Archive for the ‘Environmental Posts’ Category

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