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You have to choose one for your backyard to help in the energy crisis

Started by AstroMart, 04/07/2018 10:51PM

Poll Results:

0 Total Votes
Posted 07/16/2008 07:09PM #10
Richard Wright said:

What I am really finding interesting about these past few polls is what popular media has done to people's perceptions of the energy problem and what is possible. The use of a buzzword by a trade group like "Clean Coal" gets repeated a few times and it sounds like it must be a recognized industry standard, like Energy Star or something, despite the fact it simply does not exist. A few loud assertions of "More drilling is needed" and the impression is there are proven reserves nearby able to meet our needs in the near future, when there aren't and nothing would show up for a decade or more, anyway. And on the alternative side, we are given the impression wind farms will cure all. In reality, they have a lot of limits on where they will work, and when they generate power. Solar, likewise, has real limits to it's practicality based on when and where it will work, regardless of technical limitations. Nuclear is touted as a source of inexhaustible power, when scale up is a massive industrial undertaking, and it has limits on power generation since it needs water to reject waste heat. And listening to the recent Governors' conference as one after another suggested get rich quick schemes for pet interests in their states as potential solutions tells why.

There is a gold rush to be had for expensive power. There isn't so much in saying "build houses like they were in the 1850s, and didn't require artificial climate control for the bulk of their heating and cooling requirements.". That would mean answers like living close to where you work in a home with features like walls with thermal mass to stabilize temperatures and wide porches and eaves to keep the summer sun off.

There isn't any discussion about how our ancestors were already pursuing what was easiest to make work. It's because you can't make a killing on it. But that would be what we wanted- to be less at the mercy of energy prices, isn't it?

Clean Coal. Clean Coal. Clean Coal. OK, so I used a buzzword, that's not bad in itself. Conservation is neither sexy nor powerful enough to get the political power brokers involved; just the grassroots. Conservation can also never offset the need for new energy supplies. The frustrations of that reality make the worst of the ECO types promote mass reductions in population... that wasn't mentioned either. In 1850 heating with wood was an option; is it now? There were ~1.3 billion people in the world and ~26 million in North America then; now there are ~6.6 billion and ~320 million respectively.

For the record I insulated my 1999 home with Icynene foam, in hind sight closed cell would have been better, and live 2 miles from work. My wife worked with me there for 5 years but now drives all over the place as a temp. Hard to fix that with a new home location... and building when not necessary is wasteful too. Living like the 1850s would require a much slower pace of life and much less comfort for everyone except the most elite and a huge hit against the toys of our favorite hobby.

I agree, there are multiple down sides to each energy source. Wind is land hungry, inefficient, ugly and interferes with micro climate air flow. Solar is very land intense and production of panels is polluting. Geothermal is very expensive, can be disruptive of geological dynamics (earthquakes), and has low yield in inactive zones. Dams destroy ECO systems so they are frowned on now. They also MAKE ecosystems but that is ignored by many. Nuclear had an option with breeder reactors but THAT debate brought out all kinds of boogie men. Fear of all boogie men is cutting us off at the knees. Ethanol is horrible land use and disruptive to food supply. Oil drilling is fairly short term solution given known supplies.

Global warming is now first a political movement and secondly a climate theory. The impact of the theory is not foregone but the dynamics of the political power struggle are obvious. Theoretical models are trotted out as gospel yet the keep changing to reflect new facts. But politically, global warming is embraced because it is heresy to dismiss it. The last information I read states we can expect higher rainfall everywhere and a better environment for growth of vegetation if average temps rise permanently. Worst case, even if seas rise the deserts will become fertile again.

Coal is a current option that can be made better. Closed loop energy systems are the only sustainable option otherwise we are messing with one system or another in planetary dynamics. Then again, if we don't truly understand the nature of climatic stability we can't determine if it is out of control.


"I know engineers. They love to change things."

- Leonard McCoy (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
Posted 07/17/2008 05:00AM #11 live in a culture sane enough to actually build houses suited to their environment...not one that builds the same flimsy shacks everywhere, in all climates, houses so poor at providing shelter that they are uninhabitable without massive energy inputs. Some corner of creation must contain a paradise where people are smart enough to do that.

Joe Bergeron

Moderator, Astro-Physics Forum
Posted 07/17/2008 05:54AM | Edited 07/17/2008 06:08AM #12
Richard -

I've missed points before, and did not intend to offend you in the least. Your knowledge no doubt exceeds mine on these issues at least. Debates help me to flesh out my understanding but I loose track sometimes. Maybe that's laughable. Clean coal may be less tangible than I was aware of but that doesn't diminish coal's value as an energy source.

I didn't think I missed your point about conservation and I conserve what I can though I'm sure your point wasn't directed personally. Nevertheless I already don't go on vacations, or buy cars frequently (7 and 8 year old boring cars). Or even shop much. But I cool the house at 78 most of the summer and heat it to 75 most of the winter so I'm not neutral. Conservation will only go so far and the reality is most people won't unless they have to financially. I'm already poor.

I don't think my block on sources is a mess; but it is not polished. MY point is there are strikes against all the options, including conservation. Some problems I relayed are minor and some are major but these concerns, and others, are valid.

Conservation is good for some reasons and noble for others but it won't happen across the board until it hurts too much to not conserve. Old homes leak too much for modern energy costs and thermal mass is only comfortable with mild temperature variation. For example, my parents lived in an earth bermed home for years. The selling point was that the ground is always about 55 degrees below the frost line so it is cheaper to heat and cool from that point. The cooling part worked only so far but unfortunately the designer failed to recognize the mass of earth at 55 degrees was not going to heat up very easily. My folks were very cold in the winter and Minnesota has long winters.

How much energy do we need to conserve to eliminate dependence on fossil fuels? What are the comprehensive plans that make my concerns invalid?
Who lives and who dies? I'm looking for answers too, doing a lot of reading actually, and know there of no one solution.

You said; "After all, this country was built before there was air conditioning or cars." Cars have been part of this country for about half its existence and most of our society is built around them. AC is essential for a lot of the developed real estate in the world. I'd like to hold off the revolution for a while to give real innovation a chance here.

I'd rather we had the will to find that Star Trek solution but if the doom sayers are right it might be an apocalypse instead.


"I know engineers. They love to change things."

- Leonard McCoy (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
Posted 07/17/2008 06:14AM #13
Joe Bergeron said: live in a culture sane enough to actually build houses suited to their environment...not one that builds the same flimsy shacks everywhere, in all climates, houses so poor at providing shelter that they are uninhabitable without massive energy inputs. Some corner of creation must contain a paradise where people are smart enough to do that.

We are too mobile for that. If we planned to stay in our homes for decades then long-term solutions would be more obvious. As ii is a system or design upgrade that has even a 10 year payback doesn't make financial sense if you will relocate in 5 and the next buyer won't value the upgrade.

"I know engineers. They love to change things."

- Leonard McCoy (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
Posted 07/18/2008 01:57AM #14
Well, that's where the part about being smarter comes in. Smart enough to appreciate a house that belongs where it is. Most of us are in one house after another for decades. If they were all sensibly constructed you could count on your next house being that way too. We would all reap the benefits of the previous guy's foresight. Picture us all jumping around from one smart house to another..assuming our current mobility even persists, of course.

Joe Bergeron

Moderator, Astro-Physics Forum
Posted 07/19/2008 02:13PM #15
I have to apologize, I guess, for not being enlightened enough to want to return to the 1850s. I rather always thought that we should strive to *improve* the standard of living for the next generation, rather than telling them to learn to live with less. Demand for energy is going to increase as the years go by, if only because the population increases; that's eventually going to overtake any conservation efforts, and *then* what do you do?

We need to move forward, not backward; we need to produce more energy, not just complain about the difficulties and tell everyone to make do with less. It's all well and good to point out the difficulties with various methods of energy production, but that just means we need to find SOLUTIONS to the problems rather than abandon energy production entirely. And at some point, choices are going to have to be made between energy production and environmental concerns; for too long, we've allowed environmental extremism to overrule common-sense tradeoffs.

Coal *can* be burned more cleanly, nuclear power plants *can* be built (even in the desert!), and yes, we can drill for oil so we'll have more domestic production available in 10 years. Wind power is great, where it's practical; solar panels on everyone's roof is a great idea. But the key to any solution is economics.

Saying "no" to every conceivable kind of energy production makes you part of the PROBLEM, not part of the solution. Like it nor not, we'll need more energy in the future, and refusing to countenance any method of producing it cheaply and in large amounts just perpetuates our current situation.

Like it or not, we live in a free market system. Nobody's going to put solar panels on their roof if wind-generated electricity is cheaper. Nobody's going to want wind-generated electricity if coal-fired power is cheaper. Nobody is going to buy electric cars if gasoline-powered cars are cheaper until (as we see now) gasoline prices become a significant factor. Etc.

So here's a challenge to all of the environmental types out there: let's hear a long-term solution that's economically reasonable, independent of conservation considerations. Stop, for just a moment, talling us what we *can't* do, and propose something we *can* do instead. Let me reinforce the fact that I'm asking for something economically feasible and independent of conservation. (I don't object to conservation as an idea; I just want to hear about *other* ideas.)

Terry (astrotrf)
Posted 07/19/2008 03:21PM | Edited 07/19/2008 04:00PM #16
You're setting up a false argument here, acting as though it's the responsibility of "environmental types" to come up with a plan that's to your liking, rather than one that conforms to what we see as a complex reality that involves more than what's cheapest or what does the least to change or upset the riotous energy consumption that people like you see as their birthright. A lot of "environmental extremists" view the environment, which you are willing to tolerate as long as it doesn't get in your way, as literally vital to our standard of living and quality of life. "Common sense tradeoffs" too often involve destroying what we hold dear so others can continue to refrigerate their houses or commute 40 miles. What are you prepared to trade off? I suspect you're really saying "Tell me what you're prepared to sacrifice to keep things the way I want them."

Maybe I should challenge you to come up with a plan that hands you everything you want while still not fatally screwing up the planet or turning most of it into an industrial that satisfies you and also keeps people like me happy. Why should I expect you to do that?

Does "cheapest" always take priority over every other consideration? Is there no instance where "better" might be considered?

Joe Bergeron

Moderator, Astro-Physics Forum
Posted 07/19/2008 11:42PM #17
Moot. The word you're looking for is moot, not mute.

I don't understand your point about Bakersfield. Are you saying that because oil is being pumped there, we should be able to pump it anywhere? Or are you noticing inactive wells there, and getting annoyed because they're not doing anything?

Joe Bergeron

Moderator, Astro-Physics Forum
Posted 07/20/2008 05:09AM #18
Wow, you guys really don't like being challenged to solve a problem. I know that it's a lot easier to just sit back and shoot holes in other peoples' ideas, without coming up with any of your own. But I really thought that you'd have at least *some* kind of constructive suggestion, rather than just criticism.

But instead, I get greeted with the equivalent of "how dare you ask *us* for solutions"?

I'm not being belligerent; neither am I misinformed. I just want to hear an environmentalist try to help *solve* a problem rather than creating more of them.

My only criteria for a solution were to do or say something beyond "conserve", and be economically feasible. I never once specified that I had to *like* the plan. But I got nothing in response except attacks impugning my motives. I never said that it was "environmental types" *responsibility* to come up with a plan; I just wanted to hear whether you had one.

The answer, at least so far, is a resounding NO. You've got no plan for doing anything except nostalgia for the good old days of 1850. You seem to believe that we can get along indefinitely into the far future on even less energy than we have now; conservation is the only thing necessary to solve the energy crisis.

I even explicitly stated that I am not *against* conservation as a principle; I'm just saying that, even with conservation, energy demand is going to *increase* in the future, and challenged you to come up with some way of creating more energy at economically reasonable cost that you could accept. But there's no willingness to even expend a moment's thought in that direction.

> Does "cheapest" always take priority over every other consideration?

Patently not; there are always those who are willing to spend more money to buy energy-efficient homes or alternative-fuel cars. But "a lot more expensive" is simply never going to win; there has to be a condition of economic reasonableness.

> What are you prepared to trade off?

Simple. I'm willing to pay a little more for electricity and drive a (more expensive) electric car that doesn't have the speed, range, or convenience that I would really like it to have. In fact, I've already spent money to replace my HVAC system with a much more efficient one, and increased the insulation in my home; I'm already helping to support the conservation you advocate.

In return, I'd like you to acknowledge that we're going to need more electricity in the future, irrespective of conservation (in the longer term, demand will grow to overtake conservation savings), and acknowledge that we need domestic sources of oil to bridge the gap until the gasoline-powered vehicles can be transitioned off the roads. What are *you* prepared to trade off?

> ... come up with a plan that hands you everything you want while still not fatally
> screwing up the planet or turning most of it into an industrial zone...

Happy to make the attempt, but I'll want you to clearly define "fatally screwing up" and "industrial zone". There's no point in it if "fatally screwing up" is defined as storing nuclear waste in a geologically-stable formation, or if oil wells far offshore is defined as "turning most of the planet into an industrial zone".

I assert that offshore drilling and drilling in ANWR, with proper controls, is benign enough to meet your criteria to my satisfaction. I further assert that nuclear power plants are benign enough to similarly meet your criteria. (BTW, the Earth has vast amounts of water for cooling; we just need to site the plants and get the water to them.)

Battery technology needs to continue to improve so that electric cars are a viable alternative to current vehicles.

Research into new methods of providing plentiful and inexpensive electricity should continue apace, including fusion reactors and home-based power generation from fuel cells.
(Personally, I'd love to put solar panels on my roof, but the economics just isn't there; I hope it is sometime, but after, what, 40+ years, I don't think the prognosis is good.)

So that's an outline of *my* plan; what's yours?

There has to be some willingness to make concessions on the part of the environmentalists. They've certainly gotten their way for a long time -- for example, it's been decades since we built a new oil refinery in this country.

> For clean coal, all I have to say is: SHOW ME.

Well, for me, fluidized-bed combustion with sulphur removal is clean enough. Older methods were definitely too dirty, and I'm glad that a better way was devised. I'm sure more could and should be done, but this way is good enough for now, to my mind.

> ... your ridiculous assertion that no one would build wind generators while coal was
> cheap ...

No, you misunderstand. Clearly wind generators *are* being built; I'm just saying that coal won't be abandoned in favor of wind generators so long as wind-generated power is more expensive.

> Exactly how do you think that is going to happen, slick?

You know, in my entire post, I never belittled anyone. I didn't call names and didn't use pejoratives. Putting words in my mouth and then labelling those words "ridiculous" is interesting and often effective as a political tactic, however, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised by it.

I disagree with your opinions, but I won't denigrate you for holding them. I'm interested in meeting in the middle, not promoting "my way or the highway". The problem I have with most environmentalists is that they utterly refuse to adopt the same attitude.

> The free market has no mechanism to provide masses of cheap anything ... it provides the
> highest price the market will bear.

But this is wrong. You're looking at the production side of the free market *only*, and you assume the absence of competition. From the consumption side, cheaper wins a vast percentage of the time. If your assertion was correct, I wouldn't be able to go to an electronics store and buy a progressive-scan DVD player for $29 and change. Yet that's not the *highest* price the market will bear: I can buy other DVD players, of arguably higher quality, for much more than that.

> Yeah, it's nice to imagine everyone being able to drive all they want, keep a 20,000
> sqft house at whatever temperature they like please, and eat as much as they want of
> anything. But that isn't the hand of cards we were dealt.

The difference between you and I is that your attitude towards this is one of acceptance, while my attitude is that we should work to make it happen instead of abandoning all hope. Even you admit that it's a nice thing to imagine -- I say, "why not try?"

Terry (astrotrf)
Posted 07/20/2008 03:31PM #19
I think you won't be surprised to hear that I disagree with many of your premises, and am therefore unwilling to argue on your terms. I don't agree that environmentalists are creating problems, but rather trying to stave off problems created by others. Sure, lots of us have a plan: in essence, it's to scale a lot of things back to reasonable, manageable proportions. Not quite to revert to 1850, but to cut way back on profligacy and self-indulgence. However, this sort of plan is so foreign to a lot of people that their minds dismiss it at once and it appears to be no plan at all. I realize such a plan will never be accepted until it is forced on people by circumstances. We are incapable of rationally accepting the sacrifices needed to put ourselves into such a position rather that being put into it willy nilly.

You say energy demand will only increase in the future. Well, what we demand is one thing; what we get is not necessarily the same thing. Children often demand things which are not available, not affordable, or not good for them, and if their parents are any good, they don't get them. People can demand to have ever increasing amounts of energy lavished upon them, but if it just isn't there, they can either flail around in a destructive tantrum or go without. So no, I will not acknowledge we'll be "needing" more electricity in the future. What does "needing" imply? Keeping us alive, keeping us fed? I don't think so. I think you mean "desiring" more electricity, not "needing" it.

I keep hearing about the need for new refineries. Are you saying we have petroleum piling up unrefined because of the lack of refineries? I haven't noticed any gasoline scarcity whatsoever. No shortage of any petroleum product. Anyone can still buy just as much as they want, as long as they pay through the nose for it. Would more refineries make oil cheaper? I think not.

As for the drilling, I think it's been established that US reserves have been pretty well shot, that even if the small remaining fraction was developed like mad starting today, the relative trickle that would emerge in ten years or so would be insufficient to make much of a difference in anything. I have never seen any analysis of the issue that suggests otherwise. And really, if we haven't already essentially replaced gasoline vehicles in ten years, I think our economy will already have ground to a halt as transportation costs soar to triple what they already are, if not worse. So no, I don't acknowledge that we need new domestic sources of oil, at least none that actually exist. That's just a canard that people like Bush use to try to get a few more billion dollars into the pockets of his buddies, or to quiet public panic by doing something meaningless but which sounds good.

Oh, and I simply do not believe that oil companies are capable of (or interested in) drilling in ANWR or offshore without creating a mess. Whatever they say about it is meaningless. They will say anything to get to do what they want. The next time one of their platforms was wrecked by a hurricane or a ship collision they'd just say, "Oh dear, who could have predicted such a terrible accident?" All that in exchange for no meaningful benefit. Your assertions leave me unmoved.

You keep putting your opinions and assumptions forth as realities which others must also acknowledge if a meaningful discussion is to be had. I don't see it that way. I see the realities imposed on us by the limitations of the world, not by the "demands" of a spoiled people.

Nuclear plants: I'm not averse to having more of them. But where? I'm sure you're aware of the huge Palo Verde plant just west of Phoenix. I'm not in favor of dotting the desert with more nuclear plants which will only hasten the mindless growth of these ridiculous desert cities which will soon be screaming for water which doesn't exist within hundreds or thousands of miles. If nuclear plants are so very safe, it seems the place for them would be right in the cities they serve, cities with access to local water.

Fusion reactors: I notice these are rarely mentioned in the current discussion of energy options. Obviously this is because they don't exist and have no prospect of existing in any foreseeable time frame.

I would like to see each house become a self-sufficient energy producer, whether through solar, wind, or even fuel cells, though the self-sufficiency part is elusive with them since most houses don't have a source of free hydrogen. I would like to see everyone driving around in electric cars charged by these sources. I don't care if such cars are small or slow or don't look like much. I would even like to be able to cross town on an electric streetcar, such as the ones that existed even in my small city before the cars took over. Whether any of this will come to pass remains to be seen. I would prefer it to tallow candles and horses and buggies, but the way things are going we might wind up with those sooner or later.

I have already lost many freedoms and options, losses imposed by energy prices and by the weakness of our economy. These result in me consuming less, and they harm nobody else, except for those who miss seeing my smiling face due to my inability to travel. I would like to reverse all that, but it may well be that my ability to flit around at will was a product of unique, transient conditions which will never return. If so, I'll get along as best as I can and watch as others also adapt to the new circumstances with varying degrees of grace and equanimity.

Joe Bergeron

Moderator, Astro-Physics Forum