environment,energy,greenhouse,gas,carbon,dioxide,global,nuclear energy,clean energy,emissions,global climate change,environmental impacts, Nuclear Energy Can Save US: 2007

Nuclear Energy Can Save US--America�s 100 nukes equal four million barrels of oil per day.

Billions of lives and civilization itself may be at risk from the Global Warming & End of Cheap Oil, Crisis. Rising sea levels and rising oil prices could be the end of civilization as we know it. The problem is so huge that the most powerful answer, many nuclear plants, must be deployed. Currently, America‘s 100 nukes deliver the energy of four million barrels of oil per day. Wind and solar cannot do the job, and may delay the real answer too long. Still, all kinds of clean energy, plus conservation, plus reducing deforestation, will be needed to help the poor half of the world, and for civilization to survive through this century.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Proceedings of Bali Climate Conference (Part Two)

Conference extremists want US to pay reparations for emissions, which is totally unfair. America took no deliberate action to cause harm, but will do its part, in cutting fossil fuel. Other nations however, must control deforestation; likely 1/3 of total CO2 emissions.

CO2 is most directly related to burning of fossil fuels, and America consumed 25% of the world's total; namely 80Q of the world's 310Q fossil fuels in 1990; and will consume estimated 22%, 130Q of world's 600Q total fossil fuels in 2030.

A goal for emissions by 2030 to equal the 1990 level, would take the following clean energy (or equiv.):
US 130Q-80Q=50Q (equivalent to 8.5 billion barrels of oil) = 570, one-gig, nukes or 1.15 million, one-meg, wind turbines; or combination of these two clean sources.
World 600Q-310Q=290Q (equivalent to 48 billion barrels of oil) = 3200, one-gig nukes or 6.4 million, one-meg wind turbines; or combination.
NOTES: 1. All energy data from eia.doe.gov 2. One billion barrels oil=6Q, since US 7.5 billon barrels equal 42Q (2005)

A goal for 2050 would be more difficult to achieve, since oil may well be gone and additional clean energy will be needed to compensate. Antinuclear activists who closed down nuclear energy because of a few minor events, are the real villains of the coming climate and oil crisis. Chernobyl was not serious, compared to the Bhopal, India, chemical plant leak (thousands dead, and twice as many blinded and maimed), and Three-Mile Island problem was nothing at all. If the world had 2000, one-gig nukes right now, with the capability to ramp up to producing dozens more each year, there wouldn't be anything to even discuss

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Proceedings of Bali Climate Conference (Part One)

Two overriding ideas have come from the Bali Conference. Many of the 10,000 delegates, in particular those from Europe, blame America for all emissions problems, and think that they will get policies they like when the Bush administration is over. They ignore more important facts of history. The world, Europe especially, owes plenty to America, and all of its administrations for sacrifices to bring peace in two world wars, and two Asiatic wars; for huge balance of trade deficits that amount to nothing less than wealth transfers to the rest of the world; and for $trillions in foreign aid.
No one can predict in detail how the future will play out, least of all government planners. This was seen clearly in the problems of rigid Soviet economics, versus the thriving free market countries at the end of last century.
Fusion energy might arrive and solve all problems; but it always seems to be 50 to 100 years away. Barring that, this century's problems seem sure to center on energy. It will be difficult to convince any American administration, and also be counterproductive, for America to be rigidly constrained. If the end of cheap oil happens as a real crisis, free market capitalist countries, led by America stand the best chance of handling it. At some point, it may be right for America to promise steep emissions cuts, backed by its full faith and credit, with or without rigid numbers.
Already several nations face Kyoto Treaty fines up to $30 billion because they will miss the goals they promised. One negotiator said it had been hard to see how difficult the job would be; i.e., they did not see what they were getting into. For America's enormously complex economy, deciding numbers that can be met would be next to impossible.
Bali posts, Parts two and three, will consider emission transparency, and aid to poor nations. Aid programs will be easy to sell, because America is always generous.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Nuclear Subsidies; Tiny Vs. Renewable's.

A story in the Hawaii Reporter (http://www.hawaiireporter.com/), by Michael. R. Fox, Ph.D, describes the US energy subsidy program in the clearest manner that I have ever seen. Some critics have claimed that the $50 billion Nuclear Loan Guarantee is excessive. (My take; this is ridiculous. In the past there were some shoddy nuke programs, but transparency will guarantee that will not happen again; it is most likely that not a single $billion will have to be spent.)
On the other hand, Mr. Fox, with 40 years in energy, plus University teaching, says that the subsidies for renewables have been ongoing for three decades, with little to show. Now, there is a 0.52 per gallon subsidy on ethanol, which has only 2/3 the energy of gas (data from another source). If nukes received compensation for clean energy delivered, that was equivalent to the ethanol subsidy, one-gig nukes, which produce one million kilowatts each instant, and one million kwh each hour, would be paid a subsidy of $22,000 for every hour of operation.
The cost to build nuclear plants is wildly exaggerated by antinuke activists. Costs are also artificially inflated by government overregulation. In the early 70's many US plants were built for $100,000,000. Some of these were probably slapdash, but plants could be built quite safely now for a few $billion, under current strict supervision. Japan builds for $1.7 billion, and China, probably for less.
As for strict supervision, it is unfortunately too strict, and intrusive. Sometimes, changes are made in designs after construction starts. Then, instead of simple design revisions by software, concrete, rebar, cables, etc. have to be ripped out causing huge overruns. Also, the paperwork for construction is excessive. In one case studied, 44,000,000 pages of documents were produced, almost 2/3 of a ton per day. The nuclear renaissance which is starting in America, needs more common sense supervision than this for success.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bali Climate Change Conference Report

Among the first issues being discussed at the Bali conference on climate change, is whether rich countries owe reparations to poor ones for climate problems caused by burning of fossil fuels. It seems to me this is a moral obligation that should be accepted.
However, for America, there are good reasons why it should be given some slack; even decades worth. It would not be good for the world if America's might was hobbled by restrictions on its industries. Starting after WWII, America has created the modern world economy. While some economic excesses are a big part of the problem, the available capital and industrial strength that the world now enjoys, is the only reason to hope that the problem may eventually be solved. After WWII, America spent trillions of dollars rebuilding Europe, including the devastated nation of Germany. Also, rather than destroying Japan with reparations, America led them with trade (plus their ingenuity and energy) to where Japan is the world's third economy, and a real economic competitor. No one can call this imperialism.
In more recent decades, trade with America, Europe, and Japan, has helped development of China and India. They should also be given some slack; if their economies succeed, then one-third of the world's population will be supported.
In coming decades, the industrial might of the world must focus on construction of nuclear and wind energy plants; the only solutions visible right now. 5000, one-gig nukes, AND 12 to 15 million, one-meg wind turbines, plus car and appliance efficiency, controlled forestry, and biofuels (from anything except food) might pull the world through.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Insanity-The Only Word That Fits

A recent report, at www.townhallmail.com/raslnam_thukkjkj.html, says that corn ethanol used 6% of the US 2000 corn crop, 20% last year, and about one-quarter this year. Furthermore, congress mandates 7.5 billion gallons of corn ethanol by 2012 (no crop % estimate), and 15 billion gallons by 2022 (i.e. 36 billion gallons ethanol, with 21 billion from scrap stock such as saw grass). (Aside-saw grass technology is now yet proven, but is infinitely better than food as a feedstock. The sacrificed food will not just be corn, but includes other foods that will be left unplanted, crowded out by the corn acreage.)
The Org. for Economic Co-operation and Development says that rising food prices will threaten the nutrition and health of poor people worldwide, and that ethanol production causes greater environmental damage than fossil fuels . A Nobel Laureate, Paul Crutzen concurs; saying nitrous oxide from ethanol causes an increase in greenhouse emissions. Even worse, a Cornell professor, David Pimentel, computes that from start to finish, growing and processing the corn requires 1700 gallons of water for each gallon of ethanol. This is obviously a greater strain on the Earth, than even coal, which is simply dug up, moved, and burned in a power plant.
15 billion gallons of ethanol, equal to about 400 million barrels, is less than 20 days of US oil consumption, and could be produced more sanely by 25, one-gig nukes.
PS: A United Nations spokesman said (10/29/07), that using arable land to grow crops for biofuels is a Crime Against Humanity.
PPS: I believe corn ethanol craze will end before five, or at the most ten, years from now.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Solar Energy Just Will Not Do (Part Three)

As discussed in Part Two of Solar posts, retail type solar energy installations (home-mounted) do not s seem to be a viable part of the Climate Change fight. Besides cost, esthetics have to be considered; remember the anger at roof-mounted TV antennas years ago. Also, "rebound" is likely to happen. A report last year said that several studies showed only 60% (my memory) of expected results were realized because of rebound; e.g., after saving, a person may then make his next car an SUV instead of a hybrid. Last, every transformation of energy causes a bit of energy loss; grid-linked systems lose a bit both times, sending and receiving energy to a public utility, the energy wholesaler.

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants are more likely to work, primarily because they are wholesalers with inherent benefits. However, even here the cost, and scale of manufacturing that they require may be a drawback. Per eia.doe.gov, CSP's, or thermal systems are ten times as prevalent worldwide, as PV arrays.

Getting a handle on the cost of CSP's is a problem. One recent report bragged that an area of 92 by 92 miles could supply as much energy as the world now produces. This is not new; call it 100 by 100 miles, or 10,000 square-miles, 1/300 of continental US, and the sunlight received is 12 times the current total world energy (See Part One, Solar post). The report did not say how they would get 8% efficiency to create the energy, nor how much it would cost to cover 10,000 square-miles with mirrors separated so as not to mask each others sun, and for the mirrors to be precision manufactured structures, not just millions of frame, row houses. Without such data, the real value of these plants cannot be estimated.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Solar Energy Just Will Not Do (Part Two)

Even though, at ground level, America receives 3700 times as much solar energy as the 100Q of energy we produce from all sources (See Solar, Part One), solar energy cannot solve the Climate Change crisis that the Earth faces. Massively-concentrated, energy sources like nuclear plants, or strongly-concentrated, sources like wind turbines are the only available solutions.
As described in Part One, America's 3,000,000 square-miles receive 11PKWH (11 X 10 to 15th kilowatt-hours) of solar energy each year. Each square-mile receives four-billion KWH per year. A one-gig, nuke (one-million KW), operating 90% (about 7000 hours) of the year, "produces" seven-billion KWH; 1.6 times as much as each square mile, of land or solar cells, can "receive". Since 15% efficient PV cells only deliver one-sixth as much electricity as the energy received, one square-mile of cells only gives 0.65 billion KWH per year. One, one-gig nuke can produce as much electricity as 10.6 square-miles of PV cells (265,000,000 one-square-foot cells).
A well-detailed report (http://linas.org/theory/solar-electric.html) docments: at average peak output of 10-watts per square-foot, 100 square-feet solar cells give one kilowatt; using battery-bank, or grid-tied systems; 168 square-feet; gives 1.92 KW, 8.8 KWH/day; in Austin, Texas; with average 5-hours/day sun; gives 3300 KWH per year. PV cells, $5 per watt; other parts, plus utility hook-up give total cost of $10 per watt, or $20,000 for 2000-watt system. To amortize this versus Texas electric costs, takes decades. Costs must come down greatly for widespread acceptance.
My Take: To equal a one-gig nuke, two million households must be able to afford $20,000 systems, yet still be interested in saving a small amount on their electric bills. Also, the $40 billion to build these systems could pay for ten, $4 billion nukes instead.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bali Climate Change Conference

Reports on the Bali Climate Change Conference next month, say the aimpoint of CO2 emissions rollback to 1990, will be the year 2050, since Kyoto's 2012 date cannot be met. This makes sense, but even more years to work won't make it easy. CO2 emissions are directly linked to Q (BTU) of fossil fuels. Reducing Q from fossil fuels is the answer to climate change, which could otherwise cause water shortages, drought and famine, as well as rising sea levels.
Energy data from eia.doe.gov, actual for 1990 and 2004, and projected for 2030, plus my own raw extrapolations to 2050, are used here. Only 1990 and 2050 are given in detail.
1990 (EIA) Total 350Q/Oil 135Q/Other Fossil 165Q/Other 50Q
2050 (Ext)Total 1050Q/Oil 360Q/Other Fossil 550Q/Other150Q
(Note: 2030 total energy projected by EIA equals 700Q)
My guess of 2050 total fossil energy is 910Q. To reduce this to the 1990 level, 300Q, would take 610Q of clean energy. If we get 360Q clean energy in place of oil, it would solve or ease two problems. Oil and its CO2 will probably be gone by 2050, so equal energy will keep the economy going as oil disappears.
This 360Q could be supplied by 4500, one-gig nukes, or 13,500,000 (or equiv.) wind turbines. Either quantity by 2050 is clearly impossible. However, a large fraction of both sources will give enormous amounts of energy to help fight climate change.
Also, 360Q will still leave the need for 250Q clean energy (2050, 550Q versus the 1990, 300Q of fossil fuel), for the rollback. All of the programs that are starting up right now must be pushed hard. We need: efficiency in car mileage, and electrical devices; zero-sum forestry worldwide; concentrated solar energy plants; biofuels from anything, other than food (corn ethanol must end soon); and coal plants, which should be required by law, to sequester large fractions of their CO2.
No single source, not even nukes, will be enough; but in time, 5000 nukes and millions of wind turbines, and counting, will eventually put Earth's climate on the road to healing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Clean Energy is Cheap

The world currently consumes 450Q(BTU) of manmade energy per year. This equals energy of 5500, one-gig nukes, or 16,500,000, one-meg wind turbines (at 8-hours per day, 3 gigs of rated wind, equal one-gig of nuclear). At $4B per nuke, or $2M per turbine, 450Q would cost $25T or $35T respectively. Better yet, for $60T capital cost, plants with 900Q yearly energy capacity could be built. Costs would rise thru the century, but nowhere near oil inflation; fuel will always be cheap (one pound nuke fuel equals 500,000 pounds coal, and wind is free).
These capital costs may sound high, but they are bargains compared to current $1.8T per year for $60 oil (85MBPD, equal to 30BBPY). (This equals $18T in just a decade.) As oil disappears this century, long before, most likely, oil will be $100, $200, $300 and more per barrel (true world price without speculation). Yearly costs will easily be $3T, $6T and $9T, respectively for only 40% of 450Q. Per decade, if indeed the world can afford it, oil will cost $30T, $60T or $90T.
The $60T capital cost (as escalated) would be easy for the world during this century, and would give 900Q of clean energy which is FIVE times as much as current 170Q of oil. Even as capital costs rise through the century, these plants will always be massive bargains; and incidentally, save world civilization from climate change.
In a later post, possible bottlenecks and construction difficulties will be discussed.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Solar Energy Just Will Not Do (Part One)

The Sun delivers energy to the 200 million square miles of Earth's surface, that is thousands of times greater than we humans generate from all sources. The quantity is so huge that solar seems to be the answer to the coming energy crisis. However, it is spread too thin for use; like collecting barrels of oil from an oil slick on water. See coming posts for reasons.
This does not say we don't use solar energy. Along with heat from radioactivity in the Earth, solar keeps ground level temperature about 300-degrees C above absolute zero; distills and distributes water worldwide; drives the winds, and thermohaline ocean circulation to moderate air temperatures in all latitudes; and energizes plant life to provide food and forest products for humans and animals. We should be contented with this.
50% of solar energy reaches the ground. Currently a tiny bit is accessed by photovoltaic cells to give 0.066Q of the total 100Q (eia.doe.gov) that America generates from all sources. Note: this amount is only 2/3 of 1/10 of one percent of the 100Q .
The Sun delivers 175 petawatts (10 x 10 to 15th watts) to the disc of Earth every instant; by 8060 hours, this is 1500 petakilowatt-hours (PKWH) per year. Since 50% reaches ground, and the US is 1.5% of the world's land, we get 11 PKWH per year, versus 100Q (BTU).
One kilowatt-hour equals 3412 BTU (Google), so our 11 PKWH equals 3.7 times 10 to 18th BTU. Divided by our 100Q BTU (10 times 10 to 14th), solar is 3700 times as much as the energy we generate. All other nations (28.5% of Earth's land) get 19 times as much solar energy, but make only three times as much energy, 300Q. Their solar-to-human energy multiple is 6.5 times as much as ours, or 24,000.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Immigration and the American Dream

Some Advocates say that immigrants to the US are entitled to work for the "American Dream". I truly wish them well. However, the American Dream may turn to nightmare if we reach the limits of the materials that our land can provide, just because we do not have enough energy. It will be even a worse nightmare for immigrants, because people will tend to blame them for shortages. What immigrants will be doing though, is only getting us to the limits a tiny bit sooner than we would do on our own.
There is no limit to the materials available, if we have enough energy. The ocean water could be desalinated and fresh water pumped to drought areas, or places now seen as wastelands; instead of just high assay ores, poorer grades could be mined; we might even mine materials from seawater; with enough energy. Instead of the world's current 400Q (BTU) energy, equal to 5000, one-gig nukes (or 8 million wind turbines), the world needs 2 to 3 times as much clean energy to make the difference between prosperity and disaster.
This future is not like the Y2K scare that was solved by the warning. Corporations and nations believed, and software geniuses turned to and fixed it. However, software cannot create commodities. Electrons weigh next to nothing, compared to trillions of tons of water, billions of tons of food grains, billions of barrels of oil per year. We cannot depend on the electron-pushers, brilliant as they are, to produce vast quantities of materials just by taking thought

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Earth's Inconvenient Water Supply

Water is very unevenly distributed on Earth. Long-term droughts, and major floods happen randomly; deserts hardly ever get any water. Two out of six billion people, need more water on land; while fresh melt water from ice caps is raising ocean levels. The Los Angeles Times (1966) had a chart showing 280 cubic miles of water evaporated every day; 230 from sea, and 50 from land. The water precipitates as rain somewhere else (70 on land, with 20 runoff to the sea, and 210 on the sea). 280 cubic miles equals 0.01% of Earth's 320 million cubic miles of water.
97% of our water is too salty for crops or people, and 2% (7 million cubic miles) is frozen in ice caps. Several sources say that ocean's are rising 2 millimeters (0.08 inch) per year. This much over 140 million square-miles of ocean equals 200 cubic miles of melt water. One cubic mile of water equals one trillion gallons; 200 trillion gallons melt from the ice every year.
America used 150 trillion gallons (500,000 per person) in 2000. At this rate, the world would need 3000 trillion gallons, or 3000 cubic miles of water per year. Earth's land area, 50 million square miles gets 70 cubic miles (70 trillion gallons) water/day; 3000 trillion would take only 45 days of rain. The US 150 trillion gallons on our 3 million square miles would take about 38.
This is lots of water, but uneven supply, due to climate change leads to droughts, floods, critical water shortages in many countries. Conservation, and better water management will always be necessary. Nuclear plants could give energy for desalination and purification of sea and poor quality ground water by reverse osmosis throughout the world.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Defense of Big Oil Profits

Though I have no stake, I believe that suspicion of Big Oil profit is not helpful for the world's future. Cheap oil, drilled wells, must continue as long as possible, yet there are demands from some people for punitive taxes on Big Oil. They are business people, and will make a profit when they can, but they can't control prices. They explored worldwide, drilled, built oil fields in other countries, then saw their work expropriated. Still, the wonderful properties of oil, and the enormous supply virtually created the modern world economy. We must hope that Big Oil will apply their economic might to nuclear energy as oil disappears this century. A Wall Street financier was quoted recently as saying that they must do this, or perish.
My common sense tells me, the following pure guesses about oil profits:
When oil is $100 a barrel (real world price), the OPECs of the world will be able to lift a billion barrels of oil for $5B, and sell it for $100B export price; a $95B profit. Is this profit immoral? Maybe, but it is their resource, and it is running out.
Big Oil pays $100B for the billion barrels; transports it here for $5B; refines it for $20B; ships to oil and gas suppliers for $5B; adds $20B for profit; and sells to retailers for $150B. ($10B income tax leaves them $10B profit.) Retailers add $20B for their costs; $10B for profit; add $20B for state and local taxes; and sell to us for $200B. (REMEMBER: This guess is for only one billion of the 4 billion barrels that we import every year.)
Every 100 new nuclear plants, will equal energy of 4 million barrels of oil per day, 1.5BBPY, and save $150B to OPEC for $100 oil; $300B for $200 oil. Better, 500 nukes, costing $2 trillion in current dollars, will save 20MBPD, 7.5BBPY; and $1.5T per year for $200 oil; which will come.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

This Century Malthus Could Be Right (Part Three)

Just one week ago, I became frightened when I read that we Americans are dependent on fossil fuel for the productivity of farmers (Please read "Eating Fossil Fuel", referenced in Part One of this post.) Now today, Oct. 17, 2007, the US Agricultural Department dropped a Bombshell; US wheat stockpiles have fallen to the lowest levels in 59 years.
There are many reasons, some easy to correct, but others are scary:
Farmers harvest 40 bushels per acre now, versus 17 in WWII, but acreage is down by one-third, or 28 million acres. The extra grain was produced by fossil-fuel farming.
20% of last year's corn crop went to make ethanol-INSANITY (my opinion).
Bad harvests in the Ukraine, one of Europe's breadbaskets, was followed by poor harvests in Russia, Egypt, and Australia; Global Warming is blamed by some experts. This is not proven, but how can we blithely ignore the possibility?
USDA slashed its estimate of Australian harvest from 19 million to 13.5 million tons.
China and India are importing more and more food each year, for their growing populations and improving life styles. However, drought has withered 27 million acres in China.
Despite its rising GDP, India's food grain production has been stagnant for a decade. Also, since they produce very little oil, they plan on 35 million acres of biofuel crops. This may be a worse form of INSANITY than America's ethanol; India's people do not have surplus food.
US prices for food and beverages rose 4.2% in the 12 months through August. USDA estimates the next 12-month rise at 4.0%; but what if it is double that, as others guess? So many nations are rushing to buy our exports, since they consider them cheap.
15% of the world's food grows on depleting ground water, or rivers that are drying up.
It is time for the world to stop whistling in the dark. Thousands of nuclear plants and millions of wind turbines must be built. Worries of so-called "nuclear waste", proliferation, etc. are as nothing in comparison with the possible total collapse of world civilization.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This Century Malthus Could Be Right (Part Two)

More worries triggered by the report "Eating Fossil Fuels" (See Part One of this series of posts). The report showed me that huge quantities of energy must be developed for food, and by extension for water. It seems more necessary than ever that conservation, efficiency, and alternative fuels must somehow increase exponentially, year by year. The Economist, London (10/16/07), cited altenative energy spending (worldwide, and including wind energy, most likely) as $63B this year, up from $49B last year, and $30B the year before; doubling in two years. To some people this probably sounds great, and they will say, "See, we will be alright". To me, they just do not see the size of the problem. It will only be great, if by mid-century, yearly expenditures double, and double, and double again, then triple from that point. Also, it will only be great, if nuclear energy keeps pace with this to double the overall clean energy, and provide the massive, concentrated base of energy to make it all work. I can't compute precisely, but I believe that 1000 nuclear electric plants added to all of the other programs, will be a good START toward solution of the energy crises that humanity faces.
Late Thought: I don't know if The Economist includes nuclear in alternative energies. If so, my guess of 2 x 2 x 2 x 3, which equals 24 will have to be doubled again. Yearly clean energy spending in 2050, would have to be 48 x $63B, or more than than $3T (in 2007 $).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

This Century, Malthus Could Be Right. (Part One).

While researching a recent post, an extremely scary article was discovered. This piece, entitled "Eating Fossil Fuel" by D. A. Pfeiffer (2004), proposes that the so called, "Green Revolution", which increased world grain production 250% between1950 and 1984, was primarily a process of converting fossil fuel to extra food. Fossil fuel agriculture uses an average of 50 times as much energy as traditional methods. The inceased production is degrading cropland, requiring more and more energy just to maintain the yield we have now; running harder and harder to stay in place, just at the century when oil will disappear; possibly natural gas as well. The "Greenhouse" monster, coal, will still be in use; almost as big a tragedy as the loss of oil.
I hope that Mr. Pfeiffer's projections are too pessimistic, but his facts ring true. He projects that the U.S. will stop being a food exporter by 2025 due to increased population. This concurs with my Post, Ethanol From Corn Will Not Do; running cars on food is INSANITY. However, enough clean, non-CO2 energy, can get humanity through. If Mr. Pfiffer's data is near right, and it looks too solid to be far off, America needs thousands of nuclear plants, millions of wind turbines, conservation, efficiency of energy usage, reforestation, biofuel, and a new source of fuel such as fusion energy, to avoid devastation on a massive scale.
The next several posts will explore specific problems that he foresees for America (which in turn will impact the world); we are eroding topsoil and wasting arable land, shrinking the land required for producing biomass energy, using more and more water resources, etc. I hope that many people will read Mr. Pfeiffers report at,

Monday, October 8, 2007

What Does CO2 Gas Weigh?

The weight of the CO2 molecule is the combined weight of one carbon, and two oxygen atoms. Each atom's weight depends on the number of nucleotides, protons and neutrons, in its nucleus. The carbon atom is atomic number 6, meaning 6 protons in the nucleus. Carbon has an atomic weight of 12, with six protons and six neutrons (neutral particles) in the nucleus. Likewise oxygen is atomic number 8, and atomic weight 16; 16 particles in the nucleus.
When a carbon atom burns, it is oxidized by oxygen to form the CO2 molecule. This molecule has a combined weight of 12 + 16 + !6 or 44 nucleotides. It is therefore 44 over 12, or 3.66 times the weight of one carbon atom. When one carbon atom burns the CO2 molecule is 3.66 times the weight of the carbon atom; when one pound of pure carbon burns, 3.66 pounds of CO2 is formed; when one ton of carbon is burned, 3.66 tons of CO2 is formed; when one billion tons of coal (typical year for America) are burned, 3.66B tons should be expected.
The US produces 6 billion tons of CO2 per year (eis.doe.gov), and 85% , or 5.1B tons is from fossil fuels. If one billion tons coal produced 3.3B tons CO2, all of the remaining oil and natural gas would only give 1.8 billion tons, which seems unlikely. The discrepancy is because coal burning is only 75% efficient (Taftan). It may therefore, only emit 3.3B tons X 75%, or 2.5B tons CO2, with the remainder. 0 2.6B tons from oil and natural gas.This now seems reasonable, e.g., natural gas burns so much more completely and emissions from burning are so much less than coal.
This is consistent with the data in Post "Clean Coal" and Global Warming, from a NY Times article, showing that coal burning produces 1897 pounds of CO2 per million BTU; while natural gas, much more efficient, emits only 842 pounds.
If the Taftan link doesn't open; use www.taftan.com/xl/combus1.htm.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Nuclear Waste Isn't.

How in the world, did the world, allow anti-nuclear zealots to convince us that spent nuclear fuel is waste, when it is in fact, a treasure trove.
Moreover, they say that the spent fuel will be radioactive for tens of thousands of years and that it cannot be safely stored. The U-235, source of the bombs, and energy, and controversy, has been in the ground for billions of years, slowly decaying into radon, to form part of background radiation we must live with all of our lives, killing a small number of us every year.
For years President Carter's silly worry about proliferation has prevent us from reprocessing the spent fuel. Did he think someone could steal the spent fuel and make a bomb in a garage? However, luckily for the continuation of civilization, the tide is changing. Plans are in the works for many new nuclear electric plants worldwide, and the US Energy Department hopes to have a reprocessing plant up and running by 2020, if the technology is feasible. Four contracts have been awarded (Associated Press, Oct. 3, 2007) under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. Under this program, nations such as the United States and Russia will provide uranium fuel to other nations for generation of electricity. The spent fuel will then be retrieved for reprocessing; a practical way to minimize proliferation

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

100 Nukes Equal 4MBPD or 200M Tons/Year of Oil

No one has commented, and no one seemed impressed by the facts in the title above, when these same data were used in an earlier post. 100 tiny plants, relatively, can produce the same energy as a veritable sea of oil. As oceans rise with global warming emissions from oil, and other fossil fuels, and as oil prices rise relentlessly until oil vanishes, the world economy (civilization itself) is in critical danger.

Right today, worldwide, 84MBPD of oil is consumed. This is equal to the energy from 1700 nuclear electric plants (per eia.doe.gov, 100 U.S. plants equal 8Q energy; U.S. 20MBPD oil equal 42Q; therefore 100 nukes equal about 20% of U.S. oil consumption or 4MBPD). Also, one BPD of oil equals 50 tons per year (google), therefore 4MBPD, or 1.5BBPY, equal 200 million tons of oil.

Anti-nuclear activists say use renewables such as wind instead. I agree that this would be great, as long as they really mean it, and build millions of huge wind turbines (2000KW, minimum). If they are so concerned, why aren't they assembling the capital and starting to build? In the real world of U.S. capital, nuclear plants are seen to be viable investments, with 30 or more possible in the next 20 years. Except for Germany, which has made an enormous governmental investment, wind turbines are not catching on.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ralph Nader Does Not Know the Answer

In an internet rant, Mr. Nader wrote that nuclear is not the answer. He is wrong; especially with respect to the following ideas:

"The nuclear industry is coddled by government". Ridiculous. Nuclear is hardly helped at all in comparison with the coal burning industry; which is not fined for discharging lead, mercury, organic carcinogens; nor for nitric and sulfuric oxides which kill tens of thousands each year; nor does it pay a "Carbon Tax" for the two billion tons of CO2 emissions each year; nor is there even talk of a "Radioactive Tax" for the fact that coal burning plants (10,000 large and small) emit three times as much radioactive U-235 as is contained in the yearly fuel for America's 100 nukes. (See Post, Coal Beds as Uranium Mines.)

"Nuclear plants endanger people because they are terrorist targets". A nuclear plant, protected by 150 million pounds of concrete, and impacted by a 747, is far less dangerous than many chemical plants would be if hit by a Cessna. An angry worker in Bhopal, India, opened a valve at a chemical plant, poisoning and killing thousands; blinding and maiming thousands more.

"A nuclear plant accident would lay waste an area the size of Pennslyvania". I never believed this, and still don't. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which received large, explosive radiation charges, from those terrible bombs 60 years ago, are thriving cities now.

"Electricity for nuclear fuel enrichment causes massive CO2 emissions from coal burning plants". TVA provides all of the enrichment electriciy in America. They have 3 nukes, plus hydroelectric resources; little coal. If this little is bad, why doesn't Ralph rant about coal.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Open Letter to National Geographic

This letter responds to an article in the Geographic, Oct. 2007, issue, which discusses fighting global warming with 14 good, diffused methods, plus the answer, Nuclear Energy.
Dear Editors: As an 80-year old, who will not be here when the horror occurs, which it surely will if nuclear does not sweep the world; I am frightened for your future. Especially when your wonderful magazine, our environmental leader, does not press nuclear energy. The other 14 strategies, in the Math of Global Warming article all depend on tens of millions, really 50-60 million US households, working feverishly to save the world. You know this will not happen until the effects are plain to see, and the biosphere is well beyond the tipping point.
I have started a blog, nuclerenergycansaveUS.blogspot.com, with my common sense view. I may make sweeping statements, and some may be simplistic, but none are as unrealistic as "In the same decade we would have to build 400,000 large wind turbines; clearly possible" (How can you say this?). I want to believe it could be true; if 400,000 started by 2040, 2.4 million could be built this century (equal to 1200--1800 nuclear plants; 12X4, or 48 million barrels oil/day, to 18 X 4, or 72MBPD//18 to 26 BBPY; near current oil use.)
If both 12--1800 nukes and 2.4 million turbines are built, civilization may squeak through, but nukes are so much easier to believe, than wind. Germany, a wind energy fan, and the sixth greatest economy on Earth, only plans 40,000, in the 2000 to 2030 period. Even cranking up from there, can you see them building 40,000 some decade, let alone 40,000 every decade. The rest of the world will be pressed to build even 100,000 per decade.
Why not feature nuclear energy, when the NRC expects 29 applications for plant licenses in the next three years, and GE, a no-nonsense company, says that they can construct a plant "from first pour of concrete to reactor critical in 36 months"? ElBaradei, IAEC, says India will increase nuclear 50-fold by mid-century; China will be building two plants per year soon. Between them, they are likely to hit 600 this century; America could easily do 100 or 200; and hundreds more will probably be build by Japan, France, Russia, Brazil, etc. I cannot compute how many of your other 14 sources, 4-600 nukes by mid-century, and 1800 or more by the end, would cover, but my guess is near half. Then all the other good ideas would work.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

2006 Was A Very Good Year

Viewing the chart above, from eia.doe.gov, you might think that global warming is no longer a problem. For the year of 2006, fossil fuel use declined four-percent, from 85Q in 2005 to 81.6Q in 2006, with the attendant drop of 4% Carbon Dioxide emissions as shown. Just what is going on?
You have to read the fine print. It is clearly shown in the text, that the winter of 2006 was unusually mild, and the summer, unusually cool; less heating oil in winter, less air conditioning electricity in the summer. You can be certain though, that there will be bad years when these effects are exactly reversed. The only reasonable way to consider fossil fuel use, is the long term average increase of one-percent per year as shown on the chart. This increase has been occurring for a decade or more, and will continue in coming decades. It will go on until America and the entire world wake up to the dangers of Greeenhouse Gas emissions, and take a sensible turn to clean, non-CO2 energy. This may be in the form of wind, biofuels, etc., which can help. However, the problem is massive and can be fought most effectively by the massive energy that nuclear plants deliver.

If the link does not open, use www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/flash/flash.html.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Coal Beds as Uranium Mines

A statistic from a decade ago (I can't find the source) said that the coal burned in America contains 35 thousand tons of uranium. Adjusted for today's coal supplies, this would be equal to 40,000 tons of uranium in the one billion tons of coal that we burn each year. Since natural uranium contains seven-tenths of one percent, radioactive U-235 (the source of the energy, the bombs, and all of the controversy), 40,000 tons of uranium holds 280 tons of U-235.
For comparison, America's 2000 tons of nuclear fuel (20 tons per plant by 100 plants) contains only 5%
U-235, or 100 tons. Coal's 280 tons of U-235 is not changed in any way by burning (reactors or huge atom smashers are the only devices that can effect the nucleas). Therefore, coal's 280 tons of U-235 is discharged right into the environment, into landfills, and into the air we breath. The 100 tons in the reactors is transformed into a zoo of radioactive daughter products, but it is also carefully contained and stored.
Uranium U-235 has a half-life of 700 million years. This does not change as coal is taken from the ground and through furnaces, so the 280 tons U-235, discharged from the coal will be in our environment for billions of years. Imagine the anger if this radioactivity was discharged from reactors.
If 280 tons of U-235 in coal sounds hard to believe, note that this much in 1,000,000,000 tons is only 40 parts per million. Per Magnum Uranium, all coal contains some uranium; some coal beds even have 1000 ppm. In fact, a coal source with only 750 ppm is considered to be a low-grade, but still economically, minable uranium
(If Magnum Uranium link does not work, use www.magnumuranium.com/s/Uranium.asp )

Monday, September 10, 2007

Answer to a comment

A respondent to my Post (Beyond Kyoto--America Needs an Emissions Goal), says that we must be concerned about curbing the emissions from China and India first. We should also set a real US goal as an example. I tried to answer him, but could not get through. He is right that America needs a responsible emissions goal, for credibility. However, to hope for China and India to curb emissions soon, is just as unrealistic as it is for America. In the case of China and India, they are in process of developing huge economies to support over two billion people. They are aware though, of the dangerous pollution from fossil fuels, and seem ready for large-scale deployment of nuclear electric plants. Humanity has to hope that nature will give us this century to get our act together. If China/India between them build 600, or more, one-gig nukes this century, it could be part of the answer to global warming. If America builds 400, which is doable with public demand, this 1000 total will equal 40MBPD of oil; which is nearly half the world's current oil consumption. However, oil will be gone, and there will be more people on Earth
. (A Yahoo News article says that the NRC's newly created Office of New Reactors expects to receive 29 license applications in the next three years. It also cites a GE claim that it can construct a plant from first concrete pour, to reactor critical in 36 months).
If these articles are of interest to you, please visit the sponsors.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

How High Can the Oceans Rise?

Currently, and for some decades past, the oceans have been rising at an average rate of two millimeters per year (Scientific American, 12/02 and 10/03). Two mm equals 0.080in. For a century, at this rate, the worldwide ocean level will rise only 8 inches (100 x 0.080=8.0). For my post (Will Earth get Hotter or Colder), various statement from SA articles were used, to estimate that the maximum rise from now, could be only 20 feet. This is not correct because the amount of ice remaining in the world was more than I thought. The post was based on several statements starting with "10 million cubic miles of ice (9.3 M cubic-miles water) melted after the last ice age raised sea levels by 360-feet". This sounded right. 9.3 million cubic miles water, over 140 million square-miles of ocean, would raise the sea 1/15 of a mile, or 352 feet. Close enough, but I misinterpreted other data.
Statements to reconcile now, include: "Antarctica contains 90% of the remaining ice in the world, and Greenland has most of the rest" (SA). "The West Antarctic ice field contains 3 million cubic kilometers of ice" (SA). A Binghamton University prof, says melting of Greenland's ice cap would cause the sea level to rise 6.6 meters (21.6 feet). Melting all the ice on Antarctica would raise sea level 73.4 meters (241 feet), a total rise of 262 feet.
From these statements, my estimates would be as follows:
262 feet rise over 140 million square miles = 7.0 Million cubic miles water = 7.5 MCM ice.
Antarctica = 90% of 7.5 MCM ice = 6.8 MCM ice
Greenland = 7.5 - 6.8 = 0.7 MCM ice = 0.65 MCM water = 0.65/7.5 X 262 = 22.7-foot rise
West Antarctic Ice Sheet =3 MCKm of ice= 0.72 MCM ice =0.67 MCM water = 23.4-foot rise.
East Antarctic Ice Sheet: 6.8 MCM ice - 0.72 MCM ice (West. Ant.) = 6.1 MCM ice, or 5.7 MCM water. This much water would cause a huge sea level rise. No one is concerned about this, in any human time scale. This ice sheet has been stable for 15 million years, whereas the West Antarctic sheet, has vanished from time to time; the last being 600,000 years ago.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Once Again: The Massive Potential of Nuclear Energy

It is hard to understand why no one seems impressed, that 100 small nuclear electric plants provide energy equivalent to 4MBPD of oil. No one has made any comment. Is this common knowledge? Maybe some comparisons will help.
One barrel of oil contains 42 gallons, and weighs about 275 pounds. It is simple enough math, but Google did it for me; one barrelPD of oil equals 50 tons of oil per year. Therefore, 4MBPD equals 75 billion tons of oil in a year. Each 4MBPD that America imports, equals nearly 1.5 BBPY. Each such quantity costs $90 billion cash that we have to export to other countries, for $60 oil. Many foreign countries will be happy to raise world prices still futher when oil becomes just the least bit scarce. At $100 oil, which I will see in my lifetime, despite being a senior citizen, 1.5BBPY will cost $150 billion. $200 oil will cost $300 billion. I might even be around long enough to see this.
I have seen two estimates of biofuel equivalence to oil. A Chevron ad claims that one acre of soy beans can produce 60 gallons of fuel. Therefore, 4MBPD of fuel would require 25 million acres of soy beans. A Cornell College professor (See Post "Ethanol From Corn Will Not Do"), says that it would take 11 acres of corn to power the average American car for a year. This means that 4MBPD of fuel would take 200 million acres of corn. Either use of acreage would be insanity for America, unless my math is wrong; anyone? 4MBPD is 20% of what America consumes nowadays, and we have only 400 to 460 million acres of arable land. (We even pave some of it every year.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Beyond Kyoto--America Needs an Emissions Goal

The goal of the Kyoto Treaty is for member nations to reduce their CO2 emissions to a level 7% below that of 1990. The CO2 is from burning of fossil fuels, so emissions rise and fall with the Q(BTU) of energy from the fossil fuels that a nation burns. The US didn't join, because we can't meet this goal; at least not in this century.
Americans are becoming aware of the problem, but we need a goal that could be reached in a reasonable time. How about that year in the future when emissions will stop increasing; i.e., when yearly fossil fuel consumption stops increasing (and we hope, decreases yearly from then on)? That will be the year when clean energy, mostly nuclear and wind, comes on stream in large enough quantity to maintain economic growth. For fossil fuels the yearly growth rate has averaged one percent; this will be a good target for clean energy also.
Per www.eia.doe.gov, US fossil fuels consumption was 71.3Q in 1990; to meet the Kyoto goal of 7% reduction, our fuels would have had to decrease 5.0Q to 66.3Q. This is not possible; actually, we used 86.2Q in 2004; and estimate for 2015 is 103.4, 2030 is 115.3Q.
Clearly America's fossil fuel use is far beyond the Kyoto ideal. For example, to meet a one-percent increase in clean energy in 2030 would take 1.15Q. Nuclear industry sources claim that currently only two nukes could be build each year under the best of circumstances; but 29 plants are being proposed. Suppose that by 2015, America goes nuclear again with two nukes per year, and that by 2030 we will be building five per year. Five would provide 0.4Q. If the build of wind turbines that year equals 7000, 2000Kw, units, they will produce another 0.4Q for 0.8Q total. Another 0.35Q from many diverse sources would get to 1.15Q, and there would be no emissions increase. Year 2030 may be too soon to hope for. However, I believe that America should declare as a national goal, which year our emissions will peak.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Let Insanity Begin" (LNG is Coming)

The quote above is the title of an editorial last year in the Baltimore Sun newspaper. It really shows the silliness of antinuclear bias. They were protesting a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) offloading port to be opened near the lower end of Chesapeake Bay. They feared an LNG explosion; not the explosion itself, but the problems it might cause, since there is a nuclear plant a mile or so away. In reality, the nuclear plant, protected by 150 million pounds of concrete, would be the only place for miles around that would be totally unfazed by the worst possible explosion; and an LNG explosion could be very bad indeed. The tankers are quite safe, double-hulled with reinforced tanks, but during days-long, unloading into holding tanks on shore, and into pipelines to distribute the gas, many people worry about accidents. The port is still not fully operational, due to local opposition. Industry experts say that America will need dozens more new ports of the same type in coming decades.
America uses about 25 trillion (T) cubic feet of natural gas a year. By chance one T is equal to one Q, or 500,000 barrels of oil per day (0.5MBPD), and is equal to energy of 12.5, one-gig nukes. We produce about 20T and import the rest. From Canada and Mexico, this product comes by pipeline. The other major import route though, is via LNG tankers into five offloading ports. LNG is liquefied and compressed at the exporting country, and each cubic foot of LNG contains 500 cubic feet of gas. Large LNG tankers carry natural gas with about one full-megaton, TNT equivalent (3 billion cubic feet of gas times 5 times 10 to the twelfth ergs per cubic foot = 1.5 x 10 to the twenty-second ergs) . Still, the tiny chance of an explosion must be tolerated, because America must have energy to survive. It is said that academics must “publish or perish”; our world economy, and with it civilization itself, is the same. We must have more and more energy; and it must be clean energy, or we will perish.
Natural gas is the sweetest, most environmentally-friendly, fossil fuel. For equal amounts of electricity, natural gas discharges only 45% as much CO2 as coal (842 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour for gas, versus 1897 pounds CO2 for coal, per NY Times article. See post, “Clean Coal“ and Global Warming).
(Consumption of 25T natural gas equals 25Q, equivalent to 12MBPD oil; or 300 one-gig, nukes. Natural gas is much cleaner than the other fossil fuels, but no where near as good as nuclear.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

One Billion Tons of Coal

All of my life I have been interested in how energy is produced. For the last 28 years that interest has turned into serious worry.
The DuPont Magazine “Context”, Spring 1979, had a picture with the following caption “Shown above are loaded coal hopper cars awaiting shipment. This can give some idea of America’s energy appetite when you consider that coal is our least important fuel (18%)”. Coal is now 23%, and sure to rise further. The picture shows, what may be as many as 100 railroad sidings, a half mile or so long, teeming with coal hopper cars, (just a portion of more than one billion tons of coal that were burned that year in the United States). My concern was only about the air pollution that would come from burning so much coal. We knew that coal burning effluents contained nitric and sulfuric oxides; radioactive radon, thorium and U-235; soot; organic carcinogens, etc. which are positively dangerous to our health. Today however, we know of the even more serious danger of the otherwise benign, CO2 discharge, and the Global Warming that it might help to cause.
This leads to my primary worry about energy; only nuclear plants deliver massive quantities of clean, non-greenhouse gas energy, that can compete with, and replace, fossil fuels. One pound of nuclear fuel produces the same energy as 200,000 pounds of coal. Wind energy is alright, but it cannot solve the greenhouse problem, unless hundreds of thousands of turbines, better yet, millions of them, are built. Unless that is what we shoot for, wind energy will only divert attention from the real solution.
(100 nuclear plants produce 8Q of energy per year; 1.2 billion tons of coal produce about 24Q, three times as much; 2000 tons of uranium fuel in the 100 nukes, produce as much energy as 400,000,000 tons of coal; one ton of Uranium fuel produces as much as 200,000 tons of coal; one pound of Uranium fuel equals 200,000 pounds of coal.)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ethanol Redux

This is a second try to show why I think making ethanol from corn is so bad; even if the corn to ethanol, conversion process improves so that it is energy neutral.
Several different goals have been suggested in government circles, and conversion efficiencies are all over the map, but none of those variations change the problem. To use a recent congressional proposal; by 2020, 30 billion gallons of ethanol would be made from corn. Suppose that clean energy for conversion would be provided by 50 nukes. 30 billion gallons would be equivalent to 2.0MBPD (same as 50, one-gig nukes); 720 million barrels per year of oil that we would not have to import. This might save $72 billion (of $100 oil) for this portion of America’s energy. Some people will then say that the corn-ethanol saved this much money on imports, but that will not be true.
The nuclear energy will have saved the import of 720 million barrels of oil. All that would be accomplished by destroying millions of tons of corn, would be to make the nuclear electric energy (or some fossil energy) into an automobile-friendly form.
Instead, if millions of cars are operating on hydrogen, an amount of hydrogen equivalent to 30 billion gallons of ethanol could be made by the nukes, from water, not food.
Even better, if hybrid gas-electric cars become popular, the electricity for an equivalent portion of cars could be delivered directly from the nukes, without corn or water intermediaries.
To me, better then any of these, would be all-electric cars, with batteries for town and rural roads, and brushes to pick-up electricity on long distance roads. America’s current automotive energy is equivalent to about 250, one-gig nukes. This is based on Scientific American Chart, Sept. 1990, showing transportation, worldwide, equals 51% of oil use. America’s current oil use is 40Q of energy (www.eia.doe.gov), equal to 500, one-gig nukes. America’s percentage of oil use may be higher than average, and 17 years makes some difference, but 250 nukes, for America’s transportation, is a fair estimate.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ethanol From Corn Will Not Do.

For America to run our automobiles on food, is such a silly idea that it boggles my mind. Instead of being a Win-Win situation, it is a Tiny Win-Loss-Loss program.
The world faces a dual-crisis, the End of Cheap Oil, and Global Warming. This is especially true for America. Oil production will peak in coming decades. Oil sands in Canada hold trillions of barrels of oil, but getting it out requires huge amounts of energy. We can’t let that energy be coal, exaggerating the greenhouse problem. Canadians plan to use nuclear plants. Getting oil from rock (called shale), will take even more energy; nukes or other clean energy must be used for this. Cheap oil production, (i.e. oil wells) will peak; the nations that have it will hoard; prices will rise ever higher; and this could destroy our economy. The intention of ethanol is to counter this with home-grown fuel for our cars. However, it can only provide a small saving on import costs, and we sacrifice food to do it. This is only a Tiny Win.
David Pimental, a leading Cornell University agricultural expert, has calculated that powering the average U.S. automobile for one year on ethanol (blended with gasoline) derived from corn would require 11 acres of farmland, the same space needed to grow a year's supply of food for seven people. Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion into ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make one gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTUS. Thus, 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in it. Every time you make one gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 BTUs .Congress now calls for 37 billion gallons (only 15% of 2006 need) of ethanol from corn, by 2017. Thirty-seven billion gallons equal 800 million barrels, or 2.2MBPD of oil, or energy of 54 nukes. If processes improve, so that conversion is energy neutral, 54 nukes would probably give enough energy for the conversion. If, instead, 54, one-gig coal plants are built, millions of tons of CO2 will be discharged; we will trash the environment. We should build nukes for direct production of hydrogen for cars, from natural gas or water, and leave our food supply alone.
America has only 400 to 460 million acres of arable land on which to grow food. In 1900 this was 6 acres per American. Since our population has increased, we now have only 1.5 acres each. In the same way that oil experts are debating when cheap oil production will peak, agronomists are trying to gauge which coming decade will see America’s food surplus disappear, and we become a net importer.
PS: Brazil may be in better shape for oil independence, since ethanol from sugar takes less energy, and they have many fewer cars to run. They also have more land available for growing sugar; but what if they destroy more of their rain forests to do it?
PPS: Ethanol from some other, non-food plants, might eventually make sense.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Wind Energy Can Help

Wind energy is great, if we are realistic about what it can do. The 4500 or so wind turbines in Altamount Pass, Calif., or 100 to be built off-shore, near Cape Cod, or a thousand in West Texas, might sound good. However, such small numbers couldn't produce important amounts of energy.
On the other hand, if America launches a century-long campaign to build one million, 2000-kw, wind turbines, we would be getting somewhere. 500, 2000kw wind turbines equal the rated energy of one, 1,000,000kw nuclear plant. Since they depend on the wind, it will take four times 500, or 2000 wind turbines to equal one nuke. In current $, one million turbines may cost $2T. This is doable, although production of cement to make the concrete footings for one million turbines might be difficult. Currently, cement production creates 4% of the world's CO2 each year.
1,000,000, 2000kw, turbines would equal 500 nukes, or 20,000,000 barrels of oil per day, or nearly twice as much energy as we get from coal each year. How good it would be if part of such clean, wind energy would allow closing many of America's dirtiest coal-burning plants. Building 1,000,000 wind turbines would not be easy though.
Germany's wind energy program is a good example. They have built more than 15,000 wind turbines so far, and plan a total of 40,000 by 2030. Guessing that these will average about 2000kw output, 40,000 will equal 20 nuclear electric plants. However, Germany is also planning to dismantle their 18 nuclear plants during the same time frame. If they do this, their clean energy will be only marginally better. Germany is the world's fifth most powerful economy, and they are only planning 40,000 turbines in thirty years. Where in the world will the orders come from to build the millions and millions of turbines that are needed, both to supplant fossil fuel plants and to increase energy for development.
Per US Department of Energy, America consumed 101Q (BTU) of energy in 2005. Rounding off slightly, fossil fuels were 85Q and other, non-CO2, fuels gave 15Q. A reasonable answer to the coming oil shortage, and global warming crisis, would be to continue using the same amount of fossil fuels (we may not be able to do anything else). America's population will increase, maybe even double this century. All of the 100Q of new energy for the population increase should be clean, non-CO2. The one million wind turbines would equal 40Q; 500 additional nukes would equal another 40Q; 80Q would be pretty close to the energy need for a larger population. However, millions of people want and deserve better lives, so economic development must also continue. Conservation, increased efficiency, biomass, etc. would have to do the rest. Fossil fuels will still be in use.
Earth's total current energy consumption is equal to 210 MBPD of oil, or 5200, one-gig, nukes, or 10,400,000, 2000kw, wind turbines.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Will The Earth Get Hotter or Colder?

It is hard to see why anyone denies the idea of climate change. We know about nature's Ice Ages in the past; they will probably return some century. Some may think that the Global Warming theory means that humans can effect the world the way nature can; but that is not so. At the height of the last Ice Age, sea levels were 360 feet below where they are now. A rise of 360 feet over 140 million square miles of ocean, means that nature melted about 10 million cubic miles of ice. The debate now, is about the last few scraps of ice in Greenland and Antarctic, maybe 5% more. These scraps however, could raise sea levels the last 20 feet; catastrophic, since so many people live near the oceans.
A History Channel show, titled,"Little Ice Age: Big Chill" gives some perspective. The Little Ice Age lasted 500 years from 1300 to 1800 AD; in a sense, just before our own time. The onset took only a few decades and dropped average temperatures by three to six-degrees F, for the period.
The History show concentrated on Northern Europe, and northeastern areas of America. Maybe the problem only hit this area. One leading theory is that the worldwide thermohaline flow (which includes the Gulf Stream) was interrupted in the North Atlantic by a flood of fresh water from the ice sheets. This may have been caused by the previous 300-year medieval, warm spell, which in turn, was caused by lower volcanic activity, worldwide. The 300-year warm spell was such a good food growing time in Europe that the population doubled. JUST AS WE DO NOW, the Europeans felt that this benign weather had always been the same, and would not ever change. They were completely unprepared. Between famine and plague, Europe was decimated.
Within the Little Ice Age, another drop of 3-degrees F, occurred worldwide for 70 years (1645-1715), due to lower Sun energy, in the so-called Maunder Minimum of sun spots. This came on in one decade, lasted 50 years, then eased in another decade. Sol is a slightly variable star.
If such events occur now, we will probably notice the onset, and have a decade or two to prepare a response. The situation could effect how we handle the need for clean energy.
ONE: Suppose a Sun Spot Minimum is detected. We would have time to plant hardier crops or stockpile food. It would offset Global Warming to some extent, allow all out use of coal for a while, and give us many more decades to set in place a complete clean energy solution.
TWO: A slowdown of the Gulf Stream, possibly caused by melting glaciers, might create a Little Ice Age; much more serious and lasting longer than a Sun Spot Minimum. Wouldn't it be better if we could also avoid this counter catastrophe, with clean energy in place, worldwide?

A China/India Scenario

Between them, China and India, have about one-third of the Earth�s population. Their economies are growing strongly, and they are, thankfully, both moving heavily into the generation of nuclear energy. The world can hope that this one-third of humanity will be living in sustainable economies during this century.
China plans to have 40 nuclear plants by 2030; and many people speculate that they will have 300 by the end of the century. ElBaradei, Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEC), said in 2005, that India�s nuclear capacity will grow 10-fold by 2022, and 100-fold by mid-century.
If, between these two countries, 600 nuclear plants are built this century; it is reasonable to think that they will be built for about $1.7B each (current dollars). This is based on a Chinese government statement that they plan to build 30 plants for a total of $50B; a standardized design most likely.
Since there are moving targets involved, I speculate that by the halfway point, say 300 nukes total by 2060 or so, the average price of the plants will have increased to $4B, and the average price of oil will have grown to $200 per barrel (conservative estimate).
300 nukes times $4B = $1.2T ($1,200,000,000). 300 nukes = 12MBPD or 4.4BBPY of oil, worth $0.9T ($900,000,000) every year, at $200 per barrel. 600 nukes by century�s-end would be proportionally even more valuable, if this estimate is near correct. This is not to say that nuclear would be enough; wind, solar, biofuel, and conservation will all be needed. Fossil fuels will also still be burned for energy. Earth�s need for energy is enormous.
Clean energy from wind, equivalent to 600 nukes would require 1,200,000, 2000kw turbines. I also wish that these countries could find locations for, and build this number of wind turbines, but

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Clean Coal" and Global Warming

The name “Clean Coal” has been in the news over the last few decades, during discussions of air pollution at first, and more recently when talking about Global Warming. In fact, the name that should have been used is something like, “Merely Half-Dirty Coal.” Newer plants may come closer to “Clean Coal”, but they are probably decades away.
What is really meant by the term Clean Coal was shown clearly in an article in the New York Times, August 4, 2000. The article was titled, ”Subsidies for Clean Coal Technology Badly Misplaced”. It described Congressional moves to encourage better coal burning technology, and subsidies for plants to apply scrubbers to coal plant effluents.
A table of EMISSIONS versus COST of plants (www.eia.doe.gov) was introduced as follows:
ADDING IT UP TO CLEAN COAL? --New processes for burning coal have lowered emissions, but coal still produces much more pollution than natural gas.
Sulfur Nitrogen Carbon Plant Per Megawatt Fuel (2000) Per One
SO2 NO CO2 Capacity Million BTU
(pounds per megawatt-hour)
Traditional Coal 0.20 1.11 1,897 $90,000 $1.20
New Technology Coal 0.10 0.56 1,897 110,000 $1.20
Natural Gas 0 0.06 842 60,000 $4.30
* (Nuclear) 0 0 0 ** **
* Additional entry that I believe should have been included for comparison.
** Nuclear plant costs vary enormously, but a recent statement from China, that they will build 30 nuclear plants for $50 billion ($1.7 Billion per plant), shows what can be done. Although the cost of nuclear fuel has increased recently, it is still only a fraction of fossil fuel costs.
The main information to get from this table, is that scrubbers only cut sulfur and nitric oxides in half (merely half-dirty coal), but have no effect on Greenhouse Gas, CO2. Also, natural gas is better than coal for all emissions, particularly CO2; nuclear is far superior to all fossil fuels.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Four million barrel equivalence

Prudence requires that this century�s Global Warming & End of Cheap Oil (Nat. Geographic, June 2004) Crisis, must be taken seriously. Nuclear is the only clean energy with the massive potential needed to supplant a large portion of fossil fuel consumption.

Every 100 new, one-gig nuclear plants (anywhere) will provide the same benefits that America�s 100-plant fleet provides to our nation right now. (see www.eia.doe.gov).

Energy = to 8% of America�s total energy, or four million barrels of oil per day (4MBPD).

4MBPD is = to one-fifth of 20MBPD of oil, that we consume.

4MBPD is = to one-half of 8MBPD of oil that we get from our aging oil fields.

4MBPD is = to one third of 12MBPD of oil that we import.

4MBPD is = to 1.5 billion barrels of oil that we do not have to import each year (1.5BBPY)..

1.5BBPY would cost $90B each year for $60 oil.

1.5BBPY would cost $150B each year if oil increases to $100 (my guess, in less than 10 years).

1.5BBPY would cost about $0.3T per year if oil increases to $200 (20 years ?).

NOTE: Importing $100B of oil means exporting $100B of cold cash, out of our economy, and into foreign economies; not to oil companies.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nuclear Energy Can Save Us

Billions of lives and civilization itself may be at risk from the Global Warming & End of Cheap Oil, Crisis. The problem is so huge that the most powerful answer, many nuclear plants, must be deployed. Currently, America's 100 nukes deliver the energy of four million barrels of oil per day.
Wind and solar cannot do the job, and may delay the real answer too long. Still, all forms of clean energy, plus conservation, plus control of deforestation, will be needed to help the poor half of the world, and for civilization to survive through this century.