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Obama's Energy Program Will Work: It's Why I Don't Want Him as Our Nominee.

by NNadir Mon Jan 15th, 2007 at 10:59:34 PM EST

(This diary entry, decidedly American in its orientation, is crossposted from DailyKos.  The American Politics may lack importance here, but the matter of FT fuels is nonetheless international.

The Original Entry at DKos can be found here.

Polls connected with this entry can be found in the original.)

Many people today are too young to remember unbiased straight forward "journalism."   There was a time, believe it or not, when journalists reported something called "news" without much further editorial content, except for editorials that were identified as such.   In those times, people instead of saying "U.S. Air Force Strikes Militants in Somalia in an Expansion of the War On Terror," people who were called "journalists" would simply report something along these lines:

"US planes Strike Somalia."    

In this type of telling, spin by the participants - the US President's claim that there was a "war on terror," and the question of whether the victims of the bombing were "militants" might be discussed in the article, but the spin would come from the participants, not the "journalist."   They might say for instance, "Bush told reporters that the bombing was part of the 'War on Terror'." In this case it is clear that Bush, and not the reporter, is defining the meaning of the event.   Unless explicitly quoting another person, the opinion of the political views of the bombing victims might be identified as "forces allied with those opposed to the Saudi royal family" or "persons who believe in jihad," or some such thing.

Of course the selection of what story to tell, whose view is reported, etc, would still reflect some bias and some attitude, but the "journalist" would attempt to the best of his or her ability to minimize such effects.    It wasn't easy to do, to divorce one's opinions from one's work, but still many people famously did a pretty good job of simply reporting what happened, including balanced reports from all involved about why it happened and who was involved.

Bloggers, of course, have opinions, strong opinions, and, as most are not professional, need not exhibit any sort of journalistic professionalism whatsoever.   When you log on to DailyKos or Democratic Underground, you know that - even though you expect to learn something - it will very much be accompanied by a liberal Democratic world view that, unless your a troll or a person seeking to understand the "enemy," you share yourself.

Still, from time to time, one sees bloggers who suggest the idea of what journalism used to be:  People who report what is happening and who respects your intelligence enough to let you figure out what it means.    I don't claim to be such a blogger myself, but merely note that there are some.   One such blogger who suggests the historical nature of "journalists" writes quite a bit over at Democratic Underground in the  Environmental and Energy Forum where he  does an outstanding job of keeping everyone up to date.  His name is Hatrack and here is one of this threads over there.

Now as it happens, Hatrack does have a view, and he does have an opinion about the world, which he expresses with a gentle wit, accompanied here and there healthy dollops of sarcasm.   On the other hand, there are a great number of his posts that are like the post linked.   Here he doesn't tell you, as I might, that the article means that coal must be banned.   On the contrary, he simply tells you that scientists have observed something - the Adirondack Mountains are contaminated with mercury - and what some people say about the subject.    You can draw your own conclusions.

Sometimes Hatrack, who is probably one of my favorite bloggers in the blogosphere, makes me miss old fashioned "journalism."

My tribute to Hatrack done, there is a reason I chose this particular example of his work to discuss here.    This is because it seems to contain - and this is no reflection on Hatrack, who is merely reporting - some questionable science, something I noted in response.   This is that scientists are reporting Mercury contamination on the basis of a study of abandoned loon nests, but the loons who abandon their nests may not be typical of all loons.   They may be abandoning their nests because they have been contaminated.     If one on the other hand one measured all loons, including those who remained at the nest, one might find a lower value of mercury.    This type of error is commonly made by all scientists, including the very best scientists, and it has a name.   It is called "selection pressure," and it is reflection of the fact that one must be aware that one's measurement of the world is very much determined by what one chooses to look at.

Speaking of loons, I have heard it said somewhere - I don't recall exactly where - that most people who have actually met a person who was or would become a President of the United States, have all been struck, irrespective of the particular President and even one's attitudes towards him, with how much more impressive the President is in person than his national image.   I don't know if this is true or not.   I have never met a person who was or would become President, nor do I imagine I ever will.   Of course, there is, in any case, "selection pressure" involved - a person may seem impressive because of his resume - and, at least until the present - the office itself dictated that an encounter with its holder would be memorable and awe inspiring.   It is entirely understandable therefore that an observer would tend to assign "larger than life" status to say, Jimmy Carter, or Gerald Ford, or Bill Clinton or even Richard Nixon.

On the other hand, I have heard somewhere as well that some politicians who have achieved high office and have the regular experience of contact with the President, have had an opposite impression.    Many of them say to themselves, "Cripes, I could do a much better job than this clown.   If he can be President, why can't I?"

Right now, of course, we have a "President" who is setting a new standard for "worst," a new standard for clownishness.   It is hard to imagine a President who could make even Franklin Pierce look good, or to set a standard for bumbling haphazardly into extreme violence that is comparable with the historical record James Buchanan, but unquestionably it has been more than a century and a half since a President seems so small, so inept.   This is probably why so many people are running for President.  It is hard to imagine that anyone could meet this guy and not feel as if he or she could do better.

I don't pay attention to who is running on the Republican side - since there is no way I could vote for anyone who could identify himself or herself with this party in this time - but on our side there's a huge list.   Forgive me if I leave anyone out, but the list of potential Democratic nominees includes "Hilliary Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Gore, Dennis Kucinich, Tom Vilsack, John Edwards, John Kerry, Christopher Dodd, Joe Biden, Mike Gravel, Bill Richardson, Al Sharpton and so on and so on."

The United States may not have survived the adminstrations of Pierce and Buchanan but for the fact that they were succeeded by the strongest and wisest President we would ever see, in the person of Abraham Lincoln, and even then it was a near thing.   Unless a comparable person exists in the field, we are in big trouble.   As incredible as it may seem, it took two inept Presidents to do what this one inept President did.

As was not the case necessarily in 1860 however, it is probable that the outcome of the 2008 election will impact the entire world's survival in measurable ways.   People love to talk about Iraq, and I mean to take nothing away from what a disaster that war is.  But even with all the dead bodies and the grievous moral injury involved in Iraq, the war is not the worst activity in which the US involved in my view.  

The worst thing the US is doing is dumping a vast portion of the world's carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.   Of course, it is easy to say that George Bush is in denial about this issue, just as he is in denial about everything else, but we need to look at ourselves and see if we are in denial as well.

The fact is that the root cause of the disaster at hand, and let's be clear that it is a disaster and it is happening right now, is the use of fossil fuels.   People worry all the time that the world is running out of oil, but running out of oil is not merely inevitable, but it is necessary.    If there were more oil than can readily be pumped out of the ground, our troubles would be worse, not better.

Irrespective of important people think cars and trucks and other oil dependent objects and machines are, the atmosphere is more important.   You can survive if you cannot drive.   You cannot survive if you cannot breathe, or you cannot rely on plants to grow.

This is why we must carefully inform ourselves of how the candidates weigh the issues and how they approach them.

Of course, one approach to the "problem" of oil is to do anything to maintain access to it.   One example would be to militarily conquer and attack countries that still have oil.   Another approach would be to make other stuff into oil.   Both approaches are conservative, both assume that oil is both necessary and desirable.   I contend that neither is true, but that's neither here nor there.

One can, if one wants, make oil, almost out of anything that is carbon based.  We live in the golden age of chemistry.   Moreover the issue isn't based on naive suppositions about what "could" be done, "if the technology is developed."   On the contrary, these sorts of things are already industrial processes.   Although I hope I am about produce all sorts of magical thinking, there is a company in Missouri, for instance, that makes oil out of turkey guts.   As far as I know, the company is losing money, but that's not the point.  It may not be done as cheaply as one can pump oil out of the ground - at least not for now - but it works.   In the 1940's, cut off from oil supplies, the Germans made oil from coal, and the South African's did the same in the 1970's and 1980's.

All of my diary entries are repetitive - and almost all of them are about energy but this one issue - the fossil fuel shell game - has me very upset.   It may be technically feasible to make oil from coal but we must, at all costs, fight this impulse.

We know that Republicans don't give a shit about the environmental consequences of anything they do, which is why we must be doubly sure that we are the opposite.    Regrettably three prominent Democrats have endorsed this "coal to oil" approach, which is known as Fischer-Tropsch (FT) chemistry.    All have noted that the United States is the "Saudi Arabia" of coal.    These arguments ignore that the United States was once the "Saudi Arabia" of oil too, but we used it up.   Here's an inconvenient truth.   The world cannot afford any Saudi Arabias of any kind anywhere under any type of government.   Fossil fuels must be banned, all of them..   The argument has nothing to due with convenience, nothing to do with cost, and everything to do with risk.   If we continue with "business as usual," we will cause a vast fraction, maybe the majority, of our planet's living things to die.

The three Democrats who have endorsed "coal to oil" are Jimmy Carter, Brian Schweitzer, and Barack Obama.   Carter is excused on the grounds than when he was most active on this issue two things were true:   He was actively working for conservation (hence the famous sweater), and climate change was an esoteric and poorly understood issue.   (Granted, Carter could have found out about the issue of climate change if he pressed it, but it would have been more politically suicidal than the sweater was.)   Carter is in no position to make it happen.

Schweitzer and Obama are different stories.   I have strong negative impressions of only two Democrats who are suggesting themselves, openly or otherwise, as our 2008 Presidential nominee, and the other one isn't Dennis Kucinich.   But I am developing a negative, albeit single issue, impression of Obama.   Telling us we can have oil is, frankly, wrong, wrong, wrong.   We cannot have oil.   We cannot afford it.   There are better ways.

Obama is getting a lot of media attention and is aspiring I think to "front runner," status.   As an early Dean supporter, I recognize that this media generated status may not mean all that much in the end.  Dean was hurt by exhaustive scrutiny of the hype surrounding him which is not to say that this scrutiny was fair or that it reached justified conclusions.    

On some level the depletion of oil is as much an opportunity as it is a threat.   The notion that we must continue to do things the same way our grandparents did thing is conservative, not liberal.  We have alternatives to oil, even if they are not being widely discussed in this country.   Asia is industrially developing DME, dimethyl ether infrastructure.

DME is so superior to oil as a fuel, that it is ridiculous even to consider making oil from mixtures of carbon oxides and hydrogen - the intermediates in FT chemistry.   The Japanese and the Chinese in developing DME are giving themselves a chance..   Now, it is true really regrettably too, that the Chinese are building several DME plants that are based on coal - and I oppose them - but I do not oppose the DME infrastructure since DME, even more so than oil, can be made from anything, including maybe, the ever popular renewable strategies about which people love to think.

I don't think that renewables and conservation alone are enough to address the crisis, and I know that sequestration is pure wishful thinking.   Note that "coal into oil" would not allow for sequestration either, unless one were to attach long vacuum cleaner hoses to the tailpipes of cars.   Let's convince ourselves from the outset that making the equivalent of one fossil fuel from another fossil fuel (oil from gas or coal) is the same as doing nothing

Barack Obama, from what I have learned of him, is a young man, and an impressive young man from all accounts.   He has plenty of time to mature into a person who can do great things for his country.   But on this issue is very, very, very wrong.   Maybe he needs some time to think more deeply.

We are going to hear a lot about FT chemistry in the coming years, and Obama's support for this approach gives us an opportunity to consider the issue.   We cannot substitute coal for gas - which is in any case dumping our problems on the shoulders of future generations.   Now is the time to make the changes we need to make.    Now.   Now.  Now.  Fischer-Tropsch chemistry works but it must not be allowed to work.

The issue is not "how do we get more oil?"   The issue is "how do we do away with oil?"


Doubt cast on 'carbon capture' technology

The fight to cut the world's greenhouse gas output may be relying too much on unproven technology for capturing carbon from coal-fired power stations, experts have warned.


David Porter, chief executive of the UK's Association of Electricity Producers, warned that the European Union might be over-optimistic: "They did seem to set a lot of store by carbon capture and storage. We are keen to see it exploited but it looks as though they expect it to become viable more quickly than is likely to be the case. It's not yet proven."


Other scientists have expressed reservations about the technology, which is still in its early stages and may prove to be very expensive.

Charlie Kronick, senior policy adviser at Greenpeace, also warned that the technology was at least 10 years off, while action could be taken now to reduce emissions, for instance through energy efficiency and renewables.

And this matters because, in the meantime...

The world's consumption of coal is rising, as China and India build hundreds of new power plants to cope with soaring energy demand. However, some developed countries are also increasing their reliance on coal - only recently regarded as an outdated and dirty fuel with a limited future - as concerns rise over energy security and the doubtful supply of oil.

For instance, in the UK, the Department of Trade and Industry said earlier this month that electricity companies used 23 per cent more coal and 12 per cent less gas, which releases lower levels of CO2, in the third quarter of 2006 than they did in the same period a year ago.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 04:20:32 AM EST
Coal to oil is the doomed scenario I ahve always talked about... business like always ... and CO2 bulding up...

Ten y ears ago I thought this would nto be the path taken.. now I am pretty sure it will be tried...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 11:21:35 AM EST
Here is an (interesting to me)web site on Alt fuels:

DME is at the bottom:


Also, there was a diary at Kos on Sunday on cellulose alcohol from the willow-poplar-aspen complex:


I'm betting my piggy bank on cellulose ethanol;perhaps it could even be a feed-stock for DME.

If history is any guide to the future, I may be right:


Or not.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 11:54:57 AM EST
beat me to it!

exciting this willow thing, huh?

does it come close to sugar cane in yield?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 01:06:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I bet a dedicated tinkerer like Ford or Edison would pace the floor a bit at night contemplating the possibilities.

Way we do paper here:

Trees are often chipped in situ on the logging site, chips hauled by big trucks  as much as 80 miles, and the paper companies haven't gone under yet.

Here is a glimpse at the EricC and Kissinger Assosiates pilot energy project:

1.Willow pulp run thru bleaching process;80%+-black liquor extracted; DME or DTs produced as an end product, depending on end user preference.

2.Pressed pulp loaded on large conveyor belts by DME powered loaders.

3.Pulp air dries in a large solar kiln and is fed into an electric generating plant boiler 10 miles from the liquor distillery.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 02:42:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]

If ethanol were readily available, there would be no compelling reason to make DME from it.   Ethanol, unlike methanol, is not that toxic at least diluted.  One might get drunk from contaminated water supplies but not blinded.

I hear a lot about ethanol, but I'm either agnostic or skeptical.   The downside is always going to be the lack of a continous process - the necessity always of having a batch process - and the water intensity.

I think supercritical water oxidation (SWO) of biomass would be a superior idea to fermentation - if we want to have biomass derived fuels.   This idea lends itself to DME.

SWO would probably also be batch processing, but reactor time would be much shorter.   It also affords excellent opportunities for cogeneration.

by NNadir on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 02:45:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was just dropping another link, up there.

I'm sure the heated water from a reactor could be used to  to do a lot with biomass.

Be interesting to run a BTU analysis on air dried paper pulp too.

I think all the production metods are going to be involved in some proportion, coal being the dirtiest major at this point.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 03:19:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
excellent diary...

soooo  glad you didn't insist nukes are the answer this time!

i cant remember if i was triggered by an ET poster to this:


but i like it...

i expect the weaving of the branches to provide material for baskets and as frame for wattle-and-daub construction.

the explosion of wildlife from this practice would be very positive, imo.

as for nukes....they seem the absolute opposite to a patchwork approach of solutions like this.

i loved that they are exporting the idea to afghanistan, btw.

i have also read that jojoba can grow and produce one of the world's finest oils even in desert conditions.

conservation is also a patchwork thing so far, but if governments put SERIOUS incentives into it it could benefit plenty from a top down approach.

lightbulbs and bricks in the loo are fine, but the real massive waste to be throttled is cities and highways clogged with people going to places they'd rather not go (crappy,meaniningless jobs), and millions of trucks carrying around goods that are not really necessary for human health and happiness, indeed more often the opposite.

people wasting hours a day stressing in stop'n'go traffic, breathing monoxide, trying to 'get ahead'...

as more people become disgusted with the squalor and excess, the crime and the crowding, they will seek out lifestyles that back off consumption and increase the satisfaction that comes from seeing how little energy one can use, and still be happy.

the first world is an energy junkie, holding up the 4/5ths of the world who possess less armaments for the junk they'd be better off being weaned from.

we will learn...but the only chance for anything remotely resembling a soft landing is if more people wake up....

this consumerist predatory mentality that is trying to treat people just like oil or cotton, a commodity...

useful only insofar as it pays to 'use' them.

following nuclear power might save us, but what would be the social price we'd pay for that?


not every country is as 'civilised' as france...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 01:04:17 PM EST
excellent diary...

soooo  glad you didn't insist nukes are the answer this time!

Manufacturing Dimethyl Ether (from, say, water and atmorpheric C02, though there are other raw materials) requires a lot of energy. DME fuel becomes a store of energy, not a source. Now, where do you propose all that energy is going to come from? Note that we are not only talking about replacing all fossil-fuel electrical power plants, but also replacing all the fossil fuels used in transportation with synthetic fuels, at a net energy loss. The scale is staggering.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 03:36:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
----but also replacing all the fossil fuels used in transportation with synthetic fuels, at a net energy loss. The scale is staggering.

her we go with the 3-card trick again...

i'm not suggesting we try and conjure a way to repeat the wasteful follies of the past.


this next part is not to you, mig...

seems there are 2 kinds of people...those who wouldn't mind working outside and harder, so as to avoid nukes...

or those who want to keep the whole mad joyride going, warm in their cubicles, cancer rates through the roof, in their atomic city-on-a-hill version of now, the only change being there's less smoke in the air...

bif effing deal, if we have to have a secret police orwell-state to go along with it.

folks might think i'm advocating going back to living with the pigs downstairs, but i'm not.

they're upstairs!


running this insane topdown lunatic asylum, and ruddy badly to boot.

do you have any idea how much less sick a society we'd be if we had to work outside more?

going the nuclear way is such a cop-out to the corporations who put us in this mess in the first place, installing ecosuicidal idiocies like the suburban lifestyle, the daily commute that adds up to 10 years of your best behind the wheel serving as a guinea-pig for the modern equivalent of a slow-mo zyklon-b saturation experiment, (sorry godwin!), 2000-mile salads, astronomical military budgets, when intelligent resource management for the common weal shuffles far behind, relatively ignored.

my rants stream uselessly into cyberspace, but i think the advocates for a nuclear future, complete with their diatribes against personal heroes of mine like greenpeace, hugely underestimate the resistance to such an idea will bring, and the beefing up of an already kafkaesque police state dynamic that will willingly, extravagantly escalate to meet it.

that way be dragons, indeed,,,

we waste precious time and energy that could be used researching and promulgating longterm sustainable solutions that would conversely add to and lubricate the modern social flowering of autonomy, sharing, trust, and eventually peace, a natural peace that has the robust backup of natural renewability, not the topdown superimposition of order by force.

i agree france is somewhat anomolous, and i'm grateful for the lessening of co2...it hasn't become a police state...the cancer rates aren't higher than less nuked countries -right?

France's Superphénix, the world's largest fast-breeder, was shut down in 1987 after 20 tons of liquid sodium, which explodes on contact with air or water, leaked from the cooling drum. Because breeder reactors in France are prized for their ability to make high quality bomb material for military purposes, as well as civilian, their operation is clothed in secrecy. France has no "Freedom-of-Information Act." Information to ordinary citizens is limited to events which cannot be hidden.


where's the EU-wide oversight on this?

i find this sophie's choice between nukes and coal ridiculous and insulting to humanity's creativity....and self-respect.

when government REALLY intercedes for conservation on a massive scale, only then will i be convinced that the pols are not shills for big business, no more, no less.

and though i bow to the rational comments of jerome on this thorny subject, (and admire his very french art of diplomacy), it is deanander whose concentrated wisdom has encouraged me that i'm not alone on this blog thinking this way.

i tend to a bluesky vision, because, (probably naively, )i still have a lot of faith in humanity to figure out a way forward, whose harbinger is these very internets we're channeling our beings into, colliding into new nodes of knowledge.

unfortunately for the species, much knowledge is not yet power, whilst malevolent ignorance very much is.

put it down to kali-yuga, i guess!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 02:15:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
looking for "respect," you won't get any here.

I always hate it when appeals to ignorance are phrased in terms of "respect."

Talk about a "lunatic asylum," that site, www.ratical.org is so mindless, I really don't know where to begin.

The choice is between coal and nuclear, whether or not you or the illiterates at ratical.com like it.    This is not a matter of opinion so much as it is a matter of physics.  

The matter is pretty clear to anyone who can think.   Germany decided to "phase out" nuclear - based on appeals, again, to ignorance - and immediately started building new coal plants, plants it says "won't count" for carbon dioxide emissions.

In any case, I'll bet one zillion euros that you're not going to be heading out to Chad this week to begin living a lifestyle that involves "working outside and harder."  

by NNadir on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 02:36:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The choice is between coal and nuclear, whether or not you or the illiterates at ratical.com like it.    This is not a matter of opinion so much as it is a matter of physics.

Please spell out the physics of this?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 02:45:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's really simple. Measure the ability to produce energy in the volume that has to be digged each year, and coal and nuclear beat everything else for the same amount of energy.

But it is more a question of biology than physics. Coal = big dick, nuclear = bigger dick.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 06:27:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We have only three base-load, 24/7 ways of meeting electricity demand: fossil fuels (mainly coal), hydro (a finite resource), and nuclear power.

In Europe, the countries with the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emissions are the countries getting their electricity from nuclear and hydro.  Denmark has high per capita emissions because it gets most of its electricity from burning coal.  Germany also has high per-capita emissions.

Less digging, transport, etc. for nuclear than for coal.

It takes a ton of ore to make four to six pounds of yellowcake, which, after going through enrichment and fabrication processes, becomes a pellet of uranium oxide fuel weighing .24 ounces--about seven grams.

Uranium ore is so dense that a ton of it could fit in the back of a pick up truck with room to spare.

One fuel pellet contains the same amount of energy as
*    149 gallons of oil,
*    157 gallons of regular gasoline
*    17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, or
*    1,780 pounds of coal

In terms of energy resource, a single uranium miner brings out in a single day ten thousand times more than a single coal miner in a single day.

Life cycle emissions from nuclear power are comparable to those from wind power. See

by Plan9 on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:37:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know why mechanical storage cannot be used to even out the intermittency of renewable energy sources and thtus provide baseload capacity. (wiki)

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:45:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the page came up googling for figures on radiation effects stats in france, to contrast with the rest of the planet.

i wasn't asking you to review that website, i saw that page and read it.

you are welcome to refute the facts in it -that page, and i should like to learn from you, as you indouhtedly know much i don't.

problem is, your 'tude comes off to me as hostile and deprecatory.

no need, methinks, unless you have an axe to grind.

anyway, you've decided...

lucky you

i like your writing and i'm glad you're here.

even if our respective worldviews are decidedly asynchronous...

i hope to heaven you are wrong, because it takes more than good writing to convince.

i listen more to <i<tone</i>.

and i'm not alone...

and, nor are you.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 03:28:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that this quote:

France's Superphénix, the world's largest fast-breeder, was shut down in 1987 after 20 tons of liquid sodium, which explodes on contact with air or water, leaked from the cooling drum. Because breeder reactors in France are prized for their ability to make high quality bomb material for military purposes, as well as civilian, their operation is clothed in secrecy. France has no "Freedom-of-Information Act." Information to ordinary citizens is limited to events which cannot be hidden.

is so blatantly incorrect and/or manipulative that it's hard to have a rational and patient reaction to it. Anybody that wrote the above will never be convinced by rational argument.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 06:08:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the correct response would be to say, "That's not a credible source--here's a more credible version of events."?

Coz we can all be fooled by non-credible (but maybe credible-sounding?  I can't say in this case...I didn't click the link but...) Sources...if they're not credible, t'is better, I think to offer access to another more credible.

Unless one is an expert on everything.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 06:29:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That was my reaction when I read that diary last week about Trittin and Germany, so for the sake of reciprocity, I would be curious to read what is your problem with which detail. (I can identify two incorrect points in it, but could replace them with other points.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 06:31:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and I know what you mean... but i'll disagree on the equal validity of the substance in the two cases.

There is so much innuendo in the above paragraph that I don't want to dignify it with a reply. It's like saying that "dihydrogen oxyde, an oxygen-rich liquid used to cool reactors, is sent out in vast quantities in the atmosphere and rivers, even though oxygen is the main component of most explosive devices. And these rejections are never debated, nor even declared!"

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 06:41:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the last one seemed to me like "The silly Jospin government tried to get the Muslims under control with neighbourhood police. But see what's the result today: riots and riot police!".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 07:09:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think turning coal into oil is absolutely necessary and that it will happen on a large scale, banning the sudden and major prolieferation of plug-in hybrids.

The planet could take it if we stopped burning fossil fuels for heat and electricity where real alternatives already do exist. But transportation will for a very long time have to stay fossil, excepting the above mentioned event.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 02:55:18 PM EST
again the tacit assumption that the high speed car/airplane transport lifestyle of about 14 pct of the planetary population (if that) defines in totality what is necessary, what is practical, what is possible.

how about the sudden proliferation of bicycles, telecommuting, local trade and mercantile networks, canal and rail freight transport, etc?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 07:31:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It defines what is likely to happen because that 14% has the economic wherewithal to make it happen.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 03:41:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
once again....bingo!

soooo glad you're her...

and here!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 02:21:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
note that knock-on effects can be positive as well as negative.  there are virtuous feedback loops as well as toxic ones:
Societal dependence on oil leads to increasingly negative social consequences throughout the world, including climate change, air pollution, political and economic instability, and habitat degradation. Reliance on the automobile for transportation also contributes to a sedentary lifestyle, an obesity epidemic and poor health. These problems are particularly pronounced in the USA, which currently consumes c. 27% of global oil production and produces c. 25% of global carbon emissions, and where c. 65% of adults are overweight or obese. Other countries throughout the world that replicate or hope to replicate the automobile-based lifestyle of the USA face similar problems now or in the near future. This paper develops and applies calculations relating the distances that could be travelled through recommended daily walking or cycling with weight loss, oil consumption and carbon emissions. These straightforward calculations demonstrate that widespread substitution of driving with distances travelled during recommended daily exercise could reduce the USA's oil consumption by up to 38%. This saving far exceeds the amount of oil recoverable from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, suggesting that exercise can reduce foreign oil dependence and provide an alternative to oil extraction from environmentally sensitive habitat. At the same time, an average individual who substitutes this amount of exercise for transportation would burn respectively c. 12.2 and 26.0 kg of fat per year for walking and cycling.

to be fair we should admit that the Obesity Panic is largely a media construct and a marketing tool for big pharma and the med mafia, packaged food vendors, diet quacks and the like.  however, the benefits of regular exercise regardless of body weight are inarguable, and the knock-on benefits of reducing emergency and chronic high-tech med interventions are positive (pharma and med form a highly polluting and energy intensive sector)...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 04:00:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
depend on fossil fuels.

I don't like cars.   I think they're ridiculous.  

But let's be clear, if we continue to want cars for some completely pixilated reason, we do not need fossil fuels to run them.

There are about a zillion other ways to fuel them.   The best, in my view, would be hydrogenated carbon dioxide to make DME.   This involve some start up infrastructure costs, but such a cost could be covered by the creation of an appropriate carbon tax - appropriate meaning "charges all of the external cost and then some."

Suddenly you would find that people really don't "need" cars, they just think they do.

by NNadir on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 10:39:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not an absolute necessity that coal will be used to manufacture transportation fuels, but it is probably the path of least economic resistance at this point:

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 03:40:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it is probably the path of least economic resistance at this point:

... which would make it absolutely necessary for the moneyed elites. Haven't you heard? The market rules now.
by Trond Ove on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 01:56:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't it poisonous?  Isn't it soluble in water?  

The methyl-butyl ether we add to gasoline is already causing massive ground water problems.  

No matter how you slice and dice, running a civilization on auto transport isn't going to cut it.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 11:41:41 PM EST
No it is not poisonous.   It's practically non-toxic.   It is soluble in water but is rapidly removed by exposure to air.

It's the propellant that replaced CFC's in hair spray cans.

DME is much easier to remove from water than MtBE, since it is a gas and MtBE is a liquid with a fairly high boiling point.

DME has an atmospheric half-life for a few days.

DME is the perfect fuel.

It can, under some conditions act as a mild anesthetic, but nearly so well as its cousin ethyl ether.

by NNadir on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 12:07:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Apologies for my chemistry.

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 02:44:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This type of error is commonly made by all scientists, including the very best scientists, and it has a name.   It is called "selection pressure," and it is reflection of the fact that one must be aware that one's measurement of the world is very much determined by what one chooses to look at.

No, it is called selection bias and it is a term from statistics. "Selection pressure" is a term from evolutionary biology.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 03:27:48 AM EST
Yes you are right.   I made a mistake and the biologocial word popped into my head.

Thanks for the correction.

by NNadir on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 08:56:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Make the most of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere." - George Washington, 1794

  1. "Since 1937, about half the forests in the world have been cut down to make paper. If hemp had not been outlawed, most would still be standing, oxygenating the planet." - Alan Bock

  2. Historical tradition, if not current federal law, favors hemp. The U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, The Gutenberg Bible, and Old Glory (our nation's first flag) were all made from hemp - as was the favorite fuel of Henry Ford, the reading lamp oil of Abraham Lincoln, the paints used by Van Gogh and Rembrandt, and the parachute webbing that saved the live of George Bush.

  3. Hemp canvas covered the Westward-bound wagons, the tall sailing ships, the bi-planes and zeppelins of World War I, and provided the original Levi pants worn by California goldminers in 1849.

  4. Hemp was so crucial to colonial America that its cultivation was mandated by law.

  5. INDUSTRIAL USES: As an agricultural commodity, hemp is arguably the world's top renewable resource for fuel, paper, cloth, paint, plastic, protein, soap, oil and over 25,000 other products.

  6. Anything made from oil or wood can be made from hemp.

  7. Hemp biomass can be converted into fuels (methane, methanol, gasoline) more efficiently than fossil fuels (coal, oil) and without the sulfur or acid rain.

  8. Hemp fiberboard is stronger than wood; hemp houses are as strong as cement houses and better insulated.

  9. Plastic, rayon, cellophane made from hemp are biodegradable; plastic and nylon made from petrochemicals are non-biodegradable. Grocery shoppers given the choice between paper or plastic bags must decide between cutting down trees or spewing toxic chemicals. In landfills, both biodegrade slowly if at all. Visualize a third choice: biodegradable cellophane bags made from hemp. The paper industry uses nearly half the world's timber harvest. According to the USDA, hemp produces four times the paper/acre as trees, and grows in all climate zones of the contiguous 48 states.

  10. Hemp paper will last up to 1,500 years; hemp cloth is stronger than cotton. Cotton requires more pesticides than any other agricultural product (39 million pounds in 1993).

  11. Hemp grows without pesticides. Hemp's long taproot improves soil quality and reduces erosion.

More here.
by jam fuse on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 06:35:16 AM EST
If you hang around here long enough you will find that the preferred solutions to the liquid fuel crisis all involve conservation.

Conservation doesn't require inventing new technologies to turn anything into anything else. It may involve doing the same amount of work while consuming less raw materials, but can also be as simple as taking the bus to work instead of driving.

As for real new technologies, when pressed I always promote the idea of a big push to explore practical nuclear fusion. A worldwide annual rate of about $300 billion for R&D is easily affordable, the US military budget alone is over $450 billion and this doesn't include the supplemental requests for the wars.

We don't know if a practical fusion system can be made to work, but it is worth spending the money to find out. Better this than pointless trips to Mars.

Ultimately (perhaps in 200-300) years the only sustainable sources of power will be solar and fusion. Fossil fuels will have been depleted and there is a strong belief that even Uranium will be scarce at that point. Most people feel that that is a problem for future generations to solve and thus prefer to go on with their present life styles. There is no way to force them to change their position. As Reagan said "posterity doesn't vote".

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 11:34:41 AM EST
I regard it largely as wishful thinking.

Let's cut to the chase, a fusion reactor - which will have it's own set of environmental problems by the way - will depend wholly on a fission infrastructure for the forseeable future.

There are a lot of things that haven't been touched by the fusion reality (as opposed to the popular fusion fantasy.)   Among these are heat transfer (most of the energy is gamma radiation which does not interact that readily with matter to make heat) and the matter of tritium breeding, which is not only practically difficult but is also theoretically difficult.   And let's be clear, fusion reactors for the forseeable future will need tritium.   The total amount of tritium on this planet right now that is isolated is about 20 kg, and the vast majority of it is in Canada.   That isn't going to allow anyone to live forever in an energy nirvana.

Now, I really won't mind it if humanity had access to a some high energy neutrons from fusion reactors.   There's a lot you could do with 14 MeV.   I don't think it's going to happen in any time frame that will matter.

We are stuck with the tools we have, and we must choose between them immediately.

As for conservation, that's wonderful, but appeals to it are often parochial.   I have yet to meet a Westerner who waxes romantic about "conservation," who has ever begun to live a lifestyle consistent with, say, the Chadian per capita energy use.

It is great to talk about "conservation," if you are talking about buying a car, but "conservation," is not an issue when you aspire, someday, to have a light bulb of your own.   This is usually a surprise but "most people" don't have cars and computers.

We are not going to "conserve" our way out of this crisis.    There is not going to be a "two hundred years from now" until we fix what's happening right now

by NNadir on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 01:24:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact in the past 30 years business and industry in the US have made a lot of advances when it comes to conservation.

But in a world run by consumerism, we have to use a lot of energy to make things to be bought and discarded.

At present, however, the biggest portion of the energy we generate is spent on obtaining energy.

The best fuel of all is electricity.

That's why a policy to practice conservation at every level leads inevitably to nuclear energy obtained from energy-dense uranium to make electricity. It can power transportation as well as all the other sectors of society.

But we need solutions to global warming yesterday. So to make the transition to all-electric transportation will of course require nonpolluting synthetic fuels.

by Plan9 on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 02:15:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The steps to be taken in the US and other industrialized countries are of a different nature than from those in the emerging countries of India and China and still different from those of the undeveloped world, let's not treat them together.

We can provide a "light bulb" to those with almost nothing without affecting the global consumption of resources to a great extent. But changing consumption patterns in the US would have a dramatic impact. You know the numbers the US has about 4% of the population and consumes about 40% of the resources.

China and India have to be prevented from making the same growth mistakes that the west did over the past several centuries. They are already seeing problems with water and pollution. So three sets of conditions, three programs.

  1. The west - conservation
  2. The new industrial states - planned growth
  3. The rest - growth to a minimally acceptable standard of living.

Will groups 1 and 2 resist. Yes and they will continue to do so. That's one of themes around here, how to get them to wake up and "do the right thing". Do we have a way to get SUV lovers to change? No, but we're discussing it.

As to fusion, all I'm suggesting is a serious effort at R&D. If you are skeptical about the chances of success that is your right, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. I've been around long enough to have lived through several cycles of unexpected discovery like the laser and transistor not to wish to foreclose speculative research. My point is that the world can afford the effort, we just need to stop funding the destruction industries that are absorbing most of the R&D money (especially in the US).

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 02:32:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What impresses me with all these alternatives to fossil fuels--and in the fossil fuels themselves--are the number of innovations out there, many seemingly close to fruition. Venture capitalists have probably had to take speed reading courses to keep up with things.

And there are Americans still alive who were growing up when horses still plowed fields, when there was no radio, when kerosene lanterns provided the light, and people rode horse-drawn wagons to town for groceries.

An area that is 45 miles from me first got electric service in 1950. Amusingly, I can drive 100 miles the other way and end up in Washington, DC.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 05:11:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The key phrase is "seemingly close to fruition."  If you pare down the things that haven't actually been built yet and are way more expensive than a coal power plant, you're left with wind and natural gas.  And for transportation, you're left with nothing.  When oil becomes scarce, FT from coal will be used.  It will be cheaper than anything else.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 01:38:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and India from "making the same mistakes?"

Do we declare that we are their big brothers and sisters and know better?

They are burning coal because they want to live like us, all of them.   They don't want a moral lecture from us.

To China's and India's credit, they are expanding their nuclear capacity, but it is still tiny overall.

If China survives climate change, it will have more reactors than either France or Japan within two decades, but that will be nowhere near enough.

The cost of providing one billion chinese with 20,000 euro solar systems and the batteries for night time is some 20 trillion dollars - excluding the huge external cost.   It won't happen.

by NNadir on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:38:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"The cost of providing one billion chinese with 20,000 euro solar systems and the batteries for night time is some 20 trillion dollars - excluding the huge external cost.   It won't happen."

The toxicity that accompanied the manufacture of PV components on that scale would be devastating. Batteries are also toxic waste.  Far better for the environment to go entirely to nuclear power.

by Plan9 on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:47:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you quantify the toxicity of 1 GW-h of PV power compared with 1 GW-h of nuclear power?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:50:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brookhaven National Laboratory has assembled about 150 studies of solar energy and finds that the toxic gases involved in PV construction would become an issue if production were ever scaled up.  Meeting safety standards would increase cost. See

One tonne of nuclear fuel produces energy equivalent to two to three million tonnes of fossil fuel. [Suzuki (1993), cited in Lehman (1996), p. 138.] Burning 1 kilogram of firewood can generate 1 kilowatt hour of electricity; 1 kg of coal, 3 kWh; 1 kg of oil, 4 kWh. But 1 kg of uranium fuel in a modern lightwater reactor generates 400,000 kWh of electricity, and if that uranium is recycled for maximum burnup, 1 kg can generate more than 7,000,000 kWh. These spectacular differences in volume of fuel per unit of energy produced largely determine the differing environmental impacts of nuclear versus fossil fuels from mining or extraction, through transportation, to environmental releases and the disposal of waste. Generating 1,000 MW of electricity for a year requires 2,000 train cars of coal or 10 supertankers of oil, but only one 10 cubic-meter fuel assembly of uranium. [IAEA (1997), P. 32.] Out the other end of such fossil fuel plants even with abatement systems operating come thousands of tonnes of noxious gases, particulates and heavy-metal-bearing (and radioactive) ash plus solid hazardous waste: up to 500,000 tonnes of sulfur if coal, more than 300,000 tonnes if oil and 200,000 tonnes if natural gas. In contrast, a 1,000 MWe nuclear plant releases annually no noxious gases or other pollutants, [5]  and trace radioactivity many times less per person than airline travel, a home smoke detector or a television set. It produces about 30 tonnes of high-level waste (spent fuel) and 800 tonnes of low- and intermediate-level waste about 20 cubic meters in all when compacted (roughly, the volume of two passenger cars). [6]  [IAEA (1997), pp. 32-34.]


Photovoltaic cells are large semiconductors; their processing produces a highly toxic waste stream of metals and solvents that requires special disposal technology. A 1,000 MWe solar electric plant using photovoltaics would generate 6,850 tonnes of hazardous waste over a thirty-year lifetime from metals finishing alone. A comparable solar thermal plant (mirrors focussed on a central tower) would require primary metals that would generate 435,000 tonnes of manufacturing waste, of which 16,300 tonnes would be contaminated with lead and chromium and considered hazardous. [Lehman (1996), pp. 53-54.]


IAEA (1997). Sustainable Development and Nuclear Power. Vienna, International Atomic Energy Agency.

Lehman, L. L. (1996). Nuclear Fear: The Environmental Cost. Prior Lake MN, Technical & Regulatory Evaluations Group, Inc.

Excerpts from: Richard Rhodes, Denis Beller, "The Need for Nuclear Power", Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2000  http://www.nci.org/conf/rhodes/index.htm

In about 40 years of operation, commercial nuclear power in the US has generated about 70,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel.

by Plan9 on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 01:31:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually most of the heat transfer really is in those 14 Mev neutrons and the "cooling" neutral helium that is left to drift down the bottom of the torus.

Neutron deposit heat directly in the reactor structure, which must all be cooled. And their is a "heat conveyor belt" with water of helium at the bottom of fusion torus, whether it's JET, Tore Supra, or ITER. And last time I checked, to my great surprise, heat extraction WAS NO LONGER a challenge. It is solved at ITER target powers.

Challenge N°1 is materials durability under neutron bombardment. Unless it's greatly improved, fusion reactors won't have enough uptime to be viable, and will produce just as much waste as fission, except it's structural not fuel.

Tritium breeding is not even a challenge anymore, hope is given up. It's now a known limitation of the deployment speed of the technology: a fusion reactor needs an initial tritium capital to put in its first blankets, and more tritium will be bred out of it only  very slowly. Mankind would NEVER be capable of bootstrapping more than 1 fusion reactors per two decade and per fusion reactor already running. And all the initial stock built and painfully maintained over decades by all fission reactors would go into the first commercial scale fusion reactor. There was a very interesting discussion of this on The Oil Drum a few weeks ago.

Being an ugly malevolent nuclear lobbyist, I think we should move to thorium breeders (and multiply fuel availability by 300 compared to PWR), but it is interesting to note that they too have widescale bootstrapping contingencies, albeit not as stringent.


by Pierre on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 11:15:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about mining the moon for tritium?

But, yeah, if the breeding capability of fusion is 0.05 per reactor-year...

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 11:43:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Only Helium 3 on the moon.  As I understand it, wouldn't work in the proposed fusion plants.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 01:40:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Darn, you're right... I'll trade you a neutron for a proton. Deal?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 01:43:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You have to throw in a positron into the deal to conserve charge.  Wrap it separately for shipping.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 03:06:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My opinion is pretty simple: if you ever get a fission reactor that's as cheap as a coal power plant, fission power will happen.  Until then, it won't.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 01:24:31 PM EST

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