AndyH
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:21 pm

kubel wrote:
AndyH wrote:Sorry. Unfortunately, it's our number one problem - the single problem that is supporting all the other challenges we face.
I guess it all depends on who "our" is and what they plan to do.
"Our" is the human species currently occupying planet Earth.
kubel wrote:I have a theory that we really don't need to do anything about it since I don't see it as a problem.
Good luck.
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Tue May 01, 2012 8:08 am

AndyH wrote: :shock: What? The 'cartoon' is not about energy - it's about the sum of all we're taking from AND DOING TO the planet on which we depend. (The source is linked in the post, BTW.) Energy is only one small part of the process.

As for recycling finite resources, it's probably not socially acceptable to take the Coke can away from Joe before she's finished the drink in order to recycle it! Ok, maybe too obscure. Continually dividing the number of tons of available aluminum among a continually growing population suggests that we'd better forget 12 ounce drinks and learn to accept little 2-ounce cans - for a while, anyway.

Look back at the carrying capacity/logistic curve for a minute. This beautiful curve represents "The maximum number of individuals of a given species that a particular environment can support for an indefinite period, assuming the environment doesn't change."
The cartoon is not about energy alone, I know, but if you think about it for a moment you will see that in the real world it is all about energy. Therefore it is unnecessary to worry about anything else.

If you explain the coke-can recycling a bit more? I dont understand why we have to take peoples cans away before they finished drinking?
While I agree that for a number of reasons, smaller cans (or portion sizes in general) would be good for peoples health, from a recycling point of view, larger cans would seem better. Or do you think there is not enough aluminum for everyone?

I think there is not a problem with aluminum shortages...However it is a resource that consumes hideous amounts of energy to refine into the final product, so recycling is definitely the way to treat those used soda cans.
I think the cartoon creates the false impression, that in addition to hydrocarbons, we are running out of all the other resources too, but that is just plain nonsense, negligence at best. The reason why all the rare earths come from China for example is NOT because it is the only place where they can be found, but it is currently the only places that REFINES them.
They are probably everywhere, like any other resource.

About the "carrying capacity" of the land: Who defined that number? Do you know how many people can live on a piece of land? Is this truly a constant? (History has shown it is not!). Is this as solid a number as the 14 billion population estimate??

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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Tue May 01, 2012 9:07 am

klapauzius wrote: The reason why all the rare earths come from China for example is NOT because it is the only place where they can be found, but it is currently the only places that REFINES them.
They are probably everywhere, like any other resource.
I understood "rare earth" just meant the item is a byproduct of other mining operations. So a company digs for iron or aluminum ore as the main event but gets these rare earth minerals or metals as part of the process. Industry does not yet demand the price or volume to go mine these rare earth items as the primary resource.
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Tue May 01, 2012 9:32 am

smkettner wrote: I understood "rare earth" just meant the item is a byproduct of other mining operations. So a company digs for iron or aluminum ore as the main event but gets these rare earth minerals or metals as part of the process. Industry does not yet demand the price or volume to go mine these rare earth items as the primary resource.
They are really important for electronics, batteries etc...Some people are worried that the bulk of it is coming out of China, which has restricted exports, because they use an increasingly portion of it themselves..Needless to say that military applications also heavily rely on these "rare" earths (which in reality are not that "rare"). Eventually they have to be produced/refined somewhere else, or the world economy will be at China's mercy.

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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Tue May 01, 2012 11:08 am

klapauzius wrote:They are really important for electronics, batteries etc...Some people are worried that the bulk of it is coming out of China, which has restricted exports, because they use an increasingly portion of it themselves..Needless to say that military applications also heavily rely on these "rare" earths (which in reality are not that "rare"). Eventually they have to be produced/refined somewhere else, or the world economy will be at China's mercy.
One reason China took over the market for producing rare earth metals is because much of the mining and refining there is done without environmental regulations. Producing rare earths tends to make a lot of toxic and radioactive waste (because they are associated with other heavy metals and radioactive elements). The lack of (enforced) waste disposal and worker safety regulations gave Chinese producers a cost advantage over other countries, such as the USA and Australia. Now that limited supply from China has caused prices to rise sharply, mines in other countries are in the process of being reopened, notably the Molycorp mine in Mountain Pass, California.
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Tue May 01, 2012 11:28 am

klapauzius wrote:
AndyH wrote: :shock: What? The 'cartoon' is not about energy - it's about the sum of all we're taking from AND DOING TO the planet on which we depend. (The source is linked in the post, BTW.) Energy is only one small part of the process.

As for recycling finite resources, it's probably not socially acceptable to take the Coke can away from Joe before she's finished the drink in order to recycle it! Ok, maybe too obscure. Continually dividing the number of tons of available aluminum among a continually growing population suggests that we'd better forget 12 ounce drinks and learn to accept little 2-ounce cans - for a while, anyway.

Look back at the carrying capacity/logistic curve for a minute. This beautiful curve represents "The maximum number of individuals of a given species that a particular environment can support for an indefinite period, assuming the environment doesn't change."
The cartoon is not about energy alone, I know, but if you think about it for a moment you will see that in the real world it is all about energy. Therefore it is unnecessary to worry about anything else.

If you explain the coke-can recycling a bit more? I dont understand why we have to take peoples cans away before they finished drinking?
While I agree that for a number of reasons, smaller cans (or portion sizes in general) would be good for peoples health, from a recycling point of view, larger cans would seem better. Or do you think there is not enough aluminum for everyone?

I think there is not a problem with aluminum shortages...However it is a resource that consumes hideous amounts of energy to refine into the final product, so recycling is definitely the way to treat those used soda cans.
I think the cartoon creates the false impression, that in addition to hydrocarbons, we are running out of all the other resources too, but that is just plain nonsense, negligence at best. The reason why all the rare earths come from China for example is NOT because it is the only place where they can be found, but it is currently the only places that REFINES them.
They are probably everywhere, like any other resource.

About the "carrying capacity" of the land: Who defined that number? Do you know how many people can live on a piece of land? Is this truly a constant? (History has shown it is not!). Is this as solid a number as the 14 billion population estimate??
First, an apology. I read 'cartoon' and jumped to the 1.4 earth image from WWF via the Environment text. It looks like you went to the original video. (Here's a piece of 2x4. Feel free to give me a whack in future if I fail to make the jump/connection. Seriously! Thanks.)

The can tangent (cangent?) is a comment on non-renewables. Many seem to think that the best way to decrease the birth rate is to quickly bring the developing world 'up' to developed world levels of industry, education, etc. so that we can benefit from the 'natural' drop in birth rate that'll bring. But it's clear that we simply do not have the raw materials - renewable and non-renewable - to support everyone on the planet living as we do. This problem is way too large and the pieces too interconnected to solve from a narrow perspective. Ultimately that's the real significance of the WWF chart - we hit 1.5 Earths in 2010 and are heading for 2 Earths by about 2030.

edit - stumbled on this today. One study using real CO2 numbers rather than estimates, suggests that GDP growth is more significant for CO2 emissions than short-term population increases.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/0 ... ?ref=green
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/ar ... 1112000469
/edit

Based on what I've found, the video gives a pretty accurate look at the state of renewables and non-renewables. We're at or near peak oil, peak (fresh) water, peak chemical fertilizer...and more.
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This fertilizer thing is just one piece. Take a wider look - Since 1950 we've lost 20% of agricultural land and 20% of the topsoil on that land, yet we have about twice as many people to feed. The soil that remains is severely damaged and depleted and is biologically dead. This requires using more and more chemical fertilizer to get the same yields - and yet we're running out of fertilizer components (and burning/wasting the organic matter that could be rebuilding the soil instead of putting it back in/on the ground). One more knot in the noose, please?

As for the US, we have about 4% of the population yet use ~25% of the oil, for example. And what do we produce? What's our number one export [to China in 2010]?

Garbage. Waste. We export waste paper and used steel to China to be recycled - we don't even recycle the majority of our own junk! We send barges full of garbage and hazardous waste to other countries with lower environmental and worker safety requirements.

In order to bring things into balance the developing world does need to develop more - they desperately need food, education, family planning, medicine...engineers and doctors... (Apparently, only 10% of the world's highly skilled professionals - Dr./engineers/etc. are in the developing world - and most of those are in 2 or three countries like Cuba.) But - the developing world - especially the number one producer of waste - US! - needs to do SIGNIFICANTLY better than we have been. I agree - there's plenty of fat to cut.

Carrying capacity of the planet...I haven't seen anything that gives a hard number. One thing we do know, though, via direct measurement, is that we're in deficit territory with regard to some of our waste products - we dump more than the planet can process. Seems we could continue to grow if we can get out waste problem under control...but how much more? Considering the immense population inertia already built into the system, when should we start making adjustments and how quickly? Just as there's a 40 year lag between CO2 emissions and temperature change, we'll not reach zero population growth overnight.

Energy...Sorry, I don't (yet?) agree. It's certainly part of the problem - and maybe one of the more pressing problems (provided you're not one of the ~29,000 kids from zero to 5 that dies of disease or malnutrition each day). But I'm not sure we really can focus solely on energy and ignore the rest. Even if we link energy to CO2 and work to lower our CO2 emissions - the problem is still multifaceted. 40% of emissions are due to energy used to heat/cool buildings. Building codes are changing (but really only apply to new construction), and programs like LEED and others will result in lower energy use over time - but it's really slow - too slow! And doesn't address the existing buildings. Electrifying transportation is great as well - yet it's not the primary polluter, and again it's going to take bloody forever at current rates to make a significant dent in the problem.

Seems to me that we need some significant solutions and need to start some very significant actions yesterday. But it all starts with an attitude adjustment - and with the current US policy (or lack thereof), and Canada pulling out of the Kyoto protocol, seems we're moving attitudes (and progress) in the wrong direction. :(

Sorry about all the words. I don't know enough yet to communicate this more economically. ;)
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Tue May 01, 2012 9:59 pm

AndyH wrote:
Seems to me that we need some significant solutions and need to start some very significant actions yesterday. But it all starts with an attitude adjustment - and with the current US policy (or lack thereof), and Canada pulling out of the Kyoto protocol, seems we're moving attitudes (and progress) in the wrong direction. :(

Sorry about all the words. I don't know enough yet to communicate this more economically. ;)
I try to be part of the solution but get kicked every time I try - I'll keep trying anyway. You have to stop listing all the problems and start saying how you are going to contribute with critical thinking and risk evaluation. There are no simple problems nor simple answers. So I'll close today with another observation - there is enough uranium in sea water for fuel to last longer than the sun.
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Tue May 01, 2012 11:59 pm

Nekota wrote:
AndyH wrote:
Seems to me that we need some significant solutions and need to start some very significant actions yesterday. But it all starts with an attitude adjustment - and with the current US policy (or lack thereof), and Canada pulling out of the Kyoto protocol, seems we're moving attitudes (and progress) in the wrong direction. :(

Sorry about all the words. I don't know enough yet to communicate this more economically. ;)
I try to be part of the solution but get kicked every time I try - I'll keep trying anyway. You have to stop listing all the problems and start saying how you are going to contribute with critical thinking and risk evaluation. There are no simple problems nor simple answers. So I'll close today with another observation - there is enough uranium in sea water for fuel to last longer than the sun.
Thanks for being here! While working on solutions (I did call for a solutions thread a bit earlier but you're the first taker!) we'll also see if we can expand your world view a bit as well. :) There is more to life than fission - symbolically tearing things apart, and all. ;) Even though fusion is outside our grasp 'in the flesh' maybe we can at least keep the 'coming together to do good things' alive in spirit. :D

As for risk evaluation - shall we brainstorm some possible solutions first before racking/stacking each? Or am I missing something?

Problems...they aren't fun to read, type, or evaluate - and some here don't agree that there are problems. Seems to me that there's value in putting all the cards on the table, even if we have to take Dramamine before hand. I really don't like the possible alternative...

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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Wed May 02, 2012 5:24 am

Nekota wrote:there is enough uranium in sea water for fuel to last longer than the sun.
There's a nice discussion of this here: http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/with ... _163.shtml" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The net is I think you've exaggerated the situation a little bit. The analysis the author does basically assumes you can extract 10% of the uranium from the ocean. The power you could generate from this (in an advanced breeder reactor that hasn't been perfected yet!) would supply 420kWh per person per day for 1000 years at TODAY's population level. To put that number in perspective, current US power consumption is 250kWh per person per day (not electricity consumption, POWER consumption--this includes things like heating/cooling, transportation, energy required to make all the stuff we buy, etc.) So even if we scale up the assumptions to extremes and assume you could get 100% of the uranium, we suddenly experienced zero population growth starting tomorrow, and the average consumption of humans stabilized at half the US number (125kWh/person/day--which would be great for most of the planet, but for us here in the US that would be a dramatic lifestyle change!), we're still talking about 40,000 years of supply. Not that that's not a great number! But it certainly is not "the lifetime of the sun".

The real ultimate solution (if it's technically possible at all, but I'll put on my optimist hat here) is deuterium from the ocean to supply fusion reactors. This is covered a few pages later: http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/with ... _173.shtml" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

This would supply 30,000kWh/person/day for 1 million years for 60 billion people.

This would give us the next big step in our energy evolution, similar to the effect that coal and the steam engine had on growth in the industrial revolution that led us to our current situation. Sadly, even though 30MWh/day sounds like a huge number, I have no doubt that if we ever got to the point where we can technically do this we'd find some way to squander that amount of energy!
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Re: World Energy Use - There's No Tomorrow

Wed May 02, 2012 6:36 am

lpickup wrote:The real ultimate solution (if it's technically possible at all, but I'll put on my optimist hat here) is deuterium from the ocean to supply fusion reactors. This is covered a few pages later: http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/with ... _173.shtml" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I just want to reiterate how silly these kinds of analysis are. You (and the author of that article) are implicitly assuming 100% of our energy needs need to be, or will be, satisfied by a single technology. That's beyond nonsense; it's insane.

If you want an energy source that will last as long as the sun? We have that already, it's called solar power. There is literally hundreds of times more energy that we need raining down on our heads every day, and we don't need any technological breakthroughs to tap it.

By all means let's pursue fusion power and advanced fission reactor designs - but we do not need them and it's foolish to plan our future on them.
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