Monday, April 18, 2016

the case for an immediate switch to renewable fuels.





You will note the photo of the jeep and the solar ATV. Let us concentrate our thoughts on these 2 different types of transportation. It could be said that the Jeep is ready for about a 300 mile journey with it's tank full, and more of the fuel can be obtained [dirt cheap] almost anywhere that it can be driven. Detractors of plug in electric vehicles will suggest that the ATV has a relatively short range, is under powered, and that it's 'fuel' is much harder to replace after it runs out.

Look at the photo again. Right now, neither machine is in use. One is actually fueling up [very slowly], while the other is slowly leaking oil onto the ground, and venting the more volitile benzenes from it's fuel tank into the earths atmosphere. The fossil fuel is, in effect, slowly spoiling, while the plug in vehicle's 'fuel' is slowly leaking into the tank! It is earth's sun, after all, that is filling it up.

While it sometimes seems that the earth's sun is a pretty weak 'fuel', and that fossil fuel is easy to obtain, clean burning, and inexpensive, a closer inspection will reveal that conditions on earth have changed so that solid and liquids fuels should no longer be used within the atmosphere. If we will momentarily divert our genious for war and money-making into this endeavor, we will very quickly be getting about in a silent way, and harvesting as much free fuel from the sun as we [and our decedents] can ever use.

It is important to examine some of the ramifications of a switch to renewable fuels. We are constantly warned that any reduction in the use of grid power or fossil fuel would result in a drastic reduction in jobs, and a collapse in the economy. We have based our economy on the ever-expanding use of coal and natural gas and oil. We even plow the sky, back and forth, with giant metal birds that belch the burned oil into the most vulnerable layers of the upper atmosphere. How could any of this burning effect such a robust, HUGE planet? A planet whose surface is littered with volcanoes, that vent the same gasses that our machinery does?

I am here to tell you, [as a trained oilfield engineer], that decades of study of the the earths crust has not fostered in me a belief in the robustness of our ecosystem. It is the opposite. When ones job is to look deep into the earth, one gets the feeling that they are scooting about on melted rock, riding a very thin skateboard of non melted rock. When you take measurements, the temperature and pressure and chemical toxicity mount very very rapidly as you drill just a short distance down into the thin skin of non melted rock. It is a miracle that fresh water can exist near the surface. The deep holes that we drill into such a hot and toxic environment absurdly risky.

When you look at the big picture then, [including the atmosphere], it is sheer folly to bring flammable toxins to the surface. Burning them directly into the atmosphere is noisy and unpleasant, and we have already overcome the Earth's natural resistance to climate change. Additional burning will work directly against the well being of our children. No financial arguments make any sense. Money is our own concept, but I will attempt to guess the preference of unborn generations:

WE WOULD PREFER TO INHERIT GOOD WATER RATHER THAN MONEY. WE WOULD PREFER A CRUST THAT HAS VERY FEW DRILL HOLES IN IT. WE HOPE FOR AN ATMOSPHERE RICH IN OXYGEN AND LOW IN CARBON DIOXIDE AND HYDROCARBON EXHAUST. WE TRUST YOU TO REDUCE YOUR NUMBERS AND TO CONSERVE YOUR RESOURCES, SO THAT OUR LIVES WILL ALSO BE LONG AND FULFILLING. LEAVE US GREAT SCHOOLS, INSPIRING ART, AND A CAREFULLY THOUGHT OUT RENEWABLE INFRASTRUCTURE. PLEASE HOLD THE WEAPONS AND THE SECRET POLICE AND THE CONSTANT THREAT OF WAR.

In short, there are some arguments for leaving remaining fossil fuel stores in place. Now, we should look at plug-in vehicles and the renewable infrastructure itself. Are renewables just a kind of hoax, along with climate change?

Certainly, renewable energy has changed my life for the better. I switched from the electric grid and generators to photovoltaics some time ago. My little town goes dark pretty often, because we are at the end of a long, and faulty bit of the electric grid. By contrast, my home solar electric runs for years at a time. If the main system needs maintenance, i can rely on two back up systems. Now, i make my own heating and cooking and even some of my motor fuel! That feels pretty good. My choices, freely made, have reduced the number of fires and explosions in the world. I have replaced fires and explosions with little patches of ground that are deprived of sunlight and slightly cooler!

Finally, there is the diffuse nature of sunlight, and the problems with batteries. OK, sunlight is not really that weak! For example, enough sun falls on your house to power anything within reason that needs doing under that roof. Enough typically falls on your car to get you to and from work. Sun or wind are universally available on earth, as long as you make allowances for non-windy periods and night and winter. Only a tiny fraction of the surface needs to be shaded by panels to meet any foreseeable needs that we might have.

Batteries have improved drastically of late, and we should see further refinements quite soon. We are ramping up our production of fairly clean lithium ion batteries now, and these already allow huge travel distances and great performance. Smart neighborhood grids and the new batteries should make our future power systems robust and very efficient.

In summary; it is within our grasp to switch to renewable power almost overnight. We are smart, smart monkeys! The Earth will be cooler and more quiet. We will feel some comfort that we have prepared the way for our descendants in the best way that we could. Stated a different way: Even if you don't believe in God, is it a total waste of time to issue a very brief 'insurance prayer' just in case she exists? Climate change; the future of the energy infrastructure; and the general quality of life for all species on Earth concern us to the point where it might be reasonable to reduce our 'burning' voluntarily.

Einsteins very first paper, in 1905, named and described the photoelectric effect. The atom is described as a slightly more interesting little machine than we initially supposed! Light can strike an atom, and give it that much of a boost in energy. The light is gone then, and it's 'oomph' goes into raising one of the atom's electrons into a higher orbit. If the 'oomph' is great enough, the electron may be free to leave the atom, and to be shared along from atom to atom. It has been suggested that we are burning too much fossil fuel, and harming ourselves. Wouldn't it be a miracle to arrange some way to use these freely marching electrons? O wait..............

2 comments:

  1. No need to convince me of the necessity of change and transition. The question is, How?. We will need a realistic nuts and bolts plan. The change is actually already underway, but the battleship of civilization turns very slowly. How could we accelerate the change?

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    Replies
    1. i guess that i was pretty impressed at how easy it was for a normal guy to convert an atv to electric. this kind of hands on stuff gets me thinking that there is very little blocking us from maturing in a hurry.

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About Me

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I am a fine art photographer and filmmaker. Lately, I have been doing panoramic images of the Canyonlands area, and printing them using archival materials. These large images are placed in work cubicles and homes, and can sometimes briefly transport the viewer to a contemplative location.