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Decarbonize and the WSJ


The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is hardly a mouthpiece for the left or even the center for that matter. I doubt that Rachel Maddow ever reads it although she may have ‘her people’ do that so she has material.The Monday (11/24) issue of the WSJ had a report from the ‘CEO Council.’ This is a group of business leaders that were convened by the Journal to come up with priorities for the new administration. One of the four topics was energy & the environment. The top two recommendations regarding energy & the environment are:1.Comprehensive energy and environment policy.Put national legislation in place that starts us on the road to decarbonize our economy and to create the most energy-efficient economy in the world. Level with the American people that ensuring an adequate and diverse energy supply in a low-carbon world will not be cheap or easy. But make the case that the transition must be transparent and fair to all Americans, and that linking the economy, the environment and energy policy bolsters security for all three. 2.Decarbonize the power sector.Launch a coordinated strategy to curb emissions from electricity production that recognizes the need for a variety of energy sources. To facilitate renewable energy, allow the use of federal eminent domain to site transmission lines, and increase federal spending to improve energy-storage technology. To allow the continued use of coal, promote carbon capture and sequestration technology by boosting federal R&D spending and by streamlining procedures for the licensing and siting of facilities to store the carbon dioxide underground. To expand the use of nuclear energy, resolve storage issues. To promote all these technologies, create a cap-and trade system for carbon emissions.There is enough in these two recommendations to keep a group of environmentalists and their opponents going for months. If Jimmy Carter read this, I imagine his easy smile broadened considerably. After all during his unpopular time in the White House his policies regarding energy conservation and new technology were accompanied by a substantial reduction in oil imports and carbon emissions.Decarbonize is featured in both of the CEO Council’s recommendation. Don’t you just love that word? Bill Gates does not include it in my automatic dictionary. But decarbonize may just be the verb of this new century.Governor Bill Ritter Jr. has a plan to reduce Colorado’s emissions of greenhouse gases by 25% by 2020. That would be to decarbonize. This includes a shared commitment with other states and nations to even deeper emissions cuts by 2050 (http://www.colorado.gov/energy/in/uploaded_pdf/ColoradoClimateActionPlan_001.pdf). I guess Governor Ritter doesn’t read the Kansas newspapers. Our business leaders at Sunflower Electric filed a lawsuit for the right to carbonize our environment to the tune of 11 million tons annually and sell most of the electricity to Governor Ritter’s constituents. Since the Sunflower lawsuit is pending, perhaps we should offer a settlement. Kansas will no longer deny permits for the Sunflower coal powered electric generation plants but simply delay approval until the existence of new carbon sequestration technology that demonstrates a lack of environment damage. Better yet Colorado could pay Kansas legal fees in the Sunflower lawsuit to demonstrate Governor Ritter’s shared commitment to cut emissions.


devobrun 9 years, 5 months ago

Mr Poertner,1) Innovation occurs in spite of the government, not because of it.2) The energy budget is a tool to evaluate the effectiveness of energy technologies. The idea is that all energy gathering is costly in terms of energy. That is, you must spend joules of energy in order to gather joules of energy. This is true for oil, gas, coal, and all alternative energy sources.3) No alternative energy sources are currently producing more energy than it takes to make them. 4) Windmills require backup traditional carbon-based sources to fill in for the approximately 75% of the time the windmills cannot be used.5) Solar requires tremendous amounts of energy to produce the raw materials, in sufficient purity, to produce the electricity. Solar also suffers from diurnal and weather-related dropouts and the subsequent backup fossil-fuel systems.6) Wanting to is not enough. You have to produce. It isn't a video game. It isn't a movie. It isn't money. It isn't politics. Gathering and storing energy for the demand driven energy needs of this country are not going to be solved by calls from politicians, money from politicians, dreams from beautiful people, or any other human resource.7) The solution will come from everybody making sacrifices. Drive less, soccer mom.Back off the "hate nuclear" dogma, ancient hippie.Demand that manufacturers make equipment that lasts, like I-pods that work for 5 years,like computers that last 10 years,like telephones that last between 5 and 10 years.Stop asking for miracles, Obama fans. It is called engineering, folks. You know, the guys who were the baby killers in 1972. This is going to be a really difficult time for the peace and love crowd. The solution will have to come from tough guys (and gals) who don't buy B.S.Grow up Mr. Poertner and everybody else who thinks that the technology that you are immersed in is a result of science.It is not. Telephones, movies, and a automobiles are all the result of engineering, not science. They aren't the same. First there is engineering, then there is science who comes along to explain the engineering to the general public who look for magic solutions to their world.

Bob Hechlor 9 years, 5 months ago

Devo could be a Diva. He sounds very full of himself. Perhaps we can get all the energy we need by burning off what Devo is full of. These naysayers are so out of touch. Apparently, they are buying from only one seller and failing to see what many now have to offer. The naysaying won't prevent advancement. It is happening from scientists to garage mechanics, and possibly with some engineering, at least the ones who have an open mind.

Bob Hechlor 9 years, 5 months ago

We need to always keep in mind that coal and uranium require mining. Mining is a disaster environmentally. It gets even worse now where mountain top removal is now the favored method in many places. The destruction to plant and wildlife and the water supply is catastrophic. If you don't think so, check with residents in Appalachia who live in the areas that are impacted. There are much better solutions. Apparently even Bill Gates thinks so, as he is investing in production of algae. Algae can be used to make electricity and it is clean and can be produced practically anywhere. It can also be used to fuel diesel vehicles.

Paul Decelles 9 years, 5 months ago

Devo,You write:"Solar requires tremendous amounts of energy to produce the raw materials, in sufficient purity, to produce the electricity. Solar also suffers from diurnal and weather-related dropouts and the subsequent backup fossil-fuel systems."The problems is you are only half right here. See this recent report from Brookhaven that states:http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es071763q?cookieSet=1"Previous life-cycle studies reported a wide range of primary energy consumption for PV modules. Alsema reviewed studies of crystalline silicon photovoltaics from the 1990s and found considerable variance among investigators in their estimates of primary energy consumption. In those days, manufacturing of solar cells was for the most part using off-spec products of electronic-grade silicon and various allocation rules were applied to the energy and material inputs for each grade of silicon; also solar cells were much thicker than the current ones (1). Meijer et al. evaluated 270-µm-thick Si PV with 14.5% cell efficiency fabricated from electronic-grade high-purity silicon (2). They estimated energy payback time (EPBT, the time it takes for a photovoltaic (PV) system to generate an amount of energy equal to that used in its production) for the module only of 3.5 years for the low level of insolation in The Netherlands (1000 kWh/m2/yr). Jungbluth reported the life-cycle metrics of various PV systems (2000 vintage) under average insolation in Switzerland (1100 kWh/m2/yr) (3). He estimated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the range of 39–110 g CO2-equiv/kWh and EPBT of 3–6 years."New technologies have passed you by I am afraid.Me thinks you also have an overly simplified view of the relationship between science and engineering. That said I think you are right that we need to demand stuff that lasts longer than is current and that sacrifices are needed. I also agree that there is a place for nuclear in our energy mix.But can't you make your points in a more gentlemanly sort of way without the political rhetoric?Regards,Paul

jonas_opines 9 years, 5 months ago

"First there is engineering, then there is science who comes along to explain the engineering to the general public who look for magic solutions to their world."Oh, you wouldn't happen to be an engineer or something, would you?Arrogant, much? Perhaps, in a long enough perspective, it might go like this. First, there is trial and error. Then there are workable solutions, that get remembered. Then there are engineers who take what has worked and mindlessly adhere to it. Then scientists study what has worked in a broader fashion, expain to the engineers (well, the ones that listen) why these things work the way they work, and show places that they might be better improved. Some of the engineers stubbornly stick to what they know, but then trial and error starts again, the old engineers with the outdated worldview die off, and the cycle repeats.This is all a hypothesis, of course, but it certainly seems to make more sense than yours.

jonas_opines 9 years, 5 months ago

Someone should do a cultural analysis on engineers in the aspect of uncertainty avoidance. Something tells me they'd be astronomically high in that area.

devobrun 9 years, 5 months ago

Paul,Also in ACS is this article: http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_ARTICLEMAIN&node_id=1495&content_id=CTP_005493&use_sec=true&sec_url_var=region1Wow, that's a long URL!Read the article critically. There is hope. There are projections that offer "in the future" scenarios.However, notice that the writer mixes technologies and projections. Poly-silicon, cadmium-telluride, thin film, thick film, etc. The first thing you should notice is that no single technology is evaluated individually. Energy efficiency and dollar cost are mixed. There is no figure of merit applied to each technology individually. Your reference to Meijer is here: http://www.ru.nl/environmentalscience/research/life_cycle/photovoltaic_systems/Again, lab studies of different technologies based on models are interesting, but not very convincing. There is a lot of flim flam going on in this area. The potential for massive $ has drawn in the sharks. Public beware. As Neal Young said: "you paid for this but they give you that". Low duty cycle is still a problem with both solar and wind. Backup fossil fuel electricity is a must. Nuclear is certainly helpful, but coal and gas are dynamic systems that can come on line quickly to meet demand. Nuclear doesn't. The whole grid is going to groan as flaky technologies start to provide electricity. Why am I so negative? Because this stuff has been around for a long time and fancy solutions to make exotic systems is what you do to improve things that are already working. Complexity and sophistication is not the solution. An old engineer told me once. "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly". The first wheel was probably not very good. Wheel have been improved, but the first one worked. If the technology doesn't work well at the simple level of development, it probably won't work well as you sophisticate it. If PV isn't a good replacement for fossil fuel now, it probably won't be in 30 years. I advocate continued investigation. I also advocate a more reasoned, careful, cautious approach than we see from the politicians, and the press. Calm down folks, just because Obama is going to be president doesn't mean that the 2nd law of thermodynamics will be repealed.

Bill Griffith 9 years, 5 months ago

Devo, concerning your first assertion-what about Tang?

Bob Hechlor 9 years, 5 months ago

There is no reason to consider nuclear. First, as already mentioned, mining, which means pollution, Second, waste storage still hasn't been solved and thirdly and practically the primary reason is that nuclear costs too much and banks were not in a position to loan before and certainly are not now, so look in other directions. I mentioned algae. Why fool with mining, land destruction, pollution concerns, when it now looks like it won't be necessary.

Bob Hechlor 9 years, 5 months ago

Devo, regarding the wheel, I would say, keep an open mind. There is never a better place to be than there. While mottos and metaphors can be of some help, it also places one in danger of being stuck in a rigid position. Those of who are open to discovery are the ones who keep us moving.

Bob Hechlor 9 years, 5 months ago

XD40 hoax"doesn't understand the problems with pollution which causes health problems and destruction to the environment"RSHRINK

Bob Hechlor 9 years, 5 months ago

Pundintry won't replace science. Beware of special interest groups who pose as legit scientists.

Bob Hechlor 9 years, 5 months ago

Quadrant - Political bias. Engineer orientation, not climate scientists.

beastshawnee 9 years, 5 months ago

The answer lies not in technology, but in de-population. If a real plague sweeps through, we might get the carbon levels back down in another 600 years or so, but even if they are knocked out of the sky, they continue to accummulate in the ocean, where the carbon levels have been raising the acidity drastically each year lately. The carbon belongs way deep under ...ground. So do the world a favor and go back to tribal living after the plague.

Bob Hechlor 9 years, 4 months ago

In the meantime beast, maybe we could just cut back as much as possible, on pollution.

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