Posts Tagged ‘fossil fuels’

Monday Moaning

My Monday Moaning has been interrupted by the loss of things to moan about with my recent PC troubles.

So, I am going to take a slightyly different tack today and have a good moan by reblogging George Monbiot’s article about the economy and our need material possessions that will be our undoing.

.

It’s simple. If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up

It’s the great taboo of our age – and the inability to discuss the pursuit of perpetual growth will prove humanity’s undoing

‘The mother narrative to all this is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots.’ Photograph: Alamy

Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham.

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems. It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse.

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues miraculously vanished, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.

Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained. But coal broke this cycle and enabled – for a few hundred years – the phenomenon we now call sustained growth.

It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas. The meta-trend, the mother narrative, is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots. Now, with the accessible reserves exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our impossible proposition.

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable, the Ecuadorean government decided to allow oil drilling in the heart of the Yasuni national park. It had made an offer to other governments: if they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as either blackmail or fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are rich. Why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and spills, will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species than exist in the entire continent of North America.

Yasuni national park. Murray Cooper/Minden Pictures/Corbis

Yasuni national park. Murray Cooper/Minden Pictures/Corbis

The UK oil firm Soco is now hoping to penetrate Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo; one of the last strongholds of the mountain gorilla and the okapi, of chimpanzees and forest elephants. In Britain, where a possible 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil has just been identified in the south-east, the government fantasises about turning the leafy suburbs into a new Niger delta. To this end it’s changing the trespass laws to enable drilling without consent and offering lavish bribes to local people. These new reserves solve nothing. They do not end our hunger for resources; they exacerbate it.

The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands, everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious, will be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the world’s diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey stubble.

Some people try to solve the impossible equation with the myth of dematerialisation: the claim that as processes become more efficient and gadgets are miniaturised, we use, in aggregate, fewer materials. There is no sign that this is happening. Iron ore production has risen 180% in 10 years. The trade body Forest Industries tells us that “global paper consumption is at a record high level and it will continue to grow”. If, in the digital age, we won’t reduce even our consumption of paper, what hope is there for other commodities?

Look at the lives of the super-rich, who set the pace for global consumption. Are their yachts getting smaller? Their houses? Their artworks? Their purchase of rare woods, rare fish, rare stone? Those with the means buy ever bigger houses to store the growing stash of stuff they will not live long enough to use. By unremarked accretions, ever more of the surface of the planet is used to extract, manufacture and store things we don’t need. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that fantasies about colonising space – which tell us we can export our problems instead of solving them – have resurfaced.

As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, the inevitabilities of compound growth mean that if last year’s predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%) is sustained, even if we miraculously reduced the consumption of raw materials by 90%, we delay the inevitable by just 75 years. Efficiency solves nothing while growth continues.

The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result, they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle-class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.

Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn’t worthy of mention. That’s how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it.

Source: The Guardian

Opinion:

Once again, the inescapable fact, we are the authors of our own demise.

We must change the paradigm, not only change it, but halt the current in it’s tracks. Our whole thinking about the human race needs to be rethought.

The 1% that are driving this insanity have to be stopped, brought to heel. But that is an insane idea, the money-hungry meglomanics will never stop.

Seriously, there is a need for a global  ‘French Revolution.’

 

Is this part of the answer?

Methane hydrate: Dirty fuel or energy saviour?

Methane hydrate, or fire ice, is a highly energy-intensive fuel source

The world is addicted to hydrocarbons, and it’s easy to see why – cheap, plentiful and easy to mine, they represent an abundant energy source to fuel industrial development the world over.

The side-effects, however, are potentially devastating; burning fossil fuels emits the CO2 linked to global warming.

And as reserves of oil, coal and gas are becoming tougher to access, governments are looking ever harder for alternatives, not just to produce energy, but to help achieve the holy grail of all sovereign states – energy independence.

Some have discovered a potential saviour, locked away under deep ocean beds and vast swathes of permafrost. The problem is it’s a hydrocarbon, but unlike any other we know.

Huge reserves

Otherwise known as fire ice, methane hydrate presents as ice crystals with natural methane gas locked inside. They are formed through a combination of low temperatures and high pressure, and are found primarily on the edge of continental shelves where the seabed drops sharply away into the deep ocean floor, as the US Geological Survey map shows.

Methane hydrate deposits

And the deposits of these compounds are enormous. “Estimates suggest that there is about the same amount of carbon in methane hydrates as there is in every other organic carbon store on the planet,” says Chris Rochelle of the British Geological Survey.

In other words, there is more energy in methane hydrates than in all the world’s oil, coal and gas put together.

By lowering the pressure or raising the temperature, the hydrate simply breaks down into water and methane – a lot of methane.

One cubic metre of the compound releases about 160 cubic metres of gas, making it a highly energy-intensive fuel. This, together with abundant reserves and the relatively simple process of releasing the methane, means a number of governments are getting increasingly excited about this massive potential source of energy.

Technical challenges

The problem, however, is accessing the hydrates.

Quite apart from reaching them at the bottom of deep ocean shelves, not to mention operating at low temperatures and extremely high pressure, there is the potentially serious issue of destabilising the seabed, which can lead to submarine landslides.

A greater potential threat is methane escape. Extracting the gas from a localised area of hydrates does not present too many difficulties, but preventing the breakdown of hydrates and subsequent release of methane in surrounding structures is more difficult.

And escaping methane has serious consequences for global warming – recent studies suggest the gas is 30 times more damaging than CO2.

These technical challenges are the reason why, as yet, there is no commercial-scale production of methane hydrate anywhere in the world. But a number of countries are getting close.

‘Enormous potential’

The US, Canada and Japan have all ploughed millions of dollars into research and have carried out a number of test projects, while South Korea, India and China are also looking at developing their reserves.

The US launched a national research and development programme as far back as 1982, and by 1995 had completed its assessment of gas hydrate resources. It has since instigated pilot projects in the Blake Ridge area off the coast of South Carolina, on the Alaska North Slope and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, with five projects still running.

How methane hydrate is formed

“The department continues to do research and development to better understand this domestic resource… [which we see] as an exciting opportunity with enormous potential,” says Chris Smith of the US Department of Energy.

The US has worked closely with Canada and Japan and there have been a number of successful production tests since 1998, most recently in Alaska in 2012 and, more significantly, in the Nankai Trough off the central coast of Japan in March last year – the first successful offshore extraction of natural gas from methane hydrate.

‘Game changer’

Of all the countries actively researching methane hydrate, Japan has the greatest incentive. As Stephen O’Rourke, of energy consultants Wood Mackenzie, says: “It is the biggest importer of gas in the world and has the highest gas import bill as a result.”

However, he points out that at just $120m (£71m; 87m euros) a year, the Japanese government’s annual budget for research into gas hydrates is relatively low.

The country’s plans to establish commercial production by the end of this decade do, then, seem rather optimistic. But longer-term, the potential is huge.

“Methane hydrate makes perfect sense for Japan and could be a game changer,” says Laszlo Varro of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Elsewhere, incentives to exploit the gas commercially are, for now, less pressing. The US is in the middle of a shale gas boom, Canada also has abundant shale resources, while Russia has huge natural gas reserves. In fact, Canada has put its research into methane hydrate on hold, and deferred any additional funding.

China and India, with their rampaging demand for energy, are a different story, but they are far behind in their efforts to develop hydrates.

“We have seen some recent progress, but we don’t foresee commercial gas hydrate production before 2030,” says Mr O’Rourke.

Indeed, the IEA has not included gas hydrates in its global energy projections for the next 20 years.

‘Mad Max movie’

But if resources are exploited, as seems likely at some point in the future, the implications for the environment could be widespread.

It is not all bad news – one way to free the methane trapped in ice is pumping in CO2 to replace it, which could provide an answer to the as yet unsolved question of how to store this greenhouse gas safely.

But while methane hydrate may be cleaner than coal or oil, it is still a hydrocarbon, and burning methane creates CO2. Much depends of course on what it displaces, but this will only add to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Methane hydrates are found mainly under ocean seabeds and Arctic permafrost

However, this may be a far better option than the alternative. In fact, we may have no choice.

As global temperatures rise, warming oceans and melting permafrost, the enormous reserves of methane trapped in ice may be released naturally. The consequences could be a catastrophic circular reaction, as warming temperatures release more methane, which in turn raises temperatures further.

“If all the methane gets out, we’re looking at a Mad Max movie,” says Mr Varro.

“Even using conservative estimates of methane [deposits], this could make all the CO2 from fossil fuels look like a joke.

“How long can the gradual warming go on before the methane gets out? Nobody knows, but the longer it goes on, the closer we get to playing Russian roulette.”

Capturing the methane and burning it suddenly looks like rather a good idea. Maybe this particular hydrocarbon addiction could prove beneficial for us all.

 

Monday Moaning

Electricity – isn’t it wonderful?

The title is from The Guardian.

Electricity is a feature in most of our lives, unless you happen to be a nomadic herder in some remote corner of the planet.

We can’t do without it.

But really we are a bunch of hypocrites.

We want electricity, but we don’t want pollution and global warming; we want electricity, but we don’t want to upset the environment with dams; we want electricity, but we don’t want nuclear reactors making it; we want electricity, but we don’t want unsightly wind farms in our backyard.

You can’t have it both ways!

You either have electricity and the encumbrances, or you don’t.

Fukushima, more disastrous than Chernobyl

Fukushima, more disastrous than Chernobyl

Oil and gas fired electricity produces hot house gases and pollution. Hydroelectric schemes flood great swathes of land and displaces peoples (often indigenous peoples). Nuclear electricity is just plain dangerous, too stupid to even contemplate; just look at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

So we’re back to windfarms, which merely mess up the lovely view we have of the planet. Off-shore or on-shore, they seem to be the only viable solution… but are they?

wind-farms1

Not in our backyard!

The making of these vast wind generators requires rare earths, and where are the rare earths found? In countries that have dubious scruples about mining them, back to pollution on a huge scale damaging the land for millennia.

When you boil it all down, there is no answer.

But there is… REDUCE our dependency on electricity, REDUCE our usage.

We make ‘green’ cars that use electricity, but we still have to generate the electricity and often it is with the very oil that we’re trying to save by making ‘green’ cars. It’s a vicious circle. My question is, are ‘green’ cars really green, or are we just sweeping the oil and coal under the carpet?

Man needs energy to cook, to travel, to work. The increase in population means that we need more energy.

The paradigm must change.

Instead of making more and more energy, we have to learn to use the energy we already have/make in more efficient ways.

house-solar-panels

Excess electricity can be sold to the grid

The use of solar energy must increase.

An example, and one that can be implemented tomorrow, all new houses and commercial buildings have to have solar panels; including those under construction.

“But the expense!” They’ll all cry in unison. To hell with the expense, we are trying to save the planet.

The next step, would be that solar panels must be fitted to all houses and buildings built in the last five years within five years.

We can’t dally about this, it’s not a matter for governments to discuss and spend years making a decision; it must be done NOW!

No procrastination!

We have to put the brakes on for fossil and nuclear fuels. We have to stop destroying people’s lives and natural habitats.

We have to find alternative solutions. If we don’t, there won’t be a need for solutions, because we will be extinct.

 

 

 

Monday Moaning

We have known for 75 years, and still we do NOTHING!

Yes, we knew in 1938!

How the burning of fossil fuels was linked to a warming world in 1938

This month marks the 75th anniversary of Guy Callendar’s landmark scientific paper on anthropogenic climate change

English engineer Guy Stewart Callendar who expanded on the work Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius and developed the theory called Callendar effect that linked rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere to global temperature. Photograph: University of East Anglia Archives

Seventy-five years ago this month an amateur weather-watcher from West Sussex published a landmark paper in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society directly linking the burning of fossil fuels to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Guy Callendar was a successful steam engineer by trade, but in his spare time he was a keen meteorologist. In April 1938, his paper, “The artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature”, which built on the earlier work of John Tyndall and Svante Arrhenius, was published with little fanfare or impact. It was only in the proceeding decades that the true significance of his conclusions would be heralded.

To mark the anniversary, two modern-day climatologists have published a co-authored paper (pdf) in the same journal celebrating not just his legacy, but also illustrating with modern techniques and data just how accurate Callendar’s calculations proved to be.

Dr Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science, who co-authored the paper with Prof Phil Jones at the University of East Anglia, describes why Callendar is so significant to the development of climate science:

In hindsight, Callendar’s contribution was fundamental. He is still relatively unknown, but in terms of the history of climate science, his paper is a classic. He was the first scientist to discover that the planet had warmed by collating temperature measurements from around the globe, and suggested that this warming was partly related to man-made carbon dioxide emissions…People were sceptical about some of Callendar’s results, partly because the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere was not very well known and because his estimates for the warming caused by CO2 were quite simplistic by modern standards. It was only in the 1950s, when improved instruments showed more precisely how water and CO2 absorbed radiation, that we reached a better understanding of its importance. Scientists at the time also couldn’t really believe that humans could impact such a large system as the climate – a problem that climate science still encounters from some people today, despite the compelling evidence to the contrary.

Hawkins has also written a blog post about his new Callendar paper, which delves deeper into why Callendar’s findings were not immediately acted upon, or even discussed until decades later:

Doubts in the role of CO2 remained, partly because the world did not warm further – in fact land temperatures fell slightly until around 1975, before the warming resumed. This temperature plateau is very likely due to increased levels of particulates (or ‘aerosols’) in the atmosphere reflecting solar radiation back into space. Ironically, these aerosols are also the product of fossil fuel burning and strict regulations were imposed in the developed world on their emissions in the 1960s and 1970s which allowed the warming from carbon dioxide to emerge again. Aerosol emissions from the developing world may also have played a role in the temperature plateau since around 2000.

Here is the illustration produced by Hawkins and Jones to show how Callendar’s findings, published in 1938 and updated in 1961, match a modern-day temperature reconstruction (CRUTEM4) of global land temperatures for the period 1850-2010.

Comparing historical reconstructions of near-global land temperatures using CRUTEM4 (black, Jones et al. 2012) with Callendar (1938) (red) and Callendar (1961) (blue), using a reference period of 1880-1935. The CRUTEM4 estimates are for 60◦S-60◦N (to accord with Callendar’s series), with grey shading representing the 95% uncertainty. Image: Ed Hawkins and Phil D. Jones

Callendar’s original paper can be read in full online. Of particular interest – beyond his workings, of course – is the peer-review “discussion” at the end between various professors and Callendar. You really get the sense that Callendar was viewed as a naïve amateur in this field, which possibly contributed to why his conclusions weren’t fully absorbed until the 1960s.

 

 

Read more

Read more

It just goes to show that governments don’t care! Or, are completely in cahoots with corporations.

Until there is a dramatic change in political circles, nothing will change.

It is up to each and every one of you to make your votes count, get these corrupt bastards out of government.

If you vote Republican or Democrat, you are to blame for this procrastination!

 

Could this be a needed change?

Japan extracts gas from methane hydrate in world first

Methane hydrate is also known as burnable or flammable ice

Japan says it has successfully extracted natural gas from frozen methane hydrate off its central coast, in a world first.

Methane hydrates, or clathrates, are a type of frozen “cage” of molecules of methane and water.

The gas field is about 50km away from Japan’s main island, in the Nankai Trough.

Researchers say it could provide an alternative energy source for Japan which imports all its energy needs.

Other countries including Canada, the US and China have been looking into ways of exploiting methane hydrate deposits as well.

Pilot experiments in recent years, using methane hydrates found under land ice, have shown that methane can be extracted from the deposits.

Methane clathrate – ‘Fire ice’

Offshore deposits present a potentially enormous source of methane but also some environmental concern, because the underwater geology containing them is unstable in many places.

“It is the world’s first offshore experiment producing gas from methane hydrate,” an official from the economy, trade and industry ministry told the AFP news agency.

A survey of the gas field is being run by state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC).

Engineers used a depressurisation method that turns methane hydrate into methane gas.

Production tests are expected to continue for about two weeks.

Government officials have said that they aim to establish methane hydrate production technologies for practical use within five years.

A Japanese study estimated that at least 1.1tn cubic metres of methane hydrate exist in offshore deposits.

This is the equivalent of more than a decade of Japan’s gas consumption.

Japan has few natural resources and the cost of importing fuel has increased after a backlash against nuclear power following the Fukushima nuclear disaster two years ago.

  • Hydrates, or clathrates, are a frozen mixture of water and gas, primarily methane
  • The methane molecules reside inside a water molecule lattice
  • The methane will ignite in ice form – hence the “fire ice” moniker
  • Clathrates tend to form under frigid temperatures and high pressures
  • They are found in ocean sediments and under the permafrost on land
  • Vast deposits are thought to exist, rivalling known reserves of traditional fossil fuels

000BBC_logo

Opinion:

Could this be the much needed drift away from nuclear and traditional fossil fuels?

Make you Fink on Friday

Yes, even on Good Friday, you should be thinking.

Here’s an issue that I just been made aware of. We scream about using electricity. We make a big noise about Earth Hour.

But, we build buildings and houses that need lights during the day!

Office lighting during the day! How stupid can we get?

During the day when there is sunlight, we have to turn the lights on to work and play.

Schools, restaurants, shops, factories, etc most of them use artificial lighting that uses electricity.

Why?

Where are our heads at?

We need to take a serious look at places that use light during the day. Their electricity tariffs should be doubled with taxes to pay for their stupidity and use of resources.

Places that are designed for natural light should receive incentives paid for out of the taxes as a reward for being ‘green.’

That would encourage more businesses and housing to opt for natural lighting.

New buildings that don’t have natural lighting facilities should not be approved.

All over the world we are screaming for more power, nuclear, hydroelectric and fossil fuel. If we harnessed the natural light we have for 12 hours per day (depends on summer or winter) we wouldn’t need dangerous nuclear power, or environmentally damaging hydro schemes chewing up our forests and making native peoples homeless, or drilling for more oil or mining coal.

There are alternatives!

The world needs to take stock, people should be asking these questions. Governments should be pressured into taking action. We should be looking at taking our custom and supporting businesses who comply.

NB: I was made aware of this issue by a visitor to my blog. It’s a commercial site, I don’t normally endorse commercial sites, but in this case as a thanks for the idea I will add their link Ciralight. Because it is something that I in my myopic view of the world and, I am sure, many of you haven’t considered before.

 

Make you Fink on Friday

A Chain Reaction

Reduce Footprints finds Our Tiny Planet and spreads the word. I go an visit Our Tiny Planet and find my Fink on Friday post.

I just had to pass this on, it’s great lesson in a nutshell.

.

%d bloggers like this: