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

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Jatropha Trees; Good; But.

Much is being made nowadays in newspapers, magazines, TV and websites about the remarkable jatropha tree. This oil bearing tree can produce good biofuel from marginal land. It does not need to use good farmland the way corn ethanol does. Furthermore, it is claimed that this tree can thrive in arid climates; it would therefore be drought resistant to a large extent. (This does not mean it couldn't do better with good soil and water.) This tree might be a better solar energy source than photovoltaic (pv) cells. Organic materials need no factory, just progressive growth by generations, from nursery to deployment. It would be labor-intensive, which could also be a good thing in poorer countries.
There is good data about India's large-scale jatropha tree farming for their national railways in 2006. From CNBC-TV, India produced 350,000 tons of biofuel from 650,000 acres (1,000 square-miles) (no info given on land/water quality).
Per google, one barrel oil is about 1/8 ton--India therefore produced 2,800,000 (2.8M) barrels on 1,000 square-miles in one year (BUT, this yearly crop is equaled by just 70 days average energy production from one, one-gig nuke; there is no free lunch with solar). Globally, if as much as one million square-miles (1000 times India's railway farm) suitable for jatropha could be planted (an enormous undertaking, but doable), 2,800,000,000 (2.8B) barrels of clean biofuel could be produced. This would be about 1/11 of the 30 billion barrels of current world oil consumption; 4% of the world's total current energy, since oil equals 40% of the world's energy supply. It would also be equivalent to about 200, one-gig nukes.
Subsistence farmers in poor countries, aided by government-supplied, seedlings and training, could hope for cash crops worth more than $2000/acre at current prices; even more money in coming years. African tree farms, possibly with millions of bored water wells, would be a natural benefit for rich European nations to use as Kyoto Treaty carbon offsets.
PS: Per Bloomburg.com, Japan, Italy and Spain face combined fines of as much as $33 billion (B) for failing to reduce emissions as promised in their agreement to the Kyoto Treaty. Just think how far tens of $billions would go toward starting a Green Revolution for Africa.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Is Ted Turner Right About Cannibalism?

Ted Turner was widely quoted recently, saying that starvation and cannibalism is facing the Earth within a very few decades. Cannibalism is not humanity's normal response to starvation; there has been much starvation in our past, and even today here is massive silent starvation in the form of malnutrition among the world's poor. America's agricultural policies are largely to blame and should be changed; but that is another subject.
However, Mr. Turner is probably alluding to runaway heating of the atmosphere and spreading droughts; much more serious even than the problem of rising sea levels. Climate change is surely happening, but not on the scale he threatens, unless he means an era of methane eruptions from frozen hydrates in tundra and oceans. Geologists believe that such eruptions occurred 55 million years ago, and raised atmospheric temperatures by as much as 14-degrees C. This era saw a large-scale die off of many species, our species could certainly not survive such a change.
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is currently studying the frozen hydrates, which dwarf the
combined known oil and natural gas reserves, to see what conditions might cause large eruptions, or "burps" of methane. I would like to ask the ORNL if it would be possible to mitigate this very serious problem, by flaring-off the plumes, if they should happen to occur. It is certain that the plumes could be detected by satellite; it seems likely that flaring would cause orders of magnitude less heat than letting this potent greenhouse gas spread through the air for decades; could plumes be ignited by incendiary rockets, lasers, or some such?