Why not ammonia, NH3, as liquid fuel?

Discussion in 'Chemistry' started by Billy T, Feb 26, 2007.

  1. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Yes. I learned of them from your efforts, which I called "the best first post" I had ever read (and that includes my own!). Thanks.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2009
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  3. rwendell Registered Member

    Near-Term Viability for a Hydrogen Economy

    Thank you, Billy T. I have become convinced from looking around at what's going on around the world with respect to renewable energy technologies of every sort, including jatropha seeds and algae for biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, etc., that a hydrogen economy represents the path of least resistance to renewable energy despite the naysayers. I see technological breakthroughs in every critical obstacle to it. The generation problem looks increasingly likely to be on the verge of major improvements in efficiency with photosynthesis-inspired breakthroughs at MIT in electrolysis and direct solar generation from water at 70% efficiency in Europe in the Hydrosol project. Ammonia production from hydrogen looks as though it will soon be liberated from natural gas as a source by another Danish company in tandem with Amminex that has introduced cheap and efficient new catalysts into the picture to dramatically improve the efficiency and economy of the Haber-Bosch process.

    So now transportation and storage problems seem to be shrinking before our very eyes. Fuel cell technology is experiencing major breakthroughs that potentially make it relatively cheap and widely available for efficient conversion from hydrogen directly to electricity. So every major obstacle to a hydrogen economy seems to be disappearing as we watch, that is, if we bother to look: generation, safe storage and transportation, and efficient conversion to usable energy at the end of the chain.

    The best part is these advances have occurred without the massive investments from government being proposed by our current U.S. administration. Considering how far we've come without such massive government support, I have a hard time finding any basis for agreement with those who talk about a hydrogen economy (which could use ammonia as a carrier safely absorbed into porous metal hydride pellets) being decades away even with such support.

    The principal media outlets have paid little attention to these advances and their implications for our future. One has to dig to find pertinent information individually scattered hither and yon in both space and time with only the briefest journalistic glances. Yet the media frequently quote "experts" who repeat ad nauseum that such technology is decades away at best. A look at who actually owns the media at the top of the chain of holding companies takes quite a bit of the mystery out of this apparent irony.

    However, the growing pressure nature is applying to develop such technology is approaching a point at which everyone is going to have to start yelling "uncle" before very long. Allow me then, please, to boldly predict that by the beginning of 2013 things will look very, very different with regard to this specific issue and all the other hugely important and wide-ranging issues that it will affect. When a major new technology comes online, like electricity and automobiles at the beginning of the twentieth century, things happen much faster than anyone in the media seems to foresee. I'm yelling from the rooftops, and when it happens, I'm definitely going to yell, "I told you so." So relatively soon time will tell who's right.
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  5. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    To Rendell:

    You may be right that in the end H2 with NH3 for transport and storage will win out, but there will be a larger role for sugar cane based alcohol for at least a decade first, IMHO as the existing IC engine cars will not just disappear overnight. - In fact, if I am correct that this recession has high probably of becoming a US & EU depression, make that two decades as capital (with real purchasing power) will be tight and slow the exchange to the "next big automotive thing" (NH3 and fuel cell cars with electric, not IC, motors).

    It will be sweet irony if the early promotion of H2 cars by oil companies as means to keep drivers hooked on oil (confident that H2 power cars were an impractical pipe dream, but a useful diversion from any public outcry to "do something") turns out in the end to have built public desire for the fuel cell car that bites big oil where the sun don't shine.

    I have long argued that oil is much too valuable as a chemical feed stock to burn for it heat content. Doing that is a crime against future generations.
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  7. dixonmassey Valued Senior Member

    Techno optimism is grounded neither in science nor in common sense. Coming up with more efficient engines/fuels to run bankrupt socio economic system will solve exactly nothing. I would share your enthusiasm regarding techno fixes if I was sure that "warp" drive is possible (in fairly near future). No "warp" drive = we better return to the sitting on trees so the next mutation of hairless monkeys could have a shot at it.

    I'll reply to Billy T objections in more details, but for now let's consider two facts, world's energy consumption is growing exponentially, more efficient engine/fuel - the steeper the growth curve (yes, there are 3 billions of people waiting something affordable). Climate scientists claim that 1% oscillation in sun' energy hitting Earth = significant climatic changes, 10% change is catastrophe. Regardless whether humans will obtain energy equivalent of 1%+ of sun' energy flux through burning fossils or through the use of "renewables" they will notice substantial changes to planet's climate (this has nothing to do with greenhouse emissions, just plain energy balance). At the current rate of growth mankind will reach energy consumption equivalent of 1% sun' energy hitting the Earth in 100 years (and there are greenhouse gases on top of that). The point is - renewable energy we can use is finite too.

    As for "energy density" of human products/actions let's consider agriculture. Primitive agriculture - lot's of work+low yields = energy surplus (with respect to muscle work spent, what the point of agriculture otherwise?). Modern mechanized/chemically intensive agriculture is a net energy hog, 10 times more energy is spent in growing than the energy content of the grown foods. And there is also global logistics and distribution skewing energy balance even more into the red. And now, please, somebody explain how boosting engine efficiencies twofold (extremely optimistic) will fix that. Rickshaws are more energy efficient than a truck for a simple reason, he and his bycicle weigh much less, it's driven much slower than a truck. Try to push car and to push a bicycle to see what is more energy dense - "backward" bicycle or a state of the art hybrid car (I even don't mention very different energy inputs to build a bicycle or a hybrid)
  8. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Good. I look forward to your more considered reply, but before making it I want to help you over come some conceptual errors you suffer from:

    Essentially all (> 99.9999%) of the solar energy the Earth absorbs will end up in the lowest quality form of energy, heat. (Very tiny fractions are chemically stored - such as the sugar cane based alcohol in my car's fuel tank.) This thermal energy is reradiated back into space (with a very tiny fraction more, probably most of which is due the still cooling core of the Earth and the energy released by natural radioactive decay, mainly by the heavier unstable isotopes, but K40 does make a significant fraction of this radio-genetic tiny excess.

    Jupiter is much larger than Earth, (harder for core heat to reach the surface and much more gravitational energy was converted into heat when it formed, so is much hotter in the core still.) and is more distant from the sun so the hot core makes the IR radiation of Jupiter in to space several percent larger than the solar energy absorbed, but for Earth one can consider the Earth to be in thermal balance and I will do so to keep discussion simple.

    I do not know off hand the total of this balanced energy flux (Solar in = IR out) but am sure it is more than 1000 times greater than all the energy mankind is releasing. (I would actually guess more than 10,000 times greater, but will be conservative.) Thus, your concerns with that are very misguided.

    For example, if mankind (or any natural cause) were to increase the Earth's effective albedo by 1% (say by melting much of the polar ice) then the increase of energy absorbed and radiated (the increase in the "balanced energy" flux) would be more than 10 times greater than ALL (not just the changes in man's energy use) the energy man is using. That is why I say your focus is "misguided" - looking at a tiny part of the problem while ignoring the major part of it.

    Also in addition to the much more important abledo effect there is the green house effects. I.e. causing it to be more difficult for IR to leave Earth by returning part that tries to back to Earth surface will cause the surface temperature to rise. To make this point clear assume Earth radiates IR energy as a "black body" at 300K (for simplicity, equal to what it is absorbing form the sun, since man' release, radioactive and core heat are much less than 1%.) then postulate a change in the IR transparency of the Atmosphere so that 4% of the IR outbound from the surface is returned and absorbed by the surface. Then to re-establish the thermal balance the Earth's new temperature is 301K (The 4:1 is due to fact black body radiation increases with the forth power of the absolute temperature.)

    FIRST SUMMARY: The direct effect of man using more energy is insignificant compared to the indirect effect produced by the changes in albedo and atmospheric IR transparency. It is only a slight exaggeration to say: you are looking at an ant hill and missing the mountain. Probably not any exageration at all, if it is a large Brazilian ant hill and the largest natural hill on earth which doesn not qualify as a "mountain." There is an interesting movie: "The man who went up a hill and came down a mountain" as a town in Wales added dirt to the top of their "mountain" to offset the results of a new survey, which down graded it to only a hill. (Possibly title is: "The boy who went up... man who came down..." as there was a girl with him too.)


    Your concepts about alternate energy are almost totally wrong. Use of geothermal energy has zero long term effects, but does increase the current flux of core heat insignificantly. The use of wind energy has zero effect as all that kinetic energy will end up as heat anyway so that amount does not increase if man catches some of the kinetic energy in the wind and converts it to electric energy for his use first. (Earth heating would acutally insignificantly DECREASE if that power produces aluminium. I am not sure, but think that over its lifetime a well-located, large, wind machine can more than refine all the Al in it etc. so even counting the energy needed to make the wind machine, the net effect can be an insignificant DECREASE in Earth's heating.) Exactly the same is true of capture of the KE in the tides, either directly with machines in the water or indirectly by basins that flood at high tide and discharge thru turbines at low tide. Exactly the same true for river power (turbines in the flow or dams). Exactly the same true for efforts to extract power from the gulf stream etc. Exactly same for "ocean thermal power." Story is not exactly the same with photovoltaic cells. The cheapest do slightly increase the albedo, but as I discussed in prior post they could be designed to actually increase the albedo by selective coatings which reflect all wavelengths longer than those corresponding to the band gap energy.

    SECOND SUMMARY: Any objection to "alternate energy" based on the false "fact" that it will increase the man made heating of the earth is worse than nonsense because every kilowatt hour produced by "alternate energy" displaces a kWh of conventional energy. Now for some details:

    Conventional energy has huge indirect effects (compared to the direct effects - see first summary and associated text) For example digging up coal or uranium to release the energy stored in them converts at least 100% of that safely stored energy (I am not counting the much smaller energy used for their extraction into) into IR that must be radiated to space. I.e. makes Earth's surface temperature increase slightly, as you noted.

    In coal's case, because of the GHG effects with released of CO2, the release of a safely stored 100kWh of energy is surely more than the same as 400kWh of nuclear energy on the Earth's surface temperature. (I am only guessing, but would not be the least surprised if it is the same as 100,000kWh of nuclear energy released when one also considers not only the "direct" or GHG effect but also then includes the indirect (PERMANENT, & SELF-ACCELERATING) change in Earth's albedo by helping to melt the polar ice (Albedo of ~ 0.85 converted to albedo of less than 0.25, acting for at least 1000 years.)

    This too is too simple minded as you do not use the correct measure. It is not the energy only but the energy per ton mile of cargo moved that must be compared. Certainly the rickshaw wins if only delivering a letter across town, but you need a mix of systems and must do the calculation on a weighted on mile basis.

    I am sure a train (steel wheel on steel rail)* is at least 50 times more efficient than a rickshaw in doing any distant move of significant mass when only considered the energy used to provide the rickshaw man with his food (neglecting energy that made his rubber flip flops, clothes etc.).

    I also note that modern technology has displaced the rickshaw even for the cross town letter and certainly for the cross USA letter, if the letter goes via the internet. What is your ratio of “letters efficiency” (measured in bits/ mile sent by writing on paper) to internet bit/miles? I bet just one long internet “letter” to me in Brazil (not even counting the 100s other who read it) dominates all your paper letter bit/miles in letters sent in last month.

    THIRD SUMMARY: Technology is overwhelming increasing efficiency, with rare and insignificant exceptions. So much so that you have not correctly cited even one exception.

    Again, I look forward to your reply, but hope the above will reduce the nonsense in it.

    *And that includes (prorated over the life time of the train) the energy that was used to produce the train and the rails if the energy need to produce the rickshaw is likewise included.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2009
  9. rwendell Registered Member

    Billy T, as you replied to dixonmassey, there is no net gain in the input with green alternative energy sources, so they have zero effect on the long-term average equilibrium temperature of the earth. Solar energy enters the biosphere as high-quality (low-entropy) energy and leaves it as low-quality infrared re-radiation of energy into space whether or not it does anything useful for human beings or the planet beyond photosynthesis and creating a viable climate. All alternative energy that is truly green does is use some of this flow from high- to low-quality energy to do things like move things around and process natural substances to materially, chemically, and energetically restructure our environment. Nuclear energy, even if it's low-polluting fusion, is not green. At the rate of growth dixonmassey cites, the equilibrium temperature of the planet goes up with those sources even if green house emissions are zero. These sources are even likely to trick us into pretending that we're now living sustainably as we thermally pollute the planet.

    It is a clear, scientifically certifiable fact that our planet cannot support the level of consumption of the average U.S. citizen if everyone worldwide were to consume anywhere close to our rates. Water seeks its own level and that's what's happening in the world market. Everyone wants what we have. That's just plain impossible and ultimately we have to compete in the world market.

    The following is central and extremely important to understand, since it is reduces the problems we're discussing to their essential, bare-bones nitty gritty. Human economies just articulate the flow of energy to restructure the environment. That's really all they do. Even taking oil out of the ground is just restructuring the environment. Then we use that energy to restructure it some more.

    So energy and the intelligence with which we articulate its flow to restructure our personal, social, and natural environments is all economies ultimately boil down to. We're not being very intelligent in the way we do that. Worse, those with the most power to do restructuring are doing it in their own, selfish, short-term interests. We let them manipulate us with politics, their advertising, and finally their marketing influence on our very culture itself. This is not in the interests of people in general and certainly not in those of the planet.

    So what must happen for things to ultimately go well? Again, worldwide per capita consumption cannot imitate what we're doing. It just physically cannot happen, since we will self-destruct first. So we need to restructure our environment much more intelligently to recycle non-renewable resources and not burn them all up or put them in landfills, rivers, and oceans. Physical resources must be conserved to the highest degree possible because they are clearly not infinite as our past perspective has unwittingly assumed. Also, of course, energy must move ultimately to totally renewable sources.

    What, then, is the inevitable conclusion? The ultimate, long-term success of the global economic system toward which we cannot help but move depends not on economic growth in our rate of consumption of physical resources, but the intelligence with which we articulate the restructuring of our environment to improve the true quality of our lives while preserving our finite physical resources to the maximum possible degree.

    This is precisely the opposite direction from that in which we've been going. This is not rocket science. That this is ultimately true is so clearly unarguable that it takes very little, and very uncomplicated thought for all people with an open mind to confirm it for themselves. (See my blog at robert-wendell dot blogspot dot com).
  10. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I have only read to here but want to immediately note that what you state is true ONLY if you assume that nuclear power is not displacing coal fired power plants (either existing ones or those that would be built to meet the increasing demand.)

    You will probably be dead, even if young, before nuclear in US makes as much energy as coal does. I.e. you will never live to see this part of your post true.

    I will read rest later and reply, if needed.
    Later by edit: not needed as basicaly agree with the rest.

    PS I have supported nuclear power for more than 40 years, but not the way the US does it with business men designing control rooms for their looks. In the three mile Island accident the experts who came in made some mistakes as they were not familiar with its unique control design and last more than a day before they knew what the gagues were telling. Three mile island was placed on line on 31 December befor many saftey pumps were installed swo it coulbe inclueded in the rate base the public service commision allows the rate of return to be calculated on. Fortunately this did not add to the problem, but it could have. This "profit first" is common in the US with unique designes - very stupid system.

    The French do nuclear power correctly - Government puts safety first and design all the plants with identical control rooms etc.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 26, 2009
  11. rwendell Registered Member

    Where is green energy headed?

    Billy T, I'm talking about the long haul on nuclear, which is a long haul proposition in the first place. I do believe ethanol must play a part, and sugar cane is the best current source, but still competes with food for viable agricultural real estate. On your broad point concerning transition technologies, cellulosic ethanol plants are already starting to go up.

    For some idea of the current state of transition technologies, look up Range Fuels together with Georgia as key words in Google. They broke ground on 11/6/07, though, so I don't know where they are within the current financial picture. I've seen no update on construction since then during my cursory look around the site, but they're not confessing openly any backpedaling on that, although I wouldn't expect them, too, of course. The point is the technology is ready to roll and someone will do it relatively soon, especially given a significant government boost. Also take a look at Sapphire Energy for a clean, renewable gasoline product that comes from CO(2) and sunlight using genetically engineered algae.

    The problem I see with conventional nuclear, even French-style, is that by the time we get the plants up and rolling they will either already be obsolete or will be relatively soon afterward. We also need to remember that in addition to any waste problems that remain to be resolved, there is a limited supply of uranium and the rate at which it can continue to come online even with our modern enrichment technologies just as there is with oil when we look at the longer term picture.

    Better, we can build five solar-thermal plants in the time it takes to get one nuclear plant up and running. The venture capital turnaround is therefore much faster and the longer term picture for those investments much brighter. This is without factoring in government support in terms of subsidies of any kind, whether money, tax breaks, or any additional financial incentives.

    There is already an elegantly simple example of the solar-thermal approach in Spain that resembles a huge, upside-down funnel that spreads out over a large area of ground using inexpensive greenhouse plastic. There is a wind turbine near the bottom of the towering cylindrical upper part of the funnel. The ground is a heat sink that effectively acts as a huge thermal flywheel so that the plant generates electricity most of the night. This is the cheap version.

    Clearly, there are materials available that could greatly amplify the thermal flywheel effect, both in terms of heat storage capacity and insulation against heat leakage to the non-productive external environment. You might look up Vinod Khosla and solar-thermal, and even just Vinod Khosla alone to find out more about forward-looking venture capital and where it thinks the money is.

    Ultimately, renewable energy is intrinsically already distributed, so corporate attempts to keep useful energy centrally distributed are ultimately doomed to failure from a strictly economic point of view. All the economic incentives to decentralize are already built into the very nature of renewable sources. Together with the implementation of complementary technologies, the long-term trend toward decentralization looks to be unstoppable.

    Please bear in mind that I mean very long term. Transition technologies will play a crucial role, but I think sooner than most think. It sure needs to happen that way, and need often is a precursor to satisfaction of the need. Again, the pressure from nature will increase soon enough if we're too stupid to get it without having our metaphorical arms twisted until they almost break.
  12. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Cost, not technology is the problem. Man has had the technology for thousands of years.

    Thanks for post, but I am well aware of all you posted and much more. This reply limited to only Celulosic alcohol. I own stock in the leading cellulose alcohol company, Verenium, which has world largest pilot plant scale operating for more than a year. It generated the design data for the commercial scale plant. I bought VRNM sort as insurance as I do not think it will ever be competitive with tropical sugar cane alcohol, but could be wrong. Here is why: http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=1716603&postcount=311

    Here are some recent notes from my file on them:

    21Feb09: Verenium & BP have made 50/50 joint venture company based in Cambridge, Mass. which plans to break ground on commercial-scale cellulosic plant by 2010 in Highlands County with production starting in 2012. Committing $45 million to the joint venture company's Highlands County plant and another commercial project site in early stages in the Gulf Coast region. The estimated construction cost for the 36-million gallon per year plant is between $250 million and $300 million.

    Cellulose ethanol {only via the “bug route,” not via thermal chem. route} has three times higher energy gain than corn ethanol and emits a low net level of greenhouse gases. One proposed crop, Miscanthus, can grow up to eight feet in six weeks. See: http://www.physorg.com/news78069543.html & http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/miscanthus/miscan... .

    Note the comparsion is to corn ETOH but cane ETOH has about 8 times greater gain than corn based - I.e. even via bugs, the celulose gain is much less than cane ETOH - mainly because the crushed cane, alraedy at the plant, if burned supplies all distilation heat and still generates a great deal of electric for the grid.

    15Jan09 Highlands Ethanol project got$7 million grant from Florida's "Farm to Fuel" initiative…. Agreement with Lykes Bros. provides feedstock from ~20,000 adjacent acres and includes a facility site option and a long-term farm lease. Verenium was also got additional incentive package from the State of Florida.
    Here is concise discussion of cellulosic alcohol & other "liquid fuels from grass" etc.: http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/28/biofuels-ethanol-virent-technology-breakthroughs-biofuels.html

    Here is a possible important different approach: http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=1843394&postcount=320
    From my notes on them: Mascoma hopes to break ground this year and open in late 2011 or early 2012, slightly behind schedule in the race for the country's first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant.

    Also you may find interesting from my notes:
    14May08DuPont and Genencor, the enzymes unit of Danish Danisco, forming a cellulosic ethanol joint venture 50/50 spending $140e6 in next 3yrs on US pilot plant % planning demo/ commercial facility by 2012.

    Vinod Khosla, has price goal for all his ethanol companies of $1.25 a gallon. This venture capitalist has funded cellulosic ethanol companies Coskata, Mascoma, and Range Fuels. Range Fuels LLC of Broomfield, Colo., making first commercial-scale (20 million gallons in first phase to be completed in 2009) cellulosic ethanol plant in Soperton, Ga to use forest wastes. Builds GA’s Savannah port as entry point for Brazilian ethanol.

    Both Mascoma and Coskata have alliances with General Motors. Co-founder of Mascoma, Charles Wyman, a environmental engineering professor of University of California at Riverside states:
    “It takes a quarter-pound of enzymes to make a gallon of ethanol.”* Genencor’s Rochester unit has reduced the cost of corn stover to sugars enzymes 30-fold in last 5 years. Danisco’s animal division markets VRNM’s Phyzyme XP.

    Competitor (therma/chem. route) See: http://www.forbes.com/2007/11/03/en...cz_kd_1105fuels.html?partner=daily_newsletter
    *I'm not sure that is always true. He has commercial reaon tpo knock bug approach, but obviously good for the thermal/ chemical approach but “bug approach” avoids the thermal energy and pressure reactors they require.

    Here is a progress review (but seems to be ignorant of Verenium’s leading position.):

    BTW butanol has gas's energy density, current cars can run on it and it can go thru exisiting pipelines, but is not likely to be the winner. See my old post on it at: http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=1073534&postcount=170
    Last edited by a moderator: May 26, 2009
  13. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Nuclear power, even from first generation French designs is much cheaper than any other source. Thus, "growing obsolete" is a FALSE concern. U235 is less than 1% but deposits are known that will run standard reactors for 100s of years. Consequently only about 8% of Brazil has even been explored for uranium deposits, yet most of the bottled water is radioactive and that 8% yields uranium for domestic use and export. – Here, in Brazil still, like much of the world earlier, radioactive waters are thought to promote health.

    Before going to Hungary I found a tour guide in JHU library which was written after just as WWII ended. It told that the Budapest zoo was only a shadow of its former self as most animals had been killed and eaten. The next text section rated the natural hot water resorts by telling which had the most radioactive waters! But I digress. Point is that breeders reactors and the heavy water "CANDU" (used in Canada) can use natural uranium (and produce more plutonium than they burn U) so we will probably have at least 50,000 years of nuclear fuel when most of the earth's deposits have been found. - I doubt humans will survive that long.

    But now to the main objection: waste storage:

    The nuclear waste problem is easy to solve. The Swedish solution is good for countries with their geology. See it at:

    For 5 more ways to store the nuclear waste, see:
    Number (2) there is very similar to my solution. There is some discussion of my suggestion (I respond to questions) in the short thread at:

    By using every legal, and some illegal, means to delay nuclear power Green Peace has been a disaster for humanity. It has greatly increased both the global warming and man’s release of radioactivity into the air and water. Per kWh generated coal power plants produce very much more air and water born radioactivity. (Coal is the main source of man-made radioactivity release.).
    To learn more about the real nature and motives of Green Peace leaders, see: http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=928105&postcount=184

    For my POV about waste storage, H2 cars (pre the DNU storage approach) and why nuclear is costly in the US but cheap in France is at:

    The damage Green Peace’s well intended ignorance has done is global, not just in the US:

    Walter Marshall, Lord Marshall of Goring and chairman of Britain’s Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) said (in 1988, when coal use was much less) in the House of Commons:
    “Earlier this year, British Nuclear Fuels released into the Irish Sea some 400 kg of uranium, with the full knowledge of the regulators. This attracted considerable media attention and, I believe, some 14 parliamentary questions. I have to inform you that yesterday the CEGB released about 300 kg of radioactive uranium, together with all of its radioactive decay products, into the environment. Furthermore, we released some 300 kg of uranium the day before that. We shall be releasing the same amount of uranium today, and we plan to do the same tomorrow. In fact, we do it every day of every year so long as we burn coal in our power stations. And we do not call that “radioactive waste”. We call it coal ash.”

    From: http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=932474&postcount=196 but go there to see how silly the regulations are about nuclear medicine .

    Also note that the typical can of beer / day give you more radiation from K40 than you can be exposed to (from the nuclear power plant) by standing all day all YEAR at the nuclear plant gate. Some US nuclear power plants must process their cooling tower water, which never comes near the reactor, with ion exchange filters to remove natural isotopes BEFORE it goes to the cooling tower as without that processing, it cannot legally come FROM the cooling tower!

    Green Peace (and public ignorance in general) has made nuclear power uneconomical, instead of the “too cheap to meter” as in the original cost projections. Almost all of the cost is in the nuclear power is in the capital cost. None of that is recovered until production starts, which Green Peace has typically been able to delay at least 20 years in the US. This is why nuclear power in US is not built and your electric bills are much higher than they need be.

    Excepting militaries, IMHO, Green Peace is THE organization which has caused the greatest harm to humanity and the environment. They should have concerned themselves with protecting whales only, instead of damaging humans as they have.

    The same thing happens in the USA and the rest of the world. As Dr. Dixie Lee Ray {head of US's AEC} said once: “Of all industries, the nuclear industry alone has taken responsibility for its wastes from the beginning. Yet, ironically, it is the one industry most often criticized for its waste management practices.”

    To close less tragically, here is my humorous (I hope) way to support nuclear power: http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=1016814&postcount=8
    Or my sarcastic, but legally feasible, solution to nuclear power's political problem with waste disposal at:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 26, 2009
  14. rwendell Registered Member

    Hi again, Billy T. Even if we accept that nuclear waste disposal and uranium supply are not problems, we still have the thermal pollution problem. Nuclear power, as I stated earlier, even or ESPECIALLY if it were clean fusion power, would create a DISENCENTIVE to limit power usage from sources other than the sun. This must automatically raise the equilibrium temperature of the planet over time.

    According to the usual projections based on past growth, we would frightenly soon raise the long-term average temperature without any greenhouse gases whatsoever to a point at which the planet would be in dire straits. I used to be an enthusiast for nuclear fusion, but am not any longer precisely for this reason. It has also been an intractable problem so far to implement it, which in my view is very fortunate. Once we've hatched from the planetary egg and quit consuming the albumen (egg white or metaphorically, fossil fuels), then nuclear power becomes an interesting option for space travel. That's it's only legitimate long-term application as I see it.

    Quoting myself from an earlier post, "The ultimate, long-term success of the global economic system toward which we cannot help but move depends not on economic growth in our rate of consumption of physical resources, but the intelligence with which we articulate the restructuring of our environment to improve the true quality of our lives while preserving our finite physical resources to the maximum possible degree.

    "This is precisely the opposite direction from that in which we've been going...." I do not consider it moral to use up finite resources and leave later generations to languish in despair and gradually disappear, no matter how far into the future that may be. Of course, the sun will eventually turn into a red giant, but we have about five billion years before that happens and that is just a natural death on a planetary scale. I do not subscribe to suicide as a legitimate way to die, whether on an individual human or worldwide societal scale.

    The way I approach problem solving is to look at the really big picture and then boil things down to the absolutely essential, bottom-line factors that affect that picture. This cuts away all the chaff and brings clarity to whatever the issue happens to be.
  15. rwendell Registered Member

    "That's it's only legitimate long-term application as I see it." Sorry. The beginning should have read, "That's its..."
  16. rwendell Registered Member

    Artificial photosynthesis:
    greencarcongress (dot) com/2008/07/researchers-at (dot) html
  17. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Hole motherfucker your claims is so insane its right:

    Consequently, the total
    amount of heat generated by fossil fuels is 1014 kWh.
    By distributing this energy over the total area of the
    Earth, an additional 0.02 W m^2 is heating the planet.

    Here, it was found that one third of current thermal pollution is emitted to space and that a further global
    temperature increase of 1.8 jC is required until Earth is again in thermal equilibrium.

    http://www.ltu.se/polopoly_fs/1.5035!nordell gpc vol 38 issue 3-4.pdf

    But there is a problem with solar, it changes the earth albedo for the worst, although asphalt does even more harm. No matter what we are going to have to consider geo-engineering some where down the line.
  18. rwendell Registered Member

    ITDAFC (Intermediate Temperature Direct Ammonia Fuel Cell):

  19. rwendell Registered Member

    "But there is a problem with solar, it changes the earth albedo for the worst, although asphalt does even more harm." - ElectricFetus

    So we paint an equivalent area white, like part of your roof.
  20. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Until we stop using coal you too, as I said in bold text in post 105 "are looking at an ant hill and missing the mountain."

    I.e. decreasing Earth's atmospheric transparency by even 1% in the IR (of approximately 300K black body) is very much more important than doubling man's energy use. Coal's CO2 (and other GHG man is releasing) can do that.

    SUMMARY: Every nuclear plant added that closes a fossil fuel fired power plant helps COOL THE EARTH, NOT HEAT IT. Perhaps in a 100+ years your argument will make some sense, but a lot will happen between now and then so we cannot be sure it will even then.

    For example, after several hundred more nuclear plants have terminated the criminal burning of irreplaceable fossil chemical feed stocks for the heat content, are reaching the end of their useful live, they may be replaced by solar IR reflecting (all solar wavelengths greater than the band gap energy, but not reflectors of 300K long wave length IR, as that would make them very poor emitters of heat leaving earth.) photo-voltaic cells and sugar cane based alcohol fuel for some transport needs but 95+ % of that should be stored electrical energy from recent solar energy flux.

    The rapid promotion of nuclear power to close most fossil fuel power plants may be the only way to keep Earth from switching to the other (very hot) stable state. (A slightly cooler version of Venus, with the oceans boiling away into space and zero life on Earth.) That is very possible if the methane hydrates begin to decompose with greater than unity positive feedback. If you do not know about this danger, I will try to find some of my old posts on it.

    Again: divert your attention from the ant hill and see the mountain!
    I think it a tragedy if the end achieved by the million year development of "intelligent" life is a completely sterile Earth.
    Thanks for the number. At Earth's distance from the sun the solar flux is ~1000W /m^2. Let's be very silly and assume only 200W /m^2 is absorbed by Earth (at least double that is) and then 200.02W /m^2 must be radiated as IR back to space but assume that 220W /m^2 leaves the surface trying to leave. (I am too lazy to find the correct fraction of surface radiation which is returned to Earth, so I have assumed 10% is now.)

    Now postulate the continued release of GHG increase that returned fraction to 11%, which is the same as a 1% incease in earth's average albedo so the earth is now absorbing 202W /m^2 and the temperature has increased so it can radiate to space 202.02W /m^2

    Thus, in this conservative numerical illustration, man's release of Thermal energy from fossil fuels, wood fires, nuclear etc. directly causes a slight temperature increase (The extra 0.02W /m^2 to be radiated) but man's GHG effect indirectly causes a temperature increase about 25 times larger. (It is not 100 times larger even though the increase in GHG returned radiation is 2W /m^2 or 100 times larger than man's 0.02W /m^2, because black body radiation goes as T^4) None the less to be concerned with the direct effect of heating by man and ignore the indirect effect which raises the temperature much more is at best silly ignorance.*)
    *At worst, it will convert Earth into a sterile Venus like planet.

    People like you and rwendell, who can understand, need to use your intelligence to understand what the real danger is and what must be done, not oppose it.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 29, 2009
  21. rwendell Registered Member

    Makes good sense if...

    Billy T, you're argument makes a lot of sense. I frankly had not looked at that part of the picture, referring to the ratio of respective effects of green house gases and purely thermal pollution. I think the reason for this is a somewhat tacit assumption on my part that renewable technologies are not nearly as far away from replacing coal as you seem to assume. I am convinced that in a much shorter time frame than most project, energy will be locally available everywhere at competitive costs.

    There are two sides to the competitive costs picture, of course. One is how rapidly renewable source costs will decrease with both some of the new discoveries (and future ones) coming on line and hugely expanded markets for them. When the media talk about costs, they mostly focus on current costs of renewables and ignore the future cost of fossil fuels. Increased cost of fossil fuels is the other side of the picture.

    During the last huge price increase of gasoline and diesel, the oil industry attempted to justify their enormous profit taking referring to the mounting need for exploration and more efficient means of extraction from older, waning fields. However, as with anyone we have no reason to trust, we should not listen to what they say, but watch what they do. What have they been doing with that money? They have spent very little on what they talk about and spent huge sums buying back their own shares.

    Why? The reason should be obvious. They understand peak oil as well as anyone or better. They know its prices are going to go through the ceiling and they want to own as much of it as they can. I rest my case on that issue.

    So, with renewable costs going down and fossil fuel costs going way up in the not very distant future, including the nominal cost of coal (which fails to include the intolerable loss of environmental assets its mining inevitably involves and the increasing political will to oppose this as world population increases), I see a much more rapid demise of coal-fired plants than you apparently do.

    There is another factor none of this takes into account. People LOVE the idea of energy independence as a matter of principle and are willing to pay more to get it than the price picture alone would predict. Combine this with the already intrinsic local distribution of renewable energy and you get a scenario in which people eventually don't need the grid any more. Nanosolar already has a nanotech ink and with a single modern printing press can manufacture a gigawatt per year of thin film solar cells at under a dollar per watt. They are looking at eventually painting houses and commercial buildings with this stuff. Put that together with the huge strides being made in efficient electrolysis and ammonia production and you have total energy independence at the local level. I don't think we're very far away from that at all if we choose to go there. Heaven help us if we don't.
  22. rwendell Registered Member

    Oops, It should have been "...your argument..."
  23. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    We will still need the grid, alternative energy from most renewable sources is intermediate, we need the grid to dump power in when its in over supply and pull back out when the sun don't shin, we will need distributed power, smart griding and grid storage (either huge batteries or utilizing electric vehicles plug into the gird) to make renewables able to produce more then the 30% of our electric needed (30% being the maximum renewables can do without energy storage)

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