FacebookTwitter
Hatrack River Forum Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » The Rabbit on Global Climate Change (warming, cooling, hockey stick, little ice age) (Page 2)

  This topic comprises 5 pages: 1  2  3  4  5   
Author Topic: The Rabbit on Global Climate Change (warming, cooling, hockey stick, little ice age)
Shawshank
Member
Member # 8453

 - posted      Profile for Shawshank   Email Shawshank         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
If you've got a big trust fund, it's your job to educate yourself as to exactly what the world needs to make it a better, safer place, and then donate your time and effort, and at least a little of your money.
you could change that to:
quote:
If you're alive, it's your job to educate yourself as to exactly what the world needs to make it a better, safer place, and then donate your time and effort, and at least a little of your money.
and it would still be true.

quote:
These kids are, in at least some cases, neither capable nor willing.
Plenty of middle and lower class kids are also be like this.
Posts: 980 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Juxtapose
Member
Member # 8837

 - posted      Profile for Juxtapose   Email Juxtapose         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Tatiana,

I urge you to take a look at some of the content in Lyrhawn's green energy thread, if you haven't already. I think you're dismissing a lot of the potential in renewable energy.

Posts: 2907 | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Tatiana
Member
Member # 6776

 - posted      Profile for Tatiana   Email Tatiana         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Juxtapose, there's a lot of potential in renewable energy, but look at the numbers. My nuclear plant makes 1200 MW, day in and day out pretty reliably. Renewables make a fraction of that, and even the capacity they do have they rarely hit 100% on. Wind farms usually generate on average less than 30% of their full capacity, and the peak time for wind generation is late at night, when the demand for power is low. Solar requires sunny days, of course, and doesn't generate anything at night, and very little on cloudy days. Geothermal only works in a few places like Iceland or Yellowstone, where it's readily available to be tapped in on. Wave and tide renewables only work on the coast. Hydroelectric is quite useful, but only so much rain falls. We're still going to need power plants, no matter what. You can't power factories and cities with only renewables.

I think one reason people are reluctant to admit global warming is true is because the things we can do about it are so expensive. Sequestering CO2 at the power plant and burying it is one option, but it's very costly. Can we afford to make electricity three times more expensive, say, if that's what it takes?

I'm all for planning ahead, spending what we need to spend, and doing the right thing for long-term viability. I'm all about averting human extinction, and that takes intelligence and restraint. But I don't hear people making viable proposals for what we can do to reverse global warming. I don't doubt it's happening, but I don't know how we can chart a course ahead that slows it down or stops it. That's what I'm asking for.

Do you think it's feasible that people should give up air conditioning completely, say? Refrigeration? How do we keep food from going bad? Elevators? What do we do with the tall buildings in big cities? Shut them down? Paper mills? What are we going to write on, or stock the printer with? Silicon chip manufacturers? What will we do when we need a new laptop? Textile mills? What will we wear? Even the greenest of green consumer that I see still needs a factory to make their bicycle. They need trucks to bring their food to the local store. They don't live a life of subsistence farming, which would decrease their energy use substantially. They still use products and systems like the municipal water works, the electrical grid, public roads, shipment of goods, and so on which all use a lot of energy.

Global warming is a bad thing. I do believe that. But how, exactly, do we stop?

Posts: 6245 | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Juxtapose
Member
Member # 8837

 - posted      Profile for Juxtapose   Email Juxtapose         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, I had a whole long response written, but I wasn't at all happy with it. So, I'll try to keep with major points.

Technology improvements will continue to increase the viability, and decrease the cost of renewable energy. Better energy storage will aid this process. Our end goal should be an energy grid that runs primarily, then entirely of renewable energy. Nuclear energy will be important in the meantime since its costs are relatively stable. Nuclear power will ultimately be unideal because of water shortages as a larger area around the equator dries up.

As for the comforts you list, some we'll be able to keep, some we'll be able to maintain in limited ways, and likely, some we'll have to do without. This isn't so much a choice to be made, as I see it, but an economic inevitability. When energy costs continue to rise, people will have to decide how to adjust their thermostats.

In all honesty, I don't see us stopping the climate change. We'll ride it out and adapt as best we can, the markets will adjust, and hopefully, not too many people will wind up below water. But I am feeling a little pessimistic right now, so who knows.

Posts: 2907 | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Even ignoring GlobalWarming, renewable energy will become a necessity within the context of a single human lifetime.

Using known reserves of 4.7million tonnes, the world has 85years of uranium left to fuel conventional nuclear powerplants at the current level of use. Extending the reserve to the 35million tonnes that might exist, the world would have 350/47th of 85years or ~633years of currently exploitable uranium reserves.

In 2004, the world's nuclear powerplants produced a total of ~2.75trillion kiloWatthours of electricity.
The US produced ~20% of its ~3800billion kWh total or 0.76trillion kWh through nuclear powerplants. Make it 0.75trillion kWh or 3/11ths of the world total just to keep it simple.
If the entire rest of the world were to quit using uranium as fuel, the US alone would burn that hypothetical world supply in 11/3rds times 633years or 2321years at the current rate of US consumption. And if the US were to produce all of it's electricity through nuclear power, it would have to burn 5 times more per year. So the hypothetical world supply would last 2321years divided by 5 or ~464years.

Now let's play nice. Every person in the world is entitled to use the same amount of electricity as an average American. And it's all going to be the "clean energy" produced by nuclear powerplants.
The US population of 0.3billion divided by world population of 6.6billion is 1/22nd of the total. So that hypothetical uranium supply sufficient for 464years if it were used by the US alone would be burnt in 1/22nd of 464years or ~21years if it were shared fairly with the rest of the world.

An average Western*European uses ~40% of the electricity as an average American to maintain a similar lifestyle. So providing everyone with the amount used by the average European would extend that 21years by 2.5 times to ~53years.

Run the numbers on the highest non-fantasy guesstimates of the fossil fuel reserves assuming everyone uses as much as an average American or an average European instead of assuming the current rate of consumption, and you'll get similar results.

In other words, there ain't no choice other than renewable energy for the people who are gonna be around in 50years or so.
The FirstWorld can't keep the ThirdWorld mired in poverty forever.

* Referring to those living in the nations that were never a part of the SovietBloc.

[ March 23, 2008, 03:34 PM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
steven
Member
Member # 8099

 - posted      Profile for steven   Email steven         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
"Using known reserves of 4.7million tonnes, the world has 85years of uranium left to fuel conventional nuclear powerplants at the current level of use."

Well there goes that.

Posts: 3285 | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
fugu13
Member
Member # 2859

 - posted      Profile for fugu13   Email fugu13         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
You neglect a part of the first article you link, aspectre:

quote:
Based on the 2004 nuclear electricity generation rate of demand the amount is sufficient for 85 years, the study states. Fast reactor technology would lengthen this period to over 2500 years.
So, lets see, over 2500 years with just the 4.7 million tons . . . with 35 million tons we'd handily break fifteen thousand years, and that's with a level of technology we have now. Of course, energy usage will increase. I doubt the uranium would last another millennium, personally, but that's plenty to give us a handy buffer.

Instead of "there ain't no choice other than renewable energy", there ain't no choice other than renewable energy or modern reactor technology instead of reactor technology decades old.

Nuclear energy is a sound technology, and one suitable for economically efficient usage for hundreds or even thousands of years to come.

Posts: 15770 | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
rivka
Member
Member # 4859

 - posted      Profile for rivka   Email rivka         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
Nuclear energy is a sound technology, and one suitable for economically efficient usage for hundreds or even thousands of years to come.

Amen.
Posts: 32919 | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
steven
Member
Member # 8099

 - posted      Profile for steven   Email steven         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The more I hear about nuclear, the more I think it's the way we had better go, until solar cell and/or battery tech and/or energy transmission tech get a lot better.
Posts: 3285 | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Tatiana
Member
Member # 6776

 - posted      Profile for Tatiana   Email Tatiana         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I do agree with fugu, rivka, and steven.
Posts: 6245 | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Shawshank
Member
Member # 8453

 - posted      Profile for Shawshank   Email Shawshank         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The only problem I really have with nuclear power is nuclear waste. What do we do with it? How much nuclear waste is actually created? Can we just ship it off into space?
Posts: 980 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
steven
Member
Member # 8099

 - posted      Profile for steven   Email steven         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
For me at least, the hope is to be able to create enough cheap power to keep our society going long enough so that we can develop the tech necessary to either neutralize the waste, or store it safely either here or on the moon or elsewhere. Not to preach, but if we're spending all our time/money on expensive power versus cheap power, we probably won't develop the necessary tech as fast. Of course, I may be full of it with that assumption. Either way, I'm pretty sure that we'll have the tech to deal with the waste within two or three hundred years. Hopefully.
Posts: 3285 | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Bokonon
Member
Member # 480

 - posted      Profile for Bokonon           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Just remember, that newer, efficient breeder reactors raise the risk (even if only slightly) of weapons-grade nuclear material proliferation. It's as clean of a win-win as some think.

-Bok

EDIT: And in the end, even if it will take millenia to use it up, switch over to all, or mainly nuclear without also investing in more renewable potential sources just means we're passing the buck to our descendants. Which is part of what has gotten us into this mess to begin with. So "we" will ultimately have to cut consumption, through efficiencies or lifestyle changes, or we'll find new ways to power the stuff Tatiana talks about.

Posts: 6996 | Registered: Nov 1999  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jhai
Member
Member # 5633

 - posted      Profile for Jhai   Email Jhai         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I found this blog article on nuclear energy to be very interesting & informative. The blog, which focuses on fighting bad science, is in general quite interesting as well.
Posts: 2409 | Registered: Sep 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/23/business/23how.html?em&ex=1206504000&en=545585f39cd180f0&ei=5087%0A
Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Tatiana
Member
Member # 6776

 - posted      Profile for Tatiana   Email Tatiana         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Bokonon, there's a new fuel cycle for the fast reactors that doesn't generate weapons grade material at any point in the cycle.

For some reason the Clinton administration killed research on these fast reactors when they're the most promising thing we have for the next generation of reactors (the generation after this new set we're building now). We really need to start it back up.

As for waste, the reason our wastes now are so dangerous is that we only burn about 5% of the energy in the fuel before we call it waste. I think it's actually quite fortuitous that we haven't glassified and buried the spent fuel we have now because it can be reprocessed so that we can get another 94% out of it for powering the fast reactors and leave only 1% left. The waste from that cycle will only be dangerous for 500 years, a much more reasonable length of time.

Our spent fuel we have now, if buried, would be dangerous for 10,000 years or so, a length of time during which there's simply no way to predict for certain what will happen to it geologically or sociologically or whatever.

I read this great article about all this stuff in Scientific American a few years back. And I read all the information on the site for the now-cancelled research. I'll see if I can find it again.
Here's one from the DOE. Generation 4 nuclear technology site. Sodium cooled fast reactor.

We should be pouring money into this research.

Posts: 6245 | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Bokonon
Member
Member # 480

 - posted      Profile for Bokonon           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Tatiana, from what I understand, it may not process it all the way to weapons-grade, but some of the by-products are steps closer to it. Am I mistaken?

-Bok

EDIT: Also, I am not an opponent of nuclear energy. However, I think too much of the rhetoric appears to make it out as an either/or situation with renewables, when we shouldn't stop research/using either.

Posts: 6996 | Registered: Nov 1999  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I've been off camping for the past few days and just saw this thread.

I'm very flattered.

Thanks!!

Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I should also add that in reading through some of my old posts, I'm embarrassed at how many typos I've found.

I'm a very bad proof reader. I can't see errors in my own writing unless I've let it sit for at least several days.

Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Tatiana
Member
Member # 6776

 - posted      Profile for Tatiana   Email Tatiana         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Bokonon:
Tatiana, from what I understand, it may not process it all the way to weapons-grade, but some of the by-products are steps closer to it. Am I mistaken?

I'm not an expert on fuel reprocessing, but from what I understand, it wouldn't be too close. Fast reactors can burn fuel that's much less enriched than the thermal reactors we have now.

I wish SciAm articles were available for free on the web after a couple of years or something. They have such great articles, but they're so inaccessible. Here's the article, but it's not free. [Frown]

Posts: 6245 | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Tatiana
Member
Member # 6776

 - posted      Profile for Tatiana   Email Tatiana         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Jhai, I read that blog you posted. That was a great entry. From the same blog, This illustration of different generation amounts and how to compare them is really great.

[ March 27, 2008, 12:59 PM: Message edited by: Tatiana ]

Posts: 6245 | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Boothby171
Member
Member # 807

 - posted      Profile for Boothby171   Email Boothby171         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Can anyone point me to articles or discussions regarding the "Not Mankind's Fault!" premise that "Earth's temperature rise PRECEDES the rise in CO2"? In other words, that CO2 LAGS behind temperature rise (is caused by it, rather than being the cause of it).

I'm embroiled in a similar debate over at TBD.COM, and I cannot find any good refutations of this premise.

--Steve

Posts: 1862 | Registered: Mar 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Boothby, This a confusing issue.

The records we have from ice core data, do indeed show that over the last roughly half a million years, following each ice age temperature increases in antarctica have begun about 800 years before rises in atmospheric greenhouse gases. But in those natural cycles, the total increase in temperature occurs over a period of about 5000 years. From this data, we know that the increase in atmospheric CO2 and methane did not initiate the end of the ice ages but very likely contributed to the warming observed during the later 4200 years of the warming period.

This isn't at all surprising since we know that there are many factors besides greenhouse gases that influence climate such as changes in the earth's orbit, slowdown of ocean currents and so forth. What's more, no one has seriously proposed that previous ice ages ended because people were burning fossils fuels and thereby increasing the greenhouse gas composition of the atmosphere.

The best explanation we have for this data is that toward the end of each ice age something (possibly changes in the earth's orbit that increase the length of the southern hemisphere summer) cause the temperatures in the antarctic to begin to rise. Because rising temperatures decrease the solubility of CO2 and methane in the oceans, this leads to a rise in atmospheric CO2. The 800 year lag corresponds well with the time it takes the oceans to turn over (i.e. the time it takes for deep ocean water to recirculate to the surface). Because of the greenhouse effect, the rise in CO2 cause a positive feedback effect which amplifies the warming trend which in turn causes the release of more CO2 from the deep oceans and as a result we see a slow gradual warming over a period of several thousand years.

Its not clear what relevance this data has to our current situation. During the last century, increases in CO2 and methane in the atmosphere have preceded the increasing temperatures. The changes we are observing now are occurring on a time scale hundreds of times faster than anything observed in the ice core record and numerous studies have confirmed through a variety of methods that these changes are the result of human activity (burning fossil fuels, industrial agriculture etc.)

If this ice core data has any relevance to our current situation, it should be one of extreme concern because it suggests that the oceans and permafrost regions of the earth are likely to react in a way that reinforces and amplifies the effects of human activity. If the greenhouse gases we are emitting cause the oceans to start releasing stored CO2 and methane, we could very well have initiated a runaway effect that we are helpless to stop.

Although I should add, that there is no evidence that we have hit that point of no return yet. The possibility of its existence should be a strong motivator to act and act now and not an excuse for hopelessness and inaction.

Here are some links


One from Science (very technical)
and a less technical summary

[ March 27, 2008, 02:29 PM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Lyrhawn
Member
Member # 7039

 - posted      Profile for Lyrhawn   Email Lyrhawn         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Rabbit -

I fixed some of the typos when I reposted your answers in my little FAQ postings, I didn't think you'd mind. I don't think anyone would fault you though, given your attentiveness to responding to questions and the amount of information you provide. I always assumed you just typed the answers really fast and made a couple tiny mistakes here and there, which I don't find a big deal.

Tatiana -

In what I imagine will be Round V or VI of our every other month debates on renewable energy, I'll get to your arguments in a moment. I haven't been reading this thread but, there are a couple things that jump out at me immediately.

Posts: 21897 | Registered: Nov 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Lyrhawn
Member
Member # 7039

 - posted      Profile for Lyrhawn   Email Lyrhawn         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Alright,

First off, I only really have two problems that come to mind off the top of my head with nuclear power. The first is that, much like oil, tying our national energy production to nuclear puts us at the whim of other nations. We import most of our nuclear fuel, from Russia mostly I believe, but Australia is a major world producer, I'm not sure how much we get from them, but the point is that we don't have our own domestic supply sufficient enough to produce all our own power. Perhaps that's something that could be mitigated with new technology, but we'll see.

The other concern is one you're starting to hear more about, and will continue to hear a lot about for years to come: It's water. Nuclear power (and for that matter coal fired plants) requires massive, massive amounts of water. Much of that water is rained back down again, but that water can end up literally hundreds of miles away from the area where it was taken from, which makes it more or less meaningless once it leaves the watershed area of the source it came from. The power plant that feeds Atlanta had to shut down briefly this past summer, and other reactors in drought stricken areas have had to as well as water supply dwindles, and cities and even states are fighting about who has a right to dwindling supplies. This is a sign of things to come, and it's best that we prepare for it now rather than base our entire national energy supply on a finite resource, and in a couple decades, in many parts of the country, that resource will be water. How long will it be before we can only build these plants on coasts and they'll have to be built in pairs? One for electrical generation and the other to run the desalinisation plants because they use too much water.

SoCal has had their water supplies cut from upstream sources, the governor of Georgia is talking about redefining the border of Tennessee and Georgia to get access to the Chattanooga River while Alabama and Florida cry foul about downriver releases from dams. Even the Great Lakes region, which controls the grand majority of the US' freshwater supply has strict laws about how far water can travel from the Great Lakes watershed areas so there is no water loss, especially since water levels in Lake Superior last year dropped to record levels. There is now mounting pressure to enact laws supporting the Great Lakes Compact, to protect the Great Lakes from drought stricken areas that are already clamoring for pipelines from the Great Lakes to their areas. America is quickly approaching a water crisis, but you won't hear about it anywhere on the news. Snowmelt water in many areas is going to be nonexistant or greatly reduced in the coming years, and rainfall is decreasing as well. And all those factories that Tatiana was talking about earlier as having to shut down if we use renewables (I'll get to THAT later) might have to shut down as well if we have to choose between powering a nuclear plant and running a factory. Everything we do requires water, and nuclear power requires more water than any of them. Until we can come up with a way to reduce the water use in nuclear power, I remain skeptical of its longterm viability. Other than that, I'm not as concerned about accidents and the like.

Now, renewable energy. First off, I think it's best to cover issues related to transmission and distribution. Switching the nation to a modern HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) T&D system would not only greatly improve current electrical distribution and minimize transmission loss, it would also make renewable energy much more cost effective. Why? Because certain kinds of renewable energy work best in certain places, and less well in others. An HVDC line connecting the entire US would mean here in Michigan, we could purchase clean, cheap solar from California without significant cost increases because of new converters and HVDC lines which dramatically reduce power loss over long distances. I think they are necessary not only for long term viability of renewables, but the US power grid is badly in need of an update anyway, so we might as well do it right.

Each kind of renewable energy has certain flaws and benefits, but technological advances are quickly eliminating the flaws. Yes it's true that wind power is most effective at night, but that doesn't mean it is useless during the day. The wind still blows during the day, and at least one technology is currently being tested that will make wind power a load bearing source: Air compression. For the air compression technology, the wind turbines at night would turn generators that compress air, which could be released during the day when more power is needed to turn a generator and produce power on demand. There are currently at least two test bed demonstrators under construction. Other than that? Wind power is only getting bigger, better and more efficient. Larger turbines are being built and tested at higher efficiencies thanks in part to the incorporation of Mag-Lev technology in the process to reduce resistance. While only a few years ago, 1.5MW turbines were the best you could buy, GE's best seller is a 3MW turbine now, and there are 5MW and 7.5MW turbines in use as test beds currently in Germany and Scandinavia (I can't remember which of the three countries has it). Wind power is also being tested out in small scale applications, like small fans and turbines that can be attached to your home or placed in the backyard that could partially, or in some places entirely, replace your home's electrical needs.

Solar for many is still the great hope of renewable enthusiasts. There are many different forms of solar, and I won't go into detail on all of them right now, but most of them currently have submitted for licenses to produce 500MW+ power plants in the west, generally in some part of Nevada/Arizona/California desert. Billions of dollars from private investors are currently pouring into the industry. To give a brief overview of the different kinds of solar power:

Photovoltaics is probably what you are most familiar with. These are the panels that take sunlight and directly turn it into power. Even PV systems come in many different flavors, the specifics of which I don't know off the top of my head, but it has to do with the composition of the panels themselves, and recently developments have brought the cost of some solar, like nano-film, to near cost parity with fossil fuels, and that's before a major power plant has even been built, though many are under construction.

There's trough solar plants, which use mirrors to heat tubes of oil or some other liquid which move back and forth and drive a piston to power a generator. These were big back in the 70's and 80's but collapsed when government subsidies dried up after the oil crisis ended. They are making a bit of a comeback now.

Another big possibility is solar towers, where fields of giant super reflective mirrors concentrate the sun's rays onto a water tower where the water is boiled and drives a regular steam engine, just like nuclear power would, only with a totally different heat source.

And then there's solar concentrators, which are more small scale. I've seen a couple designs, one of which uses a sterling engine, and the other which uses a smaller array of mirrors to focus the sun's rays on a ultra efficient solar panel, which are far more expensive but would also get to be a lot smaller since so much sunlight is focused on them. These too are reaching cost parity with fossil fuels.

All of these can work through some cloud cover, though optimal conditions are obviously cloudless sunlight. Obviously the best place in the United States for solar power is going to be the southwest, but solar systems are operating for profit as far north as Canada, which surprised me, but it still happens. In the Green Energy News thread on one of the more recent pages there is a map on Google Earth that will actually tell you how much power you can expect to generate from solar or wind given your spot in the United States, and I was surprised to find some areas where it's still pretty good like the Northeast.

But for those concerned with power generation at night, there's a technology currently being tested at at least one solar power plant that would use molten salt as a kind of battery. The idea is that excess power could heat the salt, which would stay hot for hours after the sun has stopped shining, and could be used to power turbines for electrical consumption at night. It's being tested now, and scientists think it will be cost effective to install such a system at some solar sites.

Wind and Solar are the two biggies. They have gotten the most acclaim, the most media focus and the most research dollars, and while many are calling for the generation of power to power the whole US from Solar alone, which is technically feasible, I think a mixture of many different forms is what we'll need in the end. I'll cover geothermal and the various hydropowered renewables later. If you don't want to wait, I've probably posted this same post, slightly rewritten, a half dozen times, and I'm sure you can find it elsewhere. But I'll be back later to finish it off.

Posts: 21897 | Registered: Nov 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'd add a few more to your list of problems with Nuclear Power.

1. Despite repeated promises to the contrary, new nuclear power is by far the most expensive option.

2. Nuclear power is not a renewable resource. Without breeder technology, the supply of nuclear fuel could run out in as little as 50 years.

3. No one has successfully implemented breeder technology for commercial power production despite significant efforts (all outside the US). Although their are many potential positives, there are some significant technological hurdles to be overcome before breeder technology can be used for power production.

4. Building new nuclear power plants is a slow process. Even using established technology (not breeders) it would be more than 10 years before we can bring new nuclear facilities on line.

5. When you consider the full cradle to grave life cycle, greenhouse emissions from nuclear are not zero. Significant fossil fuels are consumed in the mining and refining of the fuel, construction of the plants, disposal of the fuel and decommissioning of the plants.

Overall through, nuclear is a lot better than coal in most every respect. I do think we need to consider it as part of the solution but it is ONLY part and possibly not even a major part.

I'm very concerned that people are hyping nuclear as a panacea, and it just isn't.

Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Tatiana
Member
Member # 6776

 - posted      Profile for Tatiana   Email Tatiana         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Oh, Rabbit and Lyrhawn, every one of your points is addressed in the blog post that Jhai linked to above. Do go and read it!
Posts: 6245 | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Tatiana, I taught a class last year on alternative energy for which I did a lot of research on most of the available options. That blog is as bad and biased as the science it criticizes.

For example, it starts off by saying that wind and solar can only ever provide for a tiny fraction of our power. Wind is already providing 20% of the electricity used in Denmarkand 12% of what's used in Germany. Those aren't "tiny fractions".

And for example, the blog makes two big errors when it talks about the cost of nuclear power. First, it blaims the high costs of nuclear reactors solely on activists but nuclear power is expensive everywhere in the world not just in the US where activists up the price. Second, that once a nuclear plant is built its almost free to run. The problem is that, as I'm sure you know as an engineer, the costs of building the plant have to be recovered over the working life of the plant. So the price consumers have to pay includes both the capital costs and the operating costs unless one or the other is subsidized. That's why nuclear power costs more per kilowatt hour than any other source of electricity.

The principle that the cost per kilowatt hour must include both capital costs and operating costs is true for wind and solar too. Heck the operating cost are an even smaller percentage of the total cost for wind and solar than they are for nuclear.

Like I've said before, I am not anti-nuclear energy. I think it is part of the solution. But I am worried that pro-nuclear groups neglect many of the real draw backs to the technology giving people the impression that is the panacea for all our ills. It isn't.

I could very well say the same thing about wind energy and solar energy. They also have problems that advocates ignore. There is no one solution out that to solve the problem. The solution is going to take everything we've got with conservation and improved efficiency at the very top of the list.

[ March 28, 2008, 10:44 PM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I really wish advocates for the various technologies would stop bad mouthing each other and painting unrealistically rosie pictures about their side.

This problem is big enough that we need to used all the options. The focus need to be on finding the right niche for each new technology rather than seeking a one panacea for our problems or trying to force a one size fits all solution to work.

Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A temperature map of Antarctic warming along with Wunderground's brief article on the WilkinsIceShelf collapse.
Basicly a chunk of sea-ice is peeling off of Antarctica to become an iceberg about the size of NorthernIreland.

Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Lyrhawn
Member
Member # 7039

 - posted      Profile for Lyrhawn   Email Lyrhawn         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
And by the by, Tatiana, that blog said absolutely nothing about water use. And it's badmouthing of renewable energy right off the bat killed part of their credibility for me. If I were to use their logic, I could argue that billions have been spent on nuclear power in the last couple decades, but with no new power plants built, it's all just been a waste of money. The answer is that it all went into research, and that's where large chunks of the moeny for renewables has been going, because most of the newest renewable tech is really cutting edge top of the line stuff, and it's not in practice in large scale in the US yet really, though it is in Germany, various parts of Scandinavia, and parts of Spain. China has really upped their production of wind turbines too, to a fairly prodigious rate actually. I'd add also that Britain has recently decided to built a vast array of wind turbines around all the British Isles that will provide thousands upon thousands of megawatts of power. I can't remember the exact numbers, but a healthy percentage of their power.

But that reminds me, I've forgotten to cover the rest of my renewables, mainly: Geothermal and Hydropower.

Geothermal, though it's a tried and true power source that, unlike other renewables provides constant, 24 hour a day power, is really underrepresented in America. It powers 90% of Iceland, a tiny island nation perfectly suited for geothermal production. But it's really underrepresented in America. It's true that most of the really good spots for Geothermal power are in the West, though not exclusively limited to Yellowstone. But recent estimations I've read say that geothermal power could potentially power the entire United States at current consumption levels. I remain skeptical of that promise until EGS (Enhanced Geothermal Systems) becomes a more thoroughly researched technology. EGS is something that the US renewable energy research lab and private industry are just starting to really dig into. Part of the basic ideas, as I understand it, is that holes are drilled deep down into the ground to locate hot spots but where there isn't any water. Hot spots with water is how geothermal is produced in other places. So they drill, introduce water, and presto, instant geothermal power. Until recently it was believed to be untenably expensive, but recent technological advancements have made the drilling and the spotting of potential drill sites much cheaper. Geothermal and investment dollars is really starting to take off, but it's a decade away from serious market penetration I think (with the exception of the really good hot spots using existing technology, those are fine for production now). There are hundreds if not thousands of GIGAwatts of geothermal power alone out there waiting to be tapped. I continue to marvel at the insistance of some people that renewables as a team, let alone individually, can only provide a sliver of our total power. Reality and theory both disagree.

And that bring us to both the oldest and the newest renewable technologies: Hydropower. You're all familiar with traditional hydropower, dams, which is just like it sounds, big dams hold back a bunch of water and it is released as needed to provide power via generators. The problem with this form of power is that it's generally devastating to local enviornments, and displaces large numbers of people, to say nothing of the damage it does to downstream ecosystems.

Two new forms of power are starting to really look promising in this field, and they are tidal and wave power. Wave power is being harnessed via two competing designs. One is your basic buoy, with a piston, and generator on board that bobs in the waves and sends power ashore via cables. Test demonstrators have just recently begun trials off the coast of Seattle I believe. The other form are long snakelike rows of tubes that I believe almost work like hydraulics, and the waves push them back and forth and force liquids to move in these tubes and they drive a generator (I'm not an engineer and this is from memory). Britain has a test "farm" of them working in the North Sea currently, but for a nation with ample coast line (eg, AMERICA), they could possible be a boon for electrical generation.

Tidal power is using river currents to drive turbines, like underwater wind turbines almost. Some areas, like San Francisco Bay, have Tidal capacity estimated in gigawatts of power, though I'm not sure on the specific number. Still, as Tatiana says, that's the kind of power you need to power cities. Tidal power, like Wave power, is still in its infancy, and it's only really just being explored and tested now. But it's a good look at what is on the horizon.

Everything I've talked about thus far is just large commercial scale power for mass generation. It says nothing at all about the pontetial lynch pin role I see in the future for Microgeneration, the idea that factories, businesses and homes can produce their own power through upgrades made to their homes that take them partially or entirely off the grid, even providing their own power to power their cars when they buy electric over having to stop at the gas station. This could drastically lower the demand for energy from large scale power generation and allow renewables an even faster rise to prominance.

Our energy supply right now, in some ways is too rigid. We need a new focus on tougher regulations for new building construction, making all buildings LEED certified for new construction, mandatory. There should be a drive to retrofit old buildings to get them LEED certified, which will also drastically reduce energy demand. Reducing demand via efficiency upgrades, small scale generation via microgeneration (which is exploding in sales in some areas around the country), and new uses of large scales I think will really redefine the way we look at energy production in the next 50 years if we can really embrace a new integrated and improved energy framework for the country.

Posts: 21897 | Registered: Nov 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Some thoughts on fusion powerplant research, and handheld fusion.

[ April 06, 2008, 05:02 AM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Brief summary inregard to the effects of biofuel imports on ecosystems in PDF.
Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The start of the 2008 Arctic icemelt season.
The effect of carbonated oceans on sea life.

[ April 07, 2008, 09:08 AM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
BannaOj
Member
Member # 3206

 - posted      Profile for BannaOj   Email BannaOj         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Lyrhawn, while I'm for it, in principle, I'm not sure I agree entirely on your perspective about the US having "ample coast line" for harnessing wave power and/or tidal power. I think our "costal shore line" linear feet compared to our population, is a drastically different ratio than that in the U.K. We are a significant chunk of a continent, they are an island nation. While every little bit helps, there is definitely a different scale.
Posts: 11264 | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Lyrhawn
Member
Member # 7039

 - posted      Profile for Lyrhawn   Email Lyrhawn         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
We have thousands of miles of coastline. By any definition that's ample coastline. Is that enough to power the whole country? Of course not. Is it enough to power a couple cities along the coast? Eventually, probably yeah. Does that make it worthwhile? Yep.

You're talking about scales and coastline versus population and such. You're right, we are talking about a different scale, but, that dosn't mean we don't have ample resources, it just means that our needs are so drastically high that even ample resources are dwarfed, which is why we diversify. It's a new technology, we still don't know exactly how much power we can hope to get from it.

In summary: I don't disagree about the scale or ratio. It's not a silver bullet, we don't have silver bullets, but we do have a quiver of arrows that put together might solve the problem, it's just one or two more arrows.

As recently as a couple days ago there was a story about the gigawatts of power that we could get from putting tidal power in the Mississippi. It was a few gigawatts, enough for more than a hundred thousand homes to be powered. I'd be willing to bet that combined with wind power, all of Michigan could be powered from tidal, wave and wind power on the Great Lakes, and probably big chunks of other GL states. Coast incluces inland lakes and rivers too btw.

It's new! And news will be posted in the Green Energy thread as it progresses.

Posts: 21897 | Registered: Nov 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
In summary: I don't disagree about the scale or ratio. It's not a silver bullet, we don't have silver bullets, but we do have a quiver of arrows that put together might solve the problem, it's just one or two more arrows.
Exactly! Too many people are looking at this as though any new technology has to be the panacea that will satisfy all our needs. If you look at the problem that way, then it truly is insoluble. What we must do is look at each new technology and identify the niche to which it is best suited. Then we need to identify niches that we can't fill and start looking for creative ideas to meet those needs.

We have to start thinking outside the box. For example we have to start looking beyond "what are we going to put in our gas tanks" and thinking about how will we transport people and goods. Or perhaps even thinking about how we can restructure our communities so that people and goods don't need to be transported as far.

Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
twinky
Member
Member # 693

 - posted      Profile for twinky   Email twinky         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The Great Global Warming Swindle: a case of mistaking correlation for causation.
Posts: 10886 | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
http://discovermagazine.com/2008/may/03-biofuel-farming-looks-to-be-an-environmental-disaster
Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by twinky:
The Great Global Warming Swindle: a case of mistaking correlation for causation.

Great link twinky!! As a long time student of climate change science, I am perpetually amused at how frequently the charges made by vocal opponents of the greenhouse theory are far more accurate descriptions of their own theories.
Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Lyrhawn
Member
Member # 7039

 - posted      Profile for Lyrhawn   Email Lyrhawn         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by aspectre:
http://discovermagazine.com/2008/may/03-biofuel-farming-looks-to-be-an-environmental-disaster

You're right. More and more information is coming out about the potential disastrous effects that a corn and soy based ethanol program is hasving on the world. The price of corn and soy is skyrocketing, which not only leads to higher food prices, but it rapidly increases the amount of deforestation in the world's rainforests, primarily in South America, where an area the side of Rhode Island is deforested DAILY. Other problems? Corn ethanol uses more fuel in the growing, transporting, and refining of ethanol than we actually get out of it! It's an inherently wasteful process. Sugarcane ethanol is much better, but even that pales in comparison to some of the newer technologies that are coming out.

Bottom line: As I've said a dozen times, and now with more information to prove it than ever: Corn ethanol is the devil. I'm going to broaden that to all food crops. Food crop based ethanol is the devil.

Your article though doesn't do nearly enough to talk about the new stuff in the pipeline, and in some cases stuff that is already online and working. Wood waste (a woodwaste cellulosic plant just got funding in Canada) is just one of many new cellulosic ethanol ideas being worked on. Several non-food crop sources like prarie grasses, sorgrum and a few others I can't remember the names of, are being discussed, because they can be grown on depleted tobacco fields where food crops can't currently be grown. And there are also enzymes being worked on to break down everyday trash from dumps into ethanol as well, including using the digestive enzymes of termites in the process.

But the really REALLY promising one? Algae oil. A lot of researchers right now are trying to find the absolute best variant of algae that will grow super fast and provide the most oil, and they are trying to figure out the optimal level of nutrients, sunlight and temperature, but a lot of that is just tweaking at this point, there's already a 4.4 million gallon per year plant operating in Texas. And much more advanced versions are on the way soon.

The big difference between these new technologies and the old one? Well there are three really. 1. Corn, sugar and soy are all food crops. New technologies use non food crop farm land and non food crops, much of it is even waste products. 2. The yields are insanely higher. Corn gets less than a dozen gallons per acre, soybeans, the highest yield for food crops, nets 48 gallons per acre per year. Much of the rainforests of Indonesia are being cleared right now for palm oil production, which might net 630 gallons per acre per year. Algae? At current technology they thing they might yield 8,000 to 10,000 gallons per acre per year. That's insanely higher. Valcent Technologies thinks they have a process that might yield, 33,000 gallons per acre per year, which could replace the entire fuel supply for the US using area the size of Maryland for production. 3. The fuel to create these megaethanol producers? Carbon dioxide, the big bad of the emissions world. Often algae plants are built next to greenhouse gas emitting power plants, and they capture the CO2 and pump it into ponds or (more advanced) tubes which are stacked or arrayed to get more sunlight.

Algae, unlike current sources, actually provides the hope that some day we could be fuel independent from oil. Otherwise? The entire corn production of the entire USA would barely dent our yearly fuel consumption. We're talking vastly different orders of scale.

So yes, food crop ethanol is evil, but that's not to see ALL ethanol or biodiesal is evil. I think it's very likely that in 20 years we could have a country driving electric cars with onboard gas powered motors to recharge the batteries, and all that gas could come from algae, which can be grown virtually anywhere, without need for freshwater.

Posts: 21897 | Registered: Nov 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
1400 nuclear powerplants in 42years and 714,000 wind turbines. Somehow building&installing 510 wind turbines every ~11days seems a lot more doable than building&fueling one nuclear power plant in the same amount of time.
Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
fugu13
Member
Member # 2859

 - posted      Profile for fugu13   Email fugu13         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
That's such a huge fallacy I'm going to assume you're making a joke rather than being serious. Nuclear power plants are built in parallel, not serial. So are wind turbines. And they're probably talking about smaller, modern nuclear power plants instead of the same monstrosities we've been building for decades.
Posts: 15770 | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Not joking, and not suggesting that a nuclear powerplant would have to be built within ~11days.
Merely pointing out the rate of completion required to get the facilities online.
Does 51,000 wind turbines every three years and 100 nuclear powerplants in the same amount of time sound better to you?
Cuz if you take that statement in the manner that you interpreted "...510 wind turbines...and one nuclear powerplant...", the completion rate goes higher. With three years from start to completion, that leaves 39years* from the first plant going online to the last plant going online. Which makes it one more nuclear powerplant coming online every ~10days.

The average of recent construction times has been 5&1/2 years per plant. So if we start now, the first plant comes online in 2014. And one more nuclear plant would be coming online every 9.4days thereafter*.

Then of course there are all the new uranium mining facilities and isotope-purification plants which would have to be built. And nuclear waste disposal / permanent storage facilities.....even though we still haven't had even one completed in the 60+years since the beginning of the NuclearAge.

* Due to neutron embrittlement and other aging problems, nuclear powerplants have a lifetime of ~40years. So after 2050, that rate of one powerplant per 9.4days has to be maintained because the older generating stations will be taken offline at approximately the same rate.

[ June 07, 2008, 01:09 PM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
fugu13
Member
Member # 2859

 - posted      Profile for fugu13   Email fugu13         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The simple answer is that we aren't going to meet that goal. However, that has more to do with politics than any special technical barrier. Nuclear power plants go up slowly mostly because of significant resistance to them, not because they're that hard to make. We could easily put up that number in that time if there weren't significant roadblocks put in place by people who dislike nuclear power.
Posts: 15770 | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
That 5&1/2 years is the average time of construction excluding the time it takes to gain approval and construction delays due to legal wrangling. Japan views nuclear generating stations very favorably. I think it's approved&built a couple of dozen since the '80s. And their average time of construction has been similar.

Toshiba claims it can get construction time down to 3&1/3 years per plant using mass production techniques.

Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The US is targeting 6&1/2 years from the start of the approval process to going online.
Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspectre
Member
Member # 2222

 - posted      Profile for aspectre           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
"...McCain called...for the construction of 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030...with a longer-term goal of adding another 55...He also said a decision...not to pursue fuel reprocessing technology should be reversed."

McCain speaking in favor of the YuccaMountain nuclear repository. Interestingly, a LOT more than 100% of YuccaMountain's planned total storage capacity will be needed to store wastes already being held in US temporary storage facilities. AND the US has already pledged to receive waste from other countries' reactors as part of its antiNuclearProliferation policy.

Posts: 8501 | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Dagonee
Member
Member # 5818

 - posted      Profile for Dagonee           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Interestingly, a LOT more than 100% of YuccaMountain's planned total storage capacity will be needed to store wastes already being held in US temporary storage facilities.
Is this true even if the fuel reprocessing is pursued in the future?
Posts: 26071 | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
fugu13
Member
Member # 2859

 - posted      Profile for fugu13   Email fugu13         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Nope.
Posts: 15770 | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
  This topic comprises 5 pages: 1  2  3  4  5   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2