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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Build Alternative Energy First

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It amazes me that legislative shills for the gas and oil industry all cry about how America needs to drill the arctic, Gulf and Atlantic coasts to get oil and drill and frack every community on the continent to get gas to protect our "national security." They label people as terrorist who want clean water and air, a stable environment and a biosphere safe for all species.

All over the earth venture capitalists fund the exploration (isn't that a nice word) for gas and oil. That phrase ought to be "exploitation for gas and oil" for that it what it truly is.

One of the old saws in defense of the fossil fuel industry, that includes coal, is that everyone decries the pollution, the CO2, the damage to the land until the tap runs dry. It is then they will really demand the fuel.

This assertion is also promulgated by the nuclear reactor industry who wants to continue to build new reactors and get them commissioned even as they still cannot manage the spent fuel debacle that they already have.

There is no need to be without the power that the public needs and demands. The phase out of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants would go virtually unnoticed if we would design and construct the alternative methods for power generation first. Ask any ordinary American how their electricity is generated, and unless they live near a plant, most people could not reliably tell you how it is done.

If we build the alternative generating capacity first, then there would be no shortages to worry about. There would be no national security issues to trumpet on about. Indeed, America would become independent of external energy suppliers AND we would not be destroying our only biosphere to do it. Ordinary citizens who want to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat food that has not been contaminated with industrial wastes would not be protesting and getting labeled as terrorists.

On top of all that, the investors who put up the money seeking a return on investment would still benefit.

Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The 11 Billionth Mouth

I was chowing down on a small plate of enchiladas, the kind with green and red chilies on the side and spicy rice beneath. As I stuffed my mouth and reveled in the flavors that pleased my pallet I had a thought about the 11 billionth mouth on this planet that would want to eat too. The emergence of that 11 billionth mouth is reasonably possible within my lifetime. The current population of the world increased by 2% each year would yield that mouth sometime in the year 2034. My nephews and nieces will potentially see 23 billion mouths in their lifetimes. Of course all of those projections suppose that some major catastrophe doesn't emerge and limit the population.

My mind raced ahead with thoughts about how impossible those numbers seem to be. We are already seeing the impacts of human population size on the environment with mineral extraction, waste heat and waste CO2 in the atmosphere. At the risk of being a bit too crude, the 7 billion inhabitants of the world already contribute 319 million tons of feces to the environment every year.

The oceans are already being depleted of the fish that are there to take. Arable land is already being stressed to its limits in most parts of the world. Fresh water is a commodity that will spawn armed conflicts by its scarcity. We have assumed that current production levels of food and water is sufficient to support our 7 billion person population. What if it is not?

The story, Soylent Green, with its iconic scream, "Soylent Green is people," is only one small part of the plot and the story. There is a far more frightening and sinister aspect to that story.

There is a book. It is Soylent Corporation's Oceanic Survey. It says that the oceans are dying and are mostly already dead. The bigger conspiracy is not that people are being recycled for food, but that they need to be recycled as food because there are no other sources remaining. The senior executive who is murdered just submits as the hired killer kills him. He would rather die than live with the knowledge of what the future holds for the billions of people who are in fact doomed but don't realize it.

So back to reality! Are we in a death spiral that cannot be stopped? Have we passed that point of no return on a the slippery slope?

My Related Post --

In doing research for an article I came across this webpage. While I realize the author is trying to tell the world that abortions are terrible, the most shocking counter is the one in the top right corner that showed total annual abortions. I took away a completely different POV. Without abortions, the world population today (2013) might be as high as 8.3 Billion mouths. And this doesn't include all the mouths that the non-aborted ones would also have had.

2034 and the 11 billionth mouth is not that far away. If we as a species do not act to self regulate, the environment will do it for us with a great deal of pain and suffering. Starvation and social unrest will plague us until a New Equilibrium is established. The New Equilibrium will not include all of us. The Culling of Man may not take place until there are 11, 17 or 23 billion people or more, but all nature needs to do is reduce food production by as little as 10% and we collapse as a species. Three consecutive years of reduced food production is major catastrophe. Not necessarily an extinction level event but one where billions of people suffer and die.

So what would it take for Nature to stabilize the human population? All the earthquakes, even the largest ones ever known hasn't done the job. All the volcanoes have failed that assignment too. Unless a virus becomes exceptionally potent, we cannot rely on that vector either. A meteor and asteroid might be able to accomplish the task, but we cannot reply on it happening any time soon. A geologic event is not likely to be the bearer of the New Equilibrium unless it is really a monster like never before seen.

A few conspiracy theorists have postulated that there are already plans in the works to manufacture the vectors of population control. All of these conjectures are predicated on there being an elite group who will sacrifice others to save themselves. The conjectures also presuppose that there is a need to do something before it is too late. If they would have to do anything, it is already too late.

As of now, 7 billion people seem to be in some level of equilibrium. The 11 billionth and beyond, constitute the problem that needs to be addressed. Where exactly the tipping point resides is up for debate. We are able to use our brains to change technologies to produce usable energies and fresh water in greater abundance without further polluting our sealed bell jar biosphere. Can we produce edible proteins enough for 11, 15 or 23 billion people? And where and how would we and should we stop?

Radon - Leave it in the Ground

Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

A lot of the stuff we bring up out of the ground ought to be left there where it can exist at its highest level of safety. Humans have the propensity for picking up whatever we find as useful and using it without considering what dangers are associated with that stuff. Probably the first example of such a use-danger couple is that of lead. It was soft and easily formed into plates and bowls for serving and eating of food. It was easily flattened into sheets then rolled into long tubes for the transport of water that we drank. All the while we had no idea of the toxic nature of our exposure to lead.

We went even further with lead and mixed small quantities of the metal with glass to make exquisitely clear crystal glassware. Tin mixed with lead created the first alloys of pewter that was also popular in the preparation and consumption of food and drink. Early "tin" cans were soldered along the seams with lead and even until the latter part of the 20th century we were still soldering copper water pipes with lead. It took a lot of legislation to stop corporations from using lead in house paint and as an anti-knock additive to our gasoline.

We dig coal of varying grades out of the earth and burn it with great abandon. Although we have eliminated the burning of coal for residential heat in our urban areas, we still burn millions of tons of it for the generation of electricity. The fourfold negative impacts of using coal for energy are the waste heat that must be dissipated by dilution in the environment, CO2 which contribute to atmospheric heat retention and oceanic acidification, the coal leaves behind tons of ash that contains all the impurities that had been laid down with the vegetation hundreds of millions of years ago, and lastly, the mines leach their toxins into waterways that we depend on for potable water.

Oil is also one of those items that today ought to be left in the ground. When the first commercial oil well was drilled in 1850 in Oil City, Pennsylvania there were no cross country roads and only a few novel automobiles on the roads. The need for oil was minuscule by comparison to today but the legacy of death and damage done by our close association with the crude is long and storied. Referring to Oil City:

"The city was partially destroyed by flood in 1865 and by both flood and fire in 1866 and again in 1892; on this last occasion, several oil tanks that were struck by lightning gave way, and Oil Creek carried a mass of burning oil into the city, where some 60 lives were lost and property valued at more than $1 million was destroyed." ~,_Pennsylvania
The energy paradigm of the 20th century cannot carry us through this 21st century. The billions of barrels of oil used each year add CO2 to the environment at a faster rate than other natural process can neutralize it. The atmosphere stores heat and the oceans warn and acidify. The well sites are dirty, toxic and prone to failures of a magnitude far beyond our meager human means to fix the damage.

Natural gas also presents its dangers. The biggest acute dangers appear to be in the transmission lines that send large volumes of extremely highly pressurize gas through the country side, our towns and cities leaving everyone who is nearby at risk for incineration not much different than those 60 people in oil City in 1892. The methods of extracting the gas from the ground brings up all sorts of toxic substances that lay long buried. Mercury, lead, arsenic, and radon all emerge from the well bore during the natural and properly operated drilling process. The newer horizontal drilling with the hydraulic fracturing have added a new layer of risk and damage as the result of the gas production process.

The deep rock layers are shattered in order to get the gas to flow more freely. While this is great for the backers of the gas well, each of those fractures also make it possible for methane and radon to leak more freely to the surface outside the purview of the drilling company. While radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, its presence is exacerbated by the drilling and fracturing processes. It is one of those negatives that cannot be mitigated by more sophisticated drilling and fracturing.

Even our most "modern" electricity generation method, nuclear reactors, pose the huge problem of what to do with the spent fuel. First we dug the Uranium out of the ground. Then we concentrated it to make it fissionable. It in turn created massive amounts of even higher radioactive elements that we will have to store somewhere on the order of 10,000 years. I suspect that every rational scientist says, at least to himself, "The way we are going we won't be around long enough to have to worry about THAT."

In this 21st Century we have developed energy technologies that were not possible even a decade or two ago. Dozens of wind turbine systems exist today. Tidal energy capture, PV solar panels and heat concentrating methods make the sun a viable source of energy. It is possible to stop just finding resources somewhere in the ground and devise methods of creating what we need.

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Riding The Wind

Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

The next car I buy will be an electric car due to the fact that I want to do some little part toward not loading the environment with the exhaust gases which are unburned hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide. For most people who make the commitment to an electric car the decision they make only shifts the pollution from the road to some remote site where coal, gas or nuclear steam is used to make the electricity they use to move their car.

 There is a way to avoid that situation. Many residential customers are able to select alternative energy suppliers through their usual electric utility company. For instance they can choose a solar sourced supplier who sells their capacity to the consumer and uses the legacy utility company to provide the wires and the billing.

 In my case, I already buy all of my electricity from a wind-sourced provider. When I buy the next car and it is an electric one, I will be literally "riding the wind."

Resources to research:

Wind Energy Foundation  also at Twitter: WINDenergyFDN

Union of Concerned Scientists  also on Twitter: USCUSA

WGL Energy

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