New High Tech Stuff Isn’t Always More ‘Environmentally Friendly’

Which is why the EPA won’t let certain things be manufactured in the US. (Not that shipping that manufacturing overseas is really ‘good’ for the environment. But NIMBY is a strong force in America.)

So first up is the whole electric vehicle craze. (And it is a craze.) The Silicon Graybeard: All-Electric Small Airplane

OK, so there’s an electric plane. Not the first. The thing that caught my eye…

Earlier this week, several outlets reported a study from the Swedish Environmental Research Insitute that the “carbon footprint” of producing the batteries for an electric car was equivalent to driving for 8 years. This ignored recharging the batteries for the life of the car, which is obviously coming from an electric power generating plant somewhere, so more than likely generating CO2 itself. I’m sure you’ve seen electric cars referred to as coal powered.

The report shows that the battery manufacturing leads to high emissions. For every kilowatt hour of storage capacity in the battery generated emissions of 150 to 200 kilos of carbon dioxide already in the factory. The researchers did not study individual brand batteries, how these were produced, or the electricity mix they use.

As Graybeard points out, battery researchers are struggling to come up with batteries that have 4% of the energy density of gasoline. (450 Wh/kg versus 12,000 Wh/kg.) And the “8 year” figure doesn’t include charging of the batteries. That is just the carbon cost of producing the battery.

This reminds me of the state of fusion power over the past few decades. Since before I graduated from college, fusion power has been “just around the corner.” And while the ITER (the current international attempt at fusion) might actually produce a reactor that generates more power than it consumes, no utility will ever build one. Imagining Fusion Power | Energy Matters

First off, fusion reactors based on the Tokamak design will produce large amounts of neutrons. These will turn all of the components of the Tokamak into radioactive waste. Large quantities of radioactive waste.

The Hirsch article tells you that worldwide fusion energy research is almost totally focused on a concept called the tokamak, a toroidal (donut) shaped system, which uses the deuterium-tritium (DT) fusion fuel cycle. You are reminded that the DT cycle is characterized by the copious emission of neutrons, which will result in the creation of large quantities of radioactivity, no matter what materials are used to build such a system. Opps! Managing large quantities of radioactive material raises a huge red flag with you, based on the experience with nuclear power plants. Not good!

So we would have EXACTLY the same problems with fusion reactors – storing radioactive waste – that makes the population hate fission reactors. Not a “clean technology.”

Then there is the likelihood of a regular explosion.

ITER-Tokamak reactors appear to be seriously wanting, in part because of the massive amount of radioactivity that will be produced and in part because its massive superconducting magnets could suddenly go normal, resulting in an explosion of the magnitude of a World War II blockbuster bomb.

So radioactive debris in the middle of something that could let go with the force of a VERY large conventional bomb. Yeah, sign me up for one of those!

While I’m not of the “let’s dump all fusion research” camp, I am aware of the fact that there are problems with the current design. And we’ve sort of put all of our eggs in one basket on that front.

On the electric vehicle front, I think that day will dawn, but it will take some serious developments in either battery or super capacitor research. I actually think some of the research being done in artificial photosynthesis to produce alcohol fuels has more promise. But that doesn’t get much press.

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I Blame Global Warming

Snow is not unheard of at this time of year in Norway, but the amount of snow is record-setting. Norwegians take skis out of storage after freak snowfall – The Local

Norway is currently under an amount of snow extremely rare for late spring, with up to half a metre of snow falling in areas outside of Oslo.

Ski resorts are opening. Police are telling people who have taken the snow-tires off their cars to stay home.

This comes on the heels of a late freeze in various wine-growing portions of Europe. April frost threatens vineyards in parts of Europe – StarTribune.com

Worst disaster in 25 years threatens valuable crops.

How Can a “Conservationist” Own Two Megayachts?

This is almost as good as the time Greenpeace destroyed coral reefs. Paul Allen’s Yacht Destroyed Three Basketball Courts Worth of Coral Reef in the Cayman Islands | The Big Lead

They were in a spot that was dictated by the local port authority. But the winds shifted, moving the anchor chain into the coral.

But as for the “conservationist” title bestowed upon Paul Allen…

Tatoosh is his second yacht. It is 303 feet long, and is powered by twin 4400 horse-power (yes that is four thousand four hundred) engines. I’m sure it has a couple of solar panels somewhere. It is currently the 43rd largest private yacht in the world. It has a limestone fireplace in the saloon, and both a 40 ft power boat and a 40 ft sailboat. (The sailboat that I lived on for 10 years – more or less – was 37 feet.)

Allen’s main yacht is Octopus, which is 414 feet long, sports 8 diesel engines for a total of 19,200 horsepower, has 2 helipads, and a 63ft tender, which is docked in the transom. I’m sure those are the greenest diesel engines on the planet. Better even than the Volkswagen diesels.

Tatoosh, the yacht in the news, has a crew of 30. just running the generators, desalination plant, etc for 30 people has got to be something. But I’m sure it is a minimum carbon footprint, him being a “conservationist” and all.

He had Tatoosh docked in St Petersburg, FL, for a while, trying to sell it. I guess he has given up on that.

OMG!!! Nuclear!!!

Japan has finally figured out that while you can’t get reliable power from the wind or the sun, you can get power out of a stone, if that stone happens to be radioactive. Japan restarts nuclear reactor

On Thursday, Kyushu Electric Power restarted a second reactor at the Sendai nuclear power plant on the island of Kyushu, located 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southwest of Tokyo

And they aren’t alone. World-wide, something on the order of seventy (70) nuclear reactors are under construction.

About 100 protestors opposing the restart gathered outside of the Sendai nuclear power plant, chanting slogans.

Wow. 100 protesters. What a turnout!

Are the Media Hoping a Hurricane Will Hit the US?

It seems that way to me. There are a large number of folks jumping up and down over the fact that the 5-day forecast storm track for Tropical Storm Erika is pointed at Florida. Tropical Storm Erika: Track takes it a little farther east | www.palmbeachpost.com (See below for a quote from a guy at the Hurricane Center about 5 day forecasts.)

It has been 10 years since a hurricane made landfall on a US coastline. I think it is really pissing the global-warming/climate-change folks off. This isn’t what was forecast. This isn’t what they predicted. They predicted more and more powerful storms. They predicted death and destruction. They got none of it.

The Palm Beach Post is one of the few sources that is noticing the latest change in the forecast. Granted, the official track is aimed directly at Palm Beach County.

Tropical Storm Erika is expected to reach Category 1 hurricane strength early Monday as it approaches Florida, but a mosey to the right in the forecast track late Wednesday may signal a more northerly long-term path.

But enough about the biases of the media.

If you live in Florida, you should be prepared for a hurricane. You should have been prepared in January, even though the season didn’t start then. Water. Food. Meds. Documents. Full gas tank. (You should not be driving around with the gauge on “E.” You don’t save money that way. You don’t drive less.) Shutters. Escape plans. Family plans. Everything ready. If you aren’t prepared – didn’t we just have the 10th anniversary of Katrina? – you are asking for trouble. Didn’t you learn anything from Andrew or Katrina?

Actually even the .gov tells everyone (not just Floridians) to have a MINIMUM of three (3) days worth of food, water and medicine. MINIMUM. Natural or man-made disasters are NOT limited to Florida or California.

Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center, said it’s important for people not to focus on the center of the forecast cone.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty of what this storm will look like once it gets through the wind shear,” Feltgen said. “You can’t hang your hat on something that is five days out.”

In other words: Don’t wait for the last freaking minute to prepare. You might not have that minute.

Biofuels – just bad or really bad?

Biofuels in the abstract always sound good. In practice, they usually come with an environmental cost. A Chemist in Langley: On renewables and the need for compromise Part IV: biofuels – just bad or really bad?. (Hat tip to Small Dead Animals.)

in Poland and Finland, wood meets more than 80% of renewable-energy demand and in Germany, wood makes up 38% of non-fossil fuel power consumption.So where is this wood coming from? As described in the web posting at FSC-Watch in the southern US, NGOs have shown that the biggest US pellet producer, Enviva, is sourcing a high proportion of wood from the clear cutting of bottomland hardwood forests – some of the most biodiverse temperate forests and freshwater ecosystems worldwide.

And then there are tropical forests….
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