Archives for posts with tag: fossil fuels

I assert we will burn everything that will burn until we have a better source of energy. Hydro is good but past maximized, and environmentalists want to tear down the dams we have. Solar is a wimp. It has its place, but not on the grid, and anyone telling you otherwise doesn’t understand the engineering and physics of it. Wind is simply a scam, snake oil. Wind-based power generation drives up costs in the grid and in transmission and in maintenance. It cannot be made better. It is disruptive to our power usage and needs. Turbines kill insects by the millions, bats by the thousands (maybe by the millions), and rare and endangered birds by the hundreds. Wind has no net benefits, only pain. Wind turbines do violence against our neighbors with flashing lights, flashing shadows, vertigo-inducing rotation, incessant noise, fire and throw hazard, and property devaluation.

Thus, we burn.

It is immoral to burn edible food while people starve. Biofuels do more harm than good.

There is no alternative to petroleum for a few applications, but we can convert most of our power needs to electricity, which we can renewably generate with nuclear fission for millennia.

We will convert to nuclear electricity generation. It is our only possibility. If we allow fear to continue to drive us, we will increase suffering caused by other power generation methods until we wise up. It will be painful. The longer we wait to convert to essentially 100% nuclear, the greater the pain and suffering we impose on ourselves and our posterity.

As an aside, persuasion is an illusion. Manipulation is a thing, but not persuasion. Compulsion is real enough (and evil), but it is not persuasion. The only true persuader is pain. The fellow who is convinced he can walk through walls may never admit he is delusional, but after a broken nose or two, when he claims he can walk through walls, he will take the doorway, explain that it is much easier. When our pain from wind power generation is too high, we will quit. (Who will clean up the mess?) Likewise, the large solar installations. Inevitably, we will power our lives with nuclear generated electricity.

Coal is a finite resource, and it is environmentally burdensome, even with modern technology. We will wean ourselves off it, even China and India, long before we run out of it. though. The net benefits from coal are too low to justify using it when we have better alternatives like natural gas and nuclear fission.

Natural gas may be finite. (Well, it is eventually, but odds are we will be extracting it from the earth even a few centuries from now.) Natural gas has substantive net benefit, but it is still somewhat burdensome on the environment, and nuclear fission is far better. We will be using natural gas for many generations to come, but we will see it specialized into small niches. It will become inconsequential to our earthly environment.

Petroleum, well, we are probably going to use it for as long as we have machines. We are probably going to have machines for hundreds, maybe thousands, of generations. Of course, we could have paradigm-shifting technological advances that make it easier to make what hydrocarbons we use more inexpensively with nuclear-generated electricity than by continued mining (drilling, fracking, and other modern extraction techniques, which I think of as mining). {“If it can’t be grown, it must be mined,” is a truth-statement today.} Also, it doesn’t actually seem likely petroleum is a finite resource. That is, for practical purposes, it may be as plentiful as rock. It is reasonable to suppose we will never run out of oil in the earth’s crust. We are not sure, but there are theories that we can’t test significantly yet. Regardless, the extractable oil is more than enough to remain useful for generations to come. We are just as far from peak-oil as we’ve ever been, and every time prognosticators start doomcasting we blow right past their deadlines.

For generating large amounts of stable electrical energy, coal is the most sensible from the engineering standpoint, but the other burdens of its extraction, use, and disposal are too significant. Natural gas is only sensible because we can get so much of it so inexpensively. That situation will not hold indefinitely, but I suspect it will hold for the rest of my generation (let’s assume 40 years). Natural gas is relatively clean, and direct use of it is exceptionally beneficial in terms of benefits to our lives versus the burdens of extraction and use. It takes three times more natural gas to boil your tea kettle with an electric stove top (assuming natural-gas turbine generated electricity) than it does with a direct natural gas stove top. It is quite counterproductive from any standpoint to restrict or ban the use of natural gas in residential or commercial or even industrial use. Natural gas is first choice for direct fuel applications. One could argue for liquid fuels, but it is much harder to deal with liquid fuels in open-flame applications.

Petroleum is not a good fuel for large electrical power generation, which is why we use it for only a small fraction of a percent of our total electrical generation. It is good for small applications, and quick-start applications, but not much otherwise.

We need petroleum for mobile fuel. Liquids are easily stored in tanks for direct transportation usage. It is probably indispensable for aircraft, at least medium- and long-distance flights. It is good with ground transport, but there are several advantages to electrically powered transportation, but the limits of batteries are prohibitive, and will be for the near future. Edison advanced battery technology more than anyone before him, and advancements since have been at a snail’s pace with the significant, but small, advancement of lithium batteries. It looks like 15 to 25 years will bet us that much ahead again. That will give us batteries about twice as good as Edison could make. We need batteries that are 50 times better.

We have a variety of reasonable engineering solutions, but none that will be easy or inexpensive, and some would require significant changes in our societies. We shall see.

Another aside: If we can prove out fully automated transportation, we may switch to all electric vehicles, including short-flight aircraft, by switching to an entirely automated transportation system that would incorporate plains, trains, automobiles, and trucks scheduled to maximize battery life and transportation efficiencies. If so, personal ownership of vehicles would probably be relegated to hobbyists, and we’d generally just tap our phone app to have our ride pull up for us in a matter seconds, zipping us without traffic snarls to our destinations (with, perhaps, stops to transfer to a second transport with fresh batteries if our distance requires).

As an engineer with expertise in physics, I have no reservations asserting we will burn all we need to until we have excess electricity generated from nuclear power sources. Windmills will run their course, and our descendants will curse us for the hardships caused by them. Large-scale solar will be the same, but some solar applications may prove out, but solar power generation will never supply a significant fraction of our overall energy usage.

We will switch to nuclear. It is the only reasonable possibility. There may be some genius-level technological breakthrough, but there is no evidence to support such speculation, and it may be centuries from now even if it is possible.

We will use nuclear fission with uranium and thorium for generations, and we will eventually solve the engineering challenges of nuclear fusion and the materials required to build power production facilities. That might be a century or two (or a couple decades, but my money is on 100 years).

There is no existential threat other than the unknown. There is a plant-killing rock out there, but it may not approach for several centuries. (Of course, if we spot it tomorrow and realize it will hit us in 15 years, we’re probably going to join the dinosaurs and the other 99.9% of species how’ve run their course on our planet. I bet a few survive, or some new species will eventually attain what we call sentience, and life will continue to find a way, at least until the next unknown catastrophic event overtakes them.)

We will burn fossil fuels until nuclear power generation makes it impractical. We will not tip earth’s climate into anything catastrophic for humans or the rest of life on this planet.

Do keep in mind that there are three essential ingredients to life on our planet, water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. The first two are demonstrably the most destructive aspects of our environment. As long as oceans remain, water and oxygen will remain the most significant drivers of maintenance and repair and rebuilding. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It is an essential ingredient to life. It cannot exist in nature in quantities that are dangerous to us or other life. Even corals have experienced carbon dioxide levels multiples higher than our current levels. CO2 is only dangerous on our planet in its absence. We must have it, or photosynthesis is impossible. If carbon dioxide gets too low, all plants will die and all remaining life will starve, all of it (well, fungus might manage).

So, are you willing to acknowledge that nuclear is best? If not, you will relegate the next generation to undue suffering, and they will.

We will switch to entirely nuclear-power generated electricity. It is only a matter of time and how much suffering it takes to overcome our irrational fears of it.

Too long ago to try to imagine, we humans took our most important step of existence; we became human. It is mind boggling to consider all that had to fall into place to get us that far, and so far still.

Somewhere around 10,000 years ago, we turned a corner that had more to do with climate change than our accomplishment. We benefited from global warming to such extent that not every waking moment need be expended in exertion or contriving to provide for the bare necessities of life for self and family.

With only a modicum of leisure, we started accomplishing remarkable things. We built monuments. We organized. We developed society and governance. Somewhere in there, we gained consciousness and the knowledge of good and evil, we internalized our limitations, our finitude, and in inexplicable ways, God breathed into us.

Sadly, we ignored that divine infilling, rudely, knowing both good and evil, we spent more effort in selfishness and evil than most anything else.

Still, we built.

We innovated and developed.

Somehow, some, only a few, grew beyond selfish spite and malice, and we advanced, sometimes with the help of selfless individuals, sometimes without regard to them.

Tragically, the world simply was a world of haves, and have-nots. The haves had things primarily as a function of power, power and status managed by social structure and supported on the backs of slaves. The situation held for millennia through countless circumstances, cultures, and peoples, held together by what may, though usually with violence underpinning. There are very few exceptions to point out.

Violence was our way. Subjugation of the majority by the powerful was simply the way civilization grew. Prosperity meant toil and misery for most, and a life of ease for the few.

Nearly 3,000 years ago, a spark of truth ignited in more than just a few individuals. It made little difference, and grew in only the hearts of a very few here and there. Regardless, it was seeping into culture. About 2,000 years ago, history turned. Truth took hold, and individuals began to value each other as having the breath of God within, and having some potential spark of truth in all. Everyone was considered of worth, not just the nobles or powerful.

Still, little changed. Though slavery was technically abolished for a while in most of the known world, it was still a situation of the haves and the have-nots, and the have-nots were the essential, subservient support of the haves. Of course, slavery returned with a vengeance, to sufferings untold.

Not long ago, in the mid-1700s, something changed. We developed technology that would replace the slaves and allow all to be free, and this development would facilitate the possibility that all could at least aspire to join the ranks of the haves.

We call that change the industrial revolution, but really, what is was, we learned to burn fuel and harness the energy of the burning to replace the burning of food in the bodies of the subjugated.

Here is the most important fact since: Readily available energy, electrical energy now-a-days, and transportation fuels are the key to the have-nots having enough. Poverty and slavery can certainly be lain at the feet of dictatorial monsters, but for most, it is directly resultant from lack of electricity and transportation fuel.

To be clear, I am equating fossil fuels with freedom. Conversely, I’m equating opposition to fossil fuels with homicide and enslavement.

Though our technological prowess will likely keep fossil fuels dominant in our quest for freedom and prosperity for all, we are running out, and it is getting harder and more energy intensive to extract these resources. We are already seeing diminishing returns. We must develop more efficient energy systems.

We have an alternative that we must pursue immediately while grave suffering can be avoided. Nuclear fission.

Eventually, we will use nuclear fusion, but that is not in our lifetimes. We will be suffering from lack of energy before fusion can fill the gap. Fission is today, uranium, plutonium, and thorium.

We can. We will. It is not a prediction. It is unrelenting reality.

We will suffer in blood and slavery if we wait too long.

I don’t appeal to the pipe dream of renewables. Solar power simply is inadequate. Wind turbines are a grievous atrocity, causing harm in all.

Biomass burning, likewise, is harming far more than is admitted. Filth is the only word appropriate for most of it.

I cannot overemphasize how paramount is the importance of readily available energy, affordable to all and reliable.

While it is inarguable that Greco-Roman thought, and the life of Christ, changed the world to truth, one simply cannot argue that the associated culture and religion(s) are of critical importance. In less than four centuries, the Christian faith affected the lives of over half of the earth’s total population, but within a few more decades, the numbers that could be called Christian dropped to roughly one-third of all humans, and it has been between 20% and 40% for the several centuries since. The Greco-Roman culture cannot be attributed either. It mattered, but it was not essential, not the key.

Truth mattered. Truth was the key. Greece, Rome, and Christians had no monopoly. They simply managed to make it a priority of the powerful. Thus, truth prevailed, but Christian theology gave rise to what Nietzsche so astutely foresaw. We had killed God. We had forgotten our divine attribute, and we were adrift. The blood of hundreds of millions attests to it. Our suffering for it is greatly diminished, but not concluded.

So, what?

What next?

We must stay focused on truth. We must individually take responsibility and not lose sight of our connectedness. We must not overemphasize individuality and individualism. Yet, we are individuals. Our identities do not reside in any group. Each individual’s identity can never be distilled to any externally quantifiable characteristic. It is a hard thing, a hard balance.

Still, the important part for humanity is energy. We are eliminating abject poverty and slavery with energy. We must have reliable electricity and available transportation fuel. Pushing for unreliable, unpredictable sources based on wind and sunshine is no better than trusting unicorns.

We are what we are. We fall, we resort to selfishness and violence when we don’t have better options. Our better options are afforded by readily available energy. Energy is the basis of freedom and incentives that allow cooperation and respect to flourish.

Energy, and freedom. It is the only possible means of advancement. The alternative is suffering, and eventually extinction.

 

I agree with Dr. Shughart, but he misses the point.

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=5027

The alternative to coil, oil, natural gas, and nuclear is not wind and solar. Heaven knows it is not wind! Despite the assurances of prominent science communicators, solar cannot and never will provide significant amounts of the power we need to survive.

See, the alternative to coil, oil, natural gas, and nuclear is slavery and death.

Before the energy era, primarily based on fossil fuel, life was hard, brutish, and short. Those who lived in a poor semblance of affluence did so at the direct expense of others: slaves, serfs, vassals, subjects, whatever the name, culture, and time. Note, we pretend that is still the case, but that is a lie. Everyman in the developed world is free to own his own stuff and work for his own benefit, not his lord’s. The liberals and progressives are working diligently to make us a feudal system again, but most of the time I don’t believe they are succeeding.

Regardless, energy for machines and technology have freed us from the misery that was life for most of human history.

The only alternative to coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear is misery. There will always be powerful people. Our current system of politics and readily available, reasonably inexpensive energy is the only attainable way to keep the powerful from enslaving and killing the rest of us.

Our collective history skews us to fear the powerful. Our recent history of the success (to a poor extent, but the illusion is powerful) of the masses, the labor movement, and some of the popular uprisings make us think we can collectively control the powerful. We cannot.

Our only defense against the powerful is readily, reliably available energy (fuel, power, electricity) at affordable prices for the people. Then the individual is empowered to defend himself. (Ladies, you are included. Don’t get political over grammar rules.)

Dr. Shughart suggests that CO2 is problematic. It is not.

Carbon dioxide is plant food. Anyone against feeding plants is also against feeding people. More plant food means more plants. More plants means more to eat and fewer people starving. The other factor in ending starvation is readily available fuel and electricity to get the food to the starving and refrigerate it until they get to eat it.

Again, being against coal especially, but coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear collectively, is to be for slavery, starvation, and death. This goes for oil infrastructure too, like the Keystone Pipeline.

Got it? If you act against coal, you are acting in favor of enslaving and starving people, your brothers, your fellow-man.

Power to the people means coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear.

This post is about how absurd it is to suppose that windmills can maintain an ever-increasing prosperity on earth by providing sufficient energy. It cannot be done!

The title I gave this post is my assertion that we MUST burn fuel to have enough energy to live without slaves. Specifically, inexpensive and freely available energy is what allows all of us westerners to live like kings of old. We accomplish with fuel and electricity what used to be accomplished only with grueling human labor. Read the rest of this entry »

Eliminate the EPA and replace it with a restricted and targeted agency. Place strict guidelines and limits, and even limit funding.

Regulations are killing our country. I thank Senator Inhofe for stemming the tide of global warming alarmism, but the President and the EPA are determined to inflict the pain on us regardless. We must eliminate the EPA. Repeal the clean air act and replace it with updated and more sensible legislation. Legislation that has specific targets. It must not allow for “as low as reasonably achievable” standards. Our air and water have gotten better every year since enactment. Regulations are so bad that agricultural dust is a violation.

Carbon dioxide is an essential ingredient to life. It is not a pollutant. The other two essential ingredients to life as we know it are oxygen and water and are both far more dangerous than carbon dioxide. Oxidation in all its forms account for the majority of the damage in our world. Fire and corrosion are inexorable destroyers, always have been, always will be. Too much oxygen is even more dangerous than too much carbon dioxide. Likewise with too much water. Read the rest of this entry »

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