7/30/2015

On Why AGW is an Endless Battle


These are some of the main reasons why the AGW debate is endless:

1. CO2 is indispensable for life. We'll all die of starvation and cold without a sufficient amount of it in the atmosphere. I don't think there is a single reasonable person that questions this. So far, so good.



2. Yes, it is indispensable but, how much is too much? Here the arguments begin. Some want to return to the "primeval" 280 ppm CO2 concentration. Others arbitrarily state that the target should be 350. At the other extreme, we have people comfortable with 1,500 ppm. Since we have already exceeded 400 ppm and our global emissions are not being curtailed, the 350 ppm seems like an impossible objective. Should a more achievable objective such as 550 ppm be established and focus on trying to adapt to that world (that is almost certainly coming)? Would a 550 ppm world be worse in every sense or would it also have positive consequences? The latter is probably the right answer.



3. We cannot today replace fossil fuels wholesale. Sorry, but this is a fact. Yes, in theory nuclear could do it, but it is not doing it. Yes, China is going crazy with nuclear but they are also going crazy with fossil fuels. Yes, conceivably in 100 to 150 years nuclear (fission and / or fusion) could be our number one energy source but that is still many decades in the future. So today we have only one option: fossil fuels. Let's get over it. 


If accepting the "settled" science means agreeing that CO2 is a GHG and thus that in theory higher concentrations of it in the atmosphere will tend to increase the average temperature of the Earth, then, many, maybe even most persons, are on board.

However if accepting the "settled" science means artificially making fossil fuels more expensive or scarce without first having a massive replacement for them (that, I repeat, we do not have), many will fight back with full determination. They will be fighting for their lives and the lives of even the alarmists themselves. 

Conclusion: independent of the effects of increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, fossil fuels will continue to dominate the energy markets for many decades to come. The alternative would be far worse: widespread poverty, hunger, violence, early deaths, and the destruction of most of our civilization. 




7/23/2015

550.org



We are launching an alternate organization to 350.org because we believe that just wishing for something to happen (in other words for the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere to go back to 350 ppm) is absurd in the light that we break a new CO2 emissions record every year.

So, it makes no sense to invest time, effort and money in pursuing an impossible objective. 

Let's state here in what we firmly believe: nobody alive today will ever see again 350 ppm.

So, if not 350, where are we headed? 

We are "easily" headed for 550 ppm, thus the name of our non-profit.


Before we proceed further, let us state why we believe our non-profit will be more attractive than 350.org:

  1. We will not, ever, under any circumstances ask for donations. Hell, we won't even accept them even if somebody volunteers some money.
  2. We won't be dogmatic. We won't believe blindly in models, organizations (e.g. IPCC) or the Pope. We will strive to actually listen to reality.
  3. If 550 ppm is going to have consequences, we'll focus on minimizing the negative impacts and taking advantage of the positive ones.
  4. We won't promote any "feel good" actions that are actually irrelevant. So, you can stay at home: no need to pack yourself in diesel buses and march against something. 
  5. We are against carbon taxes (at the end of the day, C taxes are just taxes so thanks, but no thanks).
  6. We support the discontinuation of subsidies for all energy sources, starting with renewables. 
  7. We believe nuclear energy is safe, dense, reliable, scaleable and affordable.
  8. We do not believe that reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is THE priority of humanity (actually, it is not). 
Now, although we don't accept donations, we do accept $100 USD bets.

If the CO2 concentration does (miraculously) drop to 350, each member of 550.org will contribute $100 USD to: www.feedthechildren.org


If you bet against 550 and we do reach 550 ppm, then you should donate $100 USD to Feed the Children.

Deal?

Our objective is to educate the world not only respecting climate science, but more importantly, on engineering reality. The world cannot afford to go the way of the Energiewende. We want to be the voice of reason in the climate / energy discourse. 

We are open for suggestions and observations. Nothing in 550.org is, or will ever be, written in stone.

Please feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter.

Thank you!






7/21/2015

Natural Gas Revolution


Today, in the energy discourse it is very difficult to find relatively unbiased opinions. Most people seem to be lobbying for one cause, or the opposite one, or for an ideology.

When somebody tells you that something is all good, or all bad, immediately distrust them. They are not being truthful. 

Thus, this book by Robert. W. Kolb is like a breath of fresh air because it treats fracking as what it really is: a way of extracting natural gas that creates all sorts of benefits but also causes environmental problems.

However, and at least for me, the most important insight from this book is that the "easy" success of shale gas in the USA will not be massively replicated soon elsewhere.

The USA has several key characteristics that have allowed this fracking revolution. Other countries lack some or even most of them.

For example, apparently the shale gas reserves of China are even greater than those of the USA, however as of today their shale production is close to zero.


Why is China so far behind in exploiting shale gas?

Fracking requires loads of water, gas pipelines, relatively sparse population at the drilling sites, a good highway network (to move the drilling equipment back and forth), technology, know-how, capital, etc.

The USA has ALL of these. China and many other countries do not.

Thus the shale gas revolution will run decades behind the USA elsewhere. Actually the barriers in other countries are so high that shale gas production might never be profitable there. 






7/13/2015

Baseload Solar with Natural Gas


Several weeks ago we wrote an article underlining what would be required to install a one GWe solar baseload power plant using storage batteries to achieve a reliable output (from an unreliable solar input).

http://daysgt.blogspot.mx/2015/05/baseload-solar.html

The conclusion was that the approach was too expensive and not environmentally friendly.

Today, we'll analyze another option: make solar PV output reliable by pairing it with a natural gas power plant.

Again, there will be some simplifications here, but bear with us.



The objective is to deliver 1 GWe of reliable electricity, thus we'll install a 1 GWe natural gas power plant plus 1 GWe of solar PV.

Let's consider the annual solar capacity factor at the selected location is 20%.

The natural gas plant will be dispatchable to be able to produce 100% of the required power at any particular moment, zero when solar PV is at peak production and all the intermediate values throughout other particular moments during the year.***

The combined solar / natural gas power plant will produce this amount of energy annually:

     1 GWe x 24 hrs. x 365 days = 8,760 GWh.

Of the above, solar PV (at 20% annual capacity factor) will produce: 8,760 x 0.20 = 1,752 GWh.

And the nat gas plant will then produce the rest: 8,760 - 1752 = 7,008 GWh.

Thus, the theoretical emissions of the system per kWh would be:*

     0.20 x 48 grams/kWh + 0.80 x 490 grams/kWh = 402 grams/kWh.**

Yes, 402 grams are lower (vs. an unpaired nat gas plant) but not low.

If we consider the installed cost of solar PV at $2 USD per peak watt, the 1GWe installation above would cost 2 billion dollars. Would this money be well spent to achieve a reduction of 88 grams per kWh?

As a reference, just consider that nuclear, without any pairing with solar PV, produces electricity at a carbon intensity of only 12 grams per kWh.

If nuclear replaces coal, for instance, the CO2 emission reductions per kWh should be around 808 grams.

Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter. 





* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-cycle_greenhouse-gas_emissions_of_energy_sources

** However, in real life the natural gas plant will have to be idled, stopped, restarted, etc., so the combined emissions of the system will be above 402 grams per kWh.

*** To simplify, we are considering the availability of the natural gas power plant to be 100%.