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Our Energy Future: Fusion, Space Solar Power or both?

By arthurpsmith in Science
Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 12:16:38 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

National energy policy! California blackout! Fuel-cell cars! Wars, terrorism and oil money! Enron! Giant wind farms! Kyoto!

So many headlines of the past few years have a common background theme: the dependence of modern economies on a steady, dependable supply of energy, and the consequences of our current fossil fuel dependency for global stability and climate. Clearly this cannot continue forever. Worse still, most of the people of the world do not even live under modern economic conditions as yet, and as China, India, and other similar nations continue to progress, world energy needs will almost inevitably double or triple from their current levels. So where is all that energy going to come from?

In the November 1, 2002 issue of Science, Marty Hoffert of NYU and 17 co-authors have published an analysis of the energy options that will be available to meet world demand a few decades from now, under the constraint of constant or reduced carbon dioxide emissions. While there are many short-term measures that could make a difference, the only long-term viable alternatives seem to be fusion and space-based solar power.


This article received some main-stream press coverage, including in The New York Times, space.com and MSNBC, as well as a large number of more local outlets, with different aspects of the report emphasized to varying degrees. It's not clear the primary message has gotten through though: we're not ready to replace fossil fuels yet, and we should be spending an awful lot more money (Manhattan or Apollo-project sized) on research into the long-term alternatives, so we can be ready in time.

As the article states, Kyoto is paradoxically both "too weak and too strong: Too strong because the initial cuts are perceived as too much of an economic burden by some (the US ...); too weak because much greater emission reductions will be needed, and we lack the technology to make them."

What are the technology alternatives available now? Improved efficiency is the maxim of the environmental advocates - a lot can be done there, both with improved technology and altered lifestyle choices (if that's acceptable in a democracy). But as the authors point out, the limited potential effects of improved efficiency (at best a factor of 2 or so) in the Western countries would be overwhelmed by increased energy requirements in China and India. Efficiency improvements are worth doing, but will only delay the inevitable, unless other measures are taken.

On the technocrat side (exemplified by the position of such US agencies as the Department of Energy) the long-favored solution has been power from nuclear fission. Surprisingly, this is as much a limited resource as oil, which the article estimates at 6 to 30 years-worth of reserves of land-based uranium, if used to sustain 100% of world energy usage. More uranium is available from seawater, but the authors point out extracting sufficient uranium to power the world would require processing seawater at a rate at least five times the total outflow of the world's rivers to the ocean. Fission power can be stretched through production of plutonium in breeder reactors, but most of the world has decided that is an unsafe course to follow.

Use of hydrogen as a fuel does not directly help since hydrogen is not available in raw form in sufficient quantities to serve as a major fuel: original energy of some other form is needed to produce it. Hydrogen may help in relocation of the CO2 production from end-users to central power plants, however. A recent set of large-scale engineering proposals involves "sequestration" of carbon dioxide; capture and removal to the deep ocean, or underground in old oil fields, etc. This will likely be a valuable short-term measure, but if nothing else is done the sequestration rates required to stablize global CO2 levels will be enormous, and we will run out of places to store it all safely.

That pretty much leaves the renewables, and fusion. With renewable energy sources, by definition, we will not run out (at least while the Sun still shines), so they definitely provide a long-term CO2-free solution. All renewables, however, suffer from low power density: you need to occupy a lot of land area to capture the 3-10 TW (electric) estimated needed. For example, with solar photovoltaic panels the land area needed would be 200-600,000 square kilometres (100-250,000 sq. miles) or up to 7% of the land area of the United States. Using biomass (green plants and incinerator/generators doing the work of the solar panels) even 3 TW would require as much land area as is currently used by human agriculture.

The most intriguing renewable option is space-based solar power. Due to the direct exposure to the sun and ability to produce energy 24 hours a day, a space-based solar option would require only 1/4 the area of one on Earth's surface (after accounting for microwave transmission losses). The technology was researched in the 1970's with a plan for large satellites ("the size of Manhattan", i.e. each about 20-30 square miles) in geosynchronous orbit; on the order of 1000 of these would meet the space-based area requirements for 3 TW electric worldwide power supply. The Earth-based land area requirements for receiving this energy via microwave beams would be substantial, but less than for land-based photovoltaic, and would allow dual-use (for example as range land) where land paved with photovoltaic cells would be difficult to use for anything else. Alternatives to geosynchronous orbit may be economically more attractive, particularly use of the Moon as suggested by David Criswell in a number of articles recently, notably in the April issue of The Industrial Physicist, which received considerable follow-up.

Space solar power has the advantage over fusion that no real fundamental further research is needed to figure out how to do it - the primary challenges are those of large-scale space engineering. Criswell has estimated the start-up costs for his lunar solar power system would be on the order of $150 billion before the system would start to pay for its continued expansion - a substantial (Apollo-project-level) investment, but given the scale of the problem facing the world and the expected cost of most other solutions, not an impossible figure.

One other space-based option for climate change mitigation is to directly block the sun with a mirror, placed at the L1 semi-stable point between Earth and Sun. A mirror the size of the United States would block about 2% of solar energy, roughly compensating for a doubling of atmospheric CO2. Of course the sun would appear to have a permanent spot right in the middle!

Fusion research has progressed over the years, and several major new test reactors are in development, most prominent among them being the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), with construction costs estimated at about $10 billion. The next major milestone, aside from understanding the engineering challenges with confining large, hot, plasmas, is to demonstrate net electric power production from a self-sustaining fusion reaction. The authors of this study find it unlikely that fusion could be relied on to help with the CO2 problem before 2050 or so, but continued research on this long-term option is very important.

The world has a serious problem here. We're clearly not ready to deal with it. Whether on the space engineering or fusion physics/engineering side of things, a massive investment in research and development funding will be needed to get these long-term energy projects moving. Tragically, in the recently declared US national energy policy, only one of the more than one hundred recommendations even mentions fusion energy, and that recommendation also suggests promoting hydrogen and fuel cell use (confusing given that hydrogen cannot be a primary energy source). Solar energy and other renewables (along with conservation and other short-term measures) are mentioned in quite a few recommendations; however the possibility of large scale space-engineered systems is completely overlooked. Further evidence of a lack of thought for the future can be found in the 2002 budget for the US Department of Energy; $2 billion over 10 years for "clean coal", $1.4 billion over 10 years for "weatherization assistance", solar and renewable technology money contingent on ANWR approval, and overall a $700 million cut from the previous year's budget. The request for the 2003 fiscal year (still not yet passed by Congress) doesn't look any better, with actual dollar cuts in the (already small) levels requested for renewable and nuclear energy research.

Is there any real hope for such massive R&D projects? Are we, the democratic western societies, still capable of such things? The somewhat aimless International Space Station has been beset by funding troubles, but the cost involved is a few times less than total costs for new energy solution R&D would be. But we did succeed with the Apollo project, roughly $100 billion in cost, at a time when US GDP was less than 1/4 its present size (in constant current dollars). And the cost scale is not so far out of the range of current major power systems: a typical multi-GW modern power plant costs several billion dollars, and hydropower plants already involve engineering on an enormous scale here on Earth - for example China's Three Gorges Dam is estimated will cost over $20 billion to build, with a reservoir 370 miles long, and the concrete dam itself 1.2 miles across and about 600 feet high. And even that can only provide a small fraction of China's future energy needs.

Personally I'm an optimist; I think most people just don't yet realize the scale of the problem or of the research effort needed to overcome it. When this is widely understood the world will surely rise to meet the challenge. Won't it?

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Poll
Energy R&D should focus on:
o Fusion 33%
o Renewables on Earth 26%
o Space Solar 24%
o Conservation 10%
o Finding more oil! 3%
o Clean coal 0%

Votes: 109
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Technocrat
o National energy policy!
o California blackout!
o Fuel-cell cars!
o Wars, terrorism and oil money!
o Enron!
o Giant wind farms!
o Kyoto!
o cannot continue forever
o November 1, 2002
o Science
o an analysis of the energy options
o The New York Times
o space.com
o MSNBC
o Department of Energy
o the April issue
o The Industrial Physicist
o considerable
o follow-up
o national energy policy
o 2002 budget
o 2003 fiscal year
o Also by arthurpsmith


Display: Sort:
Our Energy Future: Fusion, Space Solar Power or both? | 338 comments (326 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Can't wait to vote it up. - NT (1.00 / 4) (#3)
by Barly on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 08:52:23 AM EST



Neither (1.87 / 8) (#6)
by tacomacide on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 09:11:37 AM EST

At least not with King Bush and Co. running the republic.

*** ANONYMIZED ***

Hey, what's wrong with monarchy? (4.00 / 1) (#100)
by tkatchev on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:59:26 PM EST

Monarchy is a great idea, especially if it's non-hereditary. Plus, it's our european cultural tradition. ;)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Forgot an option (3.25 / 12) (#9)
by Big Dogs Cock on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 09:29:14 AM EST

There is a tremendous amount of oil available simply by rendering down fat yanks. Research shows that over 12,500,000 barrels of oil could be recovered this way.

People say that anal sex is unhealthy. Well it cured my hiccups.
That's 1 day's US imports.. (3.66 / 6) (#11)
by ajduk on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 09:38:11 AM EST

Now, making them walk every journey of 2 miles or less...

[ Parent ]
Terrorist swine!! (3.66 / 6) (#19)
by Arthur Treacher on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:08:04 AM EST

It's my God-given right as an American to be a fat lazy gun-toting deer slaughtering loud mouthed tiny brained son of a bitch, and if you don't like it, there's a Predator with your name on in the back of my gas-guzzling top heavy SUV.


"Henry Ford is more or less history" - Bunk
[ Parent ]
HaHaHaHa... (2.66 / 3) (#32)
by ajduk on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:56:14 AM EST

You'll never find me - I live in a different country!

[ Parent ]
Liar! (2.60 / 5) (#38)
by unknownlamer on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:11:05 AM EST

There are no countries other than the USA! The rest of the world is made up!


--
<vladl> I am reading the making of the atomic bong - modern science
[ Parent ]
Doesn't Matter (1.50 / 2) (#95)
by Ebon Praetor on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:33:37 PM EST

We reserve the right to make preemptive strikes, anytime, anywhere.  Bow down and fear us terrorist swine!  Sieg heil!

[ Parent ]
The great thing is... (1.00 / 1) (#127)
by godix on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:06:44 PM EST

...that after all us fat yanks are rendered down the world won't need that 12,500,000 barrels!


- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]
Use our planet. (4.00 / 8) (#10)
by j1mmy on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 09:36:18 AM EST

There are a number of geothermal plants operation in Japan. This one produces 50 MW. They make use of the heat provided by magma flowing around under the country. These would be perfectly appropriate in other parts of the world where volcanic activity is present.

Also consider wave power. A number of power plants powered by ocean waves have been opening around northern Europe. As long as we have a moon, these should be fine sources of power.

I am firmly opposed to space-based solar power, however. I already have a hard enough time seeing the stars with all the terrestrial light pollution. Putting hundreds of Manhattan-sized structures in orbit would only make our skies less attractive in daytime or at night.

geosync is VERY far away (4.66 / 6) (#27)
by arthurpsmith on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:35:16 AM EST

Something "the size of Manhattan" at geosynchronous orbit would span about 20 seconds of arc, or half the angular size of the planet Jupiter in the night sky. These things wouldn't be at all visible in daytime, and would be no more than planet-scale pin-pricks at night; I hardly think they would make our skies "less attractive"...

Geothermal power is one of the renewable options considered. There's simply not enough of it, though, to make any long-term difference.

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
other problems with geosync? (3.00 / 1) (#73)
by rhino1302 on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:01:37 PM EST

Two other potential problems I can think of with geosynchronous orbit:

  • Shortage of slots: I was under the impression that all of the good 'real estate' in geosynchronous orbit has already been taken up by comm satellites
  • Shadow of Earth: How much of the day do they spend in earth's shadow? Maybe not much because they are so far away.

As I'm not an expert, I'd be interested to see what folks have to say on those issues.



[ Parent ]
Solution to the first problem (4.00 / 1) (#97)
by Ebon Praetor on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:39:08 PM EST

I think we could replace the somewhat aging satellites by doing a similar thing to what they do on earth with cellular antennas:  mount the comm equipment onto the sides of the new larger satellites.  

You get the same basic effect, I think.  Someone correct me if there is a fundamental flaw with that.

[ Parent ]

even better (none / 0) (#197)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 02:43:14 AM EST

That's how it would work.  As long as the various transmitters din't interfere with each other, it would work fine.

You get the added benefit of the transponders being powered by the power station directly.  Current satellites have to carry their own PV's and battery systems.  That makes our comm sattelites power limited.  Designs would change if the power limits were raised or lifted.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

Less attractive? (3.25 / 4) (#36)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:09:25 AM EST

Putting hundreds of Manhattan-sized structures in orbit would only make our skies less attractive in daytime or at night.

Less attractive? Fie! Just think of the colorful, gorgeous Coke logos!
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
"Less attractive" is not the problem (3.50 / 4) (#41)
by Caton on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:23:23 AM EST

What happens when a gigawatt of microwaves is beamed down on a major city?



---
As long as there's hope...
[ Parent ]
Hilarity. [n/t] (none / 0) (#107)
by j1mmy on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:28:38 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Ensues [n/t] (none / 0) (#235)
by Gully Foyle on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 09:54:10 AM EST


If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

Actually, dude (4.00 / 2) (#59)
by BLU ICE on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:01:05 PM EST

It would make almost no difference at all. These are in geosynchronous orbit, about 22,236 k out. There are about 2,425,000,000 square miles of space in geosynchronous orbit. Say 15 power stations will eventually go up. Each is 50 square miles. That's one square mile in 3,234,459 that will be taken up by the power stations. It shouldn't interfere with your stargazing.

"Is the quality of this cocaine satisfactory, Mr. Delorean?"
"As good as gold."

-- I am become Troll, destroyer of threads.
It's like an encyclopedia...sorta: Everything2

[ Parent ]

you're assuming they're not reflective (4.00 / 2) (#70)
by cp on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:30:24 PM EST

It's already easy to find satellite flares from existing (small) satellites. Ones several orders of magnitude bigger will be reflecting lots more light.

[ Parent ]
somewhat (none / 0) (#141)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:51:41 PM EST

You would probably want a solar panel to absorb as much light as possible, while satellites generally want to reflect as much as possible, to cool down. A huge solar panel would still reflect more than a satellite, but not as much as one may expect. The cross section would also be larger, so the reflected light would be more diffuse, reducing flare.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
Power generation (4.00 / 2) (#67)
by Tatarigami on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:16:51 PM EST

You generate energy geothermally by using the temperature differential, which results in shifting heat from one place to another, eg. from underground into the atmosphere. A few plants won't make a difference, but when there are thousands, what then? Additionally, you've got the release of toxic chemicals to deal with.

There are also other hazards to be considered. A few years ago, my country built a generation plant in a geothermally active region... it sank.

[ Parent ]

Heat will radiate into space (5.00 / 1) (#201)
by FlipFlop on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:07:16 AM EST

You generate energy geothermally by using the temperature differential, which results in shifting heat from one place to another, eg. from underground into the atmosphere.

All heat engines (i.e. steam engines, internal combustion engines, jet engines) use temperature differentials to generate energy.

The United States has 3.5 million square miles of land (9 trillion square meters). Sunlight produces approximately 1000 watts per square meter at sea level. So roughly 9 trillion kilowatts shines down on the United States alone. That's over three times as much energy in one hour, as the United States uses in a whole year!

A bunch of geothermal plants will make no difference. In fact, all of their waste heat will radiate back into space, just like sunlight does--unless it's blocked by greenhouse gases anyway.

AdTI - The think tank that didn't
[ Parent ]

Nuclear Power (3.62 / 8) (#12)
by Talez on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 09:39:13 AM EST

Like any of the newage types of energy, nuclear power has the potential to be clean, cheap and safe.

However, this has been somewhat forgotten when combined with peoples near paranoid reaction to radiation and past mismanagements of nuclear facilities.

People cite problems with disposal but really it's only people's unwillingness to deal with the waste that stops us. Again the morbid fear and paranoia of nuclear radiation stops us from doing sensible things like storing solid nuclear waste under hundreds of meters of bedrock out in the middle of the Australian outback.

It's a pity because nuclear power has such great potential and us Australians would stand to make a fair amount of cash disposing of the waste.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est

Exactly (4.40 / 5) (#22)
by lb008d on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:18:09 AM EST

France has had great success with their nuclear energy program.
  • It is government run.
  • All plants are based on the same design, where in the US they are all custom built. This ensures a reliable supply of spare parts, and workers don't have to be retrained when going to another plant.
  • The citizenry don't have the same level of paranoia that the US does.
If I recall correctly from an old National Geographic, the DOE, at their test facility in Idaho Falls, ID, has developed several "passive" safety mechanisms that ensure reactor safety. One such measure is encasing the uranium fuel in a ceramic pellet that can withstand the highest temperatures a reaction can produce. To test the ability of this casing to prevent a meltdown, they shut off all power in the reactor (which shut down the coolant system). The temperature rose in the core but never exceeded the casing's failure point, and eventually cooled on its own as the uranium was spent.

If I were king of the world my energy plan would be one of aggressive conservation (do "EXIT" signs really need to be lit constantly?) coupled with mass installation of identical passively safe reactors and increased funding to solar research.

"Kuro5hin: politics and pretension, from the $3,000 leather recliners on the hill overlooking the trenches."DarkZero
[ Parent ]

Breeder reactors (none / 0) (#43)
by wumpus on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:40:42 AM EST

The big problem with breeder reactors is that they produce plutonium. This would presumably give Bush the chance to push two programs.
1. Produce breeder reactors and reduce CO2 far better than Kyoto.
2. Establish a means to contain WMD (personally, I believe his commitment is the same as his father's "new world order", something he is deliberately violating.

The other problem is making a reactor that Ken Lay can safely be in charge of. I am not sure anything can be made damn fool proof.

I've also read a few things about space based solar. If there is any efficiency to the transmission, I doubt that Earth orbit is the best place for them (note that leaving geosynchronous orbit is a lot easier than leaving LEO).

Right now the only realistic non-greenhouse electric power generator is fission. There are others that work well, but only for limited areas. We can continue to use coal, or switch to fission, but fusion will be "20 years away" when Florida sinks into the sea.

The worst part of the Kyoto protocols are the implementation part (made after the treaty). This forbids replacement of coal by fission. This largely proves the point made by those who wish to show that Kyoto was never made with the intention of reducing CO2.

Wumpus

[ Parent ]

Not enough fuel (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by arthurpsmith on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:22:53 AM EST

See the "technocrat" section in the text. Unless you go with breeder reactors or enormously massive processing of seawater, there's not enough uranium around to make this a long-term solution.

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
OK (none / 0) (#30)
by lb008d on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:54:36 AM EST

So we go with breeder reactors. Problem solved.

I wonder just how much could be saved from conservation, however.

"Kuro5hin: politics and pretension, from the $3,000 leather recliners on the hill overlooking the trenches."DarkZero
[ Parent ]

Hmm (none / 0) (#61)
by BLU ICE on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:03:39 PM EST

Estimates vary, but I usually hear we have a few hundred years of uranium. So we've got plenty to last us. Of course we should use breeder reactors to extend that figure by several orders of magnitude.

"Is the quality of this cocaine satisfactory, Mr. Delorean?"
"As good as gold."

-- I am become Troll, destroyer of threads.
It's like an encyclopedia...sorta: Everything2

[ Parent ]

About spent nuclear fuel... (none / 0) (#124)
by dasunt on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:54:25 PM EST

Nuclear fuel and nuclear waste can be pretty lethal to human beings. But the raw stuff in the earth doesn't seem to hurt us that much. During refining, it gets concentrated enough to cause problems with radiation.

So why not mix the spent fuel with the waste material we have from mining it in the first place, and then fill in the big hole in the ground where we got it from? If the nuclear waste is more reactive then nuclear fuel (due to short half-lives, etc), why not mix it with more earth?

Can someone illuminate me on why this won't work?



[ Parent ]
After you used it, it gets a lot more radioactive. (none / 0) (#146)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:02:14 PM EST

That's the first problem. The second is that people freak when talking about nuclear waste. Ideally, yeah, you could mix it into a ceramic and bury it in some relatively stable environment, like the bottom of a salt mine.


--
Once one sock is sucked, the other sock will remain forever unsucked.


[ Parent ]

Actually (none / 0) (#126)
by fhotg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:59:56 PM EST

I believe the Australians would be in for it right away. The problem, however, is the transport. Even to complete the nuc. waste transport from the US east-coast plants to Yucca-mountain will take ca. 30 years, on predictable routes crossing half a continent. Either you have a high-security militarized zone across USA, or you're inviting evildoers to easily kill lots of USians, and there seem to be interested parties, these days.

And all because the public is so scared about the harmless stuff, that they prefer it lays on Indian Reservations instead in Manhattan.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

Sadly (none / 0) (#151)
by Talez on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:14:41 PM EST

A bunch of neurotic paranoid psycho's wrote into the letters of the editor section with radiation scare tactics. All of a sudden Western Australians were against Pangea storing nuclear waste in the remote areas of WA. No discussion, no nothing.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
[ Parent ]
The good in the bad (none / 0) (#162)
by fhotg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 08:23:10 PM EST

then is your message, that there are parts of the world where letters to the editor actually influence political decisions. Now you have a handle and just need to get together a bunch of sane kids who can write better than "neurotic paranoid psycho's" (sic).
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
Energy Plan (4.53 / 13) (#13)
by antizeus on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 09:48:21 AM EST

Instead of researching alternative energy sources, I propose that we (i.e. the USA -- foreigners don't matter) spend lots of money and effort in an attempt to monopolize the world's supply of fossil fuels. When that can no longer sustain our economy, we retool into a sort of low-tech feudalistic society (after the required period of chaos and population reduction). Hopefully the current energy barons will be able to maintain enough military power to be on top when this happens.
-- $SIGNATURE
Brilliant! (none / 0) (#185)
by YelM3 on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 12:03:00 AM EST

What a totally great idea! If I were an oil baron, and I was in charge of the world's most powerful country, this is exactly what I... oh, wait. I get it. Now I'm scared.

[ Parent ]
Topical comment (4.60 / 10) (#14)
by Rogerborg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 09:53:24 AM EST

Unleaded gasoline is currently selling for £0.849 GBP a litre in Lerwick (Shetland, Scotland, Britain, UK).  That's $5.09 USD per US gallon, most of that in taxation.

Intolerable, I hear you cry.  We did rebel against it about two years ago, blockading refineries and bringing the country to a standstill in a demand for less taxation on fuel.  The net result was that the government realised (very grudgingly, and talking tough the whole time) that it couldn't just keep squeezing more money out indefinitely, and fuel prices have held more or less steady since then.  They haven't come down.  Other than that, we do tolerate these prices, because we don't have a choice.  

Note further that the UK (well, Scotland) is a net exporter of petroleum products, not a net importer like the USA.  Shetland has a fucking huge oil refinering on it, for example, and yet still has the highest fuel prices in the UK.

Contrast this with the low price of fossil fuel in the USA (it is relatively low), and it all goes to illustrate that fossil fuel prices have no connection with supply and demand.  UK (and Shetland speficially) has over-supply, but usurious prices.  The USA, with over-demand, practically encourages burning the stuff like there's no tomorrow, consciously adding "and SUV's for all!" to the classic "bread and circusses" recipe for keeping the population docile.

Well there is a tomorrow.  Fossil wealth is a one-off bonanza, and we've built up a groaning planetary population on its bounty.  And instead of spending the wealth on R&D for our grandkids' benefit, we seem intent on blowing it on "defence" ($400 billion a year in the USA) which looks like it's just about to get used to "defend" some strategic oil assets over in Iraq.  

That'll benefit our kids, at least.  I sure hope they're a lot smarter than us.

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs

There is a connection (4.00 / 2) (#20)
by Herring on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:10:19 AM EST

Can't find a link, but since the "stabilization" an awful lot more freight has moved from the railways back onto the roads. There are now more people employed in the road haulage industry than there were 2 years ago.

I don't think that there is a sharp cutoff point where there is no more oil. Instead, it will get more and more expensive to extract. The question is, what will governments due during this period? A spectacularly short term approach would be to subsidize oil extraction. A longer term approach would be to subsidize research into alternatives. Given the record of most governments on "long term planning", what do you think will happen?


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
[ Parent ]
That's the bit that's worrying me (4.00 / 2) (#26)
by Rogerborg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:32:45 AM EST

That governments are very good at leaving problems for the next administration to fix (and be blamed for).  This one is too big for that.  I hope - but I'm not actually confident - that we have governments that can look beyond the next term in office and not just leave this one as a problem for the all-powerful markets to fix.

On that matter, I do agree that capitalism is a great mover and shaker, but it needs tools to work with and it tends to be reactive by design (fill the need rather than control the demand as under the Soviet model).  Trouble is, alternative energy has a long lead time.  If we wait to invest in alternative energy until we need it, what are we going to use to fund that investment?

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

A minor point.. (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by ajduk on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:54:29 AM EST

As well as the economic costs of oil extraction - and it has to be said that we've managed to reverse normal economic processes, by extracting the expensive non-opec stuff first - there are the energy costs.  Once you end up burning a barrel of oil in energy to get a barrel of oil, it becomes uneconomic at any price for primary energy use.

[ Parent ]
Not necessarily oil (4.00 / 2) (#171)
by bigbird on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:32:09 PM EST

The trade-off is in energy, or joules. The average westerner would happily burn 2 joules of coal to extract a joule of oil. It might even be economically worthwhile to do so, although it would be pretty bad environmentally.

[ Parent ]
Just moves the price curve back (none / 0) (#278)
by wurp on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 11:29:44 PM EST

Instead of the curve of price increasing asymptotic to the time when there is no more oil to harvest, it will become asymptotic to the time when oil costs as much to harvest as the oil you get.  Of course, this line slowly moves as new harvesting technologies become available, tool.
---
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]
Gasoline price in constant $$ from 1950 to 2001 (none / 0) (#248)
by proletariat on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 01:44:19 PM EST

Actually gasoline is cheaper in the US now than it was in 1950 if you adjust for inflation. Here's a chart

[ Parent ]
Oh Christ (2.42 / 33) (#21)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:15:58 AM EST

Firstly, I'd be more inclined to believe Kyoto is even slightly valid if somebody, somewhere could demonstrate that
  • Sea levels have risen (even just by the tiniest amount) over the last 150 years.
  • Global temperatures have increased (even by the tiniest amount) over the same time.
  • CO2 levels etc have changed.
Cos, the thing is, they haven't. Satelite data in the last 30 years is unanimous: no change whatsoever. The so-called ozone hole problem was a sham from the beginning - it is now shrinking and shrinking. It appeara that the size of the ozone hole varies in cycles. All the evidence for disastrous, changing temperatures and so on depends on ground station reports, which is extremely dodgy methodologically, and can be fiddled with to show anything from massive plummets to escalating, racing temperatures. Hell, lets not forget the UN's official "Hockey Stick" temperature projection, showing stable temperatures till 1900 then crazy rising ones this century, and achieved by taking tree ring data prior to 1900 (which underestimates) and then tacking on satelite and ground station data thereafter and extrapolating! Looking at tree ring data or ground station data or satelite data alone across the period shows a completely flat trend.

My second point is, who the hell are you?? That is, who the hell are you to start advocating that government coerce money off of everybody for yet another retarded special interest, this time a scientist-geek-ecofreak special interest? Jesus, leave it to the free market - the same market that can develop everything from nuclear power stations to wind power to wave power to huge electricity generating dams to oil rigs and gas turbines and christ, it is so inventive. Nobody wants another idiot government project that depends on theft.

And besides, they are a bit on the incompetent side. All the largest and worst nuclear accidents have been in government controlled facilities. Private enterprise is responsible, you know, and inventive, and not based on hysteria, theft, special interests, and emotion. When there is a need to change, the market will adapt and invent and reinvent. When the stakes are high enough and there's huge money to be made for the winner! Just watch, cos that's how the next big energy change will happen, nomatter whether a bunch of special interest geeks impose their wet dream fantasies of massive government energy research projects on all of us or not.

Fuck "National Energy Projects" and the USDE and your goddamn Apollo blethering, what the hell! Leave everybody alone.

♥, bc.

free market (none / 0) (#23)
by Platy on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:19:05 AM EST

Good luck with your free market which showed it's power quite often already.
--
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
[ Parent ]
mistake (1.00 / 2) (#24)
by Platy on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:19:33 AM EST

Sorry, it should be "its" not "it's". I'll be more careful next time.
--
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
[ Parent ]
I am astounded and amazed (4.00 / 4) (#34)
by Arthur Treacher on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:01:45 AM EST

by your witty and cogent arguments.
I'm going to stop worrying and let private enterprise fix everything.

What I really want to say, although modesty and my dislike of ad hominem argument prevent me, is this:  How did you get your head so far up your anus, and do you like the smell?  But I won't.

"Henry Ford is more or less history" - Bunk
[ Parent ]

Look you (3.20 / 5) (#35)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:08:52 AM EST

You are the one who wants to steal my money for your insane, and very poorly thought out and backed up, projects. You have to do better than this "arsey" argument, otherwise you end up looking quite the fool.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]
Lemming! (none / 0) (#39)
by krek on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:15:36 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 0) (#42)
by jabber on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:35:10 AM EST

Click ME!

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Yeh yeh (5.00 / 3) (#45)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:52:59 AM EST

Look everyone, press hysteria! What a surprise.

Try looking at data, dumbass, not the product of bored journalists.

For example, Watkins and Simmonds(2000) examined ice sheet levels in the Antarctic because "it has been suggested that the Antarctic sea ice may show high sensitivity to any anthropogenic increase in temperature."

What did they find (in this actual study with actual measurements and actual data)? Why, significant increases in ice levels!

It is the same with anything relating to the green nuts. Ignore journalists and newspaper and media reports and look at data and studies and what they say on whatever it is the tabloid (or "quality") press is churning out - be it so-called rising sea levels, temperatures, ice reductions, and so on. It isn't happening!

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

BC is completely correct. (4.33 / 3) (#62)
by BLU ICE on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:07:20 PM EST

The ozone hole is shrinking at this point in time, for example. And how the hell do we know there was a problem with the ozone in the first place? We've only been tracking it for the past 30 years! We were probably just experiencing regular fluctuations in the ozon.

"Is the quality of this cocaine satisfactory, Mr. Delorean?"
"As good as gold."

-- I am become Troll, destroyer of threads.
It's like an encyclopedia...sorta: Everything2

[ Parent ]

bc is completely troll (2.00 / 2) (#86)
by fhotg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:55:39 PM EST

If you dismiss, without further elaboration, the consensus about the what CFCs do with ozone and how this has been observed in the atmosphere before and after the ban on CFC's, then you are arguing at the same level as creationists. Actually you're not rationally arguing anymore, you just believe.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
Way to engage in argument (2.00 / 2) (#88)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:59:44 PM EST

Ad Hominem, you amaze me.

Stick your consensus up your arse.

Nothing worse than people who try to make out some things are so evidently true, that to argue against them you must be somehow insane and not worth bothering with. It must be nice to be so sure, and so convinced, that you don't even like engaging in debate, and see people who take another view as somehow evil, but it isn't especially healthy and makes you seem like the obsessed quack & bigot.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

what else (none / 0) (#106)
by fhotg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:11:43 PM EST

But maybe you are not a troll, in which case I had to excuse myself. Mabe you are just to naive to notice that there are different qualities of information sources. That there is a difference between books published by fringe publishers who also are responsible for a magazine featuring pearls like
The 1972 U.S. ban on DDT is responsible for a genocide 10 times larger than that for which we sent Nazis to the gallows at Nuremberg.
and reports of, say, the NASA.

Or that a paper review of "center for the dissemination of scientific information", which has strong ties to the "Greening Earth Society" aka "Western Fuel", does not disclose its sources of funding, but receives at least some from Exxon, does a scientific fact not make, particularly if it is in contrast with the findings of ca. 1000 researchers and reviewers who happen to constitute the creme de la creme of the world's scientific community.

If you were not aware of this feature of the interweb, I'd strongly suggest you stay away from it, until your capability for discrimination is developed enough to deal with such a confusing assembly of factoids.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

Miss the point (3.00 / 2) (#110)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:41:41 PM EST

I posted that link just to show there was and is no consensus. Secondly, regarding petroleum companies contributing to research, I hope you don't mind if I entirely discount "research" by greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and all the other interest groups and environmentalists who must keep the public scared to keep themselves employed, noses in the trough.

I must say, you seem to be jumping into the air with fright at the thought of someone actually questioning what you think. Responding with argument is one thing, but so far you haven't done that. You've just engaged in twaddle about who funds whom and appeals to authority and blah blah. You'll note I have provided decent links elsewhere that are decent and bonafide, regarding ice levels and such.

Blah.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Consensus (3.00 / 1) (#137)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:45:13 PM EST

"Consensus" is not usually used to imply a unanimous agreement. There is consensus in the scientific community that magnetic jewelry will not make you immortal, no matter how many links are made to Alex Chiu's web site.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
"21st Century Science & Technology" (none / 0) (#306)
by kjb on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 06:49:18 PM EST

That's quite a magazine you quoted there. For those not aware of it, that publication is yet another front for the Lyndon LaRouche organization.

--
Now watch this drive.
[ Parent ]

Green nuts? (none / 0) (#166)
by cdyer on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 09:50:05 PM EST

Are those anything like blue balls?

Cheers,
Cliff



[ Parent ]
Whee (none / 0) (#133)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:41:15 PM EST

Space satellites have been measuring the shrinkage of polar ice since 1979.

Nothing against the rest of the article, but the sentence above is pretty funny. SPACE satellites! Wow!
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
sunburn (3.00 / 2) (#50)
by 6mute on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 12:11:12 PM EST

The so-called ozone hole problem was a sham from the beginning

what about that dramatic rise in skin cancer in southern hemisphere countries over the last 20 years?

perhaps you would like to explain to all those who died of skin cancer in their 40's that the ozone hole was a sham.

the reason that the ozone hole is getting smaller is the people did something about it and hey, guess what somebody had to pay for it

[ Parent ]
uhh (2.33 / 3) (#53)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 12:20:09 PM EST

Package holidays? You know, skin cancer in UKia has increased dramatically too. And you know what? Every year 25 million Britons go abroad and irresponsibly roast themselves on foreign beaches. They didn't do that 20 or 30 years ago!

I can't talk about Southern Hemisphere countries, but I'd bet lifestyle changes have a lot to do with it.

As for your "people did something about it" canard, well, see, they didn't. Lot's of people waved hands and tried to make everybody guilty about all sorts of things, from aerosols to fridges to CO2 to on&on&on, and a few things were banned and changed in first world countries at least.

Unfortunately for you, the sum total emission of all the "baddie" chemicals taken as whole never decreased, and scientific consensus for the reason for the ozone holes decrease in size relates to solar activity. Don't worry, son, in 12 years time it'll start getting larger again and we'll all be subjected to more green-guilty whining and coercion and "somebody must do something!"

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

wrong and wrong (3.00 / 2) (#58)
by 6mute on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 12:57:50 PM EST

I can't talk about Southern Hemisphere countries, but I'd bet lifestyle changes have a lot to do with it.

well i can and you are wrong. aside from the medical stats, i can personally assure you that 20 years ago i could stay in the sun for several hours with little effect, wheras now all it takes is 30min in summer for some seriously bad sunburn. interestingly enough i do not get burned in the northern hemisphere sun either

having lived in britain i am well aware of british behaviour on foreign beaches. this is not the case in the antipodes where the advent of cheap air travel was not required to get to sunny beaches.

As for your "people did something about it" canard, well, see, they didn't

again, wrong. fridge coolants and aerosol can propellants were changed from chloroflourocarbon(CFC) chemicals to hydroflourocarbon(HFC) chemicals. this was a direct response to the antarctic ozone hole.



[ Parent ]
woo anecdotal evidence (3.66 / 3) (#60)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:03:17 PM EST

That's so convincing. Let me get this straight then: you admit the ozone hole has got smaller, but you say that skin cancer rates are still increasing?

Huh? This shows there is no connection.

Secondly, have you considered that older people may burn easier? Have you considered your memories may be mistaken or exaggerated? This is completely unconvincing.

again, wrong. fridge coolants and ...

Try reading the rest of the paragraph you quoted.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

beats no evidence (none / 0) (#102)
by 6mute on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:02:23 PM EST

wrong again. i did not say the ozone hole has got smaller. i implied that it is larger that it was 20 years ago. evidence suggests that the size of the hole has stabilised in recent years.

i have also considered that my memory may be mistaken however my family and friends have similar recollections too. are they mistaken too?

HFC's replaced CFC's in an effort to prevent further ozone loss. please why you consider that to be incorrect.

[ Parent ]
you should have stopped talking to bc here. (3.50 / 4) (#82)
by fhotg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:36:57 PM EST

Because bc is

a) an untalented troll
b) a shameless liar
c) dumb
d) all of the above

If you give any credibility to any scientific publications, or even just the NASA Science-News, you'll agree that discussing with bc is pointless to harmful.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

Many things can cause skin cancer (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by BLU ICE on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:53:53 PM EST

what about that dramatic rise in skin cancer in southern hemisphere countries over the last 20 years?

Prove to me that the ozone hole is the culprit.

"Is the quality of this cocaine satisfactory, Mr. Delorean?"
"As good as gold."

-- I am become Troll, destroyer of threads.
It's like an encyclopedia...sorta: Everything2

[ Parent ]

Private Enterprise (4.00 / 4) (#63)
by bayankaran on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:08:47 PM EST

Private enterprise is responsible, you know, and inventive, and not based on hysteria, theft, special interests, and emotion. When there is a need to change, the market will adapt and invent and reinvent.

Ever heard of Bhopal?

Oh well, in your opinion that was probably collateral damage. Or was it market adapting, inventing and reinventing.

[ Parent ]
Yes (3.25 / 4) (#69)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:26:31 PM EST

Responsible.

I wonder what happened to Union Carbide's shares after that disaster? I wonder what happened to their business prospects? I wonder why they spent (to date) $100 million clearing up the aftermath and providing aid? Would a government have done the same?

You know, private companies really don't want disasters, crashes and problems. They tend to cease to exist, and suffer downgraded profts, and so on. Look at Pan Am, a plane crash completely did for them. Presumably, you think private enterprise isn't responsible enough to run anything risky, right? We'd better get the planes out the air and trains of the tracks and shut down the nuclear plants and oil refineries and oil rigs right now and hand them over to government concern.

You reply is silly, because I didn't claim that prvate enterpise is somehow superhuman and never, ever makes mistakes, just that it is responsible and, IMO, a hell of a lot more competent than government, which hardly ever suffers a threat to its existance from its own incompetence. It doesn't face the consequences of its foolishness in the same way, so it can't possibly be as responsible. Stands to reason.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

I wonder (1.50 / 2) (#76)
by bayankaran on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:05:30 PM EST

I wonder what happened to Union Carbide's shares after that disaster? I wonder what happened to their business prospects?

I wonder why are you not seeing the human tragedy of Bhopal. I wonder why are you worried only over the share prices and business prospects of Union Carbide. I wonder you believe in humanity.

I wonder why they spent (to date) $100 million clearing up the aftermath and providing aid?

First of all, the website www.bhopal.com is setup by Union Carbide itself to sugarcoat the tragedy and its after effects. Quoting that website is like quoting Kenneth Lay to support the actions of Enron. So please find better links to support your admiration for Union Carbides relief efforts.

The average payout to almost 560,000 survivors who received settlements as of June 1 was $580, official figures show. Victims complain that compensation payments cannot even cover loans many took out to pay medical bills, funeral costs and other expenses.

It appears that Bhopal may be just one more example of international corporate irresponsibility gone unpunished.

Would a government have done the same?

I dont know whether a government might have done better and that is not the issue - your unabashed adoration for any inventing, reinventing free market as a cure for all is the issue.

I just showed you an example, open your eyes and you can see hundreds of them - now you figure it out.

[ Parent ]
Bollocks (3.66 / 6) (#81)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:30:39 PM EST

I wonder why are you not seeing the human tragedy of Bhopal. I wonder why are you worried only over the share prices and business prospects of Union Carbide. I wonder you believe in humanity.

Uhh, great. Does this have anything to do with the argument about responsibility? No. Sure, I can sit here and weep into my cups (boo hoo), if it makes you feel better. I'm sure the victims of Bhopal will appreciate yet another fucking liberal Westerner blubbing into his cups about how much he feels for them.

What I feel has not a fucking thing to do with this argument, you ninny.

Like it or lump it, one fact remains:

Union Carbide accepted full responsibility, spent a King's Ransom on the survivors, and as a private company were motivated to do this right and just thing by profits, share price, and (yes!) by the scale of human tragedy for which they were responsible. Hello? You can sit worrying about motivations all you want: I'm saying that even where your correct moral motivations are lacking in the board of directors, the market ensures that the irresponsible are punished and ensures that companies do their damndest to be accountable. If you start depending on emotion alone, rather than reason, you end up with all sorts of fucked up stalino-nazi crap.

Being accountable is what a market economy is all about. Being accountable for your mistakes and balls ups and fiscally and morally responsible for invading and damaging other's health, happiness, property and life is the cornerstone of a free market society. Do you see? Hello? Without this, it couldn't function!

I dont know whether a government might have done better and that is not the issue - your unabashed adoration for any inventing, reinventing free market as a cure for all is the issue.

You tit. The issue was that you have two options: private, or government monopoly. Which do you think is fairer, more responsible, more accountable, and more competent? I say private enterprise, by a mile.

Your criticism of private enterprise so far is as follows:

Hey, Union Carbide once did something really really bad. And they didn't pay enough money to cover their negligence! Only $100 million, not enough, that. No, I won't say government enterprise is better, and I won't offer any reasoning behind my "Union Carbide made a mistake once" mantra. Union Carbide proves it. Shut up about Chernobyl! Shut up about WWI! Union Carbide, they should have taken moral responsibility like my unknown alternative. They took full moral responsibility you say and paid $100 million? Bah! Sugarcoating!
Come off it, really.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]
Dear arthurpsmith, (5.00 / 4) (#90)
by Captain_Tenille on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:08:02 PM EST

That comment was not deserving of a 0. I hope that in the future, you will adhere to the rating guidelines when handing out zeros all willy-nilly. That comment was not spam. I have helped adjust it accordingly.
----
/* You are not expected to understand this. */

Man Vs. Nature: The Road to Victory!
[ Parent ]

Ok (2.00 / 1) (#92)
by arthurpsmith on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:15:24 PM EST

However, bc's succession of posts here have become increasingly more laden with insults to the people he is responding to. Agreed the post is not entirely content-free, but I would hope bc can think a little more clearly about what is being said rather than resorting to insult after insult.

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
conservative argument these days (3.00 / 2) (#94)
by Arthur Treacher on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:33:20 PM EST

consists of shouting half truths, insults, and misleading statements louder than ones opponent.  "bc" merely follows in the footsteps of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

"Henry Ford is more or less history" - Bunk
[ Parent ]
You are wrong (2.75 / 4) (#93)
by bayankaran on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:30:00 PM EST

I'm sure the victims of Bhopal will appreciate yet another fucking liberal Westerner blubbing into his cups about how much he feels for them.

I am not a liberal Westerner.

And I dont think the Victims of Bhopal will appreciate a self-righteous westerner safe in his suburbia who extolls Union Carbide and what they have done.

Please grow up...using tit, pinko, liberal, ninny, fuck, fuckall etc. showcase only your helplessness when confronted with facts.

Gandhi said...first they dismiss you, then they get angry with you, then they confront you, then you win.

[ Parent ]
Did I claim you were? (3.50 / 4) (#96)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:35:05 PM EST

Also, you'll note my insults had nothing to do with my argument. I made my argument, then I called you a cunt. You used the excuse of my calling you a cunt to completely avoid answering my argument at all, here, again.

Grow some fucking thicker skin, cunt.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

dear sir: (5.00 / 1) (#98)
by demi on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:39:09 PM EST

I am not a liberal Westerner.

He was referring to himself.

And I dont think the Victims of Bhopal will appreciate a self-righteous westerner safe in his suburbia who extolls Union Carbide and what they have done.

Considering that the local government controlled the staffing and operation of the Bhopal plant, what exactly Union Carbide "did", and what they have served penance for are not as far out of whack as you may claim.

Gandhi said...first they dismiss you, then they get angry with you, then they confront you, then you win.

If anything, it's the victims' advocates that have been dismissive, angry, and confrontational. I wouldn't expect a fair trial in Bhopal for anyone associated with UC, so I don't blame their executives for refusing to appear in court either.

[ Parent ]

Heh (2.60 / 5) (#111)
by ubu on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:47:48 PM EST

I dont know whether a government might have done better and that is not the issue - your unabashed adoration for any inventing, reinventing free market as a cure for all is the issue.

Bull shit. We don't propose the free market as the cure, we claim the State as a disease. We claim the freedoms and liberties won at the price of life by martyrs and patriots. We claim the ancient proscriptions against Hobbes' Leviathan and the intrusive, abusive Prince who typified the State in Machiavelli's writing.

We ask you, the inveterate Statist, to demonstrate your overriding mandate for resurrecting the monstrous State in all of our lives. We ask you, the ridiculous polemicist of environmental politics, to apply your own warped "precautionary principle" and first do no harm when you send your agents running amok. We ask you, the puppet-mouth of government-education textbooks and dumbed-down 11-o'clock news science, to demonstrate your basic competence and honesty in matters of grave importance to everyone around you.

But no such standard applies to you, the Anointed, the Illustrious Guardians of a Benighted Mankind and Benevolent Master of Human Huddles. You clamor for "action" and "progress" and the end justifies the means — and what was the end, anyway? You never told us.

Syncretistic jackanapes, bickering asses, loud-mouthed know-nothings. You crave answers to questions you're too stupid to frame sensibly; you crave solutions to problems you're too ignorant to investigate properly. You've never had a novel thought in your life.

You're the oldest pestilence Mankind has ever known: the would-be King. You'd champion war and death if the other side hadn't already claimed it, jackass.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
ANd oyu live under a bridge. [N/T] (none / 0) (#140)
by Innocent Bystander on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:51:02 PM EST



[ Parent ]
And I am a dumbass. [N/T] (none / 0) (#142)
by Innocent Bystander on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:51:55 PM EST



[ Parent ]
My favorite eco-freak quote (5.00 / 2) (#64)
by BLU ICE on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:15:18 PM EST

Was this one thing I read in national geographic. They were talking about some place in Canada or something having problems that they somehow concluded were related to global warming.

"Three out of the last five years have had above average temperatures."

"Is the quality of this cocaine satisfactory, Mr. Delorean?"
"As good as gold."

-- I am become Troll, destroyer of threads.
It's like an encyclopedia...sorta: Everything2

[ Parent ]

Sea levels and temperature WILL rise! (5.00 / 1) (#80)
by z84976 on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:30:03 PM EST

...but odds are the cause will be the normal cyclic changes of the climate of this planet. It's entirely possible that a massive release of methane from the sea floor could cause such a dramatic temperature change in MY LIFETIME that the polar caps would melt, sea level would rise by dozens of feet worldwide, etc. And we could probably accelerate that if we tried. Of course, once something like this (warming, sea rise) happens and a few generations get used to it, you're going to start hearing from all the people screaming warning about the impending ice age we're going to cause ourselves! Guess what? We WILL have another ice age.

I think we as humans have an unfortunate tendency to see "negative" and "positive" things about our environment only as they relate to our own actions and hopes and fears. If our planet could talk, I'm fully confident that when asked about humanity, it would say "huh? those johnny-come-lately's? are they still around?" Let's face it, this planet is going to do what it's going to do, and it's the ultimate arrogance to think we can really do much about it. When it's time for our species to die, it will die. Until then, like the dinosaurs, the trilobytes and the neanderthals, we will have our little time in the sun, our moment of glory.

[ Parent ]

A la Enron (5.00 / 2) (#99)
by Ebon Praetor on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:54:20 PM EST

Yes, I'll sit back and let the good old capitalist system work it out.  I'm sure that perfectly deregulated power is the solution.  I'm sure that will prevent the "incompetent" gov...err... commercial entities who shifted power around and raised prices as Califiornia was dumped into a power crisis.  

While I'm sitting in a blackout, I'll be sure to thank the free market for its honest and fair distribution of an essential product.  After all, I guess theft and fraud are acceptable.  They're not motivated by special interests; they are the special interests.

[ Parent ]

Hey! (5.00 / 1) (#103)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:04:02 PM EST

I don't know what things are like in California, but I have reasonably deregulated power right here. You know what, they won't leave me alone!

They come to my door every now and then on recruiting drives, Scottish Gas, Scottish Nuclear, Scottish Hydroelectric, Scottish Power, all these power companies desperately competing to get my custom, and undercutting each other all the time. It is no surprise I have switched electricity provider 3x in 2 years - they just keep getting cheaper, and hey, they are spending money on me to convince me to move.

I don't know what the hell is going on in California, but I understand they have been suffering from decades of terrible invasive government regulation and government management problems. You really should leave it to the market, perhaps then you will have a competitive, decent power market, like here in Scotland. I also understand this is why Scottish power companies are gobbling up small chunks of the American market and then introducing native management techniques to over there to streamline and make profits and increase market share.

Don't blame the market for your shitty power infrastructure, blame nosy government. Deregulation works just fine here, no reason why it shouldn't elsewhere.

As for Enron, what's your problem? They were crap, and the market killed them. That is what it is supposed to do to shitty companies. What's the problem?

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

The Church of the Free Market (none / 0) (#115)
by porp on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:06:12 PM EST

The "market" killed them? The government is the one who investigated after things appeared fishy. And the employees are the ones who got completely fucked over. The government straighed up that den of crooks, and the employees got their retirement wiped out.

Has the magical free-market fairy single-handedly restored justice? Did the fairy wave its wand and make right 5 years of stealing from investors and employees? No. Markets require oversight and government intervention to preserve morality. If one replaces morals with The Church of the Free Market, as you have done,you end up with morals that extend only to profit.

The only thing the market corrects is lack of profit. Anything else, all moral considerations, are secondary.

[ Parent ]

Quite the reverse (5.00 / 1) (#119)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:29:30 PM EST

The problem with Enron was not "lack of regulation". It was Enron's close involvement with government.

How did Enron stay alive for so long? Why, huge amounts of corporate welfare! Huge dependence on government contracts! Enron got billions in corporate welfare, overall, from various federal boondoogles such as:

Enron lobbied hard and gave huge amounts of cash to both political parties. Its reward was more that $600 million in cash via six different Ex-Im financed projects.
Your oft-repeated myth about Enron being a failure of the market is often repeated, and utterly unsound. Enron is not a failure of the market, it is a failure of government. The entire outfit depended upon government and depended on regulations and government intervention again and again to keep itself alive. In a free market with no regulation, it would never have went as far as it did. There are many Enron Myths on this topic, people gleefully thinking it somehow proves the corruption of the market, when it proves, as a matter of fact, the absolute opposite. The fault for the whole affair, for creating the climate in which an Enron could exist and prosper (for a while) undetected is that of government, and it was indeed the market which - inevitably - forced the ghosts out of the closet by insisting on a real bottom line.

Secondly, your argument has a fundamental flaw. You claim that government is needed to make things in the market more just, for justice to be applied. Unfoortunately, you forget that the market is based on just principles. The market is all about society, it is not prescriptive, it has no direction or aim, it is merely the emergent creation and aggregate of human action, trillions of human actions. The market merely rewards people who supply the market-expressed desires of others more than it rewards people who do not - which is as it should be. People like you have a problem with this - whom the market rewards, and whom it doesn't - despite that it is eminently fair, and you, and your precious government, try to impose alternative ideas of who should be rewarded and who should not, according to which particular merits your particular brand of socialism likes the most (blond hair, blue eyes?). This is unfair, unjust, and abridges the right of people to decide who they would like to reward, themselves, market expressed or otherwise.

Your government, however, is based on injustice. it is based on coercion. It is prescriptive and intervenes in many things - such as the case of Enron - by imposing by fiat what it thinks to be right - or more often, what it thinks best serves its interests. Government abridges the law and retards and harms both society and the market. Your government created and extended and allowed the atmosphere Enron could thrive in.

You want to drop your belief in myths and think clearly about what is really just here, and what is really at fault.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Actually ... (none / 0) (#136)
by Innocent Bystander on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:44:45 PM EST

Secondly, your argument has a fundamental flaw. You claim that government is needed to make things in the market more just, for justice to be applied.

But he said: Markets require oversight and government intervention to preserve morality.

Not just but moral.

The market is just, in the same fashion that nature is just, but it is not moral. People are, or aren't, moral.

But you can ignore me, I'm a socialist.

[ Parent ]

Well, see (none / 0) (#139)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:48:24 PM EST

Personally, I have no desire to impose my notion of morality on everybody else, by fiat. And especially not when to do so depends on injustice! Then what you do can't possibly be moral.

Coo, I suppose I prefer to let people alone and let them decide on their own morality.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Why not? (none / 0) (#149)
by Innocent Bystander on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:08:10 PM EST

I personally believe that murder is wrong. I will try to stop other people from committing murders.

I have similar views on sexual abuse/assault, slavery, and cannibalism to name a few.

Some moral views are invalid because they cause harm to society as a whole. Correcting those moral views is not worng, but necessary if we are to continue being social animals.

[ Parent ]

Now you are talking injustice again (none / 0) (#150)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:13:08 PM EST

I was talking about situations that are just, but perhaps not ascribing to your moral views, as you asked me to. Now you've regressed back to situations that are unjust.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]
'It was the woman! She tempted me!' (none / 0) (#301)
by porp on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 04:57:31 PM EST

Ah, yes, Enron was the government's fault. The government is the one who forced Enron officials at gunpoint to hide huge debts and use creative accounting, because, of course, my government is 'based on injustice'.

'It was the woman! She tempted me!'

No amount of misdirection and handwaving can hide the eye-wateringly clear fact that Enron is the one who ultimately committed acts they fully knew to be illegal. And Andersen Accounting, according to you, had no other choice, given our regulated market, than to assist in the swindling of investors?

Enron is clearly a failing of market. The entire purpose of the illegal enterprise was to maintain the illusion to their investors that Enron was earning much more money than they actually were. The investors, not knowing better, thought their stocks were safe. The entire thing lacked transparency and honesty, and that is a failure of the market, for ignoring the economic principles that would make the market truly just.

The rest of your blathering about socialism and "blond hair/blue eyes" is utter dross and be safely ignored.

[ Parent ]

Are you dense? (5.00 / 1) (#312)
by bc on Thu Nov 14, 2002 at 05:05:59 AM EST

Hello? Let me get something straight:

You think the solution to a problem that could not have existed without huge amounts of government regulation is: more regulation!?!?

You think that, despite the simple fact that Enron was closely intertwined with government all the way on its merry path to the grave, the fault is solely Enron's????

You think that it was this same government that kept Enron alive by pumping it full of billions of dollars that killed Enron, and not their increasing desperation and realisation that they can't keep cooking the books forever, that the market would eventually find out, nomatter what?

I'll have you know, I never claimed private companies are perfect. Of course companies fail and go bust! But people are using Enron to show some failure of the market system, when it is quite apparent to even the dumbest of onlookers that nothing about Enron, its business model, its crimes, none of them could possibly have existed without the massive aid and complicity of government.

SOme "failure of the market", when it is hard to see that the market was involved anywhere in this sorry fucking mess at all.

The entire thing lacked transparency and honesty

Yes, it did. But I want you to ask yourself a question. How far would they have got without massive government aid and the huge amounts of regulation, that breed dishonesty? WTF do you think happens when, in order for your business to succeed, you have to feed the hungers of the political masters on whom your business depends, so you can get kickbacks?

Like it or not, Enron could not have happened without retarded government interference in the market. Thereofre, it's perfectly obvious it was indeed primarily the fault of government. Suck it.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Scottish Hamster Wheel, LLC (none / 0) (#233)
by anonymous cowerd on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 09:27:35 AM EST

Scottish Gas, Scottish Nuclear, Scottish Hydroelectric, Scottish Power, all these power companies desperately competing to get my custom, and undercutting each other all the time.

Sweet! I can imagine the rat's nest of competing transmission wires running up and down your block.

Your fan WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

A drowning man asks for pears from the willow tree.
[ Parent ]

Wow (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by ubu on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:30:50 PM EST

It is beyond insanity to complain about the blackouts in California and then blame them on a lack of government interference in the energy trade.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
California's energy (5.00 / 1) (#228)
by Enocasiones on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 07:52:42 AM EST

The energy crisis in California happened because of a botched deregulation. While wholesale prices between producers and carriers were not capped, but retail prices of energy were, meaning the utilities could not charge what they wanted for the energy they sold you.Thus there wasn´t an incentive to build new power generating capacity, while at the same time there wasn´t a disincentive for consumers to use less energy. Result: collapse.

[ Parent ]
Well, (5.00 / 2) (#105)
by manobes on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:07:23 PM EST

Firstly, I'd be more inclined to believe Kyoto is even slightly valid if somebody, somewhere could demonstrate that
* Sea levels have risen (even just by the tiniest amount) over the last 150 years.
* Global temperatures have increased (even by the tiniest amount) over the same time.
* CO2 levels etc have changed.
Cos, the thing is, they haven't.

Well, I don't know about the first two, but CO2 levels appear to have risen dramtically in the last few hundred years.

For example, from this site

The Mauna Loa record shows a 17.4% increase in the mean annual concentration, from 315.98 parts per million by volume (ppmv) of dry air in 1959 to 370.9 ppmv in 2001. The 1997-98 increase in the annual growth rate of 2.87 ppmv represents the largest single yearly jump since the Mauna Loa record began in 1958.

You can find more like that all over the liturature on the subject. As I understand the Kyoto skeptics the issue is not that atmospheric CO2 levels have risen, that is accepted. Their concern is with the conclusion that this will lead to all the disasterous consquences, that have been forcast.

Also, you say,

All the largest and worst nuclear accidents have been in government controlled facilities. Private enterprise is responsible, you know, and inventive, and not based on hysteria, theft, special interests, and emotion.

Which I would argue is misleading, insofar as it pertains to government control of nuclear reactors. There have only ever been two major nuclear accidents. I'll grant that Chernobel was a total disaster (due to piss-poor reactor design and maintinence). However, three mile island was not, dispite being a government controlled facility. The three mile island accident shows that US nuclear reactor design is fundementally sound, and the safety procedures worked well.


No one can defend creationism against the overwhelming scientific evidence of creationism. -- Big Sexxy Joe


[ Parent ]
Well (none / 0) (#109)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:33:24 PM EST

Regarding the temp/co2/ice levels, I should say that it is generally accepted that they have changed in the last few hundred years, and the last millenium. They change all the time. For example, temperatures in early medieval times were higher than today (the medieval warm period). This was followed by the cold snap that started in the 16th century, iirc, and contued right up until the 19th century. And hell, the romans used to grow grape vines as far north as northern England, it was far warmer in around 100AD than today. Temperature and all the other indices do change all the time. What's at issue is whether it is man-made, and in that there really is surprisingly little evidence.

Secondly, if it is man made you'd expect to see increasing temperatures and CO2 levels and so on this century, and all the data tends to show that there isn't, much. Perhaps a tiny little rise over the course of the century, but nothing drastic, and certainly nothing like the UN's ridiculous "hockey stick" projections (which, interestingly, washes out the medieval warm periods and the cold period after entirely).

You are right about the nuclear reactors: the only two major disasters were in government controlled facilities, one of which was a damned sight better than the other, thanks to at least being buttressed by a mostly capitalist economy underneath ;PP

Cheers.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

variances in solar radiation (5.00 / 1) (#199)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:01:06 AM EST

The issue gets complicated by the fact that we orbit a variable star.  When the sunspot cycle goes away, there is good evidence suggesting that temperatures drop a bit on Earth.  Some people point to the lack of sunspots to explain the cold snaps in the 17th and early 19th centuries.

The evidence for the rising CO2 level is definitely sound.  The conclusions need more work.  However, it is obvious that CO2 is a green house gas.  How much are you willing to let our industries alter the biosphere before we find out what the end results are?  We have pretty good evidence now that the world climate can shift through radical changes in the span of one lifetime.  Mess with the ocean currents through changes in local salinity and you can alter global currents.  Currents drive weather.  Whether or not the Earth cools or warms, changing the global weather pattern impacts all of us and messes with our food supply.  Starving people do desparate things.  See the drift?  We don't have to be certain this is all going to happen to consider the costs of insuring against it.  How much is it worth to us to insure against the risk of one billion starving humans deciding to do something radical?  I don't know anyone who will sell you such a policy.  Only community, state, and national level policies can deal with these consequences.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

Woefully misguided (4.00 / 1) (#128)
by Quixato on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:07:16 PM EST

I cannot believe that your solution to the problems of energy in this world is to let the free markets reign supreme, when the current energy crisis builds up to a peak, viable alternatives will become available due to the nature of the free market. This is incredibly short sighted. Your argument that the CFC's may or may not be causing global warming / cooling can be taken at face value, perhaps we don't know enough about the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere to make any kind of prediction, however for you to totally disregard any arguments as speculative is monstrous.

You see, if we removed all the restrictions on the industry, then because corporations are driven by a need for greatest profit, environmental concerns would be shuffled off the table in the quest for the greatest share value. Would you personally like to live downriver of a pulp and paper mill that does not process it's waste? Would you live next to a coal burning plant? Would you really want to live in a world that has drunk every drop of oil, burned it and released the emissions into the air? Perhaps at that time alternative fuel types would appear, but I personally don't want to live in a world where I need nose filters to go outside, or living in a dome is the norm, because the weather outside is prediciting acid rain for the month of June?

Letting the free markets have a free reign is the shortest path to irresponsible caretaking of the earth. Perhaps you don't really give a shit about anything that will happen on the earth after you shuffle off this mortal coil, but I want to see a world that my children and children's children can enjoy without looking at the greed and excess of the 20/21st century and shaking their heads in disgust.

"People are like smarties - all different colours on the outside, but exactly the same on the inside." - Me
"Learn to question, question to learn." - Sl8r
[ Parent ]

Property Rights (none / 0) (#132)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:24:09 PM EST

Would you personally like to live downriver of a pulp and paper mill that does not process it's waste? Would you live next to a coal burning plant? Would you really want to live in a world that has drunk every drop of oil, burned it and released the emissions into the air?

In these situations I would sue for damage to my property and personal space. it would be very much in the interests of corporations and the market to reduce emissions as much as possible.

Secondly, just as the market invented our current energy methods, so it will develop new ones. If we should run out of oil before some magical new alternative appears, we shall just move on to other fossil fuels, of which there are plenty. Don't worry, there's no real danger of us running out any time soon.

Property rights are the solution to gross pollution problems.

but I personally don't want to live in a world where I need nose filters to go outside, or living in a dome is the norm, because the weather outside is prediciting acid rain for the month of June?

Huh? This is hysteria. What the hell makes you think this is ever likely, other than hysterical articles read over morning bacon&eggs?

You know, the free market acting all by itself without any government regulation has shown a remarkable increase in clean air in western countries. It is in the interests of the market to be efficient and clean, cos that means no bad publicity, no impact on your sales, and more effective and efficient (and hence cheaper) use of the energy at your disposal.

Perhaps you don't really give a shit about anything that will happen on the earth after you shuffle off this mortal coil, but I want to see a world that my children and children's children can enjoy without looking at the greed and excess of the 20/21st century and shaking their heads in disgust.

Bah. The earth is cleaner now than it was in Victorian times. And it is actually getting cleaner. This is just down to the market and the inevitable gains in efficiencies that it creates, as well as its attending to what people want - and most people now are pretty concerned about the environment, so the market (being the expression of human action to satisfy others market expressed needs) inevitably caters to that demand.

Compare, say, modern Manchester to Victorian Manchester, or modern London to Victorian London and see where the market gets you. Sure, London had the Clean Air Act, but by the time it was passed London had already got a LOT cleaner off its own back. Then, the Thames was an open cesspool, now, salmon have returned.

Your doomsaying isn't backed up by facts and your appeal to government coercion to solve what the market solves anyway is unwarranted.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Huh. (none / 0) (#145)
by Quixato on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:01:40 PM EST

Did you read that article? Check out page 4. So your solution is just to keep burning, because there's plenty of technology to get us more and more fossil fuels. Do you live in a major metropolitan city? Do you like the smog that's generated pretty much exclusively from cars? If there's an energy solution that doesn't involve polluting without thought to the future, count me in.

"People are like smarties - all different colours on the outside, but exactly the same on the inside." - Me
"Learn to question, question to learn." - Sl8r
[ Parent ]

The Earth? (5.00 / 1) (#147)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:02:54 PM EST

Bah. The earth is cleaner now than it was in Victorian times...
Compare, say, modern Manchester to Victorian Manchester, or modern London to Victorian London and see where the market gets you.


The city streets, sure. The people, too. Not the Earth. The advances your examples describe are in the field of transporting trash away from population areas, not in the field of reducing the amount.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
When the sea rises it is too late (none / 0) (#174)
by hugues on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:44:31 PM EST

You see, for the ice to melt the temperature has to be above 0C (32F). If the average temperature in the Antarctic goes from -10C to -5C nothing happens with the sea levels.

When it goes from -5 to 0 *then* we start having a problem.

It is foolish to say that because seas haven't risen yet they won't.

[ Parent ]

bad, bad, bad (none / 0) (#315)
by CENGEL3 on Thu Nov 14, 2002 at 05:18:47 PM EST

Trust me, you don't want to remove government environmental regulations.

That way lies disaster.

I'm not some red flag waving moron either. Free market economy is a good thing. But that does not mean you do not have any laws that govern how corporations do bussines.... especialy laws that protect public resources (Air , Water) that private corporations put stress on.

Trust me, you can not trust corporations to regulate themselves.

How do I know this? My family used to own a manufacturing plant. There were alot of toxic chemicels used in the manufacturing process...and alot of cfc's went up our smoke stacks.

We were pretty responsible about abiding by pollution standards.... but there was only thing that made us responsible.... government regulation.

It wasn't our corporate image that kept us responsible.... our customers were all industrial themselves.... they were bigger polluters then us.
Thier customers didn't have the first clue about what sort of toxins got created as byproducts of the products that they bought.... nor was their any indication that they cared.

We didn't care about private civil lawsuits. We had damn good lawyers... trust me.... alot better then any private land owner could afford. Not that most land owners would have the first clue about whether they were getting polluted or how to trace those toxins back to their origin.

No, there was one thing that kept us honest..... Federal regulation... and I'm damn glad for it.

Don't under estimate corporate greed.... and we were a privately owned enterprise.... we could actualy afford to consider things like scrupuls and individual conscience when making bussiness decisions. Those sort of things don't even enter into the equation with most public corporations.

[ Parent ]

Energy for developing nations? (4.33 / 3) (#28)
by heng on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:44:44 AM EST

Worse still, most of the people of the world do not even live under modern economic conditions as yet, and as China, India, and other similar nations continue to progress, world energy needs will almost inevitably double or triple from their current levels. So where is all that energy going to come from?
Is this the correct way around? My understanding was that the stimulus for the industrial revolution was the decrease in the price of energy. If the demand goes up, but without the new forms of energy becoming realised, surely the rate of industrialisation will slow?

Energy is cheap - that's the problem (2.00 / 1) (#91)
by arthurpsmith on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:09:23 PM EST

The problem is not the direct cost of energy, which is sufficiently low to allow very high growth rates in many developing nations. The problem is the indirect impact of our current primary energy choices on the world as a whole. Oil in particular has all those war/terrorism consequences, in addition to the CO2 problem. If mitigation of those indirect costs could somehow be added to the energy bill, it certainly would slow development by raising energy prices worldwide. The US is opposed to that sort of "tax", for a variety of economic and ideological reasons, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a good idea.

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
Here's my dream (4.12 / 8) (#31)
by Rogerborg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:55:06 AM EST

To hear Bush II stand up and say "I have changed my directitude.  Instead of spending $400 billion a year on finding new ways to kill people, I commit this country to building and driving a vehicle with four occupants through all the states of the Union, without using any new fossils resources at any stage, by the end of this decade.  We choose to do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard."

Huh?  It sure sounds easy.  What's the problem?

Well, what do you make the plastics out of?  Ha!  Recycle existing plastics.  OK, where do you get the energy to melt them down from?  Ummm.

Even if you don't class steel or aluminium as fossil resources (but they are limited), can we mine or recycle resources without using fossil fuels to power the process?

OK, so we physically build the car from recycled material at a new state of the art plant entirely powered by wind/wave/hydro/solar.  We didn't use any fossil resources in moving the raw materials there, or in building the facility, right?  What about the workers that build it?  How did they get to work?  What powered  the pumps that extracted the water that grew the grass that fed the cows that were ground up and trucked half way across the country to make their dinners?

Wow, that's too much, let's backtrack.  Let's magically build the car and drive it round the states.  What do we fuel it with?  Solar?  Guess again, we can't guarantee sunlight.  OK, hydrogen, alcohol or biodiesel.  No problem.  Except, where do we find the fuel along the way?  Do we build fuel stations in every state just to fuel it?  Using what, wood, and wood fired steam powered construction equipment perhaps?  Er, or maybe we could follow it with a tanker.  That's, uh, burning fuel.  That's OK, we'll just build a bigger tanker to fuel the tanker that... hmmm.

How do we get it to Hawaii?  That's actually the easiest bit, we just need to find a sailing ship.  As long as we don't run the auxiliary diesel generators at all, or if we power them with biodiesel.  Biodiesel that's been grown, harvested, processed and transported without using fossil resources, of course.

Have a think about that.  Putting a man on the moon and bringing him home safely was easy.  Cutting the ties to fossil fuels is going to be a lot harder.  If we can't do it by the end of this decade, when will we be able to do it?

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs

You forgot (none / 0) (#33)
by ajduk on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:59:37 AM EST

Alcohol and Biodesiel both require fossil-fuel based fertilizers.  And all those food crops..
(About 4-5J of fossil fuel energy currently goes into every J worth of food produced...)


[ Parent ]
Good point (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by Rogerborg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:17:46 AM EST

I wonder if there's the core of an Ask Kuro5hin article here.  Every time I think about how to solve one part of this problem, I end up at a fossil dependency somewhere down the line.  

Like when we talk about solar cells being able to pay for their energy costs in 3-5 years, and smugly claim that this now includes not just the energy required to power the plant, but enough to obtain the raw materials as well.  Fine, but does it include the energy required to sustain the lives (home, work, food, hobbies) of the people that bring in the raw materials, make the cells, ship, install and maintain them?  How do we keep them alive until the technology catches up?  Oops, fossil fuels.

I keep hearing "we'll cross those bridges when we come to them", but there are so many links in the supply chain, many of them currently fossil dependent, that we at least need to work out what order we have to cross the bridges in.  Any ideas?

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

Fossil fuels will probably be around for a while (3.00 / 2) (#44)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:43:41 AM EST

So no big rush, as far as I can see. For North Sea oil, the estimates in the 70's were that it'd run out by the year 2000 (same with ridiculous environmental predictions). Of course, by a couple of years ago the estimates were up to 2050, thanks to new reserves continually being found. It has now went beyond that afaik, and there's no reason why known global reserves shouldn't keep expanding & expanding for the meantime. We've really barely scratched the surface.

It is the same with any finite resource, really. People keep predicting, ever since Malthus, that any time soon we are going to hit a ceiling and find ourselves suffering incredible commodity price rises. But it just isn't happening, whether it is for tin, coal, steel, iron, gold, oil, grain, ... These things keep getting cheaper and cheaper, and the reason is that economically, more people working together, trading, and exploiting resources tend to find more resources and make better use of them, nomatter what impediments stand in the way. More&more demand makes it economical to extract from more difficult locations and leadd to ever increasing known reserves. Of course these things are finite, and of course we'd eventually run out, but not for a long time yet! By the time we are, who knows what new technologies and resources will be available.

Personally, I think that oil won't be running out any time in the next 100 years at least, and that by the time it is in danger of running out it will be outmoded anyway. I see the current arguments and handwaving about oil running out as being a bit like Victorians fretting about coal running out by 1900, and worrying frantically about using sustainable wood supplies to run steam engines, and initiating massive government research programmes into using sustainable wood supplies, only to find that just when they'd expected their coal to run out, as a matter of fact it never has and has become completely outmoded by new technologies anyway. Hell, UKia has (known) coal reserves that'd provide our energy needs for 500 years! It's just that we don't use coal nearly as much, and I doubt Victorians knew about all the coal we do.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Oh, please.. (5.00 / 5) (#46)
by ajduk on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:56:43 AM EST

Oil production peaked in 1999 in the UK sector of the North sea (now off 16%) and in 2001 in the Norwegean sector.  Estimates of peak being 2000 were entirely correct.  Of course they'll probably be getting some oil out in 2050, but not much; perhaps 1/100th of the present amount.

Sorry, but geophysics trumps ecomomics when it comes to oil.  94% of the oil that the planet had in 1850 was in a total of 1330 giant, easy to find oilfields.  Finding small fields is getting easier, but they don't make a significant dent in supply.  Reserves (Technical, backdated P50 reserves instead of political/financial reserves) have been falling since 1980.  

This stuff is not handwaving.  The same predictions were made about the US oil industry in 1957 (that it would peak in 1970); it peaked in 1971.  Oil production in the US fell throughout the 1970s as the price went through the roof and lines formed at gas stations.

[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#51)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 12:12:33 PM EST

You are talking about production, not reserves. Production decreased slightly from 2000-2001 because of cheaper international oil prices. As the North Sea has high production costs (all that drilling in an inhospitable northern sea is hard and expensive) this means production dropped by 100,000 barrels that year. No fear, though, analysts predict that it will carry on increasing production for the rest of the decade, and in fact 2001 production levels were at a record high, and are due to be higher this year, and higher the next...

Regardless, global oil reserves show no real sign of decreasing, without getting into the truly gigantic fields in Siberia and central asia and such that economics dictate must be exploited thoroughly, sooner or later. Production locally may vary according to market changes, but I don't see what that shows.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Sorry (none / 0) (#207)
by ajduk on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 04:15:12 AM EST

The Buzzard field might be substantial - 400 million barrels - but that's nowhere enough to offset the declines of the (initally) much larger Brent, Forties, Piper, etc, etc fields.

A bigger picture of the North Sea can be obtained here. You will notice that the discovery rate has dropped to near-zero - the odd new find does not offset this. The production rate reflects the discovery rate, thanks to a combination of reservoir physics and stastics. You will notice that the monthly production figures show a drop despite the changes in the price of oil.

In 2001, for example, a total of 8 Billion barrels were found (a good year in recent terms). This was in around 300 discoveries. But 26 Billion barrels were used. As you can see, there are plenty of oil discoveries - but they are small and don't add up to nearly enough to replace production.

This is not 'crank science'

There may be a few big fields left in Siberia and the Caspian - although the caspian seems to be having a lot of dry holes in the best prospects. There is no panacea there. In order to stop a decline in production of oil, we need to find a couple of Saudi arabias within the next 5 years at least. Current forcasts already assume that about 150 Billion barrels remain to be found.

Let me explain about reserves. Suppose I - as an oil geologist - discover an oil field. I will do a series of calculations to get three figures for the reserves; a P95 figure (95% probability that there is more than this amount), a P50 figure (most likely) and a P5 figure (Outside chance). Internally, the oil company uses P50 figures; on average these are correct and don't change over the life of the field. Externally - to the stock market - we report the P95 figure, a much smaller number. Every year for the first few years of production from that field, the P95 figure will rise - we drill more wells in the field and pin it down better; so to the stock market, reserves appear to rise every year. This is a reporting artifact and NOT a miracle of technology or a sign that oil reserves will always rise. If you add the P50 numbers together from the date of discovery, you find that reserves peaked in 1980 and have been dropping ever since.

Economists typically assume that as price rises, reserves increase. The problem with oil is that the better/cheaper the reserve, the larger it is. Hence around 70% of all the oil in the world makes a profit at $5/barrel. At $20/barrel, that rises to >95%. Raising the price to $100/barrel does not get you much oil.



[ Parent ]
It's not keeping me awake at nights (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by Rogerborg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 12:08:17 PM EST

But then again, I do think that it might keep my grandkids awake.  And I don't know about you, but I plan to be around in 50 or even 100 years time.

By the way, can you cite any of the much touted 1970's predictions that we'd be oil-dry by 2000?  I keep hearing about them anecdotally, but I've yet to see an actual reference.

The references that I have seen say very clearly that we (today, not in 1970) are using fossil fuels faster than we're finding them.  The clock is ticking.  The question is how long it's got on it, and whether we'll switch to an inferior fuel source (nothing beats petrochemical for bang-per-buck, not even nukular) in time to avert staring the deadline in the eye.  Vague hand waving (to use your phrase) about something better coming along rather begs the questions:

  • If we know what it is, why haven't we switched already?
  • If we don't know, when will we find out?

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

I'd suspect Natural Gas (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by bc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 12:52:40 PM EST

As the answer to "What will we use instead if oil gets too expensive?". Here is a pretty interesting article discussing exactly what we are. The natural gas thing is interesting because it can be converted into liquid fuel easily, if expensively, but only becomes economically viable if a barrel of oil cross $20/barrel. It provides a nice ceiling, and there is shitloads of exploitable natural gas about.

I genuinely think that things will just keep getting exploited, fossil fuels of all sorts. If oil increases in price, then there are lots of other available fossil fuels we can go back to and chemically transform into fuels that do have a bang, if for slightly higher buck. And if they become mainstream, then hell, it gets cheaper&cheaper. Economics of scale, you know.

Even coal can be turned into gas which can be turned into liquid fuel...

In any case, I admit that the prediction of the North Sea oil running out by 2000 is just a vague memory from my youth, ie, I can't back it up. I do remember the famous case of the professor of Geology at an English University who, in about 1960, offered to "drink all the oil that could be found in the North Sea", so convinced was he that there was none ;P

Regardless, it is a question of economics and technology more than finite reserves ever decreasing, if you ask me. There are all sorts of proven alternatives we could move to should oil suddenly vanish, that just involve using different fossil fuels. it's just that people are so obsessed with renewable this and space age nuclear that and clean the other, that they somehow discount the myriad energy sources we do have in the fossil fuel sector as a whole.

I think that, eventually, when oil prices start to increase in (for the sake of argument) 40 or 50 years, it will then become economically viable to use other fossil fuel sources. Any new supah-high tech malarkey would be a bonus.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Funny thing about natural gas. (5.00 / 1) (#104)
by tkatchev on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:06:59 PM EST

There's been a whole lot of confusing disinformation in my neck of the woods about the whole natual gas issue.

Some quack journalists are claiming that we have only 15 or so years' worth of natural gas left.

That sounds quite suspicious to me; I wonder to what end they're making such claims.

I guess we really are running out of oil, and the fat people at the top want to milk everything out of the oil industry before it goes belly-up.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

If you live in the US.. (none / 0) (#208)
by ajduk on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 04:20:50 AM EST

Then you've got natural gas problems. Part of the California energy crisis was caused by a shortage of Natural gas (price went up 400%)

Natural gas can really give shocks (more so than oil); the production rate is limited by the pipeline capacity. So production *ability* can decline for years with zero market signal - the pipeline stays full. When the gas is near-depleted, suddenly the pipelines can no longer be kept full and there is very little you can do about it.



[ Parent ]
One bit at a time (4.33 / 3) (#66)
by hardburn on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:16:44 PM EST

Just take the problem a bit at a time. You're looking at the entire picture at once when it is perfectly reasonable to take it a bit at a time and solve that. Cars made of entirely recylced plastics and running on ethanel/fuel cells/whatever is a good start. Don't worry about how the workers have to get to the factory to create these new cars. Takeing a part at a time, you can get the cars first, then get rid of fossil fuel-based energy plants, and if we're really lucky, find a better source of hydrocarbons so we don't need oil to make plastics.


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


[ Parent ]
who told you this ? (5.00 / 1) (#78)
by fhotg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:10:16 PM EST

What's wrong with organic fertilizers ? Except positive side-effects like less nutrients in surface waters ?
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
Organics (5.00 / 1) (#173)
by cdyer on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:39:05 PM EST

I must say, it has pleased me greatly this past year to realize that the organic movement is more than just hokey hippy-shit. In fact, it has a strong basis in the common-sense assertion that it is dangerously stupid to base your food production on any other industry. Food production should be done in such a way that if everything else fails, we still eat. Basing it on fossil fuels, on large machinery, on national and international transportation weakens us. The organic movement is centered around the idea of reducing inputs, shortening food transportation, decentralizing production, and in short, making our food system much more fault-tolerant than it currently is.

Now if only we could get enough people interested to expand the system to a level where it could actually do more good if the shit really does hit the fan.

Cheers,
Cliff



[ Parent ]
Good point. (5.00 / 1) (#209)
by ajduk on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 04:25:36 AM EST

I was merely adding another usage of fossil fuels. Totally organic farming does, of course, reduce short term yields a bit. Not the use of the phrase 'short term'! Certainly, the current situation - the US and EU subsidising unsustainable intensive agriculture and dumping the surpluses on third world countries, devestating their farming base - is just a bit sub-optimal. Now if we used those subsidies to encourage organic farming...



[ Parent ]
why biomass (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by 6mute on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 12:31:06 PM EST

i think you have missed the point here. kyoto is about reducing CO2 emissions and thereby attempting to deal with global warming.

the reason people keep talking about fossil fuels is that burning fossil fuels takes carbon out of the ground where it is safely stored, and puts it into the atmosphere.

biomass for takes carbon out of the atmosphere, turns it into fuel and then puts it back into the atmosphere by burning. the great thing about that is that the net level of CO2 does not increase.

i don't understand this thing about biomass requiring fossil fuel fertilizer either. as far as i knew it covers most biological materials capable of being decomposed and includes sewage both human & animal (of which there is no shortage)

[ Parent ]
Easy (none / 0) (#55)
by Arthur Treacher on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 12:44:01 PM EST

A wooden bicycle with four seats, pontoons, a mast, a sail, and a rudder.  Maybe a propellor for those windless days.  Might take a long, long, while to get to Hawaii, though.

"Henry Ford is more or less history" - Bunk
[ Parent ]
How do you build a car (none / 0) (#71)
by RoOoBo on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:39:23 PM EST

How do you would build a car starting from Stone Age technology level?

Step by step. And I can grant you it works. It takes some time though so it would be better to start ASAP.



[ Parent ]
Pardon my ignorance (4.66 / 3) (#74)
by radeex on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:03:57 PM EST

but this reminds me a lot of bootstrapping a programming language. Isn't it the same (or at least similar) type of situation?

i.e., use fossil fuels to support our new energy production until the new energy production is sufficient enough to power the infrastructure that supports it.

What am I missing?
--
I DEMAND RECOMPENSE!
[ Parent ]

we didn't put anyone on the moon... (1.00 / 1) (#281)
by zer0 moon on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 12:51:38 AM EST

that footage you have all seen of astronauts
walking on the moon is nothing more than very
good quality clay-mation

on the bounce!
【ゼロ ムーン】
[ Parent ]
Some notes (3.00 / 6) (#37)
by RyoCokey on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:10:55 AM EST

Just some stuff that always seems to get left out of these kind of energy discussions...

First of all, biomass is completely useless. To maintain that kind of argiculture one needs lots of fertilizer, which is made from oil. It's a net loss system and wouldn't help one bit.

Secondly, coal could give us decades of power, as it's really been barely exploited. New mining and drill techniques involving lasers could get use to deeper deposits of hydrocarbons, so there's quite a bit of leeway in terms of how long we can coast on fossil fuels. If we could actually reach and extract the source and reservoir rock for oil beds, we could probably extend oil production for centuries, as currently only oil found in stratographic traps is exploited.

Lastly, transmission is a large factor. A room temperature super conductor could extend our energy supplies dramatically.

Mind you, neither of these solutions would "solve" our energy problems for the next millenia, but they could give us a lot more breathing room.



"There is no reason why we should not have peaceful relations with the rest of the world if we cease playing the role of Meddlesome Mattie." - Sen. Art
perhaps a load of s***? (2.14 / 7) (#52)
by 6mute on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 12:17:57 PM EST

First of all, biomass is completely useless. To maintain that kind of argiculture one needs lots of fertilizer, which is made from oil. It's a net loss system and wouldn't help one bit.

biomass, it comes out of your arse and isn't made from oil.

[ Parent ]
Iceland would like to export energy (none / 0) (#156)
by HidingMyName on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:26:01 PM EST

Lastly, transmission is a large factor.
Iceland has abundant geothermal energy and would dearly like to export it, but cannot due to the very transmission issues you mentioned. I don't know enough about superconductors to guess whether high (room temperature) superconductors are likely to be feasible and cost effective. I don't think that Iceland could cover the EU's energy needs, but they do have considerable energy production capacity relative to their population, and every bit helps. This is why Alcoa is there (cheap energy for processing).

[ Parent ]
democracy (2.15 / 19) (#56)
by turmeric on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 12:46:39 PM EST

i dont recall voting to have a bunch of gigantic freeways with no public transportation, nor did i vote to give gigantic amounts of government money to the car companies, the oil companies, the rubber companies, nor did i vote to invade oil rich foreign countries with CIA operatives or whatever, nor did i vote to rip out trolley tracks in LA, like those companies did, nor did i vote to have broken crosswalks, crappy bicycle infrastructure, no pedestrian bridges over freeways, etc. SOME DEMOCRACY WHEN ALL THIS SHIT I NEVER HAD A CHANCE TO VOTE FOR IS SOMEHOW FORCED UPON ME CHOICES I DONT WANT TO MAKE ARE FORCED UPON ME, HOW IS THIS A DEMOCRACY?!?!?

It's not a democracy, it's a republic (3.75 / 4) (#65)
by Arthur Treacher on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:16:33 PM EST

:D

"Henry Ford is more or less history" - Bunk
[ Parent ]
We are a representative democracy (none / 0) (#217)
by FlipFlop on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:49:17 AM EST

It's not a democracy, it's a republic

Demoracy
Government by popular representation; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained by the people, but is indirectly exercised through a system of representation and delegated authority periodically renewed; a constitutional representative government; a republic.

:D

AdTI - The think tank that didn't
[ Parent ]

To sum up: (5.00 / 1) (#101)
by Dolohov on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:01:54 PM EST

"This can't be a democracy because things aren't run the way I think they should be."

[ Parent ]
more to the point: (none / 0) (#112)
by kubalaa on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:51:53 PM EST

We have all these things because we have a democracy. I don't want the majority deciding what happens in my life -- people should be allowed maximum possible independence. I bet there are a bunch of people like the parent poster -- why can't we get together and form our own little relatively-self-sufficient collective? Because then the government would lose the ability to profit from and control us, which it won't stand for.

[ Parent ]
but that's exactly what democracy is (none / 0) (#120)
by sal5ero on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:38:25 PM EST

the majority deciding what happens (and by extension, what happens in your life). if you don't want that then you don't want democracy.

[ Parent ]
you're right, I don't want democracy (nt) (5.00 / 1) (#179)
by kubalaa on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:14:04 PM EST



[ Parent ]
liar (none / 0) (#244)
by turmeric on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 12:45:52 PM EST

the majority never decided to have all this crap. it was foisted on us by an elite.

[ Parent ]
to countersumup (none / 0) (#243)
by turmeric on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 12:45:19 PM EST

"this cant be a democracy if things change so that i dont like them"

[ Parent ]
But I notice you still use it all..... (none / 0) (#125)
by godix on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:59:44 PM EST

I assume you don't grow all your own food, which means you shop in grocery stores which are supplied by trucks burning oil while riding on rubber tires and driving on our gigantic freeways. This isn't even going into the infrastructre needed to supply the farms with machinery, ship the food to a plant, or process the food. Of course there's also the issue of how were those cloths you made shipped to you, or that computer, or the home you're in, or the internet backbone you used to post your message to K5. If you don't want the things you're bitching about I'd recommend you live in a cave eating nothing but whatever you can manage to make grow in your cave.


- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]
Shipping (none / 0) (#160)
by Eater on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:56:15 PM EST

The whole shipping-by-truck thing is really one of the more wasteful uses of highway transportation. Trains could transport things just as easily, and probably faster (if only they required oil to run). Eater.

[ Parent ]
When I read articles of this kind... (4.00 / 4) (#68)
by YesNoCancel on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:23:22 PM EST

...I'm glad that I live in a country which could produce 300% of its domestic energy needs through hydro power and currently has a hydro power percentage of around 80% (rest is fossil power, since it is cheaper at the moment than to build new hydro plants).

However, I always wonder why other countries don't seem to use hydro power much. I mean, it's easily one of the cheapest forms of energy production - you build the plant and maintain it, and you get "free" energy as long as you decide to keep the plant running. Also, it's probably the only renewable energy source with a very high power density. And it's pretty safe and environmentally friendly, although it can affect the habitat of wildlife along the river. Other countries have rivers too, so why not simply build more hydro plants?

By the way, in the seventies a nuclear power plant was built in my country, but it never went into operation due to public protests.

because (4.50 / 2) (#75)
by fhotg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:04:16 PM EST

not every country is as fortunate as Austria when it comes to relief-energy (frickin high mountains).
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
Hydro isn't quite as friendly as once supposed... (4.50 / 2) (#77)
by z84976 on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:07:27 PM EST

Hydro is a great, "free" source for power, and has been implemented all over the U.S. and other countries, often as a by-product of a flood control solution. I'm not trying to argue against hydropower by any means, but I would like to point out some of its downsides. For one, it interferes with migration of some fishes. For another, it (I'm thinking of 3 Gorges in China mainly here) can necessitate the evacuation of historically significant archeological sites, etc. More importantly, the retention of all that water in a pool without a strong current tends to lead to precipitation of phosphates, etc out of the water and into the lakebed. Basically, the reservoirs tend to slowly poison themselves over years.

Again, I'm not necessarily arguing against hydro (and I do love to play in the lakes), just wanted to point out that it's not all roses...

[ Parent ]

Hmmm (3.00 / 2) (#89)
by BLU ICE on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 03:08:01 PM EST


Hydro is a great, "free" source for power, and has been implemented all over the U.S. and other countries, often as a by-product of a flood control solution. I'm not trying to argue against hydropower by any means, but I would like to point out some of its downsides.

I won't of course argue with your point about the ecological downsides of hydro dams.But the benefits of hydropower are enormous. For example, the Grand Coulee dam where I live is wonderful.

The grand coulee produces 6.46 Gigawatts! That is more than any electrical plant in North America. Also, it has a 100 mile long resivour behind it. It pumps water up from the river canyon  to Banks Lake, a huge lake that supplies water for  thousands of square miles of rich farmland in the Columbia Basin. The dam has transformed the formerly arid basin into one of the nation's major agricultural areas. It produces huge amounts of wheat and more potatoes than Idaho, as well as fruit.

The benefits of dams outweigh the negatives. However, pretty much everything that can be dammed up has been already. So we need to look at other means of supplying power, such as nuclear energy.

"Is the quality of this cocaine satisfactory, Mr. Delorean?"
"As good as gold."

-- I am become Troll, destroyer of threads.
It's like an encyclopedia...sorta: Everything2

[ Parent ]

Sanxia (none / 0) (#176)
by cdyer on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:02:00 PM EST

Another problem with the Three Gorges Dam is that is too attractive a target for terrorists. China has angered their share of people in Tibet, in Xinjiang (northwest china), in Taiwan, in India, and so on, and the Three Gorges Dam is such an attractive target, that unless George Bush actually wins the war on terrorism, someone, someday will try to destroy it. And no matter how much security is put up around it, there is always the danger that someday, maybe one hundred or two hundred years down the line, someone will succeed. And what happens then? Given the amount of water that will be held up behind it (it will take 12 years to fill, and the fake-lake will stretch all the way from the dam at Yichang, just west of Wuhan, to Chongqing), Wuhan, Nanjing, and Shanghai would all be practically wiped out by the floods, not to mention the dozens of smaller cities along the river. I don't know the total population, but Shanghai alone has 14 million people.

Now I don't have a crystal ball, and I don't know that this will actually happen. I also don't wish to come across as an alarmist. There's a good chance that this will never happen, and that the end of the dam will come slowly enough that the Chinese government can drain down the waters in time to avert any major catastrophe. However, I think it is safe to say that just the possibility of such a catastrophe happening makes the Three Gorges Project a reckless endeavor.

Cheers,
Cliff



[ Parent ]
Eviromentalist (2.33 / 3) (#123)
by godix on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:53:40 PM EST

I don't know about other countries, but here in America the enviromentalist would throw a fit if we tried another major hydro plant. Hoover Dam could never be made today, the wackos would all be sitting in middle of the future lake bitching about a snail that's going to be drowned. This is one of many reasons I have no respect for enviromentalist; they hate dams, they hate nuclear power, they hate clearing enough forests to build wind, solar, or biomass plants, they hate hydrocarbons, then they use a lot of energy to print signs and drive to protests to tell us how much they hate it all.


- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]
Hydropower (none / 0) (#190)
by The Timelord on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 12:57:59 AM EST

The problem with Hydro-power dams is that they can only be built in certain places - it's not as simple as just finding a river. Not every country is as hydro-power friendly as Austria.

Also the environmental problems caused by large dams aren't confined to just affecting a few habitats up the river. Dams have the problem that they will silt-up, even if you can afford continuous dredging, to the point where the bed of the 'lake' behind the dam will eventually be equal to the height of the dam wall. At this point your grand hydro-power scheme will be nothing but a giant waterfall.

The timescale for this varies from decades to at most about a century, certainly not a long term solution.

[ Parent ]

Real Reasons hydro isn't the answer (none / 0) (#210)
by ocrow on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 04:32:54 AM EST

It is a common misconception there are some problems with hydropower, like minor enironmental issues, fish migration patterns and so forth.   These are not the real problems.  Massive scale hydroelectric power is *very* problematic.  Let me count the ways.  (1) Large dams are the most expensive construction projects anywhere.  Many dams never pay for their own construction costs. (2) Large areas (hundreds of square miles) of highly productive riverside land are flooded when a large dam is completed, reducing food production and displacing communities (3) Downstream flow is greatly reduced, causing irrigation problems for downstream farmers and disrupting river ecologies (4) The vegetation under the flooded land slowly rots producing large quantities of greeenhouse gasses such as CO2 and methane (5) The stagnant water behind the dam becomes gradually toxic to fish and other wildlife (6) The reservoir behind the dam collects most of the river's silt.  Gradually the depth of the water head decreases, reducing the power generation capacity.  It is not possible to desilt the reservoir.  Over a period of a few decades the dam becomes useless. (7) Dams occasionally fail, a typically fatal disaster for any downstream communities.

Most of these problems are much more severe for large scale hydroelectric than they are for smaller scale dams and run-of-the-river projects.  Whilst hydroelectric can be a useful replacement for fossil fuels in some cases, it is not the long-term answer.  For that we need to turn to small scale production, reduced consumption, increased efficiency, solar, wind, wave, geothermal and biomass technologies.

[ Parent ]

Biofuels (4.87 / 8) (#72)
by iggie on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 01:53:51 PM EST

Its astonishing that no one ever brings this up. The DOE did a study on biofuels. There is an algae that is up to 50% oil by mass. It can be grown in the desert in shallow salt water ponds. It requires nothing other than some sea water, sun, and lots and lots of CO2. The growth of this algae is limited only by how quickly you can supply it with CO2. The oil is easily extracted and converted to biodiesel, which can be used in nearly all existing heavy equipment (which is nearly all diesel), and many cars already on the road. Organic biodiesel. The CO2 ballance is exactly zero, because all of the CO2 released is CO2 the algae absorbed from the air to make the oil. What's more, there is more than enough desert land in the US to supply all of our energy needs - without impacting aerable agricultural land in any way. The problem is that it isn't competitive with oil prices as low as they are - it comes out to something like $1.50/gallon to produce. If oil prices go up, this is a low-tech solution that's ready to go without a lot of risk and startup expense. Of course the program was shut down in favor of the completely ridiculous 'bio-ethanol' program. Can anyone say 'farm lobby'? Of course, if we grow algae in the dessert, the world-wide supply of algae-derived biofuels will still be largely controlled by people with deserts. sigh.

Links please? [n/t] (none / 0) (#153)
by RyoCokey on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:18:38 PM EST



"There is no reason why we should not have peaceful relations with the rest of the world if we cease playing the role of Meddlesome Mattie." - Sen. Art
[ Parent ]
Look again, very closely, at the article. [nt] (none / 0) (#181)
by p3d0 on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:46:07 PM EST


--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Distributed power generated in residential areas (4.90 / 11) (#79)
by demi on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:22:08 PM EST

Fusion reactors.

One of the big problems with controlled, sustained thermonuclear fusion is that its fuel must be superhot and superdense, and this is not the natural state of any of the isotopes of hydrogen. The amount of on-demand power that an idealized reactor would generate would be immense. I've seen proposals where there would be 3 or so of these power generation centers located around the US, buried underground perhaps, transmitting their power over huge distances with LN2-cooled YBCO superconducting cable. Besides the obvious danger of one of these reactors going into runaway fusion (probably not as much of a danger as some people think), managing the power dependency tree of hundreds of millions of residential and commercial nodes from a few central points brings with it some big logistical barriers. As it is, metropolitan areas are expanding much faster than power infrastructure, so why would it be a better idea to rely on a smaller number of power plants than exists today?

More deployment of PV devices for widely distributed electric power generation.

I've always pushed for widespread deployment of photovoltaic (PV) devices in the sunny parts of the US. Silicon and gallium arsenide-based PV cells are expensive (and require large energy inputs for their manufacture), it's true, but the current market for them doesn't well reflect the much greater supply and demand that would lead to better economies of scale. They are widely available, a proven technology, and most importantly, a decentralized form of power generation. Think about how the Internet easily weathered the recent DDoS attack against 13 root DNS servers - most people worldwide noticed no disruption of service.

Most PV systems that would be installed on a roof in, say, Arizona or California could not provide enough power for a house full of occupants using electronic appliances and air conditioning (assuming widespread deployment of 2000 W solar arrays at current prices of roughly $10,000 each). However, the greatest drain on power plants happens during the day when the majority of homes are unoccupied. This is when businesses and factories are using the most power, and typically when brown-outs occurred in the last California electricity boondoggle. There are now provisions in almost every US state to sell excess power that you generate back to the utilities, at the same price they sell energy to residential customers. So if your house with solar panels is sitting unoccupied in the middle of the day, generating excess energy, you can simply divert the excess electricity to the power grid and be paid for it (or use the buyback to subsidize the PV deployment). This system is called "grid-tie" or "net metering" and is supported by the US Department of Energy and many states such as California. This helps to solve a persistent suburban development problem of satisfying the power demands of growing cities with ever more distant customers and increasingly lossy power transmission over larger and larger distances. It's also much more efficient than sinking your excess solar power into deep cycle batteries, which is what is typically done in remote locations.

Also note that affordable wind power can be used in the exact same way as grid-tied home solar panels, with the advantage of not being limited to diurnal power production - if you live somewhere very windy you can generate power 24 hours a day. And seeing that an average new home in California sells for upwards of $400,000, a $10-20k ancillary power generation system could realistically be added to most homebuilding plans at voluntary or subsidized rates.

"Fossil fuels" and other hydrocarbon-based resources.

As for getting rid of fossil fuels... People, that's never going to happen. While I can see the future role of oil and gas declining in electric power generation and transportation, there isn't a better way to heat a building or make a jet fly to its destination, leaving alone the much more important uses for petroleum and coal in raw materials. Hydrocarbons (like gasoline) can also be manufactured at significant energy cost from coal by Fischer-Tropsch catalysis (that's how the Nazis kept making fuel when they were blockaded in WWII - they made their own from coal). Petroleum and coal are critical natural resources that we cannot live without; in confronting global warming we would be stupid to deny this fact.

The Kyoto Protocol is no answer to global warming, it is merely a diplomatic overture. It does nothing to reduce upper atmospheric CO2 levels, if those are indeed the primary cause of future climate change. Keeping CO2 emissions from a few industrialized countries at 1990 levels will still increase overall CO2, especially if a single nasty forest fire can outstrip a continent's output. A strategy for reduction and re-absorption of CO2 is needed. Reforesting our cities and cleared land is a start. It doesn't cost the US economy anything for me to go out and put more trees in my yard or the planters in my company parking lot. This may reduce lower-atmospheric CO2 from diffusing into the upper atmosphere.

What you can do if you are frustrated with the efforts of your government.

You can look into subsidized home improvement loans for purchasing grid-tie wind or solar energy systems. You can sell power back to the utilities for fun and profit, not to mention the moral superiority angle. You can consider re-planting areas that need not be completely paved over or covered with detritus. You can, by various means, exhort your acquaintances to follow suit.

Umm.... but.... (none / 0) (#118)
by HypoLuxa on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:24:13 PM EST

As for getting rid of fossil fuels... People, that's never going to happen.

By definition, it will happen. Fossil fuels are finite. I know this is picking nits, and that fossil fuel use is going to be a big part of the foreseeable future, but the gist of this article was that eventually, somehow, we are going to have to replace 100% of our fossil and nuclear fuel generated energy with something else.

--
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
- Leonard Cohen
[ Parent ]

"getting rid of" versus "running ou (none / 0) (#122)
by demi on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:51:18 PM EST

Even if we ran out of all of the oil and coal that could be practically extracted, we will still need hydrocarbons for raw materials. As it is, the long-term supply is still so plentiful that it can be burned rather than converted to plastics and pharmaceutical compounds, but this may not always be the case. So it's doubtful that we will run out of oil or especially coal - the economic factors will make the alternatives more viable before we can burn it all. It's a better idea to do this sooner than later, though, because making raw materials out of biomass or methane is much less efficient than pumping it out of the ground and refining it.

[ Parent ]
to pick nits (none / 0) (#327)
by Wolf Keeper on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 01:48:21 PM EST

Eventually the fossil fuels and nuclear fuels will be depleted, just like eventually our solar fuels will be depleted.

The question is one of relative scale.  Twenty five years ago, it was 'common knowledge' that most fossil fuel sources would be depleted by now.  The common knowledge turned out to be wrong, and we may have enough petroleum to supply all of our energy needs for at least a century.

I've heard estimates that there is enough coal available in Pennsylvania alone to power all of the world's current energy demands for the next 300 years.  Within even a handful of similar findings throughout the world, we've got thousands of years of energy in coal form, even if the rate of consumption quadruples from what it is today.

The problem isn't long term sustainability.  I expect a significant portion of the human race to live off of the earth's surface before our fossil fuel supplies are depleted.   The problem is environmental impact.  I'm not too keen on a lot of environmental 'science', and I'm not sure global warming is as immediate an issue as many people think.  But continuing our current rate of burning petroleum and coal for the next five centuries is definitely going to have a serious detrimental effect at some point.  

[ Parent ]

efficient homes (none / 0) (#206)
by heng on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 04:09:54 AM EST

I saw this from my experience in the UK, but I am sure that the issues are just as relevant most other places.

If the government introduced legislation saying that all new houses have to able to provide 50% of their energy requirements, it would happen. The technology is there.
The result would be something like this:
  • All new houses and repairs incorporate PVs into their building design (not as an afterthought). The cost of this is comparable to mainstream building techniques.
  • The new houses are designed efficiently. As they already are in parts of the world (generally cold parts, like Finland).
  • People would take a more proactive approach to energy conservation - like turning light bulbs off.

Many people talk about the solution being in reducing industry's environmental effect (at the same time as demanding the latest power detergent and electronic gizmo), but by far the easiest solution that will have a serious impact is domestic energy conservation. The only problem with this is that its often a little too close to home.

[ Parent ]
Fusion reactors are fail-safe (none / 0) (#220)
by kinenveu on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 06:44:06 AM EST

In order to function, a fusion reactor must somehow ensure containment of very hot plasma (e.g. with magnetic fields). There can be no runaway : the plasma cools down and the reaction stops as soon as the containment fails.

[ Parent ]
Gigantic mirror (2.00 / 2) (#83)
by doormat on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:44:58 PM EST

One other space-based option for climate change mitigation is to directly block the sun with a mirror, placed at the L1 semi-stable point between Earth and Sun.

Didnt I just see this on Futurama last night?

|\
|/oormat

What about? (3.50 / 2) (#84)
by bored on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:52:52 PM EST

Tidal, Geothermal, wind, and fission. All four are on the side lines primarily because of public resistance to assorted issues. Tidal, and Geothermal are problematic because no one is willing to front the capital to engineer a generator that 'works'. Both tidal generators and geothermal generators are in harsh environments which require special materials and maintenance. Both of them basically yield another generator that fits into the 'wind generator' classification. They are expensive to produce, and take up a lot of land/water area to get a decent amount of power generation capability. Since both wind and tidal are dependent on the weather they are ultimately unreliable. Fission on the other hand is small, cheap, reliable and well understood. The problem is the public panic over radiation, and the government panic over the availability of 'bomb' supplies. Both mostly solvable with proper security, and the right kind of reactors.

In the long run (long after I'm dead), If I were betting I would say that fission power plants will supply most of the power supplemented by tidal, hydro and wind generators. Solar, even with theoretical efficiencies doesn't produce the kind of power the average home requires now, much less in a few years from now, when we try to run our transportation off of the main power utilities. Fusion is still a long way off unless someone stumbles on a good idea that works. Given enough time, when the oil, coal and gas reserves start to run out, then people will learn to live with the 'dangers' of fission plants.



Fission? (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by arthurpsmith on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 02:58:19 PM EST

Unless you're happy with breeder reactor use, fission is not a long-term solution to supply all the world's energy needs - there's simply not enough uranium in known reserves to last very long. We run into the same problem we have with oil, with different "pollution" impacts. See the "technocrat" section of the main text...

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
OK (none / 0) (#191)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 01:02:52 AM EST

So what's wrong with breeder reactors?

[ Parent ]
Tidal? (none / 0) (#178)
by cdyer on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:10:53 PM EST

Tidal power isn't dependent on the weather. Granted, weather can cause fluctuations in it's efficacy, but it is primarily powered by the gravity of the moon, which will only decrease if a chunk breaks off the moon and flies away.

Cheers,
Cliff



[ Parent ]
When we run out of easy answers (2.66 / 6) (#113)
by kholmes on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:54:47 PM EST

And your list, in comparison, are the easy answers. The hard answer is a far more authoritarian government than we have now. Ban having more than two children per couple in all first world nations. Widely distribute contraceptives. Mandatory sex education classes to all high school students.

What of the illegitimet children? Are orphanages state-owned? Perhaps they should be. The state would need to get into the children raising business unless you want to force adoptions. Perhaps all children will end up being raised by the state as Plato advocated. Populations would be engineered by the state to be decreasing--decreasing more in urban areas and less in rural.

Immoral? you say. Freedom is no end in itself, we only advocate it when it produces happiness and well-being. The happiness a couple has when having children has to be weighted against the happiness of the children throughout their lives. Asking each couple to make the decision to not have children would bring up the Prisoner's Dilema. Hence the need for an authoritarian government.

If the easy answers do not work out we'll be seeing politics changing drastically in the coming generations. At some point even the most ardent liberetarians will turn authoritarian.

Anyways, just my prediction. I just hope the easy answers work out.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.

good point (none / 0) (#116)
by sal5ero on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:22:34 PM EST

Immoral? you say. Freedom is no end in itself, we only advocate it when it produces happiness and well-being. The happiness a couple has when having children has to be weighted against the happiness of the children throughout their lives.


[ Parent ]
Ummm... (none / 0) (#121)
by godix on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:43:08 PM EST

Do you realize most first world countries would have declining populations if it weren't for immigration? The problem isn't an issue of population, it's an issue of energy consumption. America by far uses more energy than India and China combined, even though those two countries are the most populated in the world. Overpopulation is a myth anyway, in the past I've ran numbers that show all six billion of us could live North America and not be any worse off than the average Manhattenite.


- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]
Yikes (none / 0) (#129)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:10:13 PM EST

I've run numbers that show all six billion of us could live North America and not be any worse off than the average Manhattanite.

That's supposed to be reassuring? (and where would the farms go?)
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
Included (none / 0) (#134)
by godix on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:43:21 PM EST

My post and the various comments off it. Keep in mind I played very loose with the numbers, but even if I ended up underestamating needed land by 400% that'd still mean the entire population of the earth could live and farm in North America and Canada. I also mis-remembered the stats, it worked out that we'd use half the US for living and farming and have 3 times more living space than the average manhattenite.


- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]
Or you could look at this.. (none / 0) (#231)
by ajduk on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 08:04:17 AM EST

http://dieoff.org/page136.htm

[ Parent ]
Last I checked.. (none / 0) (#322)
by metalfan on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 02:31:00 AM EST

Canada was part of North America.

[ Parent ]
Freedom? (none / 0) (#291)
by Afty on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 08:20:51 AM EST

Immoral? you say. Freedom is no end in itself, we only advocate it when it produces happiness and well-being.

For some of us, freedom *is* an end in itself, for without it, your "happiness" and "well being" are not your own, they are someone elses.

[ Parent ]
Populations (none / 0) (#293)
by Afty on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 08:26:46 AM EST

Ban having more than two children per couple in all first world nations.

Decreasing indiginous population is beginning to have a massive impact on the economy of the UK - a country with a far higher population density than the US, and with a declining id population (in other words, a generation ahead of the US in this respect).

Effectively, this decline (or slow growth) in population is causing a country full of "haves" and "have nots". The national average wage is not enough to buy the national average house, and the gap is widening drastically. This means that rich people own more and more land, and more and more houses - poorer people must rent from the rich, and in many cases cohabit when they do not wish to.

Within a few generations, without legal remedy, this will result in a new generation of serfdom - where the majority of the population have no possessions, and merely "rent" the right to every material part of their lives.

Basically, we've been riding a pyramid scheme for generations, as the higher number of young paid for the pensions and retirement of the old - this is no longer the case, and you will soon work until you die, and (if you're lucky) have a 75 year mortgage which you have no hope of paying - you can only leave it to your children to continue paying.

[ Parent ]
Educate women (none / 0) (#307)
by upper on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 08:14:44 PM EST

I agree that population reduction is the only real long-term answer. Given an economic and technological level, energy use is roughly proportional to population, so I don't think there's any way around it. But I don't think laws and authoritarian governments are the way to achieve population reduction.

The only large-scale test of authoritarian law to reduce birth rate is China's one-child policy. It never was a uniform one-child limit as the name implies -- different regions implemented it differently. Typically, the limit was one child for city dwellers and "stop after the first boy" or "if the first one's a girl, you get to have another one" in rural areas. In some situations it was implemented by force, and in others by economic incentives.

The policy has had a substantial effect on cultural attitudes, but it has also been quite unpopular. It has also been weakened in recent years -- in some areas you can essentially buy a permit to have another child. And the combination of the policy and a strong cultural gender preference has meant millions of unwanted baby girls. A few tens of thousands have been adopted by westerners, many more languish in orphanages, and millions of chinese men will be demographically unable to marry. (As an adoptive parent of a child who lived in an orphanage, I say that even the best orphanages are not good places for children.)

But one point missed by virtually all critics of the one-child policy is that it didn't work. The chinese birthrate under the policy was 2.4 births/woman. This is substantially lower than that for India (3.8 births/woman), but still well above the replacement level.

So what to do? Educate women and girls. It's probably the most effective way to reduce birthrates. See this. But don't just teach them about birth control. It has to be a general education, so that they can see something other than motherhood as a way to spend their lives.

[ Parent ]

Windmill Farms. Why? (2.00 / 3) (#114)
by McMasters on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 04:58:34 PM EST

Because cute girls stand in front of windmills.

comments (4.00 / 2) (#117)
by StephenThompson on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 05:23:49 PM EST

Unfortunately, Fusion power is indistinguishable from a hoax. The only reason it has more credibility than any other free-energy scheme is that the government was tricked into spending billions on it over the years. We still have huge supplies of coal which will get us by for quite some time still. So more pollution. But cars will go electric-variant as oil prices go higher, so smog problems might reduce. My favorite pie-in-the-sky high-tech solution is solar satellites. Check out www.powersatcorp.com.

Correction: cold fusion power is indistinguishable (none / 0) (#195)
by Roman on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 02:18:07 AM EST

Cold fusion is a hoax, fusion actually powers our sun, all of the other stars and it kills everything in hydrogen bomb explosions. Fusion generators *tokomaks* have being around for over 40 years. Cold fusion is based on idea of combining hydrogen atoms into heavier atoms without high temperatures in excess of 10 million K. This appears to be unworkable.

[ Parent ]
I mean hot fusion (none / 0) (#212)
by StephenThompson on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:09:34 AM EST

Man made fusion power is nowhere. Billions spent and no power produced.

[ Parent ]
And? (none / 0) (#254)
by X3nocide on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:16:09 PM EST

Sputnik was in the sky just as long ago. Billions spent on NASA and no power beamed back to earth.

pwnguin.net
[ Parent ]
uhh, have you never seen star trek? (none / 0) (#255)
by deadplant on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:19:41 PM EST

The Enterprise (ncc1701-D) has fusion reactors all along it's warp nacels.  Since everything in star trek is (will be) real obviously fusion power is a good idea.

I would also suggest looking into matter/anti-matter reactors since the main warp drive is powered by that.

[ Parent ]

Don't hold your breath waiting for fusion energy (4.92 / 13) (#130)
by interguru on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:15:44 PM EST

The official Department of Energy (DOE) Fusion program is in real trouble - trouble it deserves. Fifty years ago usable controlled thermonuclear fusion was 25 years in the future. Now it is 40 years in the future. They brought it on themselves.

A short bit of history. The Princeton University research team always dominated the program. They are a brilliant but stubborn group. No idea that wasn't invented by them had a snowball's chance in hell. The problem is very tricky, heating a plasma (ionized gas) to tens on millions of degrees, and confining it with a magnetic field - as no material could withstand the heat. The Princeton Plasma Lab (PPL) came up with the concept of a Stellarator, a figure-8 shaped magnetic confinement field. This never worked. In the sixties it was scrapped in favor or the Tokamak. - a doughnut shaped field. While this was not invented at Princeton, it was accepted there because it came out of the Soviet Union, not from a rival US group.

The Tokamak was a great advance, and it has been the center of the US, European and Japanese programs for the last four decades. In spite of its improvement it is fatally flawed for a number of engineering reasons. Note that the last two Tokamak projects have been scrapped as unworkable in the design stage. ITER is still alove, but it is questionalble whether anything will be built.

The prime damage the Tokamak has done over the decades, besides eating billions of dollars, has been the suppression of research into alternative fusion technology. I can comment on this from two points of view. First I did some of the alternative research before we were de-funded. Second, I was later a Program Manager at the Department of Energy's Office of Fusion Energy for a year before I was let go as part of the massive cutback of the Fusion program.

During the 70's , after receiving my degree, I assisted Dr. Daniel Wells in his TRISOPS project at the University of Miami. The TRISOPS concept was that instead of trying to confine a hot plasma in a magnetic field (which is the mathematical equivalent of confining a ball of angry Jell-O in a cage of rubber bands), we should let the plasma form its own stable vortex structure and then compress it. An example of a stable vortex structure is a smoke ring. The equipment, by fusion standards, was simple. The lab was the size of a small suburban house. We were getting impressive results. See refs (1) at the bottom for a summary. Our funding was cut off because we were out of the mainstream. Also, Dan Wells, the principal investigator, was not good at the politics of science. I understand that the Wells' equipment has been recently moved to Lahnam MD where the experiment was re-tried (by John Brandenberg under NASA funding - not DOE). Brandeburg never received the followup grant money needed to get results.

Another alternative project is being done by Paul Koloc (pmk@plasmak.com ), a plasma physicist formerly at the University of Maryland. He is looking into another stable plasma structure, ball lightning . Ball lightning has been witnessed for millennia, can sometimes last for minutes, and has killed people. Paul creates and measures ball lightning in a lab in a garage in his back yard (no kidding ). The stable plasma structure lasts several milliseconds (It's is small so it has a short lifetime). He plans later to heat the plasma to fusion temperatures by compressing the atmosphere around the ball. His work is self-funded, with surplus equipment from the national labs, and some volunteer help from scientists there. He has presented several papers, the most recent at the 6th International Symposium on Ball Lightning. It has a small chance of working out, but at least as big a chance of the multi-hundred-million dollar DOE program. The abstracts are at http://home.wxs.nl/~icblsec/pg_abstracts.html under Koloc 1 and Koloc 2 You can write to Paul for the papers themselves.

I have described two alternative research schemes that I know of directly, I'm sure there are many others going on. Now that I have left physics to become an Internet geek, I no longer follow the field carefully. For I time I tracked Cold Fusion, until that fizzled out. As a final note: I do not believe that fusion energy of any sort will be able to compete economically with wind or solar power. I will be glad to address on or of line if requested.

Ref (1) "High Temperature, High Density Plasma Production by Vortex Ring Compression" D. Wells (with others), Physical Review Letters, v 41 #3, p166, 1978. "The Interaction between Two Force Free Plasma Vortices in the TRISOPS III Machine" J. Davidson (with others), Physics of Fluids, v 22, p379, 1979.

One more thing, fusion ISN'T CLEAN! (none / 0) (#285)
by enkidu on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 03:23:18 AM EST

Thanks for the informative post. This is pretty much what I've been saying all along about the whole Tokamak idea. Also, one of the problems with fusion not mentioned is the problem of radiation. It is never mentioned that fusion produces neutron radiation (D + T => He + n). These are the same fast nuetrons that traditional fission reactors produce. Also, most of the energy is released as gamma rays, extremely nasty and difficult to change into useable energy. So, any shielding material used around a fusion reactor will become irradiated and just as much of a problem to dispose of as spent uranium fuel. And most of the energy produced is pretty farking unuseable. If I see practical fusion generators (that is delivering efficient municipal energy, cheaper than solar) in my lifetime, I'll eat my hat. Heck, I'll eat two hats.

My basic philosophy concerning the development of fusion reactors is "We've already got one!". It's called the Sun. BTW, when I did the calculations last year, you only needed an area 200 miles square (40,000 square miles) in the Sahara desert to support all of the energy needs for the world? Anybody else done similar calculations?

[ Parent ]

D + He3 is cleaner (none / 0) (#304)
by arthurpsmith on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 06:46:48 PM EST

If we had He3, we could at least avoid the neutron problem in fusion. But that's another story...

The calculation you mention is essentially the one mentioned here, and you're mostly on the same scale - you perhaps didn't factor in all the issues (like solar angle) that the authors of this article did to get their 100,000 sq. mile minimal estimate, but it's about the same ballpark anyway.

That's still a lot of solar panels :-)

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
Solar cells? (none / 0) (#335)
by Dyolf Knip on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 08:27:12 PM EST

when I did the calculations last year, you only needed an area 200 miles square (40,000 square miles) in the Sahara desert to support all of the energy needs for the world?

What efficiency did you assume for the solar collectors? Realistically, the only kind of solar collector that easily scales to those kinds of surface areas is the solar chimney approach, but, as good as it is, it only converts about 1% of the sunlight into usable power.

---
If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Dyolf Knip
[ Parent ]

Free energy is allready available (2.50 / 2) (#131)
by pr0spero on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:17:49 PM EST

It is a fact that FreeEnergy has been possible for dacedes now, but ofcourse the powers that be will NEVER allow it to 'come out'. Have a look through some of these links... http://jnaudin.free.fr/html/megv21.htm http://www.cheniere.org/misc/oulist.htm http://www.inknowvate.com/inknowvate/free_energy.htm
--------------------------------- For all my screaming and rage, Im still just a rat in a cage. ---------------------------------
Powers That Be (none / 0) (#182)
by Dolohov on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:49:35 PM EST

These "Powers That Be" wouldn't happen to be the laws of Thermodynamics, would they?

[ Parent ]
Could you please tell me... (none / 0) (#222)
by joto on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 06:50:56 AM EST

Why none of those people you linked to have become rich? They should be rich if they have free energy. With all that free energy, they can just sell it to their power company and profit.

[ Parent ]
fusion is impractical (4.00 / 1) (#135)
by gps on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:44:39 PM EST

it is important to keep researching it, but even if it does bear fruit 50 years from now, it is highly unlikely to be safe and clean.

there is plenty solar, wind and water energy available on the planet as it is.

clean and safe (none / 0) (#194)
by Roman on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 02:10:02 AM EST

Fusion has bein around for over 40 years. We have reactors in this world, today that are basically breaking even in energy consumption / production, that are clean and safe. . What do you base your assumptions on?

[ Parent ]
Um (none / 0) (#253)
by nazhuret on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:14:32 PM EST

Did you even read the article you linked to?

From the text:
In the future, fusion power could be an attractive source of energy because it might offer a combination of benefits unmatched by other fuels. (my emphasis)

and:
Technological feasibility is usually considered in two stages: scientific feasibility and engineering feasibility. Scientific feasibility requires generating a fusion reaction that produces at least as much energy as must be input into the plasma to maintain the reaction. This milestone, called breakeven, has not yet been reached, but it is expected that breakeven will be accomplished in existing machines by 1990.

Fusion sounds great, but we haven't done it yet. We do have fission reactors, though.

[ Parent ]

Wind and Solar (none / 0) (#230)
by ajduk on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 07:54:35 AM EST

Even meeting today's requirements with wind and solar would require a vast amount of land, investment and infrastructure. But we don't want to meet today's requirements, we want to meet those of a world of 8 Billion people all living - we can hope - at a US standard of living or better. Wind and solar can help, yes, but cannot be a total solution.

[ Parent ]
Thorium (5.00 / 4) (#138)
by swr on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:47:49 PM EST

Carlo Rubbia (Nobel laureate and former CERN director) has been working on this problem.

His proposed solution is an "energy amplifier" that uses a cyclotron to induce fission in thorium, producing substantially more energy than is required to run the cyclotron.

The approach has several advantages. Thorium is more plentiful than uranium. Thorium is also not normally fissile (thus the requirement for the cyclotron), so there is no real chance of the reaction accidentally getting out of hand and producing a meltdown. Unlike current nuclear reactors, they have no practical use in a nuclear weapons program. The byproducts of the reaction are far less and easier to deal with than those of current nuclear reactors. In fact, the reactor can even neutralize old nuclear waste by including it in the fuel, at the cost of reduced energy output.

There are some practical concerns though. Namely, uranium-based reactors are currently more practical because the infrastructure already exists and it is a well-understood and proven technology.



Very interesting link! (3.00 / 1) (#152)
by Spork on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:15:17 PM EST

The linked article makes perfect sense, and it's just the sort of thing that we should be researching for the short-term. This isn't some sort of a "fantasy" solution; it's instead just the sort of thing that would make a huge difference!

[ Parent ]
Thermodynamics? (2.00 / 1) (#211)
by jtdubs on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:05:54 AM EST

So, the energy output is greater than the energy input?  

So, this energy output could be used as the input for another of these "amplifiers"?

So, barring a shortage of thorium, this machine could run, well, forever?

So, if run forever, as each "amplifier" puts out more energy than it takes in, and, again, barring any shortage of thorium, we could eventually get infinite energy output?

Sweet!

This reminds me of the time in my youth when I tried to unplug the extension cord and plug it back into itself fast enough to "trap" the "electricity" and, hence, have made a very cheap, very low-power, battery.  Never got it to work.  I figure I wasn't fast enough.  Probably have to move faster than light or something...

Justin Dubs

[ Parent ]

Ever tried a capacitor? (nt) (none / 0) (#213)
by ajduk on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:22:34 AM EST



[ Parent ]
inductor (none / 0) (#241)
by bored on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 11:36:08 AM EST

If his lamp cord had been long enough (really fsking long) and wrapped around a magnetic core, he would have had an inductor. This would have also given him a power source. Not exactly a battery but it could have powered a LED or something for a short while.

[ Parent ]
Hooray (5.00 / 1) (#214)
by MrSnrub on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:24:05 AM EST

Barring a shortage of wood, my fireplace could run forever.

[ Parent ]
Interesting but... (none / 0) (#240)
by Gooba42 on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 11:27:36 AM EST

You argument seems to be somewhat limited. A parallel to your argument would be that the heat of a barbecue is entirely contained in the match with which it was lit.

There is energy in any system locked up in ways that doesn't always require an equal amount of energy to unlock.

[ Parent ]
*Yes* (none / 0) (#300)
by Redemption042 on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 04:14:19 PM EST

This wouldn't break the 2nd law of thermodynamics.   It would do so, if it took les energy to fuse materials into thorium then was produced by using this method, but I'm sure that's not true.

[ Parent ]
Sounds pretty good. (none / 0) (#215)
by ajduk on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:24:20 AM EST

Getting the general public to understand that it's not a bomb could be hard.  Getting greenpeace to agree to any new energy source (or current energy source, for that matter) would be harder.

[ Parent ]
Here's a thought. (4.00 / 1) (#143)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:56:33 PM EST

What about:

  1. The price of energy starts going way up.
  2. People finally have a real incentive not to consume several kilowatt/hours per day.
  3. Suddenly, lower power computers and appliances become popular, and car pooling takes off.
  4. Presto, the problem solves itself.

I've been hearing these panic-y "We're all going to starve", "We're all going to get cancer", "We're going to run out of power and live like cannibalistic cavemen" scenarios for so long, my anxiety meter has burned out. I can't even take them seriously anymore.


--
Once one sock is sucked, the other sock will remain forever unsucked.


Absolutely (none / 0) (#170)
by hugues on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:30:04 PM EST

This is exactly what is going to happen sooner or later. However, remember 1973 and 1979? Major major major pains, recession, unemployment, loss of faith in the system, etc.

And that was only temporary. When the problem is acute and irreversible there is going to be a huge crisis, and very likely war, famine and pestilence. The US will be the least affected because it has built huge reserves.

[ Parent ]

But not "Death," hunh? (none / 0) (#234)
by Ricochet Rita on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 09:40:22 AM EST

When the problem is acute and irreversible there is going to be a huge crisis, and very likely war, famine and pestilence.

Well, if it's only the three of them, I guess the world's okay, then. Right? ;-9


FABRICATUS DIEM, PVNC!
[ Parent ]

Yeah right (none / 0) (#313)
by ttsalo on Thu Nov 14, 2002 at 11:21:28 AM EST

Those "huge" reserves are around 700 million barrels. US daily consumption is around 20 million barrels. Do the math...


[ Parent ]
By reserves I mean untapped resources (none / 0) (#329)
by hugues on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 10:39:48 PM EST

If a crisis of any magnitude takes place you can be sure that US consumption will be reduced, probably dramatically, anywhere in the range of 50-90%. At full rate that's one month of reserves, at 90% it's a full year. The truth would lie in between.

Moreover the US *has* domestic reserves still in the ground, not just in Texas and Alaska. In case of a huge crisis I'm sure they can bring them online in short order. Altogether the US would be able to function on its own for quite a number of months, enough time to bring to bear the enormous US war machine on whatever was causing the crisis in the first place.

[ Parent ]

The panic is justified (none / 0) (#175)
by speek on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:59:39 PM EST

Cause we're all gonna die!

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Solution: Expel California (2.75 / 4) (#144)
by opendna on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:59:26 PM EST

My solution to the global energy thing is this: Expel California from the United States and start jacking up the price of fossils going into the state at a rate of... oh... 10% a month. Niiiice and steady.

And make sure the Republican Party cheers the process on.

Honestly, is there any place on earth more likely to solve the world's energy problems than a spiteful California taking revenge on Federal Republicans?



don't worry (none / 0) (#196)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 02:35:23 AM EST

We are already making plans to take over the rest of the country through sheer economic power.  We will own your oil and natural gas one way or the other.  8)

We are also thinking about the energy issue in a first hand way.  I'm one of those folks that realizes we have quite a bit of acreage covered by rooftops that could be put to work.  My risk isn't the initial cost of purchase for home equipment.  It is the damage I might do to my property value by changing my house enough to be 'unusual' relative to my neighbors.  I'm still thinking about it, though, because I can put PV's on structures attached to the sides of the house and in the backyard.  I'd be curious if anyone knows any statistics regarding what PV systems do to property values.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

Can't imagine it would do anything but go down. (none / 0) (#251)
by Gooba42 on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 02:31:45 PM EST

Having lived in California pretty much since I was born (brief stays in Oregon and Idaho) I can say that your neighbors will be against it. We've grown accustomed to being able to tell our neighbors what color they can paint their house, where they can park their car, how many cars they can have, how many pets they can have, where they can send their kids to school and all of that other nonsense. People gasp in horror when they see an unmown lawn, I can just imagine the coronary they have when they see a solar panel.

[ Parent ]
You have a point (none / 0) (#270)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:38:25 PM EST

I know what you mean.  My neighborhood is a little like that without the rigidity of a formal organization to enforce it.  There is still a chance though that I could convince my immediate neighbors it is worth it.  My approach would involve making excess energy avialable to them if they grouped together as a co-op.  The same kind of politics that determines how you keep your lawn could be put to use.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]
What gives? (none / 0) (#299)
by Redemption042 on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 04:08:45 PM EST

I'm curious, since there is no formal organization to enforce policy upon you, why don't you tell your neighbors to shove it?  I could understand if you were good friends with your neeighbors, but then they wouldn't tell you what to do, if they were friends.

[ Parent ]
home owners trust (none / 0) (#309)
by adiffer on Thu Nov 14, 2002 at 01:37:01 AM EST

When you buy into a property in a suburban neighborhood, you aren't living on an island.  If I expect to be able to sell this place again someday and recover my investment, I need to have a sense that my neighbors won't let their places go to hell and detract from my property value.  We all are trusting each other to behave to some degree in a manner which protects our collective investments.

When someone breaks that trust and paints their house shocking pink or parks cars on their front lawn, the are damaging the neighborhood average resale value.  Since my house cost me on the order of $200K and could be worth about $230K right now, I assure you I pay attention to what my neighbors do that might affect my investment.  They have every right to do the same in return.

Property ownership and stock market participation have a lot in common.  You don't want your investment to go down and should sell at the appropriate time if it does.

And...while there may be no formal organization right now, there could be in the future.  If I piss off my neighbors, they can lobby for zoning affects and make my life difficult in return.  I get along with them moderately well, though, and the trust level is fairly intact.  Only one house has been painted pink, so their attention is focused at that end of the block.  8)

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

Yeah, Okay. (none / 0) (#318)
by Redemption042 on Thu Nov 14, 2002 at 11:14:44 PM EST

I can understand that for stuff like the examples you mentioned, but for solar panels.  I don't know, I just really don't see solar panels affecting yours or your neighbors property values.    Does you property value go down when someone uses tiling instead of shingles for their roof?

[ Parent ]
roofing (none / 0) (#321)
by adiffer on Sat Nov 16, 2002 at 12:58:46 AM EST

We all use the same kind of heavy 'concrete' tile made to look like curved spanish tiles.  It takes reinforcement in the attic to make it work.  They are supposed to make your roof last 50 years.  Anyone moving away from that in this neighborhood would probably reduce their property value and get that 'look' from all of us if they chose a cheap solution.  The neighborhood is only 10 years old, though, so no one has done it.

If I put PV's up, it won't be on my roof.  I will put them on other structures in the yard and on removeable roof extensions.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

damn! (none / 0) (#323)
by Redemption042 on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 03:33:00 AM EST

Holy crap.   I'm sorry.   I live in a rather eclectic neighborhood.  All of the houses were origanally cookie cutter, but they've been heavily modified by the residents since they were first built in the 60's.  Each one has a completely different look due to different upgrades.  I have a hard time imagining the comformity that you describe.

[ Parent ]
Pretty much standard... (none / 0) (#337)
by Gooba42 on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 05:25:22 PM EST

Total conformity is pretty much standard. It's become rather sad the way that we all value it so much that property value goes down on the basis of non-conformity rather than actual value.

Besides, isn't property value supposedly based on what people will pay? Is it remotely reasonable for me to say I want them to knock 10% off the price because the neighbor two doors down has an asphalt driveway instead of concrete?

[ Parent ]
Its a nice place to visit but (none / 0) (#223)
by mjs on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 06:58:13 AM EST

start jacking up the price of fossils going into the state at a rate of... oh... 10% a month

Enron already tried that and look where it got them... :)

[ Parent ]

Space Elevator (4.00 / 1) (#148)
by Nemoder on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:03:39 PM EST

>The Earth-based land area requirements for receiving this energy via microwave beams would be substantial If we could combine solar sats with a space elevator we could deliver power down the cable and not have to lose power in microwave transmission or use up extra land space.

Excellent Idea (none / 0) (#159)
by Cougaris on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:54:43 PM EST

With current advances in nanotech and material science (re: Carbon Nanotubes), this is a very good idea. You'd better patent it before the oil companies come knocking!! __________________________________

[ Parent ]
"down the cable"? (none / 0) (#271)
by arthurpsmith on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:39:57 PM EST

Uh, what were you proposing to make that cable of that it could transmit terawatts of power 22,000 miles with no loss of energy? And how does that factor into the required mass of the space elevator? Just because you have a line connecting two points doesn't make it the best route :-)

Microwave transmission losses are estimated to actually be quite low - possibly as low as 10-20%, 40% probably more realistic. The power that manages to get through a long land line can be much less than 60%...

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
To put this in context for USians.. (4.00 / 3) (#154)
by molo on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:23:18 PM EST

you need to occupy a lot of land area to capture the 3-10 TW (electric) estimated needed. For example, with solar photovoltaic panels the land area needed would be 200-600,000 square kilometres (100-250,000 sq. miles) or up to 7% of the land area of the United States.

I saw this figure and said to myself, "7%, thats not too bad.. we can always spare delaware and the country's golf courses."

Boy was I wrong.  I looked up the size of the states here: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0108355.html

To put this in context, the state of Oregon is approximately 98,000 square miles.  The larger figure is approximately the size of the state of Texas, with 268,000 square miles.

For you Euros, the smaller size is a bit bigger than the UK (93,000 sq mi) and the larger size is about that of France, Austria and Switzerland combined! (259,000 sq mi).

This is a HUGE amount of land.  With that kind of requirements, I don't think that solar could be a viable alternative for a large portion of the world's power use.  Too bad.  

I still might make my future home solar though.

-molo

--
Whenever you walk by a computer and see someone using pico, be kind. Pause for a second and remind yourself that: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." -- Harley Hahn

I wonder (4.50 / 2) (#161)
by Arthur Treacher on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 08:07:26 PM EST

what the total area of all the rooftops in the US is. Can anyone make an informed guestimate?

"Henry Ford is more or less history" - Bunk
[ Parent ]
good question (none / 0) (#172)
by fhotg on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:34:11 PM EST

A rule of thumb says approx. 40% of urban area is roof-top. Now the problem is reduced to guestimate the urban area of the US. Keep in mind though, that not all roof-area is suited for PV-installations (i.e those oriented north).
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
I'd do it this way... (none / 0) (#189)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 12:55:34 AM EST

Figure out how much energy you can generate from your own rooftop. You'll find that it's not enough to run your house, unless you are an extremely conservative energy user (or live in a huge house with a perfect climate). So solar rootops, by themselves, won't cut it, even for non-industrial usage. My vote is for fission. Cheap, safe, and clean.

[ Parent ]
Well (none / 0) (#200)
by carbon on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:03:46 AM EST

A well-built house can nearly heat itself with good window placement. If you only need a bit of heating, the rest of the energy isn't so hard to get...


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
True (none / 0) (#238)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 11:05:11 AM EST

But with the number of people who buy lottery tickets steadily growing, how are we going to convince people to build energy efficient houses? We're not. Eventually we'll run out of fuel and prices will skyrocket, and then people's habits will start to change, out of necessity.

[ Parent ]
cutting it (none / 0) (#202)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:17:49 AM EST

Take that literally for a moment and you will see that they do cut it.  It isn't necessary to completely support a household with PV's for it to be worth it.  If I consume two KW-hrs in a day and produce one of them, I only need to buy one.  This lowers the demand on the central production facilities and our dependency on fossil fuels is reduced.  Covering rooftops in PV's with a tie-in option is much better than the optimistic savings we get from conservation in regions where the climate is right.  

Regional solutions are a reasonably good start on the global problem.  They buy us more time.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

Depends what you mean by "cut it" (none / 0) (#239)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 11:18:52 AM EST

Take that literally for a moment and you will see that they do cut it. It isn't necessary to completely support a household with PV's for it to be worth it.

Considering the huge cost of PV systems, actually they won't be "worth it" unless you do even more than support a household. Maybe in 100 years it'll be economically viable, but it isn't today.

If I consume two KW-hrs in a day and produce one of them, I only need to buy one. This lowers the demand on the central production facilities and our dependency on fossil fuels is reduced.

Sure, active solar power is a partial solution. I don't think anyone denies that.

Regional solutions are a reasonably good start on the global problem. They buy us more time.

Not really. OPEC already artificially limits the supply of oil. If you use less, it'll get cheaper, and other people will use more.

Besides, I don't really consider the fact that we might one day run out of oil to be a problem. When it becomes more expensive to heat my apartment with oil than another alternative, I'll switch. Until then, ain't happening.



[ Parent ]
fair enough (none / 0) (#265)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:08:34 PM EST

Just remember that you are also paying indirect costs for your oil.

I'm not much of a dove, but I wouldn't mind not having to stay as involved in Middle East politics as we are right now.  The less we depend on oil, the lower the indirect costs of involvement are.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

What costs? (none / 0) (#269)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:35:38 PM EST

Just remember that you are also paying indirect costs for your oil.

Feel free to be more specific. What costs am I paying indirectly?

I'm not much of a dove, but I wouldn't mind not having to stay as involved in Middle East politics as we are right now. The less we depend on oil, the lower the indirect costs of involvement are.

I fail to see how our dependence on oil has anything to do with our involvement in the Middle East.



[ Parent ]
pragmatism (none / 0) (#272)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:47:07 PM EST

Do you really think the US would care much if two Arab dictatorships wanted to fight it out with each other if we and the rest of the world weren't so dependent on the oil they produce?  Think about how little we care when two African dictators duke it out.  

Any war in the Middle East in which we are not in complete control runs the risk of damaging the world economy without our guidance.  Any such war would run that risk, so our minimal requirements have to be that we are in charge.

There is the moral angle to consider when people kill each other.  The US rarely spends billions of dollars dropping bombs and missiles to get people to behave in that regard, though.  It is even less likely that we would send in our own troops.

I'm not trying to compare with the current situation involving Iraq.  Think back a bit to the earlier Gulf War and the various conflicts involving Arab states with each other and with Israel.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

seems circular to me (none / 0) (#273)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 06:07:07 PM EST

Do you really think the US would care much if two Arab dictatorships wanted to fight it out with each other if we and the rest of the world weren't so dependent on the oil they produce?

We damn well should.

Think about how little we care when two African dictators duke it out.

When African dictators get close to making nukes then I bet we'll start.

In any case, this reasoning is almost circular. We need to stop using oil, so that we're not dependent on it, so that we don't bomb Iraq to get it?

Personally I think we're justified in invading Iraq despite our dependence on oil. But if we weren't the solution would be to not invade Iraq and let the price of oil skyrocket, not to stop using oil in the first place. If Bush is invading Iraq in order to lower the price of oil, that's Bush's fault, not mine just because I happen to buy oil.



[ Parent ]
most traps are (none / 0) (#275)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 07:48:07 PM EST

On the moral angle, I'm inclined to agree.  We should care.  We should care long before people start building nukes.

The trap we are in IS nearly circular.  That is what makes it such trouble to get out of.  As long as we have a strong dependence on oil, there are certain actions we must take in order to stabilize our supply of it.  Remove the dependence and we are free in ways new to us.  It's a bit like being a drug addict.

Every pre-911 bomb dropped on Iraqi assets can be partially charged to our oil dependence.  Every pre-911 no-fly-zone patrol flight can be partially charged to our oil dependence.  When I say 'our' I mean all of us throughout the world too.  All these actions are designed to protect a certain world order.  The status quo provides us with the economy we have come to expect.  Those actions cost money.  You and I are paying for those costs indirectly through our taxes and the prices of related products.

If we reduce our dependency, we are freer to act as we would otherwise do.  There will be less of our standard of living to protect during future upheavals because there will be less at risk.  (The drug pusher can't tell you what to do as much when you aren't hooked anymore.)  We may very well keep the tax rates where they are and spend the money doing something else, but those charges would no longer count as indirect costs of our energy lifestyle.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#287)
by dipierro on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 03:57:48 AM EST

I guess the point is that I'm not dependent on oil. Not in the least. I just happen to use it, cause it's the cheapest way to heat my apartment.

If I stopped using oil, Bush would still invade Iraq. Therefore I'm not responsible, not in the least.

Do I care? Well, like I said before, I think the Iraq situation is justified despite the oil dependence, and I think Bush has handling it very well (I think he's handling it well largely because of Democratic pressures, but he's handling it well nonetheless).

Also you say I'm paying for these actions in taxes. Well, if you mean taxes on petroleum products, I agree. But that's already factored into the equation when I tell you that oil heat is the cheapest way to heat my apartment.



[ Parent ]
broader (none / 0) (#308)
by adiffer on Thu Nov 14, 2002 at 01:24:37 AM EST

You are paying more than petroleum taxes.  Your income tax (assuming you pay) supports the US military budget.  Any use of the armed forces counts.

There is an argument used by the anti-fur people that partially applies here.  If you wear fur, there is a market for it.  If there is a market, fur bearing animals will be killed to supply it.  

I'm not pointing an accusatory finger in your direction though.  All of us use oil to some extent.  I'm just asking you to be aware that there are indirect consequences for our actions.  Choosing other methods to heat your apartment may cost a bit more in the direct sense, but you might also be doing your part to alleviate some of our indirect costs.  You shouldn't be expected to shoulder the burden by yourself.  We could all get in on a partial shift and help out.

Anyway, the original discussion point from the parent article involves the research that needs to be done to shift away from an oil economy.  You don't have to give up your use of oil at all if you help support alternative approaches through active research.  You would be doing almost as much to bring about a better future as those who are creating the market for these products by buying them at less-than-competitive prices.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

dreaming too big? (none / 0) (#311)
by dipierro on Thu Nov 14, 2002 at 04:17:18 AM EST

You are paying more than petroleum taxes.

Sure, I'm paying real estate taxes, a very small amount of sales taxes, telecomm taxes, etc. But none of those go to fund the U.S. military, do they?

Your income tax (assuming you pay) supports the US military budget.

I haven't paid income tax for a couple years now. Yay for tax deductions. Besides, I'd say the federal revenues from oil taxes more than makes up for the negative impacts created by the oil. Perhaps that's not true, in which case we should raise the taxes, but that's a discussion I don't really feel like getting into unless you have some really strong and relevant data.

There is an argument used by the anti-fur people that partially applies here. If you wear fur, there is a market for it. If there is a market, fur bearing animals will be killed to supply it.

Well, that's a little different because it's impossible to obtain (most kinds of) fur without killing the fur bearing animals. But it's not impossible to buy oil without killing Iraqis.

A closer analogy would be a hostage situation, where the hostage taker tells me he'll kill an Iraqi every time I fill up my fuel tank. I don't negotiate with those who take hostages. Or those ridiculous commercials which say that smoking pot is equivalent to supporting terrorism.

Choosing other methods to heat your apartment may cost a bit more in the direct sense, but you might also be doing your part to alleviate some of our indirect costs.

But I have two problems with that argument. The first is that even if I didn't use any oil, we'd still be going to war with Iraq. We're not in a situation where the more oil we use the more Iraqis we kill. We either go to war or we don't. Maybe (though I doubt it) if everyone stopped using oil we wouldn't be going to war with Iraq, but if everyone posted on K5 to say that we shouldn't go to war with Iraq solely because of oil, that'd also have the same effect. So I'm already behaving in a way that if everyone else behaved the same way we wouldn't be at war. All of this presupposes that the reason we are going to war with Iraq is due to oil. I don't believe that, but it's really just my opinion, so I'll leave that argument aside.

Secondly, even if my use of oil indirectly led to the deaths of Iraqis, which it doesn't, I still don't feel that I'm responsible, because it's essentially like a hostage situation.

Anyway, the original discussion point from the parent article involves the research that needs to be done to shift away from an oil economy. You don't have to give up your use of oil at all if you help support alternative approaches through active research. You would be doing almost as much to bring about a better future as those who are creating the market for these products by buying them at less-than-competitive prices.

Perhaps even more. If everyone donated the money they saved by using oil to a fund for researching alternative energy sources, I'd say they'd have more of a positive impact than if they had refused to use oil in the first place.

Well, I'm not going to lie and say that that's what I'm doing, but I'm also not spending (too much of) my money on girls and booze. I'd like to think that my life is having a positive impact on this world. And I tend to believe that the more money I have the greater of an impact I'm able to make. I could save enough for a down payment and buy up an apartment, install some extra insulation, replace a few incandescents with fluorescents, replace any really old appliences with newer more efficient ones, and save a few hundred a year while helping the environment, incrementally.

In the mean time, I continue to look into conservation methods and alternative energy solutions. If I could find any that could even come close in cost to the cheapest alternative (without being too harsh of a burden) I'd gladly implement them.



[ Parent ]
poof (none / 0) (#317)
by adiffer on Thu Nov 14, 2002 at 07:17:19 PM EST

Well...if you haven't had to pay income taxes for a couple years, you knock my arguement all apart.  8)  Those of us who are still paying are the ones supporting the military budget and paying most of the indirect costs.

The current situation with Iraq is different from the previous one, so I won't blame it on oil even if many others do.  An attack on civilians in US territory changes a lot of things including where the indirect costs get charged.

It sounds like you and I are actually doing similar things when you look only at actions.  I have actually started swapping incandescents as they burn out, but it might be awhile before I change the refrigerator I have.  In the mean time, I'll burn oil and think of converting my computer used electricity to PV's.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

What about North Korea? (none / 0) (#279)
by wurp on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 11:52:58 PM EST

If our involvement in Iraq is because they're building nukes and they fight with their neighbors, why aren't we involved in the politics of North Korea, Pakistan, and India?

I can see no meaningful distinguishing characteristic of Iraq other than oil.  And Bush's heavy involvement in the oil industry seems an obvious other tie-in.
---
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]

support (none / 0) (#288)
by dipierro on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 04:00:58 AM EST

If our involvement in Iraq is because they're building nukes and they fight with their neighbors, why aren't we involved in the politics of North Korea, Pakistan, and India?

Because we wouldn't have a broad international support for our involvement. Kuwait was a recognized country when Iraq attempted to annex it. That's why we had the support to go in there in the first place.



[ Parent ]
Oil profits fund fanaticism (none / 0) (#276)
by arthurpsmith on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 08:12:45 PM EST

The only reason repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia and Iraq have managed to be so (moderately) successful is because they get such huge influxes of money from their oil resources. If their people actually had to work at regular jobs within a modern economy, like the people in other predominantly Muslim states such as Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, etc., either the current regimes would replaced by more secular democratic societies, or they would devolve into irrelevant third-world basket cases. Oil is what brings the money in.

By the way, did you know that even now, most Iraqi oil sales go to the United States? Iraq accounts for something like 8% of US oil imports right now. Any guesses what Saddam would be able to do with oil revenue of $0?

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
oil for food (none / 0) (#289)
by dipierro on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 04:03:04 AM EST

By the way, did you know that even now, most Iraqi oil sales go to the United States? Iraq accounts for something like 8% of US oil imports right now.

Yeah. Did you know we're only paying for that oil with food?

Any guesses what Saddam would be able to do with oil revenue of $0?

Starve his citizens?



[ Parent ]
He wouldn't last long (none / 0) (#305)
by arthurpsmith on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 06:48:26 PM EST


Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
He won't last long (none / 0) (#310)
by dipierro on Thu Nov 14, 2002 at 03:20:12 AM EST

when we come in and bomb his ass, either. At least we'll be killing mostly soldiers, not starving civilians.

[ Parent ]
A stab (none / 0) (#258)
by jforan on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:55:14 PM EST

Average person lives indoors in ~500 sq feet of ground space.  Commercial and industrial buildings make up for the people stacking of urban areas.

300M * 500ft^2 / (5000 ft * 5000ft) = 6000 sq miles.

not a hell of a lot.

Jeff

I hops to be barley workin'.
[ Parent ]

A much cheaper alternative (none / 0) (#283)
by Adam Tarr on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 01:37:55 AM EST

Just paint roofs white.  The energy savings from lower air conditioning costs is almost half the energy intake a typical solar cell array would have, for a fraction of the cost.

In 10-15 years, materials technology will advance to the point that photovoltaic cells will be able to be planted in plastics and textiles at low cost.  At that point, large-scale rooftop solar will become viable.  Until then, it's basically a gimmick.

-Adam

[ Parent ]

PV implants (none / 0) (#284)
by adiffer on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 02:09:01 AM EST

I've seen them implanted in roofing shingles.  They aren't pretty yet, so the market is limited, but you can roll them out as long continual strips right now.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]
Doesn't have to be dedicated to solar... (5.00 / 3) (#163)
by goonie on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 08:42:55 PM EST

There's an assumption implicit in your calculation - that the area covered by solar cells can't be used for anything else.

If you put solar cells on your roof, the additional land area taken up is zero.

[ Parent ]

But... 7%? (none / 0) (#250)
by SEWilco on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 02:14:57 PM EST

OK, cover all rooftops with solar cells. You think that's anywhere close to 7%? Drive away from your city for an hour (10 minutes if you're in Montana) and look around. How much empty space is between those farm houses?

[ Parent ]
So, let me get this straight, (5.00 / 1) (#164)
by GuillaumeLeblanc on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 09:46:02 PM EST

We cover the entire state of Texas with solar panels, and replace Texas with something that generates something useful. What's the drawback?
Codex gratia Codici.
[ Parent ]
I think that's for the whole world (5.00 / 1) (#183)
by kerinsky on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:54:30 PM EST

I think that figure is to power to entire world. A few months back there was an article in Popular Science that claimed that a 100 by 100 mile array of solar plants could generate enough power for the entire US. I've seen a more in depth report that claimed this would require a 100 by 120 mile array, but I can't find the link now...

Texas isn't really that big when compared to the whole world, plus the solar stations would have to be spread out to distribute power effectively so you wouldn't lose one big chunk of land. Places like Iceland and Greenland would be left out in the cold so to speak, but I think it's at the very least possible to power a large portion of the world this way.

-=-
A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.
[ Parent ]

Problem solved... (4.00 / 1) (#184)
by yicky yacky on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 12:01:52 AM EST

We can spare France.

You can spare Texas.

Global surplus. Nice.




Yicky Yacky
***********
"You f*cking newbie. Shut up and sit in the corner!" - JCB
[ Parent ]
what about Australia? (none / 0) (#187)
by The Timelord on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 12:32:15 AM EST

We Aussies have several million square kms of desert with an extremely low population density. It's not uncommon to have cattle ranches the size of a small country run by a small community of people.

For example the population of the Northern Territory, not including those who live in and around Darwin on the north coast, is only a few 10's of thousands yet it's land area is over a million square clicks. And that doesn't include the equally empty areas in SA, WA and Queensland.

On top of that the climate in those areas is almost perfect for solar panels (dry = few clouds and less humidity wear on delicate electronics, low latitudes (compared to EU and US) = plenty of sunlight).

[ Parent ]

Cattle ranches (none / 0) (#274)
by Sloppy on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 07:42:32 PM EST

If those areas are cattle ranches, then it sounds like you're already using some of the sunlight collection potential there, to grow grass for the cattle to eat.
"RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."
[ Parent ]
umm not really (none / 0) (#292)
by The Timelord on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 08:21:02 AM EST

I don't have figures available but these places have a small herd of cattle spread over a large area. There's still plenty of room even with the cattle ranches - perhaps my last post was misleading, the majority of this outback is pure desert, no ranches, no nothing. I mentioned the ranches to illustrate how low the population density is even in 'settled' areas.

[ Parent ]
Numbers (none / 0) (#336)
by Dyolf Knip on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 09:09:53 PM EST

First, photovoltaics would be a very poor way to do this. They're farily efficient at converting sunlight, around 10%, but would use the land exclusively and are toxic to boot and can't work except during the unclouded day. Second, I have to wonder about your numbers.

Ok, the CIA World Factbook says 3.6 trillion kw/h per year. We'll use 4. This works out to about 11 billion kW/h that must be produced per day. Solar chimneys are best since they are simple in the extreme and don't worry about pesky things like night or clouds, so they can run 24 hours per day. That means that while it's operating, it must produce about half a billion kW/h every hour. Solar radiation is usually around 1 KW/h per square meter, so a perfect collector would need to be 500 million square meters, or 500 square kilometers. Solar chimneys run at around 1% efficiency, so you'd need a mere 50,000 square kilometers. And that's assuming the current dismal efficiency of solar chimneys; things will probably improve a bit when they are actually put to use and we bring the cleverness of the world's engineers to bear on it. Note also that most of that land can still be used for farming (or even living, if you don't mind the heat and constant winds). Furthermore, putting a mirror in space reflecting the sunlight onto such a greenhouse would enable to it run at full power all the time and generate even more juice per unit area.

---
If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Dyolf Knip
[ Parent ]

solar cells (4.00 / 1) (#155)
by zzzeek on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:25:16 PM EST

Since I cannot access the article, can someone tell my why exactly solar cells seem to suck so hard, that we'd have to put entire islands of them in space just to get a decent amount of power out of them ?

Can anyone comment on the notion that solar cell technology was effectively halted in the mid 70's as a result of oil companies purchasing key patents in order to stifle the industry ?  I seem to recall reading this somewhere.  If this is true, then solar cell technology is 20 years out of date.

Sure (none / 0) (#180)
by Dolohov on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:14:42 PM EST

Can anyone comment on the notion that solar cell technology was effectively halted in the mid 70's as a result of oil companies purchasing key patents in order to stifle the industry ? I seem to recall reading this somewhere. If this is true, then solar cell technology is 20 years out of date.

My comment would be, "bullshit," for two reasons:
First, the companies would not have just squashed the industry, they would have developed it themselves to make money. The oil industry is not so awash with money as you think -- they spend a hell of a lot looking for oil, drilling for it, and transporting it. They really don't have the cash sitting around to buy a property and then not use it. Even if they did, then the first oil company to start developing the technology would suddenly
Second, anything patented in the mid-70's would have expired a few years ago, prompting a new wave of research, which seems to not have happened.

My guess for what really happened is that the research itself just didn't pan out, whether for lack of interest or lack of money or just that the technology isn't there yet.

[ Parent ]

research and markets (5.00 / 1) (#203)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:30:41 AM EST

Research and improvement of PV cells is alive and well.  I've seen research being done to make PV's that are multi-lined with various materials.  Each material responds to different parts of the visible light spectrum with varying degrees of efficiency.  With a diffraction grating directing photons appropriately, the efficiency rating for the cell as a whole is expected to be upwards of 45%.

The rule of thumb in the market is that high efficiency cells cost more.  The lower grade cells can be had for a few hundred dollars for 100W.  That kind of power doesn't go very far, though, unless you are only interested in powering a few things.

The real block to roof-top power generation is two-fold.  

  1.  If you put them up on your house, what happens to your property value?
  2.  Do you want to get a home improvement loan to install something that probably won't pay for itself in terms of direct energy costs before you sell your house again?
The first issue is one you must decide based upon your community standards.  The second issue is an illusion since we are paying taxes to cover the indirect costs for the other energy sources we use.  Do you trust your taxes will drop if you contribute to a reduction in your nation's dependency on fossil fuels?  Even if you aren't directly dependent, you are indirectly depended because so much of the world economy is directly dependent.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]
property value (none / 0) (#256)
by deadplant on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:27:18 PM EST

Question: How could solar cells on the roof do anything but increase your property value?  Or are you thinking of the property taxes associated with a higher property value?
I can see how it might not increase the property value by the full amount you payed, but still...


[ Parent ]
home improvements (none / 0) (#268)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:32:25 PM EST

Lots of home improvement projects do little or nothing to add to your property value.  Putting in fancy new kitchens, bathrooms, and so on rarely adds enough to make up for the cost of putting them in.  Most realtors will tell you that it is the simple visual things you can do like flower beds and green grasss that affect the buying price the new owner is willing to pay.

When you add PV's to your house, you change it's appearance.  It's a lot like painting your house the wrong color to some buyers.  They won't be able to imagine themselves in your house, so they won't make offers.  When you reduce the size of your buying market, there is a chance you will be lowering your property value.  

The usual rule-of-thumb people use involves evaluating the appearance of your property relative to your immediate neighborhood.  The folks down the block from me painted their house a brighter shade of pink than everyone else on the cul-de-sac.  Their house probably won't attract as many buyers if they wanted to sell it as is, so they might get less than they would if they used a more standard color.

This affect is probablistic, though.  When I was in the market for my current house, I almost got a chance to make an offer on a place that was already rigged for PV's.  The owners had taken advantage of a leasing deal we can make with the local utility if you have the right kind of roof and you are willing to wait in line.  Someone else beat us to it.  I would have offered a reasonable amount if the house had been half-way decent.  

I'm still wondering if there is enough statistics yet to determine if PV's add or detract on average.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

geez, stupid people. (none / 0) (#296)
by deadplant on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 11:38:39 AM EST

wow, I guess that makes sense.  I was just assuming that people would generally be a little more sensible when spending so much money.
Oh well, too bad for them.  Maybe it'll mean I get a better deal on a feature-rich house that's painted pink and those other hosers can pay through the nose for their pretty flower beds and superficial niceties.

[ Parent ]
Fission is the technical solution (4.66 / 3) (#157)
by cameldrv on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:41:20 PM EST

Your comments on fission aren't really correct. First of all, Uranium reserves are huge. Sea water is often brought up because it provides a huge reserve even without breeders. However, there are many countries which have large uranium reserves which don't even have a single mine. Most of the land-based reserves cited are based on proven reserves in already operational areas, at current costs. Most studies consider economically recoverable Uranium as being less than about $130 per kilo. However, this price could go up by a factor of ten, and still not make a real dent in the total cost of generating energy from nuclear power. If you are willing to pay a lot more for the fuel, there are enormous reserves available. As far as proliferation is concerned, nearly half the population of the world, and considerably over half the energy generated in the world is in states that already have nuclear weapons. Thus breeders in those countries aren't really going to change the political situation. Other states can be given heavy water reactors that use low-enriched Uranium, which is more proliferation resistant. Additionally, if this is not enough, reprocessing can be done in nuclear-weapons states. Furthermore, there are proliferation resistant reprocessing technologies, in particular pyroprocessing which make the risk of plutonium diversion much less. Ultimately, Nuclear is the only technology available today which can produce huge ammounts of energy that will last a long time, and won't produce CO2. Solar, wind, geothermal and other renewables certainly will be used in the future, but even with advances in these technologies, we would have to cover the earth with huge collectors in order to get enough energy. Nuclear allows us to maintain our current lifestyle with minimal disruption. There are certainly challenges with respect to waste and proliferation, but we know how to solve these problems. When I hear radical environmentalists talking about massive conservation, giving up our cars and such, I just don't think they share the same goals as I do. I think that many of these people like the idea that we would live a more austere lifestyle, as an aesthetic end in itself. This greatly distorts the actual picture of energy for the next hundred years or so, because Nuclear will meet the demand and won't cause global warming.

...but not a permanent one. (3.50 / 2) (#168)
by pavs on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:13:34 PM EST

I don't see the point in giving ourselves a mountain of radioactive waste before we deal with our energy problem because eventually we will run out of uranium too. I don't know the cost of building a nuclear power plant but I know they are expensive and building enough of them to meet the rising energy demand and phasing out fossil fuels would be quite a substantial investment. And it wouldn't do away with the research and building cost either. A solution based on renewable, solar or other efficient, environmentally friendly sources of energy is what we need if we want to continue living on this planet.

[ Parent ]
Costs (4.00 / 1) (#224)
by cameldrv on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 07:20:55 AM EST

The cost of a Nuke plant right now is about $1 million per installed megawatt.  Total U.S. energy consumption is 100 Quadrillion BTU/Year.  This works out to 3345 Gigawatts.  Assuming an 85% capacity factor, we would need to install just shy of 4 Terawatts.  This would cost $4 trillion at current prices.  Building about 4000 nuke plants would dramatically reduce the cost, however, as the design and manufacturing costs would decrease with mass production, by at least 50%.  Assuming this, the cost is about $2 Trillion.

Of course, The U.S. is not going to totally change over to Nuclear power.  There's nothing wrong with releasing some CO2, we just need to cut back.  Furthermore, the price and efficiency of solar is becoming more favorable, so I'm sure you'll see some of that as well.

Ultimately, though, the land area required for Solar is huge.  With a 30% efficient system (this is highly optimistic, as it includes inefficiencies from the spacing of cells and panels, as well as conversion inefficiencies), you still need about a 22000 square miles.  That's 148x148 miles.  That's a pretty big chunk of land, even under my optimistic assumptions.  The environmental damage of clearing this much land would be huge, compared to the relatively minor effects of building about 3300 nuke units.

If you're going to advocate for a particular energy concept, please try to back it up with actual data.  An emotional argument isn't appropriate for such a major policy decision.

[ Parent ]

IFR reactors use waste, not produce it. (none / 0) (#316)
by michaelp on Thu Nov 14, 2002 at 07:01:42 PM EST

"According to Dr. Till, the IFR can both produce power and clean up nuclear wastes. It does this through a recycling process, where radioactive materials are purified from wastes."

In fact, IFR could produce a market for all that radioactive material the CIS can't afford to store, not to mention the waste we're planning to stick in a big hole for thousands of years.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Practically speaking (3.00 / 1) (#158)
by X3nocide on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 07:50:49 PM EST

The future is to reduce consumption. Both fusion and space solar power introduce too much heat if used to accomodate a growing need for energy. The good news here is that means we'll be needing to replace things with more "energy efficient" items on a regular basis. The 'sun spot' idea sounds particularly interesting though for somewhat mitigating the continued heat issue, but it shouldn't be used to harvest energy for use here on earth; I'm pretty sure that our best tools are far more efficient than what natural energy collecters have to offer. But reduction in consumption can't solve this alone, this is where the analysis comes in. The bottom line is that our energy comes from fusion, direct or indirect. Getting Congress or the American people to recognize the urgency will take some form of fear mongering. "If we don't spend some money to create a usable form of renewable energy, you might not be watching TV a year from now." Congress reflects the issues pressing to the voting public, typically mining or farming. Good luck getting a coal miner to vote for alternative energy sources.

pwnguin.net
Coal Miners (none / 0) (#165)
by Dolohov on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 09:47:33 PM EST

Good luck getting a coal miner to vote for alternative energy sources.

In my experience, while coal miners may be proud to mine coal, and nervous about a drop in its use, very few of them want to mine coal, and very few want their children to mine coal. Once you've convinced them that there will be jobs available -- better jobs -- then they'll come around pretty quickly.

[ Parent ]

Ummm, no (none / 0) (#229)
by arthurpsmith on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 07:54:34 AM EST

The heat introduced by these power sources is far, far less than the heat increase caused by build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere. That's absolutely the first priority to fix.

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
What's wrong with breeders? (5.00 / 1) (#167)
by chrylis on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:01:15 PM EST

Unfortunately for the United States, the Powers That Be decided long ago to ban commercial breeder reactors not because of any inherent danger but rather out of fear that terrorists (or likely Communists then) would get ahold of the spent nuclear material.  The official process was designed to encase the material on the spot to prevent it from being stolen.

There's really little reason to keep this policy alive these days; anyone who wants nuclear material can get it relatively easily from the former USSR, and even France runs a breeder program.  Inertia, though, is on the side of sitting and whining.

A few things (4.50 / 4) (#169)
by hugues on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 10:24:09 PM EST

1- Current breeder technology is relatively dangerous. Think liquid sodium used for cooling... It is much more expensive as a result than normal PWR nuclear plants, and less reliable.

2- France has stopped its breeder program precisely because of the above.

3- And yes, there is a proliferation risk with this technology.

Three very good reasons not to pursue it while Uranium is not in short supply.


[ Parent ]

OK, but Uranium *will be* in short supply... (none / 0) (#188)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 12:45:37 AM EST

So put the reactor on the moon. Solves all three problems. Now you just have to find a way to transport the energy from the moon down to earth. Either hydrogen fuel cells or microwaves will do here.



[ Parent ]
Neither (4.42 / 7) (#177)
by hugues on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 11:03:32 PM EST

Fusion is waaay off. At least 50 years, and will probably never become practical (or even more practical than existing nuclear solutions).

Solar satellites sound good but that won't work either: think of the *massive* expense of getting these plants up there and maintain them for decades.  To me that's too much pie in the sky.

The solutions are:

1- reduction in energy needs (by *far* the easiest thing to do). Yes that means changes in lifestyle, no SUV for you and you have to turn off the lights, but we can surely cope with that. It's cool too: designing energy efficient homes, cars and the like will be good for the economy. People will be using their muscles a bit more too. By golly, you mean *walking* to the shops!

2- improvement over existing nuclear designs. Rubia's safe cyclotron's nuclear plant is a good idea, so are continuous-load nuclear plants. Yes this will mean there will be a nuclear plant in your neighborhood, and there will be a few accidents, even with such designs (but nothing like Chernobyl). BTW we had Chernobyl, basically the nightmare scenario, and the world did not end because of it.

3- Distributed generation. You will have some solar panels on the roof, an efficient generator in your home, etc. What we need is an efficient and clean way to mass produce cheap photovoltaic solar panels, something that surely can be done (much less a pie-in-the-sky project than satellites). Every home will be contributing some electricity back to the grid (when on holiday, etc).

4- a distant fourth are other sources: bio-mass, geothermal energy, ocean energy, etc. All very hard to set up on a grand scale except in a few privileged locations.

All of this is feasible, no problem. No science-fiction required. At the moment these solution are too expensive to deploy everywhere compared to energy derived from oil, but their time will come.

Will this transition be easy? with a systemic political system focussed on the short term: no. Expect huge crises.


waaay off (none / 0) (#186)
by llimllib on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 12:25:21 AM EST

While I agree with your points on the short term, I think you missed a crucial aspect of the story. If 50 years sounds waaaay off to you, then I believe the author is talking about what we'll do waaay off. (alright, enough repetition now)
Seriously though, he (she?) tackles the expense and uncertainty surrounding space-based and fusion-based energy sources with this article, and if you want to disagree with the author, it should be along those lines. Saying "Conservation is the answer" will only work until there's nothing left to conserve.


Peace.
[ Parent ]
Chernobyl wasn't so bad, was it? (5.00 / 1) (#221)
by mjs on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 06:47:41 AM EST

Well, not for you, obviously.

BTW we had Chernobyl, basically the nightmare scenario, and the world did not end because of it.

Your world didn't end, perhaps, but for 2500 Ukranians the situation was rather different. 30 immediate deaths, the rest over time as the cancer rate soared (measured, not estimated. These aren't statistical deaths, and it isn't over yet.) Billions of dollars in economic losses, 100,000+ people relocated...

Yes this will mean there will be a nuclear plant in your neighborhood

I don't think so. Nor in yours, even if you were willing. The nuclear industry spent billions "educating" us in the notion that nuclear reactors were safe. They weren't. Safer than the doomsday cults feared, yes, but not the sort of thing to build neighborhoods around. Now the industry says that they have newer, safer designs. The rest of us say, prove it. That's the problem with the world: one little lie and your credibility is shot all to hell...

[ Parent ]

Hmm, (5.00 / 1) (#242)
by manobes on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 12:20:34 PM EST

The nuclear industry spent billions "educating" us in the notion that nuclear reactors were safe. They weren't.

Umm, apart from Chernobyl how are nuclear reactors unsafe? The second worst accident was Three Mile Island, which has never been conclusivly proven to have led to any deaths. (A quick web search turned up these excerpt from a 1996 judgement, and this summary.)

Nuclear power, like other types of power, is obviously not perfect. But good reactor design (US style or CANDU minimizes the risk to acceptable levels.


No one can defend creationism against the overwhelming scientific evidence of creationism. -- Big Sexxy Joe


[ Parent ]
compared to Bhopal (5.00 / 1) (#259)
by NKcell on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:57:46 PM EST

Chernoybl was a picnic. Perhaps we should shut down all chemical plants too.

[ Parent ]
Not millions of deaths (none / 0) (#330)
by hugues on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 11:08:25 PM EST

Before Chernobyl detractors of nuclear power were talking about nightmare scenarios where millions of people would die in case of an accident of the magnitude of Chernobyl.

Well we had Chernobyl and sure, many people died immediately and afterwards from cancers & related illnesses. I'm not saying it's benign, but it's nothing compared to what was anticipated.

Now you have to have a look at what the Chernobyl reactor was: very unsafe design, no containment, no fail-safe devices. You have to have a look at what the operators did: a series of very serious and stupid mistakes. Compared with the modern design of nuclear plants and the level of training operators receive in the west, I'd say a mistake of that magnitude is very unlikely. I'm not saying it's 100% safe, but that the danger level is not that high.

It's a matter of what people want to do. You can't have your cake and eat it too. People want cheap electricity, comfortable homes and whatnot. Nuclear power is one way to deliver that, and it's not that unsafe. In Europe where nuclear power is used at least as extensively as in the US, and in the case of France, even more (basically France's electric power is almost 100% nuclear except for a few dams and redundant coal plants in case of high demand). There hasn't been a single incident worth reporting there in the 40 years the nuclear program has been running.

The key is good training, good design and continuous improvements, including full media openeness.

As for having a nuclear plant in my neighborhood there is one in Sydney (Oz) where I live; my sister works in a nuclear plant as a safety engineer. She had her 2 kids while she was working at that plant and they look normal.

Still, rather than build more plants it would be more productive to start saving, conserving, etc. Nuclear power is not for the lazy, the impatient, the idiot or the careless.

[ Parent ]

Two more solutions? (4.00 / 1) (#192)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 01:15:48 AM EST

Biodiesel - produces CO2, but the fuel source is renewable, and "growing" the fuel uses up roughly the same amount of CO2 as burning it creates.  This is essentially solar power, without the silicon requirements.

Hydro - Whenever I played Sim City I always used the "raise land" tool, then put water there and build a hydro plant.  Why can't we just do that?  Find a place where it rains a lot, and build some artificial lakes on artificial mountains.  Again, this is essentially another form of solar power.

I don't think it works like in SimCity [n/t] (1.00 / 1) (#263)
by Fon2d2 on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 04:57:00 PM EST



[ Parent ]
arrable. (none / 0) (#320)
by jimblob on Fri Nov 15, 2002 at 10:38:34 PM EST

The land area required to make enough biodiesel to satisfy energy requirements is quite high. Larger than we use for food production at the moment at a rough guess. The simple answer to "the energy crisis" is to reduce the number of consumers, so I guess the biodiesel solution kills two birds with one stone.

[ Parent ]
One word: ecovillages (2.75 / 4) (#193)
by JasonDiceman on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 01:54:01 AM EST

If everyone lived in an ecovillage, we'd all be fine.

http://www.gaia.org

Living in an ecovillage (5.00 / 2) (#218)
by mjs on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 06:34:41 AM EST

What if I don't want to?

[ Parent ]
You tell me. (2.00 / 3) (#236)
by JasonDiceman on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 10:03:14 AM EST

If you want your grand children to live in a healthy environment, your going to have to live and promote a sustainable lifestyle.  If you don't want to, your going to have to explain it to me, to your grand kids, and to all the parents that are willing to kill for the security of their children's future.

It's not about individual freedom when the repercussions of ones actions affect the global community.  It about responsibility.

Don't be selfish.  

[ Parent ]

Of course, (4.00 / 1) (#226)
by ajduk on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 07:37:10 AM EST

We'd need to adjust the population slightly. Like by 4-5 billion.

[ Parent ]
Sure (4.50 / 2) (#247)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 01:12:53 PM EST

and if everyone converted to Islam we'd have peace in the Middle East. So?

[ Parent ]
Keep your religion. Lose the SUV. (3.00 / 2) (#324)
by JasonDiceman on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 07:30:22 PM EST

Joining an ecovillage is a change in lifestyle that would be suitable for anyone who hates traffic, office cubicles, pollution and lack of community.  It also works great for those who like free time, nature, gardening, and spending time with family and friends.

Ecovillage living (when it works) is a lifestyle that approaches utopia.  It's not that unreasonable to assume that given the opportunity, most people would prefer to live in a utopia, especially when they know the alternative will be destructive to their children's future.

[ Parent ]

I take it you live in an ecovillage? (3.00 / 2) (#332)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 19, 2002 at 05:50:31 PM EST

In any case, converting is a change in lifestyle that would be suitable for anyone who hates jews, christians, pork, and women.

OK, OK, I'm just kidding.  But I figure if you can troll me, then I can troll you back a little.  Joining an ecovillage is <b>not</b> "suitable for anyone who hates traffic, office cubicles, pollution and lack of community."  It may have these advantages, but that doesn't mean these advantages don't come without disadvantages.

[ Parent ]

Farming Hydrogen from the Oceans? (4.00 / 1) (#198)
by zonk on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 02:59:41 AM EST

One idea I've had is to build huge floating platforms in the oceans with solar panels. The solar energy would be used to extract hydrogen from the water using electrolysis (a very simple process to convert water to hydrogen and oxygen). The hydrogen would be stored in tanks and could be airlifted to shore for use in fuel cells, hydrogen burning plants, etc. Is this totally impractical?

Yes. (none / 0) (#204)
by gromm on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:56:32 AM EST

Airlifting would be a bad idea. You can only get so much cargo in or out by helicopter. You can't even feasibly log with a helicopter.

A better idea would either be a pipeline, or shipping it out on plain old boats. The convenient ocean location makes this easier.

Also, a good chunk of the earth's surface is desert, which we can't find any other good use for as of yet. Weather conditions also dictate more sunshine than normal. And while we're at it, we might as well not bother with generating hydrogen and ship the electricity to your home by wires.
Deus ex frigerifero
[ Parent ]

Using deserts for solar collectors (none / 0) (#249)
by tedric on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 01:58:36 PM EST

I think the problem with huge solar collector fields placed in deserts is a political problem. The largest deserts are in states the western countries don't have the best realtionships to. As mentioned in comments before the western countries are highly dependent on energy, the whole economy from simple households to big companies. So _the_ next source of energy has to be something that each western country can produce (and control) by themself.

[ Parent ]
Secondary issue (none / 0) (#227)
by arthurpsmith on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 07:38:36 AM EST

You're still talking about solar cells as the primary energy source, and we still run into that large area problem (but putting them on the ocean at least doesn't occupy land area). The other problem with this (aside from details of hydrogen transport) is survivability of the platforms through major storms - the ocean is a much less pleasant environment than land. How do you handle 80-foot waves and the like? We do have some experience of this sort with major ocean oil-drilling platforms, but those are billion-dollar beasts just to drill one oil well!

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
What would be the environmental impact (none / 0) (#246)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 01:08:14 PM EST

of covering large portions of the ocean with solar panels? What about the lifeforms in the ocean below which rely on using that solar power for energy? What about the change in ocean temperatures that would result from the reduced sunlight? What about the excess oxygen that would be put into the atmosphere? These are some additional questions that must be answered.

[ Parent ]
In the South Pacific? (none / 0) (#262)
by Fon2d2 on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 04:49:31 PM EST

Almost none.

[ Parent ]
Let's start then (none / 0) (#267)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:29:53 PM EST

Fon2d2 says it's ok :).

[ Parent ]
budget skeptic (5.00 / 3) (#205)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 04:07:59 AM EST

I feel the urge to raise a point about the numbers tossed around for costs of space solar power stations.  No matter which article you read, make sure you drill down on the assumptions they make about how such stations are to be constructed.  If the material is of terrestrial origin, the costs are going to be absolutely astronomical.  That is why few people are doing this kind of research.  They just don't see it as economical.  If the material is derived from off-world sources, the costs are much lower, but the technical risks are higher since we have to reinvent a couple of industries and make sure they work in space.

The only reasonable solution besides an enginnering breakthrough involving fusion is actually a collection of solutions that tend to get lumped under one banner due to past research.  Space based solar power should be thought of as space based power generation and the related industries.  The related industries may create an economic incentive to move some environmentally unfriendly processes into space where energy is cheaper and consequences are far removed.

Think about these a bit and you will see why I am a skeptic regarding budget figures and cost ranges and ROI's.

  1.  Off-world sources for platinum (lunar impacts and near-earth asteroids) could be sufficiently rich to make platinum a commodity metal.  If the refinement of platinum is done in solar orbit before sending it to Earth and to market (best solution regarding the orbit transfer problem) many of the environmental drawbacks for fuel cells are eliminated along with some of the economic ones too.
  2.  Energy hungry industries may be motivated to move closer to their energy supplies, especially if there is a cost difference.  If they go off-world, doesn't that also remove their environmental impacts?  Would costs differences occur?  Satellite factories near the power plants wouldn't need as much power sent their way since there would be less beam losses over shorter distances.
  3.  Secondary effects of an attempt to move power generation to space may produce larger economic affects of second order than of first order.  Tax income derived from those changes may produce a faster ROI than we can imagine today.  Imagine trying to predict the impact PC's and network equipment have had on national tax incomes from a perspective of 15 to 20 years ago.  Most of us would have been dead wrong.  The few that would have been close would have been considered as lunatics.


-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
Definitely not terrestrial resources (3.66 / 3) (#225)
by arthurpsmith on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 07:33:59 AM EST

Read Criswell's article - the plan is to use lunar resources, definitely not to ship solar panels up from Earth. And the cost estimates do obviously involve a lot of risk on the engineering side - that's basically what I meant by saying we need a lot of research on large-scale space engineering; chemical, industrial, and civil... So basically, I agree with you - thanks!

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
Criswell (4.00 / 1) (#266)
by adiffer on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:15:19 PM EST

Criswell is one of the few that I trust not to make the usual dumb assumptions about bringing everything up from Earth.  I've read some other articles and he is consistent.  It's the other folks you didn't mention that others will for which we need to read with care.

Lunar sources might actually get outcompeted if we tried to develop NEO's instead.  The trade offs are between flight times (cost of money), lift energies from the lunar surface, and ore concentrations.  I've seen lots of numbers and some of the closer NEO's might be competetive.

I'm not arguing with you, though.  I'm just adding my usual nit about not limiting your solution envelope when it comes to space approaches.  There is much more going on in that arena than the old space solar power studies.  My comment is aimed more at your detractors than you.  8)

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]

CO2 in the atmosphere (3.00 / 3) (#216)
by Atomic Eco on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 05:31:05 AM EST

Could someone point me to the data that shows why exactly do we need to concern ourselves with atmospheric CO2 so much? The article pretty much assumes that the hypothesis "Man-made rise in atmospheric CO2 = global warming" is an already established fact.

However, maybe it's just me, since I also think that the jury is out on the following statements about global warming:

1. That global warming is happening
2. That human activity is causing it
3. That we can do anything meaningful about it
4. That warming would be a a bad thing

Finland.. where polar bears roam the streets.
mnyes (none / 0) (#219)
by joto on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 06:39:09 AM EST

1. That global warming is happening

There are few lay-persons that doubt that today, as there is no lack of examples of climatic change around the globe.

On the other hand, scientists will always be able to explain it away with the same logic as tobacco-producers. But that we are experiencing things that are outside of normal variation is obvious.

2. That human activity is causing it

While the possibility exists that there may be other factors, there is no doubt that the greatest changes on the planet the latest few 100 years have been human-made, and that it continues at an exponential rate. This includes pollution, cutting down forests that will never grow up again (by rich people in South America, and poor people in Africa), and hunting down species that might have an important posistion in the ecosystem.

3. That we can do anything meaningful about it

Certainly, there are a lot of meaningful things we can do, if you believe 1 and 2. The only problem is that they all cost money, and people vote with their wallet, more than with common sense. And because we do not understand the effects, it is difficult to choose the "most important" place to start, to reduce our economic losses.

4. That warming would be a a bad thing

This is the only one that can be said with certainty. Warming would be a bad thing. It would mean more extreme weather. And that is bad.

[ Parent ]

Obvious, eh? (5.00 / 2) (#232)
by Atomic Eco on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 08:29:24 AM EST

Take a look at this article then. It sheds some light on the natural variation you speak of, as well as the "obviousness" of global warming. The article is five years old, but somehow I don't recall the arguments having changed at all during the past five years.

As for the major changes humans have brought about during the last 100 years: not all of them have a bearing on our climate, and not everything is in our power. It may yet be shown that it is mother nature who is turning the global thermostat, not us.

Finland.. where polar bears roam the streets.
[ Parent ]
Ok nothing is obvious... (4.00 / 3) (#237)
by joto on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 11:02:50 AM EST

But take a look at some of the stuff on this site and tell me who the tobacco scientist are?

You may be able to argue against a temperature increase, and point to natural variation. And it was certainly possible in 1997, but it hasn't exactly become any easier, as temperature has continued to increase. Furthermore, there is no point in arguing against higher concentrations of CO2, which is much easier to just measure. Now, you may try to argue against any causality between the two, but we know that already exist.

So what you are left with, is to try to argue that there are other unknown influences that are more important than those we produce. And while it surely is hard to argue against, that doesn't make it an especially useful hypothesis.

[ Parent ]

+0.03C during the last five years? (5.00 / 2) (#252)
by Atomic Eco on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 02:43:20 PM EST

Or +0.6C during the 20th century (from the Climate Change 2001 report). And this is the result of one measuring method; remember that the satellite data shows no change since 1979.

Aside from methodology issues, this makes me wonder if any natural variance is allowed for at all on the global warming bandwagon. How do you explain away the great historical variances in temperature?

As for causality between the rise in CO2 levels and temperature: it is you who have to provide the proof, since you make the claim. As you already know that it is there, just show me the logic and data by which you know it.

Finland.. where polar bears roam the streets.
[ Parent ]
more tobacco-science (4.00 / 2) (#261)
by joto on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 04:26:00 PM EST

Or +0.6C during the 20th century (from the Climate Change 2001 report).

Yes, a larger temperature change for the latest hundred years than we ever saw during the period 1000-1900 (based on indirect measurement techniques, of course).

Aside from methodology issues, this makes me wonder if any natural variance is allowed for at all on the global warming bandwagon.

Yes. But how much do you want? 0.6 degrees is in fact pretty dramatic over a hundred year period. If we knew this was safe, and simply caused by sunspots or some other periodic phenomena, I would certainly be happy. But since we have a pretty good hunch that this could be caused by human activity, we will look at these numbers with much greater interest than if they did not matter.

How do you explain away the great historical variances in temperature?

Why do you think I would be interested in explaining away things? Show me the great historical variances, and maybe I'll agree to a larger variance...

As for causality between the rise in CO2 levels and temperature: it is you who have to provide the proof, since you make the claim. As you already know that it is there, just show me the logic and data by which you know it.

Well, the causality is pretty well demonstrated. If you are unsure about it, you can e.g. look here. The problem is that the earth is a complex system. The fact that it so far has resisted a change in surface temperature much more than our models predicts is good, but doesn't change the fact that greenhouse-gases will make it hotter (unless there are other effects cooling it down at the same time).

And this is exactly where the "tobacco-science" comes in. What we all know, is that we continue to pollute and change the earth in a radical manner. We also know that e.g. greenhouse-gases work as greenhouse-gases. Now, you may argue that the earth isn't too hot yet (or Eric hasn't died from cigarettes just yet). That does not mean that pollution isn't bad for the earth (or that cigarettes isn't bad for Eric's lungs).

[ Parent ]

Climate change (5.00 / 1) (#298)
by Atomic Eco on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 02:55:36 PM EST

Again, the Vostok ice cores show correlation. They do not show that higher CO2 levels cause the warmer temperature, they show that they co-occur.

How about another nice link? A small quote:
What is well known is that climate changes: from the Mesozoic era, when the earth appears to have been about 18 degrees F warmer than now, to the ice ages, when huge glaciers submerged much of the Northern Hemisphere. One paleoclimatologist estimated that, during the Precambrian period, the polar regions were about 36 degrees F colder than they are in the contemporary world. During the last interglacial, about 130,000 years ago or about when modern man first explored the globe, the average temperature in Europe was at least 2 degrees F to 5 degrees F warmer than at present. Indeed, during the last 12,000 years, that is, since the end of the last glacial period, the global climate has alternated between substantially warmer and noticeably cooler temperatures.
It goes without saying that we need more research, less alarmist propaganda, and definitely less "obvious" culprits. As far as I can see from my limited perspective, we are not living exceptional times with regard to global temperature or weather phenomena.

Finland.. where polar bears roam the streets.
[ Parent ]
Hmm... (none / 0) (#319)
by joto on Fri Nov 15, 2002 at 01:57:22 PM EST

I was of course aware that the climate has changed during e.g. the ice-age. That isn't something I would want us to have again. On the other hand, the ipcc numbers for northern hemisphere temperature for the last 1000 years show remarkably low variation. I'm not sure when the variation was during that 12000 year period, but obviously people have managed quite well the last 3000 years.

I will have to do some thinking about it. On the other hand, I still subscribe to the precautionary principle, and I guess thats where our main difference lie. You put the burden of proof on the environmentalists. I put it on those who want to continue with potentially non-sustainable use of resources. Other than that, I think we both agree that there are lots of unknown factors that should be treated with care, and obviously "more research is needed..."

[ Parent ]

Why bad? (none / 0) (#245)
by dipierro on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 01:02:55 PM EST

Warming would be a bad thing. It would mean more extreme weather. And that is bad.

That's quite an insufficient proof. Why would warming mean more extreme weather? And why is more extreme weather bad?

Notice that I'm not talking about a runaway greenhouse effect. Clearly that would be a bad thing, as it would be inhabitable. But most scientists agree that even if the runaway greenhouse effect does occur it won't be caused by human intervention.



[ Parent ]
Ever heard of El Niño? (none / 0) (#264)
by tetsuwan on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 04:57:49 PM EST

Now, I would not call that a Good Thing.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Thinking Within The Box (3.00 / 1) (#257)
by SEWilco on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 03:44:12 PM EST

These are all energy technologies that have been studied and worked on for 30 years. A few details were missed.



Lack of carbon not the problem (none / 0) (#280)
by wurp on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 12:23:57 AM EST

None of our energy production processes make carbon go away.  Many of them rearrange the atoms from a molecule with lots of potential chemical energy (oil) to molecules with low potential chemical energy (CO2, CO, etc.) + heat.

So, the problem we're discussing is getting the energy to change those worthless CO2, etc. molecules back into the kind we want, or to just get energy from some other source and forget about rearranging carbon molecules into CO2.
---
Buy my stuff
[ Parent ]

The focus should be on near-term solutions. (4.50 / 2) (#260)
by Adam Tarr on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 04:07:37 PM EST

In the long run, you're probably right that our future lies with solar and fusion. This is the future of efficient fuel cells and a "hydrogen economy". But the fact is that this future is a ways off, and ignoring the intermediate solutions will probably prove a lot more costly than failing to fund the long-run solutions. Even if the long-term R&D research lines got all the support they could utilize, they would still take decades to really transform the way the world works. Meanwhile, there are solutions that can dramatically reduce the pollution cost of power production in a matter of a few years. The amount of enviromental damage that can be avoided in the gap between near-term and long-term solutions is far, far to large to ignore.

...the long-favored solution has been power from nuclear fission. Surprisingly, this is as much a limited resource as oil, which the article estimates at 6 to 30 years-worth of reserves of land-based uranium, if used to sustain 100% of world energy usage... Fission power can be stretched through production of plutonium in breeder reactors, but most of the world has decided that is an unsafe course to follow.
You're brushing nuclear power aside far too quickly. First of all, six years is an extremely conservative estimate. Secondly, the idea that nuclear could ever be set up to sustain 100% of energy production is unrealistic. Even if an aggresive program of replacement began now, fusion or large-scale solar power would be ready before even half of the world's power was produced using nuclear facilities. Third, the breeder reactor is not more dangerous due to risk of meltdown (an event that is practically impossible with the next-generation plants being developed) but because the plutonium could potentially be used in weapons production. While this may make breeder reactors a bad idea in many places, I think there are nations (i.e. declared nuclear powers - a significant chunk of the power demand) where putting in breeder reactors does not constitute much of an additional proliferation risk. And breeder reactors can stretch the fuel supply by a factor of twenty! In short, nuclear power has the resources to easily bridge the gap to some future date when fusion or solar power is ready.
...relocation of the CO2 production from end-users to central power plants, however. A recent set of large-scale engineering proposals involves "sequestration" of carbon dioxide; capture and removal to the deep ocean, or underground in old oil fields, etc. This will likely be a valuable short-term measure, but if nothing else is done the sequestration rates required to stablize global CO2 levels will be enormous, and we will run out of places to store it all safely.
This can and should be a valuable short-term measure. I fully support the idea of a "carbon tax" to encourage these measures. (A carbon tax would also give rise to greater investment in renewable energy sources; it's basic economics.)

The amount of required sequesterization is indeed massive, but if the technology is developed there are definitely places to put it. The most promising solution is to run a high-pressure pipeline to the bottom of the ocean, and let the CO2 dissolve into the deep ocean water. The rate of mixing is very low, so it will take tens of thousands of years for the majority of deep ocean water to work its way back up to the surface. Unless we use sequesterization as our primary solution to energy pollution problems for several thousand years, this is a viable solution. We're not going to run out of deep ocean!

One other space-based option for climate change mitigation is to directly block the sun with a mirror, placed at the L1 semi-stable point between Earth and Sun. A mirror the size of the United States would block about 2% of solar energy, roughly compensating for a doubling of atmospheric CO2. Of course the sun would appear to have a permanent spot right in the middle!
OK, this is totally off-topic from the rest of my comment, but... why not put a huge solar array at the L1 point? Seems like it kills two birds with one stone, and the array is never in the dark. This seems like a more simple solution than the distributed geosynchronous satellites. I assume the difficulties lie in constructing something that far away from Earth, and in beaming the power back?

-Adam

but the fish! (none / 0) (#314)
by FaRuvius on Thu Nov 14, 2002 at 02:52:35 PM EST

The most promising solution is to run a high-pressure pipeline to the bottom of the ocean, and let the CO2 dissolve into the deep ocean water. The rate of mixing is very low, so it will take tens of thousands of years for the majority of deep ocean water to work its way back up to the surface.
But won't that kill all the fishies that need O2 in the water?
----------------
FaRuvius
----------------

- "Flush Hard to Stay Strong" -
[ Parent ]

A Few Points (5.00 / 1) (#277)
by bjlhct on Tue Nov 12, 2002 at 10:18:17 PM EST

  1. There is a shitload of methane lying around. It's in ice, it's underground its everywhere. And with fuel cells it doesn't even pollute.
  2. Whatever happened to tube transportation? It seems like that would save a lot of energy. Especially if someone actually put some real money into doing research on it.
  3. And how about getting power from lightning? We can direct it to a specific spot. We have superconductors, etc. There are plenty of places with lots of storms. And there would be a side benefit of reducing lighting damage.
  4. There are alternatives to our current nuclear reactors. Breeders, etc. Lots of things.
  5. Why not a 40 MPG SUV? With camless systems, with lighter cars -no, that doesn't make them unsafe - as well as continuously variable transmissions...well, we could double the mileage of every vehicle in the US in a decade for ~$2500 more per car. That is a price worth paying.

*

kur0(or)5hin - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism

tube technology.. (none / 0) (#338)
by nullchar on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 06:50:13 PM EST

from now on we shall travel in tubes!

get the scientists working on the tube technology.. chop! chop!

re: tenacious D

[ Parent ]

A Little Bit Of Context (3.00 / 1) (#282)
by hairyian on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 12:58:04 AM EST

The end of the world has been nigh for so long I can't remember a day when I awoke and thought it couldn't possible come to an end /this/ day. The subject of energy production is a constant source of doom-laden stories of the end of the world, especially numerous predictions of "when the oil" will run out?

There will, at some point, be "no oil"... or, more precisely, that it won't be economically sensible to procure it by drilling using the latest whizz bang "drilling in knots, and then some" techniques. This is a time off in the future but has been a hell of a lot longer than wsa expected in the 1970's... basically due to an oversight in the predictions. When exprapolating to find the time that oil won't be sensible to obtain an assumption was typically made: that the ability of the oil companies to locate, drill, extract and transport the oil would not improve over time.

If the techniques had stayed at the level they were during the 1970's, then I'm sure we'd be out of oil around now as was predicted. New techniques increased the amount of oil 'economically accessible' by a large amount: once a new technique is divised then even old 'wasted' oil fields can be revisitted and, as far as I'm led to believe, yield as much as if not more as was taken in their original "straight down and pump" visitation.

There is another side of this... it's barely a century since the "oil addiction" began in earnest most spectacularly demonstrated by the rise in popularity by the "motor car". At the time of it's invention petrol (or gasonline to those on the other side of the pond) was a barely used waste product.

This world and our race on it will not suddently come to an end because we run out of oil. We've lived without it for years beyond count (at least, on my meagre 10 digits... including counting in binary) and, if necessary, can do so again.

We know we must change and perhaps we have a timetable for when that change might ultimately be required. We will adapt to the new circumstances and go on, or we'll try and stay as decadent as possible and be forced, by circumstance, to adapt!

The only question is whether we go through the transition gradually or kicking and screaming as we fight for the last scraps of cheap oil and irrationally try to sustain an unsustainable.

Ian Woods

Go forwards, not back. (none / 0) (#290)
by zakalwe on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 07:07:41 AM EST

This world and our race on it will not suddently come to an end because we run out of oil.
But the world as we know it might. Current society is built around the availability of cheap energy and transport. A lack of Oil would mean the end of many aspects of our modern society. Living standards would drop for all but the very rich, and mass poverty and deaths would result (Not even counting the inevitable 'Kicking and screaming'). More to the point, without Oil to bootstrap us, getting to that vital next technology. It would be a great shame if , 10 years from achieving Free Energy(tm) from fusion, solar or whatever technology, we stall out because lack of oil means we can't afford the research or construction construction costs (or even a society capable of performing such research or construction)

All this means that that the time to worry about our energy needs, and to start looking at future energy production is now. We can't afford to let it slide and hope that a miraculous savior technology will turn up just in time, or resigning ourselves to having to change.

[ Parent ]

Doom laden stories.. (none / 0) (#294)
by ajduk on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 09:13:17 AM EST

Thing is, that famous 1971 study ('Limits to growth') was exactly correct for oil, until OPEC got in the way.

One of the interesting things is the widespread belief that technology has increased the amount of oil avaliable to recover.  It has - for a small number of fields abandoned before the 1970s. EOR has never made more than a 5% difference in recoverable oil.  It's one of the great myths of oil that technology has done much to increase the amount of oil obtained.

It's worth pointing out that oil discovery peaked in 1964 - the amazing advances in technology over the last 2 decades have done nothing to stop the 90% drop off in discovery rate since then.

[ Parent ]

Its all about heat (3.50 / 2) (#286)
by 0piate on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 03:39:07 AM EST

This is something I've always wondered about with orbital solar power.

You get some solar farms going in orbit, happily beaming 2-5 TW a day down to an increasingly hungry planet. So just how much heat would those terrawatt strenth microwave beams add to the atmosphere? It dosen't matter how finely you modulate the beams, TWs of energy passing through the atmosphere is going to create it's own problems.

Another aspect of orbital solar that would add a lot of heat to the atmosphere would be the actual construction. Tonnes go up, tonnes come down. Tonnes go up, tonnes come down, etc. All of those launches and re-entries would add a LOT of heat to the atmosphere.

I guess you could solve that problem by knocking an asteroid (either a NEO or go out to the asteroid belt) into LEO. Mine what you need out of that, use the rest for a nice little space hotel. You'd just need to change/ignore some UN laws to make this option viable.

-Opiate

1000's of times less than extra CO2 (3.00 / 1) (#303)
by arthurpsmith on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 06:40:15 PM EST

The extra CO2 is expected to cause a net increase of 2% in heat trapped by Earth's atmosphere. That's about 10,000 TW, compared to the extra handful of TW from the direct energy effects. No comparison, really.

No sensible construction plan for space solar power uses Earth resources for the actual orbital power stations - NEO's or Moon resources are the only economical choice. The international treaty situation is ambiguous and could certainly help to be clarified - that's sort of a separate issue from the energy problem though.

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
Stupid question about microwave transmission (2.00 / 2) (#295)
by SbooX on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 09:49:55 AM EST

OK, here goes. I used to play Sim City 2000 a lot. I seem to remember that you could build microwave power places which would have power beamed to them from space. I think its source was space solar power, but I can't remember for sure. Sometimes the beam would miss the satilite reciever dish looking thingy and blow up a small part of the city. Could such a thing happen in the real world also? Yes, I know I'm a flaming idiot.

---

god is silly. MGL 272:36

not really (4.00 / 1) (#302)
by arthurpsmith on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 06:34:50 PM EST

Yes, the Sim City microwave power came from solar power satellites.

The thing is, those Sim City power stations were unrealistically small - typical plans for transmission involve a power density a fraction of the energy input from the Sun (directly overhead); the microwave receivers would have to be spread out over an area a few miles on a side to receive the few GW a typical power station would get. Typical plans also involve a response beam from the station to the satellite to guarantee focus, so the power would diffuse even more if for some reason it was off-focus. Would a second Sun in the sky for a few minutes cause things to blow up? It seems unlikely.

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
it's a legitimate question (none / 0) (#326)
by Wolf Keeper on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 01:08:11 PM EST

All you have to do is build up a radio transmitter between the satellite and the receiving station.  If the receiving station stops transmitting for any reason, the satellite stops sending the energy.  The monitoring process could be computerized.. if the satellite beam isn't hitting the receiving station dead center, send a stop energy command immediately.

Then the only concern is a terrorist takeover of the transmission and redirecting the satellite. It's still a major risk, but station security is much more manageable than having any day to day angle change in the satellite potentially burning millions of square miles of land to a crisp.  

[ Parent ]

An example in anime (none / 0) (#331)
by exZERO on Tue Nov 19, 2002 at 03:19:08 PM EST

Yes, anime. In "After War Gundam X", the titular Gundam X has a weapon called the "Satellite Cannon", which fires a massive energy shot, requiring far more energy than the machine's reactor could produce. To power this weapon, the Gundam X would draw a microwave beam of energy from a power plant located on the moon(this is due to some heavy deus ex machina involving some specialized jedi-style characters). At one point in the series, the Gundam X was able to use the microwave beam to superheat a lake and create a quick blockage between itself and the approaching enemies. This was the only time we saw a missed shot from the microwave beam, but it was nice for the producers to acknowledge the possibility of it happening.
<<Zero_out>>
[ Parent ]
Things look bad. And about economics and oil. (3.50 / 2) (#297)
by xtal on Wed Nov 13, 2002 at 12:10:55 PM EST

First off, I've seen a number of people say that when oil becomes too expensive to extract from the ground, then the economics of the situation will cause people to stop burning it. That's not the problem. The problem is that we are running out of oil that can be extracted at a net energy profit - that is, it takes some amount of energy X to extract a barrel of oil. When X exceeds the amount of energy IN a barrel of oil, it will eventually become impossible to remove it, even if you have all the money in the world. Unless you burn the money to get more energy. Energy - not money - is what drives our economy. It lets you do stuff!

The R&D required to find as convienent an alternative to oil is going to take decades and we may not have decades left. How much oil do you think there is? Look around you. Now think about India and China, who are only just beginning to increase demand. Changes in consumption will not help the situation if there is no easy replacement.

It's probably not fixable. Things are going to run very differently in the next few decades, but I'm glad to be alive now to enjoy the party. You get to see the cops show up to bust up the party, and don't forget the hangover. My retirement years are probably going to suck, but not as bad as they'd suck if my country was a net importer of petroleum and energy in general. (Canada).

Enjoy the party while it lasts. If the USA had any  incentive to fix this, they should put a $0.10/gal or more tax on petroleum products and then use that money to look at real alternatives. Kyoto is a joke, because there won't be a society resembling our current one to be bothered with saving. Aside from space based solar or fusion power, there are no alternatives that are energy dense enough to meet the needs for energy we have.  Nanotech and other advanced materials might allow breakthroughs. Nobody really put much heart into investigating the cold fusion successes (including  reproductions at government labs). There's just no  money to fund research, especially fringe research that might pop up some new possibilities.

..because you all know what the alternative is, right?

It's coal. Dirty, dirty coal. Probably several hundred years worth we can get at easy. Coal fields run right under the atlantic, almost halfway to Britian.

Do you know what coal will do? The sky will turn grey. And we'll liquify, process, and burn it all - because there will not be much choice.

Still, it's a great time to be alive. Good time to be an engineer, too :).

Steve

Nowhere close (none / 0) (#328)
by RyoCokey on Mon Nov 18, 2002 at 06:44:22 PM EST

The energy return for extracting oil is incredible compared to the amount of energy required for drilling. The reservoir pressure provides the upward force to carry the oil thousands of feet to the surface. Currently, the main constraints on oil production is supply and a gradually increasing demand.



"There is no reason why we should not have peaceful relations with the rest of the world if we cease playing the role of Meddlesome Mattie." - Sen. Art
[ Parent ]
Energy Return. (none / 0) (#333)
by ajduk on Thu Nov 21, 2002 at 07:56:48 AM EST

It's a case of yes and no.  In the early days of development of a field, reservoir pressure is enough, pure crude comes out and you get a big energy return ('Flush production').

Then, as the pressure drops, you have to start drilling wells to pump water under the reservoir, to keep the pressure up.  This takes energy, but the return is still pretty high.  You may also have to install down-hole pumps.  Gas produced with the oil will often be re-injected (i.e. Prudhole Bay) is there is no convienient pipeline.

Then, water will start to break through to the producing wells, so you start producing a mixture of oil and water.  To keep production up, more wells have to be drilled into the field, and facilities build to separate the oil and water.  Yet more energy.

It's worth pointing out that almost all the world's really big fields (>10 Billion barrels) are at least at this stage.

Next, you inject solvents like CO2 or Nitrogen under pressure, and use hydrofracturing and other EOR techniques to keep the oil moving.  Energy costs (as well and money) go up yet again.

Eventually, you end up producing >90% water, and the recovery of oil from this becomes uneconomic; the energy economy often falls below breakeven for the last 5% or so of the oil.

[ Parent ]

Ok, but he argued it differently (none / 0) (#334)
by RyoCokey on Sat Nov 23, 2002 at 11:36:43 AM EST

The statement which I replied to represented it as a sole matter of energy balance. I merely replied that economics never even let us get closed to an energy balance type of scenario.



"There is no reason why we should not have peaceful relations with the rest of the world if we cease playing the role of Meddlesome Mattie." - Sen. Art
[ Parent ]
The sensible way to do it (3.00 / 2) (#325)
by epepke on Sun Nov 17, 2002 at 08:14:57 PM EST

With full knowledge that it isn't going to happen, here's the sensible way to deal with energy needs.

Use relatively low-tech, distributed power to ameliorate the need for central power distribution. This means solar-assisted air conditioners, solar-assisted water heaters and house heaters, well established technologies since the 1930's. Kerosine-powered refrigeration is older than mechanical refrigeration. Also build dwellings appropriately for the climate; we've known how to do this for hundreds of years.

Use moderately high-tech lighting. It's incredible that lights are still mostly manual. Photodetectors and motion detectors are cheap.

You don't need to make a SUV that gets 45 MPG; just buy a car that gets 45 MPG. Make public transportation in major cities pleasant rather than disgusting and annoying. However, if you're looking for something to do with cars, look at doing research into all-ceramic engines.

Stop the current "recycling" fad and go back to reuse. Wash pop bottles and reuse them, as people used to. It's ironic that as recycling has become more popular, it is harder and harder to find egg cartons made out of rough paper mash instead of styrofoam.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


Our Energy Future: Fusion, Space Solar Power or both? | 338 comments (326 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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