Archive for the ‘The Greening Continues, by Harry {doc} Babad’ 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

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.

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, that 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 control climate or its effects, or about that your sure its all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. By the way, I do agree, it’s all a conspiracy — Gaia and the Good Lord!

Stay tuned; 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 TAMIFLU; there’s no free lunch; as a taxpayer and consumer you must and will always end up paying the piper!

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

  • China Reportedly Plans Strict Goals to Save Energy —The Yin and Yang of US and Chinese Energy Polices.
  • Solar Energy Faces Tests On Greenness — The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • Energy Payoffs —In search of Radical Solutions by Vinod Khosla
  • Are You Ready for More Baaad Weather? —In a world of climate change, freak storms are the new normal. Why we’re unprepared for the harrowing future.
  • Solid-State Batteries – The Power Of The Printing Press.

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China Reportedly Plans Strict Goals to Save Energy

The Yin and Yang of US and Chinese Energy Polices.

Inertia, one of the few serious limitations of our Western Democratic systems, let’s hope it does kill us all.

 

As the title of this topic and the reference contain therein implies:

  1. The Chinese believe there is a global warming problem
  2. The governments realized that hurting their people lead to Social Unrest
  3. Smoggy cities, drastic unexpected and larger than predictable weather patterns, durations and incidents. Then there’s the increase of temperature/humidity related diseases we’ve begun to document in both the government and it’s policies for a Greater China at risk.

So, according to this article and others I’ve studied they are willing to put their resources where the mouths and platitudes of western politicians now are. You know the three wise monkeys.

HONG KONG — With oil prices at their highest level in more than two years because of unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, the Chinese government plans to announce strict five-year goals for energy conservation in the next two weeks, China energy specialists said Friday.

Beijing’s emphasis on saving energy reflects concerns about national security and the effects of high fuel costs on inflation, China’s export competitiveness and the country’s pollution problems.

Any energy policy moves by Beijing hold global implications, given that China is the world’s biggest consumer of energy and largest emitter of greenhouse gases. And even the new efficiency goals assume that China’s overall energy consumption will grow, to meet the needs of the nation’s 1.3 billion people and its rapidly expanding economy.

As a net importer of oil, China tends to view its energy needs as a matter of national security. And so, even as Beijing tries to quell any signs of the Arab world’s social unrest striking a political chord with Chinese citizens, the government is also intent on not letting similar upheaval impinge on its energy needs.

Although, China, as part of the new five-year plan, has placed a big bet on renewable energy, emerging as the world’s biggest and lowest-cost manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels. But the country remains heavily reliant on coal and nuclear for its electricity. And its oil imports are surging after auto sales have surpassed the American market in each of the last two years.

An important feature of the five-year plan is its call to double the share of natural gas in Chinese energy consumption, to 8 percent in 2015 from 4 percent last year, according to Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the multilateral International Energy Agency in Paris. This will make China a natural buyer of large quantities of Russian gas, making it a competitor to Europe, which already relies heavily on gas from Russia.

The goals in China’s new five-year plan are consistent with the International Energy Agency’s “new policies” plan for climate change, a middle course that represents an improvement from current policies, Mr. Birol said. But he noted that the Chinese goals did not go far enough to meet what the agency considers necessary to prevent world temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius, an increase that many scientists fear as potentially leading to very broad environmental changes.

There’s more, promoting electric cars, building 20 new state of the art Generation III+ nuclear reactors, localizing local energy use by setting enforceable consumption and pollution targets. Click though and read the rest of the details.

Keith Bradsher Article References and Notes

Article by Keith Bradsher for the New York Times, Published: March 4, 2011

How does China’s 12th Five-Year Plan address energy and the environment? By the World Resources Institute, 7 Mar 2011.

China’s Five-year Plan & Renewable Energy – A Detailed Explanation, by DeBlock Consulting Ltd, March 2011.

While China Cuts Energy Waste, the U.S. Just Wastes, Posted by Bryan Walsh for Time Magazine, March 4, 2011.

As a Serious Sidebar – for the Chinese, Nuclear Power is both renewable and environmentally protective.

Nuclear Plans in China, the Japanese accident hasn’t stopped the planning and building, and taken a time out for doing enhanced safety analysis factoring in the lessons being learned from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. “When compared with the 11th Five-year Plan, the 12th Five-year Plan will continue the fast paced development stage; It is estimated that between 2011 and 2015 the rate of increase in China’s installed nuclear capacity will be over 30%, from 2010 levels of 10.8GW to 43GW in 2015. Third generation AP1000 nuclear technology will be an important direction in China’s nuclear development. Currently second generation CPR1000 technology is the most common among completed nuclear projects and nuclear projects under construction, but in planned nuclear projects the third generation AP1000 technology is used much more than CPR1000. Geographical development of nuclear projects will build on the fast paced development in coastal regions such as Liaoning, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian and gradually move into central regions such as Jiangxi, Hunan and Anhui, forming the “central/eastern nuclear belt”.

Nuclear power in the People’s Republic of China, Wikipedia 2011.

Nuclear Power in China, World Nuclear Association, June 2011.

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 Solar Energy Faces Tests and Challenges on Greenness

— It’s a total life cycle cost thing and crossing all the “t’s” and dotting the “I’s” thing, as I’ve been preaching

KISS Me Once, Kiss Me Twice And Kiss Me Once Again:

  • Fragile Desert Environment adversely affected by large plant footprint.
  • Unsubstantiated and waving of the hand environmental documentation
  • Unsubsidized production costs, even without life cycle costs included, are uncompetitive in most areas
  • Grid Connection and maintenance costs are not reliably factored into the baseline costs
  • Inadequate analyses of the costs of pollution control from toxic conditions and chemicals used for photovoltaic solar cell manufacture; not a factor when assessing solar thermal generation.
  • Unusable for base load production, without major breakthrough, so far under costed, for storage when the sun is not shining.

What follows is an excepts from the latest report by folks assessing the total cost of solar photo voltaic energy as a green alternative to nuclear, off shore other coastal based wind power, and perhaps appropriate located geothermal power generation.

SAN FRANCISCO — Just weeks after regulators approved the last of nine multibillion-dollar solar thermal power plants to be built in the Southern California desert, a storm of lawsuits and the resurgence of an older solar technology are clouding the future of the nascent industry.

The litigation, which seeks to block construction of five of the solar thermal projects, underscores the growing risks of building large-scale renewable energy plants in environmentally delicate areas. On Jan. 25, for instance, Solar Millennium withdrew its 16-month-old license application for a 250-megawatt solar station called Ridgecrest, citing regulators’ concerns over the project’s impact on the Mohave ground squirrel.

At peak output, the five licensed solar thermal projects being challenged would power more than two million homes, create thousands of construction jobs and help the state meet aggressive renewable energy mandates. The projects are backed by California’s biggest utilities, top state officials and the Obama administration.  But conservation, labor and American Indian groups are challenging the projects on environmental grounds. The lawsuits, coupled with a broad plunge in prices for energy from competing power sources, threaten the ability of developers to secure expiring federal loan guarantees and private financing to establish the projects. Only one developer so far, BrightSource Energy, has obtained a loan guarantee and begun construction.

Like so many of this state’s troubles, the industry’s problems are rooted in real estate. However, it grew much broader when apparent flaws in both environmental analyses, a potential for actual public fraud, and lots of what the kind at heart would call misrepresentation of liabilities and gains. This makes an interesting read. When added to the references I’ve listed below make a compelling statement of narrow vision, based on gluttons’ visions of a full trough at the public expense. …And there’s also, all the knock on your door solar home system sales people.

After all we know the courts will decide, but regular readers know my opinions of courts and juries to get science related issue right. Again I plead for a science literacy tests, say the ones they use Europe and Asia for 8th grade students, for all who would serve as juries in science and engineering court cases. That should include the judges too, but I’m being too utopian.

By Todd Woody, for the New York Times, Published: February 23, 2011.

References

Pros And Cons Of Solar Energy, Clean Energy Ideas Blog, Undated.

Environmentalists Weigh Solar Power’s Pros, Cons, SolarPower.Org Blog, Posted June 2, 2006.

Solar Power: The Pros and Cons of Solar Power, About.Com Blog, By Larry West, About.com Guide, 2011.

Solar Power, <and> Solar Energy, “Wikipedia”, 2011 – two articles.

The Solar Power Scam, by Brian Schwarz and Thomas Lifson for the “American Thinker” <a conservative blog>, April 19, 2011.

10-Year Sentence In Solar Energy Scam, “The Healdsburg Patch blog”, May 3, 2100.

Are We Really Going To Let Ourselves Be Duped Into This Solar Panel Rip-Off? By

George Monbiot for the Guardian.co.uk, March 1, 2010

Solar Power Scams, “Energy Matters” an Australian Renewable Energy News Blog, March 26, 2009.

How to Detect a Solar Scam – Here’s a deal for you! “Solar Kismet”, March 2007.

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Energy Payoffs

In search of Radical Solutions by Vinod Khosla, Venture Capitalist

Unusual for me, I’m just providing this topic as a reference link and ultra short SciAm synopsis, enjoy. It was published in Scientific American in January 2011, and due to their access restrictions, the full article may be hard to access outside of a library. But the abstract posted a link is well worth reading.

In Brief,

Radical innovation, not incremental improvement, is needed to make dean, efficient energy technologies that can compete, unsubsidized, in big markets.

Mainstream technologies such as air conditioning and automobile engines may be the best targets for breakthroughs that change the energy game.

More people with  Ph.D.’s in technical disciplines are needed to create true breakthroughs.

Students are beginning to flock to these areas. A low-carbon-electricity standard, not renewable energy standards or cap and trade would most encourage cleaner technologies, including for fossil fuels.

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Are You Ready for More Baaad Weather?

—In a world of climate change, freak storms are the new normal. Why we’re unprepared for the harrowing future.

Not only did I find the article detailed and factual, I was also amazed by the amount of Ostrich Heads in the Sand Flaming it produced. It matters not whether this is global warming, or just out turn in the weather cycle, the damage is real and the incidence of more aggressive and destructive weather incidents, worldwide is increasing. We’ve tow choices. The first is to rescue those victimized by bad weather until governments run out of money. Alternative, start slowing and globally to take a chance that climate change theory is good, if incomplete science, caused by green house gasses and other aggressive environmental damage caused by man (e.g., deforestation) and start to do something about it.

 An Excerpt

Joplin, Mo., was prepared. The tornado warning system gave residents 24 minutes’ notice that a twister was bearing down on them. Doctors and nurses at St. John’s Regional Medical Center, who had practiced tornado drills for years, moved fast, getting patients away from windows, closing blinds, and activating emergency generators. And yet more than 130 people died in Joplin, including four people at St. John’s, where the tornado sucked up the roof and left the building in ruins, like much of the shattered city.

Even those who deny the existence of global climate change are having trouble dismissing the evidence of the last year. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,000 tornadoes have ripped across the heartland, killing more than 500 people and inflicting $9 billion in damage. The Midwest suffered the wettest April in 116 years, forcing the Mississippi to flood thousands of square miles, even as drought-plagued Texas suffered the driest month in a century. Worldwide, the litany of weather’s extremes has reached biblical proportions. The 2010 heat wave in Russia killed an estimated 15,000 people. Floods in Australia and Pakistan killed 2,000 and left large swaths of each country under water. A months-long drought in China has devastated millions of acres of farmland. And the temperature keeps rising: 2010 was the hottest year on earth since weather records began.

From these and other extreme-weather events, one lesson is sinking in with terrifying certainty. The stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone. Which means you haven’t seen anything yet. And we are not prepared.

Picture California a few decades from now, a place so hot and arid the state’s trademark orange and lemon trees have been replaced with olive trees that can handle the new climate. Alternating floods and droughts have made it impossible for the reservoirs to capture enough drinking water. The picturesque Highway 1, sections of which are already periodically being washed out by storm surges and mudslides, will have to be rerouted inland, possibly through a mountain. These aren’t scenes from another deadly-weather thriller like The Day After Tomorrow. They’re all changes that California officials believe they need to brace for within the next decade or two. And they aren’t alone. Across the U.S., it’s just beginning to dawn on civic leaders that they’ll need to help their communities brave coming dangers brought by climate change, from disappearing islands in Chesapeake Bay to dust bowls in the Plains and horrific hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet only 14 states are even planning, let alone implementing, climate-change adaptation plans, says Terri Cruce, a climate consultant in California. The other 36 apparently are hoping for a miracle.

The game of catch-up will have to happen quickly because so much time was lost to inaction. “The Bush administration was a disaster, but the Obama administration has accomplished next to nothing either, in part because a significant part of the Democratic Party is inclined to balk on this issue as well,” says economist Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. “We [are] past the tipping point.” The idea of adapting to climate change was once a taboo subject. Scientists and activists feared that focusing on coping would diminish efforts to reduce carbon emissions. On the opposite side of the divide, climate-change deniers argued that since global warming is a “hoax,” there was no need to figure out how to adapt. “Climate-change adaptation was a nonstarter,” says Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. “If you wanted to talk about that, you would have had to talk about climate change itself, which the Bush administration didn’t want to do.” In fact, President Bush killed what author Mark Hertsgaard in his 2011 book, Hot, calls “a key adaptation tool,” the National Climate Assessment, an analysis of the vulnerabilities in regions of the U.S. and ideas for coping with them. The legacy of that: state efforts are spotty and local action is practically nonexistent. “There are no true adaptation experts in the federal government, let alone states or cities,” says Arroyo. “They’ve just been commandeered from other departments.”

The rookies (functionally science illiterate) will struggle to comprehend the complex impacts of climate change. The burning of fossil fuels has raised atmospheric levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide by 40 percent above what they were before the Industrial Revolution. The added heat in the atmosphere retains more moisture, ratchets up the energy in the system, and incites more violent and extreme weather. Scientists disagree about whether climate change will bring more intense or frequent tornadoes, but there is wide consensus that the 2 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming of the last century is behind the rise in sea levels, more intense hurricanes, more heat waves, and more droughts and deluges. Even if the world went carbon-neutral tomorrow, we’d be in for more: because of the CO2 that has already been emitted, we’re on track for another 5 degrees of warming. Batten down the hatches. “You can no longer say that the climate of the future is going to be like the climate of today, let alone yesterday,” says Judi Greenwald, vice president of innovative solutions at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “In all of the plausible climate scenarios, we are going to have to change the way we do things in ways we can’t even predict.”

So what lies behind America’s resistance to action? Economist Sachs points to the lobbying power of industries that resist acknowledgment of climate change’s impact. “The country is two decades behind in taking action because both parties are in thrall to Big Oil and Big Coal,” says Sachs. “The airwaves are filled with corporate-financed climate misinformation.” But the vanguard of action isn’t waiting any longer. This week, representatives from an estimated 100 cities are meeting in Bonn, Germany, for the 2nd World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change. The theme is “Resilient Cities.” As Joplin, Mo., learned in the most tragic way possible, against some impacts of climate change, man’s puny efforts are futile. But time is getting short, and the stakes are high. Says Daniel Sarewitz, a professor of science and society at Arizona State University: “Not to adapt is to consign millions of people to death and disruption.”

Check it out, there’s lots more facts, links to disaster TV footage, it’s real… will likely get worse… who cares the cause.

 

By Sharon Begley for Newsweek, May 29, 2011.

References On a comparable Theme

Piecemeal Possibilities and Climate Change – Paying attention to alternative ways of cooling the planet is a good idea; ignoring carbon emissions isn’t, The Economist, February 17, 2011.

A Fistful Of Dust and Climate Science — The true effect of windblown material is only now coming to be appreciated, The Economist, Jan 6th 2011.

Acute Climate Change in the Arctic: Fighting Air Pollution May Slow Warming, Stockholm Environmental Institute, June 9, 2011.

Carbon Flows, The Omitted Emissions — The usual figures ignore the role of trade in the world’s carbon economy, The Economist, Apr 28th 2011.

References — Samples of Denial and Flaming

Newsweek’s Global Warming Fear-Mongering Isn’t Science; It’s Science Fiction, The Ace of Spades HQ Blog, May 31, 2011.

Cooler Heads Prevail Against Climate Panic, June 01, 2011|By Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe Columnist

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Solid-State Batteries – The Power of the Printing Press

The power of the press; a new process will make solid-state rechargeable batteries that should greatly outperform existing ones. Electronics made a huge leap forward when the delicate and temperamental vacuum tube was replaced by the robust, reliable transistor. That change led to the now ubiquitous silicon chip. As a consequence, electronic devices have become vastly more powerful and, at the same time, have shrunk in both size and cost. Some people believe that a similar change would happen if rechargeable batteries could likewise be made into thin, solid devices. Researchers are working, and succeeding on, various ways to do this and now one of these efforts is coming to large-scale fruition. That promises smaller, cheaper, more powerful batteries for consumer electronics and, eventually, for electric cars.

The new development is the work of Planar Energy of Orlando, Florida—a company spun out of America’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2007. The firm is about to complete a pilot production line that will print lithium-ion batteries onto sheets of metal or plastic, like printing a newspaper. “Thin-film” printing methods of this sort are already used to make solar cells and display screens, but no one has yet been able to pull off the trick on anything like an industrial scale with batteries. Paradoxically, though thin-film printing needs liquid precursor chemicals to act as the “ink” which is sprayed onto the metal or plastic substrate, it works well only when those precursors react to form a solid final product. Most batteries include liquid or semi-liquid electrolytes—so printing them has been thought to be out of the question. Planar, however, has discovered a solid electrolyte it believes is suitable for thin-film printing.

Lack of range is reckoned one of the main obstacles to the widespread use of electric cars. If solid-state batteries could overcome such range anxiety that would, indeed, be a revolution on a par with the silicon chip.

Okay, this is a teaser, so click though and enjoy the rest of the article.

Published in the Economist, Jan 27th 2011.

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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

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. 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.

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 ˆThe name of my game!”

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

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

Greening Introduction

REFERENCES AND THEIR USES – A late night musing

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is making changes to improve its scientific integrity. The move comes in part because of mistakes discovered in the panel’s 2007 assessment, including the incorrect statement that Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035.

Last year, the Inter Academy Council, a coalition of national scientific academies, recommended changes to IPCC to address these and other issues (C&EN, Sept. 6, 2010, page 15). At a meeting in mid-May, IPCC adopted a procedure for evaluating and correcting errors in its assessments. The group also established a standardized method for addressing scientific uncertainties in its reports, and it approved a new conflict of interest policy.

The present approach is compliant to the reviews of the IPCC by leading British and American Senior Technical advisory groups (e.g., NAS)

In addition, the panel set a benchmark for scientific literature used for its assessments. This gives priority to peer-reviewed studies but recognizes that reports from governments, industry, and research institutions may provide crucial data even if they aren’t peer reviewed. It states that magazines and newspapers are generally not valid sources of scientific in formation and bans the use of material from broadcast media, blogs, social networking sites, and personal communications of scientific results.

Note that the criteria the panel espouses are comparable to those I use in determining whether or not to use a reference in one of my articles.However, there is one major difference. I seldom use primary references (e.g., journals) as examples for further exploration for you my readers. First, such use of such would be counterproductive as a communications tool on the basis of knowledge accessibility.

Many of you, including my self, would be swamped by journal article contents in areas we had not studied Alternately if long ago studies, has evolved to the point where can not easily connect either with the concept details or newly evolved semantics. There for the contents would be, in terms of understanding, inaccessible to us!

Second, the entireties of journal articles are not easily available via Google and other publicly accessible search methods. Although, the abstracts of the article are, they are not detailed enough to serve as serious information even to a casual ‘knowledge-hungry’ reader. Again it’s a matter of access.

You can access full journal articles through a public library or local college library, only if the local agencies have individual subscriptions to that service. [No I’ve not tried the Library of Congress for journal\access detail.] Buying articles for archive reference copy use w/o the academic and public library discount is pricy… Certainly, as a routine expense, out of my budget. Indeed getting access to an occasional primary reference is the primary reason I maintain local library cards; other information is as easily available from my desktop iMac.

Therefore all of my references will remain secondary and shall only be used after a sanity, logic, and check on WIIFT <What’s in it for them>.

Check out my approaches to topic selection in the endnote entitled Sources and Credits.

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 The New Snippets and Topics ——— Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order

 References and Their Uses – A late night musing

New Reactor Harnesses Sun’s Energy Like Plants The science keeps getting us closer but we’re a long ways from commercial or even breakeven costs.

Carbon Sequestration Core NETL R&D — The DOE Program

The Commuter Bike Redesigned and Electrified — If I was a rich man…

Pollution & Global Warming — Climate change in black and white

Symbiotic Coupling Of Wind Power And Nuclear Power Generation Finally someone serious about merging green power, renewable but intermittent Wind and greenhouse free baseload effective nuclear.

Nuclear Efficiency — With new fuel formulations, reactors could extract more energy, and reduce hazardous waste

Is the Coal Killer Flying Thousands of Feet Up in the Sky? — A new meaning to go fly a self powered kite.

IAEA Fujushima Dalichi Fact Finding Mission Summary and Initial Findings

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 New Reactor Harnesses Sun’s Energy Like Plants The science keeps getting us closer but we’re a long ways from commercial or even breakeven costs.

Researchers have unveiled a prototype reactor, which mimics plant life, turning the Sun’s energy to make hydrocarbon fuel. Developed by a team of scientists from the United States and Switzerland, The device uses the Sun’s rays and the mineral ceria (cerium oxide), to break down water or carbon dioxide into energy, which can be stored and transported.

Harnessing the power of the sun has been but a pipe dream, as conventional solar panels must use the power they generate in situ. With the ceria-fueled reactor, this issue is solved

The scientists, who include Caltech professor Sossina M. Haile and Swiss Institute of Energy Technology professor Aldo Steinfeld, wanted to figure out a way to harness the sun efficiently, without incredibly rare materials. They decided on testing ceria, a relatively abundant “rare-earth” metallic oxide with very special properties.

The solar reactor takes advantage of the ceramic ceria’s ability to “exhale” oxygen from its crystalline framework at very high temperatures and then “inhale” oxygen back in at lower temperatures. “What is special about the material is that it doesn’t release all of the oxygen. That helps to leave the framework of the material intact as oxygen leaves,” Haile explains. “When we cool it back down, the material’s thermodynamically preferred state is to pull oxygen back into the structure.”

Why start the long hard journey to practicality… click the link.

From: FoxNews.com, January 20, 2011

An alternative approach to generating solar power, based on making more effective use of Thermoelectric devices then have been previously been possible is referenced below.

Solar Tower—The Third Way. (A new method of making electricity from sunlight has just been tested) Reported in the May 12th, 2011 Economist.

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 Carbon Sequestration NETL Core R&D — The DOE Program

Many of you know that I have grave doubts about carbon sequestration, putting carbon, as a gas, in underground geological repositories.  Nevertheless, in the interest of fairness, DOE’s efforts on the topic are summarized below, the information taken from their The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) web pages. I am pleased to note that other, international efforts are approaching the demonstration stage, but still fear for the risks associated with diverse environmental (geohydrologic-seismic) environments for any site-specific demonstration of long-term storage or disposal. Each and every location, not just environmental setting, must be proven safe for the so-called ‘disposal’ period, despite effect of plate tectonics (earthquakes) and perhaps climate change. [Think nuclear waste repositories.] 

Therefore herein, I am sharing only information focused primarily on the two areas of Pre-Combustion Capture and CO2 Utilization. However, the references I, link to all the current DOE efforts, my interests continue to mainly focus only on areas where the long term economic risk is a more important factor than the environmental ones.

The DOE Core Research and Development (Core R&D) focuses on developing new carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to a pre-commercial demonstration level. The Core R&D Element includes five technical focus areas: (1) Pre-Combustion Capture; (2) Monitoring, Verification, and Accounting (MVA); (3) Geologic Storage; (4) Simulation and Risk Assessment; and (5) CO2 Utilization.

From my perspective, until the issue of ‘licensing’ geologic site for long storage [… let’s say 100 -300 years> or disposal < ≥ 1000 years> is actually address and consensus reached on it resolution, the most useful part of the pram is the isolation, capture and reuse of the CO2 we emit in generating electricity from coal, oil, and natural gas. Remember, CO2has no half-life. If we don’t concert it to a solid mineral form or release it to challenge the next ice ago, it will do damage whenever it get released back in to the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) capture is defined as the separation of CO2 from emissions sources or from within the CO2 emission process. When CO2 is recovered from emissions sources, such as power plant flue gases, it is in a concentrated stream that is amenable to storage or conversion. Currently this process is costly and energy intensive, accounting for the majority of the cost of storage.

The Carbon Sequestration Program (Pre-Combustion Capture Focus Area) is focusing on developing technologies used to reduce the cost of capture and separation of CO2 in pre-combustion systems. Pre-combustion capture is mainly applicable to Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plants and refers to removal of the CO2 from the synthesis gas (syngas) prior to its combustion for power production. CO2 is concentrated and at a high-pressure as a result. A simplified process schematic for pre-combustion CO2 capture is shown below. Near-term applications of CO2 capture from pre-combustion systems will likely involve improvements to the existing state-of-the-art physical or chemical absorption processes being used by the power generation industry.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) utilization efforts focus on pathways and novel approaches for reducing CO2 emissions by developing beneficial uses for the CO2 that will mitigate CO2 emissions in areas where geologic storage may not be an optimal solution. CO2 can be used in applications that could generate significant benefits. It is possible to develop alternatives that can use captured CO2 or convert it to useful products such chemicals, cements, or plastics. Revenue generated from the utilized CO2 could also offset a portion of the CO2 capture cost.

Processes or concepts must take into account the life cycle of the process to ensure that additional CO2 is not produced beyond what is already being removed from or going into the atmosphere. Furthermore, while the utilization of CO2 has some potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, CO2 has certain disadvantages as a chemical reactant. Carbon dioxide is rather inert and non-reactive. This inertness is the reason why CO2 has broad industrial and technical applications. Each potential use of CO2 has an energy requirement that needs to be determined; and the CO2 produced to create the energy for the specific utilization process must not exceed the CO2 utilized.

Want to know more about potential uses of captured CO2, check out the link.

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 The Commuter Bike Redesigned and Electrified — If I was a rich man…

This week, most people on the East Coast were hunkering down indoors, prepared for this winter’s fourth Snowstorm of the Century. I (Dave Pouge) on the other hand, was riding around a hotel ballroom on a YikeBike. And I’ll be straight with you: I had kind of a Segway moment.

Remember that? After inventor Dean Kamen first gave secret demos of his self-balancing upright scooter to industry hotshots, their awed reactions included remarks like, “They’ll redesign cities for this thing.” Of course, the Segway never did become as commonplace as the bicycle, and the YikeBike won’t either. But what a cool idea.

It’s an electric bike. Top speed is about 15 miles an hour. Buttons that are right under your thumbs on the handlebars smoothly controls the accelerator and brakes. The handlebars themselves are at your waist level, which might seem odd but makes sense—you ride sitting fully upright instead of bending forward, as on a bicycle. That design also means that you can jump forward off the bike in a crisis; there’s no hardware in your way.

Here’s the twist: the whole thing folds down into its own front wheel. You undo four stainless-steel latches, then snap the back wheel, seat and handlebars into the front one. It takes about 10 seconds. (Watch the video embedded in the linked post to get the idea.)

After providing lots more details, David notes,I’m not sure how many takers of the high tech carbon composite the YikeBike will have at $3,600. But I really admire Mr. Ryan’s lean, green folding machine, and I wish him the best of luck.”

The YikeBike on Pouge’s PostsThe Latest in Technology from David Pogue, June 30, 2011, for the New York Times.

You want another choice…

After YikeBike Its Turn Of Honda’s U3-X!Another fun one-wheeler?

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 Pollution & Global Warming—Climate change in black and white

As noted in a recent Economist article, black and white (data) has many grey aspects. When air pollution hurts people’s health and heats up the climate it makes sense to do something about it. But, what about pollution that cools the planet?

An ideal fossil-fuel power plant would produce power, carbon dioxide and nothing more. Less-than-ideal ones—not to mention other devices for the combustion of carbon, from diesel generators to brick kilns and stoves burning dung—also emit various gases and gunk. These often cause local environmental problems, damaging lungs, hurting crops and shortening lives. And some of the gunk, notably soot or “black carbon”, can warm the planet, too.

Next week (February 28, 2011) ministers attending the governing council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi will be presented with the summary, which I could not find, of a new report on how fighting air pollution can help the global climate (the report itself is due to follow a couple of months later). The summary makes a powerful case for acting on two short-lived climate “forcing’s”, factors that change the amount of energy the atmosphere absorbs, as carbon dioxide does, but stay in it only briefly. One is black carbon and the other is ozone. The later is both vital for blocking ultraviolet rays in the stratosphere but hazardous in the bits of the atmosphere where plants live and people have to breathe.

According to the UNEP report, implementing measures known to be effective against these two pollutants over the next 20 years would have “immediate and multiple” benefits. These include (1) average world temperatures between 0.2°C and 0.7°C lower than they would otherwise be by 2050 and (2) the saving of between 0.7 and 4.6 million lives with improved air quality. For black carbon the measures are largely in the form of more efficient ways of burning things; for ozone they mostly involve reducing emissions of methane, which encourages reactions in the atmosphere that make ozone. The black-carbon measures save a lot more lives than ozone control, but are trickier to assess in terms of climate

Beijing, but it could have any major urban industrial community in Asia.

The article continues with a discussion of the history of UNEP’s interest in black carbon including observations initiated by Veerabhadran Ramanathan, of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, and Paul Crutzen, a Dutch climate scientist who was one of the first to theorize about “nuclear winter”. These studies revealed the hitherto unappreciated extent of an “Asian brown cloud” thousands of kilometers across and fed by fires, diesel fumes and all manner of other things.

The article then focuses on the climate politics, as opposed to the science of black carbon; since reducing CO2 release internationally seems stalled politics takes the forefront. [Check it out, this is not intuitive. It’s an interesting read for the non-politicians amongst us.]

The article, lengthy but well written, ends with a straight forward section called “Clouding the Issues” that deals with both potential warming and cooling effects of atmospherically distributed and surface settled carbon soot. Who said science is black or white?

There’s no punch line but the realization at times, due to doubling effects, more R&D is needed before any action makes sense, especially from regulatory forcing factors.

Indeed, if the Arctic is warming faster than might be expected, other parts of the world are warming slower. One reason for this, widely accepted by scientists but little appreciated by policymakers, is that the sulphur given off by coal-fired power stations and some other industrial fossil-fuel use. Sulphur is very good at forming reflecting aerosols that can also make natural clouds both whiter and possibly longer lasting, which provides an added cooling effect. Acid rains anyone?

It is no coincidence that a non-governmental organization active in the fight against air pollution, America’s Clean Air Task Force, now strongly advocates more research into the pros and cons of geoengineering. Jason Blackstock, at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Canada, points out that black carbon; sulfates and geoengineering are all neglected by the institutions that govern climate policy. He is looking at ways to bring the topics together in the broader context of how nations make choices about the climate. If human action on the climate is ever to be properly deliberate, it must first be properly deliberated.

This is a thought-provoking read that should threaten any ‘nature is simple paradigm’. I’ll be doing an Op-Ed analysis on Geoengineering for release in July; keep clicking to keep me honest and on schedule.

The Economist Magazine, a staff report, Feb 17th 2011.

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 Symbiotic Coupling Of Wind Power And Nuclear Power Generation Finally someone serious about merging green power, renewable but intermittent Wind and greenhouse free baseload effective nuclear.

I’ve copied the abstract from the peer reviewed Proceedings of the 1st International Nuclear and Renewable Energy Conference (INREC10), Amman, Jordan, March 21-24, 2010. The paper by Kate Rogers and Magdi Ragheb from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A bit of disclosure, I got my Ph. D. in Organic Chemistry for the U of I at Urbana.

Why?  It has always perplexed me why so little has been published about use of coupled technologies (e.g., nuclear and wind or solar; and perhaps geothermal and wind power) in trying to get cost effective and function solutions to our energy needs while minimalizing direct worsening greenhouse gas releases? The life cycle releases still remain since you must mine-smelt-manufacture the facility, deal with land use footprint and water issues. However these environmental costs are a small portion of the pollution costs of facility based on transporting and burning hydrocarbons for 20-40 years. Okay, here’s the abstract. Check out the whole article…as Arthur Stanton Eric “Arte” Johnson would say on Laugh in, ’it’s verrry interesting.

The coupling of wind power production as an intermittent supply to nuclear power generation as a base load supply is discussed. Wind turbines on a standby operational mode are net importers of power for their control and yaw mechanisms. They need a supply of about 5 kW of power from an existing grid. They also require the vicinity of a power grid with excess capacity to export their generated power. A choice is the construction of wind farms in the immediate vicinity low population density population zones around nuclear power plants.

An example, used by the authors, is the Grand Ridge wind farm adjacent to the LaSalle nuclear power plant near Versailles, Illinois. Since the best wind resources in the USA are located far from the industrial and population centers there is a need for connection to the grid trough High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC). Due to ramping considerations, the planned introduction of 20 percent of electrical wind production in the USA by 2020 would pose challenging grid stability issues. Energy storage alternatives such as hydrogen production, compressed air, flywheels, superconducting magnets and pumped storage, need serious consideration. Doc agrees as long as the results are integrated into life-cycle system operations consideration… To misquote John Donne — no widget is an island!

Another related and more current reference

Hybrid Power Plants: Could They Bank Roll Nuclear Power? Nuclear Insider, 19 May 2011

http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/industry-insight/hybrid-power-plants-could-they-bank-roll-nuclear-power?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=nuc&utm_campaign=1905

Except casually, I’ve not searched this particular mother lode of greening information so any feedback from readers would be welcome.  Doc.

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 Nuclear Efficiency — With new fuel formulations, reactors could extract more energy, and reduce hazardous waste

When it comes to nuclear energy, the world is not exactly an early adopter of new technology: The vast majority of nuclear reactors running today falls into the so-called Generation II category and uses technology from the 1970s. Generation III reactors—the ones being built now or in the near future—are fundamentally based on the same water-cooled design, with improvements in safety, reliability, and efficiency.

It is in the development of Generation IV reactors—the ones that will start up around 2030—that nuclear energy will see a significant change in technology. The six models put forth by the Generation IV International Forum, chartered in 2001 to carry out nuclear energy research and development, aspire not only to be even safer and more reliable than previous generations, but also to get a greater return from the energy source—by extracting up to 90% of the available energy in their fuels instead of the 5% more typical of today’s reactors. In some cases, the reactors will use reprocessed or recycled waste fuel from other reactors. The fuels may also incorporate some of the longest lasting radioisotopes from waste fuel, including americium, curium, and neptunium, thereby turning these radiotoxic isotopes into less hazardous materials while providing a little extra energy in the process. To reach those goals, and especially to reach them safely, nuclear scientists are working to develop and evaluate new fuel formulations and materials.

Current reactors use either uranium dioxide or a mix of uranium dioxide and plutonium dioxide. The fuel powder is pressed into pellets that are about 1 cm in diameter. The pellets are then inserted into thin tubes to form rods. The tube material, known as cladding, is considered an integral part of the fuel. In traditional reactors, the cladding is a zirconium alloy.  After the rods are sealed, they are assembled into bundles of dozens to hundreds of rods; several hundred of the bundles make up the core of a reactor.

Jyllian N. Kemsley goes on to discuss, in a well-written and clearly illustrated fashion, the Generation IV reactors and how they will and can achieve bowered costs, safer operation and minimal need to dispose of high-level long lived radioactive waste. What I drew me to this article was the realization that outside of the US, that future is becoming now!

Article by Jyllian N. Kemsley, originally published in the ACS’ Science & Technology Magazine, September 13, 2010.

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 Is the Coal Killer Flying Thousands of Feet Up in the Sky? — A new meaning to go fly a self powered kite.

JoeBen Bevirt is building an inventive, flying turbine in a bold bid to make wind power practical. Bonny Doon, California is hardly the place one thinks of visiting for high-tech thrills. Once an old logging camp, the tiny hamlet northwest of Santa Cruz, California, sits at the end of a country road, past miles of empty beaches and strawberry farms. Hang a left before you reach the vineyard and you find a short dirt track leading to a barn. And then, amid hundreds of acres of redwoods out back, you encounter an avatar of the future—a whirring black gizmo, about the size of a bread box, zipping around overhead. The strange flying object is controlled remotely by a cluster of giggling engineers. Their leader, a tall man with the build of a gazelle, windswept blond hair, and a permanent grin, starts extolling the possibilities of his device before he remembers to introduce himself.

To inventor JoeBen Bevirt, the flying black box holds our clean-energy future, a world in which wind turbines lift off the ground and fly among the clouds. His company, Joby Energy, designs these turbines from scratch. “In order to have truly sustainable energy, we’ve got to beat coal,” he says. “We are going to need game-changing technology. I believe that technology is high-altitude wind.”

In concept his idea makes sense: Wind power from the sky would strip turbines of their expensive, heavy towers and oversize blades, allowing them to collect energy unobtrusively from the richest lode of wind in the world. Winds at an altitude of 30,000 feet carry 20 times as much energy as those near the ground, representing a source of power that could be a fraction of the cost of coal. The challenge, observers say, is keeping such turbines aloft. ——— Enjoy, read the rest of the article summary-The full version is, alas, available only to subscribers like me.

By Erik Vance; photography by Sean Fenn In Discover Magazine, February 8, 2011.

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 IAEA Fujushima Dalichi Fact Finding Mission Summary and Initial Findings_ A reference masquerading as a topic. I will deal with this topic in March of 2012, when most of the sound and fury has died down, and the facts have been collected, subject to peer review and published.  Meanwhile, we likely be watching the field days being enjoyed both by the anti-nuclear greens and the folks at big oil-coal and gas who profit as the earth appears to warm. From their perspective the only significant competitor, in the absence of a carbon tax, of CO2 and other green house gas free energy is being politically assaulted. No the nuclear renaissance is not dead, some government’s believe both killing their people with smog, and supporting the onward going warming is wrong.

I’ve been wondering whether the European Union, and perhaps the UK and Japan might impose a Value Added Tax [VAT] on product produced with electricity generated by pollution based plants. How? It’s naively simple. The VAT should be the ratio of ‘clean to polluting energy generated within the exporting country, other than transportation related. I know it’s in constraint of trade, but so are likely rising sea levels and the drowning of our port cities.

IAEA International Fact Finding Expert Mission Of The Nuclear Accident Following The Great East Japan Earthquake And Tsunami  Tokyo, Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP, Fukushima Dai-ni NPP and  Tokai NPP, Japan   24 May- 1 June 2011     Preliminary Summary

IAEA Fact-Finding Team Completes Visit to Japan (1 June 2011) – Preliminary Assessment

IAEA links to the Japanese Reactor Accidents and their Aftermath.

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Endnotes

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

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

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

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

 

In Closing

Readers please read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes before flaming me… I show and tell my beliefs and paradigm at:

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

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

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

QUOTE de Mois — A Richard Feynman Cornucopia

  • The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.  I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.
  • For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
  • Scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man’s struggle for good and evil seems inadequate.

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

Introduction

I am again this week taking advantage of the harvest of clippings I gathered during March and April while I was tied up with other work and family matters. Do remember, yes I trust Wikipedia as a secondary source of information, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!

You may wonder why there are a number, larger then usual in a non-nuclear specific article, of nuclear related items below? It my reaction to the media and the public’s Shakespearian overreaction to the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami tragedy, which far out weights that from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident.

What you ask?         It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5.)

Enjoy!

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

  • Biofuels Aren’t Really Green N Cultivate inorganic energy sources instead of biofuels
  • Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water
  • Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech?  — A New York Times Debate Feature
  • The Hybrid Electric Car Victory – or at least its seemingly positive progress.
  • Small and Medium Reactors (SMRs) — The cases for and against
  • Assumptions for Land Needed by Wind and Solar — An Analysis
  • Stories vs. Statistics — A reality check

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Biofuels Aren’t Really Green

Cultivate inorganic energy sources instead of biofuels

Interesting, although several a older studies have been published in peer reviewed sources, they appear to have been ignored by politico’s and silver bullet seeking subsidy hunters. Un-green biofuels also  goes against the current governmental biofuel creation goals and subsidy trends.

Has any done a recent updated system study on the effect of all variables on the issue of biofuel potential? The best of what I’ve googled focuses primarily on the transportation sector. Not often, and only weakly is there consideration given to its use for generating electrical power generation in which biofuel would replace, coal, natural gas and perhaps grid linked efficient solar or wind power.

Sustainable, green, renewable, organic—the words come up so often in energy and climate debates that they tend to sound as if they mean the same thing. But of course they don’t. Nuclear reactors emit no carbon and are therefore in a sense green, but uranium is nonrenewable; hydropower is green and renewable but may not always be sustainable, because the ecological consequences can be bad and reservoirs are not limitless; coal is organic, but its carbon emissions make it the very opposite of green. All that is obvious enough. But even so, it may be jarring to hear—as the authors have found and will describe — organic biofuels can’t possibly fuel a growing world economy in a sustainable manner, whereas, in principle, inorganic fuels could.

That inorganic might beat organic contradicts fashionable prejudice, which like all fashion changes with the season. Take the case of the United States: First came the enthusiasm for corn ethanol, its extravagant subsidization, and a farm-industrial miniboom. Then, when corn’s limits started to become better known and its costs more glaringly obvious, we started to hear about the promise of switch grass, a native species of the North American prairie that promises high energy-conversion efficiencies.

All of this knowledge ignored, in parallel to our scientifically trained American legislators allowing and by implication promoting the increased of corn based ethanol. To 15% in gasoline, despite marginal or perhaps negative fuel efficiencies, known engine corrosion problems and the shortage of corn for food world-wide. To mix metaphor, these folks really know which side of their bread is buttered. It’s a shame that there is no legal way to shame them and their staff, as well as the industry lobbyist into using the 15% adulterated fuel for six months to a year.

President George W. Bush first mentioned it in a 2006 speech to the nation. Before long, Al Gore was chiming in too, promising that with adequate government support for research, grass-based fuels could free us from the dual specters of energy shortage and runaway climate change.

In Germany rapeseed has been all the rage; in India, jatropha; and in Brazil, sugarcane ethanol. Yet the plain fact is that nobody really knows when or whether organic fuels will be competitive with hydrocarbon based fuels (gasoline and or natural gas, except under unique circumstance such as hold in Brazil.  Engineering breakthroughs, by their nature, are unpredictable—that’s what makes them exciting. So to evaluate whether organic fuels could ever be in a position to power the world, we looked at them purely in terms of physical resource availability, assuming that the costs would eventually become competitive. We asked how much land and water would be needed to make the quantities of biofuel that a prosperous world would need. We also asked whether there were other sources of fuel and energy that might put less strain on resources while adding less greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.

To our own surprise, the authors note, the model we constructed showed that there is simply not enough land and water to support a prosperous biofueled world. At the same time, it suggested that inorganic sources, such as photovoltaic cells, could in principle do the job. There’s the rub… the words in principle.

There’s much more so read on — make up your own mind, but remember that the 2009 premises input to the authors’ model was already outdated when published. There is, as you all know no thing as constant as change itself. Also check out the last topic in this blog called “statistics and stories. (Doc.)

Article by Deepak Divan and Frank Kreikebaum, IEEE Spectrum November 2009.

See Also:

Biofuel from Wikipedia, 2011

Sustainable (Green) Energy from Wikipedia

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Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water

I’ve combined inputs from two of Rod Adam’s articles to give you a taste of his ideas on nuclear energy related issues. They include his views on nuclear related costs issues and other red flags. I am in total agreement with Rod’s thesis and logic, based on independent reading. No I’m not an economist, venture capitalist, or investment broker, but I am a pretty good systems engineer. Since I’m on a Shakespeare kick, Rod’s articles are as much about “much ado about nothing: but neither does it credit the impossible dream as American nuclear  naysayer preach.

Guys-Gals, France, China, Russia and India are not going either broke by supporting nuclear. Neither will Japan, after they slowly recover from the earthquake-tsunami. Owing ones soul to either the company store or to the international oil magnates is not my version of the American dream. Is it yours?

Why Select Rod’s Articles! — First, he writes for what Steve Jobs would call the rest of us. Experience wise, he is a pro-nuclear advocate with extensive small nuclear plant operating experience and a former engineer officer, USS Von Steuben. He is also the host and producer of The Atomic Show Podcast. Adams and is a frequent contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.  …Mostly, although I’ve looked, I’ve not found any errors in the logic behind his analysis or the validity of his sources.

For the majority of human history, people used their own muscles to provide almost all of the work required for survival and development. A thin slice of humanity achieved a moderate amount of personal comfort and leisure because they were able, often through an accident of birth, to control a portion of the daily work output of hundreds to thousands of their fellow humans. The only sources of work—in the engineering sense—that were not either human or animal muscle came from capturing falling water or intermittently by capturing the breezes through devices like cloth sails or wind mills.

Humans understood fire. They used it to keep warm, to process their food, to produce some implements from metal, and as a weapon of destruction. It was not, however, until inventive people with names like Savery, Newcomen, and Watt started to work out ways of using the hot gas produced when fire boiled water that humans learned how to become masters of the earth’s vast store of combustible materials.

The seemingly simple act of boiling water provided humans the means necessary to gradually invent and manufacture their way out of a life of drudgery. Steam power was the key; H2O had always been important for people, but when they learned to pump it as a liquid, heat it into a pressurized gas, and condense it back down into a liquid, H2O became he vital working fluid that could turn heat into work and force machines to become the drudges in service of human beings. It is not an exaggeration to note that without the act of boiling water to create and use steam, getting rid of serfdom and slavery would have been virtually impossible.

I would bet that most of the people who nod their heads at that phrase have never had to cut and carry enough wood to boil a large pot of water, say for doing a week’s laundry. I am sure that few have ever spent much time watching a coal conveyor steadily feed a large boiler that is producing some of the electricity that feeds the electrical sockets and stoves in their homes. Boiling water is not only important, but it is not as simple as it may seem. It generally requires the consumption of a vast quantity of increasingly expensive materials and it requires a tacit {implied} agreement on the part of everyone in the area of the fire to accept their share of the waste products that are spread far and wide from every fire.

The exception to that general rule is the water that gets boiled by the heat released from atomic fission. Once the work of the talented engineers and builders is complete, operating a fission-heated boiler is a rather simple task. The task is not made simple by sets of complex automation or hard working pumps and conveyors; it is enabled by physics. Once a moderate amount of fuel is loaded into a nuclear reactor, it will reliably and simply produce heat for somewhere between 18 months and 33 years (the later for a Virginia class nuclear submarine) with relatively little additional effort.

There’s a tad more to this historic tale — click the first reference…

Rod concludes the fact is that nuclear energy is a cheap, clean, and even simple way to perform the vital act of boiling water

To get a taste of the economic issues, that red flag nuclear, check out the second link. Rod makes a lie out of many of ways the most virulent anti-nuclear activists have begun focusing almost exclusively on spreading the assumption that nuclear energy means expensive energy. They have been helped in this effort by statements from the established nuclear industry that claim that new plants are so expensive that they require government assistance and incentives in order to get them financed and built.

The fundamental aspect of nuclear energy that the rest of us need to understand is that fission heat is actually quite cheap. The average total production cost from a US nuclear power plant today is just 1.86 cents per kilowatt-hour. That total is normally broken into two pieces – fuel costs and non-fuel Operations and Maintenance costs. For 2008, nuclear plant owners in the US spent an average of just 0.49 cents per kilowatt-hour for fuel and 1.37 cents per kilowatt-hour for non-fuel operations & maintenance. Data from the Nuclear Energy Institute is provided in Rod’s article that describes what is included in those numbers.

Also enjoy the outdated, but still qualitatively appropriate data on US Government and State energy subsidies — =talk about picking favorite or free market distortions.

Okay enough said so just click through. Also relevant, but not part of this articles are the lowered costs when consider either small nuclear power plant (batteries) and modular reactors such as those being designed by Babcock & Wilcox Company for near future licensing.

Nuclear Energy Is A Disruptively Cheap And Simple Way To Boil Water. Posted on February 1, 2011 by Rod Adams in the ANS nuclear cafe Blog.

Nuclear Energy Is Cheap and Disruptive – Controlling the Initial Cost of Nuclear Power Plants is a Solvable Problem. Posted February 6, 2010 by Rod Adams for the Energy Collective.

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Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech?

— A New York Times Debate Feature

When reading this article or the ones I referenced, I wonder whether this competition stuff is a smokescreen. Does it really matter who the ever changing statistics is number one. By all estimates the projected markets are so huge that they can’t likely be monopolized. (Green tech, please note is different from controlling a narrow commodity such as rare earth elements (of recent headline fame) or OPEC and petroleum supplies. America is known for its inventiveness, creativity and ‘venturous’ spirit. However that does not mean that we don’t  need to re-assert, despite the risks, our ability to get our competitive manufacturing up to snuff; or we’re back to hind teat.

After all the jobs and profits go to those who manufacture, not the inventors. That why jobs are exported to the lowest cost technically savvy  ‘competent’ producer – iPad’s from China and flat screen TV’s from Japan and South Korea, with some of manufacturing in part outsourced to China. In addition everything I read, that is based on peer reviewed hard science is that small business do not have the ability to create more than a few jobs, it’s all about mega manufacturing, in America, that creates jobs and raises living standards — more of that in a future article.

The Obama administration has sought to promote green technology as a growth engine in the U.S. But even with some government support, new firms have a hard time competing with foreign producers. The U.S. currently accounts for just $1.6 billion of the world’s $29 billion market for solar panels, with China, using aggressive policies, to become the dominant maker of equipment like solar panels and wind turbines. Congress was so concerned about unfair trade practices harming American manufacturers that it recently approved a provision to require the Pentagon to buy only American-made solar panels. Anyone for a trade war?

What are the obstacles for American companies trying to win global markets in clean energy industries? Read the NYT discussion. Can green industries take off in the U.S. and compete globally? What might stand in the way? The topics discussed in the NT sponsored debate and Op-Ed include:

Pitfalls in Public Policies— Robert N. Stavins, Harvard UniversityWe Need a Manufacturing Agenda — Joan Fitzgerald, Northeastern University

Ways to Recapture the Lead — Robert E. Scott, Economic Policy Institute

How We Gain From China’s Advances  — Matthew Kahn, UCLA. Institute of the Environment

Government Should Be a CatalystVan Jones, author, “The Green Collar Economy”

Our Comparative Advantage — Frank A. Wolak, Stanford University

Understanding the ObjectiveDavid Roberts, Grist.org

 

 

See Also:

Welcoming The Competition, Like It Or Not, The Economist, June 10th 2010

Senator Harry Reid: US Must Compete With China To Lead On Energy By Matthew Daly, Associated Press Posted Wed Apr 27, 2011.

Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech? –We Need a Manufacturing Agenda, Posted on 19 January 2011 by Sara Haimowitz. For the ‘Trade Reform’ Blog.

US Must Cut $100 Billion from Defense to Compete with China on Clean Energy: Expert, by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York  on January.12, 2011 for the Tree Hugger Blog11.

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The Hybrid Electric Car Victoryor at least its seemingly positive progress.

Calcars.org founder Felix Kramer tells the plug-in hybrid story in this re-post.  For background, see “Plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solution.”

The details:

(1) On the evolution of the hybrid electric car, and perhaps an all electric car.

(2) The lessons learned during their development by their major manufacturers and the

(3) Challenges ahead for this energy saving-petrochemical use reducing transportation alternative.

…All are described in an article entitled “The Hybrid Electric Car Victory” for the Energy Collective by Joseph Romm, Posted December 22, 2010.

Romm, as an early pioneer and advocate for hybrid cars, Romm’s narrative is folksy, anecdotal and easy to read — tune in you enjoy the doing so.

…And while I’m at it my next <used> car is a 5-7 year old Toyota Prius – Consumer Reports tested a 2002 (nine year old model) with 206,000 miles on the odometer and found minimal if any degradation of its operating systems including the battery. Alas, there hasn’t been a used Prius for sale in the used automobile advertisements for the last 6-9 months.

 

More Reading

Hybrid Vehicles, …And… Hybrid Electric Vehicles, In Wikipedia 2011.

How Hybrid Cars Work, by Karim Nice and Julia Layton in How Stuff Works. 2011.

Hybrid Vehicle, The Next Step In The Evolution of the Automobile! By Kjartan Bergsson, Blog Editor

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Small and Medium Reactors  — The cases for and against

Challenges in getting large nuclear projects off the ground seems to have renewed interest in small modular reactors. But not everyone is convinced there is a market for smaller plants. Can the SMR developers play ball with the big boys of nuclear?

This year the nuclear energy industry is thinking small, or at least a segment of it is. Everyone from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Nuclear Energy Insider is staging an event or carrying out a study into small modular reactors (SMRs), while manufacturers are gearing up new product designs.

Is the hype justified? It depends who you ask.

SMRs (the acronym also stands for small and medium reactors, defined by the IAEA as having ratings of under 300MW and up to 700MW, respectively) have been around for a long time and have not exactly shown great commercial promise throughout their existence.

The article discusses a variety of efforts ranging from the failed pebble bed SMR to the ongoing active international approaches in a race that appears to be running almost neck-to-neck relative to technology alternatives. The one thing these designs have in common is the concept of using a small sized 50-100 MW nuclear battery maintenance free unit that is installed underground, used for it’s lifetime, retrieved and recycled by it’s manufacturer. No extra external cooling systems, earthquake proof to NRC or IAEA standards, no refueling, no active safety systems… it’s just a battery. The image is the Hyperon Reactor concept.

Take the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor originally planned in South Africa by the company of the same name, in association with African electrical giant Eskom. After six years of development the project was shelved last September, allegedly due to a lack of customers and investors. Poor management and planning, or the world economic downturn?

On the pro side, However, Steve Kidd (deputy director general of the World Nuclear Association) acknowledges that it is probably current energy generation economics that is driving current interest in SMRs: “You don’t need such a large dollop of front end capital to get a programme underway,” he accepts.

Adrian Heymer, executive director of strategic programs at the USA’s Nuclear Energy Institute, adds: “Interest is being driven in part by smaller utilities looking at different types of energy generation and which cannot afford a large nuclear plant. “If you add capacity in 50 MW to 300MW increments it’s easier on the planning. You can bring the units on in stages, so you are still getting 600MW to 700MW in a 10 to 15-year period but you can finance it as you go forward.”

Another advantage of an SMR design, Adrian says, is that because most of the components can be shipped ready-built from the manufacturer, “it doesn’t take as long to build. You can assemble most of the plant in a factory.”

According to Jay Harris, an independent consultant, a further reason why some utilities might be keen on SMRs is because they provide greater base load flexibility as intermittent renewable energy sources are increasingly integrated into the grid.

The danger for a utility that is bound by regulation to accept renewable energy is that if most of its base load comes from a single nuclear source then a peak in renewables could mean a portion of the base is no longer profitable, and there may be further costs if the plant has to shut.

There lot’s more here to tweak your interest, and while you’re reading check out the supplementary references. Of particular interest are the enhanced safety features, and life cycle, including low construction costs and minimal maintainability, advantages. These are in essence small On the negative side, a terrorists may chose to fly a large helicopter with a sky hook and lift it top drop it where it will ‘scare people’.

It’s Just a BIG Battery

ThreeMmodules in the  B&W Concept

Note that what I report in this topical is not the modular reactor concept, which will be the source of another future article. Modular reactor are large scale reactors which can be built and centrally operated using some installed prefabricated modules to fit power needs, but closely resemble the newer generation of standard nuclear power plants. These are being explored as a means of lowering up front capital costs without a need to significantly change the licensing requirements and regulatory approval process

Nuclear Energy Industry Insight, by Jason Deign, February 9, 2011.

More Reading

Small Modular Reactors.           …And…         List Of Small Nuclear Reactor Designs. Wikipedia 2011.

Small Nuclear Power Reactors. World Nuclear Association, April 2011

Are Small Nuclear Reactors Safer? The Celsias (climate) Blog, by Timothy B. Hurst

Interim Report Of The American Nuclear Society President’s Special Committee On Small And Medium Sized Reactor (SMR) Generic Licensing Issues, July 2010.

The economy of small: how SMRs have captured the imagination of US policy makers and industry leaders. By Jack Craze, October 18, 2010, for the Nuclear Energy Insider.

Small Nuclear Reactors Are Becoming Big Business – The race is on to develop refrigerator-size reactors that could power small towns or plants. Published in Bloomberg Businessweek, By Jeremy van Loon and Alex Morales, May 20, 2010.

PR-CANADA.net – IEER/PSR: ‘Small Modular Reactors’ No Panacea for What Ails Nuclear Power (An alternate View), by Arjun Makhijani of the anti-nuclear IEER, Posted October 1, 2010.            …And…         Small Modular Reactors – No Solution for the Cost, Safety, and Waste Problems of Nuclear Power. Fact Sheet by Arjun Makhijani And Michele Boyd for the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research [IEER], September 2010.

The Gates Path to an Energy Revolution By Andrew C. Revkin, August 24, 2010 for The New York Times

Bill Gates and Toshiba building commercial mini nuclear reactors. By Leslie Shapiro for the DEVICE Blog, Mar 23, 2010.

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Assumptions for Land Needed by Wind and Solar — An Analysis

Abstracted from Martin LaMonica‘s CNET article::

Imagine if your country had an unlimited budget but a limited amount of land: what renewable energy has the most potential? Rutgers University professor Clinton Andrews and colleagues ran the numbers on this thought experiment and came up with some surprises.

The authors identified clear limits on some technologies, notably biofuels, but concluded that the bigger challenges to renewable energy and land relate to siting energy facilities, particularly transmission lines. Andrews presented an early version of the paper at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy conference. The goal of the analysis and others like it is to size up the land requirements for different renewable-energy sources which in many cases require more land than fossil fuels and nuclear power. As the U.S. and other countries seek to ramp up renewable-energy production, land use is becoming a more contentious issue. Already plans to build large-scale solar plants and wind farms in the U.S. have been opposed for aesthetic and environmental reasons.

Even for distributed energy sources, such as rooftop panels, permitting and siting issues stand to loom large because upgrades to the electricity grid are needed, the study found. “It’s not so much the land that we need for producing the energy. It’s how we move to where we want to use it,” according to the analysis that Andrews presented.

Professor Andrews goes on to discuss land use associated with

  • The small land needs for Geothermal and concentrating solar thermal production.
  • Alas, the largest energy associated land hog is biofuels, particularly biodiesel.

There’s more so click though and get the rest of the story. I wish that the reporter who shared Professor Andrew’s work had more directly included coal, natural gas and nuclear in the CNET analysis, but that seemed beyond the scope of the reporter interests. Never the less from the material provided in other references I checked in passing, the land use patterns are very clear. The image is from a 2011 C&EN article.

Remember that land use is only one of the trade-offs needing to be considered while planning our hopefully independent energy future and controlling climate change. The obvious cost of the energy produced, when off set by some sort of charge for pollution needs to be considered. Unfortunately the bureaucrats and industrialists of the world seem to be blind-siding this issue, creating a false balance sheet of costs for energy alternative. “Gaia doesn’t care, the laws of nature will take their coursed whether we believe them or not.

A perhaps more scholarly study, the second reference further highlights energy production  land use issues:

Concern over climate change has led the U.S. to consider a cap-and-trade system to regulate emissions. In the referenced articles we illustrate the land-use impact to U.S. habitat types of new energy development resulting from different U.S. energy policies. The authors estimated the total new land area needed by 2030 to produce energy, under current law and under various cap-and-trade policies, and then partitioned the area impacted among habitat types with geospatial data on the feasibility of production.

The land-use intensity of different energy production techniques varies over three orders of magnitude, from 1.9–2.8 km2/TW hr/yr for nuclear power to 788–1000 km2/TW hr/yr for biodiesel from soy. In all scenarios, temperate deciduous forests and temperate grasslands will be most impacted by future energy development, although the magnitude of impact by wind, biomass, and coal to different habitat types is policy-specific.

Regardless of the existence or structure of a cap-and-trade bill, at least 206,000 km2 will be impacted without substantial increases in energy efficiency, which saves at least 7.6 km2 per TW hr of electricity conserved annually and 27.5 km2 per TW/hr of liquid fuels conserved annually.

Climate policy that reduces carbon dioxide emissions may increase the areal impact of energy, although the magnitude of this potential side effect may be substantially mitigated by increases in energy efficiency. The possibility of widespread energy sprawl increases the need for energy conservation, appropriate siting, sustainable production practices, and compensatory mitigation offsets.

Caveat Lector:  I could not Google a copy of the original Rutgers Study by Professor Clinton Andrews, so can not attest to the underlying technical detains in the original article. All posted information was a variation of the LaMonica CNET report

Figuring land use into renewable-energy equation. Reported n the Green Tech Blog

By Martin LaMonica, May 29, 2010.

Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America. The Plosone Blog, by Robert I. McDonald, Joseph Fargione, Joe Kiesecker3 William M. Miller, and Jimmie Powell; August 2009.

Nuclear Energy: The Antidote to Energy Sprawl, Nuclear Energy Insight, Nuclear Energy Institute, September 2010.

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Stories vs. StatisticsA reality check

Years ago I took a graduate school course, at the University of Denver from my favorite faculty friend and colleague Dr. Albert Ritter. The course combined an introduction to the principals of symbolic logic, dipped into the basis of the scientific method and added what appeared to be a segment on ‘how to lie with statistics.” Although I would not have passed the course being simultaneously being overwhelmed with life’s realities. I was simultaneously teaching, developing an organic chemistry Ph. D. curriculum, chasing funding and then building myself a research laboratory, and enjoying a new marriage. Non-the less, the course changed my approach to what I read and how I approached scientific life!   

Many year later, a book “Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists”, by Joel Best, University of California Press; 1 edition (May 8, 2001) added another nail to my sense of disbelief of ‘public’ infomercials’ on the numerics and cherry-pickled statistics provided by talking heads what ever their titles or positions.

 

Therefor the following NY Times article touched on a nerve, always, especially after elections or congressional debates, raw and bleeding.

 

Half a century ago the British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow bemoaned the estrangement of what he termed the “two cultures” in modern society — the literary and the scientific. These days, there is some reason to celebrate better communication between these domains, if only because of the increasingly visible salience of scientific ideas. Still a gap remains, and so I’d like here to take an oblique look at a few lesser known contrasts and divisions between subdomains of the two cultures, specifically, those between stories and statistics.

Dr. Paulos begins by noting that the notions of probability and statistics are not alien to storytelling. From the earliest of recorded histories there were glimmerings of these concepts, which were reflected in everyday words and stories. Consider the notions of central tendency — average, median, mode, to name a few.

They most certainly grew out of workaday activities and led to words such as (in English) “usual,” “typical.” “customary,” “most,” “standard,” “expected,” “normal,” “ordinary,” “medium,” “commonplace,” “so-so,” and so on.

The same is true about the notions of statistical variation — standard deviation, variance, and the like. Words such as “unusual,” “peculiar,” “strange,” “original,” “extreme,” “special,” “unlike,” “deviant,” “dissimilar” and “different” come to mind.

It is hard to imagine even prehistoric humans not possessing some sort of rudimentary idea of the typical or of the unusual. Any situation or entity — storms, animals, and rock patterns — that recurred again and again would, it seems, lead naturally to these notions. These and other fundamentally scientific concepts have in one way or another been embedded in the very idea of what a story is — an event distinctive enough to merit retelling — from cave paintings to “Gilgamesh” to “The Canterbury Tales,” onward.

The idea of probability itself is present in such words as “chance,” “likelihood,” “fate,” “odds,” “gods,” “fortune,” “luck,” “happenstance,” “random,” and many others. A mere acceptance of the idea of alternative possibilities almost entails some notion of probability, since some alternatives will be come to be judged more likely than others.

Likewise, the idea of sampling is implicit in words like “instance,” “case,” “example,” “cross-section,” “specimen” and “swatch,” and that of correlation is reflected in “connection,” “relation,” “linkage,” “conjunction,” “dependence” and the ever too ready “cause.”

Even (science based) hypothesis testing and Bayesian analysis possess linguistic echoes in common phrases and ideas that are an integral part of human cognition and storytelling. … Despite the naturalness of these notions, however, there is a tension between stories and statistics. One under-appreciated contrast between them is simply the mindset with which we approach them. In listening to stories we tend to suspend disbelief in order to be entertained. Whereas, in evaluating statistics we generally have an opposite inclination to suspend belief in order not to be beguiled.

A drily named distinction from formal statistics is relevant: we’re said to commit a Type I error when we observe something that is not really there and a Type II error when we fail to observe something that is there. There is no way to always avoid both types, and we have different error thresholds in different endeavors, but the type of error people feel more comfortable may be telling. It gives some indication of their intellectual personality type; on which side of the two cultures (or maybe two cultures) divide they’re most comfortable. Check Wikipedia,

Okay, that’s right; if the author’s thesis catches your fancy read on… after all there are both philosopher kings and philosophical scientists, although Plato did not distinguish between them.

Article by John Allen Paulos, in the New York Times Opinionator Column, October 24, 2010.

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Endnotes

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

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

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

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

In Closing

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

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

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).          Doc!

QUOTES de Mois —

  • The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
  • For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
  • It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.  Richard P. Feynman

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

Sources of ‘BIAS-Neutral” Information on the Japanese Reactors at Fukushima Daiichi and DaniIt’s time to get away from the headlines and nucleophobic hysteria and look at long and short term realities; both good and bad and the ugly!

Introduction

Since the first announcement on March 11, 2011, I have read dozens if not hundreds of posted articles on the Internet. Some, from relative deep thinking organizations such as the IAEA, World Nuclear Forum, International Health Physics Societies [HPS’], NEA and the NRC. Other articles I’ve studied from seemingly responsible sources acting in a state of shock, and disarray, including parts of the Japanese governmental and industrial infrastructure has also troubled me.

In addition, alas there was/is an overwhelming amount of talking head information coming (print media headlines, blog tirades, TV dialogues.) The accident also enhanced profiles and enriched the purses of professional rumormongers, lobbyists, sales hungry media outlets and those who delight in nuclear bashing.

Alas, all the while the American public seems to be awaiting a miracle to cleanup our air, water and earth before it kills them and their children and children’s-children.

My purpose in this article, it to provide you a easily to follow factual summary events and accessible references that you can read about the Fukushima Daiichi and Dani accident for your selves. I have never been comfortable with these either crying wolf or chicken little.

Don’t Confuse Me With Verifiable Facts; I’m a true believer — Furthermore I do not aim to either cast aspersions on the motives and weakness of the many directly or indirectly involved, nor to grandstand for or against nuclear energy. As readers of my blog and books, you already know my views on that subject and cheerleading specifically on nucleophobia, vested interests, or the gullibility or human frailly will not change my views – demonstrated, reproducible and peer reviewed facts I hope, can.

Neither is it my task to point out the poor quality of science education or education in general that makes curing the earth and our nations ills, difficult, and moves us even closer to replacing the BRICKS as 3rd word nations. It’s economics and hard fiscal realities, not politics and beliefs! Finally, when I close this Op-Ed make some personal observations based on my somewhat compulsive reading of science, technology and the role of politics and bureaucracy play in advancing human error.

We of course as one of the worlds most highly armed nuclear weapons state, in using a Nuclear Winter approach to solving hunger, global worming, water pollution, desertification, species die-out, and the other ailments we have in part inflicted on Mother Gaia. Seems to be a Hobbesian choice – wise up or bow out! Let G-D create someone else in his own image.

Background [From Wikipedia]

The Fukushima I nuclear accidents [Fukushima Dai-ichi (pronunciation) genshiryoku hatsudensho jiko)] are a series of ongoing equipment failures and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, following the 9.0 magnitude Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.

The plant comprises six separate boiling water reactors maintained by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). This accident is the largest of the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents arising from the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and experts consider it to be the second largest nuclear accident after the Chernobyl disaster, but more complex as all reactors are involved.

At the time of the quake, reactor 4 had been de-fueled while 5 and 6 were in cold shutdown for planned maintenance. The remaining reactors shut down automatically after the earthquake, with emergency generators starting up to run the control electronics and water pumps needed to cool reactors. The plant was protected by a seawall designed to withstand a 5.7 m (19 ft.) tsunami but not the 14 m (46 ft.) maximum wave, which arrived 41–60 minutes after the earthquake. The entire plant was flooded, including low-lying generators and electrical switchgear in reactor basements and external pumps for supplying cooling seawater. The connection to the electrical grid was broken. All power for cooling was lost and reactors started to overheat, due to natural decay of the fission products created before shutdown. The flooding and earthquake damage hindered external assistance.

Evidence soon arose of partial core meltdown in reactors 1, 2, and 3; hydrogen explosions destroyed the upper cladding of the buildings housing reactors 1, 3, and 4; an explosion damaged the containment inside reactor 2; 1 multiple fires broke out at reactor 4. Despite being initially shutdown, reactors 5 and 6 began to overheat. Fuel rods stored in pools in each reactor building began to overheat as water levels in the pools dropped. Fears of radiation leaks led to a 20 km (12 mi) radius evacuation around the plant while workers suffered radiation exposure and were temporarily evacuated at various times. One generator at unit 6 was restarted on 17 March allowing some cooling at units 5 and 6, which were least damaged. Grid power was restored to parts of the plant on 20 March, but machinery for reactors 1 through 4, damaged by floods, fires and explosions, remained inoperable. Flooding with radioactive water through the basements of units 1–4 continues to prevent access to carry out repairs.

Measurements taken by the Japanese science ministry and education ministry in areas of northern Japan 30–50 km from the plant showed radioactive cesium levels high enough to cause concern. Food grown in the area was banned from sale. It was suggested that worldwide measurements of iodine-131 and cesium-137 indicate that the releases from Fukushima are of the same order of magnitude as the releases of those isotopes from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986; Tokyo officials temporarily recommended that tap water should not be used to prepare food for infants. Plutonium contamination has been detected in the soil at two sites in the plant. Two workers hospitalized as a precaution on 25 March had been exposed to between 2000 and 6000 mSv of radiation at their ankles when standing in water in unit 3. Radiation levels varied widely over time and location, from well below 1 mSv/h to as high as 400 mSv/h. Normal background radiation varies from place to place but delivers a dose equivalent in the vicinity of 2.4 mSv/year, or about 0.3 µSv/h. For comparison, one chest x-ray is about 0.02 mSv and an abdominal CT scan is supposed to be less than 10 mSv (but it has been reported that some abdominal CT scans can deliver as much as 90 mSv).

Japanese officials initially assessed the accident as level 4 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) despite the views of other international agencies that it should be higher. Note that TMI only resulted in a 3 rating despite all the sound and fury.

The INES level was eventually raised successively to 5 and then the maximum 7. The Japanese government and TEPCO have been criticized for poor communication with the public and improvised cleanup efforts. Experts have said that a workforce in the hundreds or even thousands would take years or decades to clean up the area. On 20 March, the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano announced that the plant would be decommissioned once the crisis was over.

Fukushima Daiichi and Daini Nuclear Power Plants with radius of evacuation zones at 10/30/80 km (yellow circles)

Some Suggested Sources of ‘BIAS-Neutral” Information on the Japanese Reactors at Fukushima Daiichi

Humanitarian Assistance 

American Nuclear Society Japan Relief Fund – http://www.ans.org/relief

U.S. Agency for International Development – http://www.usaid.gov

U.S. State Department – http://www.state.gov

U.S. Red Cross – http://www.redcross.org

News Updates on Japan’s Nuclear Crisis

Understanding Radiation Measurements

English Language News in Japan 

References

The Fukushima Nuclear Accident, Wikipedia May 2, 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Tōhoku_earthquake_and_tsunami

2011 Tōhoku Earthquake And Tsunami, Wikipedia May 8, 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_nuclear_accident

Late News Special Section: Fukushima Daiichi (April 2011)

http://www.new.ans.org/pubs/magazines/nn/y_2011/m_4

Radiation Trends In Japan 21 March 2011, World Nuclear News

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Trends-in_radiation_in_Japan_.html

Safety of Nuclear Power Reactors, Nuclear Energy Institute, April 2011 updated with comments about the Fukushima Daiichi quake-tsunami.

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf06.html

CommunicationA Letter From ANS To President Obama Regarding Japan (Reactor) Situation

http://www.ans.org/misc/letter_to_president_obama.pdf

IAEA Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update Log(s)

http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

Radiation in Japan Seas: Risk of Animal Death, Mutation? National Geographic, 2011.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110331-japan-radiation-health-mutations-nuclear-animals-ocean-science-world/ [See my endnote]

Nuclear Energy Institute Report(s) On Japan’s Nuclear Reactors, April 6, 2011 Plus

Radiation Dispersal From Japan – Radiation Basics Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIOSH and US CDC Responses

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/radiation/RadBasics.html

http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2011/03/cdc-responds-to-earthquake-tsunami-and-radiation-release-in-japan/

The Science Behind the Disaster in Japan _ By Michal Bartlomowicz for The Phoenix

http://thephoenix.eznuz.com/article/US_World_News/US_World_News/The_Science_Behind_the_Disaster_in_Japan/23197

TEPCO in Japan (now) Plans Tsunami Wall by Agence France Presse May 2, 2011 for “Common Dreams Blog.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/05/02-3

Earthquake and Tsunamis In Japan

http://emsnews.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/31111-great-sendai-earthquake-and-tsunami-in-japan/

Doc’s End Note – National Geographic don’t seem to get it – the dose makes the poison and mankind and the world have been exposed to more cumulative natural radiation from anything ranging from volcanic vents to solar excursion, hat that we need to deal with from japan. I wonder, whether the mutations that caused mankind to appear, might have bee radiation induced? I also wonder whether mankind’s long love of natural hot spring baths (most are radioactive) was shared by our progenitors, of the ape family eons ago.

Alas if the levels of natural radiation most cause nuclear phobic folks have nightmares about were an real issue, then mankind would not have survived with the first to die out being in Ramsar, Iran; Kerala, India; Yangjiang China; or Guarapari, Brazil. On the other hand I don’t seem to hear these folks worry much about global warming, running out of water, migration of diseases from the topics to temperate climates, of polluted and likely cariogenic and mutagenic polluted groundwater loaded with chromium.

Concluding Observations

  • Despite the age of the reactors and the lack of focused protection, the effects of the accidents are so far as much smaller than predicted from modeling predictions and formal risk analysis.
  • The Japanese government and Bureaucracy, for decades, ignored peer-reviewed information on the magnitude and effects of earthquake and related tsunamis that were readily available internationally, which had been made actively available to them.
  • Nowhere in the articles I read was there evidence of ‘modern safety practices, common in France, after TMI in the US and after Chernobyl in Russia. The absence beyond lip service to concepts of avoiding single point failures, requiring redundant safety features and generally approaching al safety from a defense in depth viewpoint, remains troublesome.
  • The local as well as national government emergency response plans we woefully inadequate and untested. Not only was the responsibly for emergency response unclear and diluted, but the responses proposed were never ‘formally or rigorously tested. [Hurricane Katrina or 7/11 anyone.]
  • The Japanese nuclear associated energy industry, plagued with years of cover up if not outright lying, were ill prepared for any potentially level 5-7 INES event, despite international ‘requirements’ to do so. This despite the fact that Japan is one of the most energy resource poor countries in the world, and is dependent on nuclear generated electricity for its industrial survival. This is opposite to required practices in the US, France, and apparently with US and IAEA help, post Chernobyl Russia and soon China.
  • It is both naive and irrational to believe that the major countries in the world will give up low-carbon emitting uranium and some day soon thorium based nuclear power. Selling you national soul to oil rich robber barons and your children to slow poverty and illness by global warming is something that only risk adverse hedonistic America will get suckered into.
  • Radiation related fear is an easy thing to foster, making great news ——— It’s all about FUD! Radiation can be detected at ever-lower levels, magnitudes below the upper and lower ubiquitous ranges of natural background ration. [A NIMBY Solution – let’s turn the sun off over America and require zero radiation related material in creating our fertilizers, or supporting our health systems.
  • The human body’s immune system has developed to resist almost all harmful low dose attacks, but even a single gamma ray or alpha particle will pose a risk of cancer… fear “the big “C” word. Innate immune resistance includes low levels of the forever metals and their compounds such lead, mercury, chromium, beryllium, radiation hormesis be dammed.

We too often, only at election times, wonder why China, India, Brazil, Germany, some of the Nordic Countries soon the some in the Middle-East and other so called second/third world nations are gaining in economic clout we remain in economic limbo. Reality Check – if it were easy and painless it would have been done. For failed populist solutions check out Greece, or historically Imperial Japan or China.

As attributed to the French King Louis XV — Après Moi Le Déluge. There and elsewhere, of course it was a deluge as historic evidence supports.

I hope someone in a decision making capacity my America gets it, before grand children inherit the great American dream.” My children already suffer when trying to live it!

Doc.

Quote de Jour – Einstein, a collection on Truth and Stupidity

The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. Truth is what stands the test of experience.

The only source of knowledge is experience.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

Sidebar Notes

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

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

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

Are the references provided essentially complete or representative of the literature, and relevant? Do they include both precedent and present work, including any referenced disagreement with any of the Wiki author’s views?

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

So now back to catching up on articles collected and not yet passed on.

First, check out my Op-Ed article on the Status of the Japanese Reactors written for MHReports on 05-06-11

Sources of ‘BIAS-Neutral” Information on the Japanese Reactors at Fukushima Daiichi and DaniIt’s time to get away from the headlines and nucleophobic hysteria and look at long and short term realities; both good and bad and the ugly!

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

  • A Bleak View For Curbing CO2 — Environment: Breaking the world’s fossil-fuel addiction will be difficult at best, study suggests.
  • A Step Toward Car Fuel From Wood Waste
  • Summary of IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources
  • Food Fight: The Case for Genetically Modified Food – Genetically modified crops, receive an unjustified shellacking from environmentalists
  • A Fistful Of Dust — The true effect of windblown material is only now coming to be appreciated.
  • Ocean acidification—The other carbon-dioxide problem.
  • All Tomorrow’s Taxis

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A Bleak View For Curbing CO2

Environment: Breaking the world’s fossil-fuel addiction will be difficult at best, study suggests.

If no new CO2-emitting power plants, cars, and other energy and transportation infrastructure were built starting today, Earth might narrowly avoid the worst effects of anticipated global climate change, according to a study.

But that scenario is improbable, say Steven J. Davis of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and colleagues, who prepared the study, because the world is in no position to make the immediate transition to carbon neutral energy technologies it would require.

Davis and coworkers compiled data on power plant emissions, motor vehicle emissions, and emissions produced directly from industry, households, businesses, and transportation. They then used a climate model to project the effect of future CO2 on Earth’s climate (Science 2010, 329, 1330).

What the team found surprised them: Even if no new CO2-emitting sources were built, the world’s existing energy infrastructure would emit 500 gigatons of CO2 until current sources go out of service over the next 50 years. That amount would stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels below 430 ppm and level off the average global temperature at 1.3 °C above the preindustrial mean. The researchers had expected those figures to be above the threshold values of 450 ppm and 2 °C that climate scientists believe will trigger major climate disruption.

But there’s still a catch, Davis says. Although existing infrastructure doesn’t appear to be a threat to climate, much of future energy demand will be met by traditional CO2-emitting sources. “The devices whose emissions will cause the worst impacts have yet to be built,” he adds. It will require “truly extraordinary development” of new infrastructure and take decades to distance ourselves from CO2-emitting technologies.  “Efforts to curb emissions through regulation and international agreement haven’t worked, emissions are rising faster than ever, and programs to scale up carbon-neutral energy sources are moving slowly at best,” global environmental change expert Martin I. Hoffert of New York University says in a commentary about the study. “Davis and coworkers offer new insights into just how difficult it will be to say farewell to fossil fuels.”

By Steve Ritter, September 13, 2010, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN),

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i37/html/8837notw7.html

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A Step Toward Car Fuel From Wood Waste

Almost everybody likes the idea of cellulosic ethanol, or ethanol made from the nonfood portion of crops and from waste like wood scraps or paper. But so far nobody, in the USA, is producing bulk amounts. A federal law requires companies that produce gasoline to blend in 250 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol this year, but the Environmental Protection Agency reduced that quota to a more realistic six million gallons.

On Thursday, however, one of the many companies working toward commercial production, the Mascoma Corporation of Lebanon, NH, said it had reached an agreement with Valero, the nation’s largest independent oil refiner, under which Valero would take the entire output of a commercial plant that Mascoma was to break ground on this year in Kinross, MI. It is the first such “off-take” agreement in the industry. The company said the plant is supposed to be running by 2013. Valero will invest up to $50 million in the Kinross plant, said William J. Brady, Mascoma’s chief executive. The entire plant would cost $350 million, and not all of that is in hand yet, Mr. Brady said, but “getting the Valero investment has made the rest a lot easier.’’

Other investors in Mascoma include General Motors. The company is seeking loan guarantees from the Energy Department.

The company, which planned to use wood waste, could turn out to have the first commercial-scale plant. Mr. Brady said that three other companies could also produce ethanol from cellulose, as is being done commercially and without subsidies in Brazil, in the near future: BlueFire Ethanol, which uses grasses; POET, which is turning to cobs and other nonfood portions of the corn plant; and Abengoa, which is turning to parts of the corn plant beyond the kernel. There’s more, so click on.

By Matthew L. Wald, January 13, 2011, For The New York Times

Other Related Articles

Google Invests in a Chips-to-Biofuels Venture

Ethanol Plant Is Switching to Butanol By Matthew L. Wald

Biofuel (diesel from wood), Wikipedia, 2011.

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Summary of IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources

The summary (6 pages) of the summary (25 pages) for policy makers of renewable Energy Sources makes uneasy, jargon filled and ultimately uncomfortable reading. The questions this report addresses are important: how much electricity and other energy can be supplied by renewables? At what cost? This report (more so the full report and technical summary) will help us make sense of conflicting claims today. All policy experts agree that renewables are needed, along with other low-carbon forms of energy, but what is their potential in the coming decades?

The graphs are a little confusing; energy sources are placed on different graphs because there is so much more of some than others. Recent gains in solar are impressive—photovoltaics, solar panels are up by almost a factor of10 in 4 years, but the absolutely increase in energy pales compared to increases in other forms of renewables, from hydro to municipal solid waste, Also, information is often given in capacity, or GW—capacity tells us how much power is produced, at a maximum—rather than in GWh, total energy produced.

As was noted by Geoffrey Styles “Once I got beyond the introductory paragraphs it seemed to degenerate into jargon and bureaucratese that was very hard to parse into plain meaning. The report’s genesis as the product of pure consensus is readily apparent.” Indeed, “it doesn’t take readers much beyond what is already well established.”

No I’m neither going to further summarize the findings [e.g., a summarized summary of the summary policy report] not attempt to analyzed, in the absence of the final report share my thoughts on the accuracy and clarity of technical arguments vs political cover too often a part of such International reports provided by the approved reports authors. Needless to say in the policy maker summary level, is worth reading. There is much to discomfort one about the hopes – and economic and political realities of basing our hopes on averting the worst effects of climate change on renewable energy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new report, Special Report Renewable Energy Sources (SRREN), and the Energy Collective summery does highlight some interesting specifics that I list as bullets in the paragraph that follows.

  • The definition of Renewable Energy, a political not a technical term, depends on where you live. In the USA, nuclear energy is perceived as neither renewable but also not green.
  • Most subsidized Governmental projects, the picking of favorites, is based not on economic (e.g., life cycle cost versus green house gas reduction) but on political factors including the desire to be seen by the voters doing something even if it both wastes money and is only minimally effective. But pleasing lobbyist is also of political benefit.
  • The characteristics of different RE sources can influence the scale of the integration challenge. Some RE resources are widely distributed geographically. Others, such as large-scale hydropower, can be more centralized but have integration options constrained by geographic location. Some RE resources are variable with limited predictability. From the information available, the report policy leaves the systems integration and analysis to someone else, not even attempting to provide a framework for comparisons of alternative viability, politic aside, as a function of location.
Check out:Justifying $15 Trillion for Renewablesby Geoffrey Styles, for the Energy Collective, May 11, 2011.The Nuclear and the Renewable Energy Standard, by Jim Hopf for the Energy Collective, October 18, 2010.Nuclear, gas, and the Clean Energy Standard by Jim Hopf for the Energy Collective, January 18, 201l.

You want more, read either the shorter Energy Collective version of the policy report itself.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new report, Special Report

Renewable Energy Sources (SRREN), – A Summary for Policy Makers, by Karen Street, for The Energy Collective Site, May 12, 2011.

FD Summary Policy Makers of the IPCC not yet released Special Report Renewable Energy Sources (SRREN), _IPCC May 2011, final.

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Food Fight: The Case for Genetically Modified Food

Genetically modified crops, receive an unjustified shellacking from environmentalists.

Roger Beachy grew up in a traditional Amish family on a small farm in Ohio that produced food “in the old ways,” he says, with few insecticides, herbicides or other agrochemicals. He went on to become a renowned expert in plant viruses and sowed the world’s first genetically modified food crop—a tomato plant with a gene that conferred resistance to the devastating tomato mosaic virus. Beachy sees no irony between his rustic, low-tech boyhood and a career spent developing new types of agricultural technologies. For him, genetic manipulation of food plants is a way of helping preserve the traditions of small farms by reducing the amount of chemicals farmers have to apply to their crops. Without GM crops, He contends that farmers would need to return to older practices that would produce lower crop yields, higher prices and an increase in the use of agrochemicals inimical to health. 

In 2009 Beachy took the helm of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture where continues to advocate for a prominent place for genetic engineering of crops, which he claims provides a basis for chemical-free, sustainable agriculture that will prove more of a boon for the environment than have conventional weed and pest control. Detractors of GM foods, meanwhile, have expressed their chagrin at Beachy’s appointment. His work helped to kick-start the $11-billion global agricultural biotechnology industry

Themes included in this article include:

How did your Amish background shape your interest in agriculture?

Can technical advances in sustainable agriculture be transferred to the developing world?

Is there a one-size-fits-all strategy for fostering agricultural technology?

Were you surprised by how effective the virus-resistance gene in tomato plants was?

That effectiveness does not last forever, of course. Today we are seeing the resistance these technologies provide against pests and disease being overcome. Do you think the industry has relied too much on GM as a “silver bullet”?

Critics of the agricultural biotechnology industry complain that it has focused on providing benefits to farmers rather than improving foods for consumers. What do you say to them?

Today consumers are willing to pay more for crops that are labeled “organic” or even “GM-free” because they view them as more sustainable. How do you think GM crops can help make agriculture more sustainable?

Environmentalists have been reluctant to embrace GM crops because of concerns about genes flowing to non-GM crops and also to wild native plants. That’s one reason a federal judge in California recently ordered genetically modified sugar beets to be destroyed.

It may be a positive thing for agriculture, but not necessarily for wild ecosystems. What are the consequences if you create a vitamin A–rich rice and that gene spreads into an environment where vitamin A is scarce?

Some scientists have complained that biotech companies have stymied research on GM crops. Aren’t these studies needed to get accurate answers about the risks of these crops?

What would be the consequence if GM crops were suddenly removed from the market?

Doc Sez:

In a world where Karma really applies my the detractors who block advances rather then working to assure that there are minimal unintended consequence be condemned to life at the average living standards who hunger they help assure.

By Brendan Borrell for Scientific American, April 11, 2011 

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A Fistful Of DustThe true effect of windblown material is only now coming to be appreciated

ON MAY 26th 2008 Germany turned red. The winds of change, though, were meteorological, not political. Unusual weather brought iron-rich dust from Africa to Europe, not only altering the colour of roofs and cars on the continent but also, according to recent calculations by Max Bangert, a graduate student at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, making the place about a quarter of a degree colder for as long as the dust stayed in the air. This is unusual for Germany, commonplace for the planet as a whole. The Sahara and other bone-dry places continually send dust up into the atmosphere, where it may travel thousands of kilometers and influence regional weather, the global climate and even the growth of forests halfway around the planet.

Earlier in 2008, for instance, Ilan Koren and his colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Israel, detected a particularly voluminous burst of dust from the Bodélé Depression. This low-lying bed of silt in Chad, across which powerful jets of wind are wont to blow, constitutes less than 1% of the Sahara’s area but is reckoned the world’s dustiest place. It is thought to be responsible for a quarter or more of the Sahara’s output of airborne dust.  The importance of this long-distance logistical chain has become apparent only in the past few years, and researchers are still working out its many repercussions—for the more you look at dust, the more effects it seems to have. African dust is thought, for example, to stimulate plant growth in the Amazon by bringing in phosphorus (which is in short supply there). This may put a check on global warming by removing what would otherwise be a long-term constraint on the forest’s ability to suck up carbon dioxide as it grows.

Dust, which does not reach land, may do something similar to the sea. Some parts of the ocean are short of iron, which red desert dust has in abundance. Dust from the Gobi desert seems to stimulate plankton blooms in the nutrient-poor waters of the North Pacific, though it is not clear whether this results in a net reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide, since that would require some of the plankton to sink to the seabed, never to return.

Dust aloft cools the land below, as Europe’s meteorologists found out in May 2008. It does this directly, by reflecting sunlight back into space, and indirectly, by helping clouds to form. The effect is significant. The carbon dioxide, which has been added to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution began, has a greenhouse effect equivalent to the arrival of about 1.6 watts of extra solar power per square meter of the Earth’s surface. The direct effects of dust are estimated to provide a countervailing cooling of about 0.14 watts per square meter. Add the indirect effect on clouds and this could increase markedly, though there are great uncertainties. This dust-driven cooling, though, is patchy—and in some places it may not even be helpful. Dust that cools a desert can change local airflow patterns and lessen the amount of rain that falls in surrounding areas. This causes plants to die, and provides more opportunities for wildfires, increasing the atmospheric carbon-dioxide level.

To get a better sense of the net effects brought about by the ups and downs of dust check on the link.

A worry some thought — In a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jasper Kok of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, writes that the amount of coarse dust driven into the atmosphere by wind is at least double and may be eight times as much as previously thought. Watch his You Tube Video.

Note:

Dust effect potential Fukushima Daiichi Reactor are apparently solely related to a possible radioactivity spread, fallout, rather than climate change. Although I’ve read somewhere recently that as a result of fires like those caused on the gulf, the after effects of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of this summer’s forest fires near Moscow, the smoke and soot created will cause temperatures to fall. Alas I could not re-find that reference.

Climate Science, Jan 6th 2011 in The Economist

Also Check Out

Volcanoes and Climate

Dust Effect Potential from Eyjafjallajökull Eruption

Do Volcano’s Cause Climate Change

Dust Effect Potential of A Pakistani Indian War – A Potential for Nuclear Winter

Nuclear war between India, Pak could spell climate disaster, January 26, 2002 – Times of India

Pollution in the Himalayas — Time to call the sweep? Soot gets everywhere. Even into the world’s highest mountains, The Economist, November 18, 2010.

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Ocean Acidification—The other carbon-dioxide problem

Acidification threatens the world’s oceans, but quantifying the risks is hard. In the waters of Kongsfjord, an inlet on the coast of Spitsbergen, sit nine contraptions that bring nothing to mind as much as monster condoms. Each is a transparent sheath of plastic 17-metres long, mostly underwater, held in place by a floating collar. The seawater sealed within them is being mixed with different levels of carbon dioxide to see what will happen to the ecology of the Arctic waters.  As carbon dioxide levels go up, pH levels come down. Acidity depends on the presence of hydrogen ions (the pH in pH) and more hydrogen ions mean, counter intuitively, a lower pH. Expose the surface of the ocean to an atmosphere with ever more carbon dioxide, and the gas and waters will produce carbonic acid, lowering pH on a planetary scale. The declining pH does not actually make the waters acidic (they started off mildly alkaline).

But it makes them more acidic, just as turning up the light makes a dark room brighter. Ocean acidification has further chemical implications: more hydrogen ions mean more bicarbonate ions, and fewer carbonate ions. Carbonate is what corals; the shells of shellfish and the outer layers of many photosynthesizing plankton and other microbes are made of. If the level of carbonate ions falls too low the shells can dissolve or might never be made at all. There is evidence that the amount of carbonate in the shells of foraminifera, micro-plankton that are crucial to ocean ecology, has recently dropped by as much as a third. Since becoming a topic of widespread worry about five years ago, the changing pH of the oceans has been added to the litany of environmental woes. Richard Feely, a researcher at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, provided a gift to headline writers when he dubbed acidification “global warming’s evil twin”. Nowadays Dr. Feely prefers to call it “the other carbon-dioxide problem”.

There’s more, click through for more information.

Singling out the role of acidification will be hard. Ocean ecosystems are beset by changes in nutrient levels due to run off near the coasts and by overfishing, which plays havoc with food webs nearly everywhere. And the effects of global warming need to be included, too. Surface waters are expected to form more stable layers as the oceans warm, which will affect the availability of nutrients and, it is increasingly feared, of oxygen. Some, including Dr. Riebesell, suspect that these physical and chemical effects of warming may prove a greater driver of productivity change in the ocean than altered pH. Wherever you look, there is always another other problem.

The Economist, July 1, 2010.

ALSO:  Ocean acidification, Wikipedia, 2011.

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All Tomorrow’s Taxis

Sometime early this year, New York City’s taxi and limousine commission will announce the winner of its “Taxi of Tomorrow” competition. Or it won’t. The project was begun in 2007, and in December 2009 a “request for proposals” went out to automotive manufacturers and designers. The bar wasn’t set all that high: the Taxi of Tomorrow was meant to be “safe, fuel-efficient, accessible, durable, and comfortable.” A look at the three finalists announced in November 2010 confirms they are perhaps all of those things. They are also, well, dull. Boxy. Lacking in imagination. (Not that New York’s current cab, the Ford Crown Victoria, was one to inspire much.)

The winner stands to supply more than 13,000 medallion taxis for at least a decade, a deal that could be worth up to $1 billion. Imagine if, in turn, the yellow spots monopolizing New York’s streets could help transform the urban landscape, perhaps by being smaller and more streamlined, having less environmental impact, or providing more comfort, convenience and aesthetics to passengers. What if the “tomorrow” part manifested itself not just in the object (the car) but also in new initiatives inspired by the broad national movement toward collaborative consumption, like a taxi-sharing app that could help facilitate carpooling from JFK airport into the city? The perfect solution for these recessionary times, this cab, re-envisioned as a compact bus, allows passengers to pay on a sliding scale.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that “if [the taxi] doesn’t meet our needs, then we can start the process all over again, or say we just can’t find what we want and come back and visit this at another time in the future.” Well, only one of the three is wheelchair accessible, only one offers an electric option. So with the door still open, as it were, I had several conversations with the artist/inventor (and former R&D guy for Honda) Steven M. Johnson, a self-described conjurer of “ludicrous” ideas for decades. But sometimes the wildest ideas result in the best solutions. We discussed the taxi-related issues that seemed to have been inadequately addressed in the Taxi of Tomorrow competition.

There is traffic, as in the inability to do anything about it. Should there be a taxi lane? …An elevated one, straight out of Rem Koolhaas’s “Delirious New York”? There’s availability — how to improve the odds of getting a cab when you need one — and also affordability: a cab-sharing program has been tried in the city already, but is there a way to improve it, or create a vehicle that allows for ride-sharing? And there’s reliability — how can you better the odds that your driver knows how to get where you want to go?

In addition, there are different and specific issues of comfort that need to be addressed for a car that hosts many passengers in the course of a day. The average taxi seems too hot, or too cold, or too loud; the upholstery sags, and cleanliness is relative. This affects the relationship between passenger and driver, and the corresponding civility (or lack thereof). Is the environment safe and secure? Are the temperature, noise level and air quality satisfactory? Should there be an enforceable dress code for drivers, as has been proposed by the city’s taxi and limousine commission?

After we talked, Johnson came up with nearly 60 different concepts, some pragmatic, some dystrophic, others clearly silly. We winnowed it down to nine, tongues firmly in our cheeks. Click here to see a slide show of his ideas.  I commend the city for soliciting comments on the finalists, and the media, design and innovation firm Human Condition for creating the Taxi of Tomorrow crowd-sourcing site, which has been offering a forum for ideas and commentary since October. I hope the commission pays attention.

By Allison Arieff, An Opinionator for the New York Times, Jan 13, 2011.

Click though to see more photos of Mr. Johnson’s ideas.

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Endnotes

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

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

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

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

In Closing

Readers please checkout my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes form my approach to this and my other writings.

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

The materials I share in the topical snippets that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental magazines and newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies; as well as excerpts from blogs and ‘lists’ to which I subscribe.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original materials, click on-through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> to check out other background references on the topic(s).          Doc.

… And yes I trust Wikipedia, but only if I’ve checkout most of an articles references for bias and accuracy!

QUOTE de Mois — “I Believe In Evidence.”

“I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”

Isaac Asimov – On Evidence and Belief

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

Introduction

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters, both pro or anti any given subject’s focus or technologies, as well as blogs to which I subscribe.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my topic segments are only a partial look at the original article, click on through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> other background references on the topic(s).       Doc.

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • Turning Tough Trash Into Food-Friendly Fuel
  • Fool’s Gold Catches Eye Of Solar Energy Researchers
  • Economies Of Scale: The Cost Of Nuclear New Build In America — It not the cost of the first one that ultimately counts.
  • Potholes On The Road To Renewable Fuels — Corn-kernel-based ethanol hits the fast lane, but cellulosic ethanol is still mostly stuck in first gear
  • Strip Search: How Safe are Airports’ New X-ray Scanners?
  • “Cheap energy”: Could natural gas be stepping on the renewable sector’s toes?

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Turning Tough Trash Into Food-Friendly Fuel

Researchers are making steps toward producing biofuels from the abundant plant materials we don’t eat.

In her search for a better way to put fuel in your tank, biological engineer Ratna Sharma-Shivappa is working on a chemical juggling act: She is trying to break down the problematic woody material in grasses without harming the energy-containing carbohydrates that the plants also contain. If she can perfect the process, it could lead to inexpensive biofuels that are made from inedible crops—not from corn like most of today’s ethanol.

If scalable this would likely eliminate or drastically reduce the difficult and highly politically driven choice of using based corn based ethanol for fuel, rather then feeding the worlds hungry. Once again Americas factory farm supported farm lobbies, has convinced the DOE and EPA to increase the allowable ethanol in our gasoline to 15%, engine corrosion problems not withstanding. This time against will of the automotive industry. There’s also the now demonstrated fact that corn based ethanol is, based on life cycle carbon releases, a negative pollution control force  – Growing corn releases more greenhouse gases than adding ethanol to fuel saves. Indeed the effect of switching to more corn ethanol in fuel does little except to line the pockets of ‘big’ agriculture and funding farm state politicians.

By exposing ground-up miscanthus grass (a relative of sugarcane) to ozone gas, Sharma-Shivappa and her colleagues at North Carolina State University were able to break down the tough structural molecule called lignin, allowing them to access the valuable carbohydrates without degrading them. Enzymes then split the carbs into sugars, which are fermented to make ethanol. Although ozone is pricey, the technique works at room temperature and does not require high pressure; advantages that Sharma-Shivappa believes will help keep it cost-effective. Next she will test the ozone treatment on other potential biofuel plants. “This should be applicable to most lignin crops,” such as switch grass, she says. There’s a bit more about alternatives to ozonization, in the linked article.

Doc Sez, that this is broader than just miscanthus grass, since it might also be applicable to the Brazilian sugar cane residues (biomass), as an alterative to the caustic treatment and or possible enzymatic processing now under study.

Article by Valerie Ross, Discover Magazine, December 2010 issue

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/dec/07-turning-tough-trash-food-friendly-fuel

Added Reading

Fermenting Cane Biomass to Fuel in Brazil

Ethanol Production Via Enzymatic Hydrolysis Of Sugar-Cane Bagasse And Straw In Brazil

Cellulosic Ethanol – Wikipedia, 2011

Is Ethanol Really More Eco-Friendly Than Gas?

Ethanol, Schmethanol, The Economist, September 2007

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Fool’s Gold Catches Eye Of Solar Energy Researchers

Background

  • There are several issues related to the technology on which solar energy is based but in one word they relate to competitive and unsubsidized cost. Three examples
    Cost of the semiconductors used to make solar cells
  • Cost of solar energy compared to that from natural gas, nuclear of course coal
  • Finding low cost storage to allow solar energy to meet our industrial and urban base load requirements.

An improvement in any of these areas gets us closer to use of the sun to generate electricity on a real world competitive basis. Yes readers, I do understand that some of the competition becomes more fair to Solar should the governments of this world adopt either a carbon tax or better yet change the focus of bested interests as discussed in a recent article in the January 2011 Economist.  Another alternative being talked about is Lowering Income Taxes While Raising Pollution Taxes Reaps Great Returns published in the sustainability blog, in April 2010.

Iron pyrite – also known as fool’s gold – may be worthless to treasure hunters, but it could become a bonanza to the solar industry. The mineral, among the most abundant in the earth’s crust, is usually discarded by coal miners or sold as nuggets in novelty stores.

But researchers at the University of California-Irvine said they could soon turn fool’s gold into a cheaper alternative to the rare and expensive materials now used in making solar panels. “With alternative energy and climate-change issues, we’re always in a race against time,” said lead researcher Matt Law. “With some insight and a little bit of luck, we could find a good solution with something that’s now disposed of as useless garbage.”

The UC-Irvine team believes the mineral can be processed into a thin film for use in photovoltaic cells, and could eventually convert sunlight into electricity at roughly the same rate as existing technology. Though it’s too early to estimate the cost of cells made with pyrite, Law said they’re likely to be cheaper because fool’s gold is so readily available. A prototype could be ready within the year, but it could be at least three years before the cells are commercially available. Some industry analysts, however, are skeptical that the team – which includes a chemist, a mathematician and a physicist – can hit pay dirt. There’s more… some of it negative by folks with a vested interest in the existing technology.

PhysOrg.Com Blog, January 21st, 2011 (c) 2011, Los Angeles Times

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Economies Of Scale: The Cost Of Nuclear New Build In America

— It not the cost of the first one that ultimately counts.

Article by Jack Craze, Nuclear Energy Insider, November 2010

The cost of nuclear new build is a source of major contention in the US. President Obama’s administration has proposed tripling the size of the loan guarantee program to $56 billion. Industry figures say this is not nearly enough to kick-start the nuclear renaissance, while the general public remains fiercely opposed to anything resembling another federal subsidy package.

The costs of building a nuclear reactor are, in many people’s minds, prohibitively high. In America, a lot of people remember the hundreds of billions of dollars ‘squandered’ on nuclear energy in the 1980s. Others point to the recent price escalation (to around $10 billion) for the Olkiluoto 3 reactor in Finland. And while a record-high 74% of Americans say they support the development of nuclear energy in the US, the upfront costs of construction remain a problem, particularly in the (potential) middle of a recession.

Westinghouse, one of America’s leading commercial nuclear companies, puts the installation costs of one of its 960-megawatt (MW) reactors at $7 billion. This compares to $2.5 billion for a 750 MW coal plant, and $3 billion for a 600 MW hydro plant. “What we have to remember”, observes Dr. Jim Conca, Senior Scientist at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at New Mexico State University, “Is that as you build more reactors, or anything at an engineering scale, the cost comes down. “For example, the South Koreans’ sixth nuclear reactor cost about 40% less than their first. And in China, they’re building nuclear reactors at about $3 billion a unit.

Doc Sez: Look at the projections for the production costs for the new Nissan Leaf. At the initial low production levels the MSRP is $32780, offset by major federal and state subsidies to perhaps as low as $25,280 in some states. In a recent interview Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn noted that he expects to be price competitive without government subsidies when annual Leaf production hits 500,000 units per year (which is down from a previous forecast of 1 million). And that’s without a major break though in battery costs.

True, the Chinese, for now, have low-cost labor which accounts for some of that lower cost, but it does show you that the $7 billion Westinghouse price-tag is a very conservative estimate.”

The article goes on to discuss the role of Federal Loan Guarantees to kick stat initial reactor construction, minor indirect support (e.g., a loan guarantee is not a grant) compared to France, Germany, Korea and Japan who are serious about nuclear energy. It concludes with an overview of trends in Construction, commodities and long-term costs. It makes a good read, check it out.

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Potholes On The Road To Renewable Fuels

— Corn-kernel-based ethanol hits the fast lane, but cellulosic ethanol is still mostly stuck in first gear

Article by Jeff Johnson, September 13, 2010, Chemical and Engineering News

Four years ago, speaking to 1,300 ethanol supporters in the heart of the Corn Belt, then-president George W. Bush gave a rousing speech singing the praises of biofuels, particularly corn-kernel-based ethanol. His speech on the eve of the 2006 congressional elections was music to the ears of the crowd attending the government-organized St. Louis conference, aptly titled “Advancing Renewable Energy: An American Rural Renaissance.”

The president outlined his plan to offer tax credits, subsidies, and federal research support to fuel a drive for ethanol that would move the nation “beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.” He added that cellulosic ethanol made from nonfood sources, waste, and energy crops was“ right around the corner” and would be “practical and competitive within six years.”

Bush’s support for ethanol and his mix of energy, economic, and electoral policies have been continued by President Barack Obama, particularly the push for fuels made from cellulosic feedstocks. Obama’s Departments of Energy and Agriculture have offered billions of dollars to support cellulosic ethanol R&D and bio refinery construction. But despite the money and talk, no commercial cellulosic ethanol biorefinery is operating in the USA today, and the most optimistic cellulosic ethanol boosters acknowledge that commercial-scale production could be years away.

I wonder what the Brazilian’s and apparently the Chinese are doing right?

Meanwhile, in the US, they clamor for additional federal support.

Where have I heard this song before?

The article make good reading, and the folks at the American Chemical Society’s magazine [C&EN} do a credible job of getting their facts straight.

I found the discussion of diverting food, a major international, but not US food staple, of particular concern.

The continued competition between corn for food and corn for fuel worries food and agricultural experts. Cellulosic ethanol was supposed to ease the demand for corn as fuel, but instead, reliance on corn as a gasoline additive has become secure, and now the price of corn is “hooked” to the volatile price of oil, according to Craig Cox, Midwest vice president of Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research organization. Cox, a former USDA official and congressional staff member, believes that when oil prices rise, they will drive up the price of corn ethanol and consequently the price of corn—with a ripple effect on the cost of grains throughout the world.

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Strip Search: How Safe are Airports’ New X-ray Scanners?

By Alice Park, Time Magazine, October 9, 2010.

Let me start this article by saying tomorrow (February 26th I am flying to Phoenix and expect at lease once on my trip to pass through a set of new scanners. Compared to all the other radiation exposures in my life this risk is a no-brainer. What you ask?

I did part of my undergraduate research near a incompletely shielded cobalt 60 source

  • I lived in Denver for about six year,
  • I was a frequent coast-to-coast flyer in the 1980’s,
  • I had 7-Grey of X-ray radiation treatment for a neck cancer,
  • I live with lousy teeth and so am X-rayed more often than most folks
  • And …have had more than my share of CAT scans.

The only place I didn’t get more than a background radiation dose was working at the US DOE Hanford Nuclear Site for ca. 25 years. Okay, no the article details.

Don’t be surprised if on your next trip to the airport, security personnel tell you to stop and put your arms up. No, you’re not being arrested. You’re being X-rayed from head to toe–or, more accurately, from toe to head.

The latest generation of airport scanners is designed to detect nonmetal weapons such as ceramic knives and explosive devices that can slip past magnetometers. The new machines–135 of them are already in operation, and nearly 1,000 are expected to be in place by the end of 2011–rely on low-intensity radiation that is absorbed a few millimeters into your skin and then reflected back, creating a reasonably accurate contour image of your body and anything else underneath your clothes. When the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began rolling out the so-called backscatter machines in March, the agency, along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, assured the public that the radiation dose from a scan was negligible–far lower not only than the amount in a chest X-ray but also than the levels passengers absorb from cosmic rays on a cross-country flight.

The backscatter numbers, however, seemed too good to be true to several scientists, including John Sedat, a biophysics professor at the University of California, San Francisco. After studying the degree of detail obtained in the seconds-long scans, the scientists wondered how the radiation exposure could be so low. The answer, they concluded, lay in how the manufacturer and government officials measured the dose: by averaging the exposure from the beam over the volume of the entire body. This is how scientists measure exposure from medical X-rays, which are designed to zap straight through bone and tissue. But backscatter beams skim the body’s surface. Sedat and his colleagues maintain that if the dose were based only on skin exposure, the result would be 10 to 20 times the manufacturer’s calculations.

That’s a huge difference, but the higher amount, TSA and FDA officials maintain, still falls within the limits of safe radiation exposure. Based on measurements conducted by the FDA as well as by technicians at Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere, says the FDA’s Daniel Kassiday, “We are confident that full-body-X-ray security products and practices do not pose a significant risk to the public health.”

Check this out, there’s both a difference of opinion on the use of one type of scanning, one that uses background scatter methods, and other devices being implemented, but the bottom like is the risks to an individual are low. – What these concerned scientists worry about is population dose to the 8,000,000 people worldwide including children who fly each year.  I agree that more studies are needed but unless they in addition to ‘absolute’ risk relate the added risks of malignancy to those from other sources of pollution, this will become another brainless media fest. Meanwhile my grandson who works for the TSA says that at least in Seattle, folks have made very little fuss about the scanners… and after all good news make very poor headlines.

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“Cheap energy”: Could natural gas be stepping on the renewable sector’s toes?

By Heba Hashem, Middle East Correspondent Nuclear Energy Insider, 6 December 2010,

Liquefied gas capacity will shoot up 47% by the end of 2013, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which will threaten investments in the renewables sector.

Although prices of renewable energy are coming down with technology advances, the intermittent nature of the energy production from renewable sources is making natural gas more appealing and investment worthy to companies.

Last month, Qatar’s energy minister said that natural gas would become more desirable than other energy sources, including renewables, which are environmentally promising but remain too expensive.

Wind speed is ideal for operating turbines at the height of around 800 meets, but building a tower that high isn’t feasible. Still, wind energy has a zero marginal cost, and thus can be profitable in the right environment.

Today’s recession dictating future decisions — According to Dr. Ray Perryman, a US- based economist and president of the Perryman Group:  “Wholesale and to some extent retail markets for electricity are becoming less regulated and more competitive over time. When prices rise, the emphasis will shift to renewables”.

“This ebb and flow is the nature of markets, but sophisticated companies are now investing billions of dollars in renewable transmission infrastructure, and new wind and solar manufacturing plants continue to expand”.

Because emerging countries have an accelerating demand for energy, there is going to be high demand for all sources (traditional and renewables). “The recession has interrupted this pattern temporarily, but not fundamentally”.

The golden age of gas may lead to cheaper gas prices for consumers, but it will also result in a rush to build gas-fired power plants at the expense of much cleaner forms of electricity generation. The IEA estimates that 35% of the increase in global gas production to 2035 will come from such unconventional projects.

Moreover, oil giants like Shell and Exxon-Mobil are shifting their business focus and repositioning themselves as gas producers, which Shell is marketing as a cleaner, yet still a CO2 producing, form of energy.

The article continues with an excellent discussion of Shale Gas and the US Market and ends up with a usual question associated with competing energy sources in a changing regulatory environment — Natural gas has crucial role to play, but for how long?

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

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

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

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

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Readers Please NoteRead about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

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

Furthermore, many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable — and if you Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical. I find it always appropriate, as I read to step back and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me.

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

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

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

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

I have lately been inundated by wind power articles, trying to convince me that (subsidized) wind power for the US, is the next best thing to sliced white bread. One of my thought, ignored by most commentators is that it does mater to me whether I must pay a direct rate increase for alternate energy, or the government sneaks it out of my pocket as a hidden tax, aka subsidy. I object! I get stuck and perhaps suckered either way, which the industry and their political supporters prosper. As Robert Heinlein has coined the SciFi slang terms TANJ and TANSTAAFL. Both speak to my views.

White Bread Analogy — Relative to the white bread, many of us have long been aware that the Wonder’s™ of this world, have profitably convinced several generations of Americans of their products’ worth. We all should eat, so the message goes, this low in nutrition (needs fortification), low fiber, and either sweet or flavorless with no mouth appeal products  ‘tongue” on our innocent advertising is truth addicted public.  The paradigm is slowly changing, check out big store grocery stores and you find much more in the way of whole grain, artisan and other healthier breads… still high carb, but much better tasting and better for you; if using a bread maker does not fit your schedule.

Is the same true of Wind Power? If so where in the US does it make sense? The Europeans once big on wind power that they heavily subsidized it as a silver bullet have now gone off subsidizations. Guess what even in Europe with a closely placed urban friendly grid; orders for Wind turbines have dropped dramatically.

I recently came across two well written and thought provoking articles that naysay the wondrous benefits wind power, which of course motivated this Op-Ed topic. I shall summarize their claims at the end of this article segment.

WIND POWER YES or NO — Questions That Need To be Considered

  • Is Wind Power competitive in your region perhaps because it is easily connected to the local or regional grid?
  • Can a wind power system be developed, in the near future, to provide base load uninterruptable power supply to urban and industrial America?
  • What impact will the cost of wind power have on base regional electrical rates if it is only confined to making up for base-lead shortages? At what unsubsidized cost are any savings that result worth the life cycle cost penalties. (E.g., How Good is Good?)
  • Have much publicized estimated costs/benefits of wind power considered the ecological and greenhouse costs of making, installing and ultimately disposing of the windmills? (E.g., Best estimate ranges of Full Life Cycle Costs. Even the global warming folks do this!)
  • With the major NIMBY response to mostly off shore and also to mountain top turbine farms, are we placing wind farms in locations where the wind blows, sort of, but the distance to the industrial and urban consumer becomes an obstacle to true competitiveness?
  • How do the other environmental side effects ranging from noise pollution to bird kills compare to other energy sources, say natural gas, solar, nuclear (including mini-reactors) and of course oil.
  • How will Windpower fare in the newly developed “Clean Energy Standards” that are being considered as alternatives to both cap-and-trade and a carbon tax.

Note, I left coal out of my list because I don’t believe there will ever be a cost effective politically correct clean way to either use a ‘clean’ coal technology do assure 100,000 year sequestration of the CO2 from coal burning. The numbers I heard bandied about are 5,700 year to assure sequestration safety. Alas I can find no credible analysis or regulatory basis for this number.

The two articles that intrigued me were:

OVERBLOWN: Windpower on the Firing Line (Part I), and0
Oxymoronic Windpower (Part II: Windspeak.)

Both were written by Jon Boone on September 13, 2010 and January 18, 2011 and are posted on the Master Resource the Free Energy Market Blog.

They are a fascinating combination of Boone’s adopted slang from both George Orwell’s’ Movie 1984 and the Harry Potter books, plus. The articles also include a pithy description of the Wind Power industry’s double-speak. The later in typical Madison Avenue style, foisted on the public and brain washed into politicians’ sense of political correctness. Of coursed all is funded by those who would profit, either financially or ideologically, from wind technology.

Although masked sarcasm, that covers sharp and biting analysis, I find Jon Boone’s analysis, replete with credible references, credible and accurate. They substantiate the studies I’ve done, in an area I try to keep up with the ever-evolving factual data. I quote…

Widespread misunderstanding about the difference between energy and power has given cover to the charlatan-like wind lobby, which pretends their wares provide something they do not. We are all familiar with black-white PR jargon that characterizes wind projects as mills, farms, and parks, despite the looming industrial presence of 450-foot tall turbines propelling rotors at tip speeds of nearly 200-mph for many miles along terrain or seabed. But for sheer oxymoronic audacity, nothing beats the trickeration of the term wind power, since the technology is the very antithesis of modern power performance. In fact, wind provides no modern power. Rather, it throws out spasmodic, highly skittering energy that cannot by itself be converted to modern base load power.

Although much of the first article in this series is filled with a general overview about energy and its role in modern society, it is an excellent read, worth your attention. It’s underlying, and accurate premise is that the diffuse nature of wind’s fuel requires (in most locations) continuous supplementation by reliable machines fueled by more energy-dense fuels, as well as virtually dedicated new transmission lines and voltage regulation systems. It’s the kind and scope of activity that must happen to make wind create modern high-density continuous power.

Note: Unlike my usual practice, in this Op-Ed segment, quotes are in italics and my ‘purple prose is in plain or plain blue colored text.

The second article in this series provide details about the wind power industry, their campaign that uses albeit CO2 producing coal as the antithesis “clean” wind power and other madison avenue tactics to create a favorable ‘climate’ for funding wind energy. [Eg. AWEA] despite wind’s low unit availability, and capacity values. White bread anyone?

Here are some factual insights, edited by me for brevity that Boone provides:

1. Despite more than 100,000 huge wind turbines in operation around the world, with about 35,000 in North America, no coal plants have been closed because of wind technology. In fact, many more coal plants are in the offing, both in the US and throughout the world. Moreover, a Colorado energetics company, Bentek, recently published a study about wind in Texas and Colorado showing, in its study areas, that wind volatility caused coal plants to perform more inefficiently, “often resulting in greater SO2, NOx, and CO2 emissions than would have occurred if less wind energy were generated and coal generation was not cycled.” Further examination of fuel use for electricity in both states during the time of inquiry suggested that wind caused no reduction in coal consumption.2. Unpredictable, undispatchable, volatile wind can provide for neither baseload nor peak load situations. It can only be an occasional supplement that itself requires much supplementation. Consequently, as Australian engineer Peter Lang once wrote, since“ wind cannot contribute to the capital investment in generating plants… it’s simply is an additional capital investment.” 

3. Wind technology does NOT represent alternate energy. Since wind cannot provide controllable power and has no capacity value, it cannot be an alternative for machines that do provide controllable power and high capacity value. Wind therefore is incapable of entering into a zero-sum relationship with fossil-fired capacity—that is, more wind, less coal. All other conditions being equal (demand, supply, weather, etc.), more wind generally means more coal.

4. None of the considerable public subsidies for wind, indeed, not even state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) laws, are indexed to measured reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Consequently, there is no transparency or accountability for how wind technology will achieve the goals set forth by those policy initiatives. This means that corporations with a lot of fossil-fired market share to protect have no obligation to replace it with wind. And they don’t. Because they can’t. Freedom from responsibility is a child’s fairy tale dreams come true.

5. The work of a number of independent engineers—Hawkins, Lang, Oswald, Le Pair and De Groot—suggests that even the most effective fossil fuel pairing with wind, natural gas, will very marginally reduce overall natural gas consumption beyond what would occur using only natural gas generators, without any wind whatsoever.

6. Because oil provides barely 1% of the nation’s electricity, wind represents no threat to oil’s market share.

There’s more, my favorite entitled, as you might guess, is a discussion of follow the money… Check out the links and the reference therein.

Feedback of course is always welcome with one proviso: Just the Facts Ma’am by Joe Friday; of Dragnet fame’s so provide references to your counter arguments.

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Sidebar Notes

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

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

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

Are the references provided essentially complete or are representative of the literature, and relevant?  Do they include both precedent and present work, including any referenced disagreement with any of the Wiki author’s views?

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

Introduction

As a technology and greening blogger, and co-author of two reference rich textbooks on the world of nuclear I almost always provide my readers with a Wikipedia citation about my subject matter. Why? First and foremost, after employing a strong application of Caveat lector (Let the Reader Beware), all the Wiki based articles I use for reference purposes are both well written and follow Doc’s rule for reference use in peer review.

Are the references provided essentially complete or representative of the literature, and relevant?  Do they include both precedent and present work, including any referenced disagreement with any of the Wiki author’s views?

Yes, tedious as it may seem, I go back and check, at least skim if not study, all the RELEVANT reference contained in the Wiki. If the material parallels the analysis, not always necessarily the conclusions, found in cited references at the end of each Wiki, I deem credible, I reference the Wikipedia article; it’s an easy source for my readers to access. My requirement is credibility based on my assessment of good science, peer reviewed if possible, not consensus.

Good Science in Wikipedia Is Too Often Challenged By Purists
Because it’s Published in a
Mere Wiki

I recently (2008 and 2009) coauthored and published two books nuclear science and technology, both textbooks. They are, as referenced below, Nuclear Energy and the Use of Nuclear Materials For High School and Middle School Teachers, and more recently Nuclear is Hot. The EnergySolutions Foundation published these, in support of its educational mission.

I mention this because the most broadly focused negative feedback we received on our books, from some reader, but not our reviewers, was related not to the books’ contents, but to our use of Wikipedia for some of the many hundreds of references in the books.

We were scolded by a few academics, mostly science high school and college teachers or professional ‘educators’. This it was noted reduced our credibility. Bad authors… we should have used only primary references, despite their technical complexity, instead of Wikipedia and other more reader accessible generalized references. The commenters claimed Wikipedia references were not trustworthy when compared to references cited in the Encyclopedia Britannica, journals or professional society published science-technology magazines.

Alas, such trustworthiness arguments also holds true whether reading a textbook full of primary and secondary references that are digests on any technical subject. Unfortunately, if your goal is reader accessibility to source materials, as the song say – primary journals are “the last thing on my mind.” From my perspective, accessibility means both ease of access and ease of understanding by my target audiences.

Using journal level source or often-outdated Britannica details as a basis for sharing information, sucks. Journal articles are hard enough to understand by well-educated degree bearing professionals; especially when they are not experts in that particular scientific or technical niche.

For example, I’m earned both a doctoral degree and have a number of years of postdoctoral experience at MIT and the University of Chicago. I studied to become a synthetic and physical-organic chemist, I’ve worked and published both as an academic and then industrial scientist until 37 years ago, publishing in my field of study and work. Then, mid-career I switched jobs and specialties to the area of nuclear science and technology, particularly the management of radioactive waste.

Trying to wade though and understand the details in an interesting appearing article in a physical or biochemistry journal, this is still chemistry. It’s tough, like trying to read Homer’s Iliad in the original Greek. Even following the details of current organic practice, 37 years from having worked in the field, very difficult. Not only has the knowledge base grown exponentially, but also the vocabulary has changed beyond my present understanding.

What does that suggest about the general ability of even bright student and education degreed teachers, to deal with such ‘primary’ reference materials? Talk about Towers of Technical Babble!


A Bit About References…Their Coats of Many Colors

Like dwags and people, references come in many types and pedigrees. Just to tickle your appetite, here’s my stream-of-consciousness partial list of reference categories.

Primary ReferencesJournal Published Research

Primary (Professional Society Published)

Secondary (Published by an Industry or Advocacy)

Well Referenced Magazine & Newspaper Articles including Op-Ed Pieces (e.g., MIT Technology Review, Discover Magazine, Scientific American)

An additional source of information comes from the Internet associated with those above or other that specialize in reporting about specific technical topics.

Secondary References Including Media Published Web Sites

General Magazine & Newspaper Articles w/o traceable leads to background information

National Magazine with Strong Editorial and Fact Check Policies (e.g., The NY Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal LA Times and a few like the Silicon Valley Review

All the rest

Well Referenced Wikipedia Articles

Journal Review Articles

Furthermore, all science is fluid, both growing and changing; you knew that? New paradigm arise, out dated theory is replaced, and additional better-verified data serves to change the reported original outcomes and conclusions.

As facts evolve, we must face the challenge that to remain informed we must keep challenging universal truths (e.g., “everyone knows…”) about science and technology. This circumstance is real, regardless of whether the source is Wikipedia, a science article in The Economist or Scientific American. Remember, we live in a world of evolving or even changing paradigms; therefore our knowledge must keep pace with such growth. That’s correct, but only if we’re are not to lapse into judging the technical world on outmoded and inaccurate information.

Why Use Wikipedia?

We know that all material on the Internet can contain both errors in fact or by the author selectively omitting contradictory information. This as is well-documented serves both to circulate his/her belief set or as a shortcut to escape the pressing of grants chasing and perish or publish.

A study in the magazine (scientific journal) Nature in December 2005 found “Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries. (Nature is a peer-reviewed journal.) That investigation studied ”42 {scientific} entries from the websites of Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica on subjects that represented a broad range of scientific disciplines. A team of independent subject mater experts analyzed the articles. They found when the error categories were expanded to include “factual errors, omissions, or misleading statements” 162 errors were found in Wikipedia and 123 in the Britannica. That is roughly four per article for the upstart amateurs and three for the professionally authored and peer reviewed publication that has been around since 1768. (Nature 438, 900-901; 2005.) There may be more information on the Internet but time constraints did allow me to check for more current analysis.

Since 2005 all the documented Wikipedia errors have been corrected. The Wiki managers have also expanded their efforts to deal with such error identifying feedback more rapidly and closer to real time. The heavily peer reviewed Britannica claims it was slandered and at least in 2008, the Nature cited errors had not been corrected.

LET THE READER BEWARE — Caveat Lector

Therefore, as with everything scientific and technical you read, whether textbooks, an Internet article, or an entry in an encyclopedia, check out both the facts and the author’s affiliation. Google it, then draw your own conclusions based on the evidence.

On the Internet, checking facts and looking for biases is easier than you think.

Read the articles, check who sponsors the site, and that organization’s mission statement. You may not like what you find relative to possible sponsor bias. I often don’t – but relative to science and technology I read, even as an old man set in his ways, I live with it. The best I can do with problem documentation is to sort out half-truths and distortions from substantiated fact; and attempt to verify that the research sponsors have not bought the results. [E.g., think drug trials and genetic engineering test results.]

It’s a little bit like the so called “fact” sheets politicians post on their websites about their opponents, which show little resemblance to things like the details documented in the Congressional Record.

Alternatives to Wikipedia

You can search each subject one search topic item at a time in Google. Remember the way you ask the question will filter your results. Then start reading …all thousand or hundred thousand hits. Fortunately the most relevant hits are in the first 100 references (links) Goggle retrieves. There are also semi-static encyclopedias on the web. Amazingly they too often lift material, from open information sources, such as Wikipedia or Encarta without acknowledging that fact.

In seeking reference information for our nuclear textbooks, most of what we found from antinuclear groups was irrelevant, inaccurate, outdated, heavily emotionally biased or downright scare mongering. The textbook authors chose not to cite or list the documented inaccuracies, and instead did not use these sources as references. Two examples:

The TMI reactor accident killed no one and albeit cleanup was expensive to deal with. This was particularly true in the panicky environment fostered by the local and national press. The accident did not significantly increase the cancer mortalities in the nearby Harrisburg, Pennsylvania region. If zero is a number you prefer, stop flying, don’t visit Denver, and stop eating because food is naturally radioactive as is the world. Chernobyl (USSR) was a reactor, unlike all now operating licensed power generating facilities in the world, which had no containment vessel. You know, that’s the dome around the reactor at a nuclear power station.

The Chernobyl Disaster was caused by human error and compounded by faulty technical design, yes, and no containment vessel. TMI had a containment vessel that worked, which limited release. America has never used uncontained nuclear reactors nor have any of the nuclear dependent nations such as France, Japan, England Korea, China or India. Modern nuclear reactors are even now being built to even stronger containment standards to thwart terrorist threats such as those of 9/11.

In addition the new reactor types coming online, are passively safe, they need no operator or instrument controlled safety intervention so shutdown if anything goes wrong.

Did you know that Wikipedia publishes a Teachers’ Guide?

The guide can also be used as a general users guide, since it stresses Caveat lector, albeit implicitly. Unlike most other sources of information I use, it provides detailed answers to questions about the limits of Wikipedia accuracy and reliability. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About/) Part of the information is related to the rules under which the site operates; the rest focuses on the feedback and corrections practices used by the site’s developers.

http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Schools/Teachers’_Guide The sections relevant to this article are listed below.

  1. Is Wikipedia accurate and reliable?
  2. What keeps someone from contributing false or misleading information?
  3. Can students cite Wikipedia in assignments?
  4. Is it a safe environment for young people?
  5. What is open-source media?
  6. Why do people contribute to open-source projects?
  7. Why have we not heard of this {about Wikipedia} before?

Also check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About#Strengths.2C_weaknesses.2C_and_article_quality_in_Wikipedia/.

I’m not going to rehash the contents of the referenced articles provided Wikipedia’s operating philosophy and rules, I also accept that some of you won’t believe simply because information, simply because it’s from Wikipedia. You’ve a right to believe, but from my perspective, not to try to force me to accept your beliefs. I challenge you to identify an alternative, broad source of high quality information that prominently acknowledges both disagreements and errors. Some of the media does this in fine print on page 10 of a magazine or newspaper never on TV and rarely on commercial radio.

To date, of the thousands of blog s I’ve visited, searching for information to write about, only a handful, admit to error or acknowledge opinion contrary to what they pitch. As bloggers, are we as stated by and old New York Times masthead publishing all the news that’s Fit to Print; or hiding behind a facade of all our news is Print to Fit.

The Wikipedia teachers’ guide notes, as do other Wikipedia links I’ve provided acknowledges: “Wikipedia cannot be perfect. There is almost certainly inaccurate information in it, somewhere, which has not yet been discovered to be wrong. Therefore, if you are using Wikipedia for important research or a school project, you should always verify the information somewhere else — just like you should with all sources.”

Without belaboring the much point further, I’d like to quote from Bill Kerr, with whose analysis I agree. Bill is an Australian blogger who frequently and intelligently deals with Internet censorship in public schools and other related topics.

Bill Kerr’s Concerns (and also mine.)“I am worried about how academics {and teachers in general} are treating Wikipedia and I think that it comes from a point of naivety. Wikipedia should never be the sole source for information. It will never have the depth of original sources. It will also always contain bias because society is inherently biased, although its {Wikipedia} efforts towards neutrality are commendable. These are just realizations we must acknowledge and support.

But what it does have is a huge repository of information that is the most accessible for most people. Most of the information is more accurate than found in a typical encyclopedia and yet, we value encyclopedias as an initial point of information gathering. It is also more updated, more inclusive and more in-depth. Plus, it’s searchable and in the hands of everyone with digital access (a much larger population than those with encyclopedias in their homes). It also exists in hundreds of languages and is available to populations who can’t even imagine what a library looks like.

Yes, it is open. This means that people can contribute what they do know and that others who know something about that area will try to improve it. Over time, articles with a lot of attention begin to be inclusive and approximating neutral. The more people who contribute, the stronger and more valuable the resource. Boycotting Wikipedia doesn’t make it go away, but it doesn’t make it any better either.”

http://billkerr.blogspot.com/

http://users.tpg.com.au/billkerr/index.htm

Also check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About#Strengths.2C_weaknesses.2C_and_article_quality_in_Wikipedia/.

More About Checking Technical Web Sites for Bias, Error, Omission,
and Just Plain Dumb Mistakes

You know, googling a subject, not only for Wikipedia reliability, but also checking information provided in other media, including that of blogs, is wise if you want to write credibly about technology. Certifiable accredited subject experts write many of the web’s posted technical pages. Unfortunately folks write too many others on a belief-based mission. I’m talking about blogs the political and think-tank pundits, aka talking heads. It’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two, without taking the time to further check.

Some of these are articles I reviewed are by a. new to me author category, discipline jumping born-anew experts. [E.g., an industrial engineer becoming an authority on genetic engineering. Alternatively, a nuclear engineer suddenly becoming an authority on cancer or nanotechnology.] Are you to let Dr. Harry Babad {me} do surgery on you? If so I have a bridge in NYC to sell you – it’s a real bargain.

One aspect, call it doc’s head check for evaluating the credulity of a source of material, is an author’s willingness to provide referenced full disclosure of opposing viewpoints. I found for most of the Wikipedia articles I checked, where appropriate, differences of opinion or a weakness in basis was noted. After all it’s what Wikipedia rules {author guidelines} require.

More About the Value in Blogs — From a devil’s advocate point of View, there are strong believers out there that who know that blogs are worse than porn. Check it out — for now I’ll provide only a single link – you can Google further to follow this belief set. See: http://singaporeangle.blogspot.com/2005/09/its-official-now-blogs-are-worse-than.html/. Perhaps this too will become a subject of a future article.

In Closing

I will continue to judiciously use Wikipedia as a reference source in my technical work when I’m writing for a non-technical audience.

Reality, in everyday usage, means “the state of things as they actually exist.” The term reality, in its widest sense, includes everything that is, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible. Isn’t philosophy awesome?However, the only ways our concepts of reality have a demonstrable basis would be on the preponderance of available evidence. This requires an ability to reproduce observations of any part of the world around us. And of course, the more we know and study and test what we read or hear or see, the more our vision of reality changes.

In the sense I’ve defined above, the reality of information found in our sources of information, which can be physically or statistically checked, the closer the information comes to being valid at any given time. That also holds true to papers by student using Wikipedia as a reference. I agree with teachers that students need to provide more dialog and references than a Wikipedia article. By simply citing a Wikipedia reference or three and quoting them is insufficient to understanding of the subject matter and that’s what learning is all about. Parrots are not thinkers, neither are tape recorders.

TEST TIME — Apply the caveat lector test to the following a list of web published realties, be they from Wikipedia or your grocery checkout counter’s favorite tabloid.

  • Information provided in a 30 second TV spot by a politician up for election.
  • Alleged facts during TV debates about the environment – folks claiming solar energy is clean energy without taking full life cycle pollution costs of making the solar cells and solar arrays into account.
  • The actual number of folks who’ve gotten cancer from radiation released in the Chernobyl reactor disaster or the TMI accident.
  • Information supporting your buying a stock from someone who gains by making it appear as a good deal.
  • Medical information on sites owned and operated by those trying to sell you cures.
  • Facts about people and issues by those who have a vested interest in their TRUTH such as many TV and Internet talk shows that take information out of context or just plain lie to get their message across.
  • Most advertising that claims superior performance about a product in LARGE print and provides you actual details in tiny print.

My Bottom Line — the more subjective a topic, the more room there is for bias or error or omission. At issue, it is and always will be hard to prove the reality of subjective information, despite the number of people who treat such information as TRUTH.

Therefore, do your homework. Remember, according to doc_Babad, grey is more beautiful than black or white. The more important the decision, the bigger the challenge of the homework assignment, but pick a topic and start checking… it will brighten up your mind.

Conclusions About Wikipedia as a Valid Technical Source

I wholeheartedly disagree with claims that Wikipedia is not trustworthy when the reader practices Caveat Lector! I consider, as do many other scientific and technical experts, Wikipedia a reliable and accessible site for technical information, provided that the reference cited in the Wikipedia article meets the standard identified at the beginning of this article.

While some educators dislike usage of Wikipedia, a nose in the air attitude, Doc continues to verify, to the extent that the information is available online, all cited Wikipedia references. I check for technical accuracy and the use of the scientific method in data acquisition that support the author’s findings. If I’m not comfortable with the underlying data, I either don’t site that Wiki, or provide a footnote documenting my concerns.

Therefore their use as broadly accessible reference to technical fact or analysis is justified. As I tell naysayers, if you don’t like the references I use, provide me with a readable, accessible and peer reviewed or otherwise credible alternative. I’ll add you counter argument to my articles and reference list.

Science is grey and evolving, and topics such as nuclear safety or man-made CO2 being the major cause of climate change evolve. Today’s demonstrated truths rapidly become yesterday’s fairy tales.

As facts evolve, we must face the challenge that to remain informed we must keep challenging universal truths (e.g., “everyone knows…”) about science and technology. This circumstance is real, regardless of whether the information source is Wikipedia, a science article in The Economist, Business Week (on technology, Discover Magazine, Scientific American, or a blog reporting on technical material. I use Caveat lector when reading a web hosted article, or any blog espousing any point of view whether it be a headline in a newspaper seeking circulation, or a study in a medical journal by an author whose work is funded by a drug company.

Remember, we live in a world of changing paradigms; therefore our knowledge must keep pace if we are not to lapse into judging the technical world on outmoded and inaccurate information.

I recognize that some of the other internet references may at future date become unavailable, thus by adding ‘living’ Wiki-based reference(s) to my articles, where appropriate, we hope to maintain the ‘knowledge thread.’ In addition, hopefully, the information in the article will allow readers to look elsewhere if they encounter unavailable citations at a future date. Or perhaps more to the point — Google On, but Caveat lector!

References

Nuclear Energy and the Use of Nuclear Materials For High School and Middle School Teachers by Raul A. Deju, Ph.D. and Harry Babad, Ph.D.; © 2008 EnergySolutions Foundation, Inc.

NUCLEAR IS HOT!{A book for High-School Students.} Everything you wanted to know about nuclear science and were afraid to ask. By Raul A. Deju, Ph.D., Harry Babad, Ph.D. and Michael A. Deju. © 2009 The EnergySolutions Foundation. First Edition Published March 2009,
ISBN Number 0615277543.

The EnergySolutions Foundation [http://energysolutionsfoundation.org/%5D

Teachers and Wikipediahttp://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=Teachers%20and%20Wikipedia

Trusting Wikipediahttp://www.google.com/search?num=30&hl=en&newwindow=1&safe=off&q=Trusting+Wikipedia&btnG=Search

Wikipedia Errors http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=Wikipedia%20Errors

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Sidebar Notes

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

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

Appendix

The Scientific Method and More

Thumbnail definitions clipped from WIKIPEDIA

But let’s define some other terms first.

BIAS: is a term used to describe a preference toward a particular perspective or ideology, which means all information and points of view have some form of bias
BELIEF: is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise (argument) to be true without necessarily being able to adequately prove its main contention to other people who may or may-not agree.
FAITH: can refer to a religion, or to another deeply held belief, such as freedom or democracy It allows one to commit oneself to actions or behavior, based on self-experience that warrants belief, but without any existence or need for existence of demonstrable or absolute proof.
PARADIGM: Since the late 1960’s, the word “paradigm” has referred to thought pattern in any scientific discipline or other epistemological context. The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines it as “a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated.”

Therefore, bias, error, omission, and just plain mistakes are all a part of our information sphere —yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The major differences are that we now, in 2008, have a greater ability to more broadly and deeply check what we read and hear and to attempt to make sense of the information available.

The Scientific Method

Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. The Oxford English Dictionary says that scientific method is: “a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, identifiable features distinguish scientific inquiry from other methods of obtaining knowledge. Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena, and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses. These steps must be repeatable, to predict future results. Theories that encompass wider domains of inquiry may bind many independently derived hypotheses together in a coherent, supportive structure. Theories, in turn, lead to new hypotheses or place groups of hypotheses into context.

Scientific inquiry is generally intended to be as objective as possible, to reduce biased interpretations of results. Another basic expectation is to document, archive and share all data and methodology so they are available for careful scrutiny by other scientists, giving them the opportunity to verify results by attempting to reproduce them. This practice, called full disclosure, also allows statistical measures of the reliability of these data to be established. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_Method

Doc notes this is made more interesting by the fact that measured data is often modeled conceptually to determine further relationships among groups of tests, or to predict, let’s day for climate change, or disease spread, to predict future trends from past or present collections of data. [Doc’s bias, if you can’t measure it, I ain’t data.]. However it may be knowledge with is the result of extrapolating data, let’s say by modeling.

Did you know that the presumed father of the scientific method was Galileo Galilei (1564-1642.)”?

And as frail human beings, all of this is continually confounded by trying to distinguish between measurable (e.g., scientifically measured) truth and belief.

Truth and Belief — Again from WIKIPEDIA

Beliefs and BiasesBelief can alter observations; the human confirmation bias is a heuristic that leads a person with a particular belief to see things as reinforcing their belief, even if another observer would disagree. Researchers have often admitted that the first observations were a little imprecise, whereas the second and third were “adjusted to the facts”. Eventually, factors such as openness to experience, self-esteem, time, and comfort can produce a readiness for new perception.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth/]

To explore further, check out

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

Lessons Not Learned from Nuclear Power ——— Doc’s Eclectic View

Introduction

The more I read and study the approach taken by the US and perhaps much of the rest of the world to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide [CO2] released from coal or gas burning power plants, the more perplexed I get.  Readers, I would welcome any feedback from you, on the CO2 and storage alternative I describe below.

At the root of my concern is the fact that the industry with Federal help is leaning toward geological disposal, as opposed to the easier, lower cost, and likely as safe approach to use long term near surface or surface storage at each generator site. I am also admitted biased toward interim 50-500 year engineering solutions to those that need demonstrating to thousands of years of geological media certitude.

To maximize the feedback I could receive from energy and climate change knowledgeable individuals, I post an earlier draft of this article on the American Nuclear Societies Social Media eList. This is an by invitation only ad hoc team of experts who share technical information about energy, greening technology and at times work, mostly as individuals, to counter false and fact-free media claims, cause not knowledge driven activists, or just mom-and-pop grass roots true believers about… what ever their cause.

I have appended the detail and itemized feedback comments I received and my thoughts about the information conveyed. I share only the first names of the folks who proved feedback; who they are is their business.

Preventing Carbon Dioxide Release to the Atmosphere

This article discusses a conceptual view for an alternative to geologic sequestration; the surface or near surface intermediate term (50-500 years) storage of the CO2 Released from Power Plants.

As I follow the government with industry support’s search for, and efforts to demonstrate a safe and publicly acceptable way to find a way to capture and search, dispose of CO2, I get very confused. The first task, based on what I’ve read is relatively straightforward. The chemistry and engineering is well divined and demonstrated at small and intermediate scale. The second step disposal, or even very long-term storage is a more difficult task, fraught with uncertainties. This is especially true for geological or deep seas disposal.

The idea of injecting CO2 in to depleted oil or gas fields, or brine filled aquifers reminds me of the efforts to site a ‘geologically safe’ nuclear repository. The key issue, politics aside, is whether an individual storage/disposal location will remain intact for the lifetime of the risk. For radioactive HLW, perhaps 10,000 years, a regulatory not a risk based limit. For carbon dioxide, forever or at least until we need it to reverse the next ice age.

I believe, iconoclast that I am, that the general and likely insurmountable problem with geological CO2 storage is predicting the long-term future in a heterogeneous environment. Specifically, the safety of each greenhouse gas geological storage site requires that their integrity must be demonstrated on a site-specific basis, alas expensive, even without considering NIMBY related legal costs. This seems to be the case until someone comes up with a cost effective, implementable method of irreversibly converting the captured CO2 to a thermodynamically stable form.

One possibility, we well understand, is concerting to calcium carbonate, in situ – underground.  Converting our captured carbon dioxide to limestone, in a geological formation places less of a burden on proving the geologic integrity of a specific site.

In nuclear terms, think of this as the waste form, which for HLW is borosilicate glass or the insoluble ceramic spent fuel itself.

A Potential Interim Storage Solution

I wonder why the near surface or surface storage of dry Ice in a well designed, terrorist proof passive facility hasn’t been studied, or if so, not publicized.

I’d like to acknowledge the fine diagram of the storage concept, which I described to Scott Armstrong, over the phone last night. Scott is president of MC•MUG, the local Macintosh Users group, a graphics expert and instructor, and a fine photographer.
  1. Pile up stacks of dry ice blocks, either one atop the other or on  some simple weight bearing shelving.
  2. These should insulated by a thick layer of dirt-cheap rock wool. Either blankets on the ice or as part of the dome structure. Which, that’s chemical engineering 101 engineering cost analysis issue.
  3. Located the storage unit, I picked a rebar reinforced dome, geodesic perhaps, both for esthetics and its easier for a hijacked747 to slide off such a dome.
    From an applicable forces perspective think safety analysis, such a dome would be much less expensive then that for a present, or near future generation designed, nuclear reactor dome.
  4. Instrumented the facility with thermocouples, CO2 detectors or what ever; all of the shelf items Add, if paranoid, for emergencies, a small external cooling plant.Why small – short of dropping a nuke on the facility or a direct hit by a well focused full strength solar flare (Science Fiction, there’s unlikely to be a way to heat the dry-ice blocks rapidly enough uncontrollably evaporate the CO2 back in o the atmosphere.
  5. Site these storage domes at every coal, oil or natural gas based power plant or generator complex, they make the CO2 they get store it. You want to generate hydrocarbon based electricity, then store the CO2 as part of your costs of operation.

The nuclear power industry does this of necessity, due to the fact the contracts with the Department of Energy to take possession of the fuel have never come close to being met.  [One more form of indirect taxation we all must pay.] This continues while the industry and consumer are simultaneously being ripped off by a tax for a virtual-cost over run plagued Yucca Mountain based nuclear repository which President Obama cancelled, but without either stopping the tariff or refunding the industry’s money.

Potential Benefits of Dry-Ice Storage

  • No requirement for trading emission credits! You create the CO2, you store it.
  • Avoids the need for carbon tax, at least on burning hydrocarbon burning power plants. No need to confuse the issue with gases released by other industries like feed lots or tailpipe emission, The make you keep!
  • Bearing the Costs of greenhouse gas-storage become part of doing business and paid by the local and regional electricity rate-payer’s. The real, not artificially subsidized cost of electricity is what you and will buy, of necessity. Thus, if politically possible, the cost of electricity become clearly visible. Not as now, snuck out of your pocket by the industry, congress and the IRS.This also levels the playing field for other energy alternatives, and we will not need pay taxes for lobbyist selected or government favorites.

Again, think Nuclear reactors where the owners-ratepayer are forced to store Spent Nuclear Fuel at the reactor sites and the storage cost seemed to be passed on to the rate-payers; a reasonable precedent.

Side Note: The average discharge in our coal-powered fleet is ca. 1.2 to 1.3 tons/MWh depending on the type of coal burned, and which reference you cite.

Conclusion

Am I missing something? Is our love for big-ticket technology and profitable Federal grants the driving force preventing a KISS solution? Feedback, particularly with references that negate or support my arguments would be welcomed.

A Few References in Passing

Carbon Capture and Storage, Wikipedia, 2011 and the references contained therein. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_capture_and_storage/]

What is Carbon Sequestration? by the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership, undated [http://www.bigskyco2.org/whatisit%5D/

Carbon Sequestration, AAPGGEO-DC Blog, Dec 2008. [http://blog.aapg.org/geodc/?p=204/]

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

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

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Appendix – Social Media eMail Feedback

Responses to the Social Media feedback on “Long-term CO2 Storage A Nuclear Resembling Quandary”

The following is a set of cut and paste copies of the information provided our bloggers, members of social media email team. I have followed each individual’s direct feedback or general subject related comments with feedback, where appropriate. All emails discussed were received before the 8:00 PM of the 28th of January

Harry, aka doc_Babad

Feedback on Social Media Comments

My colleague Bob, a senior nuclear engineer/manager and cost effective going green advocate from Greenville, SC noted:

Dry Ice is a nice idea, but we’re tilting at windmills here.  Man-made CO2 in the atmosphere is a non-problem.  In fact it’s a good thing since it makes things grow and helps feed the world.  CO2 only makes up 3% of the GHG in the atmosphere and man only contributes 2% of the CO2.

Although I have tried to get my hands around such numbers, I’ve never been comfortable that they had been subjected to peer reviewed meta-analysis, such as is sometime done for conflicting drug testing result. Therefore I’ll continue to tilt at windmills should they not prove virtual.

Robert responded:

My biggest concern with CCS is the scale.  The amounts of CO2 to be captured, transported, and stored are immense.  While I am loath to call it impossible, I would think CCS a much greater technical challenge than nuclear waste (despite the media claims of the reverse).

I agree, with the general concern that Bob shares  – that’s why both capture and storage should be located at the point of origin, the generating complex. As far as which is more difficult, I believe today’s NIMBYs are tomorrows advocates.

Jonathan, in an engineering design focused feedback, pointed out:

1.   The immediate thing that strikes is how would the CO2 be cooled to form dry ice. I don’t have any top of my head figures, but my gut instinct is that it would be energy intensive. Add on top I doubt the best insulation would keep the dry ice solid for the decades necessary without more energy intensive cooling.
Jonathan, based on reading about currently available technology for (1) capturing heat not utilized for producing electricity, and (2) perhaps less robust means of turning such waste heat into power, I thought a real functions and requirements study coupled with detailed conceptual design analysis could flesh out the specific of how and how well. One alternative might be the use waste heat as a source of energy for CO2 solidification. My intent with the article was two-fold. First a response to at why I could, in 45 minute Google and DOE OSTI search session, I could find no reference to dry-ice storage as a potential methodology for curtailing the release of greenhouse gasses. Secondly, I wanted to get broad feedback for the participants in Social Media, on the concept. Thank you – you’ve helped me achieve that latter.

2.   You would also produce just under a cubic meter of dry ice for every MWh. That’s going to be one heck of a pile of dry ice very soon.

Of course, that reality might be even enough to frustrate the building of now power plants that use petrochemical to generate electricity.  In addition, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of land around the generating plant’s I’ve visited or lived down-wind from. Whether on the surface or for a shallow storage vault, these folks certainly have enough acreage to keep expanding large uncontrolled ash/slag piles.

3.    One KISS approach would be to pump CO2 to a deep seabed location, where the water pressure would be sufficient to solidify the CO2 as it emerged – not that I think this is environmentally sound.

I agree the pressure meets CO2 solidification requirements. Again there’s the transportation problem poised by Robert S. Margolis. In addition are you going to build such a disposal site in international waters — hmm? You could of course try to license such a site or sites in the states that have deep brine deposited associated with salt domes or bedded salt… Texas or Louisiana anyone?

4.   One difference between a nuclear repository and CO2 sequestration is that with CO2 some level of leakage could be more acceptable. In very simplified terms if we were to sequestrate 100 years of CO2 and it had a 0.1% leak rate we’d have a tenth of our GHG emissions for 1000 years. If stabilizing GHG emissions requires an 80% CO2 reduction then we’d be essentially ‘taking a loan’ on future emissions. A hundred years hence we’d have to reduce to 10% of current emissions and have the 10% emissions from sequestration.

That would be a big ask, but if leakage was only 0.01% it might become more arguable, pragmatically against the alternative of not meeting emissions targets at all.

I agree in general, but wonder whether the other alternates, other than going CO2 emission free, contain comparable potential bobby-traps. In addition, being somewhat mathematics adverse, I don’t follow how a 0.1% CO2 leak forces me to take a loan on the future. I just consider it a 0.1% additional un-captured release, but a bit time delayed. Were doing much worse than that now. I’ve seen no statistically defensible number on capture efficiency either at a power plant o a regional pipeline fed, facility. What am I missing?

5.    I personally don’t support the case above when there are already good alternatives, but I think it would be an argument made. And perhaps more significantly very low levels of leakage won’t be a showstopper for CO2 CCS in the way it is made for nuclear repositories.

Okay! However, everything I’ve studied suggests that current regulations controlling nuclear material or radiation release are based on fear mongering politics and regulatory over enthusiasm. We too long, listen to the loudest voice, safe at any costs, because the costs do not come directly and visibly out of our pockets. I’ve never been comfortable with the thesis of always safe-always multiplicatively conservative, using SciFi scenarios, rather than demonstrated actual risk. Lots of healthy folks get significantly higher doses such as the residents of (Guarapari, Brazil; Kerala, India; Ramsar, Iran; Yangjiang, China). I still can’t find, since co-authoring two textbooks with Dr. R. A Deju in 2008 and 2009, any peer reviewed data that identified meaningful differences in heath, heath compared to folks in comparable socio-economic niches.

Stephen more broadly commented

1.    I’m just amazed that CCS is regarded as a viable concept. US coal-fired power plants crank out 2 billion tons of CO2 every year, and Chinese coal-fired power emissions I believe has overtaken those of the US. Four billion tons every year from two countries — we’re just going to magically keep finding low-cost storage sites for all this stuff?

I pass; we’ve paid for stupid things since a CO2 emission free alternative like nuclear has not gained sufficient impetus to have a meaningful effect on US and China’s emissions. Additionally, the of the main green energy alternative, no system has yet been cost effectively been demonstrated to guarantee base-line power, However, my favorite science fiction based alternative, the beaming of RF radiation to desert areas, from space, might do so if the desserts selected were globally located. What you say, creating a commercially based satellite system that collects gigawatts’ worth of solar power and beams it down to Earth where it is converted to electricity. The ideas was first proposed by Dr. Isaac Asimov in 1941, and more recently evaluated by folks are diverse at the US Pentagon. For SciFi buffs, Harry Harrison and Ben Bova also expanded on the theme.

2.    Most of the cost of CCS is in the second “C” — capture. The only “proven” technology is amine-based chemical absorption. All sorts of R&D is going into other, hopefully less expensive ways of separating CO2 from flue gas, but these are early-stage R&D efforts. (And the operative word is “hopefully” — none has been proven to be effective, much less economical.) So if CCS had to be implemented today, it would be based on amine absorption.

Stephen, I am uncomfortable with your thesis about the scalability and cost effectiveness CO2 capture. Although amine technology is most often identified an s reasonable, if not yet fully test concept for capture, there are others including use of zeolites and membranes. When I have time available, I will more thoroughly search this topic and share my finding with Social Media.

3.    Which is why it hasn’t been implemented yet. Generating companies use coal because it is cheap. When it is no longer cheap, well there goes its advantage. CCS is simply not economical — it adds a cost to coal-fired power. Long before people find that out the hard way, coal-fired power generators will have gone bankrupt or switched their fleets to gas or nuclear — assuming coal generation is hit with emissions regulation or legislation. And in the near term, gas looks to be the front-runner — it’s okay to use the atmosphere as a CO2 dumps as long as the CO2 comes from gas combustion.

True, but comes the day of either a carbon tax;
… or the potential sea-level rise caused flooding of costal mega cities. There will be 20 coastal megacities (population exceeding 8 million) by 2010. The risk comes from a likely combination of sea level rise and storm surges. Lets pick a few likely targets — NYC, Bangkok, New Orleans, Mumbai, Shanghai, Manila, Caracas, Ho Chi Min City
… let’s see who pays the piper!

4.    If some use could be found for all that CO2, then maybe CO2 capture wouldn’t be such a joke. But that would depend on large-scale hydrogen production from water splitting. And the best hope for that is to use nuclear heat to split water — it’s the only way to make H production sustainable and clean. There should be way more R&D in nuclear hydrogen production.

Of course, Stephen, I agree!

Rod responded to the Social media dialog; I agree, by stating:

As a long time adherent of KISS approaches to engineering, I disagree with your interpretation. A real KISS type engineer who really works at keeping things simple would say – just don’t produce the CO2 in the first place. Then you do not need to spend any time, effort or money figuring out how to separate it from a waste stream, how to capture it after separation, where to store it or how to get it there.

The big difference between used nuclear fuel and CO2 is that the former starts off as a solid material encased in corrosion resistant cladding. It does not leak as long as you simply put it into a simple container. If the container ever shows signs of deterioration, fix or replace the container.

The only way you ever get any “leakage” from a used nuclear fuel storage area is if your computer models assume that people stop doing their jobs and that barriers magically disappear over time.

I agree with Rod but without going into politics and lobbyist support moneyed interests, let’s just always remember (to our idealistic despair) our democratic society is imperfect. But as Winston Churchill noted on November 11, 1947 “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Harry.

1/28/11       9:26 PM

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

Introduction

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters, as well as blogs to which I subscribe. I also acknowledge and cite items from public interest groups such as Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists, but only when they provide references I can check.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and admittedly biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send me feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my tidbits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through the provided link if you want more details, as well as other references on the same topic(s). Doc.

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • Power Equivalent of 1 Pellet of Uranium Fuel — A Teaser
  • Nothing in Washington DC Generates this much Energy
  • Did You Think Renewable Power Is Sustainable? Think again…
  • How Green is Your Real (or Fake) Christmas Tree? — You Might Be Surprised
  • Electric Cars Get Charged for Battle – The Tesla Sedan, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Electrical Vehicles Suite and the Chevy Volt… More to come!
  • The Apple iPad – Oh You of Little imagination faith in the creativity of the rest of us
  • Rice Husks Into Electricity — A Light in India
  • It’s all About Civility and Attitude – Questioning climate change vs. challenging nuclear power – A tidbit in passing.

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Power Equivalent of 1 Pellet of Uranium Fuel — A Teaser
 

Nothing in Washington DC

Generates This Much Energy

Reliable and Affordable Energy,

Nuclear Energy Institute, 2010;

http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/
documentlibrary
/reliableandaffordableenergy
/brochures/justthefacts

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Did You Think Renewable Power Is Sustainable? Think again…
I ran across this article in my archive files, and found it refreshing relevant to todays discussion on energy sustainability.

“Sustainability” is a buzzword these days. It is a term used often and eagerly, especially by opponents of nuclear power and proponents of renewable alternatives. There is an assumption to there that if something is renewable it is also automatically sustainable. There is also an assumption that nuclear power is not sustainable. How surprised people get when they find out that the exact opposite is true…

Let’s take a step back and for once examine what we actually mean by the concept of sustainability. In this article, we will be focusing on sustainable power production.

According to Wikipedia, in part, sustainability (e.g., “maintain”, “support”, or “endure”) is the capacity to endure. There are two major ways of reducing negative human impact and enhancing ecosystem services. The first is environmental management; this approach is based largely on information gained from earth science, environmental science, and conservation biology. The second approach is management of human consumption of resources, which is based largely on information gained from economics.

Sustainability interfaces with economics through the social and ecological consequences of economic activity. Sustainability economics involves ecological economics where social, cultural, health-related and monetary/financial aspects are integrated. Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from reorganizing living conditions (e.g., sustainable cities), reappraising economic sectors (green building, sustainable agriculture), using science to develop new technologies (green technologies, renewable energy), to adjustments in individual lifestyles that conserve natural resources.
See Wikipedia

Renewable energy is energy, which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished) at least over the lifetimes of human existence.
See Wikipedia

Sustainable energy is the provision of energy that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainable energy sources are most often regarded as including all renewable sources, such as plant matter, solar power, wind power, wave power, geothermal power and tidal power. It usually sometimes includes technologies that improve energy efficiency. Conventional fission power, as many believe it to be, is sometimes referred to as sustainable, but is controversial politically due to misinformation and concerns about peak uranium, radioactive waste disposal and the risks of disaster due to accident, terrorism, or natural disaster.
See Wikipedia

There seems to be a vague notion out there that something that is sustainable we can start using now and then keep using forever, or that something that is sustainable never consumes any resources. Well even by this faulty definition, renewables are not sustainable. This s because solar panels are not built from sunshine, nor are wind turbines built from a stiff afternoon breeze. You build them from consumable materials such as steel, copper, neodymium, gallium, arsenic, indium and other sometimes not too common materials. Also they have a finite life span after which they must be torn down and replaced. This means that solar and wind power does consume resources and in the end cannot be used forever.

But that is not the definition of sustainable, so let’s move on.

What is sustainability? — “Sustainable development” was defined by the Brundtland-commission report “Our common future“ in June 1987 as:

…Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
See: http://www.un-documents.net/ocf-02.htm

Now let’s look at this idea more closely. Does it say anything about renewables, using the same things forever, or even that using fossil fuels would be a bad thing? No it does not. The report doesn’t even say we cannot deplete a resource.

For non-renewable resources, like fossil fuels and minerals, their use reduces the stock available for future generations. But this does not mean that such resources should not be used. However, general the rate of depletion should take into account the criticality of that resource, the availability of technologies for minimizing depletion, and the likelihood of substitutes being available. [E.g., oil /methane for petrochemical feedstock, not transportation.]

Sustainability Means — We have needs, and we must meet them. The future generations will also have needs, and we must not do anything that prevents them from getting these needs met. KISS, but alas politics and greed often defeats logic.

People talking about sustainable development often talk about the future. But what they keep forgetting is that development that does not tend to the needs of the present as well, is not sustainable. Sustainable development must meet both current and future needs, Posted February 14, 2009

Check out the link below and follow the author’s rationale on how sustainability could perhaps be applied to or real world choices. The author discusses the sustainability of wind and solar power, the use of biofuels, and nuclear power. Although written in 2009, passing events of strengthened the case for some of these alternatives and weakened other. At the very least in the presence of a level unsubsidized playing field where governments try to choose winner to support heir economic and political needs, recent energy saviors ‘the heroes of wind, solar and biofuel from corn’ have begun to look lightly tarnished.

From The “Nuclear Power/Yes Please” Blog, posted February 14, 2009.

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How Green is Your Real (or Fake) Christmas Tree? — You Might Be Surprised

Having just written the last check, a credit card bill, to cover our less than extravagant holiday season, coupled with four December-January birthdays, I feel both a bit green (around the gills) and nostalgic. Over the years, mostly because that what our kids wanted, we granted them a Chanukah bush. My lady who loves themed ornament enjoyed collecting, silver/white ornaments, or birds, Judeica, Japanese themed, and music… variations) over the years. We’d tried a live tree (it died) and an occasional several medium priced artificial tree (ugly and never reused) and unclipped noble fir trees (recycled to by the city). That’s why the following article caught my fancy.

When it comes to Christmas trees, Americans increasingly prefer plastic pines over the real thing. Sales of fake trees are expected to approach 13 million this year, a record, as quality improves and they get more convenient, with features like built-in lights and easy collapsibility. All told, well over 50 million artificial Christmas trees will grace living rooms and dens this season, according to the industry’s main trade group, compared to about 30 million real trees.

Kim Jones, who was shopping for a tree at a Target store in Brooklyn this week, was convinced that she was doing the planet a favor by buying a $200 fake balsam fir made in China instead of buying a carbon-sipping pine that had been cut down for one season’s revelry. “I’m very environmentally conscious,” Ms. Jones said. “I’ll keep it for 10 years, and that’s 10 trees that won’t be cut down.”

But Ms. Jones and the millions of others buying fake trees might not be doing the environment any favors. In the most definitive study of the perennial real vs. fake question, an environmental consulting firm in Montreal found that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually. The calculations included greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources and human health impacts.

Yet the trade-offs are not immediately apparent to consumers and even some tree growers. “The natural tree is a better option,” said Jean-Sebastien Trudel, founder of the firm, Ellipsos, which released the independent, study last year.

The annual carbon emissions associated with using a real tree every year were just one-third of those created by an artificial tree over a typical six-year lifespan. Most fake trees also contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal. Ellipsos specifically studied the market for Christmas trees bought in Montreal and either grown in Quebec or manufactured in China. Mr. Trudel said the results would most likely differ for other cities and regions. Excessive driving by consumers to purchase real trees could tip the scales back in favor of artificial trees, at least in terms of carbon emissions. (…A part of the life cycle ‘costs’)

Over all, the study found that the environmental impact of real Christmas trees was quite small, and significantly less than that of artificial trees — a conclusion shared by environmental groups and some scientists. Click the link and read on.

“You’re not doing any harm by cutting down a Christmas tree,” said Clint Springer, a botanist and professor of biology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “A lot of people think artificial is better because you’re preserving the life of a tree. But in this case, you’ve got a crop that’s being raised for just that purpose.”

Here in the Pacific Northwest, in our community, there’s a holiday tree lot in almost every strip mall, and an hours drive or less gets you to a ‘cut your own’ farm. In New York or other major urban area, the pro’s and cons are a bit more complex.

However both lover of natural and artificial tree both agree, said that neither kind of tree had much of an impact on the environment — “especially when compared to something that most of us do every day, like drive a car.” On that point, Mr. Trudel of Ellipsos agrees. “When you really consider it, if you exchange a couple of days of commuting by car with carpooling or riding a bicycle, you’ll completely overcompensate for whatever the impact of the tree is,” he said. “It’s not such a big deal. Enjoy your tree, whichever one you prefer.”

By John Collins Rudolf New York Times, December 2010

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Electric Cars Get Charged for Battle – The Tesla Sedan, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Electrical Vehicles Suite and the Chevy Volt… More to come!

Most of the drivers on the 101 Freeway in Marin County, Calif., on this foggy December morning are oblivious to the black snub-nosed car gliding along beside them. Every so often, however, someone does a double take, gives a thumbs-up, or snaps a cell phone picture, because the car in the next lane is one they’ve never seen before: a Nissan Leaf, the world’s first affordable, mass-produced electric vehicle, or EV. This particular Leaf happens to be No. 1: The very first sold anywhere. At the wheel is Olivier Chalouhi, who took delivery an hour before amid some impressive hoopla at a Nissan dealership in Petaluma. Now, driving south to San Francisco with Nissan (NSNAY) Americas Chairman Carlos Tavares riding shotgun, Chalouhi, a 31-year-oldWeb entrepreneur, is explaining how he came to be the first person to buy this car. His voice is soft but easy to hear from the backseat because, with no internal combustion engine, the Leaf (nationally about $25,000 after a $7,500 federal tax credit) is eerily quiet, almost as cocoon-like as Nissan’s $50,000-plus Infiniti M.

“It all started,” Chalouhi says, “when I saw an ad for the Chevy Volt.” The Volt, which started shipping to dealers in mid-December, is the Leaf’s chief competitor in the green-car sweepstakes. It runs for about 40 miles on an electric charge before a small gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the battery. That gives the Volt more than 350miles of range—unlike the Leaf, which runs for 60 to 100 miles, varying with weather and terrain and driving style, before needing a recharge that can take 30 minutes to 7hours, depending on the strength of the charger. The Volt’s gasoline engine makes it less attractive to some eco-minded consumers like Chalouhi. “In all the articles I read about the Volt, the Leaf was discussed as well,” he says. “As soon as I found out about he Leaf, I forgot about the Volt. The Volt wasn’t going to project the image I wanted. It has a tailpipe.”

The energy chain is more complicated than that—the electricity powering a Leaf mayor may not come from low-emission sources—but right now it’s time to enjoy the ride. Chalouhi turns off the highway and guns the car up a steep, winding road in the Marin Headlands overlooking San Francisco Bay. The Leaf is surprisingly agile and sure-footed; its electric motor has plenty of pep, and 600 pounds of laminated lithium-ion batteries below the floorboards help it hug the road. Chalouhi is having fun with the tight turns heading into the hills, where Nissan has stationed a media team to capture the moment with some suitably dramatic images. Alas, the Golden Gate Bridge is hiding behind the fog, making the glamour shot impossible, so Chalouhi guides the car back down toward the 101 while a product manager, Paul Hawson, briefs him on the next photo-op, at City Hall in San Francisco. “At the end of the ceremony,” Hawson says, “you and Mr. Tavares will go to the car and plug-in the charger together.”

Inside the green car community—the world of academics, analysts, policymakers, and environmentalists who spend their days worrying about transportation emissions—there’s also a lively debate about which kind of low-emissions car is greenest. The Leaf produces zero emissions, and according to numerous studies touted by Nissan, even if the electricity that powers it comes from a coal-fired plant, its carbon footprint is smaller than that of an average gasoline-powered car. If its electricity comes from solar, wind, hydro or nuclear power, then the Leaf is an unassailably zero-emission vehicle. And Nissan executives rightly point out that U.S. electric generation is getting cleaner. (A Volt’s true emissions are even harder to determine, since it can be driven in all-electric mode or with a gasoline assist.) For now, the heavy batteries that store the power in Leafs and Volts are still too expensive to be the most cost-effective option, according to a 2009 study by engineers at Carnegie-Mellon University. The study also found that plug-in EVs with 40 or more miles of all-electric range “do not offer the lowest lifetime cost in any scenario, although they could minimize greenhouse gas emissions.” Lighter plug-in hybrids with about 10 miles of all-electric range appear to offer the best mix of price, charging time, and efficiency, according to Jeremy Michalek, the Carnegie Mellon professor who led the study. Plug-ins of this sort (the Prius, due in 2012, will be one) work best for urban drivers who can charge every 20 miles or so, he says. All of these plug-in cars, of course, are far cleaner and cheaper to operate than what most Americans drive now. There’s more – click the link.

Article by Eric Pooley, Business Week, December 29, 2010

PS: Can or can’t live with a tailpipe? Chevy, Toyota, and Nissan offer different electric options
Check out Business Week, December 29, 2010.

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The Apple iPad – Oh You of Little imagination or faith in the creativity of the rest of us

When Apple released the iPad was both delighted and appalled. Delighted because the device seems to be a step in the direction of a portable computing tool I lusted for, but could justify. Appalled, because many of the reviews I read The reviews were, much to my concern focused on short comings of this Generation I device, and bespoke of how it would like not be of ‘real’ support to folks for who business is a living, rather than a hobby.

Now I do my serious work in an iMac, loaded with every tool I needs plus lots of tools I found interesting enough to review for MH Reports. I am at the keyboard for at least 6-8 hours a day, and although an iPad is no where complete enough to be a productivity tool, it does merit serious consideration (even w/o a mechanical keyboards) as an on-the-go note taking tool and a way to keep up with the reading/research/googling I do to feed both my curiosity and my articles. My only other potion, an Apple MacBook Air, is twice the cost that I can justify. Indeed iPad II vaporware and rumors not withstanding, a USB equipped iPhone (data transfer and printing) with a more robust version of iWorks, and a way to edit PDFs (iAcrobat) would come pretty close to meeting my needs.

Therefore I keep being delighted by what folks in the field, teachers mostly, but other social services types too, have done with the iPad, supported by our active and creative iApps developer community. I share a bit of that below.

Math That Moves: Schools Embrace the iPad

ROSLYN HEIGHTS, N.Y. — As students returned to class this week, some were carrying brand-new Apple iPads in their backpacks, given not by their parents but by their schools. A growing number of schools across the nation are embracing the iPad as the latest tool to teach Kafka in multimedia, history through “Jeopardy”-like games and math with step-by-step animation of complex problems.

As part of a pilot program, Roslyn High School on Long Island handed out 47 iPads on Dec. 20 to the students and teachers in two humanities classes. The school district hopes to provide iPads eventually to all 1,100 of its students.

The school paid $750 each, soon after they were introduced. The iPads cost $470-575 (Google-Shopping) a piece now. The Students can use them in class and at home during the school year.

They replace textbooks, allow students to correspond with teachers and turn in papers and homework assignments, and preserve a record of student work in digital portfolios.

6th grader with iPad at Pinnacle Peak Elementary School in Scottsdale, Ariz

“It allows us to extend the classroom beyond these four walls,” said Larry Reiff, an English teacher at Roslyn who now posts all his course materials online. Technological fads have come and gone in schools, and other experiments meant to rev up the educational experience for children raised on video games and YouTube have had mixed results. Educators, for instance, are still divided over whether initiatives to give every student a laptop have made a difference academically.

At a time when school districts are trying to get their budgets approved so they do not have to lay off teachers or cut programs, spending money on tablet computers may seem like an extravagance. And some parents and scholars have raised concerns that schools are rushing to invest in them before their educational value has been proved by research.

“There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” said Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, who believes that the money would be better spent to recruit, train and retain teachers. “IPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.” Doc Sez, only if the software sucks, something true with games, textbooks, and other media.

But school leaders say the iPad is not just a cool new toy but rather a powerful and versatile tool with a multitude of applications, including thousands with educational uses. “If there isn’t an app that does something I need, there will be sooner or later,” said Mr. Reiff, who said he now used an application that includes all of Shakespeare’s plays. Educators also laud the iPad’s physical attributes, including its large touch screen (about 9.7 inches) and flat design, which allows students to maintain eye contact with their teachers. And students like its lightweight, which offers a relief from the heavy books that weigh down their backpacks.

There’s lot more examples, discussions on Apples support if iPads for schools, and even some cost data so check out the link.

I was interested to learn that, many school officials say they have been waiting for technology like the iPad. “It has brought individual technology into the classroom without changing the classroom atmosphere,” said Alex Curtis, headmaster of the private Morristown-Beard School in New Jersey, which bought 60 iPads for $36,000 and is considering providing iPads to all students next fall.

Daniel Brenner, the Roslyn superintendent, said the iPads would also save money in the long run by reducing printing and textbook costs; the estimated savings in the two-iPad classes are $7,200 a year. “It’s not about a cool application,” Dr. Brenner said. “We are talking about changing the way we do business in the classroom.”

Article by Winnie Hu, The New York Times, and published: January 4, 2011.

PS: I keep wondering about the overall costs effectives of a school using a discounted $600 per student. The discounted iPad contains (WAG) about $300 worth of parts along with lets say 3 x 5-6 iApps /per student (free or under $5.99) vs 5-6 $100/textbooks a day; who useful wear and tear life in weeks if not months. …And then again, iApps of are often updated free. Moving in the opposite direction, when updating (actually replacing) a book, not counting your related administrative replacement costs (committees), you get start fro scratch. My presumption — two to three iApps and a clever teacher per class and you can take the textbooks out of the picture. Alternatively get the publishers to issue their books electronically, with free updates… even the academic journals are tuning in. Oh, and case you haven’t heard, most authors of textbooks get less than 12% for their intellectual efforts, according to Wikipedia and other sources, as royalties. Do I hear a slurping sound?

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Rice husks into electricity — A New Light in India

When we hear the word innovation, we often think of new technologies or silver bullet solutions — like hydrogen fuel cells or a cure for cancer. To be sure, breakthroughs are vital: antibiotics and vaccines, for example, transformed global health. But as we’ve argued in Fixes, some of the greatest advances come from taking old ideas or technologies and making them accessible to millions of people who are underserved.

One area where this is desperately needed is access to electricity. In the age of the iPad, it’s easy to forget that roughly a quarter of the world’s population — about a billion and a half people (pdf) — still lack electricity. This isn’t just an inconvenience; it takes a severe toll on economic life, education and health. It’s estimated that two million people die prematurely each year as a result of pulmonary diseases caused by the indoor burning of fuels for cooking and light. Close to half are children who die of pneumonia.

In vast stretches of the developing world, after the sun sets, everything goes dark. In sub-Saharan Africa about 70 percent of the population lacks electricity. However, no country has more citizens living without power than India, where more than 400 million people, the vast majority of them villagers, have no electricity. The place that remains most in darkness is Bihar, India’s poorest state, which has more than 80 million people, 85 percent of whom live in households with no grid connection. Because Bihar has nowhere near the capacity to meet its current power demands, even those few with connections receive electricity sporadically and often at odd hours, like between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m., when it is of little use.

This is why I’m writing today about a small but fast-growing off-grid electricity company based in Bihar called Husk Power Systems. It has created a system to turn rice husks into electricity that is reliable, eco-friendly and affordable for families that can spend only $2 a month for power. The company has 65 power units that serve a total of 30,000 households and is currently installing new systems at the rate of two to three per week. What’s most interesting about Husk Power is how it has combined many incremental improvements that add up to something qualitatively new — with the potential for dramatic scale. The company expects to have 200 systems by the end of 2011, each serving a village or a small village cluster. Its plan is to ramp that up significantly, with the goal of having 2,014 units serving millions of clients by the end of 2014.

The article continues on about the history of Husk Power, and its founder Gyanesh Pandey, its founder and his three friends Manoj Sinha, Ratnesh Yadav and Charles W. Ransler. It shares the twists of fortunes that led Pandey back to India from the United states where he’d prospered to eventually found Husk Power. They had a few false starts,

Back in India, he and his friend Yadav, an entrepreneur, spent the next few years experimenting. They explored the possibility of producing organic solar cells. They tried growing a plant called jatropha, whose seeds can be used for biodiesel. Both proved impractical as businesses. They tested out solar lamps, but found their application limited. “In the back of my mind, I always thought there would be some high-tech solution that would solve the problem,” said Pandey.

One day he ran into a salesman who sold gasifiers —machines that burn organic materials in an oxygen restricted environment to produce biogas, which can be used to power an engine. There was nothing new about gasifiers; they had been around for decades. People sometimes burned rice husks in them to supplement diesel fuel, which was expensive. “But nobody had thought to use rice husks to run a whole power system,” explained Pandey.

In Bihar, poverty is extreme. Pretty much everything that can be used will be used — recycled or burned or fed to animals. Rice husks are the big exception. When rice is milled, the outside kernel, or husk, is discarded. Because the husk contains a lot of silica, it doesn’t burn well for cooking. A recent Greenpeace study (See reference)) reports that Bihar alone produces 1.8 billion kilograms of rice husk per year. Most of it ends up rotting in landfills and emitting methane, a greenhouse gas. Pandey and Yadav began bringing pieces together for an electric distribution system powered by the husks. They got a gasifier, a generator set, filtering, cleaning and cooling systems, piping and insulated wiring. They went through countless iterations to get the system working: adjusting valves and pressures, the gas-to-air ratios, the combustion temperature, the starting mechanism. In they end, they came up with a system that could burn 50 kilograms of rice husk per hour and produce 32 kilowatts of power, sufficient for about 500 village households. Click on for the rest of the story.

By David Bornstein The New York Times, January 10, 2011

Empowering Bihar, Case Studies Bridging the Energy Deficit and Driving Change, Green Peace-India, October 29, 2010.

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It’s all About Civility and Attitude – Questioning climate change vs challenging nuclear power – A tidbit in passing.

This clipping came to me via a multi-contributor thread on Social Media, an information exchange site for those interested in accurate reporting of news about energy, climate change and associated factors. Unlike my usual practice, I provide no references, it’s a by invitation only group with a serious purpose of informing and sharing information for focused on media truth-telling and political accuracy (both oxymoron these days). There’s no Shakespeare on the site – no sound and fury signifying nothing, and I’ve found some great leads to some of my tidbits discussed therein. The recent debate about the Arizona shooting remined  me of this clip so I decided to share it with you. Read Charles’ feedback and think about it! By the way, just in case you didn’t know; bullets kill, not incivility. By the way AGW means Anthropogenic (man-made) global warming.

From: Charles
Subject: Re: [SocialMedia] American Geophysical Union [AGU] sets up climate change expert panel for news media To: “Social Media
Date: Monday, November 15, 2010
I asked a simple question and apparently it hit a nerve. Apparently, anyone who questions human-caused global warming (AGW) is an “attack on science and scientists” and is inappropriate. Excuse me, but I thought scientists are to question theories and demand backup. As a curious scientist, over the past three years, I decided to investigate the evidence behind the AGW theory. I have found that there is no credible scientific evidence that carbon dioxide significantly affects the climate. Anyone who takes the time to look at this issue in depth will conclude the same thing.
When people question the safety of nuclear reactors, do we accuse them of attacking science? Of course not, we provide them with the evidence.
AGW is not a proven scientific theory. It is a political agenda supported by those who want to control the world’s economy. How is this relevant to an honest discussion of the pros and cons of nuclear power? It is highly relevant because there are nuclear power supporters who are using AGW to promote the use of nuclear energy. When AGW is eventually shown to have no basis, then the credibility of these nuclear advocates will suffer. It is important to support nuclear energy because it is clean, compact, and very safe. The fact that it emits no carbon dioxide is nice but it should be at the bottom of the list.

Doc Sez, AGW is irrelevant and a smokescreen, as I will share my views on the subject (as have many others), in a future article. That not withstanding, some of the questions that should/could be unemotionally answered are previewed below:

  • Is climate change that leads to warming of the earth real?
  • Even if transient, a decade to two, what are the uncontrolled effects.
  • Will it likely continue to trend upward for the next 10-50 years?
  • How will these changes impact both the developed and aspiring nations?
  • Can we do anything to soften these impacts?
  • What the credible risks of inaction?

I leave the ‘should we’ questions to politicians, the media, Joan Q Public and to theologians and ethicists. Counting angels on the heads of pins is not my thing.

Remember governments can always choose change global climate today. We have the tools — the method is already well known and has been studied in detail. — It’s called Nuclear Winter… but that ignores the risks, and ethics, doesn’t it?

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More to Read

Electric Car Information Blogs and More
Electric Vehicles — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_vehicle (Wikipedia)
EV Perspective — http://www.evperspective.com/
Plugs and Cars Blog — http://www.plugsandcars.blogspot.com/
Plugin America — http://www.pluginamerica.org/
Hybrid and Electric Car News — http://hybridandelectriccarnews.net/wordpress/
Hybrid Car Blog — http://www.hybridcarblog.com/
Tesla Motors — http://www.teslamotors.com/
Toyota’s Advanced Vehicle Technology — http://www.toyota.com/about/environment/innovation/advanced_vehicle_technology/
The Chevy Volt — http://www.chevrolet.com/volt/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Volt (Wikipedia)
The Nissan Leaf — http://www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car/index#/leaf-electric-car/index and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Leaf (Wikipedia)

Early Apple iPad Reviews

iPad vs. Everything Else by Harry McCracken, PC World, April 28, 2010; http://www.pcworld.com/printable/article/id,195192/printable.html
Marketing Warfare: The iPad Battle, ROI HUNTERS Field Journal, Undated. http://roihunters.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/marketing-warfare-the-ipad-battle/
An iPad at the office: Can it work as a PC? By the InfoWorld Mobile Patrol Staff, August 17, 2010. http://www.infoworld.com/print/133611
Dear Rabid Apple Fans: Your precious Mac club is being disbanded. Blame iPad. By Jason Perlow, ZDNET Tech Broiler, July 22, 2010. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/perlow/dear-rabid-apple-fans-your-precious-mac-club-is-being-disbanded-blame-ipad/13525.
Looking at the iPad From Two Angles by David Pogue, The New York Times, March 31, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/technology/personaltech/01pogue.html?8cir=&emc=cirb1&pagewanted=print/; and David Pogue’s Apple iPad FAQ’s, NY Times, April 1, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/indexes/2010/04/01/technology/circuitsemail/index.html?8cir&emc=cir/.
Life With The iPad: Enterprise Ready. By Fritz Nelson InformationWeek, April 24, 2010 http://www.informationweek.com/shared/printableArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=0JDHCOMG0HI3NQE1GHPCKH4ATMY32JVN?articleID=224600123/
The iPad, Your Newest Workplace Productivity Enhancer, By Rich Jaroslovsky, Bloomberg Business Week, March 31, 2010. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_15/b4173018408771.htm

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

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

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

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source. Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Readers Please Note — Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes here.

Furthermore, many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable — and if you Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many other studies that are more skeptical. I find it always appropriate, as I read to step back and WIIFT – No it’s not something new to smoke; just the compulsion to ask what’s in it for them. It’s okay to have a hidden agenda, but agenda’s too hidden discomfort me.

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

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

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All rights Reserved.

Introduction

This edition of my greening article departs a little from the traditional style I’ve established in earlier posts.

I’ll be starting out with ad-libs (e.g., opinions) on five items that reflect my observations of energy and general greening technology and its associated swings but NOT provide you with a rationale or other justifications for my thoughts. Accuse me of venting — blowing off steam — Fine, if you don’t do this occasional, also your mind has died, or at least turned into a prune. – Call this a case of I Believe!.

Call them doc_Babad’s five-jaundiced weltanschauungs — the darker side of the 2010 vision.

  • Let Keeping Studying things Until We Die — More experts then ever refused to make decisions on dealing with the forthcoming and near future from climate change. Rising sea levels, doubts, hurricanes and tornadoes and of course floods and forest fires.Their rationale — they need to do more research to reduce their uncertainty. As my philosophy professors and even my father noted, not taking action is a decision. Check out Naomi Oreskes’ new book called “Merchants of Doubt” listed I the reference section.A typical risk analysis, not the guys who figure the worst oil rig blowout, or the worst likely flooding of New Orleans, add defenses, in depth — likely expensive – to counter uncertainty. However, that is politically incorrect.
  • Bearing False Witness — A new class of experts continues to dominate the public debate about energy, climate change and/or any other science based issue such as public health including vaccine safety, caused of cancer, tobacco based disease and our newest daemon, cell phone radiation risks. These folk, who have jumped outside of the technical the areas of their science and engineering training and hove spouted fear, uncertainty, and doubt. This reminds me an old IBM technique called FUD, to an every hungry media and a mostly scientifically illiterate public.Most of these folks have never had a paper on their new avocational expertise published in a peer reviewed journal and feast on traded mutually supporting reference that have no basis in measured truth. Although stretching the point it reminds me of the ultra orthodox rabbis in Israeli cling to their truth that that anyone who doubts their ‘given’ truth’ must not be Jewish.My I suggest this new year that they and theirs opt for having an auto mechanic perform any needed surgery on them when needed, its cheaper — all the mechanics need to do is suggest that they’ve read the manual and so are obviously then qualified.
  • The nuclear renaissance in the western world seems almost stillborn. Why inexpensive natural gas, poor or false lifecycle accounting for costs of wind and solar energy, depression lowered energy demand, and the lack of any desire to take risk on behalf of western governments and the local banking system.Even France a long tome advocate, efforts are slowing down because of the mismanagement of the construction of Areva’s {Nuclear} new generation reactors and the Germans still say Nein. …and of course the Brits are moving cautiously and Australians are still thinking about it despite having the free worlds larges supply if uranium.The good news is that China, India, and the Koreans are not stopping their efforts, albeit they start from a small installed reactor base. Did you know America has the largest installed base of installed operating reactors 104 accounting for 20.2% of our baseline power) with France coming in only second at 58 but accounting for 75.2% of the grid load. More interesting, the wealthy countries in the middle-eastern countries are getting on board, as perhaps are the Brazilians.
  • A Unworldly Solution to Climate Change — Politicians around the world have balked in working together, internationally, con dealing with climate change. Some small individual nations are taking the lead but only within their boundaries or regions. Alas the later are victims of the ‘pimple’ effect when compared to the greenhouse emissions fro the USA, Russia, China and other off shore manufacturers.It is always comically surrealistic, if not fully tragic, that the USA is making some measured progress is lowering industrially produced green house gases by outsourcing the work. That gives us a two-stage benefit. We look greening the too often looked down upon dirty manufacturing capability… e.g. Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, that blight our nations — the heartland that made us great and strong after World War II.
  • Turn Off the Sun — This option, tongue in cheek of course, is an observation of the effects of the almost universal American nuclearphobia about radiation, be it sunshine, radio frequency for cell, phones, medical diagnostic procedures, and of course nuclear electricity in decision making and risk adversity. Of course, except when there is a case of food bacterial based poisoning, then there’s a hue and cry… and the search for a scape-goat. As a society, we almost totally ignore the toxic material in our mass produced foods, potential mutagens in our cosmetics, polluted water systems, and the gas chamber effects of urban air pollution. As far as last item goes, if the concentrations were higher, the agents might have been put to use by the Nazi’s during the Holocaust – alas they were too slow to meet the Third Reich’s goals.

No, I’m not giving up on either American ingenuity and ability to decisively act in a crisis, nor of the creative energies of mankind to overcome political and belief structure based paralysis, as usual; but years end finds me a bit maudlin and introspective. Could it be because I turn 75 in a few months? Or is there a deeper root cause?

Perhaps we need to rearrange our democracy, add criteria for being the franchised, along the lines of Heinlein’s Star Ship Trooper? I am of course aware that Winston Churchill remarked: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (Nov. 11, 1947)

Folks, the 5-fold path to enlightenment on these issues seems to elude me — I just don’t get it. So I’d better get on with this months greening related tid-bits.

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WARNING: This issue is more focused on Nuclear than usual. I’ve never claimed to be either unbiased or to provide a balanced treatment of energy and environmental options. I only state that I will do, to the best of my ability, read all relevant references documents in my considerable references collection. Look for added and more current information by preceding each citation’s use with web searches. I shall give the option, where I deem comments and ad-bibs are appropriate, a fair shot based on those references.

The New Snippet Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Orde,

  • Did You Know – The Word is out! Call it a dump even if its state of the art technology
  • With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too, some day soon, Congress
  • With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too
  • America’s Oil Crude Oil Habit — Hey folks be fair, everyone has the right to their choice of a ‘Fix’
  • When the Assembly Line Moves Online — It’s all beyond Charlie Chaplin’s Imagination
  • Clean Energy Entrepreneurs Face More Obstacles in U.S. — Were back to  the 2010-2012 version of the China Syndrome, with a whimper not a bang this time.
  • How To Stop Global Warming – Even If You Don’t Believe In It

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Did You Know – The Word is out!

Yup, according to Gwyneth Cravens. One of my favorite born again ‘nuclear related authors’ who is a long time-well respected environmentally focused author.

— “A memo went out long ago from Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear organizations: “Always say ‘dump’! Never say ‘repository’ or ‘storage site’!”  “Dump” conjures up a vision of dump trucks backing up to a hole in the ground and letting loose their nasty cargo in a helter skelter fashion. If only city dumps were as tidy as those strictly regulated nuclear waste repositories!

“Words with negative connotations that are repeated over and over have a powerful effect on public.”

Folks, I’m sure if I asked, Gwyneth would send me several examples, … but that a trivial game. Her articles and books are always exceptionally well documented and referenced.

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With Every Passing Year a New Miracle — Green Now, perhaps for Duke Energy, Includes Nuclear Power Too, some day soon, Congress

Ever since the late 1980s, Duke Power’s CEO James Rogers has been beating the drum for green energy as an answer to global warming, putting him in the vanguard of climate-change activists. But what’s most remarkable is that Rogers happens to be the CEO of Duke Energy Corp., the huge electric and gas utility that ranks among the U.S.’s biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.

Moreover, that dubious distinction is one the Charlotte, North Carolina, utility won’t be relinquishing any time soon. It is the only power company in the U.S. that is simultaneously building two coal-burning plants, which are due to come online in 2012. And coal, although it is both abundant and cheap, is a notorious pollutant compared with natural gas or nuclear power. What explains the apparent paradox between Rogers’ green persona and Duke’s seemingly retrograde strategy? A self-proclaimed pragmatist, he argues that a climate-friendly future will require a 40-year forced march. So how do new coal plants fit into this scenario? For those detail, check out the link!

Which of All The Alternative Energy Sources Holds The Most Promise? — If you look out over the next decade, the Environmental Protection Agency is going to write a set of regulations requiring us to shut down as much as one third of the existing coal fleet [of plants] in the United States. And that coal fleet is going to have to be replaced by something. Will it be natural gas? Will it be nuclear? Will it be renewables? One of the great challenges confronting us is what mix of those three do we need to replace one third of the U.S. coal fleet.

What Drives Your Interest In Green Energy? — I’m in the business of making billion-dollar decisions, and as a pragmatist, I ’m an advocate for advancing [green] issues, in part so that I can deliver on my job one: making energy as affordable, reliable and clean as possible. Whether it’s a coal plant at $3 billion or a nuclear plant at $12 billion to $14 billion, I can make more-informed decisions about huge investments that will last 50 years if I know the[environmental] rules, even though a cleaner carbon footprint in our generation facilities is going to translate into higher prices.

What Do You Say To People Who Deny Global Warming? — There’s a wide number of people that don’t believe it, for a variety of reasons. But even if it didn’t exist, what would I change about my strategy?

We are building plants today that are modernized and have significantly reduced the emissions per kilowatt hour. We would be doing that anyway.

The Institutional Investor by Frances Denmark, 29 Oct 2010.

http://www.institutionalinvestor.com/Popups/PrintArticle.aspx?ArticleID=2702321

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America’s Oil Crude Oil Habit — Hey folks be fair, everyone has the right to their choice of a ‘Fix’

Every petroleum crisis in this country — whether triggered by foreign suppliers flexing their muscles, a price spike at the gasoline pump, or a spill that causes untold environmental damage — heightens demands that the U.S. wean itself from oil. So, predictably, in reaction to the colossal BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico, lawmakers and corporate heavyweights are dusting off past proposals and crafting new ones to kick the national addiction.

Doc Sez — Sorry, to day I’m again feeling cynical — Even the financially troubled PB has pockets deep enough to buy most of entire congress, its called lobbying coupled with political contributions, made all the more murky by the recent US Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to be treated as ‘people’ with no requirement for disclosure. If that does work then perhaps the US Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, and Business Round table can join big oil in keeping the status quo. On the other hand, the Saudi’s and other Middle Eastern countries are investing in nuclear energy, perhaps, being more comfortable with taking along view, they know something America doesn’t or refuses to acknowledge.

On Monday, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D. Ore., outlined an ambitious plan to transition American cars and trucks to alternative fuels, reform and-use laws to make communities less dependent on cars, and shift more freight from 18-wheelers to trains and barges. The freshman senator is also calling on the White House to create a National Council on Energy Security. A week earlier, six-term Sen. Richard Lugar, R. Ind, introduced legislation to raise automobile fuel-efficiency requirements yearly and expand the federal program encouraging advancements in biofuels.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing the Energy Department to designate at least five test sites for electric cars. They want Uncle Sam to help pay for the installation of charging stations in those communities and to give residents tax breaks for buying plug-in vehicles.

Doc Sez: There’s lot more, check it out— Perhaps tomorrow I will regain my optimism! Alas, I’m having real problems distinguishing between show and tell, type posturing, and real initiatives that may roll back our dependence of oil.

Bottom Line — No other nation is so thoroughly hooked on oil. Even though Americans constitute only 4 percent of the world’s population,  they consume 20 percent of its petroleum. Of the 20 million barrels this country uses each day, 13 million are imported. And about 70 percent of the black gold burned in the U.S. goes to power vehicles.

The Fly, Other Than Politics, in The Ointment — Every time gasoline prices skyrocket, lawmakers look for ways to cut domestic oil use. When the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries embargoed oil to the United States in 1973, Washington required automakers to produce more-efficient cars and pushed electric utilities to turn to fuels other than oil. Please recall that starting with President Carter, to some degree all of our presidents tried and FAILED.

National Journal Group Inc, by Margaret Kriz Hobson, June 19, 2010.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20100619_3491.php?print=true

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When the Assembly Line Moves Online — It’s all beyond Charlie Chaplin’s Imagination

In “Modern Times,” Charlie Chaplin, second from left, was mired in monotony. Today, many repetitive tasks are being parceled out on the Internet.

Do one assigned task on your computer. It shouldn’t take you more than two seconds. Repeat 14,399 times. Congratulations! Your eight-hour workday is complete.

No such workplace yet exists, but with the fiendishly clever creation of standardized two-second tasks, delivered to any computer connected to the Internet, it is now technically possible to set up. Microtask, a start-up company in Finland, has come up with the software that delivers such tasks. [http://www.microtask.com/] The company offers to take on “dull, repetitive work” — like digitizing paper forms or business cards — for prospective clients. As it says in a video on its Web site, “Microtask loves the work you hate.”

The company is in a position to love that work because not one of its 12 employees actually performs it. Its software carves a given task into microscopically small pieces, like transcribing a handwritten four-digit number in a tiny rectangle on a form. (Handwritten numbers and letters are the bane of text-recognition software.) These tasks, stripped of identifying information about the client or the larger task, can then be distributed online anywhere.

The approach shows how the online concept of widely distributed work has evolved since it was pioneered by the Mechanical Turk service, introduced by Amazon.com in 2005. Mechanical Turk [http://mturk.com/] resembles an online bulletin board. Businesses post income-earning opportunities, with rewards for each task completed. Turkers, as the independent contractors are informally called, choose a task they like and are qualified for. Recent offers included 2 cents each for finding the contact information for 7,500 hotels and 3 cents each for answering questions about 9,400 toys.

Miriam Cherry, an associate professor of law at the University of the Pacific, tried Mechanical Turk and says she found out for herself that the compensation was meager. “My assistant and I tried but we couldn’t make minimum wage,” says Professor Cherry, who presented an argument last year in the Alabama Law Review [http://www.law.ua.edu/lawreview/articles/Volume 60/Issue 5/cherry.pdf] for extending minimum-wage laws into cyberspace.

Fascinating – Check out the rest – This is an idea not even my Science Fiction addiction had turned up!

The New York Times, by Randall Stross, October 30, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/business/31digi.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=business

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Clean Energy Entrepreneurs Face More Obstacles in U.S.Were back to  the 2010-2012 version of the China Syndrome, with a whimper not a bang this time.

With erect posture and clear gray eyes, Chuck Provini still looks like the Marine who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1969 and was repeatedly decorated for bravery in Vietnam.  Chuck Provini, chief executive of Natcore Technology in Red Bank, N.J. He fumes at strangers who call him a traitor for agreeing to manufacture in Zhuzhou, China, a new solar panel production device that his company developed in the United States.  “I love my country,” said Mr. Provini, chief executive of 10-employee Natcore Technology in Red Bank, N.J. “It makes me crazy that I’ve got countries that want to do things with us, but not here.”

Mr. Provini acknowledges that further refinements are needed to the technology, which involves replacing a costly furnace in the manufacture of solar panels with a room-temperature process. But his experience in trying to commercialize it highlights the challenges that clean energy entrepreneurs face in the United States — and the opportunities that await in China. American venture capitalists are the main source of money for many clean energy start-ups because most commercial banks are leery of lending to businesses with no proven revenue. But venture capitalists are reluctant to make long-term financial commitments, Mr. Provini said, and want clear timetables for when they can get their money back with a profit.

“They want to come in, make a killing and get out,” said Mr. Provini, who spent most of his career on Wall Street, including as president of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management.

He said he spoke with a Congressional aide and visited a Washington law firm, Baker Botts, seeking advice on government assistance. But available grants came with too many restrictions, and were hard to find and apply for, Mr. Provini said. What Natcore really wanted was money for its own research and help finding joint-venture partners with the right technology.

Investors in Brazil, Taiwan and particularly China were more interested, he said.

There lot more details posted, check it out. Alas, Sez Doc, this is a more typical story than not. From my, albeit limited reading (e.g., the Economist, Business Week, the Sunday Times and the Wall Street Journal on line) American venture capitalist have gotten the take not risk that require waiting for more than 3-5 years for a payout.

“I feel what China is doing is taking chances on new technologies, investing relatively small amounts of money understanding that some of those technologies will blossom,” Mr. Provini said.

Matt Rogers, an adviser to the United States energy secretary, said his department had many grants available of all sizes, and that the competitions for them effectively identified companies that investors might also want to finance. “We have the best technology,” Mr. Rogers said. “I think we have the best manufacturing here in the United States.”

However, many Chinese clean energy executives are skeptical of Rogers assertions, saying that the United States was losing its lead even in the production of the sophisticated factory equipment needed to make solar panels, and now retained an advantage only in the earliest stages of research.

The New York Times, By Keith Bradsher, September 8, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/business/global/09tradeside.html?nl=&emc=aua21

Also Check Out:

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How To Stop Global Warming – Even If You Don’t Believe In It

In the global-warming debate, scientists are, admirably, still trying to save the day. Last week, the American Geophysical Union announced plans to mobilize about 700 climate scientists in an effort to improve the accuracy of media coverage and public understanding of their field. Separately, a smaller group of scientists organized by John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota said it was putting together a “rapid response team” to bring accurate climate science to public debates.

On the face of it, such efforts certainly make sense. The scientists hope, not unreasonably, to bring more attention to the climate-change crisis. More crucially, they seek to halt the slide in public opinion on the issue, with recent polls finding Americans’ belief in the evidence for global warming on the decline, along with their view of the need for immediate action to slow climate change. And it’s true that science education, when done well, may help accomplish these goals.

But will it lead to meaningful policy? Or will this latest round of efforts instead result in another spate of news stories about scary end-of-the-world scenarios, another series of debates over whether global-warming science is a hoax and more wasted time — time we don’t have? There is good reason to think that those who are worried about climate change would make greater progress — especially among Republicans, who profess increasing skepticism about warming — if they focused less on arguing the scientific reality and more on building support for specific solutions that all sides can agree on.

The first problem with focusing on the science debate is that the spectacle of dueling scientists confuses people. We have already seen this story unfold in the media: Two opposing sides, given similar exposure, argue about complexities that most Americans feel they have little ability to assess. Instead of focusing on the causes of climate change in simple terms that people can grasp and act upon, it is all too easy for scientists to get trapped in a debate with skeptics about whether they can prove that warming is real and how they can show definitively that its effects are imminent. Faced with this sparring, it becomes fairly easy for the average person to dismiss climate change as an open question and cross it off the list of things they need to worry about.

Unfortunately, the global warming debate increasingly turns more on political belief than on scientific fact. Until relatively recently, environmental issues were largely nonpartisan. Republican presidents such as Richard Nixon have historically achieved significant environmental gains, and voters across party lines used to express fairly equal levels of support for environmental protections.

There’s more – do the check references thing!

Congress, member of both parties, must start by focusing on climate-friendly policies and stop assuming that we must first achieve unanimity on global warming science. People can support the transition to a carbon-free energy future without believing, or even knowing, that it might influence glaciers, coral reefs or Arctic ice.

There is a long list of carbon-reduction measures that strong majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents firmly support, including mandating better fuel efficiency, increasing federal funding for clean-energy research, spending more for mass transit, raising efficiency standards for homes and other buildings, and requiring utilities to produce more energy from renewable sources. They even support limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – just as long as they are seen as anti-pollution measures, not “caps.”

The Washington Post, by Meg Bostrom, November 14, 2010

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/12/AR2010111202800.html

Also See:

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

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

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

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source. Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

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ADDED REFERENCES

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming [Hardcover] by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway; Published by Bloomsbury Press; 1 edition (May 25, 2010) Amazon.com has some well written review of the book, others can be googled.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

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

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in thi,s Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction 

Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

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

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters to which I subscribe. When I have time, I also check a variety of energy related and environmental blogs. In addition, I subscribe to New York Times, Time Magazine, The Economist, Business Week, Wired, National Geographic, Smithsonian – all which I skim for articles of interest. I also pick up items from Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists, when the provide reference I can check,

Some of what I chase is called out in publications by the libraries of the Pacific Northwest [NewsBridge], Sandia, Argonne and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, which are managed by the US Department of Energy. Other articles I found interesting come from technology feeds from the, Discover Magazine, various international energy and green advocacy groups as well as The American Association for the Advancement of Science from the American Nuclear Society magazine Nuclear News is a source and for chemistry related news Chemical & Engineering New from the American Chemical Society.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and intentionally biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send us feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).

I’ll continue posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves. Coming soon; ‘my call on global warming’, and 13 reasons you hated nuclear power, for reasons now disproved. But if you’re a true believer, then unsubscribe to our blog – none can change your mind but a disaster and that might not wake you up to seeming realities proven by fact not faith.

…and while you’re at it, Help Stamp Out Nucleophobia and Raise You Sci-Tech IQ

Doc.

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • Black Is the New Green – Photosynthesis-based fuel
  • Hydro Power Without the Dams: Ontario Invests in Free Flow Underwater Turbines
  • For Those Near, the Miserable Hum of Clean Energy — Noisy Wind Turbines Attract Complaints
  • The Big Potential of Micro Nukes — Moving Van Sized ‘Modular’ Nuclear Reactors for Your City and Mine
  • New Coal Plants in China, India Built Under UN Clean Development Mechanism
  • Hydrocarbons and Geothermal Energy — A silent minority report
  • Kiss My Ash: How King Coal’s Lobbyists Are Undermining Coal Ash Regulation — Coal ash dumps a ‘time bomb’ for Michigan and other water
  • Toxic Sludge From Hungary Spill Coats Villages, Threatens Danube — Another unintended environmental consequence

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Black Is the New GreenPhotosynthesis based fuel

Lilac Amirav is breaking a sweat trying to do what nature has been doing effortlessly for some 3 billion years. She and 30 or so colleagues at the Helios project are trying to build miniature machines that re-create photosynthesis, the process by which green plants take in sunlight and carbon dioxide and produce energy. In a leaf, the product of this reaction is the sugar molecule, which serves as a kind of biological battery: All the plant has to do is break sugar’s chemical bonds, releasing the energy it needs to sustain itself. Amirav’s goal is to tweak this process to better suit the energy needs of a world population that by 2050 is expected to reach 9 billion, a growing percentage of which will want to drive their own cars. She and her colleagues at Helios, a joint project of U. C. Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, want to build an artificial leaf that drips ethanol, or some other alcohol, which you could pump right into your gas tank.

New energy technologies have never been in greater demand. With consumption growing, oil supplies often tight, and the world in a warming trend, the search is on for better energy sources—clean coal, safe nuclear reactors, and more far-reaching ideas like artificial photosynthesis.

Automobiles (transportation) pose a particular problem because they require a portable source of energy that can deliver a concentrated punch, a quality that sunlight does not possess. But the status quo is unacceptable. Tailpipe exhaust accounts for some 20 percent of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide; an economic recovery could easily cause the return of $140-a-barrel oil.

The scientists at Helios—and at a growing number of labs around the world doing related work—could revise those equations. Photosynthesis consumes carbon dioxide. If we could pull carbon out of the air and use it to wean cars off fossil fuels, that would go a long way toward reducing humankind’s production of greenhouse gases without impeding technological progress.

Check out the references and see how the studies of nanotechnology-based materials is being pursued to duplicate, and perhaps make more efficient what is commonplace in our natural biological world. We have a long way to go. But judging from the progress at Helios, and other projects, we getting closer to both understanding the science and capturing it to create an alternate source of transportation fuel, one more closely linked to today’s sunlight rather then that captured in now buried plants during prehistoric times.

By Fred Guterl, Discover Magazine October 20, 2010

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jun/20-black-is-the-new-green

More References

There are all sorts of approaches to creating fuel from sunlight, avoiding the potentially energy wasting  ‘GO Trap’ by not collecting electricity. Not that making electricity from sunlight is either good or per se bad, it’s the bottom line for total lifecycle cost per gallon of gasoline energy equivalent including green house gas emission related costs, that counts. Here’s a taste – Google On.

Artificial Photosynthesis — From Wikipedia, (October. 10, 2010)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_Photosynthesis

Helios Project — Lawrence Berkley National Labs Solar Energy Research Center. http://www.lbl.gov/LBL-Programs/helios-serc/index.html

Artificial Photosynthesis: Turning Sunlight Into Liquid Fuels Moves A Step Closer — ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2009) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090311103646.htm

Getting to the Hydrogen Highway Via the Nano Road, by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, August 20, 2009. http://newscenter.lbl.gov/feature-stories/2009/04/20/hydrogen-highway-nano-road/

Water Oxidation Advance Boosts Potential for Solar FuelScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2010http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100311141207.htm

Hydrogen From Sun And Water, by Mitch Jacoby’s in Chemical & Engineering News, AUGUST 10, 2009. http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news/87/i32/8732notw.html

Bio Solar Energy Conversion-Artificial Photosynthesis — Beckman Institute of the California Institute of Technology {Undated} http://mmrc.caltech.edu/BB/photoconversion.html

How Artificial Photosynthesis Works by Julia Layton.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/energy-production/artificial-photosynthesis.htm

Also Check My Early September Greening Article

Fuel From The Sun <—> Water + sunlight = fuel by Stephen K. Ritter Chemical & Engineering News, 88(27), July 05, 2010

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i27/html/8827sci1.html

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Hydro Power Without the Dams: Ontario Invests in Free Flow Underwater Turbines

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could generate clean power from rivers without having to dam them? That’s what Verdant Power is trying to do with its free flow turbines (which we’ve covered in the past on this site: “Lunar Power” comes to New York and NBC Coverage of Wave and Tidal Power).

The Cornwall Ontario River Energy Project – 15 Megawatts — The province of Ontario is investing C$2.2 million into a project to demonstrate the feasibility and commercial viability of using free flow turbines to harness some of the St. Lawrence River’s kinetic energy and turn it into electricity.

This project is for 15 megawatts, enough to power 11,000 average-sized homes, but Verdant estimates that “there is enough potential power in the water currents of Canada’s tides, rivers and manmade channels to generate 15,000 MW of electricity using its technology”. That would be about the equivalent of 15 big coal power plants.

But we have to wonder… Did they pick Cornwall just because they could make a really cool acronym? The Cornwall Ontario River Energy (CORE) Project.

How Does a Free Flow Underwater Turbine Work? Very simply, it works like a wind turbine, but the blades are moved by a water current instead of by the wind. “The turbine blades rotate slowly allowing fish to pass through safely with minimal environmental impact.” Of course, the impact won’t be zero, but if we consider that Ontario is currently getting a good amount of its power from coal plants, this definitely looks like a step in the right direction.

One key difference with wind turbines is that free flow hydro turbines are not visible, so the “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) attitude shouldn’t be a problem. Another benefit over wind power is that hydro delivers power more predictably.

Read the article to discover the potential use of tidal power Tidal Power in the East River in New York City
 Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project (pdf) in New York City’s East River. Also check out the potential for The Future of Free Flow Hydropower Turbines. It’s probably still too early to know how cost-competitive this technology will be. What we do know is that there won’t be a clean energy silver bullet, so it is important to keep improving in that area even if other types of renewable energies are ahead right now (wind, solar, and even wave power).

By Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada Broadcast on 04-14-08

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY (alternative energy) — http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/04/verdant-power-free-flow-underwater-turbines-hydro.php

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For Those Near, the Miserable Hum of Clean Energy — Noisy Wind Turbines Attract Complaints

Oh brave new wind — The law of unforeseen consequences!

Inalhaven, Me. — Like nearly all of the residents on this island in Penobscot Bay, Art Lindgren and his wife, Cheryl, celebrated the arrival of three giant wind turbines late last year. That was before they were turned on. In the first 10 minutes, our jaws dropped to the ground,” Mr. Lindgren said. “Nobody in the area could believe it. They were so loud.”

Now, the Lindgrens, along with a dozen or so neighbors living less than a mile from the $15 million wind facility here, say the industrial whoosh-and-whoop of the 123-foot blades is making life in this otherwise tranquil corner of the island unbearable.

They are among a small but growing number of families and homeowners across the country who say they have learned the hard way that wind power — a clean alternative to electricity from fossil fuels — is not without emissions of its own.

Lawsuits and complaints about turbine noise, vibrations and subsequent lost property value have cropped up in Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, among other states.

There’s lots more, check it out. To paraphrase an old quotation, ’no new energy form goes without punishment. {Doc.} Is this super NIMBY or an acoustic cover up? Only time and measurements will tell; but there are lots of European based articles on this subject. Just Google <European Windmills + Noise>

By Tom Zeller Jr., New York Times, Published: October 5, 2010 — http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/06/business/energy-environment/06noise.html?_r=1&nl=&emc=aua1

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The Big Potential of Micro Nukes Moving Van Sized ‘Modular’ Nuclear Reactors for Your City and Mine

The race is on to develop refrigerator-size reactors that could power small towns or plants

David H. Freedman comments that I’m standing 20 feet from the brightly glowing core of a laboratory nuclear test reactor the size of a moving van, and the Geiger counter next to me is going nuts. But no worries, I’m told. The light, visible on a nearby monitor hooked up to a camera inside the reactor, is not from nuclear fission; it is harmless emission from electrons zipping out of the core and shedding their energy into the water that surrounds it. And the stream of particles eliciting the shriek from the Geiger counter is not from the reactor at all. Just for a giggle, the reactor manager has placed the detector next to a Fiestaware cup, which happens to be one of many everyday items that are mildly radioactive. He keeps it on hand to tease visitors.

I am actually getting less radiation here than I would on the beach or in an airplane. You’ll have to forgive the folks at Oregon State University’s Radiation Center for having a little fun. Nuclear power fell into a long funk after the partial core meltdown at the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania in 1979. All new nuclear plant construction in the United States came to a halt, and before the industry could recover, the 1986 reactor breach at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine seemed to seal the fate of nuclear power in this country. Now the technology is hot again—this time in a good way—because it produces virtually no carbon emissions and it backs us away from the turbulent politics and economics of oil.

OSU’s nuclear engineers are basking in that glow. While the industry was in deepfreeze, they were pressing ahead with one of the most promising emerging technologies in energy: micro-size nuclear reactors, fully functional power plants a good deal closer to the size of the test reactor I’m standing near. It is a far cry from the standard nuclear plant—the size of a small town, cranking out enough electricity to power a major city—not to mention the even bigger plants going up in China and France. To say China’s aim of 60 GW of new nuclear in operation by 2020 is ambitious is an understatement. By speaking with the people at the centre of this project, both government officials and executives from the foreign firms that are supplying the technology ,and after analysis by international experts at the Energy Social Media Blog several documents  reports how China aims to achieve this goal. <See reference>

Given the economies of scale in the power industry, why would anyone want to go teeny? “There are economies of small, too,” says Jose Reyes, chairman of OSU’s nuclear engineering department and chief technology officer at nearby NuScale Power, a commercial spin-off of the department. For one thing, Reyes explains, miniaturized nuclear plants are small enough to mass-produce, driving down costs, and they can be shipped just about anywhere by truck or boat, even to locations that are off the grid.

For one thing, Reyes explains, miniaturized nuclear plants are small enough to mass-produce, driving down costs, and they can be shipped just about anywhere by truck or boat, even to locations that are off the grid.

Also, micro nukes can be designed to run a long time without maintenance or refueling. They could be sealed like a big battery and buried underground for as long as three decades (30 years), so terrorists could not get into them and nuclear waste could not get out. A spent micro nuke could simply be plucked out of the ground and shipped whole to a waste-processing or recycling facility anywhere in the world (e.g., China or France); the old one could be swapped out for a new one, cartridge-style. In contrast, a conventional nuclear plant requires several years of customized design and construction, and at the end of its life several years more are needed to dismantle it and decontaminate the massive site around it.

Toshiba, Hyperion Power Generation, Sandia National Labs, and TerraPower—a company underwritten in part by Bill Gates—also have downsized nuclear reactor concepts in the works. Micro nukes are more reliable than wind power, cheaper than solar, and much easier to operate than conventional nuclear plants. Initially, micro nukes are likely to be installed in clusters as safer, simpler replacements for existing commercial reactors that need decommissioning. But in the coming decade, small-scale (nukelets) like NuScale’s may well eclipse solar and wind as the green energy of choice, bringing plentiful electricity to billions of people who lack it and possibly powering individual neighborhoods within cities.

Read about the OSU’s one-third-scale test version of the NuScale reactor, which is being extensively studied as the basis of the next design stage before going to licensing and commercialization, abroad if not in the USA.

OSU houses a one-third-scale test version of the NuScale reactor, faithful to the real thing except for electrically powered heating rods that stand in for the radioactive core. Operating since 2008, the uncomplicated-looking contraption seems like the sort of thing you would expect to find at the back of a small brewpub. But the device runs like a top, sending a copious river of steam into the air above the building. (Reyes nixed a student scheme to dye the steam green and hook it up to a train whistle.) NuScale plans to submit its design to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in early 2012. The NRC is expected to take at least three years to approve it, due to a backlog of applications at the agency and to the newness of micro nuke designs. Still, that is probably a few years sooner than most other micro nukes can expect to get the nod; the NuScale reactor’s light-water technology is quite similar to the industry-standard approach with which the NRC is intimately familiar.

To speed things up further, NuScale is initially marketing its micro nukes in bundles of 12 set up to replace existing nuclear power plants—which means that the company will not have to wait for approval of specific sites, since the go-ahead for safe siting will already be in place. Having an installed base of safely operating reactors should make it easier to win approval for selling the units individually or in smaller bundles later on, Reyes contends. “We’ll learn a huge amount about building and running the reactors every time we produce a batch of 12,” he says. NuScale is in active discussions with several utility customers.

Sticking with proven light-water technology has some downsides, Reyes acknowledges. To keep the water from boiling and losing it’s heat-transferring properties, light-water reactors cannot run at the high temperatures that are most efficient for producing power. And even at lower temperatures, preventing boiling requires high pressure. In the unlikely event that an overheating core causes a reactor breach, the pressure could potentially cause an explosive venting of radioactive gases into the environment.

To get around these problems, Japan’s Toshiba and Hyperion Power Generation of Santa Fe, New Mexico, are pushing rival micro reactors. Their versions, which have been in development for more than a decade, use circulating molten metal—sodium and lead bismuth, respectively—as coolants and heat conduits instead of water. Without the risk of water boiling, the reactors can run at higher temperatures, producing enough heat to extract hydrogen from water for use in fuel cells. And if one of these reactors melted open, a very unlikely event, there would be no venting, just a well-contained hot mess underground.

There are more references about the potential for, and advantages for micro (Small-Scale) nuclear reactors

Article by David H. Freedman; photography by Nicholas Eveleigh, from the June 2010 Issue of Discover Magazine, Posted November 22, 2010. — http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jun/05-the-big-promise-of-micro-nukes

Additional References

Nuclear Power in China: How the Red Dragon Will Lead the World by Penny Hitchin — Published: Oct 1, 2010 in Power Engineering World Wide — http://www.powergenworldwide.com/index/display/articledisplay/4114678000/articles/power-engineering-international/volume-18/issue-9/features/nuclear-power-in-china-how-the-red-dragon-will-lead-the-world.html

A Preassembled Nuclear Reactor, By Kevin Bullis in MIT’s Technology Today — http://www.technologyreview.com/printer_friendly_article.aspx?id=22867&channel=energy&section/

IEER/PSR: ‘Small Modular Reactors’ No Panacea for What Ails Nuclear Power, PR-Canada.Net – PR-CANADA.net , by the Canadian The IEER/PSR  Group, October 01, 2010  — http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ieerpsr-small-modular-reactors-no-panacea-for-what-ails-nuclear-power-104024223.html. And the ‘Makhijani  and Boyd’ Factsheet cited therein.

<Note the group objects to government subsidies for nuclear power but not for coal, oil, or other energy forms –Doc. – If you want more information about the unfocused inapplicable use of technical data and innuendo found therein, drop us a note.>

Small Modular Reactors, From Wikipedia, Updated October 23, 2010. — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Modular_Reactors

Global Energy Needs: Defining a Role for a “Right Sized Reactor”, by Dr. Thomas L. Sanders, President of the American Nuclear Society, March 2010. — Presentation notes, personal communication to doc_Babad.

Experts Found Wanting By Stephen Heiser: Russians Go To Sea With Reactors, We Go To Water With Wind Mills?, by Stephen Heiser in Nuclear Power Industry News, Jul 28 2009. — http://nuclearstreet.com/nuclear_power_industry_news/b/nuclear_power_news/archive/2009/07/28/experts-found-wanting-by-stephen-heiser-russian-go-to-sea-with-reactors-we-go-to-water-with-wind-mills-1722.aspx

Small Nuclear Reactors Are Becoming Big

Business, by Jeremy van Loon and Alex Morales in Bloomberg Business Week, May 20, 2010. — http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/10_22/b4180020375312.htm

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New Coal Plants in China, India Built Under UN Clean Development Mechanism

Twelve companies are set to fund 20 “efficient” coal-fired power plants overseas in exchange for the right to continue producing their own emissions at home.

The Guardian (UK) has the story and explains it all, but the justification is that the new plants would be more “efficient” than older ones, and would be paid for by carbon offsets that British and European companies bought instead of cutting their own emissions.

Here’s the real crux of the problem: if Medupi is allowed to sell offsets, the Guardian continues, “It would be able offset all the emissions from a major new coal power station in the UK, effectively allowing the British government to meet its carbon-reduction targets by subsidizing a plant in South Africa that would have been built anyway.”

Check out CDM-Watch (Check the Reference) to learn more about criticisms of the Clean Development Mechanism from people who follow it regularly, and about what can be done to fix it.

Article by Rachel Cernansky at Planet Green.com, July 15, 2010. — http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tech-transport/new-coal-plants-china-india-built-under-un-clean-development-mechanism.html?print=true

Check the added detail at:

Rich Countries To Pay Energy Giants To Build New Coal-Fired Power Plants. The UN’s Clean Development Mechanism to use European carbon offset credits to subsidize 20 ‘efficient’ coal plants in India and China. Article by John Vidal, environment editor guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 14 July 2010. — http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/14/un-carbon-offset-coal-plants

CDM-Watchhttp://www.cdm-watch.org/ (Scrutinizing Carbon Offsets)

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Hydrocarbons and Geothermal Energy — A silent minority report

Geothermal power is probably the lowest-profile renewable energy option we have. It doesn’t get nearly the attention that wind and solar power do–even from me–although it has been quietly cranking out about 0.4% of the US electricity supply for many years. That roughly matches the expected output of all the wind turbines likely to be installed here this year. I’ve commented previously on the striking similarities between geothermal exploration and production and the processes and risk profile of oil and gas exploration & production, but I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned a small but potentially important overlap between the two: geothermal heat extracted from the fluids produced from oil and gas wells. The potential contribution of “geothermal hydrocarbon co-production” (GHCP) might not be as large as from conventional hydrothermal reservoirs or engineered geothermal systems (EGS), but this approach has the advantage of capitalizing on additional energy from a source that’s already being exploited.

In its report on the US geothermal industry earlier this year, the Geothermal Energy Association listed five projects involving GHCP and related efforts to tap the mechanical energy of high-pressure gas reservoirs, or geopressured fluids. The Department of Energy has recognized this potential and provided partial funding for several of these projects under its stimulus programs. GEA also cited an estimate from Southern Methodist University’s Geothermal Energy Program that GHCP from the onshore Gulf Coast region alone could provide up to 5,000 MW of reliable power. That doesn’t include the potential for using the large volumes of produced water in new or abandoned wells to tap the energy of higher-temperature rock formations underlying the hydrocarbon reservoirs using engineered geothermal systems (EGS).

There’s more — Check it out.

Article by Geoffrey Styles, The Energy Collective, November 9, 2010. — http://theenergycollective.com/geoffrey-styles/46900/hydrocarbons-and-geothermal-energy

Geothermal Industry Interim US Market Update, October 22, 2010 b y the Geothermal Association. — http://www.geo-energy.org/pdf/reports/Geothermal_Industry_Interim_Update_October2010_Final.pdf

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Kiss My Ash: How King Coal’s Lobbyists Are Undermining Coal Ash RegulationCoal ash dumps a ‘time bomb’ for Michigan and other water supplies, environmentalists say

The dangers associated with waste from coal-fired power plants got some attention last month when a billion gallons of coal ash spilled from a storage pond in Tennessee, contaminating surface waters with arsenic, mercury and lead. Michigan has plenty of its own problems stemming from coal ash contamination, regulators and environmentalists say, but because the ash is stored underground the problems have largely gone unnoticed. Stored in unsecured landfills, coal ash can leach toxins into groundwater, endangering the ecosystem of the Great Lakes, which contains 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.

The dangers associated with waste from coal-fired power plants got some attention last month when a billion gallons of coal ash spilled from a storage pond in Tennessee, contaminating surface waters with arsenic, mercury and lead. Michigan has plenty of its own problems stemming from coal ash contamination, regulators and environmentalists say, but because the ash is stored underground the problems have largely gone unnoticed.

Stored in unsecured landfills, coal ash can leach toxins into groundwater, endangering the ecosystem of the Great Lakes, which contains 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.

There’s a lot more here…check it out and read the referenced report. By the way, I wonder why these ‘green’ reporters in Michigan and Tennessee didn’t mention just how radioactive <it’s like Low-Level Waste> these unregulated ash piles are …but what a bit of uranium, thorium and radon more or less among friends.

Doc Sez what I report here is old news – problems with coal ash have been recognized since at least before 2008, as referenced below.

Article by Eartha Jane Melzer The Michigan Messenger, January 16, 2009http://michiganmessenger.com/11691/coal-ash-dumps-a-time-bomb-for-michigan-water-environmentalists-say

Referenced Report in the Article

DeSmogBlog and Polluter Watch present: Coal Fired Utilities to American Public: Kiss My Ash [a pdf]. This report reveals that between October, 2009 and April, 2010 industry representatives held at least 33 meetings with White House Office of Management and Budget staff–at least 4 months before the first public hearing on the proposed ruling on coal ash was held on August 30th.

More References

Coal Combustion: Nuclear Resource or Danger, by Alex Gabbard, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, February 5, 2008. — http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste, By Mara Hvistendahl, Scientific American,  December 13, 2007. — http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

Metals Pollute Waters Near US Coal Ash Spill: Group By Timothy Gardner

Reuters, NEW YORK | Fri Jan 2, 2009. — http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5013BO20090102?feedType=RSS&feedName=environmentNews

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Toxic Sludge From Hungary Spill Coats Villages, Threatens Danube — Another unintended environmental consequence

A red-tinged toxic sludge has been winding its way though villages in Hungary this week – the result of a metal plant reservoir that burst its banks in Ajka. The images have been both striking and shocking and local residents are growing more vocal in their distress over the disaster. Rescue workers continued clean-up efforts in villages already coated in the waste and the European Union called for action to prevent the flow from reaching the Danube River.

“This is a serious environmental problem,” EU spokesman Joe Hennon told reporters. “We are concerned, not just for the environment in Hungary, but this could potentially cross borders.” At least four people have died and 120 were injured when the reservoir of an alumina plant about 100 miles from Budapest broke Monday, sending a wave of solids loaded, hazardous liquid sludge into nearby villages. Injuries included chemical burns from contact with the waste. Hundreds of people have evacuated the area. Hungary has declared a state of emergency in three counties and said the clean up could cost tens of millions of dollars and will take at least a year. Click the link and read on…

While the spill itself has now been contained at the plant, she said, authorities are trying desperately to keep the waste from reaching the Danube. Workers are pouring plaster into the Marcal river, which feeds into the Danube, to try to bind the sludge, reported the Guardian, and have used other chemicals to try to neutralize its extremely alkaline pH.

Article by Talea Miller, PBS News Hour, October 6, 2010. — http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2010/10/toxic-sludge-from-hungary-spill-coats-villages-threatens-danube.html.

Also check: http://www.bullfax.com/?q=node-company-head-arrested-over-sludge-torrent-hungary for related stories. Although Sludge flood like Hungary’s unlikely in US according to regulators and experts, this has not yet been well documented. Think of the coal ash releases described earlier in this blog or other liquid ‘slag’ sumps.

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

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

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

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not surround each bit of quoted text with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented when it more than an added word or clarifying phrase.

Closing Remarks, Quips or Quotes

In my humble opinion — The energy density of conventional agricultural or urban waste, particularly when subtracting the energy to collect & prepare it for use is minuscule. High density-energy is our future requirement – not cardboard and poop.

‘G-d won’t allow global warming,’ congressman Representative John Shimkus (R-IL), who is seeking to head Energy Committee, says. I wonder what the representative would say about the plagues during the middle ages, the AIDS epidemic, The big one due off of the west coast, Hurricane Katrina and worse, or the Holocaust and African genocide.

Before G-d we are all equally wise – and equally foolish.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” – Albert Einstein.

Finally, a Greening Tid-Bit From my world-traveling sister who is a European history addict:

An environmental law almost implemented in Germany – by the Third Reich — The water intake for any communities drinking water must be located downstream of the nearest factory effluent outlet. Even the Nazi’s could not get this law ‘implemented’ – Carl Holder – Energy Consultant

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad © Copyright 2010, All right Reserved.

Introduction

Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

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

That introduction also tells a little about my information sources, all of which — pro and con — are referenced. On the sometimes negative, to my views side, I also pick up items from Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists, when they provide source references I can check, and authors whose technical credentials background I can verify.

Article selection — my blog – my choice — are obviously and intentionally biased by my education, training, experience and at rare times my emotional, philosophical and intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send us feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click through on the links I always provide if you want more details, as well as <often> added references on the same topic(s).

Doc.

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • ‘Radioactive Boars’ on the Loose in Germany
  • Dog Poop Has a Bright side: Powering a Massachusetts Park lamp
  • How to Cool an Electric Power Plant
  • The Earth Doesn’t Care About What is Done To or For It.
  • The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale — INES is 20 years Old
  • In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming
  • Recycling Land for Green Energy Ideas and projects
  • Clear-Cutting {forests} Has a High Cost
  • Pedego® Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry Demonstrate a High Density Power Solution for Electric Bicycles

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‘Radioactive Boars’ on the Loose in Germany

Berlin – Radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is still poisoning Germany’s boars nearly 25 years on, with authorities fighting to keep the {slightly} toxic meat off the market as the wild boar population rockets. The boars feed off mushrooms, truffles and wild berries which still contain higher than permitted levels of cesium-137, carried in the radioactive cloud that spread across Europe following the 1986 accident at the Ukrainian nuclear plant.

Cesium has a half-life of about 30 years so almost half of what was deposited as fall out had disappeared by natural decay. In addition, radio cesium contain compounds, indeed most cesium compounds are water-soluble. Much of that original fallout was washed deeply into the subsurface or diluted as runoff during the rains that keep the forests of Germany so green; but that’s another story.

“No one has fallen seriously ill after eating boar meat,” said Emrich, but all boar hunters in high-risk areas must have their game tested for radioactive contamination before it can go on sale in market stalls. According to the Bavarian health and food safety, nine of the 56 boars analyzed last year showed contamination well above the allowed level of 600 Becquerels per kilogram of meat, with some as much as twice the limit. < Snake oil anyone? >

The EPA has established a limit of 370 Becquerels per kilogram of meat in 1998 for imported food. The limit for domestic food is 1,200 Becquerels per kilo. As is usual with such guidelines, the calculations are based on the linear no threshold theory that is undergoing more scientific challenges and will ultimate be defined as invalid as this generation of regulators and health physicists, with vested interests in their reputations, dies out.

On the other hand the bioaccumulation of cesium in mushrooms, truffles and wild berries, which the boars feed off “still contained high levels of cesium-137 of up to 100 Becquerels”. < Help, this is below the regulatory limit so either this is much ado about nothing or is someone running for reelection. >  Note this too is a case of bioaccumulations (e.g., 100 to 600 Bqs since bears eat lots of mushrooms.

Doc wonders why American could eat all of these foods safely, when some German’s are concerned about them, however we were not in the direct path of the fallout from Chernobyl. …As far as the costs of all this European regulation to German tax payers, click though and find out why you pay the piper for over- regulation.

‘Radioactive boars’ on the loose. News 24.com, July 8, 2010 http://www.news24.com/World/News/Radioactive-boars-on-the-loose-20100807

Background References

European Cesium Limits in Food — http://www.stuk.fi/stuk/tiedotteet/2003/en_GB/news_287/

EPA Food Safety Standards for Radionuclides. US Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FoodContaminantsAdulteration/ChemicalContaminants/Radionuclides/UCM078341

Linear No Threshold [LNT] model. Wikipedia; See the first several paragraphs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_no-threshold_model

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Dog Poop Has a Bright side: Powering a Massachusetts Park lamp

It stinks and it’s a hazard to walkers everywhere, but it turns out dog poop has a bright side. Dog poop is lighting a lantern at a Cambridge dog park as part of a months long project that its creator, artist Matthew Mazzotta, hopes will get people thinking about not wasting waste.

The “Park Spark” poop converter is actually two steel, 500-gallon oil tanks painted a golden yellow, connected by diagonal black piping and attached to an old gaslight-style street lantern at the Pacific Street Park.

After the dogs do their business, signs on the tanks instruct owners to use biodegradable bags supplied on site to pick up the poop and deposit it into the left tank. People then turn a wheel to stir its insides, which contain  the waste and water. Microbes in the waste give off methane, an odorless gas that is fed through the tanks to the lamp and burned off. The park is small but has proven busy enough to ensure a steady supply of fuel.

The lamp, a shining example of how humans can make use of an underutilized and perpetually renewable energy source — feces — is the brainchild of Matthew Mazzotta, a conceptual artist who studied at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who wanted to give back to the community.

The Seattle Times by JAY LINDSAY Associated Press Writer September 22, 2010

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2012960688_apuspooppower.html …and …

AOL News: http://www.aolnews.com/weird-news/article/dog-poop-lights-up-city-park/19643188

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How to Cool an Electric Power Plant

Thermoelectric power plants, whether fossil-fueled or nuclear, require cooling water systems. The fuel source—uranium, coal or natural gas—heats water into steam, which drives a turbine generator that produces the electricity.

The exhausted steam from the turbine must be condensed back to water and recycled to the steam generator or boiler to begin the process anew. This condensation occurs by passing it through a heat exchanger—or condenser—where low-temperature cooling water absorbs the heat of the steam and cools it down to water again.

The majority of power plants use one of two types of cooling water systems. In a once-through or open-cycle cooling system, water is withdrawn from a water source, such as a lake, river or reservoir. The water passes through the condenser and is then returned to its original source, with a negligible amount of heat transferred to the aquatic environment.

In a recirculation or closed-cycle system, cooling water is pumped from the condenser to a “wet” cooling tower, where the heat of the water transfers to the ambient air by evaporation. The resulting lower temperature cooling water is then returned to the condenser, and the amount of water that evaporates in the cooling tower is replenished.

Once-through systems will draw more water than recirculating systems, but consume little of it—on average; only about 1 percent of the water withdrawn is ultimately consumed. Recirculating systems withdraw much less water than once-through systems, but consume about 70 percent to 90 percent of what they withdraw by evaporation in the cooling towers. Cooling towers consume about twice as much water as once-through systems.

Both systems typically withdraw only a very small quantity of water relative to the overall size of the water bodies on which they are located—typically 1 percent to 2 percent of the average river flow. The cooling water at nuclear plants that is returned to lakes and rivers is never made radioactive and is entirely safe.

The electric power industry is pursuing strategies to use less water, less fresh water, or no freshwater at all for plant cooling. There’s more, check it out.

Nuclear Energy Insight, July 2009.

http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/publicationsandmedia/insight/insightjuly2009/how-to-cool-a-power-plan

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The Earth Doesn’t Care About What is Done To or For It. I know this violates the dreams of all faithful Gaia Worshipers

The cover of The American Scholar quarterly carries an impertinent assertion: “The Earth Doesn’t Care if You Drive a Hybrid.” The essay inside is titled “What the Earth Knows.” What it knows, according to Robert B. Laughlin, co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics, is this: What humans do to, and ostensibly for, the earth does not matter in the long run, and the long run is what matters to the earth. We must, Laughlin says, think about the earth’s past in terms of geologic time.

For example: The world’s total precipitation in a year is about one meter—“the height of a golden retriever.” About 200 meters—the height of the Hoover Dam—have fallen on earth since the Industrial Revolution. Since the Ice Age ended, enough rain has fallen to fill all the oceans four times; since the dinosaurs died, rainfall has been sufficient to fill the oceans 20,000 times. Yet the amount of water on earth probably hasn’t changed significantly over geologic time.

Damaging this old earth is, Laughlin says, “easier to imagine than it is to accomplish.” There have been mass volcanic explosions, meteor impacts, “and all manner of other abuses greater than anything people could inflict, and it’s still here. It’s a survivor.”

Laughlin acknowledges that “a lot of responsible people” are worried about atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. This has, he says, “the potential” to modify the weather by raising average temperatures several degrees centigrade and that governments have taken “significant, although ineffective,” steps to slow the warming. “On the scales of time relevant to itself, the earth doesn’t care about any of these governments or their legislation.”

This is an incisive and deeply troubling, to me, article. Check the link and read the rest — feedback is welcome. Why troubling? It goes against all my beliefs.

Laughlin concludes his article by noting Six million years ago the Mediterranean dried up. Ninety million years ago there were alligators in the Arctic. Three hundred million years ago Northern Europe was a desert and coal formed in Antarctica. “One thing we know for sure,” Laughlin says about these convulsions, “is that people weren’t involved.”

Newsweek, by George F. Will, September 12, 2010 http://www.newsweek.com/2010/09/12/george-will-earth-doesn-t-care-what-is-done-to-it.print.html

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The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale — INES is 20 years Old

Jointly developed by the IAEA and the NEA in 1990, in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident, the international nuclear and radiological event scale helps nuclear and radiation safety authorities and the nuclear industry worldwide to rate (1) nuclear and radiological events and (2) to communicate their safety significance to the general public, the media and the technical community.

INES was initially used to classify events at nuclear power plants only. It was subsequently extended to rate events occurring in any nuclear facility and during the transport of radioactive material, thus also covering events related to the overexposure of workers. Since 2008, INES has been extended to any event associated with the transport, storage and use of radioactive material and radiation sources, from those occurring at nuclear facilities to those associated with industrial use.

More generally, INES has also become a crucial nuclear communications tool. Since its inception, it has been adopted in 69 countries, and an increasing number of countries have expressed their interest in using INES and have designated INES national officers. Over the years, national nuclear safety authorities have made growing use of INES, while the public and the media have become more familiar with the scale and its significance. This is where the true success of INES stands, having helped to foster transparency and to provide a better understanding of nuclear-related events and activities, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency said.

Doc Sez: Just because something happened and was reported, doesn’t make it a big deal. This is a universal truism, but one not accepted by news and fear mongers, and those afflicted with nuclearphobia. Although I’ve not succeeded, I’ve attempted to create a comparable scale for gas, oil and mineral extraction and for releases from chemical and heavily chemistry based production facilities. Any Ideas?

Certainly on a fatality per serious incident basis, respiratory illness caused by routine and accidental releases, and ground water contamination comparisons such a scale might also prove a useful communications tool. I wonder where Beijing and Denver smog, the BP oil Spill, and the enormous toxic waste spill recently reported in Hungry would rank against Chernobyl. Note the headline sucking TMI accident let to no fatalities and to no measurable increases in health effects. You can Google the actual TMI off site health and environmental consequences for your selves.

Nuclear Engineering International, October 22, 2010

http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?storyCode=2057833; and

The International Nuclear Event Scale, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Nuclear_Event_Scale

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In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming

Event Log

  • The floods battered New England, then Nashville, then Arkansas, then Oklahoma — and were followed by a deluge in Pakistan that has upended the lives of 20 million people.
  • RUSSIA Wildfires stoked by the country’s worst heat wave on record have caused clouds of smoke and burned 1.9 million acres.
  • CHICAGO June storms brought high winds and heavy rains, knocking out windows and leaving thousands without electricity.

The summer’s heat waves baked the eastern United States, parts of Africa and eastern Asia, and above all Russia, which lost millions of acres of wheat and thousands of lives in a drought worse than any other in the historical record.

Seemingly disconnected, these far-flung disasters are reviving the question of whether global warming is causing more weather extremes. The collective answer of the scientific community can be boiled down to a single word: probably.

“The climate is changing,” said Jay Lawrimore, chief of climate analysis at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. “Extreme events are occurring with greater frequency, and in many cases with greater intensity.”

He described excessive heat, in particular, as “consistent with our understanding of how the climate responds to increasing greenhouse gases.”

Theory suggests that a world warming up because of those gases will feature heavier rainstorms in summer, bigger snowstorms in winter, more intense droughts in at least some places and more record-breaking heat waves. Scientists and government reports say the statistical evidence shows that much of this is starting to happen.

But the averages do not necessarily make it easier to link specific weather events, like a given flood or hurricane or heat wave, to climate change. Most climate scientists are reluctant to go that far, noting that weather was characterized by remarkable variability long before humans began burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

There are more details and event images in the article.
Even the Russians are paying more attention.

Thermometer measurements show that the earth has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution, when humans began pumping enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. For this January through July, average temperatures were the warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported recently. NOAA scientists think is only the beginning of a trend that most experts believe will worsen substantially.

If the earth were not warming, random variations in the weather should cause about the same number of record-breaking high temperatures and record-breaking low temperatures over a given period. But climatologists have long theorized that in a warming world, the added heat would cause more record highs and fewer record lows.

The recent annual statistics suggest that is exactly what is happening. In the United States these days, about two record highs are being set for every record low. This seems to be telltale evidence that amid all the random variation of weather, the trend is toward a warmer climate.

Climate-change skeptics dispute such statistical arguments, contending that climatologists do not know enough about long-range patterns to draw definitive links between global warming and weather extremes. They cite events like the heat and drought of the 1930s as evidence that extreme weather is nothing new. Those were indeed dire heat waves, contributing to the Dust Bowl, which dislocated millions of Americans and changed the population structure of the United States.

But most researchers trained in climate analysis, while acknowledging that weather data in parts of the world are not as good as they would like, offer evidence to show that weather extremes are getting worse.

Doc Sez: It’s not a question of either whether mankind is the cause, or we’re just in a natural cycle upswing in temperature. The real issue {aka ethical question} is what are we, mankind going to do to protect all of us from the after affects of climate changes and the likelihood of drastic changes to the way we live. — Oh, my choice of pictures… ‘a rose by any other name still has thorns.’

The New York Times, Article by Justin Gillis, August 14, 2010, and links therein

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/science/earth/15climate.html?_r=1

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Recycling Land for Green Energy Ideas and Projects

Lemoore, Calif. — Thousands of acres of farmland here in the San Joaquin Valley have been removed from agricultural production, largely because the once fertile land is contaminated by salt buildup from years of irrigation. But large swaths of those dry fields could have a valuable new use in their future — making electricity.

Farmers and officials at Westlands Water District, a public agency that supplies water to farms in the valley, have agreed to provide land for what would be one of the world’s largest solar energy complexes, to be built on 30,000 acres.

At peak output, the proposed Westlands Solar Park would generate as much electricity as several big nuclear power plants.

Unlike some renewable energy projects blocked by objections that they would despoil the landscape, this one has the support of environmentalists. Check it out, for a change this is not a ‘wet’ dream.

The first phase of the project would consist of 9,000 acres leased from farmers. When covered in solar panels, that acreage would generate 600 to 1,000 megawatts of electricity. One megawatt is enough to power a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The New York Times, by Todd Woody Published: August 10, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/11/business/energy-environment/11solar.html?nl=&emc=aua21

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Clear-Cutting {forests} Has a High Cost

For people living in poverty in the Amazon, cutting down the rain forest often appears to be the only way to thrive economically—first by selling the lumber, later by farming and ranching on the land. A study published in Science in June indicates otherwise. Despite gaining some temporary benefits, communities that clear-cut their forests end up no better off than those who do not.

Ana Rodrigues of the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in France and her colleagues found that Amazonian towns in the midst of a deforestation binge initially see higher life expectancies, literacy rates, and incomes. But once the local forest is gone, income from timber typically dries up, the researchers believe; many farms and cattle ranches are abandoned after a few years because the nutrient-poor soil rapidly becomes depleted.

“The current development strategy results in a lose-lose-lose situation,” Rodrigues says. It destroys the rain forest habitat, fails to alleviate poverty, and contributes to global warming by eliminating trees that would absorb and store carbon dioxide. “The challenge now is to create a development path that is win-win-win.” One possibility, Rodrigues suggests, could be to create a provision in the next international climate-change treaty requiring wealthy countries with high carbon emissions to pay Brazilians for the environmental benefits of keeping their forests standing.

Bottom Line — Selling the lumber gets money in the short term but is a “lose-lose-lose” in the long term.

Discover Magazine, by Eliza Strickland, January 25, 2010

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jan-feb/22

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Pedego® Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry Demonstrate a High Density Power Solution for Electric Bicycles Electric bicycle gets 60-mile range with a portable hydrogen fuel cell

LAS VEGAS, NV: September 23, 2010 – Pedego®, Electric Bikes and SiGNa Chemistry have developed an ultra-high-performance range extender for electric bicycles.  The announced battery-fuel cell hybrid system is compatible with all existing Pedego bicycles and batteries.  For every 1.5 lbs. of weight a rider carries, an additional 700 watt-hours of energy is available (compared to ~350 watt-hours for an ultra-high performance lithium-polymer battery at a weight of 7 lbs.).

Compared to advanced Li-ion batteries, which have an energy density of about 65 Watt-hours per kilogram, SiGNa’s cartridges have an energy density of more than 1,000 Watt-hours per kilogram. The hydrogen cartridge produces up to 200 Watts of continuous power, and excess energy is stored in a Li-ion battery for climbing hills and energy-intensive acceleration.

The new hybrid system utilizes the battery for peak conditions such as acceleration and hill climbing, while the fuel cell to extend the operating range of a Pedego bicycle by over 40 miles for each additional cartridge.

Riders can carry additional cartridges, which are real-time hot swappable.  A key innovation is the use of sodium silicide to liberate hydrogen from water as needed by the hybrid fuel cell. The hydrogen system is safe, as the hydrogen is produced at just 50% of the pressure in a soda can. The system’s only emission is water vapor, and sodium silicate, an environmentally safe byproduct of sodium silicide, which is fully contained in the cartridge.

PhysOrg News, October 6, 2010 http://www.physorg.com/news205599186.html

By Charlie Sorrel October 4, 2010, Wired, http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/10/electric-bike-runs-almost-on-water

Pedego Electric Bicycles — http://www.pedegoelectricbikes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=3

SiGNa Chemistry — http://signachem.com/2010/10/electric-bicycle-gets-60-mile-range-with-portable-hydrogen-fuel-cell/

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

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

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

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for your comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

I compulsively again share Dr. Isaac Asimov thoughts on evidence.

Paraphrasing: The Paradigm I’ve Live By, a quote from Dr. Isaac Asimov writer, thinker and scientist. 

  • “I believe in evidence.
  • I believe in observation, in measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers.
  • I’ll believe any thing, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

I would also add Albert Einstein’s comment Scientific-Technical “insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Emphasis Added – The same holds true for half-truths and fear mongering by those with vested interests and/or undocumented and presently un-documentable beliefs.

Readers Please Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable — and if you Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many studies that are skeptical.

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

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
The important thing is not to stop questioning.” — Albert Einstein.

I seem to have a thing for Albert Einstein this month, coming soon Feynman and Hawking my other heros.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad, © Copyrigght 2010, All right Reserved. 

——— The most interesting & eclectic of what I read.

Introduction

Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

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

Paraphrasing: The Paradigm I’ve Live By, a quote from Dr. Isaac Asimov writer, thinker and scientist. 

  • “I believe in evidence.
  • I believe in observation, in measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers.
  • I’ll believe any thing, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

Let me reemphasize on more bias. Research does not create sustainable jobs despite politician claims, neither does piloting (scale-up testing} of new technology. Going commercial, without subsidies, and making a profit does. More customers, the more jobs, and making a profit for their creators are the only sustainable path.

Remember, governments have an almost perfect record of picking failure relative to commercialization and new technology based job creation. It does and should support R&T, Scaleup efforts and guaranties for capital-intensive projects and the higher cost/risk to keep the NIMBY wolves eating projects by legal tactics in the courts. Alternatively, if the messiah comes soon, let the challengers and their lawyers pay the undiscounted out of pockets costs for any delays they cause.

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through the provided link if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).

Doc.

Titles, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The New Snippets

  • The Greener Energy World Has a New Class of Refuseniks — The UltraNIMBY
  • The Water Costs of Fossil Fuel Production
  • The Return of the Automotive Steam Engine
  • New Zealand Sheep Farmers Harvest Carbon Credits — Growing trees can be more profitable than raising sheep
  • Gulf Oil Disaster: Looking Beyond the Spill, Obama Highlights Long-Term Restoration
  • Climate Change: Critics Are Far Less Prominent Than Supporters /// US National Academy of Sciences Clears Climatologists of Wrong Doing.
  • Nuclear Micro-reactors Could Supply Jobs, Energy to South Dakota
  • Algae Might Be a Viable Source of Clean, Renewable Diesel Fuel
  • Which Senators Refuse to Let Coal Ash Be Regulated as Hazardous Waste?

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The Greener Energy World Has a New Class of Refuseniks — The UltraNIMBY

“For the past 25 years, virtually anyone who opposed the construction of some kind of major energy facility, such as an oil or gas storage tank, electrical transmission line, power plant, or wind farm in his or her area has been labeled, derisively, as a “NIMBY,” an acronym standing for “Not In My Back Yard.”

I do in principal agree with Glenn Scheede that “it’s time to shed light on the NIMBY issue, identify provable NIMBYs associated fears, and challenge those who use the epithet in an attempt to avoid dealing with real, substantive issues raised by energy projects. Those fears – concerns, as described by their author, are found later in this article.

“Citizens have long been concerned about adverse health, safety, noise, environmental, and ecological impacts of energy and other facilities located near them, including projects that impair scenic, property, and other values they consider important. Federal, state and local governments have enacted a variety of measures to protect private property rights and to limit adverse impacts extending beyond property lines. Governments have also exercised powers of eminent domain to permit construction of facilities that government authorities believe have public benefits that should override private property rights.

“Objections to the location of energy facilities is not a phenomenon that begins with people living in rural areas or those who wish to protect scenic areas or the value of privately owned property. Instead, objections to the location of energy facilities really begin with people living in urban and suburban (“metropolitan”) areas and organizations located in those areas.

“People and organizations in these areas account for a majority of the nation’s energy demand. These people and organizations want the convenience of having reliable energy supplies — electricity, gas or oil — immediately available for their homes, offices, shopping centers, and cars.

“However, they don’t want storage tanks, electric generating units (whether powered by coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, or wind) located anywhere near their homes and offices or impairing their parks or scenic areas or impairing their views or life styles. Also, they want the pipelines and electric transmission and distribution lines needed to bring the energy to their homes and offices to be as nearly invisible as possible – preferably buried underground.”

However I also believe many of those whose hue and cry stop energy related projects are fueled by either misinformation, selfish self interests and/or at time the dupes of the circulation seeking media and vested interest naysayers. On a case-by case basis, just keep reading and dissecting the protests against energy projects, and see who gains at general societies loss. Then make up your own mind

I also strongly believe that in a democratic society, the common good must prevail, and that those who cause delay or actually stop well conceived, technically defensible and commercial viable energy project need to be forced to pay the piper for cost they cause to be run up.

“So, while they want the convenience of immediately available energy, they also want any adverse environmental, health or safety impacts kept away and out of their sight! They insist that adverse impacts associated with the facilities should be borne by someone else — as far away as possible.

“For example —

  • People in California object to power plants in their area, but are quite willing to import electricity generated in Utah or Arizona using coal or nuclear energy. They also want oil and gasoline for their vehicles (even from insecure or hostile nations!) and natural gas for generating plants but do not want any production from oil and gas reserves located off California’s coast.
  • People in the New York City metropolitan area demand electricity but also want necessary generating plants and transmission lines that serve their needs to be built in upstate or western New York – or even in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia or West Virginia.
  • People in New England want adequate and reliable electricity but prefer that it be generated elsewhere, perhaps in Canada, and moved to them over long transmission lines.
  • Political leaders are eager to override citizen and local government opposition to electric generating plants, wind farms, and transmission lines but would be aghast if a 400+ foot wind turbine with blades covering an area larger than the length and wingspan of a 747 aircraft was placed on the front lawn of a capitol building or executive mansion in Washington DC or a state capital, or if a transmission line with 125 foot towers were to be placed near their private residences.”

How should people who object to energy or other facilities respond when developers or others seek to dismiss their objections by labeling them “NIMBYs”? Glenn Scheede suggest the following five steps to factually substantiate you claims and concerns.

  • First, learn the details of the proposed project and its true costs and benefits, both for the owner, the area, and the nation.
  • Second, those objecting to a proposed facility should have a sound, substantive case for objecting to the facility.
  • Third, identify and understand the motives of those promoting construction of the facility, particularly those people using the “NIMBY” label in a derisive way.
  • Fourth, those who are labeled “NIMBYs” should not be embarrassed and should not “back off” when they are pressured.
  • Fifth, citizens should not be intimidated by government pronouncements concerning the energy technologies and facilities that should be constructed.

The article concludes with the question — What should be done about necessary energy facilities < emphasis added>?

“Are some of these facilities clearly necessary and in the national and public interest? Certainly they are, but that doesn’t diminish the critical questions: (a) where should they be located, (b) who should bear the adverse environmental, scenic and property value impacts, and the health and safety risks, (c) how should those who are adversely affected be compensated, (d) should eminent domain laws be changed to give greater protection and/or compensation to those adversely affected, (e) how should people in rural areas be protected, particularly if they are not protected by zoning laws, and/or they have inadequate political representation because legislatures are dominated by representatives from urban areas?

Alternatives should be evaluated. Perhaps, more facilities such as electric generating plants should be located near or IN the heart of metropolitan areas that are being served so that long transmission lines with attendant losses of electricity are not needed. Many cities have blighted areas that could be restored with properly constructed generating plants – perhaps not as large as those plants would be if located at a distance, but still large enough to supply a significant amount of electricity for people in the urban area.” Read further to find out about a nuclear alternative that proposes the use of micro scale nuclear reactors so you can get only the amount of power you want/need at lower cost and risk.

There’s more detail in Glenn’s fine analysis – please check out the link and read on!

I found this article written by Glenn R. Schleede, and posted on March 2, 2009 by accident. This one speaks for itself. Although the UltraNIMBY, as an individual or grouped in protest may have valid reasons for their concern, they must prove them and let the review process determine whether their individual good, out weight that of their regional neighbors, the country and the world.

I have in this and other articles and books shared how things like nuclearphobia or radiophobia cause cost in siting and building a nuclear energy generation plant to be 3 to 5 time that in other no-less safety conscious countries. How many of our children will die of small pox, once eradicated, because of fears, which are scientifically demonstrated and peer supported, of unproven dangers of vaccination?

http://www.nimbyexperts.com/uploads/1/7/3/9/1739724/schleede-ultranimby.pdf

“Schleede is semi-retired after spending more than 35 years dealing with energy related matters in the federal government and private sector. He writes frequently about wind and other energy issues, particularly government policies that have adverse impacts on taxpayers and consumers.”

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The Water Costs of Fossil Fuel Production

— Burning Water: A Comparative Analysis of the Energy Return on Water Invested

A short tidbit… In comparing competing sources of energy, many recent analyses have focused on relative conversion efficiencies and associated greenhouse gas emissions. However, other potentially limiting factors also contribute to the value of a given approach. Based on the prediction that fresh water will become one of the most limited resources in the future, Mulder et al. [http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1007/s13280-009-0003-x] estimated the energy return on fresh water input (for production and processing) across a range of energy technologies.

Mulder and the team found “while various energy-producing technologies have been analyzed to assess the amount of energy returned per unit of energy invested, this type of comprehensive and comparative approach has rarely been applied to other potentially limiting inputs such as water, land, and time. We assess the connection between water and energy production and conduct a comparative analysis for estimating the energy return on water invested (EROWI) for several renewable and non-renewable energy technologies using various Life Cycle Analyses. Our results suggest that the most water-efficient, fossil-based technologies have an EROWI one to two orders of magnitude greater than the most water-efficient biomass technologies, implying that the development of biomass energy technologies in scale sufficient to be a significant source of energy may produce or exacerbate water shortages around the globe and be limited by the availability of fresh water.”

One of the more striking outcomes of the analysis is that the most efficient petroleum-based energy source (diesel fuel) yields over two orders of magnitude more energy per volume of fresh water used than does biomass. Such a vast difference in return on water invested suggests that policies striving to replace fossil fuels with biomass resources—their many other appealing characteristics notwithstanding—may exacerbate the increased burden on a global fresh water supply already stressed from the higher agricultural demands of a more populated world (though feedstock shifts may relieve some of this pressure). Solar and wind technologies show potential advantages in this context. — NW

By Nicholas S. Wigginton, Science Magazine VOL 327,        26 MARCH 2010

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/327/5973/1555-a.pdf

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The Return of the Automotive Steam Engine?

Startup Cyclone Power thinks it has a way to replace internal combustion engines.

The gasoline-powered, internal combustion engine dominated transportation during the 20th century, but during the early years of the automobile it wasn’t obvious that it would beat out two alternatives: batteries and steam

The Cyclone Engine is a Rankine Cycle heat regenerative external combustion, otherwise known as a “Schoell Cycle” engine. In short, the Cyclone is a 21st century, high efficiency, compact and powerful steam engine.  It is capable of running on virtually any fuel (or combination of fuels) including today’s promising new bio fuels, while emitting far fewer pollutants than traditional gas or diesel powered internal combustion engines. To date, Cyclone has over 1,000 hours of running and testing our engines, has achieved verified thermal efficiencies above 30%, and is very close to putting the first of these engine models into small-scale commercial production.

The movement to cut carbon emissions and petroleum consumption has of course renewed interest in electric vehicles. But there’s also an effort to revive the steam engine.

Today I got a letter (speaking of antiquated technologies) from the president of the Steam Automobile Club of America, Tom Kimmel, directing my attention to Cyclone Power Technologies, a startup based in Pompano Beach, FL. A few days ago, the company demonstrated its new steam engine, which generates 100 horsepower. The company has also posted some videos of the engine here. It can run on just about any source of heat: the sun, wood pellets, biofuels, diesel, or waste heat from other engines. Basically anything that can be used to produce a head of steam. The first application would be generating power from waste heat, the company says, but the engine could also be used to power vehicles.

Kimmel writes that steam engines can run directly on biomass, without the need to convert it into biofuels, with the energy losses that this entails. But there’s a reason why liquid fuels beat out the alternatives before–they store more energy. It’s hard to imagine this being a real alternative–outside of some nice applications. Anyone think otherwise?

In reading the feedback on this hard science based blog, I was again made aware of how both uninformed and scientifically unknowledgeable most readers are about even simple scientific concepts. Many of the feedback items noted that water can’t burn and therefore the idea was absurd. Of course water can’t burn and obviously it contains NO carbon…duh! , But any carbon based fuel from pelletized wood to the oil from MacDonald’s potato fryers makes a great source of energy of a boiler converting water to steam with less energy overall need to concert it to a biodiesel. No I’m not going to hang a list references to life cycle costs for the conversion of used oil to biodiesel for burning in an internal combustion engine.  Perhaps burning such ‘waste’ efficiently in a diesel engine, to burning that fuel directly in a modern steam engine to run the boiler.

Google it your self to get the input pieces and do the calculation for yourself. But just maybe as ‘dancrisso’ noted in the blog feedback, steam engines can do away with gearboxes. It is a great idea to work on steam engines and find a way to power generators & cars. We can perhaps directly convert all combustible our waste and reduce consumption of imported oil. [Emphasis provided by doc.] Ah the sweet <???> smell of success.

Another set of feedback to Kevin Bull’s blog stated, “Steam is a significant source of CO2. Water vapor of any kind produces a lot of carbon dioxide. Oceans, for instance, are the number one cause of CO2 emissions. Goodness knows, if we were trying to cut back on CO2, steam would be counter- productive. We should be more like Mars- though desolate, it has halted its CO2 production by drying up all its water and consolidating all its carbon dioxide in the form of dry ice at its polar caps. Have you seen any steam cars on Mars? No, because they know its bad for the environment. It would take a page or two to point out the incorrect assumptions in this puppy — you count the ways.

Information for the rebuttal argument can be found at: [http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/Bi-Ca/Carbon-Dioxide-in-the-Ocean-and-Atmosphere.html], or in the Wikipedia Articles on Carbon Dioxide

By Kevin Bullis

Technology Review, December 15, 2009

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/energy/24534/

Will Your Next Car Be Steam Powered? RideLust  Blog,
http://www.ridelust.com/will-your-next-car-be-steam-powered/

Cyclone Power Web Site See a video and read bout how the engine works  — http://www.cyclonepower.com/index.html

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New Zealand Sheep Farmers Harvest Carbon CreditsGrowing trees can be more profitable than raising sheep

…Is this another potential case of unintended consequences related to short-term gains tied to long-term losses?

In New Zealand, where the sheep outnumber humans 9 to 1 and National Lamb Day is celebrated every Feb. 15, a carbon emission trading system that kicked off in July is upending the economics of sheep farming, a once crucial sector of the economy. Sheep farmers are walking away from the business of selling wool and lamb chops and are converting their grazing lands into tree farms that could prove valuable when the country’s agricultural sector is forced to pay for greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2015.

Home to alpine glaciers, massive mountain ranges, and rolling green farmland, New Zealand would seem the last place on earth with a greenhouse gas problem. (The country actually ranks 51st in such emissions with only 0.2 percent of the world total, according to the U.N.) Yet sheep and other livestock do have carbon foot (or hoof) prints. Sheep emit methane when they belch and nitrous oxide through their waste.

Prime Minister John Key’s government in Wellington has said a carbon trading regime probably won’t have a big impact on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet will boost the country’s green credentials and clout in global climate talks. The government’s carbon program is also a welcome opportunity for some sheep farmers, struggling against slumping wool prices, drought, and competition for land from the dairy and lumber industries, to diversify, says Neil Walker, a forester in the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island.

Farmers who convert their land from sheep grazing to planting trees could add $172 per acre in value each year to their land holdings, says David Evison, a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury’s New Zealand School of Forestry. Forests planted for carbon credits may increase to 74,000 acres, or about 0.27 percent of all pasture and grass land a year, compared with about 8,650 acres in 2009, the government estimates. “It turns forestry into a cash-flow business,” says Evison.

Some New Zealanders aren’t convinced carbon farming is a wise move. Communities that rely on the farm economy are losing jobs once held by shearers, mechanics, and veterinarians. Farmers may not understand the risks involved in forestry, says Don Nicolson, president of Federated Farmers of New Zealand. And while the loss of sheep farms is likely permanent, the carbon-trading program may only be temporary, and its benefits illusory, Nicolson says.

Nicolson estimates carbon forests could replace 20 percent, or 2,800, sheep and beef farms and put the economy in danger. He says farmers are being sold on carbon trading without understanding that they could lose trees to fire or disease or that the government might cancel the program at any time. “The trouble is, it comes with massive risk, and that’s not what’s being talked about,” says Nicolson.

The bottom line: New Zealand sheep farmers are converting pastureland to forests, driven by a carbon-trading plan whose benefits some doubt.

By Stuart Biggs, Bloomberg Businessweek, August 26, 2010

http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/10_36/b4193027868842.htm

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Gulf Oil Disaster: Looking Beyond the Spill, Obama Highlights Long-Term Restoration

As disastrous as the oil spill has been, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy is just the latest affliction for wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico. For decades this productive coastline has been sliced apart by navigation channels and chewed through by invasive rodents. Worse, engineering of the Mississippi River has starved the delta of the sediment needed to keep it above sea level. All told, nearly 6000 square kilometers of wetlands have disappeared underwater in the past 100 years. Even though about $1.2 billion has been committed over the past 2 decades by the state of Louisiana and the federal government, efforts to restore the ecosystem are dwarfed by the scope of the problem.

 

Tough choices. Louisiana’s coastal plan includes a proposal (left), recommended by scientists, to divert river water and maximize new land. Another concept (right) would disrupt fisheries less and better protect downstream infrastructure.

All told, nearly 6000 square kilometers of wetlands along the Gulf of Mexico have disappeared underwater in the past 100 years. Even though more than $2 billion has been committed over the past 2 decades by the state of Louisiana and the federal government, efforts to restore the ecosystem are dwarfed by the scope of the problem. But now advocates have hopes for new momentum. In a primetime speech about the oil spill, President Barack Obama last week called for long-term restoration and put the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, who was governor of Mississippi from 1988 to 1992, in charge of developing a plan.

By Erik Stokstad, Science 25 June 2010: 
 Vol. 328. No. 5986, pp. 1618 – 1619

Full story at http://www.info-aaas.org/l.jsp?d=5148.573996.654.4vN0mfC5_

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Climate Change: Critics Are Far Less Prominent Than Supporters

A new analysis of 1372 climate scientists who have participated in major climate science reviews or taken public positions on their main conclusions confirms what many researchers have said for years: Those who believe in anthropogenic climate change rank, on average, much higher in the scientific pecking order than do those who take issue with the idea.

The co-authors examined lists of scientists who have signed statements in support or opposition to the main findings over the years of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, namely that the planet is warming and humans are largely responsible. They categorized the scientists as either “convinced” or “unconvinced” and then analyzed how many papers involving climate they had published. “Unconvinced” scientists comprised only 2% of the top 50 researchers ranked by number of climate publications and 3% of the top 100. Among scientists with 20 or more papers on climate, the so-called convinced group had an average of 172 citations for their top paper compared with 105 for the unconvinced.

But the paper, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, faces several criticisms. The first is that the grouping of researchers into “unconvinced” and “convinced” fails to capture the nuances of scientific views on the subject. That makes the paper a “pathological politicization of climate science,” says Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder. Pielke also objects to applying the “unconvinced” label to anyone who signed a paper opposing immediate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. “So you are a ‘climate skeptic’ if you have a certain view on climate policy?” he asks. “Bizarre.”

Critics say the results reflect the cliquishness or biases inherent in peer-reviewed science. “We are being “black-listed,” as best I can tell, by our colleagues,” says John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, who was in the “unconvinced” group.

On a generally similar climate studies related subject, a pat of the infamous email blame game, US Panel(s) Faults IPCC Leadership But Praises Its Conclusions.

The world’s most authoritative climate science bodies, the U. S. National Academies of Science and Engineering, noted that based on it’s studies and has performed well enough so far, says a new independent review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is also supported by scores of individual papers in recent months have confirmed the bottom line of the IPCC assessments: The world is warming due to release of greenhouse gases from human activities, and the emerging consequences are severe.

But the report, from a panel convened by a coalition of national science academies, says the increased public scrutiny IPCC is facing and the growing importance of its work means that it must do better than that.

“Overall, IPCC’s assessment process has been a success and served society well,” says Harold Shapiro, president emeritus of Princeton University and head of the review carried out by the Inter-Academy Council (IAC). But “it’s not as agile and responsive as it needs to be,” the report says.

Both by Eli Kintisch, Science 25 June 2010: 
 Vol. 328. No. 5986, p. 1622 http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/328/5986/1622-b?sa_campaign=Email/sntw/25-June-2010/10.1126/science.328.5986.1622-b

Also:

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/329/5996/1135?sa_campaign=Email/sntw/3-September-2010/10.1126/science.329.5996.1135

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Nuclear micro-reactors could supply jobs, energy to South Dakota — An Op-Ed Piece

A new generation of small, low-cost nuclear plants soon might be producing climate-friendly energy. Known as micro-reactors, they could be built at factories in the United States for a fraction of the cost of conventional nuclear plants.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently said that micro-reactors could be licensed, built and generating electricity by 2020. Some utilities might prefer micro-reactors instead of a large nuclear plant. Others might see a need for both.

Artist’s Rendering — Toshiba 4S Reactor Design Hyperion Power Generation’s Mini Nuclear Reactor

If micro-reactors no larger than semitrailers can be deployed within a decade, a significant reduction in global greenhouse-gas emissions could occur. Small modular reactors capable of producing 45 megawatts to 140 megawatts of electricity could be manufactured quickly at a factory and transported by rail or barge to a nuclear site for one-tenth the cost of 1,200-megawatt designs being planned. Utilities could use them to replace coal-fired power plants that face future restrictions and penalties for carbon.

The article continues with (1) discussions of barriers to introducing micro reactors, (2) general descriptions of such reactors, (3) Potential benefits to South Dakota by using this form of nuclear power generation, and finally described the industrial players who are leading the micro reactor efforts.

Most micro-reactor designs are simplified versions of large reactors, requiring fewer pumps, valves and moving parts but using the same conventional light water technology. But unlike traditional plants, micro-reactors would be small enough to be located underground for added safety.  Moreover, many micro-reactors are being designed to refuel every five years instead of every 18 to 24 months as nuclear plants are today. Since they also could either be cooled by water or air, there is no need to locate them near lakes, rivers or the ocean. States in the arid West and the semi-arid Great Plains might find this appealing.

I agree, but with the proviso that the licensed reactors be installed and refueled in a mode that protects them from proliferation risks and potential terrorist attacks. — Doc.

Robert McTaggart • September 1, 2010, The Aurgus Leader Website (Sioux Falls)

http://www.argusleader.com/article/20100901/VOICES05/9010317/1052/OPINION01 {Robert McTaggart, 41, of Brookings is associate professor of physics at South Dakota State University.}

More Reading

Micro Nuclear Reactor and references/links therein, Wikipedia – 2010 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_nuclear_reactor

Mini Nuclear Plants to Power 20,000 Homes, by John Vidal and Nick Rosen, The Observer (UK, Sunday 9 November 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/nov/09/miniature-nuclear-reactors-los-alamos

Traveling Wave Reactors, Wikipedia, 2010 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_wave_reactor

Traveling-Wave Reactor, Technology Review, March/April 2009 http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/22114/

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Algae Might Be a Source of Clean, Renewable Diesel Fuel

“At the beginning we’d tell people, ‘I know this sounds crazy,’” says Bryan Willson, a Colorado State University engineer and cofounder of Solix Biofuels.

When researchers conceived of turning algae into diesel fuel three decades ago, the idea sounded like something out of the old sci-fi movie Soylent Green. But in July, ExxonMobil teamed up with biologist Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics to take algaebiofuel to the marketplace. ExxonMobil has invested $600 million to design better strains of algae and to convert them into fuel. Meanwhile, several start-up companies—including Aurora Biofuels and Solix Biofuels —have built pilot plants that prove it is possible to brew algae-derived diesel fuel in large quantities. “At the beginning we’d tell people, ‘I know this sounds crazy,’” says Bryan Willson, a Colorado State University engineer and cofounder of Solix Biofuels. “But with the Exxon Mobil investment, algae is entering the mainstream.”

Traditional biofuel crops such as soybeans yield 50 to 150 gallons of fuel per planted acre per year, but Solix’s facility near Durango, Colorado, is producing more than 2,000. The centerpiece is a sealed growth chamber, or photo-bioreactor, made from a clear polymer to let sunlight through; inside is a strain of algae selected for its high rate of oil production. (Closed reactors are less susceptible to contamination by out side algae than are open-pond systems.) After the algae are harvested, their oils are extracted and refined into renewable diesel. Besides sunlight, the algae require little more than carbon dioxide from nearby power plants, so operating expenses should be low.

Willson predicts his company’s algae fuel (and its co-products, which are to be sold for animal feed) will be cost-competitive with petroleum diesel within five years. “It represents a large-scale solution to a global problem,” he says.

Doc Sez, this area is becoming more interesting as a possible achievable technology since it has move d from laboratory, to pilot plant and soon to scaled up further. At that point we’ll, as will ExxonMobil, whether the whole effort will be cost effective. An issue I’d like to learn more abut is how such a product will be distributed into the normal fuel (e.g., gas station, heating oil supply chain) and whether it is will need to be dispensed separately or can be mixed with petroleum diesel fuel.

This is an area worth following closely, but always being reminded that diesel, like any alternative fuel such as biodiesel, must be compatible with the existing distribution-user devices systems chain or will need to sustain the costs of modifying it in a cost effective manner. I’ve not had the time to check out the general chemistry of such algal oils to see how they compare with the hydrocarbons used in diesel engines. Feedback of course is welcome.

By Elizabeth Svoboda, Discover Magazine, January-February 2010 Special Issue; http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jan-feb/37

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Which Senators Refuse to Let Coal Ash Be Regulated as Hazardous Waste?

— Despite numerous studies on the potential health risks of using coal ash in products many members of the public are exposed to daily.

We know that the EPA {was?} is considering classifying coal ash as hazardous waste, and we’ve heard that the process is a bit lacking in transparency. The EPA wrote initially “maintaining a [nonhazardous] approach would not be protective of human and the environment.” Now, here’s at least one clue into what’s holding the EPA back on taking the leap to recognizing coal ash, the waste produced at coal-fired power plants, as hazardous waste.

First, 31 members of the House energy committee, nine of them Democrat and 22 Republican, sent a letter to the EPA denouncing such a classification. Fine, mostly Republicans and all members on the energy committee — to be expected. But Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, both Democrats, sent a separate letter (coauthored by Sam Brownback—definitely not a Democrat) to the EPA pressing the agency to continue to treat coal ash as a non-hazardous material. . Read more from the Center for Public Integrity.

From their letter, which Conrad posted online and which the Center for Public Integrity points out echoes “almost word for word the utility industry’s letters to the EPA opposing its coal ash waste plan”: “Regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste is simply not warranted. Doing so would fly in the face of years of research and force unworkable requirements on our state’s utilities, resulting in serious economic consequences.”

The letter also says, “Federal policies should encourage greater recycling of CCRs by facilities that use coal,” despite numerous stories from around the country illustrating the potential health risks of using coal ash (CCR is “coal combustion residue”), which contains and leaches toxic metals like arsenic, in products that people use in their daily lives, including roofing shingles, fertilizers, even kitchen countertops. It is also used in highway de-icing and can be mixed into resurfacing compounds.

By Rachel Cernansky, Green Planet.com Blog, Aug 16, 2010

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/work-connect/which-senators-refuse-coal-ash-regulated-hazardous-waste.html/ Also See —the Center for Public Integrity web site.

http://www.publicintegrity.org/blog/entry/2299/

References

EPA Proposed Rule: RIN – 2050-AE81; Hazardous And Solid Waste Management System; Identification And Listing Of Special Wastes; Disposal Of Coal Combustion Residuals From Electric Utilities

http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/industrial/special/fossil/ccr-rule/ccr-rule-prop.pdf

Opens Public Comment Period on Coal Ash. What Happens If It’s Not Regulated as Hazardous Waste? By Rachel Cernansky, Green Planet.com, Jun 30, 2010

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/travel-outdoors/epa-opens-public-comment-period-coal-ash-what-happens-if-not-regulated-hazardous-waste.html

EPA Backed Off ‘Hazardous’ Label for Coal Ash After White House Review

By PATRICK REIS (of Greenwire) to the New York Times Published: May 7, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/05/07/07greenwire-epa-backed-off-hazardous-label-for-coal-ash-af-10431.html

As an aside I wonder whether is rulemaking will move to the same inaction that in the past lead to classify radioactive coal clinkers (furnace bottoms) as non-regulated from a radwaste perspective while treating less highly radio- active nuclear waste materials as if one exposure, however slight will possibly cause you cancer.  Yes I know I’m mixing cats and dogs here, but it’s my column. In addition, I have no idea how well ground water regulation pertain to such burned coal bottom hills which are also loaded with toxic materials.

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ATTRIBUTIONS

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

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

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

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the duplicated material with quotation marks, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

AFTER THOUGHTS

I’ll continue posting articles for attract your interest and at times anger you in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Thanks for Reading – Feedback is welcome.

Readers Please Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable, scalable, and make an unsubsidized profit for their investors, including the taxpayer.

If you Google new technologies in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often, as many studies that are skeptical — Beware, think out of the box, and search for unintended consequences.

What I now know, and truly hold to be true about energy and climate change — For green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases), these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, 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 things {climate change} are all a conspiracy, move on to the next article in our blog. Today’s favorite is tomorrow unintended consequence. However, facing that possibility is better than sticking one’s head in the sand or believing in perpetual motion. Remember, that “G_d Does Not Play Dice With the Universe” (Einstein) – and mankind is far from perfect. Remember, there’s no free lunch — as a taxpayer and consumer you must always end up paying the piper. The most recent example is corn based ethanol… for which you twice {as noted above} both as a taxpayer and as a driver.

May your world get greener and all creatures on G_d’s green Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their destinies
in this Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All right Reserved.

Introduction

Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at :-}

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

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters to which I subscribe. However, as a fallen chemist I still subscribe to Chemical & Engineering News. A magazine published by the American Chemical Society. I’ve been a member of that organization for over 50 year, despite having switched my attention to the safe disposal of high-level (the hot stuff) nuclear wastes including both those generated in the defense of our country and from the generation of nuclear electricity. So I decided to see what I could glean fro the last half-inch or so of back issues, that might interest our readers.

Chemistry is related to, by less than three degrees of separation, to most aspects of our lives from energy we use, to the production food and safety, medicine to extend our lives, and is a critical part of all the widgets and do-dads that make up our technology toys. So, enough blabbering, here’s the best what I found.

Doc.

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Now, As Usual, in No Formal Order, The Titles of My New Snippets

  • Our World is Really Warming
  • Biofuel Feedstocks From Algae are Getting Big-Gun Attention
  • Natural Gas Drilling Process Draws Environmental Scrutiny
  • Fuel From The Sun — Water + sunlight = fuel.
  • The Value Of Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon Dioxide’s Emissions Control Unsettled Future
  • Microbes To The Rescue? — The Gulf Oil Spill
  • The Gambler — My degree says I’m a doctor, would you let me perform open-heart surgery on you?

As always my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).

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Our World is Really Warming this despite the naysayers who keep blowin’ in the wind.

Ten measurable, global features all provide evidence that Earth’s climate  has warmed during the past half-century, according to a report released last week by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 2010, 6, S1). Seven indicators showed an uptick: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and temperature of the troposphere, which is the lowest layer of the atmosphere. And three indicators declined: the extent of Arctic sea ice, the mass of glaciers, and spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere. “These independently produced lines of evidence all point to the same conclusion: Our planet is warming,” explains NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. NOAA’s “State of the Climate” Report for 2009 is based on information from scientific institutions around the world and includes data from satellites, weather balloons, ships, and field surveys. The report was published as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and is available at www.ncdc.noaa.gov/bams-state-of-the-climate/2009.php.

Doc Sez, no matter how you drink your tea, it can’t all be a conspiracy. Perhaps a universal global hallucination fostered upon us by ET’s whose motives we’ll never figure out, but no a conspiracy. Once again I ask who will gain by fostering denial. It doesn’t mater whether you believe that the change is anthropogenic (Man caused) or not. If the continuing tends, which rely on:

  • Additional varied and improved instrumentation,
  • More and varied collected data sets, and
  • An increasing number of studies by independent investigators

…continues to trend as it has, cause is irrelevant, man, Gaia or G-d, we can become victims or do something about it.

For an excellent, easy to follow overview on the factors that appear to strongly affect global warming check out the Blewbury Energy Initiative UK site   http://www.blewbury.co.uk/energy/warming.htm

Article by Cheryl Hogue, Chemical & Engineering News, August 2, 2010. http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i31/html/8831govc2.html

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Biofuel Feedstocks From Algae are Getting Big-Gun Attention

ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) opened a greenhouse in La Jolla, Calif., last week to begin testing methods to produce affordable biofuel feedstocks from algae. The two companies became partners a year ago when Exxon agreed to invest $600 million over the next decade in R&D at SGI and in its own labs.

Algae are considered a promising biofuel starting point because they are fast-growing and can be raised on non-arable land. Various companies, from biotech start-ups to Dow Chemical, are pursuing algae-derived biofuels, but the Exxon-SGI alliance is by far the most financially ambitious.

Moving out of the lab into real sunlight is “a small, but important, step,” SGI CEO J. Craig Venter said at a press conference. Although the partners are not yet using a real-world environment, they will begin assessing natural and engineered strains of algae in systems that range from open ponds to closed photo-bioreactors. They plan to evaluate and optimize growth conditions, oil production, harvesting, and recovery.

The collaborators also have conducted lifecycle and sustainability studies to determine the impact of biofuel harvesting on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as on land and water use. In an effort to be independent of agricultural resources, their process uses sunlight, salt water, and carbon dioxide, Venter explained. “Fuels cannot compete with agriculture if this is going be successful.”

They hope to find or design a strain of algae that can secrete the desired long-chain hydrocarbons. “The greenhouse will enable us to go into the next phase of our development plan, which will include a larger test facility outside,” said F. Emil Jacobs, ExxonMobil’s vice president for research. Scaling up into that facility is expected in mid-2011.

So far, the algal products look similar to intermediate streams processed in existing refineries, Jacobs pointed out. Both he and Venter emphasized that the project is long-term and that it will take billions of dollars to reach commercial scale. “We are committed to this activity and will spend money necessary to be successful,” Jacobs remarked.

By Ann M. Thayer, Chemical & Engineering News, July 19, 2010

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i29/html/8829notw2.html

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Natural Gas Drilling Process Draws Environmental Scrutiny

Doc says, net to resuming offshore drilling, obtain large amounts of natural gas, trapped in US shale deposits is the next big energy brouhaha. What is see is folks getting polarized and hot under the collar, rather than working together t find cost effective solutions to any negative potential environmental impacts for such drilling. After-all oil the burning natural gas for transportation fuel and electricity generation creates less carbon dioxide when burned, in shale based gas is a made in America product. It’s sure has heck easier to move natural gas, and were done with the radioactive, unregulated slag piles that surround our coal powered electrical facilities. — I have only accepted a few ‘semi-random sections of this excellent multi-page article, to wet your appetites. The reason I am sharing this particular article, among the many I’ve googled, is that it ha , despite appearing an a chemistry profession oriented magazine, is even handed about both the hopes and the fears of producing shale stored natural gas by hydrofracturing.

The U.S. has a plentiful supply of natural gas—a clean-burning, efficient  fuel that could help solve the nation’s energy problems, ranging from climate change to dependence on foreign oil, industry proponents contend. But critics say this view is overly optimistic, because the technology for releasing gas embedded deep underground in massive shale fields has not yet been shown to be economical. Such technology could also contaminate water supplies with toxic drilling chemicals.

Geologists have long known that natural gas is abundant in shale rock formations running from the Appalachian Basin to the Rocky Mountains. But the resource has remained largely untapped because of the difficulty in extracting it. In recent years, however, advances in a technology developed decades ago by the petroleum industry to boost production at aging oil wells has helped unlock vast reserves of once-inaccessible natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which millions of gallons of chemically treated water and sand are pumped into the ground at extremely high pressure to generate fractures or cracks in shale rocks and release trapped gas.

Recoverable U.S. gas reserves might now exceed the proven reserves of Russia, the world’s largest natural gas producer, some experts say. In 2009, the Potential Gas Committee, a panel of U.S. industry specialists, found that the nation’s estimated gas reserves had surged 35% since an assessment in 2007. The jump was the largest increase in the 44-year history of reports from the committee.

The U.S. now has about 2,074 trillion cu ft of technically recoverable natural gas resources—enough to meet domestic demand for more than a century at the current rate of consumption.  “New and advanced exploration, well drilling, and completion technologies are allowing us increasingly better access to domestic gas resources—especially unconventional gas—which, not all that long ago, were considered impractical or uneconomical to pursue,” says John B. Curtis, a professor of geology and geological engineering at Colorado School of Mines.

Natural gas is the fuel of choice for a wide range of industries, including chemical manufacturing. In addition to its use in generating electricity, natural gas is also a feedstock for a variety of products, including petrochemicals, plastics, and fertilizers.

Environmental Concerns and Initial Assessment Actions — Although hydraulic fracturing has the potential to turn gas deposits in shale formations into an energy bonanza, the method is coming under increasing scrutiny. Environmental activists and some lawmakers are concerned that the drilling technique may pose a threat to drinking water. Consequently, they argue, the federal government should regulate the drilling practice. Individual states currently monitor fracturing activities.

What worries critics are the chemical additives used in the process to reduce friction, kill bacteria, and prevent mineral buildup. The chemicals make up less than 1% of the overall solution, but some are (may be) hazardous in low concentrations. [The critics provided no peer reviewed references that I could find.]

“We have significant concerns not only about contamination of our water resources, but also depletion of the water table,” says Tracy Dahl, president of the North Fork Ranch Landowners Association in Colorado. “We have already seen significant impacts and expect more to come.”

In an attempt to determine whether federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing is warranted, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) has asked eight oil-field service companies to provide detailed information about the chemicals used in their drilling operations. These will be evaluated to determine their toxicological properties, relative to ground water protection.

Hydraulic fracturing “could help us unlock vast domestic natural gas reserves once thought unattainable,” Waxman noted in a statement. “As we use this technology in more parts of the country on a much larger scale, we must ensure that we are not creating new environmental and public health problems.” The inquiry, he added, will “help us better understand the potential risks this technology poses to drinking-water supplies and the environment, and whether Congress needs to act to minimize those risks.”

The Environmental Protection Agency also intends to conduct a comprehensive research study of the effects of fracturing on water quality and public health. A committee of EPA’s Science Advisory Board is expected to recommend a strategy for conducting the $1.9 million study by this summer. Agency officials have said they intend to have their initial research results completed by the end of 2012. EPA reviewed various past studies on fracturing in 2004 and concluded that the technology poses “little or no threat” to drinking water.

Environmentalists dismissed the finding, claiming it was politically motivated and scientifically unsound.

Poor bewildered Doc! I can’t understand why, according to the referenced link, the environmentalist bashed the 2004 studies but are pleased to have EPA expand and update it?

By Glenn Hess, Chemical & Engineering News, May 31, 2010

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i22/html/8822gov1.html

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Fuel From The Sun — Water + sunlight = fuel.

This equation embodies the use of solar energy to rip apart water molecules to produce hydrogen, which can be used as an energy-rich fuel for vehicles and to produce electricity. If perfected and made affordable, the technology  could supply a substantial portion of future global energy demand, which is anticipated to double between now and 2050.

Key to solar water splitting is developing inexpensive catalysts to capture light efficiently and speed the process while minimizing the amount of electricity needed to drive the electrochemistry. Most catalysts so far have less than stellar efficiencies, rely on expensive and rare metals, or tend to be easily deactivated under harsh working conditions.

Two U.S. research groups have recently reported breakthrough developments that could signal a new wave of progress in producing H2 via solar water splitting. Daniel G. Nocera and coworkers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made a heterogeneous cobalt phosphate water-oxidation catalyst <chemical stuff> with improved stability. And Craig L. Hill of Emory University and coworkers have created a related homogeneous cobalt catalyst supported by bulky polytungstate ligands <more great chemical stuff> that displays improved catalytic activity. Both catalysts are made from Earth-abundant elements, avoid organic ligands that are prone to oxidation during electrolysis, have a built-in mechanism for self-repair to improve lifetime, and operate at neutral pH with modest electricity input.

Development of such cobalt water-oxidation catalysts do benefit from federal initiatives to harness solar power to make hydrogen fuel. If perfected and made affordable, the technology could supply a substantial portion of future global energy demand, which is anticipated to double between now and 2050. Key to solar water splitting is developing inexpensive catalysts to capture light efficiently and speed the process while minimizing the amount of electricity needed to drive the electrochemistry. Most catalysts so far have less than stellar efficiencies, rely on expensive and rare metals, or tend to be easily deactivated under harsh working conditions.

A company, which Nocera started last year to develop inexpensive solar-powered water-splitting systems <E.g., Direct sunlight to electricity via hydrogen as fuel to make H2 for a fuel cell that generates electricity. His company has garnered more than $4 million in ARPA-E funds. “ARPA-E is having an incredible impact on other small companies, enabling us to follow our dreams to turn science into technology and eventually into commercial products,” In a full, but not totally energy conserving cycle, In fuel cells, which also require catalysts, the opposite reactions take place to release the energy stored in the H–H bonds: hydrogen and oxygen are fed into a fuel cell, releasing electrons to make electricity and producing water.

Commercial technology to derive H2 from water by electrolysis has been available for nearly a century. Because electrolysis remains expensive, industrial H2 production continues to be primarily by steam reforming of petroleum and by coal gasification, both of which are based on limited fossil resources, comments Matthias Beller of Leibniz Institute for Catalysis at Germany’s University of Rostock, who studies iron-based H2-generating catalysts. “Clearly, on a mid- to long-term basis, there is an essential demand for alternative technologies to generate H2 in a more sustainable manner if it is to be used as a transportation fuel and for producing electricity,” Beller says. “Photocatalytic water splitting offers the most straightforward production of H2 from H2O. In this respect, the recent work from the Nocera and Hill groups is highly interesting.”

Water splitting is a two-stage process. In an electrolysis cell, water is oxidized at the positive electrode, or anode, to form oxygen, along with four hydrogen ions and four electrons. The hydrogen ions migrate to the negative electrode, or cathode, where two hydrogen ions [H+] are reduced by two electrons arriving through an external circuit to form hydrogen gas. Of the two electrode processes, both of which require a catalyst to be efficient, the water-oxidation reaction is more complex and thermodynamically demanding.

Also check out Mitch Jacoby’s article Hydrogen From Sun And Water, Chemical & Engineering News, AUGUST 10, 2009. It shows how the science is increasing the efficiency of such catalysts, a key to making them cost effective.http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news/87/i32/8732notw.html 

For a different approach check out Getting to the Hydrogen Highway Via the Nano Road, by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, August 20, 2009. http://newscenter.lbl.gov/feature-stories/2009/04/20/hydrogen-highway-nano-road/

There’s lots more… if what I shared is not enough check both “fuel cells” and Water Splitting in Wikipedia or just Google the terms. You’d be amazed! Not much of this has approached cost effective commercialization, but methinks were getting close. One interesting sidelight — Fuels produce direct current, not the usual AC current in our walls; this is the type of electricity that Edison was promoting in days gone by.

Article by Stephen K. Ritter Chemical & Engineering News, 88(27), July 05, 2010

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i27/html/8827sci1.html

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The Value Of Carbon Dioxide Where some see pollution, Andrew Bocarsly sees products

I found this article while browsing a recent C&EN issue and decided to share it because it pushed a button in my mind. Almost of the ways of dealing with the excess carbon dioxide in the environment call for what is in essence throwing it away.  Whether that’s by pumping into a deep geological formation, or precipitating it into the ocean bottom; even using it to enhance oil recovery for spent wells — it’s all a toss the stuff game.  Albeit, Dr. Bocarsly’s science is just at the invention stage, it is one of the few approached that I’ve read that use the infamous greenhouse gas as raw material. The other alternatives are to grow trees, or other vegetation including algae to use them for creating bio fuels.

Andrew Bocarsly’s lab at Princeton University looks like any photo-electrochemistry lab you might stumble into. Crumpled pieces of aluminum foil cloak light-sensitive chemical reactions. Three-necked flasks decorate the bench tops like vases sprouting electrodes instead of flowers. But it’s a chemical you can’t see that’s become a focus for the Bocarsly lab in recent years—carbon dioxide, specifically the CO2 pollution that pours out of cars and power plants each day.

Two years ago, Bocarsly reported that with the help of a pyridinium catalyst he was able to use visible light to transform CO2 into methanol (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2008, 130, 6342). The process uses a light-driven gallium phosphide semiconductor electrode to reduce carbon dioxide gas that’s bubbled through a pyridinium solution. <Okay, that more chemistry than you wanted, but keep reading anyway – this is just another hopefully great magical POfS*>.

Since that time, the research has spun off in two directions: In Bocarsly’s lab at Princeton, there’s been an intensive effort to understand the mechanism behind this process and in a research park five miles north of campus, a small company called Liquid Light is trying to capitalize on it.

In 2008, Kyle Teamey, Liquid Light’s chief operating officer, was working as an entrepreneur-in-residence with Redpoint Ventures. He read Bocarsly’s Journal of the American Chemical Society communication and thought the technology had promise. “With any catalytic process there are certain things you look for,” Teamey says. “You look for energy efficiency, the stability of the catalyst, the kinetics. Several factors need to come together for a catalytic process to work efficiently, particularly when you’re looking at commodity markets where products are made at large scale. We were attracted to this technology because it displayed factors that generally indicate it has potential.

“Ultimately what we’d like to do is make CO2 a feedstock for producing fuels and chemicals. That’s the ultimate vision,” Teamey says. For that to happen, Bocarsly’s process needs to compete cost-wise with traditional methanol production. It’s not enough to be doing something that’s environmentally friendly by removing excess CO2 from the air. Liquid Light needs to compete financially.

There’s a lot more including so me interesting chemistry for those like me who are so inclined. Also note that POfS is a pinch of stuff.

By Bethany Halford, Chemical & Engineering News, JUNE 28, 2010

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i26/html/8826sci1.html

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Carbon Dioxide’s Emissions Control Unsettled Future Technologies to reel in greenhouse gas emissions abounds, but can’t move forward without policy actions

With world population climbing, and energy demand along with it, countries are trying to figure out how to minimize the global-warming consequences of carbon-based energy. The challenges are enormous: Because of differences in energy resources, nations around the world have different abilities to shift away from fossil fuel and to adapt technologies that reduce CO2 emissions. And many of those technologies are not moving as fast as they could be because of uncertainty in public policies to reduce CO2 emissions. These are the take-home messages from a conference held to stimulate ideas and form collaborations to quicken the pace of development and implementation of CO2-emissions-reducing technologies.

“Many scientists and engineers recognize that energy production and controlling greenhouse gas emissions are our biggest technology challenges today,” chemical engineer Frank Zhu told C&EN. “If we continue business as usual, we can’t imagine how CO2 emissions are going to impact the planet.”

Zhu pointed out at a recent global warming related conference’s opening remarks, that countries around the globe are pursuing three CO2 solution pathways: (1) CO2 reduction, (2) CO2 rejection, and (3) CO2 dilution,

To “reduce” CO2, countries can cut emissions by improving the efficiency  of vehicles, electricity generation, and industrial processing, he said. To “reject” CO2, countries can develop ways to burn coal cleanly and use technologies to capture and store CO2 to keep the greenhouse gas out of Earth’s atmosphere. And to “dilute” CO2, countries can reduce their use of fossil fuel and increase use of carbon-neutral biofuels and alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind.

The public would like to have clean energy from these new technologies, but at the same price as petroleum-based products, Powell said. “We can’t implement new technologies for free, but our challenge is to do it at the lowest cost possible and with as limited a footprint as we can—new energy technologies have to be cheap, clean, and convenient.”

Doc sez, I can’t figure out how to get any more than two of three of these goals optimized simultaneously – something has to give. This sounds too much like ‘a free lunch’. On top of that there have to be customers willing to pay for what you produce.

Globally, three sequestration technologies are actively being developed: storage in saline aquifers in sandstone formations, where the CO2 is expected to mineralize into carbonates over time; injection into deep, uneconomic coal seams; and injection into depleted or low-producing oil and natural gas reservoirs.

Overall, billions of tons of CO2 must be captured and stored per year to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at levels that should moderate global warming. Global capacity for sequestration is pegged at hundreds of billions of tons of CO2, adequate for several hundred years of storage. Currently, only tens of millions of tons of CO2—most of it from natural gas and not coal-fired power plants—are being squirreled away by demonstration storage projects and oil and natural gas mining operations.

George A. Richards, focus area leader for energy system dynamics at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, agreed: “We need more energy, and it needs to be affordable, especially for countries with developing economies,” he said. “Like the U.S., these countries are going to use the fossil-fuel resources available to them first. It’s imperative we develop CO2 capture and sequestration technologies that will allow us to do that. And that means we can’t abandon fossil-fuel energy research solely in favor of renewables.”

Like most of the attendees at a recent CO2 summit, DOE’s Richards believes many different energy technologies, from coal to solar, will be integral parts of the future energy mix. It’s not possible to know politically or economically which ones will play leading roles. “Predicting the future is easy, but predicting it correctly is more difficult,” he quipped. “I can say with confidence that we need more energy, and we want to manage the CO2 emissions.

There’s lot more about the international perspectives on how to control and dispose CO2.  However, most technical experts continue believe “If we continue business as usual, we can’t imagine how CO2 emissions are going to impact the planet.

By Stephen K. Ritter, Chemical & Engineering News, July 26, 2010.

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i30/html/8830sci1.html

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Microbes To The Rescue? — The Gulf Oil Spill

The fate of spilled oil in the Gulf rests with the hydrocarbon-digesting microbes colonizing underwater plumes.  Millions of gallons of oil now drift throughout the Gulf of Mexico in massive, underwater plumes. Last week, scientists from the University of South Florida confirmed that this submerged oil came from BP’s leaking well more than 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. Over the past three months, the high pressure at the wellhead has pulverized the oil, while chemical dispersants have broken it into microscopic droplets. Unlike surface oil slicks, which physical forces such as evaporation can degrade, the fate of these hovering oil clouds—and by extension the Gulf’s ecological future—lies chiefly with a biological process: the conversion of hydrocarbons into less harmful byproducts by marine bacteria.

After an April 20 explosion sank the Deepwater Horizon exploration rig and started the largest oil spill in U.S. history, microbiologists have converged on the Gulf to investigate the microbial composition throughout its waters and affected coastlines. According to Joel Kostka, a microbial ecologist at Florida State University, Tallahassee, the fundamental goals of this research are to determine the oil’s impact on the Gulf’s microbial ecosystems and to assess how limiting factors, chiefly oxygen concentrations, influence microbial oil degradation. Results could supply insights not only into the Gulf’s ongoing recovery, Kostka says, but also into how scientists might direct cleanup operations more efficiently.

Preliminary data collected by these researchers show that marine microbes have mobilized across the Gulf and are in fact chewing their way through the oil plumes. These monitoring efforts have chiefly focused on drops in dissolved oxygen levels, a sign of microbial metabolism. Graduate students working with Andreas Teske, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, collected water samples from May 26 to June 8 aboard the University of Miami’s research vessel (RV) Walton Smith. They found that alkane hydrocarbon -digesting bacteria have colonized the Deepwater Horizon oil plumes and have begun to consume significant amounts of dissolved oxygen.

Likewise, David Valentine, a microbial geochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has observed microbe-associated oxygen declines in plumes of oil and methane gas. In these “gassy” plumes located within a 5- to 7-mile radius of the wellhead and at depths greater than 2,500 feet, oxygen levels drop by between 5 and 35%, he says. Valentine gathered his samples from June 11 to June 20, while aboard the RV Cape Hatteras, operated by the Duke/University of North Carolina Oceanographic Consortium. Also in a July 23 report, the US government’s Joint Analysis Group described dissolved oxygen drops at depths below 1,000 meters near the wellhead, where BP crews have injected dispersants directly into the leaking oil.

But scientists don’t exactly know yet which bacteria species are present in these plumes. The Gulf has a “leaky” seafloor, populated with natural seeps that discharge between 560,000 to 1.4 million bbl of crude oil ever year, according to a 2003 National Research Council report on oil spills. Also hydrocarbons in general are ubiquitous in the ocean and can be found not only in seeping oil, but also in plant waxes and lobster shells. Myriad marine bacteria have evolved to consume these hydrocarbons, and now the spill has allowed them to travel beyond their natural food sources.

Doc sez, like all solutions, natural or man-made, there’s a bit of Yang with every Ying. The bacterial action may reduce spilled oil toxicity and other damage, but we don’t know how server the oxygen depletion effects will be on the marine ecosystem. Guys and Gals – this is nature. Not man-caused in action so we need to watch the wheel turning to intercede, if we can, should things go badly awry.

By Charles Schmidt, Chemical & Engineering News, August 2, 2010.

http://pubs.acs.org/isubscribe/journals/cen/88/i31/html/8831news1.html

Also check out:Cleaning Up The Gulf Oil SpillResponse teams use multiple techniques, including a new one, to try to protect coastal wetlands. Article by Michael Torrice Chemical & Engineering News, May 13, 2010  

http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/88/8820sci3.html

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I’d like to close this column with a copy of an article called The Gambler sent to me by my colleague John Droz, jr. — A physicist & environmental advocate.

The Gambler

When we are confronted with questions of science we often have neither the resources nor intellectual rigor to properly do our homework. In our ignorance, we have a habit of bestowing quasi-mystical properties on our own creations in much the same way as the faithful can be moved and inspired by splendid architecture or pious icons. Our instincts suggest that this level of expenditure, the moral correctness of the enterprise, and the weight of our investments in hope and good intentions, must surely prove the underlying theory.

It stands to reason that we wouldn’t have gone so far down this path if the technology didn’t work. We take it as a given that somebody — our scientists, our politicians, our priests, or our parents — has done the intellectual heavy lifting already. Alas, this is seldom the case, and definitely not so here.

In the disciplines of politics and parenting, expedience is quite often the order of the day, and obfuscation, misdirection and white lies are the tools of implementation.

In a world currently focused on all things green it is perceived to be politically irresponsible to be circumspect or behind the curve. “We have to do something, or every little bits helps” have now become the mantra.

The “something” our representatives are endorsing is for us to pay exorbitant premiums to people who have no more background in power production than does the local school marm. We are asked to line the developer’s seemingly limitless pockets with unrequited subsidies and incentives — despite the fact that green energy solutions on the production side of the equation have been shown, the world over, to be window dressing, canards and delusions.

In so doing we will divert resources, time and attention away from more meaningful solutions, and from programs like conservation and reuse — options and programs that we know reduce our impact on the environment.

Instead, we will expend greater resources, build bigger more impressive monuments and blindly put our faith in the promises of others — despite all the empirical science to the contrary. We will convince ourselves that our good intentions plus the size and scope of the effort is evidence enough of its merit.

We are being seduced by the splendor of the temple without taking the time to see the emptiness of the catechism.

Frankly, I’d rather just pray. It costs less, holds equal promise, and is not a blight on the landscape.

The Gambler — Translated from a post by Gord McDonald — in the Wellington Times, April 16, 2010” http://wellingtontimes.ca/?p=1025

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

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

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics, usually indented.

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In Closing

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 consequences. 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 shall always end up paying the piper!

Readers Again Please Take Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable, scalable and cost effective. They also have to demonstrate that we will not fall victim top the law of unintended consequences when we implement them. If you care to Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many studies that whose authors remain skeptical. Putting ones money where one mouth is creates one method of determining the reality of a dream still to come true. Ask any one with a technical start-up company – the big cost is the leap from bench scale to operational facility. Sometime not that is a good test – look at the ethanol plants that have shut down in the mid-west.

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

Harry, aka doc_Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad, © Copyright 2010, All right Reserved

Introduction 

Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes at:

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

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters to which I subscribe. When I have time, I also check a variety of energy related and environmental blogs. In addition, I subscribe to New York Times, Time Magazine, The Economist, Business Week, Wired, National Geographic, Smithsonian – all which I skim for articles of interest.

Some of what I chase is called out in publications by the libraries of the Pacific Northwest [NewsBridge], Sandia, Argonne and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, which are managed by the US Department of Energy. Other articles I found interesting come from technology feeds from the, Discover Magazine, various international energy and green advocacy groups as well as The American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS]. from the American Nuclear Society [ANS] magazine Nuclear News is a source and for chemistry related news C&EN from the American Chemical Society [ACS],.

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and intentionally biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send us feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

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

Since my tid-bits are only a partial look at the original article, click on through if you want more details, as well as <often> other references on the same topic(s).

Doc.

Now, As Usual, in No Formal Order, My New Nine Snippets

——— A List of Their Titles ———

  • Medical Radiation Overdoses in the US
  • Symposium Looks at Geoengineering Opportunities & Challenges
  • Energy Push Spurs Shift in U.S. Science
  • Nuclear Science Protects Revered Fruit
  • The Start-Up Pains of a Smarter Electricity Grid
  • No Surplus Snow Means No Surplus Power For BPA To Sell
  • U.S. Official Says Technology To Reduce Carbon Easier Than Politics
  • Success Of US Green Industry Could Hinge On China
  • New Detection Technology Identifies Bacteria, Viruses, Other Organisms Within 24 Hours

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Medical Radiation Overdoses in the US

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has widened its investigation into radiation overdoses that patients have received from a type of brain scan, suggesting the problem may be nationwide, it was reported today.

The agency says it is looking into possible overdoses at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank and a hospital in Alabama, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Providence St. Joseph is now the third hospital in Los Angeles County under investigation for problems with CT brain perfusion scans, a procedure used most often to diagnose strokes.

Unlike the other cases, which involved scanners made by General Electric, the scanner at Providence St. Joseph was made by Toshiba — adding a new dimension to the investigation, The Times reported.  
Angelo Bellomo, head of environmental health for the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said 34 patients appear to have received excessive radiation at Providence St. Joseph over a 20-month period ending in October, The Times reported. The problem was discovered by Los Angeles County radiation safety inspectors and reported to the FDA last week, FDA and county officials told the newspaper.

Patricia Aidem, a spokeswoman for the hospital, told The Times she was unaware of any problems with the scans and that the hospital had always complied with dosing standards.

The first indication that anything was wrong with the scans came in August when Cedars-Sinai discovered that it had accidentally exposed more than 200 patients to eight times the normal radiation for the procedure. In November, a similar problem was discovered at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

As I have noted previously, any technology is capable of getting out of control, and only eternal vigilance is the price of safety. <No I’m not sorry for the mixed metaphor and fractured quote…  – Doc.

Written by Los Angeles Sentinel News Service, on 12-10-2009

http://www.lasentinel.net/Radiation-Overdose.html

For More Current Details on Medical Overdoes Issues Check Out:
A Spate Of Radiation Overdoses In the U.S. 

The Hindu Newspaper, August 5, 2010.

http://www.hindu.com/seta/2010/08/05/stories/2010080552591700.htm

Hear That Drumbeat About CT Scans and Radiation Exposure? It’s Growing Louder. Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2010… and the links therein.

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/04/news/la-heb-ct-scans-20100803

Clamping Down On CT Scans For Kids

The Chicago Tribune, July 31, 2010

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/ct-met-kids-radiation-exposure-20100731,0,6285822.story

After Stroke Scans, Some Patients Face Serious Health Risks

New York Times – International Herald Tribune, July 31, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/health/01radiation.html

Radiation Offers New Cures, and Ways to Do Harm

New York Times – International Herald Tribune, January 25, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/24/health/24radiation.html?ref=radiation_boom

IAEA Enhances Patient Radiation Safety in Medical Diagnosis & Treatment

Concerns of Developing Countries Given More Importance

July 29, 2010 http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/2010/radsafety.html

Some Things To Know About Radiological ProceduresTips and Suggestions for Ensuring Patient Safety

IAEA Staff Report, By Misha Kidambi, IAEA Division of Public Information, July 29, 2010. http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/2010/radprocedures.html

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Symposium Looks at Geoengineering Opportunities And Challenges — Experts discuss possible solutions to climate change

McGill graduate and benefactor Lorne Trottier established the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium in 2004 to hold public discussions on important scientific topics. In this year’s edition of the symposium, three climate scientists and one historian of science discussed today’s climate problems and possible solutions to prevent rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

Organized by professors in the Earth System Science program and the symposium office, the event, titled “Avoiding dangerous climate change: Geoengineering or mitigation?” brought together Professors David Keith of the University of Calgary, James Fleming of Colby College, Alan Robock of Rutgers University, and Philip Rasch from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Image from the Economist Magazine – I couldn’t resist — Doc.

McGill geography professor and symposium moderator Nigel Roulet initiated the discussion by presenting alarming statistics concerning global warming. Roulet cited a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting worldwide temperature levels to be 1.4 to 4.8 degrees warmer by 2100 compared to conditions in 1850. “There is a large body of literature that suggests that these kinds of changes in climate will have a profound effect on society, including things like the global economy, environmental resources, and water,” said Roulet.

Roulet introduced the two main policies for dealing with climate change: mitigation of greenhouse gases to reduce the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, and geoengineering, or the “deliberate manipulation of the physical chemicals and the biological aspects of the Earth system.”

Roulet then cleared the podium for Professor David Keith, a climate scientist who has worked closely in energy technology and public policy. While Keith argued that mitigation alone will not dramatically reduce CO2 concentrations, he also reasoned that current geoengineering strategies such as solar radiation management, the practice of reflecting sunlight to cool the planet, are not reliable enough to be implemented.

“Even if we cut emissions to zero today, we cannot eliminate the possibility of really horrific climate change,” said Keith. “I think we need a serious research program to develop the capability to do [geoengineering].”

While Keith expressed optimism in future uses of geoengineering, other panelists were more guarded about its applicability. Professor James Fleming, a historian of the American Meteorological Society, referenced failed attempts by the U.S. to control the weather. Fleming likened geoengineering to pulling a lever to move the earth.

“Where would the [Earth] roll if it were tilt?” asked Fleming. “I’m not in favor of technocratic, pulling the lever type of activities. I’m [also] not against [geoengineering research], I’m just in favor of indoors, peer-viewed research. Climate change is extremely complex and deserves attention from many people.”

Professor Alan Robock, the next speaker in line, cited experiments where sulfate aerosol was injected into the stratosphere to determine the effects on climate change. Upon compiling the results, Robock explained climate, political, and ethical reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea.

“While geoengineering may result in a cool planet, and reduce or reverse sea ice melting and sea level rise, there are seventeen reasons why it might be a bad idea [such as ozone depletion and drought in Africa and Asia],” said Robock.

Dr. Phil Rasch, a renowned expert in climate modeling, followed Robock and similarly criticized modern geoengineering as an unreliable method to control the climate. However, Rasch urged scientists and policymakers to shed any preconceived notions when discussing the future capabilities of geoengineering

“Geoengineering [techniques] require funding and systematic study, and we are far from a time when we can depend upon them,” said Rasch.

The presentations were followed by a question and answer session between the panelists themselves, which was later extended to the audience.

For more about geoengineering, an overview it’s methods and potential risk check out: 

A little bit of goggling would also inform and hopefully delight you.

Oh if this scares you, I suggest you create a full self-sufficient place well above sea level and close to the arctic then you now likely live.

Alternately, help colonize the moon. Otherwise, get educated, get involved and help make appropriate risk based decisions before you have to learn to either breath water, or worse, after a greenhouse trip-over, carbon-dioxide and methane. Doc

Article by Trip Yang in The McGill Tribune, November 24, 2009

http://media.www.mcgilltribune.com/media/storage/paper234/news/2009/11/24/News/Symposium.Looks.At.Geoengineering.Opportunities.And.Challenges-3840281.shtml

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Energy Push Spurs Shift in U.S. Science

The Obama administration’s push to solve the nation’s energy problems, a massive federal program that rivals the Manhattan Project, is spurring a once-in-a-generation shift in U.S. science.

The government’s multibillion-dollar push into energy research is reinvigorating 17 giant U.S.-funded research facilities, from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory here to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. After many years of flat budgets, these labs are ramping up to develop new electricity sources, trying to build more-efficient cars and addressing climate change.

In fiscal 2009, the Obama administration increased the funding by 18%, to $4.76 billion, to the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which oversees 10 national labs and funds research at another seven. The office will receive $1.6 billion in government stimulus spending, as well, much of which it will also channel to these laboratories.

The Office of Science estimates its bigger budget allowed it to create nearly 1,400 research jobs at the 10 labs it oversees in the fiscal year ending in September, up 11% from the previous year’s staffing levels. It estimates it created another 1,400 science jobs at universities. In addition, it says, funds from the Obama administration’s stimulus package created hundreds more government lab jobs. As a result, the balance of U.S. science is shading a few degrees — away from the pure research typically practiced at universities, and toward applied science.

These efforts mark a third wave of spending at national labs such as Oak Ridge, a vast complex of woods and research facilities not far from Knoxville, Tenn. Oak Ridge was one of three labs set up to help build the atomic bomb during World War II. It boomed again during America’s energy-independence push in the 1970s. Oak Ridge plans to increase its staff by 25%, or 800 positions, over the next 18 months — even as its neighbor, the University of Tennessee, has lost state funding and pared back faculty searches.

“We have a renewed sense of mission and urgency,” says Oak Ridge’s director, Thom Mason.

Critics of big government say the Obama energy plan gives politicians too big a role in how the nation conducts science, just as they fret about the government’s increased role in the financial sector. They also question whether the government’s funding push is sustainable amid mounting budget deficits. Others, in academics and industry, say that while government-funded research has made big gains, including advances in DNA mapping and magnetic-resonance imaging, the cost of administering such research is unnecessarily high. University-funded pure research has its own string of successes in areas from physics and chemistry to biomedicine and genetics, they say, including breakthroughs that led to the laser, pacemaker, ultrasound technology and rocket fuel.

In California, the Lawrence Berkeley lab says it will receive about $240 million for research in alternative energy sources, computing, energy efficiency and other areas.

“Most of our great breakthroughs have not been through [top-down government] funding,” says Michael Witherell, a former head of the government-funded Fermilab and now vice chancellor for research at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Diffuse Challenge — Even some of those involved in the energy push acknowledge its challenges. While a federal plan proved successful for building the atom bomb and putting a man on the moon — both clear-cut tasks — the energy problem is more diffuse, with hard-to-measure outcomes.

Link Up – Read On!

Article by Gautam Naik, The Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2009

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125910876247663245.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Doc’s afterthought — It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.

Alternatively — “Having limitless amounts of clean energy would do wonders for this world in terms of political stability, development, and quality of life. The second Renaissance so to speak.” — Robin Djang”

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Nuclear Science Protects Revered Fruit

IAEA Uses Sterile Insect Technique to Tackle Olive Fruit Fly

Homer wrote about olives in his Odyssey, Hippocrates praised olive oil for its medicinal purposes and olive tree leaves were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen.

But despite being revered by kings and symbolizing peace, this ancient tree is being attacked by Bactrocera oleae, more commonly known as the olive  fruit fly. This small, innocuous-looking pest, which only lays its eggs in olives, can infest up to 90% of a farmers fruit, damaging the crops and the livelihoods of the olive growers and exporters. The fly poses a serious threat to the olive and olive oil industries in southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the USA. However, help could be at hand for farmers affected by these olive-eating pests in the form of nuclear technology.

Scientists from the Joint Division of the IAEA and the UN´s Food and Agriculture Organisation are working on a project to control the fly using the proven and environmentally-friendly Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which uses radiation to sterilize pests. This technique, also known as “birth control for insects”, suppresses populations by breeding large numbers of sterile males. When released into the wild, they breed with females who in turn produce eggs that do not hatch.

FAO/IAEA entomologist, Andrew Jessup, said: “SIT has worked in the past with other fruit flies and it’s now being put to the test to combat the olive fly in southern Israel.”

I hope you won’t be bugged by linking the original article to read on!

IAEA Staff Report, November 25, 2009

http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/2009/olivefruitfly.html

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The Start-Up Pains of a Smarter Electricity Grid The smart grid will save energy and money, but implementation may prove costly

Only one thing is worse than the lights not coming on when the switch is flicked—and that’s the lights going out right afterward. The fact that the problem is most often a burned-out light bulb is testimony to the reliability of what’s sometimes called the world’s largest machine—the U.S. transmission and distribution grid for electricity.

But that reliability is tenuous at best and perhaps temporary: the machine needs an update to meet increasing demands for more electricity and to deliver it reliably and safely, according to the Obama administration and others. “If Alexander Graham Bell returned to Earth today, the progress in telecommunications over the last 125 years would be mystifying,” said Robert Catell, chairman of the New York State Smart Grid Consortium, at a smart grid event in New York City at New York University (NYU) in February. “If Thomas Edison came back today, not only would he recognize our electricity system, he could probably fix it” when problems arise.

That’s no surprise: Today’s grid was largely finished by the 1970s and contains mostly the same system of devices in use since the 1920s. And, after the wholesale power market was deregulated in 1992, many utility companies stopped investing in the grid—leaving it in a perilous state of disrepair today. An update could cost, according to some estimates, as much as $1 trillion over the next several decades—the stimulus plan alone provided $11 billion for a smart grid, including 32 demonstration projects in 21 states administered by the U.S. Department of Energy.

What exactly a smart grid is depends on who you ask.

“What really makes a grid smart?” asked electrical engineer Farshad Khorrami of Polytechnic Institute of New York University at the February event. His answer: “the control system in that grid.” In essence, it’s the telecommunications and information technology industries applying their innovations to the infrastructure that made computers possible, in large part, or overlaying the utility infrastructure with communications and control systems that will allow energy technology to be more productive.

There’s lot’s more to read in the article, so check it out. Hoever the bottom line is…

Bumps in the Grid But the smart grid has already run into resistance. Class-action lawsuits have been filed in California, alleging inaccuracy in the 5.5 million smart meters installed by PG&E, resulting in electricity bills as much as 300 percent higher. The company contends that such increases are a result of already approved rate hikes as well as a hotter than average summer in 2008—but also admits that thousands of meters were improperly installed and have manifested various problems, including communication malfunctions. Such growing pains can literally turn off customers: a smart homes pilot program in Westchester County, N.Y., lowered bills for almost all participants, but still 30 percent quit the program entirely.

Ultimately, the customer pays for all the fixes through rate increases. Whether a consumer with the smart grid saves money or, at least, breaks even “remains to be proven,” admitted Aubrey Braz, Con Ed’s corporate vice president in charge of smart grid technology.

Balance of Power — Another key challenge for a smart grid is the fact that electricity is an instantaneous commodity—it is consumed at the exact same moment that it is produced. Running an electric grid is “harder than rocket science,” says Stephen Wright, president of the Bonneville Power Authority based in Portland, Ore., simply because supply and demand must be so closely matched and both vary throughout the day…

By David Biello, Scientific American, May 10, 2010

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=start-up-pains-of-smart-grid

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No Surplus Snow Means No Surplus Power For BPA To Sell

Northwest Oregon’s dry winter and spring will mean a tight summer for the region’s hydroelectric system. The Bonneville Power Administration announced Friday that the region is experiencing the fifth driest season since dams were built on the Columbia River.

A lack of snow in the mountains means less water this summer to turn the turbines. BPA spokeswoman, Katie Pruder-Scruggs says there’ll be plenty of electricity for Northwest customers – but not for anyone else.

Katie Pruder-Scruggs: “We will meet the needs of our customers. The shortfall is that surplus. Like, for instance, in the summertime, the California folks turn their air conditioners on and if we have surplus power, we can sell that at market rates, and use it to keep our rates low here in the Pacific Northwest.” Pruder-Scruggs says no surplus snow means no surplus power, and no surplus power means nothing to sell.

Without electricity sales, BPA anticipates it may have to raise rates – though ratepayers wouldn’t see those increases for more than two years.

Doc Sez: Whether you blame climate change of the laws of averages; we’re only seeing the tip of what’s likely to be a challenge for those who only want to relay on renewable energy – Draught happen, the wind blows too hard or not at all and the vagrancies of nature, forget unintended consequences, are real. In addition relative to this article – in the US –there are few damned few places left to build large dams and alas mini-dams don’t produce enough power.

By Rob Manning, Oregon Public Broadcasting News,  May 10, 2010 | Portland.

http://news.opb.org/article/7267-no-surplus-snow-means-no-surplus-power-bpa-sell/

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U.S. Official Says Technology To Reduce Carbon Easier Than Politics

Developing the technology to reduce carbon emissions from the use of coal may be easier than persuading the public that fossil fuels remain a viable and environmentally friendly energy source, a Department of Energy official said Tuesday.

Speaking at the ninth annual conference on carbon capture and sequestration, James R. Markowsky, assistant secretary for fossil fuels, said “developing the technology will be much less difficult than developing the kind of confidence” needed to win public support for the idea.

Carbon capture and sequestration — also referred to as carbon capture and storage or CCS — is the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions and storing them a mile or more underground so that they do not escape into the atmosphere.

The Obama administration is committed to the approach, Mr. Markowsky said, with $4 billion earmarked for making the process commercially viable. The money is helping to fund a series of projects to demonstrate techniques for capturing, storing and even reusing carbon dioxide. There’s more, enjoy!

Doc Sez, so what’s new! –  On the technically tough side, the quest for the holy grail of fusion power, of course my current favorite findings an acceptable way to geoengineer climate. But even before the research is proven, politics and vested interest will again raise their ugly heads – mankind gains someone individually loses is an essential as the ten commandments, and politics will continue to overcome reason  and evidence and any thought of a universal good.

By Elwin Green, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10132/1057406-28.stm#ixzz0vtXanwDq

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Success of US and Western World Green Industry Could Hinge On China

The future of green industry in the U.S. rests in large part on the world’s supply of rare earth minerals, 97 percent of which currently come from China. The situation has sparked calls for action by lawmakers and is under review by the Department of Energy, which expects to issue a report later this year.

Rare earth materials, which comprise 17 metallic elements, are critical to the production of clean-energy technologies, specifically hybrid cars that require rare earth magnets, along with wind turbines, energy-efficient light bulbs and solar panels, whose reliability without the precious materials would be severely reduced.

Most troublesome is China’s decision in the last three years to reduce exports and increase export taxes on all rare earth materials by 15-25 percent due to its own surge in consumption. A Government Accountability Office report released in April warned that the U.S. is vulnerable and incapable of supplying rare earths on its own…

There certainly is a dependency, and yes, there are risks involved any time you’re dependent on a single source,” said Belva Martin, GAO’s acting director for the Acquisition and Sourcing Management team, who oversaw the report.

“In essence, China has become the Saudi Arabia of rare earths,” Representative Mike Coffman (R-Colo) wrote in a recent op-ed. Coffman is the author of the Rare Earths Supply-Chain Technology and Resources Transformation (RESTART) Act, which he hopes will re-establish a competitive domestic supply chain to “break away from our reliance on China.”

Coffman’s RESTART Act requires the Department of Energy, which was awarded funds under the stimulus bill and houses a loan program for energy-efficient producers, to write specific guidance for rare earth mining companies hoping to win government loans.

The U.S. wasn’t always so dependent on China. The Mountain Pass mine in California once “produced the majority of the global supply of rare earth materials,” according to the GAO report. But digging came to a halt in 2002 due to a combination of permitting issues, cheap Chinese competition and environmental worries…

Environmentalists remain skeptical of the pollution caused by mining. In Inner Mongolia, rare earths are dissolved by way of extremely corrosive acids, ammonia and other chemicals, including the radioactive element thorium. The Chinese dump the waste into ponds along the Yellow River, polluting the water downstream to the point where local authorities have warned it is unsafe even for irrigation.

Environmentalists share Coffman’s concern over rare earth mineral dependency but argue that proper regulation can alleviate the potential for pollution. Environmentalists “want to develop technologies that are less reliant on these precious heavy metals,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress. Weiss is looking to lithium mines in Bolivia, which he says have developed more environmentally responsible mining techniques.

Molycorp Minerals, the company that owns the Mountain Pass mine, is eager to reopen its facility and is trumpeting a new model for responsible mining by eliminating wastewater. To process the loads of byproduct salt water without dumping it or resorting to pipelines that could leak or rupture, Molycorp has developed a way to reuse the waste by pumping it back into the mine.

“Basically our salt is just going in a loop,” said Chief Technology Officer John L. Burba. “We’re not putting any out into the environment.”

This innovation is expensive from a capital standpoint, and Molycorp estimates it would cost around $500 million to restart mining. Along with filing for an initial public offering to help generate revenue, Molycorp applied for a DOE loan through the wind turbine loan program, arguing that turbines can’t be made without rare earths, but was denied on the grounds that the project “went too far upstream,” according to CEO Mark A. Smith. Last year the company received a $3 million earmark by way of Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., but more money is needed.

Because rare earth materials are “strategic and critical” in manufacturing numerous weapons, according to the GAO report, the Department of Defense has begun assessing the national defense threat caused by dependency on China and is scheduled to publish its findings in September. “We see these resources as vital to our operational needs” and the report will suggest ways to “obtain and store these materials for the future,” said DOD spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin.

Doc Sez, this is another example of a real problem that is being politicized.  If my reading on the use of such scarce metal in areas ranging from chemical catalysis, photovoltaics, hydrogen from water, enhancing the performance if lithium batteries and a myriad if other technology areas is correct; we are making difficult to achieve but great strides in potentially replacing or minimizing the use of such materials. No not a done deal, and of course making China the villain (it may indeed be) is great politics.

By Ashlie Rodriguez, National Journal.com, May 11, 2010

http://energytopic.nationaljournal.com/2010/05/success-of-green-industry-coul.php

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New Detection Technology Identifies Bacteria, Viruses, Other Organisms Within 24 Hours

Law enforcement authorities seeking to detect bioterrorism attacks, doctors diagnosing diseases and regulatory agencies checking product safety may find a new ally in a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) detection technology.

The advance, known as the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA), could enable law enforcement, medical professionals and others to detect within 24 hours any virus or bacteria that has been sequenced and included among the array’s probes.

Developed between October 2007 and February 2008, the LLMDA detects viruses and bacteria with the use of 388,000 probes that fit in a checkerboard pattern in the middle of a one-inch wide, three-inch long glass slide. The current operational version of the LLMDA contains probes that can detect more than 2,000 viruses and about 900 bacteria.

The next version of the array, which is being prototyped as you read this, will be able detect or identify within a 24-hour period any of the approximately 60,000 viruses or 2,500 bacteria worldwide that have been sequenced.

“The ability to detect the major bacterial and viral components of any sample can be used in countless different ways,” said Tom Slezak, LLNL’s associate program leader for Informatics. “This is important because it fills a cost-performance gap that is relevant to many missions: biodefense, public health and product safety.”

In the area of biodefense, current systems are centered upon the detection of smaller prioritized sets of high-risk pathogens, rather than testing for a much broader spectrum of organisms.

Beyond its application in the early detecting of a bioterrorism incident, “One result of this research is that it demonstrates how modern technologies could change and drastically improve product safety,” Slezak said.

There’s more – check on!

Doc Sez – Wow! Years ago, while teaching at Denver University, he worked, almost, on a project proposal to detect nerve gas with the Denver Research Institute (DU). Why almost? Our team wasn’t low bidder, but our wives were pleased.

For nerve gases, your protective-suited outside-observer masks up, enters the ‘containment laboratory and immediately stabs {you} the exposed person with an atropine injector. It keeps them alive; however if you had a heart attack or just a fainting spell the cure kills you. At least that was the theory at the time.

ScienceDaily, May 6, 2010

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100505143126.htm

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

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

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

In addition, when duplicating materials that I cite, I do not fill the material with quotation makes, the only place I keep quotes intact is where the original article ‘quotes’ another source.  Remember, when Doc sticks his two bits in, its in italics and usually indented.

In Closing

I’ll be posting articles for you comfort and anger in the next few months. I never respond to flaming, but will take time to provide evidence in the form of both primary technical and secondary {magazine articles} references for those who ask. However, most of you can reach out and Google such information for your selves.

Readers Please Note — Many of the technologies I share still have to prove that they are reliable, durable and scalable — and if you Google them in detail, you will find studies saying they are capable of being commercialized and often as many studies that are skeptical. All I know is this: for green energy related items, if we put a simple price (tax) on carbon (greenhouse gases), these new technologies would have a better chance to blossom. With American ingenuity, 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.

May your world get greener and all creatures on Earth become healthier and more able to fulfill their function in this Gaia’s world.

– Harry, aka doc Babad

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Previous Greening Columns

By Harry Babad © Copyright 2010, All right Reserved

Introduction

Read about my paradigms views, prejudices and snarky attitudes @:

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

The materials I share in the articles that follow come from the various weekly science and environmental newsletters to which I subscribe. When I have time, I also check a variety of energy related and environmental blogs. In addition, I subscribe to New York Times, Time Magazine, The Economist, Business Week, Wired, National Geographic, Smithsonian – all which I skim for articles of interest.

Some of what I chase is called out in publications by the libraries of the Pacific Northwest [NewsBridge], Sandia, Argonne and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, which are managed by the US Department of Energy. Other articles I found interesting come from technology feeds from the, Discover Magazine, various international energy and green advocacy groups as well as The American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], from the American Nuclear Society [ANS] magazine Nuclear News is a source and for chemistry related news C&EN from the American Chemical Society [ACS].

Article selection (my article – my choice} are obviously and intentionally biased by my training, experience and at rare times my emotional and philosophical intuitive views of what works and what will not… But if you have a topic I neglect, send us feedback and I’ll give it a shot.

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

Since my tid-bit are only a partial look at the original article, click on through if you want more details, as well as, often, added similar or related articles on the same topic(s).

Doc.

Now, As Usual, in No Formal Order, a Bakers Dozen Snippets

——— A List of Their Titles ———

  • Will Electric Cars Destroy Your Neighborhood Power Grid? No, But…
  • How Algal Biofuels Lost a Decade in the Race to Replace Oil.
  • Ten Ideas To Save The Planet From Coal — Burying The CO2 Problem.
  • World’s Largest Working Hydroelectric Wave Energy Device Launched.
  • At Issue Sustainability — The Big Paradigm Shift — Four principles for the shift from a fossil fuel based society plus one from Doc.
  • FACTBOX: What is the Non-Proliferation Treaty?
  • U.S. Set To Fund More Stem Cell Study — New lines approved.
  • Five Key Cyber Security Areas for DHS to TackleGeneral Accountability Office [GAO] Advice.
  • The Carpal Tunnel Survival Guide — You know this but…
  • Highest rate of CO2 emissions growth since 1990 – Data 1990-2005
  • Dams Could Alter Local Weather, Cause More Rain
    {Emphasis added by me.}
  • Tessera Solar and Stirling Energy Systems Unveil World’s First Commercial-Scale Solar-Thermal Plant, The Suncatcher
  • Icy Crystals — Methane Hydrate — Heat Up

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Will Electric Cars Destroy Your Neighborhood Power Grid? No, But…

Over the next 12 months, carmakers will introduce several new plug-in electric vehicles. One question that’s frequently asked of GreenCarReports.com–and many others too: Does recharging electric cars pose a threat to the electricity grid?

The 2010 Fisker Karma and the 2011 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids, among other electric-drive vehicles, are scheduled to roll out next year. Without a range-extending engine, the 2012 Nissan Leaf electric car will be even more reliant on the grid. So it’s a reasonable question.

The answer, in short, is: No. The current power grids in the U.S. are more than capable of handling incremental demand from the small numbers of plug-in cars that will be sold over the next few years.

However, depending on were you live and how popular the electric cars prove to be, utilities in some areas will need to take a bit of longer-term planning action sooner than others.

It should be noted that in a two-volume report, Environmental Assessment of Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles, concluded that the gradual rollout of electric vehicles would impose a very small load on the grid. Since an electric car recharging equals the load of four or five plasma TV sets, overall demand won’t be notably affected.

By John Voelcker – Senior Editor, CarGreenReports.com. November 23rd, 2009

http://www.greencarreports.com/blog/1038392_will-electric-cars-destroy-your-neighborhood-power-grid-no-but/

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How Algal Biofuels Lost a Decade in the Race to Replace Oil

For nearly 20 years, a government laboratory built a living, respiring library of carefully collected organisms in search of something that could grow quickly while producing something precious: oil.

But now that collection has largely been lost. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientists found and isolated around 3,000 species algae from construction ditches, seasonal desert ponds and briny mashes across the country in a major bioprospecting effort to find the best organisms to convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into fuel for cars.

Despite meager funding, the Aquatic Species Program initiated under President Jimmy Carter, laid the scientific foundation for making diesel-like fuel from the fat that microscopic algae accumulate in their cells. Fifty-one varieties were carefully characterized as potential high-value strains, but fewer than half of those remain.

“Just when they started to succeed is when the plug got pulled,” said phycologist Jeff Johansen of John Carroll University, who collected algal strains for the program in the 1980s. “We were growing them in ponds and we were going to grow enough to have them made into a diesel fuel.” The program was part of the huge investment that Jimmy Carter made into alternative energy in the late 1970s. All kinds of research avenues were explored, but when the funding shriveled during later years, knowledge, experts and know-how were lost. The setback highlights the problems created by inconsistent funding for energy research.

Now, President Obama has trumpeted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus package, as the largest increase in scientific research funding in history. Scientists roundly applauded the billions of dollars that went into energy research, development and deployment. But what about when the stimulus money runs out in two years?

“One caution is that much of this has been funded with the stimulus package,” said Ernie Moniz at a Google-hosted panel on energy in late November. “So, we’re going to have to see what happens after these next two years, because what we need is not a drop, but a further increase in R&D commensurate with the task at hand.” And that’s exactly what didn’t happen in the last big energy R&D push. A discussion of algae comes back can be found on the linked site.

Alas, reinventing the wheel is an old bureaucratic fall back position since records are never really kept when a project is closed down by a lack of funding.

By Alexis Madrigal, Wired — December 29, 2009

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/12/the-lost-decade-of-algal-bi