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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Al Didn't See This Coming

Al Gore of course has a new movie out about global warming, and how it's going to kill us all. Today's Washington Post has an interesting column by Robert Samuelson that throws come cold water on Al's bluster about the subject.

Samuelson's take, which I think is half right, is that global warming is more an engineering problem than it is the moral one that Gore and others have made it. That's where I believe he's right.

He points to an International Energy Agency report that surmizes a 42% increase in CO2 emmissions over the next 40 or so years strictly based on population growth and increased standards of living in areas like China and India. Kyoto doesn't address that issue, because they are considered developing countries, and even if the treaty would go into effect, they would be exempt.

There is however, an area that I disagree with Samuelson on the idea of a "moral problem"; should, in the name of "global warming" we be allowed to tell countries they must stop developing? Can (should?) the world tell China, Brazil, India, and other countries that they need to stay 'less developed', for the good of the world?

You see, that's the real question. You can't increase a countries economic output without increasing it's energy usage, not on the scale of a country like India or China, with a billion or more people. Yet the only way to really curb CO2 emmissions to the level the Kyoto folks would like would be to tell them they have developed enough.

Going back to the subject of an engineering problem vice a moral problem, comes the question of where do we get the electricity to help those developing countries develop?

While some in the environmental movement will scream "do it with renewables", the truth is most that don't involve release of CO2; wind, solar and geothermal; aren't the types of power generation that can replace large scale coal and oil fired plants. Even the most efficient renewable resources are better suited to replace peaker power plants, small scale generators designed for short term use.

Though nuclear energy is the best alternative for large scale electric output, the same groups that want to sue because of CO2 emmissions sue when power companies try and get permits for new reactors.

Hydrogen isn't an answer, either. Right now 90% of the worlds hydrogen production comes from the 'cracking' of either natural gas or methane, a process which still requires holes in the ground to get the parent gas. It also has as a byproduct, you guessed it, CO2, which ends up being released as offspring gas are burned to fuel the cracking process.

The other 10% of hydrogen comes from a process called electrolysis, which uses a large electric current to break water into it's components. It's clean, only hydrogen and oxygen as byproducts, but it's a net energy loser. It costs more electricity to make the hydrogen than can be recovered by using it in fuel cells.

Does that mean that we should just throw our collective hands in the air and give up? No, but we do need to put things into a logical perspective, and realize, as the IEA has, that greenhouse emmissions will go up, regardless, and look to ways to slow the growth. At the same time, it has to be looked at in a way that makes sense in reality, not the hype based world that Gore and others seem to live in.

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6Comments:

Blogger Lone Pony said...

Let's just redistribute the world's wealth. J/K Nuclear Energy is our future. Wish they would wake up and get moving on it! We're at least 10 years behind.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

I feel that we really have no alternative than to go Nuclear for our electrical energy. Let's just do it right and make sure that we don't skimp on safety.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Maricopa Mark said...

I'm with Lone Pony and Tim. Let's go nuke 'em. The nuclear power plant west of Phoenix (Palo Verde) produces something like 60% of all electricity needed here in Arizona.

10:42 AM  
Blogger shoprat said...

The only answer that would please these people is to put them (Gore etc.) in absolute charge. Then everything would be perfect. It's the only power they actually care about.

Nuclear power could do the trick, but that would not put political and economic power in their hands so it's a non-starter.

7:37 PM  
Blogger The Conservative UAW Guy said...

Great job, CP.
You nailed it.

5:26 AM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

LP- It's closer to 30 years behind, unfortunately.

Tim, I agree, it's gotta be done safely. At the same time, common sense has to come into the equation. If you look at the actual data from 3 Mile Island, it's actually great proof of the level of safety in our civilian nuclear program, despite the media hype.

Shoprat- Good observation. Though I think they'd hate the scrutiny they'd get if things didn't work exactly as they say. Which as Samuelson pointed out, they wouldn't.

Thanks CUG and MM

5:58 AM  

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