environment,energy,greenhouse,gas,carbon,dioxide,global,nuclear energy,clean energy,emissions,global climate change,environmental impacts, Nuclear Energy Can Save US: February 2008

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, February 28, 2008

Scary Climate Modes; Universe Today Report (Part One)

A recent post on Universe Today quoted scientists who are worried about two special aspects of the Earth's climate changes. Computer models show that no reduction in CO2 emissions, except to zero, will stop the Earth's climate from heating. Climate scientists also worry about the "tipping point" problem; runaway processes that could occur, that cannot be reversed. (See my Feb. 4, 2008 post on the same subject.)

For the computer models, the old, Greek philosopher Xenophon may have been onto something, when he proposed that you cannot walk across a field. To do so, you have to walk halfway, then half of the remainder, then half again, ad infinitum; and you can never get there. Good silly fun, but just suppose that it relates to what the computer models are finding.

A very good book on Earth's geologic history, Stepping Stones, by S. Drury (1999), said that in 1997, the CO2 emissions were about 30 billion tons. Furthermore, one half of the CO2 is sequestered in the ocean as calcium carbonate, in the rain of shellfish exoskeletons to the ocean floor. If we could cut CO2 in half to 15 billions tons, we would seem to be home free; 15 billion tons could be sequestered. However, according to theory, the ocean would still only sequester one-half, or 7.5 billions tons, and so on, and so on.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

America's 100 Tiny Nuclear Plants

America's 100 tiny nukes produce energy equal to 4 million barrels of oil per day (4MBPD) (1.5BBPY). This fact doesn't seem to impress anyone; I still cannot understand why.

Per Google, 250,000 deadweight-ton VLCC's (supertankers) carry two million (2,000,000) barrels of oil. These ships are near 1000-feet long, 150-feet wide, with 60-feet draft. It would take 750 of these behemoths to import the 1.5BBPY that would equal the energy from America's 100 tiny nuclear plants. Such a fleet, aligned end-to-end, at five ships per mile, would stretch 150 miles. This is power almost beyond words; but is just 2% of the world's energy generation.

Per the EIA (eia-doe-gov) spokesperson at the Bali Climate Conference, the world needs to produce 50% more energy by 2030. Also, to avoid the worst problems, 19/42 of 2030 energy must be from zero-CO2 sources, therefore giving 15% less CO2 than right now. Since the world's fossil (oil, coal, gas) energy now is equivalent to 200MBPD, 75BBPY, 7,500 miles of VLCC's, 50% more energy would take 11,625 miles of supertankers. Since 19/42 of this total must be clean energy, the energy from 5,000 miles of supertankers would have to be eliminated. At 100 nukes per 150 miles, this would equal 3300 more, one-gig nukes; obviously impossible to build by 2030. All other clean energy sources must be developed with urgency, even frenzy, if this goal is to be met. Anyone who thinks it would be easy is flat-out wrong.
PS: Currently, worldwide, about 450 nukes of various sizes, produce energy of 350, one-gig plants. This is 7% of total world energy production, oil equivalent of 14MBPD (better than Saudi Arabia), versus 84MBPD of oil consumed. Also equal to 500 miles of supertankers.
PPS: Our 100 plants save 150 miles of supertankers, equal to import costs of $150 billion per year for $100 oil, $300 billion per year of $200 oil, etc.; prices will fluctuate, but inevitably go higher, decade by decade. Each 100 new nukes will save equal $ imports each year.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Negative and Positive, Energy/Climate Feedbacks

A negative feedback mechanism could be a silver lining to a bad process, that reverses the damage automatically. Naively, I thought that the disappearance of oil might have this effect. As oil is used up, the world will have to substitute for its loss with clean nuclear and wind energy, and oil will not be pouring CO2 into the air. However, a recent History (HIS) channel program, shot down this hope. Their take is that oil is primarily responsible for doubling the atmospheric CO2 from the level before the Industrial Revolution. Also, the oil remaining would easily cause another equal increase, which could be catastrophic.
Even worse, are the positive climate feedbacks scientists are talking about now. As the air heats, forest fires burn more frequently, and fiercely, which heats the air more. As floe ice melts in the arctic, less of the Sun's energy reflects into space, and is instead absorbed by the water. As areas of frozen tundra thaw, methane hydrates percolate into the air, and methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.
This leads to the idea of a "tipping point". There is a slim, but real, danger, that a point may be reached where no amount of nuclear and wind energy can stop the feedbacks. Also, rising sea levels may not be the most serious problem. Per the History channel program, in past geologic times, atmospheric CO2 several times higher than current levels produced a Venus-like Earth. If the world does not press nuclear and wind energy, right now, we will be playing with fire.