Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do we need extinction to slap our face?

Some of our best minds have indicated that global warming
from carbon pollution will present humanity with a species-
level threat. We must do whatever is necessary to avoid
that eventuality.

note: What follows is a bit of rambling intended as rough, quick, ad hoc
contribution to solving this emergent problem. Comments
and suggested edits are welcome, so that we can address
the problem together.

What are we to do with the fact that electricity is typically
inefficient transduction from fossil fuel burning? All told,
electric cars are comparably about as bad as gas or diesel in
most cases, and this is true for other types of electricalization
as well. Any difference in contribution to greenhouse effect is
relatively small, because the pollution is merely displaced to
another location, with associated power loss due to transport.

Natural gas, though widely promoted as a solution is only worse,
because it contributes just as much carbon pollution, AND
underground fresh water sources are ruined by shale fracturing.
It should be noted that like oil, there is low transduction loss with
natural gas. One supposes that natural gas wins the transport
and transduction argument, so
that it can be considered as most efficient, although the
pollution of underground fresh water supplies is not acceptable,
and it is a source of carbon pollution leading to greenhouse effect.

It could be noted at this juncture that the benefits of low
transport and production costs can contrast with the inefficiencies
of high transduction loss and loss in the associated centralized
infrastructure. This would explain the move in recent years to
decentralized electrical grids. A relatively small increase in
infrastructure can sometimes result in a large increase efficiency, and
reliability is improved as well, which provides additional incentive.
These facts probably explain why electric cars are promoted by some
credible, heavy-weight, green agencies, although the benefit is small.

Concerns about transduction loss must be balanced with the
cost of production and transport for fossil fuels. One
expects that these costs make fossil fuels less efficient, than what?
Electricity by and large is generated by transduction from
fossil fuel burning, sometimes a very inefficient process, which
contributes vastly to carbon pollution.

For decades we have faced the problems of air and water pollution,
and much has been done to address these problems, but little
has been done to address the fundamental underlying causes.
From a simple survival perspective, pollution of fresh water and air
are among the worst things that you can do, because air
and water are our most immediate needs, to say nothing of
greenhouse effect. This would likely explain the relatively poor
uptake over the years
of natural gas energy, in spite of the effiencies. Environmentalists
note that it pollutes both air and fresh water supplies. They
will now argue that it is also a source of carbon pollution leading
to greenhouse effect. Fresh water and air pollution is a problem
to be avoided with nuclear as well, and probably largely
explains the ferocity of opposition. It is a obviously a problem
that oil and coal power do not avoid. In spite of these problems,
we have continued largely with the status quo.

Even if we go nuclear, it is still ineffecient transduction, although it can
take advantage of existing infrastructure, with comparable
efficiencies of other forms of electrical generation. In theory,
this will address global warming, which has become an immediate problem,
but it creates other large and growing problems becoming more
hazardous as time goes by. There is also the three mile island type of
hazard to consider, which can be comparable to the bp oil
spill in its enormity. Nuclear waste is likely comparable to
a slow motion bp oil spill, which will become more and more
pressing as time goes by. Nonetheless, the importance of nuclear probably
cannot be overstated, because it can reduce greenhouse gas emittance which
is an urgent problem, and because it will also provide tutelage for
future projects.

Possible solution components:

1. Increase efficiency. (go green)
This means finding ways to use less power and make
equipment more efficient. Conserve energy.

2. Reduce transduction and transport loss by generating clean on
site using alternative energy solutions, such as wind and solar.
The problem of production cost must be addressed with solar.
These costs may include environmentally hazardous
production methods.

3. Continue improvments to the electrical infrastructure,
so that it can be used to as the most efficient current means
to distribute power that is not produced from fossil fuels,
as such nuclear sources coming online.

4. As an alternative to 3. and nuclear power, focus on 1. and 2.
so that energy usage is reduced, and a small offset of production
from fossil fuels may not be harmful. This will have the added
benefit of avoiding the problems associated with nuclear power.

5. Is like 4, but a small offset of nuclear power is used in order
to project its problems further into the future and manage them.

6. Moving away from fossil fuels is all the more imperative when
it is realized that developing nations may inevitalbly adopt
coal power to build their emerging infrastructures. Developed
nations can offset this problem by reducing greenhouse gas
emitance. Perhaps alternative incentives can be found for
developing nations.

7. Leave the trees standing. Use a little plastic or steel, and
leave the trees standing.

As previously noted, this essay is still in very rough shape, but
imperatives do come to light.


1. Conserve forests. Stop deforestation.

2. Stop natural gas.

3. Promote clean on-site power generation, mostly with alternatives.

4. Stop the cars.

Change can be good; for example, walking and bicyclling are
far more healthful than driving, especially in consideration of the
toxic motor culture. The Northeast historically has supported a large
population because they have reduced reliance on coal (or got it out of
the city), and centralized power production, while letting the
trees grow and using plastic, concrete, and steel instead. These
considerations drove early conservation efforts. Some people may not
realize what a vast transformation this was from the days when all
the trees had been cut down and they burned coal in the cities. Now
the Northeast has many wooded areas again. We need
a new transformation. Things will be different, and if we use our
ingenuity, things will be better. Trees and plants convert the main
greenhouse gas
to food we can eat and oxygen for us to breath, fresh air. If we do our
part, the trees will save us from global warming, and we will enjoy
many pleasant forests.

We obviously should not be cutting down green fields and forests in
order to build vast solar arrays. This is really just a matter of
choosing healthful living. Global warming will make the trees grow
faster, as long as we don't cut them down, and nature may assist us
instead of exterminating us.


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