Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Greatest (****) Of All

If you are new to this Blog please take this Link to the beginning of the subject, so you might enjoy the argument more thoroughly.  If it matters to you, I am sending you two entries back.  See index at bottom of this Blog Window, on left margin.
Now back to our story....


For 12.8 TW globally

renewables were .29 TW

nuclear was .82 TW

hydro was .29 TW

biomass was 1.21

coal was 2.96

gas was 2.7

oil was 4.52

immediately we can draw some conclusions about our future from the way we are doing things in the present.  If we want to stop burning coal and burn something else instead, we are still going to have to capture CO2.  This is energy intesive and will add to the CO2 burden of whatever alternative you find.  It will still be worth it, but helps to illustrate why we "live the way we do".  Many people regard nuclear as an almost obvious choice, where others see nuclear as the lazy choice of people who'd rather be fat and insecure (environmentally and geopolitically) then lean and mean green machines.  Well, it turns out that nuclear, even with powerplants running at many times todays highest tech, largest capacity, will be far from the lazy choice.  The reason is scale:  To replace the the additional capacity that would otherwise have to be covered by carbon based energy sources, nuclear will have to supply an additional 8 TW in the coming 45 years.  

If you do the math:

An additional 8 TW equals 8000 nuclear power plants
One a day for 45 years (a day!)  

Would you rather make the plants seven times more powerful?

That's one a week for 45 years.  This is why people pray, and hope for the best.  They are the one's who understand.

So some people have suggested that we dam every single river.  This extremely damaging choice will bring us .7 TW, not even a whole TW.  Every river.

Wind, forgive me T Boone Pickens, has theoretical limits based on the well known Newtonian Physics of the the convective power of the geofluid, wind,  at 10 meters above the ground (a bit easier calculating the potential than adding up turbines like a crazy person):  Wind appears to be limited by physics to 2.1 TW.  Excellent for putting a Band Aid on America's knee, but it will hardly dent the rapacious appetite of the world for Carbon Base(d) Fuels.

Lastly, biomass, which for all practical purposes means burning organics like wood, manure and peat has a limit of 7 to 10 TW.  It obviously is a terrible choice for the developed world, though Americans are burning as much wood today as they did in 1850.  Biomass is not a sustainable choice where human health is a concern, ect.   

This leaves us with the Obe Won Kanobe of energy sources.  The original one.  The sun:  

The sun gives us 120,000 TW

800 TW on land alone.

More energy hits the surface of the Earth in 1 hr, than mankind uses in 1 year.

The problem is that we have horribly inefficient solar collectors.  The highest we have ever achieved in effieciency, was 18%.  But that was with ultra expensive and rare materials.  Not a possibility for mass rollout.

That is the jist of this entry.  There really is today no option but the sun to make a significant impact on global warming.  We can try to do everything that might help.  But we are getting to the point where we are going to run  out of time.  

Another way of looking at that nuclear power plant a day thought experiment:

From the standpoint of themodynamics that one nuclear powerplant a day is identical to the worlds increasing hunger for energy.  So even if the challenge of building such a non carbon infrastructure seems daunting to you, remember, to the race of man, across the globe, mankind is not daunted by supplying carbon based energy to his race.  He will supply that nuclear power plants worth of addtional energy to the peoples of the world.  What could possibly stop him save War, Disease, or some other global event that would make Global warming seem like the joke that idiots are willing to write off.

One power plant a day.  Seven by next week.  Sixty to seventy by the fourth of  July.  That's a hell of a lot of coal.  We have to find a solution.  In our lifestyles, and in our national character.

In the next few entries I will be discussing a mixture of some things that amuse and amaze me (like our feces and gastointestinal system.  I've been doing a little extracurricular reading...) and some fun little projects I have been embarking on in the garden and the world of amusing chemistry (one of them having to do with everyones favorite Bob's Red Mill products.  You will never guess... it has to do with bacteria.  Ha!!)

So, just because I have met the enemy and he is so very much me and my understandable desire to be normal (one might even say, understandable desire to do something even more American than burn more coal, and that's embark on some Utopian fever dream.  Not for me.  Though does anyone know where I can get an Amish made space heater that looks like a fireplace?)  There is lots of room at the bottom for the childrens laughter to echo, "reminding us how we used to be."  And that's the greatest love of all.

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