Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

It depends. Would yeast pretend to write an article on energy sources while blowing off the most promising technologies with superficial nonsense? For example:

The well-known alternative ways of producing liquid fuels, such as coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids, are neither ready to scale to the huge volumes we need nor likely to attract the immense capital needed for such an undertaking within the required time frame, due to the uncertainties and risks of the global commodities trade. ("The ability and willingness of major oil and gas producers to step up investment in order to meet rising global demand are particularly uncertain," according to the IEA report.)
Translation: People who know more about this topic than this cliche-monger think the price of oil is likely to either remain stable or decline over the next few decades.
The tar sands of Alberta are currently producing about 1 of the world's 85 million barrels per day of oil production, but "as North America runs short on natural gas to cook the tar out of the sands and water to move the mess to processing plants, very large increases in production from the tar sands seems less and less likely no matter what the price of oil."
Why would we have to depend on gas in a fossil-fuel field? (Of course, we could cook the tar sands with a nuclear bomb …) Isn't the surface of the Earth 3/4 water? Isn't water recyclable?
In my wildest dreams-and I say this as one who has made my living in retail solar for several years now-I don't see solar and wind together achieving more than perhaps 15% of our total global energy mix in the next 30 years.
Why not? It's interesting that no details were supplied in the one field where he might know something. Is he trying to suppress competition? (Maybe that explains the rest of the piece.)
Nuclear energy, likewise, is also not the right solution to the problem, because it neither creates liquid fuels nor is it feasible. Nuclear power has earned the support of environmentalists who recognize the benefits of its lack of greenhouse gas emissions, but it has been estimated that if we were to meet our anticipated electrical needs over the next 30 years with nuclear power, we would have to build some ten new plants each year in the U.S. alone-a highly unrealistic outcome. And in the same way that we are about to pass peak oil, we are past peak uranium.
Question: Why is it unrealistic to build ten new plants per year? That would be a small part of the GNP. As for the peak uranium, uranium is as abundant in the Earth's crust as gold is in gold ores. The extraction costs for gold are $10 per gram. A gram of uranium can produce far more than $10 worth of energy. Finally, the following statement “Nuclear power has earned the support of environmentalists who recognize the benefits of its lack of greenhouse gas emissions …” sounds like the environmentalist wacko version of “I didn't do it! Nobody saw me do it! You can't prove anything!”

I won't say anything about biofuels other than point to this criticism of the claim that they use more energy than they produce.

The entire analysis is rendered plausible by the theory of overshoot, a phenomenon frequently observed in animals and other heterotrophs. It is rarely seen in plants and other autotrophs. As far as ecology is concerned, humans are, of course, autotrophs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This, of course, is why assurances by libertarians that "energy independence" is trivial are so much yivshish. I've never seen a proposal for the educational, legal, and political campaigns necesssary to combat the Gaianist lawfare that would occur if someone seriously planned building a nuclear reactor.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

Has there been any attempt at pushing through nuclear power? There was little motive as long as oil was cheap.

We also must recall that bluffing is the Other Side's main weapon. Back in the 1980s, they promised a "long, hot summer" full of riots if Reagan was elected. It didn't happen. They promised to disrupt the 2004 Republican convention. It didn't happen. They promised to make the U.S. ungovernable if Bush was re-elected. It didn't happen.

Even their control of the court system has been exaggerated. They couldn't even manage to free the mouse.

In the specific case of nuclear matters, we can look at the controversy surrounding Cassini. A handful of kooks showed up to protest and were ignored.

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly there has been an attempt at seriously using nuclear power. Remember the 1970s? The Gaianists won and, as they like to say, moved on.

It is certainly possible that the Petulant Left's power is but a shadow of what it was a generation ago; it proved to be so in the XSSR, and part of the reason that the Left has never forgiven that collapse is that the emperor's admission that he had no clothes exposed its own nakedness. But I've never seen anyone even willing to ask the question.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

This discussion requires a new blog entry.

2:51 AM  

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