 20, 2010.

PR-CANADA.net – IEER/PSR: ‘Small Modular Reactors’ No Panacea for What Ails Nuclear Power (An alternate View), by Arjun Makhijani of the anti-nuclear IEER, Posted October 1, 2010.            …And…         Small Modular Reactors – No Solution for the Cost, Safety, and Waste Problems of Nuclear Power. Fact Sheet by Arjun Makhijani And Michele Boyd for the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research [IEER], September 2010.

The Gates Path to an Energy Revolution By Andrew C. Revkin, August 24, 2010 for The New York Times

Bill Gates and Toshiba building commercial mini nuclear reactors. By Leslie Shapiro for the DEVICE Blog, Mar 23, 2010.

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Assumptions for Land Needed by Wind and Solar — An Analysis

Abstracted from Martin LaMonica‘s CNET article::

Imagine if your country had an unlimited budget but a limited amount of land: what renewable energy has the most potential? Rutgers University professor Clinton Andrews and colleagues ran the numbers on this thought experiment and came up with some surprises.

The authors identified clear limits on some technologies, notably biofuels, but concluded that the bigger challenges to renewable energy and land relate to siting energy facilities, particularly transmission lines. Andrews presented an early version of the paper at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy conference. The goal of the analysis and others like it is to size up the land requirements for different renewable-energy sources which in many cases require more land than fossil fuels and nuclear power. As the U.S. and other countries seek to ramp up renewable-energy production, land use is becoming a more contentious issue. Already plans to build large-scale solar plants and wind farms in the U.S. have been opposed for aesthetic and environmental reasons.

Even for distributed energy sources, such as rooftop panels, permitting and siting issues stand to loom large because upgrades to the electricity grid are needed, the study found. “It’s not so much the land that we need for producing the energy. It’s how we move to where we want to use it,” according to the analysis that Andrews presented.

Professor Andrews goes on to discuss land use associated with

  • The small land needs for Geothermal and concentrating solar thermal production.
  • Alas, the largest energy associated land hog is biofuels, particularly biodiesel.

There’s more so click though and get the rest of the story. I wish that the reporter who shared Professor Andrew’s work had more directly included coal, natural gas and nuclear in the CNET analysis, but that seemed beyond the scope of the reporter interests. Never the less from the material provided in other references I checked in passing, the land use patterns are very clear. The image is from a 2011 C&EN article.

Remember that land use is only one of the trade-offs needing to be considered while planning our hopefully independent energy future and controlling climate change. The obvious cost of the energy produced, when off set by some sort of charge for pollution needs to be considered. Unfortunately the bureaucrats and industrialists of the world seem to be blind-siding this issue, creating a false balance sheet of costs for energy alternative. “Gaia doesn’t care, the laws of nature will take their coursed whether we believe them or not.

A perhaps more scholarly study, the second reference further highlights energy production  land use issues:

Concern over climate change has led the U.S. to consider a cap-and-trade system to regulate emissions. In the referenced articles we illustrate the land-use impact to U.S. habitat types of new energy development resulting from different U.S. energy policies. The authors estimated the total new land area needed by 2030 to produce energy, under current law and under various cap-and-trade policies, and then partitioned the area impacted among habitat types with geospatial data on the feasibility of production.

The land-use intensity of different energy production techniques varies over three orders of magnitude, from 1.9–2.8 km2/TW hr/yr for nuclear power to 788–1000 km2/TW hr/yr for biodiesel from soy. In all scenarios, temperate deciduous forests and temperate grasslands will be most impacted by future energy development, although the magnitude of impact by wind, biomass, and coal to different habitat types is policy-specific.

Regardless of the existence or structure of a cap-and-trade bill, at least 206,000 km2 will be impacted without substantial increases in energy efficiency, which saves at least 7.6 km2 per TW hr of electricity conserved annually and 27.5 km2 per TW/hr of liquid fuels conserved annually.

Climate policy that reduces carbon dioxide emissions may increase the areal impact of energy, although the magnitude of this potential side effect may be substantially mitigated by increases in energy efficiency. The possibility of widespread energy sprawl increases the need for energy conservation, appropriate siting, sustainable production practices, and compensatory mitigation offsets.

Caveat Lector:  I could not Google a copy of the original Rutgers Study by Professor Clinton Andrews, so can not attest to the underlying technical detains in the original article. All posted information was a variation of the LaMonica CNET report

Figuring land use into renewable-energy equation. Reported n the Green Tech Blog

By Martin LaMonica, May 29, 2010.

Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America. The Plosone Blog, by Robert I. McDonald, Joseph Fargione, Joe Kiesecker3 William M. Miller, and Jimmie Powell; August 2009.

Nuclear Energy: The Antidote to Energy Sprawl, Nuclear Energy Insight, Nuclear Energy Institute, September 2010.

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Stories vs. StatisticsA reality check

Years ago I took a graduate school course, at the University of Denver from my favorite faculty friend and colleague Dr. Albert Ritter. The course combined an introduction to the principals of symbolic logic, dipped into the basis of the scientific method and added what appeared to be a segment on ‘how to lie with statistics.” Although I would not have passed the course being simultaneously being overwhelmed with life’s realities. I was simultaneously teaching, developing an organic chemistry Ph. D. curriculum, chasing funding and then building myself a research laboratory, and enjoying a new marriage. Non-the less, the course changed my approach to what I read and how I approached scientific life!   

Many year later, a book “Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists”, by Joel Best, University of California Press; 1 edition (May 8, 2001) added another nail to my sense of disbelief of ‘public’ infomercials’ on the numerics and cherry-pickled statistics provided by talking heads what ever their titles or positions.

 

Therefor the following NY Times article touched on a nerve, always, especially after elections or congressional debates, raw and bleeding.

 

Half a century ago the British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow bemoaned the estrangement of what he termed the “two cultures” in modern society — the literary and the scientific. These days, there is some reason to celebrate better communication between these domains, if only because of the increasingly visible salience of scientific ideas. Still a gap remains, and so I’d like here to take an oblique look at a few lesser known contrasts and divisions between subdomains of the two cultures, specifically, those between stories and statistics.

Dr. Paulos begins by noting that the notions of probability and statistics are not alien to storytelling. From the earliest of recorded histories there were glimmerings of these concepts, which were reflected in everyday words and stories. Consider the notions of central tendency — average, median, mode, to name a few.

They most certainly grew out of workaday activities and led to words such as (in English) “usual,” “typical.” “customary,” “most,” “standard,” “expected,” “normal,” “ordinary,” “medium,” “commonplace,” “so-so,” and so on.

The same is true about the notions of statistical variation — standard deviation, variance, and the like. Words such as “unusual,” “peculiar,” “strange,” “original,” “extreme,” “special,” “unlike,” “deviant,” “dissimilar” and “different” come to mind.

It is hard to imagine even prehistoric humans not possessing some sort of rudimentary idea of the typical or of the unusual. Any situation or entity — storms, animals, and rock patterns — that recurred again and again would, it seems, lead naturally to these notions. These and other fundamentally scientific concepts have in one way or another been embedded in the very idea of what a story is — an event distinctive enough to merit retelling — from cave paintings to “Gilgamesh” to “The Canterbury Tales,” onward.

The idea of probability itself is present in such words as “chance,” “likelihood,” “fate,” “odds,” “gods,” “fortune,” “luck,” “happenstance,” “random,” and many others. A mere acceptance of the idea of alternative possibilities almost entails some notion of probability, since some alternatives will be come to be judged more likely than others.

Likewise, the idea of sampling is implicit in words like “instance,” “case,” “example,” “cross-section,” “specimen” and “swatch,” and that of correlation is reflected in “connection,” “relation,” “linkage,” “conjunction,” “dependence” and the ever too ready “cause.”

Even (science based) hypothesis testing and Bayesian analysis possess linguistic echoes in common phrases and ideas that are an integral part of human cognition and storytelling. … Despite the naturalness of these notions, however, there is a tension between stories and statistics. One under-appreciated contrast between them is simply the mindset with which we approach them. In listening to stories we tend to suspend disbelief in order to be entertained. Whereas, in evaluating statistics we generally have an opposite inclination to suspend belief in order not to be beguiled.

A drily named distinction from formal statistics is relevant: we’re said to commit a Type I error when we observe something that is not really there and a Type II error when we fail to observe something that is there. There is no way to always avoid both types, and we have different error thresholds in different endeavors, but the type of error people feel more comfortable may be telling. It gives some indication of their intellectual personality type; on which side of the two cultures (or maybe two cultures) divide they’re most comfortable. Check Wikipedia,

Okay, that’s right; if the author’s thesis catches your fancy read on… after all there are both philosopher kings and philosophical scientists, although Plato did not distinguish between them.

Article by John Allen Paulos, in the New York Times Opinionator Column, October 24, 2010.

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Endnotes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits:  — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

Readers please read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).          Doc!

QUOTES de Mois —

  • The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
  • For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
  • It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.  Richard P. Feynman

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Sources of ‘BIAS-Neutral” Information on the Japanese Reactors at Fukushima Daiichi and DaniIt’s time to get away from the headlines and nucleophobic hysteria and look at long and short term realities; both good and bad and the ugly!

Introduction

Since the first announcement on March 11, 2011, I have read dozens if not hundreds of posted articles on the Internet. Some, from relative deep thinking organizations such as the IAEA, World Nuclear Forum, International Health Physics Societies [HPS’], NEA and the NRC. Other articles I’ve studied from seemingly responsible sources acting in a state of shock, and disarray, including parts of the Japanese governmental and industrial infrastructure has also troubled me.

In addition, alas there was/is an overwhelming amount of talking head information coming (print media headlines, blog tirades, TV dialogues.) The accident also enhanced profiles and enriched the purses of professional rumormongers, lobbyists, sales hungry media outlets and those who delight in nuclear bashing.

Alas, all the while the American public seems to be awaiting a miracle to cleanup our air, water and earth before it kills them and their children and children’s-children.

My purpose in this article, it to provide you a easily to follow factual summary events and accessible references that you can read about the Fukushima Daiichi and Dani accident for your selves. I have never been comfortable with these either crying wolf or chicken little.

Don’t Confuse Me With Verifiable Facts; I’m a true believer — Furthermore I do not aim to either cast aspersions on the motives and weakness of the many directly or indirectly involved, nor to grandstand for or against nuclear energy. As readers of my blog and books, you already know my views on that subject and cheerleading specifically on nucleophobia, vested interests, or the gullibility or human frailly will not change my views – demonstrated, reproducible and peer reviewed facts I hope, can.

Neither is it my task to point out the poor quality of science education or education in general that makes curing the earth and our nations ills, difficult, and moves us even closer to replacing the BRICKS as 3rd word nations. It’s economics and hard fiscal realities, not politics and beliefs! Finally, when I close this Op-Ed make some personal observations based on my somewhat compulsive reading of science, technology and the role of politics and bureaucracy play in advancing human error.

We of course as one of the worlds most highly armed nuclear weapons state, in using a Nuclear Winter approach to solving hunger, global worming, water pollution, desertification, species die-out, and the other ailments we have in part inflicted on Mother Gaia. Seems to be a Hobbesian choice – wise up or bow out! Let G-D create someone else in his own image.

Background [From Wikipedia]

The Fukushima I nuclear accidents [Fukushima Dai-ichi (pronunciation) genshiryoku hatsudensho jiko)] are a series of ongoing equipment failures and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, following the 9.0 magnitude Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.

The plant comprises six separate boiling water reactors maintained by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). This accident is the largest of the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents arising from the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and experts consider it to be the second largest nuclear accident after the Chernobyl disaster, but more complex as all reactors are involved.

At the time of the quake, reactor 4 had been de-fueled while 5 and 6 were in cold shutdown for planned maintenance. The remaining reactors shut down automatically after the earthquake, with emergency generators starting up to run the control electronics and water pumps needed to cool reactors. The plant was protected by a seawall designed to withstand a 5.7 m (19 ft.) tsunami but not the 14 m (46 ft.) maximum wave, which arrived 41–60 minutes after the earthquake. The entire plant was flooded, including low-lying generators and electrical switchgear in reactor basements and external pumps for supplying cooling seawater. The connection to the electrical grid was broken. All power for cooling was lost and reactors started to overheat, due to natural decay of the fission products created before shutdown. The flooding and earthquake damage hindered external assistance.

Evidence soon arose of partial core meltdown in reactors 1, 2, and 3; hydrogen explosions destroyed the upper cladding of the buildings housing reactors 1, 3, and 4; an explosion damaged the containment inside reactor 2; 1 multiple fires broke out at reactor 4. Despite being initially shutdown, reactors 5 and 6 began to overheat. Fuel rods stored in pools in each reactor building began to overheat as water levels in the pools dropped. Fears of radiation leaks led to a 20 km (12 mi) radius evacuation around the plant while workers suffered radiation exposure and were temporarily evacuated at various times. One generator at unit 6 was restarted on 17 March allowing some cooling at units 5 and 6, which were least damaged. Grid power was restored to parts of the plant on 20 March, but machinery for reactors 1 through 4, damaged by floods, fires and explosions, remained inoperable. Flooding with radioactive water through the basements of units 1–4 continues to prevent access to carry out repairs.

Measurements taken by the Japanese science ministry and education ministry in areas of northern Japan 30–50 km from the plant showed radioactive cesium levels high enough to cause concern. Food grown in the area was banned from sale. It was suggested that worldwide measurements of iodine-131 and cesium-137 indicate that the releases from Fukushima are of the same order of magnitude as the releases of those isotopes from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986; Tokyo officials temporarily recommended that tap water should not be used to prepare food for infants. Plutonium contamination has been detected in the soil at two sites in the plant. Two workers hospitalized as a precaution on 25 March had been exposed to between 2000 and 6000 mSv of radiation at their ankles when standing in water in unit 3. Radiation levels varied widely over time and location, from well below 1 mSv/h to as high as 400 mSv/h. Normal background radiation varies from place to place but delivers a dose equivalent in the vicinity of 2.4 mSv/year, or about 0.3 µSv/h. For comparison, one chest x-ray is about 0.02 mSv and an abdominal CT scan is supposed to be less than 10 mSv (but it has been reported that some abdominal CT scans can deliver as much as 90 mSv).

Japanese officials initially assessed the accident as level 4 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) despite the views of other international agencies that it should be higher. Note that TMI only resulted in a 3 rating despite all the sound and fury.

The INES level was eventually raised successively to 5 and then the maximum 7. The Japanese government and TEPCO have been criticized for poor communication with the public and improvised cleanup efforts. Experts have said that a workforce in the hundreds or even thousands would take years or decades to clean up the area. On 20 March, the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano announced that the plant would be decommissioned once the crisis was over.

Fukushima Daiichi and Daini Nuclear Power Plants with radius of evacuation zones at 10/30/80 km (yellow circles)

Some Suggested Sources of ‘BIAS-Neutral” Information on the Japanese Reactors at Fukushima Daiichi

Humanitarian Assistance 

American Nuclear Society Japan Relief Fund – http://www.ans.org/relief

U.S. Agency for International Development – http://www.usaid.gov

U.S. State Department – http://www.state.gov

U.S. Red Cross – http://www.redcross.org

News Updates on Japan’s Nuclear Crisis

Understanding Radiation Measurements

English Language News in Japan 

References

The Fukushima Nuclear Accident, Wikipedia May 2, 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Tōhoku_earthquake_and_tsunami

2011 Tōhoku Earthquake And Tsunami, Wikipedia May 8, 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_nuclear_accident

Late News Special Section: Fukushima Daiichi (April 2011)

http://www.new.ans.org/pubs/magazines/nn/y_2011/m_4

Radiation Trends In Japan 21 March 2011, World Nuclear News

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Trends-in_radiation_in_Japan_.html

Safety of Nuclear Power Reactors, Nuclear Energy Institute, April 2011 updated with comments about the Fukushima Daiichi quake-tsunami.

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf06.html

CommunicationA Letter From ANS To President Obama Regarding Japan (Reactor) Situation

http://www.ans.org/misc/letter_to_president_obama.pdf

IAEA Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update Log(s)

http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

Radiation in Japan Seas: Risk of Animal Death, Mutation? National Geographic, 2011.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110331-japan-radiation-health-mutations-nuclear-animals-ocean-science-world/ [See my endnote]

Nuclear Energy Institute Report(s) On Japan’s Nuclear Reactors, April 6, 2011 Plus

Radiation Dispersal From Japan – Radiation Basics Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIOSH and US CDC Responses

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/radiation/RadBasics.html

http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2011/03/cdc-responds-to-earthquake-tsunami-and-radiation-release-in-japan/

The Science Behind the Disaster in Japan _ By Michal Bartlomowicz for The Phoenix

http://thephoenix.eznuz.com/article/US_World_News/US_World_News/The_Science_Behind_the_Disaster_in_Japan/23197

TEPCO in Japan (now) Plans Tsunami Wall by Agence France Presse May 2, 2011 for “Common Dreams Blog.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/05/02-3

Earthquake and Tsunamis In Japan

http://emsnews.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/31111-great-sendai-earthquake-and-tsunami-in-japan/

Doc’s End Note – National Geographic don’t seem to get it – the dose makes the poison and mankind and the world have been exposed to more cumulative natural radiation from anything ranging from volcanic vents to solar excursion, hat that we need to deal with from japan. I wonder, whether the mutations that caused mankind to appear, might have bee radiation induced? I also wonder whether mankind’s long love of natural hot spring baths (most are radioactive) was shared by our progenitors, of the ape family eons ago.

Alas if the levels of natural radiation most cause nuclear phobic folks have nightmares about were an real issue, then mankind would not have survived with the first to die out being in Ramsar, Iran; Kerala, India; Yangjiang China; or Guarapari, Brazil. On the other hand I don’t seem to hear these folks worry much about global warming, running out of water, migration of diseases from the topics to temperate climates, of polluted and likely cariogenic and mutagenic polluted groundwater loaded with chromium.

Concluding Observations

  • Despite the age of the reactors and the lack of focused protection, the effects of the accidents are so far as much smaller than predicted from modeling predictions and formal risk analysis.
  • The Japanese government and Bureaucracy, for decades, ignored peer-reviewed information on the magnitude and effects of earthquake and related tsunamis that were readily available internationally, which had been made actively available to them.
  • Nowhere in the articles I read was there evidence of ‘modern safety practices, common in France, after TMI in the US and after Chernobyl in Russia. The absence beyond lip service to concepts of avoiding single point failures, requiring redundant safety features and generally approaching al safety from a defense in depth viewpoint, remains troublesome.
  • The local as well as national government emergency response plans we woefully inadequate and untested. Not only was the responsibly for emergency response unclear and diluted, but the responses proposed were never ‘formally or rigorously tested. [Hurricane Katrina or 7/11 anyone.]
  • The Japanese nuclear associated energy industry, plagued with years of cover up if not outright lying, were ill prepared for any potentially level 5-7 INES event, despite international ‘requirements’ to do so. This despite the fact that Japan is one of the most energy resource poor countries in the world, and is dependent on nuclear generated electricity for its industrial survival. This is opposite to required practices in the US, France, and apparently with US and IAEA help, post Chernobyl Russia and soon China.
  • It is both naive and irrational to believe that the major countries in the world will give up low-carbon emitting uranium and some day soon thorium based nuclear power. Selling you national soul to oil rich robber barons and your children to slow poverty and illness by global warming is something that only risk adverse hedonistic America will get suckered into.
  • Radiation related fear is an easy thing to foster, making great news ——— It’s all about FUD! Radiation can be detected at ever-lower levels, magnitudes below the upper and lower ubiquitous ranges of natural background ration. [A NIMBY Solution – let’s turn the sun off over America and require zero radiation related material in creating our fertilizers, or supporting our health systems.
  • The human body’s immune system has developed to resist almost all harmful low dose attacks, but even a single gamma ray or alpha particle will pose a risk of cancer… fear “the big “C” word. Innate immune resistance includes low levels of the forever metals and their compounds such lead, mercury, chromium, beryllium, radiation hormesis be dammed.

We too often, only at election times, wonder why China, India, Brazil, Germany, some of the Nordic Countries soon the some in the Middle-East and other so called second/third world nations are gaining in economic clout we remain in economic limbo. Reality Check – if it were easy and painless it would have been done. For failed populist solutions check out Greece, or historically Imperial Japan or China.

As attributed to the French King Louis XV — Après Moi Le Déluge. There and elsewhere, of course it was a deluge as historic evidence supports.

I hope someone in a decision making capacity my America gets it, before grand children inherit the great American dream.” My children already suffer when trying to live it!

Doc.

Quote de Jour – Einstein, a collection on Truth and Stupidity

The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. Truth is what stands the test of experience.

The only source of knowledge is experience.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

Sidebar Notes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles cited or quoted in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledged and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

The author considers, as do many experts, Wikipedia a reliable and accessible site for technical information, provided that the reference cited in the Wikipedia article meets the following standard.

Are the references provided essentially complete or representative of the literature, and relevant? Do they include both precedent and present work, including any referenced disagreement with any of the Wiki author’s views?

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

Note, many of the technologies I share are in various stage of first, development, and are often far from being a commercial success. Their inventors and supporters still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable, Remember There Ain’t No free Lunch and silver bullets too often turn to lead.

When and if you Google them in depth, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical because there is no easy way to for them into our systems.

I always, as 75 year old cynic, find it appropriate, to step back as I read and WIIFT aggressively – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me. In addition, most have no relationship to solving the problem that is being bragged about.

I know, perhaps even truly believe, is this. For green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases) and gave out no subsidies, these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, Indian and Chinese too, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

So now back to catching up on articles collected and not yet passed on.

First, check out my Op-Ed article on the Status of the Japanese Reactors written for MHReports on 05-06-11

Sources of ‘BIAS-Neutral” Information on the Japanese Reactors at Fukushima Daiichi and DaniIt’s time to get away from the headlines and nucleophobic hysteria and look at long and short term realities; both good and bad and the ugly!

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, for the New Snippets and Topics

  • A Bleak View For Curbing CO2 — Environment: Breaking the world’s fossil-fuel addiction will be difficult at best, study suggests.
  • A Step Toward Car Fuel From Wood Waste
  • Summary of IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources
  • Food Fight: The Case for Genetically Modified Food – Genetically modified crops, receive an unjustified shellacking from environmentalists
  • A Fistful Of Dust — The true effect of windblown material is only now coming to be appreciated.
  • Ocean acidification—The other carbon-dioxide problem.
  • All Tomorrow’s Taxis

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A Bleak View For Curbing CO2

Environment: Breaking the world’s fossil-fuel addiction will be difficult at best, study suggests.

If no new CO2-emitting power plants, cars, and other energy and transportation infrastructure were built starting today, Earth might narrowly avoid the worst effects of anticipated global climate change, according to a study.

But that scenario is improbable, say Steven J. Davis of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and colleagues, who prepared the study, because the world is in no position to make the immediate transition to carbon neutral energy technologies it would require.

Davis and coworkers compiled data on power plant emissions, motor vehicle emissions, and emissions produced directly from industry, households, businesses, and transportation. They then used a climate model to project the effect of future CO2 on Earth’s climate (Science 2010, 329, 1330).

What the team found surprised them: Even if no new CO2-emitting sources were built, the world’s existing energy infrastructure would emit 500 gigatons of CO2 until current sources go out of service over the next 50 years. That amount would stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels below 430 ppm and level off the average global temperature at 1.3 °C above the preindustrial mean. The researchers had expected those figures to be above the threshold values of 450 ppm and 2 °C that climate scientists believe will trigger major climate disruption.

But there’s still a catch, Davis says. Although existing infrastructure doesn’t appear to be a threat to climate, much of future energy demand will be met by traditional CO2-emitting sources. “The devices whose emissions will cause the worst impacts have yet to be built,” he adds. It will require “truly extraordinary development” of new infrastructure and take decades to distance ourselves from CO2-emitting technologies.  “Efforts to curb emissions through regulation and international agreement haven’t worked, emissions are rising faster than ever, and programs to scale up carbon-neutral energy sources are moving slowly at best,” global environmental change expert Martin I. Hoffert of New York University says in a commentary about the study. “Davis and coworkers offer new insights into just how difficult it will be to say farewell to fossil fuels.”

By Steve Ritter, September 13, 2010, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN),

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i37/html/8837notw7.html

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A Step Toward Car Fuel From Wood Waste

Almost everybody likes the idea of cellulosic ethanol, or ethanol made from the nonfood portion of crops and from waste like wood scraps or paper. But so far nobody, in the USA, is producing bulk amounts. A federal law requires companies that produce gasoline to blend in 250 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol this year, but the Environmental Protection Agency reduced that quota to a more realistic six million gallons.

On Thursday, however, one of the many companies working toward commercial production, the Mascoma Corporation of Lebanon, NH, said it had reached an agreement with Valero, the nation’s largest independent oil refiner, under which Valero would take the entire output of a commercial plant that Mascoma was to break ground on this year in Kinross, MI. It is the first such “off-take” agreement in the industry. The company said the plant is supposed to be running by 2013. Valero will invest up to $50 million in the Kinross plant, said William J. Brady, Mascoma’s chief executive. The entire plant would cost $350 million, and not all of that is in hand yet, Mr. Brady said, but “getting the Valero investment has made the rest a lot easier.’’

Other investors in Mascoma include General Motors. The company is seeking loan guarantees from the Energy Department.

The company, which planned to use wood waste, could turn out to have the first commercial-scale plant. Mr. Brady said that three other companies could also produce ethanol from cellulose, as is being done commercially and without subsidies in Brazil, in the near future: BlueFire Ethanol, which uses grasses; POET, which is turning to cobs and other nonfood portions of the corn plant; and Abengoa, which is turning to parts of the corn plant beyond the kernel. There’s more, so click on.

By Matthew L. Wald, January 13, 2011, For The New York Times

Other Related Articles

Google Invests in a Chips-to-Biofuels Venture

Ethanol Plant Is Switching to Butanol By Matthew L. Wald

Biofuel (diesel from wood), Wikipedia, 2011.

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Summary of IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources

The summary (6 pages) of the summary (25 pages) for policy makers of renewable Energy Sources makes uneasy, jargon filled and ultimately uncomfortable reading. The questions this report addresses are important: how much electricity and other energy can be supplied by renewables? At what cost? This report (more so the full report and technical summary) will help us make sense of conflicting claims today. All policy experts agree that renewables are needed, along with other low-carbon forms of energy, but what is their potential in the coming decades?

The graphs are a little confusing; energy sources are placed on different graphs because there is so much more of some than others. Recent gains in solar are impressive—photovoltaics, solar panels are up by almost a factor of10 in 4 years, but the absolutely increase in energy pales compared to increases in other forms of renewables, from hydro to municipal solid waste, Also, information is often given in capacity, or GW—capacity tells us how much power is produced, at a maximum—rather than in GWh, total energy produced.

As was noted by Geoffrey Styles “Once I got beyond the introductory paragraphs it seemed to degenerate into jargon and bureaucratese that was very hard to parse into plain meaning. The report’s genesis as the product of pure consensus is readily apparent.” Indeed, “it doesn’t take readers much beyond what is already well established.”

No I’m neither going to further summarize the findings [e.g., a summarized summary of the summary policy report] not attempt to analyzed, in the absence of the final report share my thoughts on the accuracy and clarity of technical arguments vs political cover too often a part of such International reports provided by the approved reports authors. Needless to say in the policy maker summary level, is worth reading. There is much to discomfort one about the hopes – and economic and political realities of basing our hopes on averting the worst effects of climate change on renewable energy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new report, Special Report Renewable Energy Sources (SRREN), and the Energy Collective summery does highlight some interesting specifics that I list as bullets in the paragraph that follows.

  • The definition of Renewable Energy, a political not a technical term, depends on where you live. In the USA, nuclear energy is perceived as neither renewable but also not green.
  • Most subsidized Governmental projects, the picking of favorites, is based not on economic (e.g., life cycle cost versus green house gas reduction) but on political factors including the desire to be seen by the voters doing something even if it both wastes money and is only minimally effective. But pleasing lobbyist is also of political benefit.
  • The characteristics of different RE sources can influence the scale of the integration challenge. Some RE resources are widely distributed geographically. Others, such as large-scale hydropower, can be more centralized but have integration options constrained by geographic location. Some RE resources are variable with limited predictability. From the information available, the report policy leaves the systems integration and analysis to someone else, not even attempting to provide a framework for comparisons of alternative viability, politic aside, as a function of location.
Check out:Justifying $15 Trillion for Renewablesby Geoffrey Styles, for the Energy Collective, May 11, 2011.The Nuclear and the Renewable Energy Standard, by Jim Hopf for the Energy Collective, October 18, 2010.Nuclear, gas, and the Clean Energy Standard by Jim Hopf for the Energy Collective, January 18, 201l.

You want more, read either the shorter Energy Collective version of the policy report itself.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new report, Special Report

Renewable Energy Sources (SRREN), – A Summary for Policy Makers, by Karen Street, for The Energy Collective Site, May 12, 2011.

FD Summary Policy Makers of the IPCC not yet released Special Report Renewable Energy Sources (SRREN), _IPCC May 2011, final.

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Food Fight: The Case for Genetically Modified Food

Genetically modified crops, receive an unjustified shellacking from environmentalists.

Roger Beachy grew up in a traditional Amish family on a small farm in Ohio that produced food “in the old ways,” he says, with few insecticides, herbicides or other agrochemicals. He went on to become a renowned expert in plant viruses and sowed the world’s first genetically modified food crop—a tomato plant with a gene that conferred resistance to the devastating tomato mosaic virus. Beachy sees no irony between his rustic, low-tech boyhood and a career spent developing new types of agricultural technologies. For him, genetic manipulation of food plants is a way of helping preserve the traditions of small farms by reducing the amount of chemicals farmers have to apply to their crops. Without GM crops, He contends that farmers would need to return to older practices that would produce lower crop yields, higher prices and an increase in the use of agrochemicals inimical to health. 

In 2009 Beachy took the helm of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture where continues to advocate for a prominent place for genetic engineering of crops, which he claims provides a basis for chemical-free, sustainable agriculture that will prove more of a boon for the environment than have conventional weed and pest control. Detractors of GM foods, meanwhile, have expressed their chagrin at Beachy’s appointment. His work helped to kick-start the $11-billion global agricultural biotechnology industry

Themes included in this article include:

How did your Amish background shape your interest in agriculture?

Can technical advances in sustainable agriculture be transferred to the developing world?

Is there a one-size-fits-all strategy for fostering agricultural technology?

Were you surprised by how effective the virus-resistance gene in tomato plants was?

That effectiveness does not last forever, of course. Today we are seeing the resistance these technologies provide against pests and disease being overcome. Do you think the industry has relied too much on GM as a “silver bullet”?

Critics of the agricultural biotechnology industry complain that it has focused on providing benefits to farmers rather than improving foods for consumers. What do you say to them?

Today consumers are willing to pay more for crops that are labeled “organic” or even “GM-free” because they view them as more sustainable. How do you think GM crops can help make agriculture more sustainable?

Environmentalists have been reluctant to embrace GM crops because of concerns about genes flowing to non-GM crops and also to wild native plants. That’s one reason a federal judge in California recently ordered genetically modified sugar beets to be destroyed.

It may be a positive thing for agriculture, but not necessarily for wild ecosystems. What are the consequences if you create a vitamin A–rich rice and that gene spreads into an environment where vitamin A is scarce?

Some scientists have complained that biotech companies have stymied research on GM crops. Aren’t these studies needed to get accurate answers about the risks of these crops?

What would be the consequence if GM crops were suddenly removed from the market?

Doc Sez:

In a world where Karma really applies my the detractors who block advances rather then working to assure that there are minimal unintended consequence be condemned to life at the average living standards who hunger they help assure.

By Brendan Borrell for Scientific American, April 11, 2011 

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A Fistful Of DustThe true effect of windblown material is only now coming to be appreciated

ON MAY 26th 2008 Germany turned red. The winds of change, though, were meteorological, not political. Unusual weather brought iron-rich dust from Africa to Europe, not only altering the colour of roofs and cars on the continent but also, according to recent calculations by Max Bangert, a graduate student at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, making the place about a quarter of a degree colder for as long as the dust stayed in the air. This is unusual for Germany, commonplace for the planet as a whole. The Sahara and other bone-dry places continually send dust up into the atmosphere, where it may travel thousands of kilometers and influence regional weather, the global climate and even the growth of forests halfway around the planet.

Earlier in 2008, for instance, Ilan Koren and his colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Israel, detected a particularly voluminous burst of dust from the Bodélé Depression. This low-lying bed of silt in Chad, across which powerful jets of wind are wont to blow, constitutes less than 1% of the Sahara’s area but is reckoned the world’s dustiest place. It is thought to be responsible for a quarter or more of the Sahara’s output of airborne dust.  The importance of this long-distance logistical chain has become apparent only in the past few years, and researchers are still working out its many repercussions—for the more you look at dust, the more effects it seems to have. African dust is thought, for example, to stimulate plant growth in the Amazon by bringing in phosphorus (which is in short supply there). This may put a check on global warming by removing what would otherwise be a long-term constraint on the forest’s ability to suck up carbon dioxide as it grows.

Dust, which does not reach land, may do something similar to the sea. Some parts of the ocean are short of iron, which red desert dust has in abundance. Dust from the Gobi desert seems to stimulate plankton blooms in the nutrient-poor waters of the North Pacific, though it is not clear whether this results in a net reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide, since that would require some of the plankton to sink to the seabed, never to return.

Dust aloft cools the land below, as Europe’s meteorologists found out in May 2008. It does this directly, by reflecting sunlight back into space, and indirectly, by helping clouds to form. The effect is significant. The carbon dioxide, which has been added to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution began, has a greenhouse effect equivalent to the arrival of about 1.6 watts of extra solar power per square meter of the Earth’s surface. The direct effects of dust are estimated to provide a countervailing cooling of about 0.14 watts per square meter. Add the indirect effect on clouds and this could increase markedly, though there are great uncertainties. This dust-driven cooling, though, is patchy—and in some places it may not even be helpful. Dust that cools a desert can change local airflow patterns and lessen the amount of rain that falls in surrounding areas. This causes plants to die, and provides more opportunities for wildfires, increasing the atmospheric carbon-dioxide level.

To get a better sense of the net effects brought about by the ups and downs of dust check on the link.

A worry some thought — In a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jasper Kok of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, writes that the amount of coarse dust driven into the atmosphere by wind is at least double and may be eight times as much as previously thought. Watch his You Tube Video.

Note:

Dust effect potential Fukushima Daiichi Reactor are apparently solely related to a possible radioactivity spread, fallout, rather than climate change. Although I’ve read somewhere recently that as a result of fires like those caused on the gulf, the after effects of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of this summer’s forest fires near Moscow, the smoke and soot created will cause temperatures to fall. Alas I could not re-find that reference.

Climate Science, Jan 6th 2011 in The Economist

Also Check Out

Volcanoes and Climate

Dust Effect Potential from Eyjafjallajökull Eruption

Do Volcano’s Cause Climate Change

Dust Effect Potential of A Pakistani Indian War – A Potential for Nuclear Winter

Nuclear war between India, Pak could spell climate disaster, January 26, 2002 – Times of India

Pollution in the Himalayas — Time to call the sweep? Soot gets everywhere. Even into the world’s highest mountains, The Economist, November 18, 2010.

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Ocean Acidification—The other carbon-dioxide problem

Acidification threatens the world’s oceans, but quantifying the risks is hard. In the waters of Kongsfjord, an inlet on the coast of Spitsbergen, sit nine contraptions that bring nothing to mind as much as monster condoms. Each is a transparent sheath of plastic 17-metres long, mostly underwater, held in place by a floating collar. The seawater sealed within them is being mixed with different levels of carbon dioxide to see what will happen to the ecology of the Arctic waters.  As carbon dioxide levels go up, pH levels come down. Acidity depends on the presence of hydrogen ions (the pH in pH) and more hydrogen ions mean, counter intuitively, a lower pH. Expose the surface of the ocean to an atmosphere with ever more carbon dioxide, and the gas and waters will produce carbonic acid, lowering pH on a planetary scale. The declining pH does not actually make the waters acidic (they started off mildly alkaline).

But it makes them more acidic, just as turning up the light makes a dark room brighter. Ocean acidification has further chemical implications: more hydrogen ions mean more bicarbonate ions, and fewer carbonate ions. Carbonate is what corals; the shells of shellfish and the outer layers of many photosynthesizing plankton and other microbes are made of. If the level of carbonate ions falls too low the shells can dissolve or might never be made at all. There is evidence that the amount of carbonate in the shells of foraminifera, micro-plankton that are crucial to ocean ecology, has recently dropped by as much as a third. Since becoming a topic of widespread worry about five years ago, the changing pH of the oceans has been added to the litany of environmental woes. Richard Feely, a researcher at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, provided a gift to headline writers when he dubbed acidification “global warming’s evil twin”. Nowadays Dr. Feely prefers to call it “the other carbon-dioxide problem”.

There’s more, click through for more information.

Singling out the role of acidification will be hard. Ocean ecosystems are beset by changes in nutrient levels due to run off near the coasts and by overfishing, which plays havoc with food webs nearly everywhere. And the effects of global warming need to be included, too. Surface waters are expected to form more stable layers as the oceans warm, which will affect the availability of nutrients and, it is increasingly feared, of oxygen. Some, including Dr. Riebesell, suspect that these physical and chemical effects of warming may prove a greater driver of productivity change in the ocean than altered pH. Wherever you look, there is always another other problem.

The Economist, July 1, 2010.

ALSO:  Ocean acidification, Wikipedia, 2011.

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All Tomorrow’s Taxis

Sometime early this year, New York City’s taxi and limousine commission will announce the winner of its “Taxi of Tomorrow” competition. Or it won’t. The project was begun in 2007, and in December 2009 a “request for proposals” went out to automotive manufacturers and designers. The bar wasn’t set all that high: the Taxi of Tomorrow was meant to be “safe, fuel-efficient, accessible, durable, and comfortable.” A look at the three finalists announced in November 2010 confirms they are perhaps all of those things. They are also, well, dull. Boxy. Lacking in imagination. (Not that New York’s current cab, the Ford Crown Victoria, was one to inspire much.)

The winner stands to supply more than 13,000 medallion taxis for at least a decade, a deal that could be worth up to $1 billion. Imagine if, in turn, the yellow spots monopolizing New York’s streets could help transform the urban landscape, perhaps by being smaller and more streamlined, having less environmental impact, or providing more comfort, convenience and aesthetics to passengers. What if the “tomorrow” part manifested itself not just in the object (the car) but also in new initiatives inspired by the broad national movement toward collaborative consumption, like a taxi-sharing app that could help facilitate carpooling from JFK airport into the city? The perfect solution for these recessionary times, this cab, re-envisioned as a compact bus, allows passengers to pay on a sliding scale.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that “if [the taxi] doesn’t meet our needs, then we can start the process all over again, or say we just can’t find what we want and come back and visit this at another time in the future.” Well, only one of the three is wheelchair accessible, only one offers an electric option. So with the door still open, as it were, I had several conversations with the artist/inventor (and former R&D guy for Honda) Steven M. Johnson, a self-described conjurer of “ludicrous” ideas for decades. But sometimes the wildest ideas result in the best solutions. We discussed the taxi-related issues that seemed to have been inadequately addressed in the Taxi of Tomorrow competition.

There is traffic, as in the inability to do anything about it. Should there be a taxi lane? …An elevated one, straight out of Rem Koolhaas’s “Delirious New York”? There’s availability — how to improve the odds of getting a cab when you need one — and also affordability: a cab-sharing program has been tried in the city already, but is there a way to improve it, or create a vehicle that allows for ride-sharing? And there’s reliability — how can you better the odds that your driver knows how to get where you want to go?

In addition, there are different and specific issues of comfort that need to be addressed for a car that hosts many passengers in the course of a day. The average taxi seems too hot, or too cold, or too loud; the upholstery sags, and cleanliness is relative. This affects the relationship between passenger and driver, and the corresponding civility (or lack thereof). Is the environment safe and secure? Are the temperature, noise level and air quality satisfactory? Should there be an enforceable dress code for drivers, as has been proposed by the city’s taxi and limousine commission?

After we talked, Johnson came up with nearly 60 different concepts, some pragmatic, some dystrophic, others clearly silly. We winnowed it down to nine, tongues firmly in our cheeks. Click here to see a slide show of his ideas.  I commend the city for soliciting comments on the finalists, and the media, design and innovation firm Human Condition for creating the Taxi of Tomorrow crowd-sourcing site, which has been offering a forum for ideas and commentary since October. I hope the commission pays attention.

By Allison Arieff, An Opinionator for the New York Times, Jan 13, 2011.

Click though to see more photos of Mr. Johnson’s ideas.

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Endnotes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits:  — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when copying materials that I cite, I do not fill the sourced ‘quoted’ words with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another secondary source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

Readers please checkout my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes form my approach to this and my other writings.

https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).          Doc.

… And yes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!

QUOTE de Mois — “I Believe In Evidence.”

“I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”

Isaac Asimov – On Evidence and Belief

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved. 

Introduction

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies, as well as blogs to which I subscribe.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original article, click on through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> other background references on the topic(s).       Doc.

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • Turning Tough Trash Into Food-Friendly Fuel
  • Fool’s Gold Catches Eye Of Solar Energy Researchers
  • Economies Of Scale: The Cost Of Nuclear New Build In America — It not the cost of the first one that ultimately counts.
  • Potholes On The Road To Renewable Fuels — Corn-kernel-based ethanol hits the fast lane, but cellulosic ethanol is still mostly stuck in first gear
  • Strip Search: How Safe are Airports’ New X-ray Scanners?
  • “Cheap energy”: Could natural gas be stepping on the renewable sector’s toes?

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Turning Tough Trash Into Food-Friendly Fuel

Researchers are making steps toward producing biofuels from the abundant plant materials we don’t eat.

In her search for a better way to put fuel in your tank, biological engineer Ratna Sharma-Shivappa is working on a chemical juggling act: She is trying to break down the problematic woody material in grasses without harming the energy-containing carbohydrates that the plants also contain. If she can perfect the process, it could lead to inexpensive biofuels that are made from inedible crops—not from corn like most of today’s ethanol.

If scalable this would likely eliminate or drastically reduce the difficult and highly politically driven choice of using based corn based ethanol for fuel, rather then feeding the worlds hungry. Once again Americas factory farm supported farm lobbies, has convinced the DOE and EPA to increase the allowable ethanol in our gasoline to 15%, engine corrosion problems not withstanding. This time against will of the automotive industry. There’s also the now demonstrated fact that corn based ethanol is, based on life cycle carbon releases, a negative pollution control force  – Growing corn releases more greenhouse gases than adding ethanol to fuel saves. Indeed the effect of switching to more corn ethanol in fuel does little except to line the pockets of ‘big’ agriculture and funding farm state politicians.

By exposing ground-up miscanthus grass (a relative of sugarcane) to ozone gas, Sharma-Shivappa and her colleagues at North Carolina State University were able to break down the tough structural molecule called lignin, allowing them to access the valuable carbohydrates without degrading them. Enzymes then split the carbs into sugars, which are fermented to make ethanol. Although ozone is pricey, the technique works at room temperature and does not require high pressure; advantages that Sharma-Shivappa believes will help keep it cost-effective. Next she will test the ozone treatment on other potential biofuel plants. “This should be applicable to most lignin crops,” such as switch grass, she says. There’s a bit more about alternatives to ozonization, in the linked article.

Doc Sez, that this is broader than just miscanthus grass, since it might also be applicable to the Brazilian sugar cane residues (biomass), as an alterative to the caustic treatment and or possible enzymatic processing now under study.

Article by Valerie Ross, Discover Magazine, December 2010 issue

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/dec/07-turning-tough-trash-food-friendly-fuel

Added Reading

Fermenting Cane Biomass to Fuel in Brazil

Ethanol Production Via Enzymatic Hydrolysis Of Sugar-Cane Bagasse And Straw In Brazil

Cellulosic Ethanol – Wikipedia, 2011

Is Ethanol Really More Eco-Friendly Than Gas?

Ethanol, Schmethanol, The Economist, September 2007

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Fool’s Gold Catches Eye Of Solar Energy Researchers

Background

  • There are several issues related to the technology on which solar energy is based but in one word they relate to competitive and unsubsidized cost. Three examples
    Cost of the semiconductors used to make solar cells
  • Cost of solar energy compared to that from natural gas, nuclear of course coal
  • Finding low cost storage to allow solar energy to meet our industrial and urban base load requirements.

An improvement in any of these areas gets us closer to use of the sun to generate electricity on a real world competitive basis. Yes readers, I do understand that some of the competition becomes more fair to Solar should the governments of this world adopt either a carbon tax or better yet change the focus of bested interests as discussed in a recent article in the January 2011 Economist.  Another alternative being talked about is Lowering Income Taxes While Raising Pollution Taxes Reaps Great Returns published in the sustainability blog, in April 2010.

Iron pyrite – also known as fool’s gold – may be worthless to treasure hunters, but it could become a bonanza to the solar industry. The mineral, among the most abundant in the earth’s crust, is usually discarded by coal miners or sold as nuggets in novelty stores.

But researchers at the University of California-Irvine said they could soon turn fool’s gold into a cheaper alternative to the rare and expensive materials now used in making solar panels. “With alternative energy and climate-change issues, we’re always in a race against time,” said lead researcher Matt Law. “With some insight and a little bit of luck, we could find a good solution with something that’s now disposed of as useless garbage.”

The UC-Irvine team believes the mineral can be processed into a thin film for use in photovoltaic cells, and could eventually convert sunlight into electricity at roughly the same rate as existing technology. Though it’s too early to estimate the cost of cells made with pyrite, Law said they’re likely to be cheaper because fool’s gold is so readily available. A prototype could be ready within the year, but it could be at least three years before the cells are commercially available. Some industry analysts, however, are skeptical that the team – which includes a chemist, a mathematician and a physicist – can hit pay dirt. There’s more… some of it negative by folks with a vested interest in the existing technology.

PhysOrg.Com Blog, January 21st, 2011 (c) 2011, Los Angeles Times

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Economies Of Scale: The Cost Of Nuclear New Build In America

— It not the cost of the first one that ultimately counts.

Article by Jack Craze, Nuclear Energy Insider, November 2010

The cost of nuclear new build is a source of major contention in the US. President Obama’s administration has proposed tripling the size of the loan guarantee program to $56 billion. Industry figures say this is not nearly enough to kick-start the nuclear renaissance, while the general public remains fiercely opposed to anything resembling another federal subsidy package.

The costs of building a nuclear reactor are, in many people’s minds, prohibitively high. In America, a lot of people remember the hundreds of billions of dollars ‘squandered’ on nuclear energy in the 1980s. Others point to the recent price escalation (to around $10 billion) for the Olkiluoto 3 reactor in Finland. And while a record-high 74% of Americans say they support the development of nuclear energy in the US, the upfront costs of construction remain a problem, particularly in the (potential) middle of a recession.

Westinghouse, one of America’s leading commercial nuclear companies, puts the installation costs of one of its 960-megawatt (MW) reactors at $7 billion. This compares to $2.5 billion for a 750 MW coal plant, and $3 billion for a 600 MW hydro plant. “What we have to remember”, observes Dr. Jim Conca, Senior Scientist at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at New Mexico State University, “Is that as you build more reactors, or anything at an engineering scale, the cost comes down. “For example, the South Koreans’ sixth nuclear reactor cost about 40% less than their first. And in China, they’re building nuclear reactors at about $3 billion a unit.

Doc Sez: Look at the projections for the production costs for the new Nissan Leaf. At the initial low production levels the MSRP is $32780, offset by major federal and state subsidies to perhaps as low as $25,280 in some states. In a recent interview Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn noted that he expects to be price competitive without government subsidies when annual Leaf production hits 500,000 units per year (which is down from a previous forecast of 1 million). And that’s without a major break though in battery costs.

True, the Chinese, for now, have low-cost labor which accounts for some of that lower cost, but it does show you that the $7 billion Westinghouse price-tag is a very conservative estimate.”

The article goes on to discuss the role of Federal Loan Guarantees to kick stat initial reactor construction, minor indirect support (e.g., a loan guarantee is not a grant) compared to France, Germany, Korea and Japan who are serious about nuclear energy. It concludes with an overview of trends in Construction, commodities and long-term costs. It makes a good read, check it out.

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Potholes On The Road To Renewable Fuels

— Corn-kernel-based ethanol hits the fast lane, but cellulosic ethanol is still mostly stuck in first gear

Article by Jeff Johnson, September 13, 2010, Chemical and Engineering News

Four years ago, speaking to 1,300 ethanol supporters in the heart of the Corn Belt, then-president George W. Bush gave a rousing speech singing the praises of biofuels, particularly corn-kernel-based ethanol. His speech on the eve of the 2006 congressional elections was music to the ears of the crowd attending the government-organized St. Louis conference, aptly titled “Advancing Renewable Energy: An American Rural Renaissance.”

The president outlined his plan to offer tax credits, subsidies, and federal research support to fuel a drive for ethanol that would move the nation “beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.” He added that cellulosic ethanol made from nonfood sources, waste, and energy crops was“ right around the corner” and would be “practical and competitive within six years.”

Bush’s support for ethanol and his mix of energy, economic, and electoral policies have been continued by President Barack Obama, particularly the push for fuels made from cellulosic feedstocks. Obama’s Departments of Energy and Agriculture have offered billions of dollars to support cellulosic ethanol R&D and bio refinery construction. But despite the money and talk, no commercial cellulosic ethanol biorefinery is operating in the USA today, and the most optimistic cellulosic ethanol boosters acknowledge that commercial-scale production could be years away.

I wonder what the Brazilian’s and apparently the Chinese are doing right?

Meanwhile, in the US, they clamor for additional federal support.

Where have I heard this song before?

The article make good reading, and the folks at the American Chemical Society’s magazine [C&EN} do a credible job of getting their facts straight.

I found the discussion of diverting food, a major international, but not US food staple, of particular concern.

The continued competition between corn for food and corn for fuel worries food and agricultural experts. Cellulosic ethanol was supposed to ease the demand for corn as fuel, but instead, reliance on corn as a gasoline additive has become secure, and now the price of corn is “hooked” to the volatile price of oil, according to Craig Cox, Midwest vice president of Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research organization. Cox, a former USDA official and congressional staff member, believes that when oil prices rise, they will drive up the price of corn ethanol and consequently the price of corn—with a ripple effect on the cost of grains throughout the world.

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Strip Search: How Safe are Airports’ New X-ray Scanners?

By Alice Park, Time Magazine, October 9, 2010.

Let me start this article by saying tomorrow (February 26th I am flying to Phoenix and expect at lease once on my trip to pass through a set of new scanners. Compared to all the other radiation exposures in my life this risk is a no-brainer. What you ask?

I did part of my undergraduate research near a incompletely shielded cobalt 60 source

  • I lived in Denver for about six year,
  • I was a frequent coast-to-coast flyer in the 1980’s,
  • I had 7-Grey of X-ray radiation treatment for a neck cancer,
  • I live with lousy teeth and so am X-rayed more often than most folks
  • And …have had more than my share of CAT scans.

The only place I didn’t get more than a background radiation dose was working at the US DOE Hanford Nuclear Site for ca. 25 years. Okay, no the article details.

Don’t be surprised if on your next trip to the airport, security personnel tell you to stop and put your arms up. No, you’re not being arrested. You’re being X-rayed from head to toe–or, more accurately, from toe to head.

The latest generation of airport scanners is designed to detect nonmetal weapons such as ceramic knives and explosive devices that can slip past magnetometers. The new machines–135 of them are already in operation, and nearly 1,000 are expected to be in place by the end of 2011–rely on low-intensity radiation that is absorbed a few millimeters into your skin and then reflected back, creating a reasonably accurate contour image of your body and anything else underneath your clothes. When the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began rolling out the so-called backscatter machines in March, the agency, along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, assured the public that the radiation dose from a scan was negligible–far lower not only than the amount in a chest X-ray but also than the levels passengers absorb from cosmic rays on a cross-country flight.

The backscatter numbers, however, seemed too good to be true to several scientists, including John Sedat, a biophysics professor at the University of California, San Francisco. After studying the degree of detail obtained in the seconds-long scans, the scientists wondered how the radiation exposure could be so low. The answer, they concluded, lay in how the manufacturer and government officials measured the dose: by averaging the exposure from the beam over the volume of the entire body. This is how scientists measure exposure from medical X-rays, which are designed to zap straight through bone and tissue. But backscatter beams skim the body’s surface. Sedat and his colleagues maintain that if the dose were based only on skin exposure, the result would be 10 to 20 times the manufacturer’s calculations.

That’s a huge difference, but the higher amount, TSA and FDA officials maintain, still falls within the limits of safe radiation exposure. Based on measurements conducted by the FDA as well as by technicians at Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere, says the FDA’s Daniel Kassiday, “We are confident that full-body-X-ray security products and practices do not pose a significant risk to the public health.”

Check this out, there’s both a difference of opinion on the use of one type of scanning, one that uses background scatter methods, and other devices being implemented, but the bottom like is the risks to an individual are low. – What these concerned scientists worry about is population dose to the 8,000,000 people worldwide including children who fly each year.  I agree that more studies are needed but unless they in addition to ‘absolute’ risk relate the added risks of malignancy to those from other sources of pollution, this will become another brainless media fest. Meanwhile my grandson who works for the TSA says that at least in Seattle, folks have made very little fuss about the scanners… and after all good news make very poor headlines.

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“Cheap energy”: Could natural gas be stepping on the renewable sector’s toes?

By Heba Hashem, Middle East Correspondent Nuclear Energy Insider, 6 December 2010,

Liquefied gas capacity will shoot up 47% by the end of 2013, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which will threaten investments in the renewables sector.

Although prices of renewable energy are coming down with technology advances, the intermittent nature of the energy production from renewable sources is making natural gas more appealing and investment worthy to companies.

Last month, Qatar’s energy minister said that natural gas would become more desirable than other energy sources, including renewables, which are environmentally promising but remain too expensive.

Wind speed is ideal for operating turbines at the height of around 800 meets, but building a tower that high isn’t feasible. Still, wind energy has a zero marginal cost, and thus can be profitable in the right environment.

Today’s recession dictating future decisions — According to Dr. Ray Perryman, a US- based economist and president of the Perryman Group:  “Wholesale and to some extent retail markets for electricity are becoming less regulated and more competitive over time. When prices rise, the emphasis will shift to renewables”.

“This ebb and flow is the nature of markets, but sophisticated companies are now investing billions of dollars in renewable transmission infrastructure, and new wind and solar manufacturing plants continue to expand”.

Because emerging countries have an accelerating demand for energy, there is going to be high demand for all sources (traditional and renewables). “The recession has interrupted this pattern temporarily, but not fundamentally”.

The golden age of gas may lead to cheaper gas prices for consumers, but it will also result in a rush to build gas-fired power plants at the expense of much cleaner forms of electricity generation. The IEA estimates that 35% of the increase in global gas production to 2035 will come from such unconventional projects.

Moreover, oil giants like Shell and Exxon-Mobil are shifting their business focus and repositioning themselves as gas producers, which Shell is marketing as a cleaner, yet still a CO2 producing, form of energy.

The article continues with an excellent discussion of Shale Gas and the US Market and ends up with a usual question associated with competing energy sources in a changing regulatory environment — Natural gas has crucial role to play, but for how long?

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the source words with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source external to itself.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Readers Please NoteRead about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

Furthermore, many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable — and if you Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical. I find it always appropriate, as I read to step back and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me.

I know, perhaps even truly believe, is this. For green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases) and gave out no subsidies, these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, Indian and Chinese too, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I have lately been inundated by wind power articles, trying to convince me that (subsidized) wind power for the US, is the next best thing to sliced white bread. One of my thought, ignored by most commentators is that it does mater to me whether I must pay a direct rate increase for alternate energy, or the government sneaks it out of my pocket as a hidden tax, aka subsidy. I object! I get stuck and perhaps suckered either way, which the industry and their political supporters prosper. As Robert Heinlein has coined the SciFi slang terms TANJ and TANSTAAFL. Both speak to my views.

White Bread Analogy — Relative to the white bread, many of us have long been aware that the Wonder’s™ of this world, have profitably convinced several generations of Americans of their products’ worth. We all should eat, so the message goes, this low in nutrition (needs fortification), low fiber, and either sweet or flavorless with no mouth appeal products  ‘tongue” on our innocent advertising is truth addicted public.  The paradigm is slowly changing, check out big store grocery stores and you find much more in the way of whole grain, artisan and other healthier breads… still high carb, but much better tasting and better for you; if using a bread maker does not fit your schedule.

Is the same true of Wind Power? If so where in the US does it make sense? The Europeans once big on wind power that they heavily subsidized it as a silver bullet have now gone off subsidizations. Guess what even in Europe with a closely placed urban friendly grid; orders for Wind turbines have dropped dramatically.

I recently came across two well written and thought provoking articles that naysay the wondrous benefits wind power, which of course motivated this Op-Ed topic. I shall summarize their claims at the end of this article segment.

WIND POWER YES or NO — Questions That Need To be Considered

  • Is Wind Power competitive in your region perhaps because it is easily connected to the local or regional grid?
  • Can a wind power system be developed, in the near future, to provide base load uninterruptable power supply to urban and industrial America?
  • What impact will the cost of wind power have on base regional electrical rates if it is only confined to making up for base-lead shortages? At what unsubsidized cost are any savings that result worth the life cycle cost penalties. (E.g., How Good is Good?)
  • Have much publicized estimated costs/benefits of wind power considered the ecological and greenhouse costs of making, installing and ultimately disposing of the windmills? (E.g., Best estimate ranges of Full Life Cycle Costs. Even the global warming folks do this!)
  • With the major NIMBY response to mostly off shore and also to mountain top turbine farms, are we placing wind farms in locations where the wind blows, sort of, but the distance to the industrial and urban consumer becomes an obstacle to true competitiveness?
  • How do the other environmental side effects ranging from noise pollution to bird kills compare to other energy sources, say natural gas, solar, nuclear (including mini-reactors) and of course oil.
  • How will Windpower fare in the newly developed “Clean Energy Standards” that are being considered as alternatives to both cap-and-trade and a carbon tax.

Note, I left coal out of my list because I don’t believe there will ever be a cost effective politically correct clean way to either use a ‘clean’ coal technology do assure 100,000 year sequestration of the CO2 from coal burning. The numbers I heard bandied about are 5,700 year to assure sequestration safety. Alas I can find no credible analysis or regulatory basis for this number.

The two articles that intrigued me were:

OVERBLOWN: Windpower on the Firing Line (Part I), and0
Oxymoronic Windpower (Part II: Windspeak.)

Both were written by Jon Boone on September 13, 2010 and January 18, 2011 and are posted on the Master Resource the Free Energy Market Blog.

They are a fascinating combination of Boone’s adopted slang from both George Orwell’s’ Movie 1984 and the Harry Potter books, plus. The articles also include a pithy description of the Wind Power industry’s double-speak. The later in typical Madison Avenue style, foisted on the public and brain washed into politicians’ sense of political correctness. Of coursed all is funded by those who would profit, either financially or ideologically, from wind technology.

Although masked sarcasm, that covers sharp and biting analysis, I find Jon Boone’s analysis, replete with credible references, credible and accurate. They substantiate the studies I’ve done, in an area I try to keep up with the ever-evolving factual data. I quote…

Widespread misunderstanding about the difference between energy and power has given cover to the charlatan-like wind lobby, which pretends their wares provide something they do not. We are all familiar with black-white PR jargon that characterizes wind projects as mills, farms, and parks, despite the looming industrial presence of 450-foot tall turbines propelling rotors at tip speeds of nearly 200-mph for many miles along terrain or seabed. But for sheer oxymoronic audacity, nothing beats the trickeration of the term wind power, since the technology is the very antithesis of modern power performance. In fact, wind provides no modern power. Rather, it throws out spasmodic, highly skittering energy that cannot by itself be converted to modern base load power.

Although much of the first article in this series is filled with a general overview about energy and its role in modern society, it is an excellent read, worth your attention. It’s underlying, and accurate premise is that the diffuse nature of wind’s fuel requires (in most locations) continuous supplementation by reliable machines fueled by more energy-dense fuels, as well as virtually dedicated new transmission lines and voltage regulation systems. It’s the kind and scope of activity that must happen to make wind create modern high-density continuous power.

Note: Unlike my usual practice, in this Op-Ed segment, quotes are in italics and my ‘purple prose is in plain or plain blue colored text.

The second article in this series provide details about the wind power industry, their campaign that uses albeit CO2 producing coal as the antithesis “clean” wind power and other madison avenue tactics to create a favorable ‘climate’ for funding wind energy. [Eg. AWEA] despite wind’s low unit availability, and capacity values. White bread anyone?

Here are some factual insights, edited by me for brevity that Boone provides:

1. Despite more than 100,000 huge wind turbines in operation around the world, with about 35,000 in North America, no coal plants have been closed because of wind technology. In fact, many more coal plants are in the offing, both in the US and throughout the world. Moreover, a Colorado energetics company, Bentek, recently published a study about wind in Texas and Colorado showing, in its study areas, that wind volatility caused coal plants to perform more inefficiently, “often resulting in greater SO2, NOx, and CO2 emissions than would have occurred if less wind energy were generated and coal generation was not cycled.” Further examination of fuel use for electricity in both states during the time of inquiry suggested that wind caused no reduction in coal consumption.2. Unpredictable, undispatchable, volatile wind can provide for neither baseload nor peak load situations. It can only be an occasional supplement that itself requires much supplementation. Consequently, as Australian engineer Peter Lang once wrote, since“ wind cannot contribute to the capital investment in generating plants… it’s simply is an additional capital investment.” 

3. Wind technology does NOT represent alternate energy. Since wind cannot provide controllable power and has no capacity value, it cannot be an alternative for machines that do provide controllable power and high capacity value. Wind therefore is incapable of entering into a zero-sum relationship with fossil-fired capacity—that is, more wind, less coal. All other conditions being equal (demand, supply, weather, etc.), more wind generally means more coal.

4. None of the considerable public subsidies for wind, indeed, not even state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) laws, are indexed to measured reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Consequently, there is no transparency or accountability for how wind technology will achieve the goals set forth by those policy initiatives. This means that corporations with a lot of fossil-fired market share to protect have no obligation to replace it with wind. And they don’t. Because they can’t. Freedom from responsibility is a child’s fairy tale dreams come true.

5. The work of a number of independent engineers—Hawkins, Lang, Oswald, Le Pair and De Groot—suggests that even the most effective fossil fuel pairing with wind, natural gas, will very marginally reduce overall natural gas consumption beyond what would occur using only natural gas generators, without any wind whatsoever.

6. Because oil provides barely 1% of the nation’s electricity, wind represents no threat to oil’s market share.

There’s more, my favorite entitled, as you might guess, is a discussion of follow the money… Check out the links and the reference therein.

Feedback of course is always welcome with one proviso: Just the Facts Ma’am by Joe Friday; of Dragnet fame’s so provide references to your counter arguments.

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Sidebar Notes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles cited or quoted in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledged and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

The author considers, as do many experts, Wikipedia a reliable and accessible site for technical information, provided that the reference cited in the Wikipedia article meets the following standard.

Are the references provided essentially complete or are representative of the literature, and relevant?  Do they include both precedent and present work, including any referenced disagreement with any of the Wiki author’s views?

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All right Reserved.

Lessons Not Learned from Nuclear Power ——— Doc’s Eclectic View

Introduction

The more I read and study the approach taken by the US and perhaps much of the rest of the world to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide [CO2] released from coal or gas burning power plants, the more perplexed I get.  Readers, I would welcome any feedback from you, on the CO2 and storage alternative I describe below.

At the root of my concern is the fact that the industry with Federal help is leaning toward geological disposal, as opposed to the easier, lower cost, and likely as safe approach to use long term near surface or surface storage at each generator site. I am also admitted biased toward interim 50-500 year engineering solutions to those that need demonstrating to thousands of years of geological media certitude.

To maximize the feedback I could receive from energy and climate change knowledgeable individuals, I post an earlier draft of this article on the American Nuclear Societies Social Media eList. This is an by invitation only ad hoc team of experts who share technical information about energy, greening technology and at times work, mostly as individuals, to counter false and fact-free media claims, cause not knowledge driven activists, or just mom-and-pop grass roots true believers about… what ever their cause.

I have appended the detail and itemized feedback comments I received and my thoughts about the information conveyed. I share only the first names of the folks who proved feedback; who they are is their business.

Preventing Carbon Dioxide Release to the Atmosphere

This article discusses a conceptual view for an alternative to geologic sequestration; the surface or near surface intermediate term (50-500 years) storage of the CO2 Released from Power Plants.

As I follow the government with industry support’s search for, and efforts to demonstrate a safe and publicly acceptable way to find a way to capture and search, dispose of CO2, I get very confused. The first task, based on what I’ve read is relatively straightforward. The chemistry and engineering is well divined and demonstrated at small and intermediate scale. The second step disposal, or even very long-term storage is a more difficult task, fraught with uncertainties. This is especially true for geological or deep seas disposal.

The idea of injecting CO2 in to depleted oil or gas fields, or brine filled aquifers reminds me of the efforts to site a ‘geologically safe’ nuclear repository. The key issue, politics aside, is whether an individual storage/disposal location will remain intact for the lifetime of the risk. For radioactive HLW, perhaps 10,000 years, a regulatory not a risk based limit. For carbon dioxide, forever or at least until we need it to reverse the next ice age.

I believe, iconoclast that I am, that the general and likely insurmountable problem with geological CO2 storage is predicting the long-term future in a heterogeneous environment. Specifically, the safety of each greenhouse gas geological storage site requires that their integrity must be demonstrated on a site-specific basis, alas expensive, even without considering NIMBY related legal costs. This seems to be the case until someone comes up with a cost effective, implementable method of irreversibly converting the captured CO2 to a thermodynamically stable form.

One possibility, we well understand, is concerting to calcium carbonate, in situ – underground.  Converting our captured carbon dioxide to limestone, in a geological formation places less of a burden on proving the geologic integrity of a specific site.

In nuclear terms, think of this as the waste form, which for HLW is borosilicate glass or the insoluble ceramic spent fuel itself.

A Potential Interim Storage Solution

I wonder why the near surface or surface storage of dry Ice in a well designed, terrorist proof passive facility hasn’t been studied, or if so, not publicized.

I’d like to acknowledge the fine diagram of the storage concept, which I described to Scott Armstrong, over the phone last night. Scott is president of MC•MUG, the local Macintosh Users group, a graphics expert and instructor, and a fine photographer.
  1. Pile up stacks of dry ice blocks, either one atop the other or on  some simple weight bearing shelving.
  2. These should insulated by a thick layer of dirt-cheap rock wool. Either blankets on the ice or as part of the dome structure. Which, that’s chemical engineering 101 engineering cost analysis issue.
  3. Located the storage unit, I picked a rebar reinforced dome, geodesic perhaps, both for esthetics and its easier for a hijacked747 to slide off such a dome.
    From an applicable forces perspective think safety analysis, such a dome would be much less expensive then that for a present, or near future generation designed, nuclear reactor dome.
  4. Instrumented the facility with thermocouples, CO2 detectors or what ever; all of the shelf items Add, if paranoid, for emergencies, a small external cooling plant.Why small – short of dropping a nuke on the facility or a direct hit by a well focused full strength solar flare (Science Fiction, there’s unlikely to be a way to heat the dry-ice blocks rapidly enough uncontrollably evaporate the CO2 back in o the atmosphere.
  5. Site these storage domes at every coal, oil or natural gas based power plant or generator complex, they make the CO2 they get store it. You want to generate hydrocarbon based electricity, then store the CO2 as part of your costs of operation.

The nuclear power industry does this of necessity, due to the fact the contracts with the Department of Energy to take possession of the fuel have never come close to being met.  [One more form of indirect taxation we all must pay.] This continues while the industry and consumer are simultaneously being ripped off by a tax for a virtual-cost over run plagued Yucca Mountain based nuclear repository which President Obama cancelled, but without either stopping the tariff or refunding the industry’s money.

Potential Benefits of Dry-Ice Storage

  • No requirement for trading emission credits! You create the CO2, you store it.
  • Avoids the need for carbon tax, at least on burning hydrocarbon burning power plants. No need to confuse the issue with gases released by other industries like feed lots or tailpipe emission, The make you keep!
  • Bearing the Costs of greenhouse gas-storage become part of doing business and paid by the local and regional electricity rate-payer’s. The real, not artificially subsidized cost of electricity is what you and will buy, of necessity. Thus, if politically possible, the cost of electricity become clearly visible. Not as now, snuck out of your pocket by the industry, congress and the IRS.This also levels the playing field for other energy alternatives, and we will not need pay taxes for lobbyist selected or government favorites.

Again, think Nuclear reactors where the owners-ratepayer are forced to store Spent Nuclear Fuel at the reactor sites and the storage cost seemed to be passed on to the rate-payers; a reasonable precedent.

Side Note: The average discharge in our coal-powered fleet is ca. 1.2 to 1.3 tons/MWh depending on the type of coal burned, and which reference you cite.

Conclusion

Am I missing something? Is our love for big-ticket technology and profitable Federal grants the driving force preventing a KISS solution? Feedback, particularly with references that negate or support my arguments would be welcomed.

A Few References in Passing

Carbon Capture and Storage, Wikipedia, 2011 and the references contained therein. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_capture_and_storage/]

What is Carbon Sequestration? by the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership, undated [http://www.bigskyco2.org/whatisit%5D/

Carbon Sequestration, AAPGGEO-DC Blog, Dec 2008. [http://blog.aapg.org/geodc/?p=204/]

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles cited or quoted in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledged and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

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Appendix – Social Media eMail Feedback

Responses to the Social Media feedback on “Long-term CO2 Storage A Nuclear Resembling Quandary”

The following is a set of cut and paste copies of the information provided our bloggers, members of social media email team. I have followed each individual’s direct feedback or general subject related comments with feedback, where appropriate. All emails discussed were received before the 8:00 PM of the 28th of January

Harry, aka doc_Babad

Feedback on Social Media Comments

My colleague Bob, a senior nuclear engineer/manager and cost effective going green advocate from Greenville, SC noted:

Dry Ice is a nice idea, but we’re tilting at windmills here.  Man-made CO2 in the atmosphere is a non-problem.  In fact it’s a good thing since it makes things grow and helps feed the world.  CO2 only makes up 3% of the GHG in the atmosphere and man only contributes 2% of the CO2.

Although I have tried to get my hands around such numbers, I’ve never been comfortable that they had been subjected to peer reviewed meta-analysis, such as is sometime done for conflicting drug testing result. Therefore I’ll continue to tilt at windmills should they not prove virtual.

Robert responded:

My biggest concern with CCS is the scale.  The amounts of CO2 to be captured, transported, and stored are immense.  While I am loath to call it impossible, I would think CCS a much greater technical challenge than nuclear waste (despite the media claims of the reverse).

I agree, with the general concern that Bob shares  – that’s why both capture and storage should be located at the point of origin, the generating complex. As far as which is more difficult, I believe today’s NIMBYs are tomorrows advocates.

Jonathan, in an engineering design focused feedback, pointed out:

1.   The immediate thing that strikes is how would the CO2 be cooled to form dry ice. I don’t have any top of my head figures, but my gut instinct is that it would be energy intensive. Add on top I doubt the best insulation would keep the dry ice solid for the decades necessary without more energy intensive cooling.
Jonathan, based on reading about currently available technology for (1) capturing heat not utilized for producing electricity, and (2) perhaps less robust means of turning such waste heat into power, I thought a real functions and requirements study coupled with detailed conceptual design analysis could flesh out the specific of how and how well. One alternative might be the use waste heat as a source of energy for CO2 solidification. My intent with the article was two-fold. First a response to at why I could, in 45 minute Google and DOE OSTI search session, I could find no reference to dry-ice storage as a potential methodology for curtailing the release of greenhouse gasses. Secondly, I wanted to get broad feedback for the participants in Social Media, on the concept. Thank you – you’ve helped me achieve that latter.

2.   You would also produce just under a cubic meter of dry ice for every MWh. That’s going to be one heck of a pile of dry ice very soon.

Of course, that reality might be even enough to frustrate the building of now power plants that use petrochemical to generate electricity.  In addition, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of land around the generating plant’s I’ve visited or lived down-wind from. Whether on the surface or for a shallow storage vault, these folks certainly have enough acreage to keep expanding large uncontrolled ash/slag piles.

3.    One KISS approach would be to pump CO2 to a deep seabed location, where the water pressure would be sufficient to solidify the CO2 as it emerged – not that I think this is environmentally sound.

I agree the pressure meets CO2 solidification requirements. Again there’s the transportation problem poised by Robert S. Margolis. In addition are you going to build such a disposal site in international waters — hmm? You could of course try to license such a site or sites in the states that have deep brine deposited associated with salt domes or bedded salt… Texas or Louisiana anyone?

4.   One difference between a nuclear repository and CO2 sequestration is that with CO2 some level of leakage could be more acceptable. In very simplified terms if we were to sequestrate 100 years of CO2 and it had a 0.1% leak rate we’d have a tenth of our GHG emissions for 1000 years. If stabilizing GHG emissions requires an 80% CO2 reduction then we’d be essentially ‘taking a loan’ on future emissions. A hundred years hence we’d have to reduce to 10% of current emissions and have the 10% emissions from sequestration.

That would be a big ask, but if leakage was only 0.01% it might become more arguable, pragmatically against the alternative of not meeting emissions targets at all.

I agree in general, but wonder whether the other alternates, other than going CO2 emission free, contain comparable potential bobby-traps. In addition, being somewhat mathematics adverse, I don’t follow how a 0.1% CO2 leak forces me to take a loan on the future. I just consider it a 0.1% additional un-captured release, but a bit time delayed. Were doing much worse than that now. I’ve seen no statistically defensible number on capture efficiency either at a power plant o a regional pipeline fed, facility. What am I missing?

5.    I personally don’t support the case above when there are already good alternatives, but I think it would be an argument made. And perhaps more significantly very low levels of leakage won’t be a showstopper for CO2 CCS in the way it is made for nuclear repositories.

Okay! However, everything I’ve studied suggests that current regulations controlling nuclear material or radiation release are based on fear mongering politics and regulatory over enthusiasm. We too long, listen to the loudest voice, safe at any costs, because the costs do not come directly and visibly out of our pockets. I’ve never been comfortable with the thesis of always safe-always multiplicatively conservative, using SciFi scenarios, rather than demonstrated actual risk. Lots of healthy folks get significantly higher doses such as the residents of (Guarapari, Brazil; Kerala, India; Ramsar, Iran; Yangjiang, China). I still can’t find, since co-authoring two textbooks with Dr. R. A Deju in 2008 and 2009, any peer reviewed data that identified meaningful differences in heath, heath compared to folks in comparable socio-economic niches.

Stephen more broadly commented

1.    I’m just amazed that CCS is regarded as a viable concept. US coal-fired power plants crank out 2 billion tons of CO2 every year, and Chinese coal-fired power emissions I believe has overtaken those of the US. Four billion tons every year from two countries — we’re just going to magically keep finding low-cost storage sites for all this stuff?

I pass; we’ve paid for stupid things since a CO2 emission free alternative like nuclear has not gained sufficient impetus to have a meaningful effect on US and China’s emissions. Additionally, the of the main green energy alternative, no system has yet been cost effectively been demonstrated to guarantee base-line power, However, my favorite science fiction based alternative, the beaming of RF radiation to desert areas, from space, might do so if the desserts selected were globally located. What you say, creating a commercially based satellite system that collects gigawatts’ worth of solar power and beams it down to Earth where it is converted to electricity. The ideas was first proposed by Dr. Isaac Asimov in 1941, and more recently evaluated by folks are diverse at the US Pentagon. For SciFi buffs, Harry Harrison and Ben Bova also expanded on the theme.

2.    Most of the cost of CCS is in the second “C” — capture. The only “proven” technology is amine-based chemical absorption. All sorts of R&D is going into other, hopefully less expensive ways of separating CO2 from flue gas, but these are early-stage R&D efforts. (And the operative word is “hopefully” — none has been proven to be effective, much less economical.) So if CCS had to be implemented today, it would be based on amine absorption.

Stephen, I am uncomfortable with your thesis about the scalability and cost effectiveness CO2 capture. Although amine technology is most often identified an s reasonable, if not yet fully test concept for capture, there are others including use of zeolites and membranes. When I have time available, I will more thoroughly search this topic and share my finding with Social Media.

3.    Which is why it hasn’t been implemented yet. Generating companies use coal because it is cheap. When it is no longer cheap, well there goes its advantage. CCS is simply not economical — it adds a cost to coal-fired power. Long before people find that out the hard way, coal-fired power generators will have gone bankrupt or switched their fleets to gas or nuclear — assuming coal generation is hit with emissions regulation or legislation. And in the near term, gas looks to be the front-runner — it’s okay to use the atmosphere as a CO2 dumps as long as the CO2 comes from gas combustion.

True, but comes the day of either a carbon tax;
… or the potential sea-level rise caused flooding of costal mega cities. There will be 20 coastal megacities (population exceeding 8 million) by 2010. The risk comes from a likely combination of sea level rise and storm surges. Lets pick a few likely targets — NYC, Bangkok, New Orleans, Mumbai, Shanghai, Manila, Caracas, Ho Chi Min City
… let’s see who pays the piper!

4.    If some use could be found for all that CO2, then maybe CO2 capture wouldn’t be such a joke. But that would depend on large-scale hydrogen production from water splitting. And the best hope for that is to use nuclear heat to split water — it’s the only way to make H production sustainable and clean. There should be way more R&D in nuclear hydrogen production.

Of course, Stephen, I agree!

Rod responded to the Social media dialog; I agree, by stating:

As a long time adherent of KISS approaches to engineering, I disagree with your interpretation. A real KISS type engineer who really works at keeping things simple would say – just don’t produce the CO2 in the first place. Then you do not need to spend any time, effort or money figuring out how to separate it from a waste stream, how to capture it after separation, where to store it or how to get it there.

The big difference between used nuclear fuel and CO2 is that the former starts off as a solid material encased in corrosion resistant cladding. It does not leak as long as you simply put it into a simple container. If the container ever shows signs of deterioration, fix or replace the container.

The only way you ever get any “leakage” from a used nuclear fuel storage area is if your computer models assume that people stop doing their jobs and that barriers magically disappear over time.

I agree with Rod but without going into politics and lobbyist support moneyed interests, let’s just always remember (to our idealistic despair) our democratic society is imperfect. But as Winston Churchill noted on November 11, 1947 “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Harry.

1/28/11       9:26 PM

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved. 

Introduction

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters, as well as blogs to which I subscribe. I also acknowledge and cite items from public interest groups such as Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists, but only when they provide references I can check.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my tidbits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through the provided link if you want more details, as well as other references on the same topic(s). Doc.

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • Power Equivalent of 1 Pellet of Uranium Fuel — A Teaser
  • Nothing in Washington DC Generates this much Energy
  • Did You Think Renewable Power Is Sustainable? Think again…
  • How Green is Your Real (or Fake) Christmas Tree? — You Might Be Surprised
  • Electric Cars Get Charged for Battle – The Tesla Sedan, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Electrical Vehicles Suite and the Chevy Volt… More to come!
  • The Apple iPad – Oh You of Little imagination faith in the creativity of the rest of us
  • Rice Husks Into Electricity — A Light in India
  • It’s all About Civility and Attitude – Questioning climate change vs. challenging nuclear power – A tidbit in passing.

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Power Equivalent of 1 Pellet of Uranium Fuel — A Teaser
 

Nothing in Washington DC

Generates This Much Energy

Reliable and Affordable Energy,

Nuclear Energy Institute, 2010;

http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/
documentlibrary
/reliableandaffordableenergy
/brochures/justthefacts

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Did You Think Renewable Power Is Sustainable? Think again…
I ran across this article in my archive files, and found it refreshing relevant to todays discussion on energy sustainability.

“Sustainability” is a buzzword these days. It is a term used often and eagerly, especially by opponents of nuclear power and proponents of renewable alternatives. There is an assumption to there that if something is renewable it is also automatically sustainable. There is also an assumption that nuclear power is not sustainable. How surprised people get when they find out that the exact opposite is true…

Let’s take a step back and for once examine what we actually mean by the concept of sustainability. In this article, we will be focusing on sustainable power production.

According to Wikipedia, in part, sustainability (e.g., “maintain”, “support”, or “endure”) is the capacity to endure. There are two major ways of reducing negative human impact and enhancing ecosystem services. The first is environmental management; this approach is based largely on information gained from earth science, environmental science, and conservation biology. The second approach is management of human consumption of resources, which is based largely on information gained from economics.

Sustainability interfaces with economics through the social and ecological consequences of economic activity. Sustainability economics involves ecological economics where social, cultural, health-related and monetary/financial aspects are integrated. Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from reorganizing living conditions (e.g., sustainable cities), reappraising economic sectors (green building, sustainable agriculture), using science to develop new technologies (green technologies, renewable energy), to adjustments in individual lifestyles that conserve natural resources.
See Wikipedia

Renewable energy is energy, which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished) at least over the lifetimes of human existence.
See Wikipedia

Sustainable energy is the provision of energy that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainable energy sources are most often regarded as including all renewable sources, such as plant matter, solar power, wind power, wave power, geothermal power and tidal power. It usually sometimes includes technologies that improve energy efficiency. Conventional fission power, as many believe it to be, is sometimes referred to as sustainable, but is controversial politically due to misinformation and concerns about peak uranium, radioactive waste disposal and the risks of disaster due to accident, terrorism, or natural disaster.
See Wikipedia

There seems to be a vague notion out there that something that is sustainable we can start using now and then keep using forever, or that something that is sustainable never consumes any resources. Well even by this faulty definition, renewables are not sustainable. This s because solar panels are not built from sunshine, nor are wind turbines built from a stiff afternoon breeze. You build them from consumable materials such as steel, copper, neodymium, gallium, arsenic, indium and other sometimes not too common materials. Also they have a finite life span after which they must be torn down and replaced. This means that solar and wind power does consume resources and in the end cannot be used forever.

But that is not the definition of sustainable, so let’s move on.

What is sustainability? — “Sustainable development” was defined by the Brundtland-commission report “Our common future“ in June 1987 as:

…Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
See: http://www.un-documents.net/ocf-02.htm

Now let’s look at this idea more closely. Does it say anything about renewables, using the same things forever, or even that using fossil fuels would be a bad thing? No it does not. The report doesn’t even say we cannot deplete a resource.

For non-renewable resources, like fossil fuels and minerals, their use reduces the stock available for future generations. But this does not mean that such resources should not be used. However, general the rate of depletion should take into account the criticality of that resource, the availability of technologies for minimizing depletion, and the likelihood of substitutes being available. [E.g., oil /methane for petrochemical feedstock, not transportation.]

Sustainability Means — We have needs, and we must meet them. The future generations will also have needs, and we must not do anything that prevents them from getting these needs met. KISS, but alas politics and greed often defeats logic.

People talking about sustainable development often talk about the future. But what they keep forgetting is that development that does not tend to the needs of the present as well, is not sustainable. Sustainable development must meet both current and future needs, Posted February 14, 2009

Check out the link below and follow the author’s rationale on how sustainability could perhaps be applied to or real world choices. The author discusses the sustainability of wind and solar power, the use of biofuels, and nuclear power. Although written in 2009, passing events of strengthened the case for some of these alternatives and weakened other. At the very least in the presence of a level unsubsidized playing field where governments try to choose winner to support heir economic and political needs, recent energy saviors ‘the heroes of wind, solar and biofuel from corn’ have begun to look lightly tarnished.

From The “Nuclear Power/Yes Please” Blog, posted February 14, 2009.

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How Green is Your Real (or Fake) Christmas Tree? — You Might Be Surprised

Having just written the last check, a credit card bill, to cover our less than extravagant holiday season, coupled with four December-January birthdays, I feel both a bit green (around the gills) and nostalgic. Over the years, mostly because that what our kids wanted, we granted them a Chanukah bush. My lady who loves themed ornament enjoyed collecting, silver/white ornaments, or birds, Judeica, Japanese themed, and music… variations) over the years. We’d tried a live tree (it died) and an occasional several medium priced artificial tree (ugly and never reused) and unclipped noble fir trees (recycled to by the city). That’s why the following article caught my fancy.

When it comes to Christmas trees, Americans increasingly prefer plastic pines over the real thing. Sales of fake trees are expected to approach 13 million this year, a record, as quality improves and they get more convenient, with features like built-in lights and easy collapsibility. All told, well over 50 million artificial Christmas trees will grace living rooms and dens this season, according to the industry’s main trade group, compared to about 30 million real trees.

Kim Jones, who was shopping for a tree at a Target store in Brooklyn this week, was convinced that she was doing the planet a favor by buying a $200 fake balsam fir made in China instead of buying a carbon-sipping pine that had been cut down for one season’s revelry. “I’m very environmentally conscious,” Ms. Jones said. “I’ll keep it for 10 years, and that’s 10 trees that won’t be cut down.”

But Ms. Jones and the millions of others buying fake trees might not be doing the environment any favors. In the most definitive study of the perennial real vs. fake question, an environmental consulting firm in Montreal found that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually. The calculations included greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources and human health impacts.

Yet the trade-offs are not immediately apparent to consumers and even some tree growers. “The natural tree is a better option,” said Jean-Sebastien Trudel, founder of the firm, Ellipsos, which released the independent, study last year.

The annual carbon emissions associated with using a real tree every year were just one-third of those created by an artificial tree over a typical six-year lifespan. Most fake trees also contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal. Ellipsos specifically studied the market for Christmas trees bought in Montreal and either grown in Quebec or manufactured in China. Mr. Trudel said the results would most likely differ for other cities and regions. Excessive driving by consumers to purchase real trees could tip the scales back in favor of artificial trees, at least in terms of carbon emissions. (…A part of the life cycle ‘costs’)

Over all, the study found that the environmental impact of real Christmas trees was quite small, and significantly less than that of artificial trees — a conclusion shared by environmental groups and some scientists. Click the link and read on.

“You’re not doing any harm by cutting down a Christmas tree,” said Clint Springer, a botanist and professor of biology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “A lot of people think artificial is better because you’re preserving the life of a tree. But in this case, you’ve got a crop that’s being raised for just that purpose.”

Here in the Pacific Northwest, in our community, there’s a holiday tree lot in almost every strip mall, and an hours drive or less gets you to a ‘cut your own’ farm. In New York or other major urban area, the pro’s and cons are a bit more complex.

However both lover of natural and artificial tree both agree, said that neither kind of tree had much of an impact on the environment — “especially when compared to something that most of us do every day, like drive a car.” On that point, Mr. Trudel of Ellipsos agrees. “When you really consider it, if you exchange a couple of days of commuting by car with carpooling or riding a bicycle, you’ll completely overcompensate for whatever the impact of the tree is,” he said. “It’s not such a big deal. Enjoy your tree, whichever one you prefer.”

By John Collins Rudolf New York Times, December 2010

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Electric Cars Get Charged for Battle – The Tesla Sedan, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Electrical Vehicles Suite and the Chevy Volt… More to come!

Most of the drivers on the 101 Freeway in Marin County, Calif., on this foggy December morning are oblivious to the black snub-nosed car gliding along beside them. Every so often, however, someone does a double take, gives a thumbs-up, or snaps a cell phone picture, because the car in the next lane is one they’ve never seen before: a Nissan Leaf, the world’s first affordable, mass-produced electric vehicle, or EV. This particular Leaf happens to be No. 1: The very first sold anywhere. At the wheel is Olivier Chalouhi, who took delivery an hour before amid some impressive hoopla at a Nissan dealership in Petaluma. Now, driving south to San Francisco with Nissan (NSNAY) Americas Chairman Carlos Tavares riding shotgun, Chalouhi, a 31-year-oldWeb entrepreneur, is explaining how he came to be the first person to buy this car. His voice is soft but easy to hear from the backseat because, with no internal combustion engine, the Leaf (nationally about $25,000 after a $7,500 federal tax credit) is eerily quiet, almost as cocoon-like as Nissan’s $50,000-plus Infiniti M.

“It all started,” Chalouhi says, “when I saw an ad for the Chevy Volt.” The Volt, which started shipping to dealers in mid-December, is the Leaf’s chief competitor in the green-car sweepstakes. It runs for about 40 miles on an electric charge before a small gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the battery. That gives the Volt more than 350miles of range—unlike the Leaf, which runs for 60 to 100 miles, varying with weather and terrain and driving style, before needing a recharge that can take 30 minutes to 7hours, depending on the strength of the charger. The Volt’s gasoline engine makes it less attractive to some eco-minded consumers like Chalouhi. “In all the articles I read about the Volt, the Leaf was discussed as well,” he says. “As soon as I found out about he Leaf, I forgot about the Volt. The Volt wasn’t going to project the image I wanted. It has a tailpipe.”

The energy chain is more complicated than that—the electricity powering a Leaf mayor may not come from low-emission sources—but right now it’s time to enjoy the ride. Chalouhi turns off the highway and guns the car up a steep, winding road in the Marin Headlands overlooking San Francisco Bay. The Leaf is surprisingly agile and sure-footed; its electric motor has plenty of pep, and 600 pounds of laminated lithium-ion batteries below the floorboards help it hug the road. Chalouhi is having fun with the tight turns heading into the hills, where Nissan has stationed a media team to capture the moment with some suitably dramatic images. Alas, the Golden Gate Bridge is hiding behind the fog, making the glamour shot impossible, so Chalouhi guides the car back down toward the 101 while a product manager, Paul Hawson, briefs him on the next photo-op, at City Hall in San Francisco. “At the end of the ceremony,” Hawson says, “you and Mr. Tavares will go to the car and plug-in the charger together.”

Inside the green car community—the world of academics, analysts, policymakers, and environmentalists who spend their days worrying about transportation emissions—there’s also a lively debate about which kind of low-emissions car is greenest. The Leaf produces zero emissions, and according to numerous studies touted by Nissan, even if the electricity that powers it comes from a coal-fired plant, its carbon footprint is smaller than that of an average gasoline-powered car. If its electricity comes from solar, wind, hydro or nuclear power, then the Leaf is an unassailably zero-emission vehicle. And Nissan executives rightly point out that U.S. electric generation is getting cleaner. (A Volt’s true emissions are even harder to determine, since it can be driven in all-electric mode or with a gasoline assist.) For now, the heavy batteries that store the power in Leafs and Volts are still too expensive to be the most cost-effective option, according to a 2009 study by engineers at Carnegie-Mellon University. The study also found that plug-in EVs with 40 or more miles of all-electric range “do not offer the lowest lifetime cost in any scenario, although they could minimize greenhouse gas emissions.” Lighter plug-in hybrids with about 10 miles of all-electric range appear to offer the best mix of price, charging time, and efficiency, according to Jeremy Michalek, the Carnegie Mellon professor who led the study. Plug-ins of this sort (the Prius, due in 2012, will be one) work best for urban drivers who can charge every 20 miles or so, he says. All of these plug-in cars, of course, are far cleaner and cheaper to operate than what most Americans drive now. There’s more – click the link.

Article by Eric Pooley, Business Week, December 29, 2010

PS: Can or can’t live with a tailpipe? Chevy, Toyota, and Nissan offer different electric options
Check out Business Week, December 29, 2010.

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The Apple iPad – Oh You of Little imagination or faith in the creativity of the rest of us

When Apple released the iPad was both delighted and appalled. Delighted because the device seems to be a step in the direction of a portable computing tool I lusted for, but could justify. Appalled, because many of the reviews I read The reviews were, much to my concern focused on short comings of this Generation I device, and bespoke of how it would like not be of ‘real’ support to folks for who business is a living, rather than a hobby.

Now I do my serious work in an iMac, loaded with every tool I needs plus lots of tools I found interesting enough to review for MH Reports. I am at the keyboard for at least 6-8 hours a day, and although an iPad is no where complete enough to be a productivity tool, it does merit serious consideration (even w/o a mechanical keyboards) as an on-the-go note taking tool and a way to keep up with the reading/research/googling I do to feed both my curiosity and my articles. My only other potion, an Apple MacBook Air, is twice the cost that I can justify. Indeed iPad II vaporware and rumors not withstanding, a USB equipped iPhone (data transfer and printing) with a more robust version of iWorks, and a way to edit PDFs (iAcrobat) would come pretty close to meeting my needs.

Therefore I keep being delighted by what folks in the field, teachers mostly, but other social services types too, have done with the iPad, supported by our active and creative iApps developer community. I share a bit of that below.

Math That Moves: Schools Embrace the iPad

ROSLYN HEIGHTS, N.Y. — As students returned to class this week, some were carrying brand-new Apple iPads in their backpacks, given not by their parents but by their schools. A growing number of schools across the nation are embracing the iPad as the latest tool to teach Kafka in multimedia, history through “Jeopardy”-like games and math with step-by-step animation of complex problems.

As part of a pilot program, Roslyn High School on Long Island handed out 47 iPads on Dec. 20 to the students and teachers in two humanities classes. The school district hopes to provide iPads eventually to all 1,100 of its students.

The school paid $750 each, soon after they were introduced. The iPads cost $470-575 (Google-Shopping) a piece now. The Students can use them in class and at home during the school year.

They replace textbooks, allow students to correspond with teachers and turn in papers and homework assignments, and preserve a record of student work in digital portfolios.

6th grader with iPad at Pinnacle Peak Elementary School in Scottsdale, Ariz

“It allows us to extend the classroom beyond these four walls,” said Larry Reiff, an English teacher at Roslyn who now posts all his course materials online. Technological fads have come and gone in schools, and other experiments meant to rev up the educational experience for children raised on video games and YouTube have had mixed results. Educators, for instance, are still divided over whether initiatives to give every student a laptop have made a difference academically.

At a time when school districts are trying to get their budgets approved so they do not have to lay off teachers or cut programs, spending money on tablet computers may seem like an extravagance. And some parents and scholars have raised concerns that schools are rushing to invest in them before their educational value has been proved by research.

“There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” said Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, who believes that the money would be better spent to recruit, train and retain teachers. “IPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.” Doc Sez, only if the software sucks, something true with games, textbooks, and other media.

But school leaders say the iPad is not just a cool new toy but rather a powerful and versatile tool with a multitude of applications, including thousands with educational uses. “If there isn’t an app that does something I need, there will be sooner or later,” said Mr. Reiff, who said he now used an application that includes all of Shakespeare’s plays. Educators also laud the iPad’s physical attributes, including its large touch screen (about 9.7 inches) and flat design, which allows students to maintain eye contact with their teachers. And students like its lightweight, which offers a relief from the heavy books that weigh down their backpacks.

There’s lot more examples, discussions on Apples support if iPads for schools, and even some cost data so check out the link.

I was interested to learn that, many school officials say they have been waiting for technology like the iPad. “It has brought individual technology into the classroom without changing the classroom atmosphere,” said Alex Curtis, headmaster of the private Morristown-Beard School in New Jersey, which bought 60 iPads for $36,000 and is considering providing iPads to all students next fall.

Daniel Brenner, the Roslyn superintendent, said the iPads would also save money in the long run by reducing printing and textbook costs; the estimated savings in the two-iPad classes are $7,200 a year. “It’s not about a cool application,” Dr. Brenner said. “We are talking about changing the way we do business in the classroom.”

Article by Winnie Hu, The New York Times, and published: January 4, 2011.

PS: I keep wondering about the overall costs effectives of a school using a discounted $600 per student. The discounted iPad contains (WAG) about $300 worth of parts along with lets say 3 x 5-6 iApps /per student (free or under $5.99) vs 5-6 $100/textbooks a day; who useful wear and tear life in weeks if not months. …And then again, iApps of are often updated free. Moving in the opposite direction, when updating (actually replacing) a book, not counting your related administrative replacement costs (committees), you get start fro scratch. My presumption — two to three iApps and a clever teacher per class and you can take the textbooks out of the picture. Alternatively get the publishers to issue their books electronically, with free updates… even the academic journals are tuning in. Oh, and case you haven’t heard, most authors of textbooks get less than 12% for their intellectual efforts, according to Wikipedia and other sources, as royalties. Do I hear a slurping sound?

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Rice husks into electricity — A New Light in India

When we hear the word innovation, we often think of new technologies or silver bullet solutions — like hydrogen fuel cells or a cure for cancer. To be sure, breakthroughs are vital: antibiotics and vaccines, for example, transformed global health. But as we’ve argued in Fixes, some of the greatest advances come from taking old ideas or technologies and making them accessible to millions of people who are underserved.

One area where this is desperately needed is access to electricity. In the age of the iPad, it’s easy to forget that roughly a quarter of the world’s population — about a billion and a half people (pdf) — still lack electricity. This isn’t just an inconvenience; it takes a severe toll on economic life, education and health. It’s estimated that two million people die prematurely each year as a result of pulmonary diseases caused by the indoor burning of fuels for cooking and light. Close to half are children who die of pneumonia.

In vast stretches of the developing world, after the sun sets, everything goes dark. In sub-Saharan Africa about 70 percent of the population lacks electricity. However, no country has more citizens living without power than India, where more than 400 million people, the vast majority of them villagers, have no electricity. The place that remains most in darkness is Bihar, India’s poorest state, which has more than 80 million people, 85 percent of whom live in households with no grid connection. Because Bihar has nowhere near the capacity to meet its current power demands, even those few with connections receive electricity sporadically and often at odd hours, like between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m., when it is of little use.

This is why I’m writing today about a small but fast-growing off-grid electricity company based in Bihar called Husk Power Systems. It has created a system to turn rice husks into electricity that is reliable, eco-friendly and affordable for families that can spend only $2 a month for power. The company has 65 power units that serve a total of 30,000 households and is currently installing new systems at the rate of two to three per week. What’s most interesting about Husk Power is how it has combined many incremental improvements that add up to something qualitatively new — with the potential for dramatic scale. The company expects to have 200 systems by the end of 2011, each serving a village or a small village cluster. Its plan is to ramp that up significantly, with the goal of having 2,014 units serving millions of clients by the end of 2014.

The article continues on about the history of Husk Power, and its founder Gyanesh Pandey, its founder and his three friends Manoj Sinha, Ratnesh Yadav and Charles W. Ransler. It shares the twists of fortunes that led Pandey back to India from the United states where he’d prospered to eventually found Husk Power. They had a few false starts,

Back in India, he and his friend Yadav, an entrepreneur, spent the next few years experimenting. They explored the possibility of producing organic solar cells. They tried growing a plant called jatropha, whose seeds can be used for biodiesel. Both proved impractical as businesses. They tested out solar lamps, but found their application limited. “In the back of my mind, I always thought there would be some high-tech solution that would solve the problem,” said Pandey.

One day he ran into a salesman who sold gasifiers —machines that burn organic materials in an oxygen restricted environment to produce biogas, which can be used to power an engine. There was nothing new about gasifiers; they had been around for decades. People sometimes burned rice husks in them to supplement diesel fuel, which was expensive. “But nobody had thought to use rice husks to run a whole power system,” explained Pandey.

In Bihar, poverty is extreme. Pretty much everything that can be used will be used — recycled or burned or fed to animals. Rice husks are the big exception. When rice is milled, the outside kernel, or husk, is discarded. Because the husk contains a lot of silica, it doesn’t burn well for cooking. A recent Greenpeace study (See reference)) reports that Bihar alone produces 1.8 billion kilograms of rice husk per year. Most of it ends up rotting in landfills and emitting methane, a greenhouse gas. Pandey and Yadav began bringing pieces together for an electric distribution system powered by the husks. They got a gasifier, a generator set, filtering, cleaning and cooling systems, piping and insulated wiring. They went through countless iterations to get the system working: adjusting valves and pressures, the gas-to-air ratios, the combustion temperature, the starting mechanism. In they end, they came up with a system that could burn 50 kilograms of rice husk per hour and produce 32 kilowatts of power, sufficient for about 500 village households. Click on for the rest of the story.

By David Bornstein The New York Times, January 10, 2011

Empowering Bihar, Case Studies Bridging the Energy Deficit and Driving Change, Green Peace-India, October 29, 2010.

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It’s all About Civility and Attitude – Questioning climate change vs challenging nuclear power – A tidbit in passing.

This clipping came to me via a multi-contributor thread on Social Media, an information exchange site for those interested in accurate reporting of news about energy, climate change and associated factors. Unlike my usual practice, I provide no references, it’s a by invitation only group with a serious purpose of informing and sharing information for focused on media truth-telling and political accuracy (both oxymoron these days). There’s no Shakespeare on the site – no sound and fury signifying nothing, and I’ve found some great leads to some of my tidbits discussed therein. The recent debate about the Arizona shooting remined  me of this clip so I decided to share it with you. Read Charles’ feedback and think about it! By the way, just in case you didn’t know; bullets kill, not incivility. By the way AGW means Anthropogenic (man-made) global warming.

From: Charles
Subject: Re: [SocialMedia] American Geophysical Union [AGU] sets up climate change expert panel for news media To: “Social Media
Date: Monday, November 15, 2010
I asked a simple question and apparently it hit a nerve. Apparently, anyone who questions human-caused global warming (AGW) is an “attack on science and scientists” and is inappropriate. Excuse me, but I thought scientists are to question theories and demand backup. As a curious scientist, over the past three years, I decided to investigate the evidence behind the AGW theory. I have found that there is no credible scientific evidence that carbon dioxide significantly affects the climate. Anyone who takes the time to look at this issue in depth will conclude the same thing.
When people question the safety of nuclear reactors, do we accuse them of attacking science? Of course not, we provide them with the evidence.
AGW is not a proven scientific theory. It is a political agenda supported by those who want to control the world’s economy. How is this relevant to an honest discussion of the pros and cons of nuclear power? It is highly relevant because there are nuclear power supporters who are using AGW to promote the use of nuclear energy. When AGW is eventually shown to have no basis, then the credibility of these nuclear advocates will suffer. It is important to support nuclear energy because it is clean, compact, and very safe. The fact that it emits no carbon dioxide is nice but it should be at the bottom of the list.

Doc Sez, AGW is irrelevant and a smokescreen, as I will share my views on the subject (as have many others), in a future article. That not withstanding, some of the questions that should/could be unemotionally answered are previewed below:

  • Is climate change that leads to warming of the earth real?
  • Even if transient, a decade to two, what are the uncontrolled effects.
  • Will it likely continue to trend upward for the next 10-50 years?
  • How will these changes impact both the developed and aspiring nations?
  • Can we do anything to soften these impacts?
  • What the credible risks of inaction?

I leave the ‘should we’ questions to politicians, the media, Joan Q Public and to theologians and ethicists. Counting angels on the heads of pins is not my thing.

Remember governments can always choose change global climate today. We have the tools — the method is already well known and has been studied in detail. — It’s called Nuclear Winter… but that ignores the risks, and ethics, doesn’t it?

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More to Read

Electric Car Information Blogs and More
Electric Vehicles — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_vehicle (Wikipedia)
EV Perspective — http://www.evperspective.com/
Plugs and Cars Blog — http://www.plugsandcars.blogspot.com/
Plugin America — http://www.pluginamerica.org/
Hybrid and Electric Car News — http://hybridandelectriccarnews.net/wordpress/
Hybrid Car Blog — http://www.hybridcarblog.com/
Tesla Motors — http://www.teslamotors.com/
Toyota’s Advanced Vehicle Technology — http://www.toyota.com/about/environment/innovation/advanced_vehicle_technology/
The Chevy Volt — http://www.chevrolet.com/volt/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Volt (Wikipedia)
The Nissan Leaf — http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/index#/leaf-electric-car/index and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Leaf (Wikipedia)

Early Apple iPad Reviews

iPad vs. Everything Else by Harry McCracken, PC World, April 28, 2010; http://www.pcworld.com/printable/article/id,195192/printable.html
Marketing Warfare: The iPad Battle, ROI HUNTERS Field Journal, Undated. http://roihunters.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/marketing-warfare-the-ipad-battle/
An iPad at the office: Can it work as a PC? By the InfoWorld Mobile Patrol Staff, August 17, 2010. http://www.infoworld.com/print/133611
Dear Rabid Apple Fans: Your precious Mac club is being disbanded. Blame iPad. By Jason Perlow, ZDNET Tech Broiler, July 22, 2010. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/perlow/dear-rabid-apple-fans-your-precious-mac-club-is-being-disbanded-blame-ipad/13525.
Looking at the iPad From Two Angles by David Pogue, The New York Times, March 31, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/technology/personaltech/01pogue.html?8cir=&emc=cirb1&pagewanted=print/; and David Pogue’s Apple iPad FAQ’s, NY Times, April 1, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/indexes/2010/04/01/technology/circuitsemail/index.html?8cir&emc=cir/.
Life With The iPad: Enterprise Ready. By Fritz Nelson InformationWeek, April 24, 2010 http://www.informationweek.com/shared/printableArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=0JDHCOMG0HI3NQE1GHPCKH4ATMY32JVN?articleID=224600123/
The iPad, Your Newest Workplace Productivity Enhancer, By Rich Jaroslovsky, Bloomberg Business Week, March 31, 2010. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_15/b4173018408771.htm

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA. If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source. Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Readers Please Note — Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes here.

Furthermore, many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable — and if you Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical. I find it always appropriate, as I read to step back and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me.

I know, perhaps even truly believe, is this. For green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases) and gave out no subsidies, these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, Indian and Chinese too, thousands more ideas would come out of innovators’ garages. America still has the best innovation culture in the world. But we need better policies to nurture it, better infrastructure to enable it and more open doors to bring others here to try it.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about it’s all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All rights Reserved.

Introduction

This edition of my greening article departs a little from the traditional style I’ve established in earlier posts.

I’ll be starting out with ad-libs (e.g., opinions) on five items that reflect my observations of energy and general greening technology and its associated swings but NOT provide you with a rationale or other justifications for my thoughts. Accuse me of venting — blowing off steam — Fine, if you don’t do this occasional, also your mind has died, or at least turned into a prune. – Call this a case of I Believe!.

Call them doc_Babad’s five-jaundiced weltanschauungs — the darker side of the 2010 vision.

  • Let Keeping Studying things Until We Die — More experts then ever refused to make decisions on dealing with the forthcoming and near future from climate change. Rising sea levels, doubts, hurricanes and tornadoes and of course floods and forest fires.Their rationale — they need to do more research to reduce their uncertainty. As my philosophy professors and even my father noted, not taking action is a decision. Check out Naomi Oreskes’ new book called “Merchants of Doubt” listed I the reference section.A typical risk analysis, not the guys who figure the worst oil rig blowout, or the worst likely flooding of New Orleans, add defenses, in depth — likely expensive – to counter uncertainty. However, that is politically incorrect.
  • Bearing False Witness — A new class of experts continues to dominate the public debate about energy, climate change and/or any other science based issue such as public health including vaccine safety, caused of cancer, tobacco based disease and our newest daemon, cell phone radiation risks. These folk, who have jumped outside of the technical the areas of their science and engineering training and hove spouted fear, uncertainty, and doubt. This reminds me an old IBM technique called FUD, to an every hungry media and a mostly scientifically illiterate public.Most of these folks have never had a paper on their new avocational expertise published in a peer reviewed journal and feast on traded mutually supporting reference that have no basis in measured truth. Although stretching the point it reminds me of the ultra orthodox rabbis in Israeli cling to their truth that that anyone who doubts their ‘given’ truth’ must not be Jewish.My I suggest this new year that they and theirs opt for having an auto mechanic perform any needed surgery on them when needed, its cheaper — all the mechanics need to do is suggest that they’ve read the manual and so are obviously then qualified.
  • The nuclear renaissance in the western world seems almost stillborn. Why inexpensive natural gas, poor or false lifecycle accounting for costs of wind and solar energy, depression lowered energy demand, and the lack of any desire to take risk on behalf of western governments and the local banking system.Even France a long tome advocate, efforts are slowing down because of the mismanagement of the construction of Areva’s {Nuclear} new generation reactors and the Germans still say Nein. …and of course the Brits are moving cautiously and Australians are still thinking about it despite having the free worlds larges supply if uranium.The good news is that China, India, and the Koreans are not stopping their efforts, albeit they start from a small installed reactor base. Did you know America has the largest installed base of installed operating reactors 104 accounting for 20.2% of our baseline power) with France coming in only second at 58 but accounting for 75.2% of the grid load. More interesting, the wealthy countries in the middle-eastern countries are getting on board, as perhaps are the Brazilians.
  • A Unworldly Solution to Climate Change — Politicians around the world have balked in working together, internationally, con dealing with climate change. Some small individual nations are taking the lead but only within their boundaries or regions. Alas the later are victims of the ‘pimple’ effect when compared to the greenhouse emissions fro the USA, Russia, China and other off shore manufacturers.It is always comically surrealistic, if not fully tragic, that the USA is making some measured progress is lowering industrially produced green house gases by outsourcing the work. That gives us a two-stage benefit. We look greening the too often looked down upon dirty manufacturing capability… e.g. Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, that blight our nations — the heartland that made us great and strong after World War II.
  • Turn Off the Sun — This option, tongue in cheek of course, is an observation of the effects of the almost universal American nuclearphobia about radiation, be it sunshine, radio frequency for cell, phones, medical diagnostic procedures, and of course nuclear electricity in decision making and risk adversity. Of course, except when there is a case of food bacterial based poisoning, then there’s a hue and cry… and the search for a scape-goat. As a society, we almost totally ignore the toxic material in our mass produced foods, potential mutagens in our cosmetics, polluted water systems, and the gas chamber effects of urban air pollution. As far as last item goes, if the concentrations were higher, the agents might have been put to use by the Nazi’s during the Holocaust – alas they were too slow to meet the Third Reich’s goals.

No, I’m not giving up on either American ingenuity and ability to decisively act in a crisis, nor of the creative energies of mankind to overcome political and belief structure based paralysis, as usual; but years end finds me a bit maudlin and introspective. Could it be because I turn 75 in a few months? Or is there a deeper root cause?

Perhaps we need to rearrange our democracy, add criteria for being the franchised, along the lines of Heinlein’s Star Ship Trooper? I am of course aware that Winston Churchill remarked: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (Nov. 11, 1947)

Folks, the 5-fold path to enlightenment on these issues seems to elude me — I just don’t get it. So I’d better get on with this months greening related tid-bits.

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WARNING: This issue is more focused on Nuclear than usual. I’ve never claimed to be either unbiased or to provide a balanced treatment of energy and environmental options. I only state that I will do, to the best of my ability, read all relevant references documents in my considerable references collection. Look for added and more current information by preceding each citation’s use with web searches. I shall give the option, where I deem comments and ad-bibs are appropriate, a fair shot based on those references.

The New Snippet Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Orde,

  • Did You Know – The Word is out! Call it a dump even if its state of the art technology
  • With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too, some day soon, Congress
  • With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too
  • America’s Oil Crude Oil Habit — Hey folks be fair, everyone has the right to their choice of a ‘Fix’
  • When the Assembly Line Moves Online — It’s all beyond Charlie Chaplin’s Imagination
  • Clean Energy Entrepreneurs Face More Obstacles in U.S. — Were back to  the 2010-2012 version of the China Syndrome, with a whimper not a bang this time.
  • How To Stop Global Warming – Even If You Don’t Believe In It

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Did You Know – The Word is out!

Yup, according to Gwyneth Cravens. One of my favorite born again ‘nuclear related authors’ who is a long time-well respected environmentally focused author.

— “A memo went out long ago from Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear organizations: “Always say ‘dump’! Never say ‘repository’ or ‘storage site’!”  “Dump” conjures up a vision of dump trucks backing up to a hole in the ground and letting loose their nasty cargo in a helter skelter fashion. If only city dumps were as tidy as those strictly regulated nuclear waste repositories!

“Words with negative connotations that are repeated over and over have a powerful effect on public.”

Folks, I’m sure if I asked, Gwyneth would send me several examples, … but that a trivial game. Her articles and books are always exceptionally well documented and referenced.

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With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too, some day soon, Congress

Ever since the late 1980s, Duke Power’s CEO James Rogers has been beating the drum for green energy as an answer to global warming, putting him in the vanguard of climate-change activists. But what’s most remarkable is that Rogers happens to be the CEO of Duke Energy Corp., the huge electric and gas utility that ranks among the U.S.’s biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.

Moreover, that dubious distinction is one the Charlotte, North Carolina, utility won’t be relinquishing any time soon. It is the only power company in the U.S. that is simultaneously building two coal-burning plants, which are due to come online in 2012. And coal, although it is both abundant and cheap, is a notorious pollutant compared with natural gas or nuclear power. What explains the apparent paradox between Rogers’ green persona and Duke’s seemingly retrograde strategy? A self-proclaimed pragmatist, he argues that a climate-friendly future will require a 40-year forced march. So how do new coal plants fit into this scenario? For those detail, check out the link!

Which of All The Alternative Energy Sources Holds The Most Promise? — If you look out over the next decade, the Environmental Protection Agency is going to write a set of regulations requiring us to shut down as much as one third of the existing coal fleet [of plants] in the United States. And that coal fleet is going to have to be replaced by something. Will it be natural gas? Will it be nuclear? Will it be renewables? One of the great challenges confronting us is what mix of those three do we need to replace one third of the U.S. coal fleet.

What Drives Your Interest In Green Energy? — I’m in the business of making billion-dollar decisions, and as a pragmatist, I ’m an advocate for advancing [green] issues, in part so that I can deliver on my job one: making energy as affordable, reliable and clean as possible. Whether it’s a coal plant at $3 billion or a nuclear plant at $12 billion to $14 billion, I can make more-informed decisions about huge investments that will last 50 years if I know the[environmental] rules, even though a cleaner carbon footprint in our generation facilities is going to translate into higher prices.

What Do You Say To People Who Deny Global Warming? — There’s a wide number of people that don’t believe it, for a variety of reasons. But even if it didn’t exist, what would I change about my strategy?

We are building plants today that are modernized and have significantly reduced the emissions per kilowatt hour. We would be doing that anyway.

The Institutional Investor by Frances Denmark, 29 Oct 2010.

http://www.institutionalinvestor.com/Popups/PrintArticle.aspx?ArticleID=2702321

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America’s Oil Crude Oil Habit — Hey folks be fair, everyone has the right to their choice of a ‘Fix’

Every petroleum crisis in this country — whether triggered by foreign suppliers flexing their muscles, a price spike at the gasoline pump, or a spill that causes untold environmental damage — heightens demands that the U.S. wean itself from oil. So, predictably, in reaction to the colossal BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico, lawmakers and corporate heavyweights are dusting off past proposals and crafting new ones to kick the national addiction.

Doc Sez — Sorry, to day I’m again feeling cynical — Even the financially troubled PB has pockets deep enough to buy most of entire congress, its called lobbying coupled with political contributions, made all the more murky by the recent US Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to be treated as ‘people’ with no requirement for disclosure. If that does work then perhaps the US Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, and Business Round table can join big oil in keeping the status quo. On the other hand, the Saudi’s and other Middle Eastern countries are investing in nuclear energy, perhaps, being more comfortable with taking along view, they know something America doesn’t or refuses to acknowledge.

On Monday, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D. Ore., outlined an ambitious plan to transition American cars and trucks to alternative fuels, reform and-use laws to make communities less dependent on cars, and shift more freight from 18-wheelers to trains and barges. The freshman senator is also calling on the White House to create a National Council on Energy Security. A week earlier, six-term Sen. Richard Lugar, R. Ind, introduced legislation to raise automobile fuel-efficiency requirements yearly and expand the federal program encouraging advancements in biofuels.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing the Energy Department to designate at least five test sites for electric cars. They want Uncle Sam to help pay for the installation of charging stations in those communities and to give residents tax breaks for buying plug-in vehicles.

Doc Sez: There’s lot more, check it out— Perhaps tomorrow I will regain my optimism! Alas, I’m having real problems distinguishing between show and tell, type posturing, and real initiatives that may roll back our dependence of oil.

Bottom Line — No other nation is so thoroughly hooked on oil. Even though Americans constitute only 4 percent of the world’s population,  they consume 20 percent of its petroleum. Of the 20 million barrels this country uses each day, 13 million are imported. And about 70 percent of the black gold burned in the U.S. goes to power vehicles.

The Fly, Other Than Politics, in The Ointment — Every time gasoline prices skyrocket, lawmakers look for ways to cut domestic oil use. When the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries embargoed oil to the United States in 1973, Washington required automakers to produce more-efficient cars and pushed electric utilities to turn to fuels other than oil. Please recall that starting with President Carter, to some degree all of our presidents tried and FAILED.

National Journal Group Inc, by Margaret Kriz Hobson, June 19, 2010.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20100619_3491.php?print=true

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When the Assembly Line Moves Online — It’s all beyond Charlie Chaplin’s Imagination

In “Modern Times,” Charlie Chaplin, second from left, was mired in monotony. Today, many repetitive tasks are being parceled out on the Internet.

Do one assigned task on your computer. It shouldn’t take you more than two seconds. Repeat 14,399 times. Congratulations! Your eight-hour workday is complete.

No such workplace yet exists, but with the fiendishly clever creation of standardized two-second tasks, delivered to any computer connected to the Internet, it is now technically possible to set up. Microtask, a start-up company in Finland, has come up with the software that delivers such tasks. [http://www.microtask.com/] The company offers to take on “dull, repetitive work” — like digitizing paper forms or business cards — for prospective clients. As it says in a video on its Web site, “Microtask loves the work you hate.”

The company is in a position to love that work because not one of its 12 employees actually performs it. Its software carves a given task into microscopically small pieces, like transcribing a handwritten four-digit number in a tiny rectangle on a form. (Handwritten numbers and letters are the bane of text-recognition software.) These tasks, stripped of identifying information about the client or the larger task, can then be distributed online anywhere.

The approach shows how the online concept of widely distributed work has evolved since it was pioneered by the Mechanical Turk service, introduced by Amazon.com in 2005. Mechanical Turk [http://mturk.com/] resembles an online bulletin board. Businesses post income-earning opportunities, with rewards for each task completed. Turkers, as the independent contractors are informally called, choose a task they like and are qualified for. Recent offers included 2 cents each for finding the contact information for 7,500 hotels and 3 cents each for answering questions about 9,400 toys.

Miriam Cherry, an associate professor of law at the University of the Pacific, tried Mechanical Turk and says she found out for herself that the compensation was meager. “My assistant and I tried but we couldn’t make minimum wage,” says Professor Cherry, who presented an argument last year in the Alabama Law Review [http://www.law.ua.edu/lawreview/articles/Volume 60/Issue 5/cherry.pdf] for extending minimum-wage laws into cyberspace.

Fascinating – Check out the rest – This is an idea not even my Science Fiction addiction had turned up!

The New York Times, by Randall Stross, October 30, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/business/31digi.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=business

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Clean Energy Entrepreneurs Face More Obstacles in U.S.Were back to  the 2010-2012 version of the China Syndrome, with a whimper not a bang this time.

With erect posture and clear gray eyes, Chuck Provini still looks like the Marine who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1969 and was repeatedly decorated for bravery in Vietnam.  Chuck Provini, chief executive of Natcore Technology in Red Bank, N.J. He fumes at strangers who call him a traitor for agreeing to manufacture in Zhuzhou, China, a new solar panel production device that his company developed in the United States.  “I love my country,” said Mr. Provini, chief executive of 10-employee Natcore Technology in Red Bank, N.J. “It makes me crazy that I’ve got countries that want to do things with us, but not here.”

Mr. Provini acknowledges that further refinements are needed to the technology, which involves replacing a costly furnace in the manufacture of solar panels with a room-temperature process. But his experience in trying to commercialize it highlights the challenges that clean energy entrepreneurs face in the United States — and the opportunities that await in China. American venture capitalists are the main source of money for many clean energy start-ups because most commercial banks are leery of lending to businesses with no proven revenue. But venture capitalists are reluctant to make long-term financial commitments, Mr. Provini said, and want clear timetables for when they can get their money back with a profit.

“They want to come in, make a killing and get out,” said Mr. Provini, who spent most of his career on Wall Street, including as president of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management.

He said he spoke with a Congressional aide and visited a Washington law firm, Baker Botts, seeking advice on government assistance. But available grants came with too many restrictions, and were hard to find and apply for, Mr. Provini said. What Natcore really wanted was money for its own research and help finding joint-venture partners with the right technology.

Investors in Brazil, Taiwan and particularly China were more interested, he said.

There lot more details posted, check it out. Alas, Sez Doc, this is a more typical story than not. From my, albeit limited reading (e.g., the Economist, Business Week, the Sunday Times and the Wall Street Journal on line) American venture capitalist have gotten the take not risk that require waiting for more than 3-5 years for a payout.

“I feel what China is doing is taking chances on new technologies, investing relatively small amounts of money understanding that some of those technologies will blossom,” Mr. Provini said.

Matt Rogers, an adviser to the United States energy secretary, said his department had many grants available of all sizes, and that the competitions for them effectively identified companies that investors might also want to finance. “We have the best technology,” Mr. Rogers said. “I think we have the best manufacturing here in the United States.”

However, many Chinese clean energy executives are skeptical of Rogers assertions, saying that the United States was losing its lead even in the production of the sophisticated factory equipment needed to make solar panels, and now retained an advantage only in the earliest stages of research.

The New York Times, By Keith Bradsher, September 8, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/business/global/09tradeside.html?nl=&emc=aua21

Also Check Out:

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How To Stop Global Warming – Even If You Don’t Believe In It

In the global-warming debate, scientists are, admirably, still trying to save the day. Last week, the American Geophysical Union announced plans to mobilize about 700 climate scientists in an effort to improve the accuracy of media coverage and public understanding of their field. Separately, a smaller group of scientists organized by John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota said it was putting together a “rapid response team” to bring accurate climate science to public debates.

On the face of it, such efforts certainly make sense. The scientists hope, not unreasonably, to bring more attention to the climate-change crisis. More crucially, they seek to halt the slide in public opinion on the issue, with recent polls finding Americans’ belief in the evidence for global warming on the decline, along with their view of the need for immediate action to slow climate change. And it’s true that science education, when done well, may help accomplish these goals.

But will it lead to meaningful policy? Or will this latest round of efforts instead result in another spate of news stories about scary end-of-the-world scenarios, another series of debates over whether global-warming science is a hoax and more wasted time — time we don’t have? There is good reason to think that those who are worried about climate change would make greater progress — especially among Republicans, who profess increasing skepticism about warming — if they focused less on arguing the scientific reality and more on building support for specific solutions that all sides can agree on.

The first problem with focusing on the science debate is that the spectacle of dueling scientists confuses people. We have already seen this story unfold in the media: Two opposing sides, given similar exposure, argue about complexities that most Americans feel they have little ability to assess. Instead of focusing on the causes of climate change in simple terms that people can grasp and act upon, it is all too easy for scientists to get trapped in a debate with skeptics about whether they can prove that warming is real and how they can show definitively that its effects are imminent. Faced with this sparring, it becomes fairly easy for the average person to dismiss climate change as an open question and cross it off the list of things they need to worry about.

Unfortunately, the global warming debate increasingly turns more on political belief than on scientific fact. Until relatively recently, environmental issues were largely nonpartisan. Republican presidents such as Richard Nixon have historically achieved significant environmental gains, and voters across party lines used to express fairly equal levels of support for environmental protections.

There’s more – do the check references thing!

Congress, member of both parties, must start by focusing on climate-friendly policies and stop assuming that we must first achieve unanimity on global warming science. People can support the transition to a carbon-free energy future without believing, or even knowing, that it might influence glaciers, coral reefs or Arctic ice.

There is a long list of carbon-reduction measures that strong majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents firmly support, including mandating better fuel efficiency, increasing federal funding for clean-energy research, spending more for mass transit, raising efficiency standards for homes and other buildings, and requiring utilities to produce more energy from renewable sources. They even support limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – just as long as they are seen as anti-pollution measures, not “caps.”

The Washington Post, by Meg Bostrom, November 14, 2010

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/12/AR2010111202800.html

Also See:

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA. If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source. Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

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ADDED REFERENCES

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming [Hardcover] by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway; Published by Bloomsbury Press; 1 edition (May 25, 2010) Amazon.com has some well written review of the book, others can be googled.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Remember, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in thi,s Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Uranus Facts:

  • Location: 7th planet from the sun
  • Size: 3rd largest planet in our solar system
  • Orbit: 19.22 AU
  • Orbital Period: 84.07 Julian Years *
  • Average Distance from Earth: 19.2 AUs *
  • Diameter: 4X that of earth
  • Discovered: 1781 by William Herschel
  • Atmosphere: hydrogen, helium, water, methane, ammonia
  • Interesting facts: the planetary axis of rotation is titled sideways (97 degrees), which is unique for a planet in our solar system; the first planet discovered by a telescope; visited by Voyager 2.
  • Total number of moons: 27 (Cordelia, Ophelia, Bianca, Cressida, Desdemona, Juliet, Portia, Rosalind, Cupid, Belinda, Perdita, Puck, Mab, Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon, Francisco, Caliban, Stephano, Trinculo, Sycorax, Margaret, Prospero, Setebos, and Ferdinand)
  • Click here for Wolfram|Alpha data on Uranus

* = Courtesy of Wolfram Astronomy Assistant

So far I’ve covered three gas giant planets, and now I turn my eye (and software) to Uranus, one of the dimmest and least dense planets in the solar system.

Uranus is unique for several reasons. First, it is blue to blue-green in color, due to the methane content of the atmosphere. Second, Uranus is the only planet that is titled on it’s axis – slightly over 97 degrees. Third, Uranus was the first planet discovered with a telescope. Four, astronomers were able to use Uranus to determine where to look to find Neptune.

What to know what else is interesting about Uranus today, January 18, 2011? Today the New Horizons probe to Pluto is close to passing the orbital path of Uranus and continuing on its trek past Neptune and on to Pluto. Call me an astronomy geek, but I think that is cool.

Now lets get back to our planet of choice. Uranus has 27 odd satellites, and the closest of the 5 large moons is Miranda, so I took a quick trip to look at it. Rather plain, especially compared to some of Jupiter’s moons.

I like the quality of the images of both Uranus and Miranda in Starry Night Pro. They are so much nicer than the land telescope images we had before Voyager 2 made the long trek out to Uranus. I should add that earlier astronomy programs used Voyager 2 images of Uranus and other planets in the solar system, which really enhanced the experience of using the software.

I decided I’d like to see Uranus from Miranda’s surface (a nice feature of Starry Night), and it was a real treat. Uranus is fairly large and clearly visible from Miranda, as you might expect as it is a mere 130,000 km from Uranus.

Why this perspective from the surface of Miranda? Because Miranda has some canyons that are 20 km deep! Impressive. Miranda may be the smallest of the large Uranus satellites, but it’s proximity to Uranus could make it an interesting landing site for a future probe.

Fun, then it was time to look at Uranus and Miranda as they would be seen by an approaching spacecraft. I like how easy that was to setup in Starry Night Pro.

There are a lot of people without astronomy hardware or software, and those people can take advantage of Microsoft’s free WorldWideTelescope.org site to check out some nice digital images of Uranus, as well as the other planets of the solar system:

That’s it for now. Have a safe and happy holiday season.

– Mike

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Updates

6-24-2011 – Added Orbital Period, Average Distance from Earth information.

2-14-2011 – Added names of all moons.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

This post is my response to some of the supposed experts that claim scientists are wrong about global warming. I lack the credentials to speak with authority on global warming, however I trust experts from the scientific community more than ignorant politicians or political movements or big coal/oil.

The past 4 years I’ve heard a lot of things about global warming that surprise and concern me. Being skeptical is fine, but changing or ignoring information that disproves a position is wrong. This is an informal top ten list of reasons I heard or read by people who claim “Scientists use falsified or modified data about global warming, because scientists…”

  1. just want to continue to get research grants.
  2. lack the ability to interpret data as well as regular people.
  3. don’t really believe in G-d because he wouldn’t let us wreck our planet.
  4. really only have temperature data since the 1950s, and tree and ice cores don’t mean anything, so how would they know?
  5. at “my” church don’t believe it, so those other scientists are wrong!
  6. want to look important and attract members of the opposite (or same) sex.
  7. are out to get big coal/oil. Anti-business, plain and simple. Drill baby drill.
  8. actually believe in evolution and refuse to accept the earth is less than 10,000 yrs old. Carbon dating is just wrong!
  9. really faked the moon landings.
  10. are tools of them liberal democrats!

Based on my own experiences with them, this is my top ten list to respond to the list above: “Scientists…”

  1. are ethical people and well aware their papers are subject to peer review. Credibility is everything to a scientist, and not many would continue to get grants if most or all of their peers continually reject and refute their findings.
  2. are better equipped (and more knowledgeable) to interpret scientific data than people lacking a scientific background. Please, child!
  3. have and lack religious beliefs, just like other professions. I believe there have been things like the black death plague in the middle ages, the holocaust in the 1940s, the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons for the 50s to today – G-D did not prevent them. Being a scientist does not mean one must deny the existence of G-d.
  4. use tree cores and ice cores that date back hundreds and thousands of years to track and interpret weather data.
  5. are not proven wrong because one or two people with a similar background disagree with the entire scientific community. I’ve known people who claimed to be Christians that were horrible and mean-spirited – I do not interpret that to mean all Christians are bad (or wrong) because of the behavior of a few of them. I’ve also met a number of nice people who were Hindus and Muslims – that does not mean there are no bad Hindus or Muslims.
  6. are not attention-seekers. They seek verifiable answers to questions, not pick-up lines to use at a local bar.
  7. understand the need our society has for power systems. I’m not saying some members of the scientific community dislike big oil/coal. I’m saying the position of a few does not dictate the position of every one of that profession. And I believe that many people living on the Gulf coast do not agree with the political byline of “Drill Baby Drill.”
  8. believe in evolution, a 4.54 billion year old earth, and G-D. And yes, carbon (and potassium/argon) dating is quite accurate. I agree with those positions. There is not an inherent incompatibility of scientists and religious beliefs. I’ve met some scientists that had strong religious beliefs as well as scientists that were atheists – the job does not dictate religious affiliation or the lack of.
  9. believe America had the technology and desire to send astronauts to the moon in the 60s and 70s. I agree. Those men were brave to undertake such a dangerous flight, and it is an insult to them and their families for people to deny their accomplishments.
  10. are democrats, republicans, independents, and none of the above. Just as with other professions, some scientists have liberal-leaning while others are politically conservative. Political orientation should not be used to change science or history.

There are a few more posts on this site about global warming doubters – if that subject interests you then check out this post.

The list of global warming doubters has dropped over the past 5 years, but there are still some that want to voice their opinions that they know better than people with the education and credentials to discuss the topic.

I apologize if I offended anyone, because that is not my intention or desire. I get tired of hearing or reading opinions of people who fear conspiracies “they alone are smart enough to recognize.

In an open society, people are free to have their opinions, but that does not mean spreading false material because the truth conflicts with a political agenda or religious beliefs. An open society does not mean people are free to attempt to intimidate or insult others that disagree with cherished/uninformed notions or religious beliefs.

And finally, the tactic of not stating your position and trying to use half-truths and internet innuendo to undermine the opinion of another person is not the act of a smart, kind, wise person. It is the act of someone who realizes their own position is undefendable. It is the act of someone that fails to see that their approach alienates and does not convince another of the validity of their opinion. When one desires that they or their opinions be shown respect, they better be willing to show the same respect to people that do not agree with them. Respect is a two-way street.

To sum it up. Free speech and open discourse – good. Distorting data, lying about data, or stifling inconvenient truths – bad.

Just my 2 bits.

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction 

Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters to which I subscribe. When I have time, I also check a variety of energy related and environmental blogs. In addition, I subscribe to New York Times, Time Magazine, The Economist, Business Week, Wired, National Geographic, Smithsonian – all which I skim for articles of interest. I also pick up items from Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists, when the provide reference I can check,

Some of what I chase is called out in publications by the libraries of the Pacific Northwest [NewsBridge], Sandia, Argonne and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, which are managed by the US Department of Energy. Other articles I found interesting come from technology feeds from the, Discover Magazine, various international energy and green advocacy groups as well as The American Association for the Advancement of Science from the American Nuclear Society magazine Nuclear News is a source and for chemistry related news Chemical & Engineering New from the American Chemical Society.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and intentionally biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send us feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).

I’ll continue posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves. Coming soon; ‘my call on global warming’, and 13 reasons you hated nuclear power, for reasons now disproved. But if you’re a true believer, then unsubscribe to our blog – none can change your mind but a disaster and that might not wake you up to seeming realities proven by fact not faith.

…and while you’re at it, Help Stamp Out Nucleophobia and Raise You Sci-Tech IQ

Doc.

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • Black Is the New Green – Photosynthesis-based fuel
  • Hydro Power Without the Dams: Ontario Invests in Free Flow Underwater Turbines
  • For Those Near, the Miserable Hum of Clean Energy — Noisy Wind Turbines Attract Complaints
  • The Big Potential of Micro Nukes — Moving Van Sized ‘Modular’ Nuclear Reactors for Your City and Mine
  • New Coal Plants in China, India Built Under UN Clean Development Mechanism
  • Hydrocarbons and Geothermal Energy — A silent minority report
  • Kiss My Ash: How King Coal’s Lobbyists Are Undermining Coal Ash Regulation — Coal ash dumps a ‘time bomb’ for Michigan and other water
  • Toxic Sludge From Hungary Spill Coats Villages, Threatens Danube — Another unintended environmental consequence

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Black Is the New GreenPhotosynthesis based fuel

Lilac Amirav is breaking a sweat trying to do what nature has been doing effortlessly for some 3 billion years. She and 30 or so colleagues at the Helios project are trying to build miniature machines that re-create photosynthesis, the process by which green plants take in sunlight and carbon dioxide and produce energy. In a leaf, the product of this reaction is the sugar molecule, which serves as a kind of biological battery: All the plant has to do is break sugar’s chemical bonds, releasing the energy it needs to sustain itself. Amirav’s goal is to tweak this process to better suit the energy needs of a world population that by 2050 is expected to reach 9 billion, a growing percentage of which will want to drive their own cars. She and her colleagues at Helios, a joint project of U. C. Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, want to build an artificial leaf that drips ethanol, or some other alcohol, which you could pump right into your gas tank.

New energy technologies have never been in greater demand. With consumption growing, oil supplies often tight, and the world in a warming trend, the search is on for better energy sources—clean coal, safe nuclear reactors, and more far-reaching ideas like artificial photosynthesis.

Automobiles (transportation) pose a particular problem because they require a portable source of energy that can deliver a concentrated punch, a quality that sunlight does not possess. But the status quo is unacceptable. Tailpipe exhaust accounts for some 20 percent of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide; an economic recovery could easily cause the return of $140-a-barrel oil.

The scientists at Helios—and at a growing number of labs around the world doing related work—could revise those equations. Photosynthesis consumes carbon dioxide. If we could pull carbon out of the air and use it to wean cars off fossil fuels, that would go a long way toward reducing humankind’s production of greenhouse gases without impeding technological progress.

Check out the references and see how the studies of nanotechnology-based materials is being pursued to duplicate, and perhaps make more efficient what is commonplace in our natural biological world. We have a long way to go. But judging from the progress at Helios, and other projects, we getting closer to both understanding the science and capturing it to create an alternate source of transportation fuel, one more closely linked to today’s sunlight rather then that captured in now buried plants during prehistoric times.

By Fred Guterl, Discover Magazine October 20, 2010

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jun/20-black-is-the-new-green

More References

There are all sorts of approaches to creating fuel from sunlight, avoiding the potentially energy wasting  ‘GO Trap’ by not collecting electricity. Not that making electricity from sunlight is either good or per se bad, it’s the bottom line for total lifecycle cost per gallon of gasoline energy equivalent including green house gas emission related costs, that counts. Here’s a taste – Google On.

Artificial Photosynthesis — From Wikipedia, (October. 10, 2010)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_Photosynthesis

Helios Project — Lawrence Berkley National Labs Solar Energy Research Center. http://www.lbl.gov/LBL-Programs/helios-serc/index.html

Artificial Photosynthesis: Turning Sunlight Into Liquid Fuels Moves A Step Closer — ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2009) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090311103646.htm

Getting to the Hydrogen Highway Via the Nano Road, by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, August 20, 2009. http://newscenter.lbl.gov/feature-stories/2009/04/20/hydrogen-highway-nano-road/

Water Oxidation Advance Boosts Potential for Solar FuelScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2010http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100311141207.htm

Hydrogen From Sun And Water, by Mitch Jacoby’s in Chemical & Engineering News, AUGUST 10, 2009. http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news/87/i32/8732notw.html

Bio Solar Energy Conversion-Artificial Photosynthesis — Beckman Institute of the California Institute of Technology {Undated} http://mmrc.caltech.edu/BB/photoconversion.html

How Artificial Photosynthesis Works by Julia Layton.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/energy-production/artificial-photosynthesis.htm

Also Check My Early September Greening Article

Fuel From The Sun <—> Water + sunlight = fuel by Stephen K. Ritter Chemical & Engineering News, 88(27), July 05, 2010

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i27/html/8827sci1.html

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Hydro Power Without the Dams: Ontario Invests in Free Flow Underwater Turbines

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could generate clean power from rivers without having to dam them? That’s what Verdant Power is trying to do with its free flow turbines (which we’ve covered in the past on this site: “Lunar Power” comes to New York and NBC Coverage of Wave and Tidal Power).

The Cornwall Ontario River Energy Project – 15 Megawatts — The province of Ontario is investing C$2.2 million into a project to demonstrate the feasibility and commercial viability of using free flow turbines to harness some of the St. Lawrence River’s kinetic energy and turn it into electricity.

This project is for 15 megawatts, enough to power 11,000 average-sized homes, but Verdant estimates that “there is enough potential power in the water currents of Canada’s tides, rivers and manmade channels to generate 15,000 MW of electricity using its technology”. That would be about the equivalent of 15 big coal power plants.

But we have to wonder… Did they pick Cornwall just because they could make a really cool acronym? The Cornwall Ontario River Energy (CORE) Project.

How Does a Free Flow Underwater Turbine Work? Very simply, it works like a wind turbine, but the blades are moved by a water current instead of by the wind. “The turbine blades rotate slowly allowing fish to pass through safely with minimal environmental impact.” Of course, the impact won’t be zero, but if we consider that Ontario is currently getting a good amount of its power from coal plants, this definitely looks like a step in the right direction.

One key difference with wind turbines is that free flow hydro turbines are not visible, so the “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) attitude shouldn’t be a problem. Another benefit over wind power is that hydro delivers power more predictably.

Read the article to discover the potential use of tidal power Tidal Power in the East River in New York City
 Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project (pdf) in New York City’s East River. Also check out the potential for The Future of Free Flow Hydropower Turbines. It’s probably still too early to know how cost-competitive this technology will be. What we do know is that there won’t be a clean energy silver bullet, so it is important to keep improving in that area even if other types of renewable energies are ahead right now (wind, solar, and even wave power).

By Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada Broadcast on 04-14-08

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY (alternative energy) — http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/04/verdant-power-free-flow-underwater-turbines-hydro.php

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For Those Near, the Miserable Hum of Clean Energy — Noisy Wind Turbines Attract Complaints

Oh brave new wind — The law of unforeseen consequences!

Inalhaven, Me. — Like nearly all of the residents on this island in Penobscot Bay, Art Lindgren and his wife, Cheryl, celebrated the arrival of three giant wind turbines late last year. That was before they were turned on. In the first 10 minutes, our jaws dropped to the ground,” Mr. Lindgren said. “Nobody in the area could believe it. They were so loud.”

Now, the Lindgrens, along with a dozen or so neighbors living less than a mile from the $15 million wind facility here, say the industrial whoosh-and-whoop of the 123-foot blades is making life in this otherwise tranquil corner of the island unbearable.

They are among a small but growing number of families and homeowners across the country who say they have learned the hard way that wind power — a clean alternative to electricity from fossil fuels — is not without emissions of its own.

Lawsuits and complaints about turbine noise, vibrations and subsequent lost property value have cropped up in Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, among other states.

There’s lots more, check it out. To paraphrase an old quotation, ’no new energy form goes without punishment. {Doc.} Is this super NIMBY or an acoustic cover up? Only time and measurements will tell; but there are lots of European based articles on this subject. Just Google <European Windmills + Noise>

By Tom Zeller Jr., New York Times, Published: October 5, 2010 — http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/06/business/energy-environment/06noise.html?_r=1&nl=&emc=aua1

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The Big Potential of Micro Nukes Moving Van Sized ‘Modular’ Nuclear Reactors for Your City and Mine

The race is on to develop refrigerator-size reactors that could power small towns or plants

David H. Freedman comments that I’m standing 20 feet from the brightly glowing core of a laboratory nuclear test reactor the size of a moving van, and the Geiger counter next to me is going nuts. But no worries, I’m told. The light, visible on a nearby monitor hooked up to a camera inside the reactor, is not from nuclear fission; it is harmless emission from electrons zipping out of the core and shedding their energy into the water that surrounds it. And the stream of particles eliciting the shriek from the Geiger counter is not from the reactor at all. Just for a giggle, the reactor manager has placed the detector next to a Fiestaware cup, which happens to be one of many everyday items that are mildly radioactive. He keeps it on hand to tease visitors.

I am actually getting less radiation here than I would on the beach or in an airplane. You’ll have to forgive the folks at Oregon State University’s Radiation Center for having a little fun. Nuclear power fell into a long funk after the partial core meltdown at the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania in 1979. All new nuclear plant construction in the United States came to a halt, and before the industry could recover, the 1986 reactor breach at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine seemed to seal the fate of nuclear power in this country. Now the technology is hot again—this time in a good way—because it produces virtually no carbon emissions and it backs us away from the turbulent politics and economics of oil.

OSU’s nuclear engineers are basking in that glow. While the industry was in deepfreeze, they were pressing ahead with one of the most promising emerging technologies in energy: micro-size nuclear reactors, fully functional power plants a good deal closer to the size of the test reactor I’m standing near. It is a far cry from the standard nuclear plant—the size of a small town, cranking out enough electricity to power a major city—not to mention the even bigger plants going up in China and France. To say China’s aim of 60 GW of new nuclear in operation by 2020 is ambitious is an understatement. By speaking with the people at the centre of this project, both government officials and executives from the foreign firms that are supplying the technology ,and after analysis by international experts at the Energy Social Media Blog several documents  reports how China aims to achieve this goal. <See reference>

Given the economies of scale in the power industry, why would anyone want to go teeny? “There are economies of small, too,” says Jose Reyes, chairman of OSU’s nuclear engineering department and chief technology officer at nearby NuScale Power, a commercial spin-off of the department. For one thing, Reyes explains, miniaturized nuclear plants are small enough to mass-produce, driving down costs, and they can be shipped just about anywhere by truck or boat, even to locations that are off the grid.

For one thing, Reyes explains, miniaturized nuclear plants are small enough to mass-produce, driving down costs, and they can be shipped just about anywhere by truck or boat, even to locations that are off the grid.

Also, micro nukes can be designed to run a long time without maintenance or refueling. They could be sealed like a big battery and buried underground for as long as three decades (30 years), so terrorists could not get into them and nuclear waste could not get out. A spent micro nuke could simply be plucked out of the ground and shipped whole to a waste-processing or recycling facility anywhere in the world (e.g., China or France); the old one could be swapped out for a new one, cartridge-style. In contrast, a conventional nuclear plant requires several years of customized design and construction, and at the end of its life several years more are needed to dismantle it and decontaminate the massive site around it.

Toshiba, Hyperion Power Generation, Sandia National Labs, and TerraPower—a company underwritten in part by Bill Gates—also have downsized nuclear reactor concepts in the works. Micro nukes are more reliable than wind power, cheaper than solar, and much easier to operate than conventional nuclear plants. Initially, micro nukes are likely to be installed in clusters as safer, simpler replacements for existing commercial reactors that need decommissioning. But in the coming decade, small-scale (nukelets) like NuScale’s may well eclipse solar and wind as the green energy of choice, bringing plentiful electricity to billions of people who lack it and possibly powering individual neighborhoods within cities.

Read about the OSU’s one-third-scale test version of the NuScale reactor, which is being extensively studied as the basis of the next design stage before going to licensing and commercialization, abroad if not in the USA.

OSU houses a one-third-scale test version of the NuScale reactor, faithful to the real thing except for electrically powered heating rods that stand in for the radioactive core. Operating since 2008, the uncomplicated-looking contraption seems like the sort of thing you would expect to find at the back of a small brewpub. But the device runs like a top, sending a copious river of steam into the air above the building. (Reyes nixed a student scheme to dye the steam green and hook it up to a train whistle.) NuScale plans to submit its design to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in early 2012. The NRC is expected to take at least three years to approve it, due to a backlog of applications at the agency and to the newness of micro nuke designs. Still, that is probably a few years sooner than most other micro nukes can expect to get the nod; the NuScale reactor’s light-water technology is quite similar to the industry-standard approach with which the NRC is intimately familiar.

To speed things up further, NuScale is initially marketing its micro nukes in bundles of 12 set up to replace existing nuclear power plants—which means that the company will not have to wait for approval of specific sites, since the go-ahead for safe siting will already be in place. Having an installed base of safely operating reactors should make it easier to win approval for selling the units individually or in smaller bundles later on, Reyes contends. “We’ll learn a huge amount about building and running the reactors every time we produce a batch of 12,” he says. NuScale is in active discussions with several utility customers.

Sticking with proven light-water technology has some downsides, Reyes acknowledges. To keep the water from boiling and losing it’s heat-transferring properties, light-water reactors cannot run at the high temperatures that are most efficient for producing power. And even at lower temperatures, preventing boiling requires high pressure. In the unlikely event that an overheating core causes a reactor breach, the pressure could potentially cause an explosive venting of radioactive gases into the environment.

To get around these problems, Japan’s Toshiba and Hyperion Power Generation of Santa Fe, New Mexico, are pushing rival micro reactors. Their versions, which have been in development for more than a decade, use circulating molten metal—sodium and lead bismuth, respectively—as coolants and heat conduits instead of water. Without the risk of water boiling, the reactors can run at higher temperatures, producing enough heat to extract hydrogen from water for use in fuel cells. And if one of these reactors melted open, a very unlikely event, there would be no venting, just a well-contained hot mess underground.

There are more references about the potential for, and advantages for micro (Small-Scale) nuclear reactors

Article by David H. Freedman; photography by Nicholas Eveleigh, from the June 2010 Issue of Discover Magazine, Posted November 22, 2010. — http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jun/05-the-big-promise-of-micro-nukes

Additional References

Nuclear Power in China: How the Red Dragon Will Lead the World by Penny Hitchin — Published: Oct 1, 2010 in Power Engineering World Wide — http://www.powergenworldwide.com/index/display/articledisplay/4114678000/articles/power-engineering-international/volume-18/issue-9/features/nuclear-power-in-china-how-the-red-dragon-will-lead-the-world.html

A Preassembled Nuclear Reactor, By Kevin Bullis in MIT’s Technology Today — http://www.technologyreview.com/printer_friendly_article.aspx?id=22867&channel=energy&section/

IEER/PSR: ‘Small Modular Reactors’ No Panacea for What Ails Nuclear Power, PR-Canada.Net – PR-CANADA.net , by the Canadian The IEER/PSR  Group, October 01, 2010  — http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ieerpsr-small-modular-reactors-no-panacea-for-what-ails-nuclear-power-104024223.html. And the ‘Makhijani  and Boyd’ Factsheet cited therein.

<Note the group objects to government subsidies for nuclear power but not for coal, oil, or other energy forms –Doc. – If you want more information about the unfocused inapplicable use of technical data and innuendo found therein, drop us a note.>

Small Modular Reactors, From Wikipedia, Updated October 23, 2010. — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Modular_Reactors

Global Energy Needs: Defining a Role for a “Right Sized Reactor”, by Dr. Thomas L. Sanders, President of the American Nuclear Society, March 2010. — Presentation notes, personal communication to doc_Babad.

Experts Found Wanting By Stephen Heiser: Russians Go To Sea With Reactors, We Go To Water With Wind Mills?, by Stephen Heiser in Nuclear Power Industry News, Jul 28 2009. — http://nuclearstreet.com/nuclear_power_industry_news/b/nuclear_power_news/archive/2009/07/28/experts-found-wanting-by-stephen-heiser-russian-go-to-sea-with-reactors-we-go-to-water-with-wind-mills-1722.aspx

Small Nuclear Reactors Are Becoming Big

Business, by Jeremy van Loon and Alex Morales in Bloomberg Business Week, May 20, 2010. — http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/10_22/b4180020375312.htm

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New Coal Plants in China, India Built Under UN Clean Development Mechanism

Twelve companies are set to fund 20 “efficient” coal-fired power plants overseas in exchange for the right to continue producing their own emissions at home.

The Guardian (UK) has the story and explains it all, but the justification is that the new plants would be more “efficient” than older ones, and would be paid for by carbon offsets that British and European companies bought instead of cutting their own emissions.

Here’s the real crux of the problem: if Medupi is allowed to sell offsets, the Guardian continues, “It would be able offset all the emissions from a major new coal power station in the UK, effectively allowing the British government to meet its carbon-reduction targets by subsidizing a plant in South Africa that would have been built anyway.”

Check out CDM-Watch (Check the Reference) to learn more about criticisms of the Clean Development Mechanism from people who follow it regularly, and about what can be done to fix it.

Article by Rachel Cernansky at Planet Green.com, July 15, 2010. — http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tech-transport/new-coal-plants-china-india-built-under-un-clean-development-mechanism.html?print=true

Check the added detail at:

Rich Countries To Pay Energy Giants To Build New Coal-Fired Power Plants. The UN’s Clean Development Mechanism to use European carbon offset credits to subsidize 20 ‘efficient’ coal plants in India and China. Article by John Vidal, environment editor guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 14 July 2010. — http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/14/un-carbon-offset-coal-plants

CDM-Watchhttp://www.cdm-watch.org/ (Scrutinizing Carbon Offsets)

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Hydrocarbons and Geothermal Energy — A silent minority report

Geothermal power is probably the lowest-profile renewable energy option we have. It doesn’t get nearly the attention that wind and solar power do–even from me–although it has been quietly cranking out about 0.4% of the US electricity supply for many years. That roughly matches the expected output of all the wind turbines likely to be installed here this year. I’ve commented previously on the striking similarities between geothermal exploration and production and the processes and risk profile of oil and gas exploration & production, but I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned a small but potentially important overlap between the two: geothermal heat extracted from the fluids produced from oil and gas wells. The potential contribution of “geothermal hydrocarbon co-production” (GHCP) might not be as large as from conventional hydrothermal reservoirs or engineered geothermal systems (EGS), but this approach has the advantage of capitalizing on additional energy from a source that’s already being exploited.

In its report on the US geothermal industry earlier this year, the Geothermal Energy Association listed five projects involving GHCP and related efforts to tap the mechanical energy of high-pressure gas reservoirs, or geopressured fluids. The Department of Energy has recognized this potential and provided partial funding for several of these projects under its stimulus programs. GEA also cited an estimate from Southern Methodist University’s Geothermal Energy Program that GHCP from the onshore Gulf Coast region alone could provide up to 5,000 MW of reliable power. That doesn’t include the potential for using the large volumes of produced water in new or abandoned wells to tap the energy of higher-temperature rock formations underlying the hydrocarbon reservoirs using engineered geothermal systems (EGS).

There’s more — Check it out.

Article by Geoffrey Styles, The Energy Collective, November 9, 2010. — http://theenergycollective.com/geoffrey-styles/46900/hydrocarbons-and-geothermal-energy

Geothermal Industry Interim US Market Update, October 22, 2010 b y the Geothermal Association. — http://www.geo-energy.org/pdf/reports/Geothermal_Industry_Interim_Update_October2010_Final.pdf

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Kiss My Ash: How King Coal’s Lobbyists Are Undermining Coal Ash RegulationCoal ash dumps a ‘time bomb’ for Michigan and other water supplies, environmentalists say

The dangers associated with waste from coal-fired power plants got some attention last month when a billion gallons of coal ash spilled from a storage pond in Tennessee, contaminating surface waters with arsenic, mercury and lead. Michigan has plenty of its own problems stemming from coal ash contamination, regulators and environmentalists say, but because the ash is stored underground the problems have largely gone unnoticed. Stored in unsecured landfills, coal ash can leach toxins into groundwater, endangering the ecosystem of the Great Lakes, which contains 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.

The dangers associated with waste from coal-fired power plants got some attention last month when a billion gallons of coal ash spilled from a storage pond in Tennessee, contaminating surface waters with arsenic, mercury and lead. Michigan has plenty of its own problems stemming from coal ash contamination, regulators and environmentalists say, but because the ash is stored underground the problems have largely gone unnoticed.

Stored in unsecured landfills, coal ash can leach toxins into groundwater, endangering the ecosystem of the Great Lakes, which contains 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.

There’s a lot more here…check it out and read the referenced report. By the way, I wonder why these ‘green’ reporters in Michigan and Tennessee didn’t mention just how radioactive <it’s like Low-Level Waste> these unregulated ash piles are …but what a bit of uranium, thorium and radon more or less among friends.

Doc Sez what I report here is old news – problems with coal ash have been recognized since at least before 2008, as referenced below.

Article by Eartha Jane Melzer The Michigan Messenger, January 16, 2009http://michiganmessenger.com/11691/coal-ash-dumps-a-time-bomb-for-michigan-water-environmentalists-say

Referenced Report in the Article

DeSmogBlog and Polluter Watch present: Coal Fired Utilities to American Public: Kiss My Ash [a pdf]. This report reveals that between October, 2009 and April, 2010 industry representatives held at least 33 meetings with White House Office of Management and Budget staff–at least 4 months before the first public hearing on the proposed ruling on coal ash was held on August 30th.

More References

Coal Combustion: Nuclear Resource or Danger, by Alex Gabbard, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, February 5, 2008. — http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste, By Mara Hvistendahl, Scientific American,  December 13, 2007. — http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

Metals Pollute Waters Near US Coal Ash Spill: Group By Timothy Gardner

Reuters, NEW YORK | Fri Jan 2, 2009. — http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5013BO20090102?feedType=RSS&feedName=environmentNews

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Toxic Sludge From Hungary Spill Coats Villages, Threatens Danube — Another unintended environmental consequence

A red-tinged toxic sludge has been winding its way though villages in Hungary this week – the result of a metal plant reservoir that burst its banks in Ajka. The images have been both striking and shocking and local residents are growing more vocal in their distress over the disaster. Rescue workers continued clean-up efforts in villages already coated in the waste and the European Union called for action to prevent the flow from reaching the Danube River.

“This is a serious environmental problem,” EU spokesman Joe Hennon told reporters. “We are concerned, not just for the environment in Hungary, but this could potentially cross borders.” At least four people have died and 120 were injured when the reservoir of an alumina plant about 100 miles from Budapest broke Monday, sending a wave of solids loaded, hazardous liquid sludge into nearby villages. Injuries included chemical burns from contact with the waste. Hundreds of people have evacuated the area. Hungary has declared a state of emergency in three counties and said the clean up could cost tens of millions of dollars and will take at least a year. Click the link and read on…

While the spill itself has now been contained at the plant, she said, authorities are trying desperately to keep the waste from reaching the Danube. Workers are pouring plaster into the Marcal river, which feeds into the Danube, to try to bind the sludge, reported the Guardian, and have used other chemicals to try to neutralize its extremely alkaline pH.

Article by Talea Miller, PBS News Hour, October 6, 2010. — http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2010/10/toxic-sludge-from-hungary-spill-coats-villages-threatens-danube.html.

Also check: http://www.bullfax.com/?q=node-company-head-arrested-over-sludge-torrent-hungary for related stories. Although Sludge flood like Hungary’s unlikely in US according to regulators and experts, this has not yet been well documented. Think of the coal ash releases described earlier in this blog or other liquid ‘slag’ sumps.

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not surround each bit of quoted text with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented when it more than an added word or clarifying phrase.

Closing Remarks, Quips or Quotes

In my humble opinion — The energy density of conventional agricultural or urban waste, particularly when subtracting the energy to collect & prepare it for use is minuscule. High density-energy is our future requirement – not cardboard and poop.

‘G-d won’t allow global warming,’ congressman Representative John Shimkus (R-IL), who is seeking to head Energy Committee, says. I wonder what the representative would say about the plagues during the middle ages, the AIDS epidemic, The big one due off of the west coast, Hurricane Katrina and worse, or the Holocaust and African genocide.

Before G-d we are all equally wise – and equally foolish.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” – Albert Einstein.

Finally, a Greening Tid-Bit From my world-traveling sister who is a European history addict:

An environmental law almost implemented in Germany – by the Third Reich — The water intake for any communities drinking water must be located downstream of the nearest factory effluent outlet. Even the Nazi’s could not get this law ‘implemented’ – Carl Holder – Energy Consultant

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

A few months ago I wrote a short piece how a Scottish non-scientist named Chris Monckton has been traveling the globe denying global warming using unverifiable or misrepresented facts. Professor John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering posted a point-by-point rebuttal to one of Monckton’s presentations at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota and Monckton was furious, insulting the Professor (whom he called “a parboiled shrimp”), the university (he called a “half-assed Bible college”), and the head of the university (Father Dease). While insulting the school and university professionals associated with Professor Abraham, Monckton has threatened to sue the professor and the school for defamation. Seems odd that someone publically insults others chooses to insist that he is the one being defamed, doesn’t it?

A new story from Susan Alexander (a writer at UST) addressing this issue was released yesterday. Susan’s piece was well-written and it helps bring the public up to date on the situation with Monckton and global warming. Please go here to read it.

IMHO, the biggest skeptics about global warming seem to either be non-scientists, meteorologists, politicians with a political agenda, or the oil industry. It seems most scientists, including climatologists, agree global warming is very real. Many former skeptics now accept global warming is real, is impacting life on our planet, and feel it must be addressed now before it has too dramatic an effect on the people of our world. Even Monckton can use Wolfram|Alpha to generate graphs like the one below:

I know I’m merely a computer scientist (not as science-focused as a degree in classical studies), but that graph looks like it is climbing, not dropping, during the past 100 years. To reproduce this graph for yourself, click here.

Monckton is entitled to his opinions, but it seems rather odd that a man without climate-related academic credentials is trying to take on a tenured professor with credentials and knowledge. As for me, I think I’ll side with Professor Abraham and accept global warming is a real threat to our species.

A larger concern is that newly elected conservatives are threatening scientists that speak up about global warming. A good article on this was recently published in the Star Tribune. Go here to read it.

For a link to Professor Abraham’s rebuttal to Monckton’s feeble attempt at rebutting the good professor, check out this blog.

By Harry Babad © Copyright 2010, All right Reserved.

Introduction

Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

That introduction also tells a little about my information sources, all of which — pro and con — are referenced. On the sometimes negative, to my views side, I also pick up items from Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists, when they provide source references I can check, and authors whose technical credentials background I can verify.

Article selection — my blog – my choice — are obviously and intentionally biased by my education, training, experience and at rare times my emotional, philosophical and intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send us feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click through on the links I always provide if you want more details, as well as <often> added references on the same topic(s).

Doc.

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • ‘Radioactive Boars’ on the Loose in Germany
  • Dog Poop Has a Bright side: Powering a Massachusetts Park lamp
  • How to Cool an Electric Power Plant
  • The Earth Doesn’t Care About What is Done To or For It.
  • The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale — INES is 20 years Old
  • In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming
  • Recycling Land for Green Energy Ideas and projects
  • Clear-Cutting {forests} Has a High Cost
  • Pedego® Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry Demonstrate a High Density Power Solution for Electric Bicycles

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‘Radioactive Boars’ on the Loose in Germany

Berlin – Radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is still poisoning Germany’s boars nearly 25 years on, with authorities fighting to keep the {slightly} toxic meat off the market as the wild boar population rockets. The boars feed off mushrooms, truffles and wild berries which still contain higher than permitted levels of cesium-137, carried in the radioactive cloud that spread across Europe following the 1986 accident at the Ukrainian nuclear plant.

Cesium has a half-life of about 30 years so almost half of what was deposited as fall out had disappeared by natural decay. In addition, radio cesium contain compounds, indeed most cesium compounds are water-soluble. Much of that original fallout was washed deeply into the subsurface or diluted as runoff during the rains that keep the forests of Germany so green; but that’s another story.

“No one has fallen seriously ill after eating boar meat,” said Emrich, but all boar hunters in high-risk areas must have their game tested for radioactive contamination before it can go on sale in market stalls. According to the Bavarian health and food safety, nine of the 56 boars analyzed last year showed contamination well above the allowed level of 600 Becquerels per kilogram of meat, with some as much as twice the limit. < Snake oil anyone? >

The EPA has established a limit of 370 Becquerels per kilogram of meat in 1998 for imported food. The limit for domestic food is 1,200 Becquerels per kilo. As is usual with such guidelines, the calculations are based on the linear no threshold theory that is undergoing more scientific challenges and will ultimate be defined as invalid as this generation of regulators and health physicists, with vested interests in their reputations, dies out.

On the other hand the bioaccumulation of cesium in mushrooms, truffles and wild berries, which the boars feed off “still contained high levels of cesium-137 of up to 100 Becquerels”. < Help, this is below the regulatory limit so either this is much ado about nothing or is someone running for reelection. >  Note this too is a case of bioaccumulations (e.g., 100 to 600 Bqs since bears eat lots of mushrooms.

Doc wonders why American could eat all of these foods safely, when some German’s are concerned about them, however we were not in the direct path of the fallout from Chernobyl. …As far as the costs of all this European regulation to German tax payers, click though and find out why you pay the piper for over- regulation.

‘Radioactive boars’ on the loose. News 24.com, July 8, 2010 http://www.news24.com/World/News/Radioactive-boars-on-the-loose-20100807

Background References

European Cesium Limits in Food — http://www.stuk.fi/stuk/tiedotteet/2003/en_GB/news_287/

EPA Food Safety Standards for Radionuclides. US Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FoodContaminantsAdulteration/ChemicalContaminants/Radionuclides/UCM078341

Linear No Threshold [LNT] model. Wikipedia; See the first several paragraphs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_no-threshold_model

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Dog Poop Has a Bright side: Powering a Massachusetts Park lamp

It stinks and it’s a hazard to walkers everywhere, but it turns out dog poop has a bright side. Dog poop is lighting a lantern at a Cambridge dog park as part of a months long project that its creator, artist Matthew Mazzotta, hopes will get people thinking about not wasting waste.

The “Park Spark” poop converter is actually two steel, 500-gallon oil tanks painted a golden yellow, connected by diagonal black piping and attached to an old gaslight-style street lantern at the Pacific Street Park.

After the dogs do their business, signs on the tanks instruct owners to use biodegradable bags supplied on site to pick up the poop and deposit it into the left tank. People then turn a wheel to stir its insides, which contain  the waste and water. Microbes in the waste give off methane, an odorless gas that is fed through the tanks to the lamp and burned off. The park is small but has proven busy enough to ensure a steady supply of fuel.

The lamp, a shining example of how humans can make use of an underutilized and perpetually renewable energy source — feces — is the brainchild of Matthew Mazzotta, a conceptual artist who studied at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who wanted to give back to the community.

The Seattle Times by JAY LINDSAY Associated Press Writer September 22, 2010

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2012960688_apuspooppower.html …and …

AOL News: http://www.aolnews.com/weird-news/article/dog-poop-lights-up-city-park/19643188

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How to Cool an Electric Power Plant

Thermoelectric power plants, whether fossil-fueled or nuclear, require cooling water systems. The fuel source—uranium, coal or natural gas—heats water into steam, which drives a turbine generator that produces the electricity.

The exhausted steam from the turbine must be condensed back to water and recycled to the steam generator or boiler to begin the process anew. This condensation occurs by passing it through a heat exchanger—or condenser—where low-temperature cooling water absorbs the heat of the steam and cools it down to water again.

The majority of power plants use one of two types of cooling water systems. In a once-through or open-cycle cooling system, water is withdrawn from a water source, such as a lake, river or reservoir. The water passes through the condenser and is then returned to its original source, with a negligible amount of heat transferred to the aquatic environment.

In a recirculation or closed-cycle system, cooling water is pumped from the condenser to a “wet” cooling tower, where the heat of the water transfers to the ambient air by evaporation. The resulting lower temperature cooling water is then returned to the condenser, and the amount of water that evaporates in the cooling tower is replenished.

Once-through systems will draw more water than recirculating systems, but consume little of it—on average; only about 1 percent of the water withdrawn is ultimately consumed. Recirculating systems withdraw much less water than once-through systems, but consume about 70 percent to 90 percent of what they withdraw by evaporation in the cooling towers. Cooling towers consume about twice as much water as once-through systems.

Both systems typically withdraw only a very small quantity of water relative to the overall size of the water bodies on which they are located—typically 1 percent to 2 percent of the average river flow. The cooling water at nuclear plants that is returned to lakes and rivers is never made radioactive and is entirely safe.

The electric power industry is pursuing strategies to use less water, less fresh water, or no freshwater at all for plant cooling. There’s more, check it out.

Nuclear Energy Insight, July 2009.

http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/publicationsandmedia/insight/insightjuly2009/how-to-cool-a-power-plan

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The Earth Doesn’t Care About What is Done To or For It. I know this violates the dreams of all faithful Gaia Worshipers

The cover of The American Scholar quarterly carries an impertinent assertion: “The Earth Doesn’t Care if You Drive a Hybrid.” The essay inside is titled “What the Earth Knows.” What it knows, according to Robert B. Laughlin, co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics, is this: What humans do to, and ostensibly for, the earth does not matter in the long run, and the long run is what matters to the earth. We must, Laughlin says, think about the earth’s past in terms of geologic time.

For example: The world’s total precipitation in a year is about one meter—“the height of a golden retriever.” About 200 meters—the height of the Hoover Dam—have fallen on earth since the Industrial Revolution. Since the Ice Age ended, enough rain has fallen to fill all the oceans four times; since the dinosaurs died, rainfall has been sufficient to fill the oceans 20,000 times. Yet the amount of water on earth probably hasn’t changed significantly over geologic time.

Damaging this old earth is, Laughlin says, “easier to imagine than it is to accomplish.” There have been mass volcanic explosions, meteor impacts, “and all manner of other abuses greater than anything people could inflict, and it’s still here. It’s a survivor.”

Laughlin acknowledges that “a lot of responsible people” are worried about atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. This has, he says, “the potential” to modify the weather by raising average temperatures several degrees centigrade and that governments have taken “significant, although ineffective,” steps to slow the warming. “On the scales of time relevant to itself, the earth doesn’t care about any of these governments or their legislation.”

This is an incisive and deeply troubling, to me, article. Check the link and read the rest — feedback is welcome. Why troubling? It goes against all my beliefs.

Laughlin concludes his article by noting Six million years ago the Mediterranean dried up. Ninety million years ago there were alligators in the Arctic. Three hundred million years ago Northern Europe was a desert and coal formed in Antarctica. “One thing we know for sure,” Laughlin says about these convulsions, “is that people weren’t involved.”

Newsweek, by George F. Will, September 12, 2010 http://www.newsweek.com/2010/09/12/george-will-earth-doesn-t-care-what-is-done-to-it.print.html

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The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale — INES is 20 years Old

Jointly developed by the IAEA and the NEA in 1990, in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident, the international nuclear and radiological event scale helps nuclear and radiation safety authorities and the nuclear industry worldwide to rate (1) nuclear and radiological events and (2) to communicate their safety significance to the general public, the media and the technical community.

INES was initially used to classify events at nuclear power plants only. It was subsequently extended to rate events occurring in any nuclear facility and during the transport of radioactive material, thus also covering events related to the overexposure of workers. Since 2008, INES has been extended to any event associated with the transport, storage and use of radioactive material and radiation sources, from those occurring at nuclear facilities to those associated with industrial use.

More generally, INES has also become a crucial nuclear communications tool. Since its inception, it has been adopted in 69 countries, and an increasing number of countries have expressed their interest in using INES and have designated INES national officers. Over the years, national nuclear safety authorities have made growing use of INES, while the public and the media have become more familiar with the scale and its significance. This is where the true success of INES stands, having helped to foster transparency and to provide a better understanding of nuclear-related events and activities, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency said.

Doc Sez: Just because something happened and was reported, doesn’t make it a big deal. This is a universal truism, but one not accepted by news and fear mongers, and those afflicted with nuclearphobia. Although I’ve not succeeded, I’ve attempted to create a comparable scale for gas, oil and mineral extraction and for releases from chemical and heavily chemistry based production facilities. Any Ideas?

Certainly on a fatality per serious incident basis, respiratory illness caused by routine and accidental releases, and ground water contamination comparisons such a scale might also prove a useful communications tool. I wonder where Beijing and Denver smog, the BP oil Spill, and the enormous toxic waste spill recently reported in Hungry would rank against Chernobyl. Note the headline sucking TMI accident let to no fatalities and to no measurable increases in health effects. You can Google the actual TMI off site health and environmental consequences for your selves.

Nuclear Engineering International, October 22, 2010

http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?storyCode=2057833; and

The International Nuclear Event Scale, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Nuclear_Event_Scale

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In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming

Event Log

  • The floods battered New England, then Nashville, then Arkansas, then Oklahoma — and were followed by a deluge in Pakistan that has upended the lives of 20 million people.
  • RUSSIA Wildfires stoked by the country’s worst heat wave on record have caused clouds of smoke and burned 1.9 million acres.
  • CHICAGO June storms brought high winds and heavy rains, knocking out windows and leaving thousands without electricity.

The summer’s heat waves baked the eastern United States, parts of Africa and eastern Asia, and above all Russia, which lost millions of acres of wheat and thousands of lives in a drought worse than any other in the historical record.

Seemingly disconnected, these far-flung disasters are reviving the question of whether global warming is causing more weather extremes. The collective answer of the scientific community can be boiled down to a single word: probably.

“The climate is changing,” said Jay Lawrimore, chief of climate analysis at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. “Extreme events are occurring with greater frequency, and in many cases with greater intensity.”

He described excessive heat, in particular, as “consistent with our understanding of how the climate responds to increasing greenhouse gases.”

Theory suggests that a world warming up because of those gases will feature heavier rainstorms in summer, bigger snowstorms in winter, more intense droughts in at least some places and more record-breaking heat waves. Scientists and government reports say the statistical evidence shows that much of this is starting to happen.

But the averages do not necessarily make it easier to link specific weather events, like a given flood or hurricane or heat wave, to climate change. Most climate scientists are reluctant to go that far, noting that weather was characterized by remarkable variability long before humans began burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

There are more details and event images in the article.
Even the Russians are paying more attention.

Thermometer measurements show that the earth has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution, when humans began pumping enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. For this January through July, average temperatures were the warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported recently. NOAA scientists think is only the beginning of a trend that most experts believe will worsen substantially.

If the earth were not warming, random variations in the weather should cause about the same number of record-breaking high temperatures and record-breaking low temperatures over a given period. But climatologists have long theorized that in a warming world, the added heat would cause more record highs and fewer record lows.

The recent annual statistics suggest that is exactly what is happening. In the United States these days, about two record highs are being set for every record low. This seems to be telltale evidence that amid all the random variation of weather, the trend is toward a warmer climate.

Climate-change skeptics dispute such statistical arguments, contending that climatologists do not know enough about long-range patterns to draw definitive links between global warming and weather extremes. They cite events like the heat and drought of the 1930s as evidence that extreme weather is nothing new. Those were indeed dire heat waves, contributing to the Dust Bowl, which dislocated millions of Americans and changed the population structure of the United States.

But most researchers trained in climate analysis, while acknowledging that weather data in parts of the world are not as good as they would like, offer evidence to show that weather extremes are getting worse.

Doc Sez: It’s not a question of either whether mankind is the cause, or we’re just in a natural cycle upswing in temperature. The real issue {aka ethical question} is what are we, mankind going to do to protect all of us from the after affects of climate changes and the likelihood of drastic changes to the way we live. — Oh, my choice of pictures… ‘a rose by any other name still has thorns.’

The New York Times, Article by Justin Gillis, August 14, 2010, and links therein

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/science/earth/15climate.html?_r=1

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Recycling Land for Green Energy Ideas and Projects

Lemoore, Calif. — Thousands of acres of farmland here in the San Joaquin Valley have been removed from agricultural production, largely because the once fertile land is contaminated by salt buildup from years of irrigation. But large swaths of those dry fields could have a valuable new use in their future — making electricity.

Farmers and officials at Westlands Water District, a public agency that supplies water to farms in the valley, have agreed to provide land for what would be one of the world’s largest solar energy complexes, to be built on 30,000 acres.

At peak output, the proposed Westlands Solar Park would generate as much electricity as several big nuclear power plants.

Unlike some renewable energy projects blocked by objections that they would despoil the landscape, this one has the support of environmentalists. Check it out, for a change this is not a ‘wet’ dream.

The first phase of the project would consist of 9,000 acres leased from farmers. When covered in solar panels, that acreage would generate 600 to 1,000 megawatts of electricity. One megawatt is enough to power a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The New York Times, by Todd Woody Published: August 10, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/11/business/energy-environment/11solar.html?nl=&emc=aua21

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Clear-Cutting {forests} Has a High Cost

For people living in poverty in the Amazon, cutting down the rain forest often appears to be the only way to thrive economically—first by selling the lumber, later by farming and ranching on the land. A study published in Science in June indicates otherwise. Despite gaining some temporary benefits, communities that clear-cut their forests end up no better off than those who do not.

Ana Rodrigues of the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in France and her colleagues found that Amazonian towns in the midst of a deforestation binge initially see higher life expectancies, literacy rates, and incomes. But once the local forest is gone, income from timber typically dries up, the researchers believe; many farms and cattle ranches are abandoned after a few years because the nutrient-poor soil rapidly becomes depleted.

“The current development strategy results in a lose-lose-lose situation,” Rodrigues says. It destroys the rain forest habitat, fails to alleviate poverty, and contributes to global warming by eliminating trees that would absorb and store carbon dioxide. “The challenge now is to create a development path that is win-win-win.” One possibility, Rodrigues suggests, could be to create a provision in the next international climate-change treaty requiring wealthy countries with high carbon emissions to pay Brazilians for the environmental benefits of keeping their forests standing.

Bottom Line — Selling the lumber gets money in the short term but is a “lose-lose-lose” in the long term.

Discover Magazine, by Eliza Strickland, January 25, 2010

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jan-feb/22

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Pedego® Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry Demonstrate a High Density Power Solution for Electric Bicycles Electric bicycle gets 60-mile range with a portable hydrogen fuel cell

LAS VEGAS, NV: September 23, 2010 – Pedego®, Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry have developed an ultra-high-performance range extender for electric bicycles.  The announced battery-fuel cell hybrid system is compatible with all existing Pedego bicycles and batteries.  For every 1.5 lbs. of weight a rider carries, an additional 700 watt-hours of energy is available (compared to ~350 watt-hours for an ultra-high performance lithium-polymer battery at a weight of 7 lbs.).

Compared to advanced Li-ion batteries, which have an energy density of about 65 Watt-hours per kilogram, SiGNa’s cartridges have an energy density of more than 1,000 Watt-hours per kilogram. The hydrogen cartridge produces up to 200 Watts of continuous power, and excess energy is stored in a Li-ion battery for climbing hills and energy-intensive acceleration.

The new hybrid system utilizes the battery for peak conditions such as acceleration and hill climbing, while the fuel cell to extend the operating range of a Pedego bicycle by over 40 miles for each additional cartridge.

Riders can carry additional cartridges, which are real-time hot swappable.  A key innovation is the use of sodium silicide to liberate hydrogen from water as needed by the hybrid fuel cell. The hydrogen system is safe, as the hydrogen is produced at just 50% of the pressure in a soda can. The system’s only emission is water vapor, and sodium silicate, an environmentally safe byproduct of sodium silicide, which is fully contained in the cartridge.

PhysOrg News, October 6, 2010 http://www.physorg.com/news205599186.html

By Charlie Sorrel October 4, 2010, Wired, http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/10/electric-bike-runs-almost-on-water

Pedego Electric Bicycles — http://www.pedegoelectricbikes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=3

SiGNa Chemistry — http://signachem.com/2010/10/electric-bicycle-gets-60-mile-range-with-portable-hydrogen-fuel-cell/

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles listed in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

Sources & Credits: — Many of these items were found by way of the links in the newsletter NewsBridge of ‘articles of interest’ to the national labs library technical and regulatory agency users. NewsBridge is electronically published by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, in Richland WA.  If using NewsBridge as a starting point, I follow the provided link to the source of the information and edit its content (mostly by shortening the details) for information for our readers. I also both follow any contained links, where appropriate, in the actual article, and provide you those references as well as those gleaned from a short trip to Google-land. Obviously if my source is a magazine or blog that the material I work with.

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

I compulsively again share Dr. Isaac Asimov thoughts on evidence.

Paraphrasing: The Paradigm I’ve Live By, a quote from Dr. Isaac Asimov writer, thinker and scientist. 

  • “I believe in evidence.
  • I believe in observation, in measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers.
  • I’ll believe any thing, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

I would also add Albert Einstein’s comment Scientific-Technical “insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Emphasis Added – The same holds true for half-truths and fear mongering by those with vested interests and/or undocumented and presently un-documentable beliefs.

Readers Please Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable — and if you Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many studies that are skeptical.

A reminder, conditions, both technical and geopolitical continuously change – So if you’ve made up your mind about either the best way to go, or about its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, that’s better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, there’s no free lunch and as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper!

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is not to stop questioning.” — Albert Einstein.

I seem to have a thing for Albert Einstein this month, coming soon Feynman and Hawking my other heros.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Jupiter Facts:

  • Location: 5th planet from the sun
  • Size: largest planet in our solar system
  • Orbit: 5.2 AU
  • Orbital Period: 11.86 Julian Years *
  • Average Distance from Earth: 5.26 AUs *
  • Diameter: 142,984 km
  • Discovered: 1610 by Galileo
  • Atmosphere: 90% Hydrogen, 10% helium
  • Interesting facts: visited by Pioneer 10&11, Voyager 1&2, Ulysses
  • Total Number of moons: 63 (Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, Thebe, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Themisto, Leda, Himalia, Lysithea, Elara, S/2000 J11, S/2003 J12, Carpo, Euporie, S/2003 J3, S/2003 J18, Orthosie, Euanthe, Harpalyke, Praxidike, Thyone, S/2003 J16, Iocaste, Mneme, Hermippe, Thelxinoe, Helike, Ananke, S/2003 J15, Eurydome, Arche, Herse, Pasithee, S/2003 J10, Chaldene, Isonoe, Erinome, Kale, Aitne, Taygete, S/2003 J9, Carme, Sponde, Megaclite, S/2003 J5, S/2003 J19, S/2003 J23, Kalyke, Kore, Pasiphae. Eukelade, S/2003 J4, Sinope, Hegemone, Aoede, Kallichore, Autonoe, Callirrhoe, Cyllene, and S/2003 J2)
  • Click here for Wolfram|Alpha data on Jupiter

* = Courtesy of Wolfram Astronomy Assistant

I’ve been an amateur astronomer all my life, and I’ve been fortunate to use some of the best non-professional astronomy packages on a variety of platforms. Two of my favorite Windows/Mac astronomy applications are Starry Night Pro 6.x and Voyager 4.x. I’ve reviewed Starry Night for several UK magazines – MacWorld and Software Latest – and Ted Bade recently reviewed the Voyager 4.5.7 software.

This afternoon I ran Starry Night on my older G5 iMac and, as always, it showed the daily events for today. There were four, so I selected the first that was of Europa in transition around Jupiter. I liked it well enough to take a moment to grab an image so I could share it with you readers. Jupiter is my second favorite planet in the solar system, not because of the size but because of turbulent gases that make up the atmosphere and the many moons that surround it. Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and a bunch more.

Jupiter as Seen with Software

Europa transitions Jupiter - 10-16-2010

The shadow of tiny Europa on Jupiter

After seeing the shadow of tiny Europa on Jupiter, it might be a good idea to see how Jupiter appears to someone on Europa:

Jupiter as it appears from Io, the closest of the large moons of Jupiter:

Finally, Jupiter as it is seen on Ganymede:

It is so easy to change viewing locations in Starry Night. Just use the Options/Viewing Locations menu option and select the location to use for home, then press the Go to Location button. Simple.

Now an image of Jupiter while in Starry Night’s Spaceship mode (a fun way to play space explorer), on course for Jupiter:

The keyboard shortcuts are in the upper left area of the screen, while speed/distance/acceleration are by your target. I tried the Captain Sheridan thing (diving into the Jupiter atmosphere like he did to avoid the Shadow ship in ‘Messages from Earth’ Season 3 of Babylon 5), but hitting the atmosphere of Jupiter just puts you on the other side. Bummer! I should also add that some of the shortcuts (Roll, Pitch, and Yaw) don’t do me a lot of good on my Macbook, but I still love this feature of Starry Night.

Starry Night always makes my top 10 list for students of any age, and I can’t wait until they release the next major update. Please take the time to look over the various versions of this software at the website of Imaginova. And also take time to check out Carina Software’s site – the company that developed Voyager. Carina’s mobile versions of their products were known as Carina Mobile, but are now known as SkySafari and SkyFi and are available here.

Jupiter Moons as Seen by Probes

1. IO

Check out the coolest picture ever taken from a Earth vessel: an erupting volcano on distant Io:

Image courtesy NASA

This is a new image of IO shows incredible surface details. I find it as impressive as the erupting volcano image above.

Image courtesy NASA

2. Europa – from ZDNet 5/16/2011

Europa’s surface does not look inviting, at least if one planned to explore it on foot.

Image courtesy NASA

3. Ganymede – from ZDNet 5-16-2011

When I was young, I read Robert Heinlein’s ‘Farmer in the Sky’, a novel about humanity colonizing Ganymede. Heinlein didn’t have the images and scientific knowledge we possess of Jupiter today, but he wrote an interesting tale how we might live there.  This is an image taken on the last Jupiter mission by Galileo.

Image courtesy NASA.

4. Callisto – from ZDNet 5/16/2011

The surface of Callisto appears as inviting as that of our moon, however the view of nearby Jupiter would be impressive.

Image courtesy NASA

Astronomy is interesting, and while it is fun to catch shows on the science channel, the computer is the ideal media to really get into the subject. There are a number of good open source astronomy packages like Celestina and WorldWideTelescope.org that are available for cash-strapped people that are interested but unable to afford the cash outlay for more software.

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Updates

6-24-2011 – Added Orbital Period, Average Distance from Earth information.

5-16-2011 – Added 3 new images of Jupiter moons taken by Galileo.

2-14-2011  – Added names of all moons.

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And for something completely different…

On an aside, I first tried the Starry Night software because my favorite painting of all time is Van Gogh’s Starry Night, which was the inspiration for Don McLean’s song called “Vincent”, which can be seen below:

Take care and be well.
Mike

By Harry Babad, © Copyrigght 2010, All right Reserved. 

——— The most interesting & eclectic of what I read.

Introduction

Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

https://mhreviews.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/the-greening-continues-a-column-intro-may-23-2010/

Paraphrasing: The Paradigm I’ve Live By, a quote from Dr. Isaac Asimov writer, thinker and scientist. 

  • “I believe in evidence.
  • I believe in observation, in measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers.
  • I’ll believe any thing, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

Let me reemphasize on more bias. Research does not create sustainable jobs despite politician claims, neither does piloting (scale-up testing} of new technology. Going commercial, without subsidies, and making a profit does. More customers, the more jobs, and making a profit for their creators are the only sustainable path.

Remember, governments have an almost perfect record of picking failure relative to commercialization and new technology based job creation. It does and should support R&T, Scaleup efforts and guaranties for capital-intensive projects and the higher cost/risk to keep the NIMBY wolves eating projects by legal tactics in the courts. Alternatively, if the messiah comes soon, let the challengers and their lawyers pay the undiscounted out of pockets costs for any delays they cause.

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).

Doc.

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • The Greener Energy World Has a New Class of Refuseniks — The UltraNIMBY
  • The Water Costs of Fossil Fuel Production
  • The Return of the Automotive Steam Engine
  • New Zealand Sheep Farmers Harvest Carbon Credits — Growing trees can be more profitable than raising sheep
  • Gulf Oil Disaster: Looking Beyond the Spill, Obama Highlights Long-Term Restoration
  • Climate Change: Critics Are Far Less Prominent Than Supporters /// US National Academy of Sciences Clears Climatologists of Wrong Doing.
  • Nuclear Micro-reactors Could Supply Jobs, Energy to South Dakota
  • Algae Might Be a Viable Source of Clean, Renewable Diesel Fuel
  • Which Senators Refuse to Let Coal Ash Be Regulated as Hazardous Waste?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – –

The Greener Energy World Has a New Class of Refuseniks — The UltraNIMBY

“For the past 25 years, virtually anyone who opposed the construction of some kind of major energy facility, such as an oil or gas storage tank, electrical transmission line, power plant, or wind farm in his or her area has been labeled, derisively, as a “NIMBY,” an acronym standing for “Not In My Back Yard.”

I do in principal agree with Glenn Scheede that “it’s time to shed light on the NIMBY issue, identify provable NIMBYs associated fears, and challenge those who use the epithet in an attempt to avoid dealing with real, substantive issues raised by energy projects. Those fears – concerns, as described by their author, are found later in this article.

“Citizens have long been concerned about adverse health, safety, noise, environmental, and ecological impacts of energy and other facilities located near them, including projects that impair scenic, property, and other values they consider important. Federal, state and local governments have enacted a variety of measures to protect private property rights and to limit adverse impacts extending beyond property lines.