Thursday, March 01, 2007

the answer is?

The UN is asking that the United States becomes a leader in promoting cleaner energies and tackling the problem of global warming. The UN is encouraged by the response to An Inconvenient Truth in that there is now growing awareness of the problem of global warming. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17401890/

Our local governor is supporting the exploration of biofuels as an alternative fuel source. Many people seem to think that alternative energies are the answer to all of our problems. Are alternative energies a solution?

Energy sources can be divided into renewable and nonrenewable.


Nonrenewable Renewable
Oil sands, heavy oil Wood/other biomass
Natural gas Hydro-electric power2
Coal Solar energy
Shale oil Wind energy
Gas hydrates Wave energy
Nuclear fission Tidal power
Geothermal1 Fusion

Ocean thermal energy conversion

1. Renewable for space heating 2. Not renewable with reservoirs

There are many options for alternative energy, however most of them are not as cheap as oil. There are pluses and minuses for each possible energy source. Some do not store well, some cost more to gather and store than it would to use oil. Some, such a biofuels may cause other problems such as the increased cost of food.

CORN: FUEL OR FOOD ???
By Mike Meyers Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune
February 8, 2007
http://www.startribune.com/535/story/977495.html

"The number of hungry people worldwide could grow by more than 50% by 2020, as corn, sugar and other food staples are increasingly devoted to making fuel here and abroad, according to the projections by C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer.

The same trend would bring much higher food prices to the United States and the rest of the developed world, the economists predict. The sharp increase in world hunger isn't inevitable, however. The economists say increased conservation could do more to wean the United States from foreign oil than all the corn-based ethanol plants now online."


Scientists urge sweeping measures to save world
"The scientists called for dramatic actions ranging from carbon taxes and a ban on conventional coal-fired power plants to an end to all beachfront construction worldwide. The researchers were funded by the non-profit UN Foundation and the research society Sigma Xi.

To meet the scientists' goal, global carbon dioxide emissions must level off by 2015 and then drop by two-thirds by 2100."

So, what is the answer? Perhaps combining technologies will help us. Perhaps using solar, wind, wave, and biomass in combination will help. I do not know. What I do believe, however, is that we need to change how we think about the energy we use. We need to realize that it will not "always be cheap and available." We need to think about how we can make personal changes in our lives to reduce the amount of energy we use. Does this mean trading in a gas guzzler for a more efficient vehicle? Does this mean that we should combine trips and use less gasoline? Should we unplug unused appliances? Should we replace our lightbulbs? The answer is ....

It is up to us. We should find ways to use less energy. Whatever that method is.

I am trying to look around my house and life and think about ways that I can personally reduce our gasoline and electric use - whether it is offset with wind or by buying carbon emissions, using less is better in the long run. I may not be able to trade my vehicle in for a smaller one, but I can choose to walk, bike, or combine trips. I can unplug the toaster when it is no longer in use and shut doors to bedrooms that are not used (why heat an unused room? ). Small actions can make a big change in our energy usage. Of course, any action can also reduce our carbon emissions....

It is up to us. What changes can you make to reduce your reliance on oil, natural gas, and electricity?

29 comments:

rani said...

Every little bit helps, right? We forget that sometimes. Composting, driving, electricity, the foods we choose (local, less meat), all add up. It's a long journey to sustainability but I hope I'm getting there.

Rick said...

You are not correct in deeming geothermal non-renewable.

If properly managed, geothermal for power production is as renewable as hydro and biofuel, say.

For example, bad management of a hydro project can allow silt buildup behind the dam, making power production impossible.

Exhausting the soil where the biomass fuel grows will similarly crimp power production.

In the case of geothermal power production, past poor management has allowed the fluid portions of some resources to deplete, and in other cases has mined the heat too fast to be sustainable for very long.

In the first scenario, if reservoir damage hasn't happened, pumping new water downhole can replinish the fluid (as in the Geysers in N. California), while in the latter case, a "fallow" period would allow the heat to conduct back in.

Emme said...

Rick, check the link on the source: http://www.hubbertpeak.com/youngquist/altenergy.htm
Regardless, it is still best to reduce use.

Bart said...

Conservation is the best plan of action, but since that's generally bad for business, it'll be the last one embraced. It will be forced on us by fate at some point, though.

Renewables will be an important part of our energy future, but we should be realistic when estimating what we can get from them in terms of BTUs. If you haven't seen the 'Cubic Mile of Oil' post at the Oil Drum, I'd suggest you check it out. That's about how much oil the world uses in a year, and the power that it kicks out is massive. We'll be able to replace some of that power with renewables, but I doubt we'll be able to replace all of it.

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2320

Most of the truly viable alternative energy transportation plans rely on electrifcation of our transport networks (both rail and road), which will require a large increase in the amount of electricity we need to generate. In the short term, that means more nukes and coal. In the long term it'll mean a major restructuring of the American lifestyle based on relocalization.

Ethanol is a boondoggle for Big Ag and nothing else.

Dora Renee' Wilkerson said...

Hello!
I loved reading your blog (I came from another blog that I was reading..lol..)
I see the corn here in my area going up A LOT! I live in Marion, Ohio and when just got an Ethanol plant. It'll be intersting to see what happens.
I do know I have farm animals and the feed has gone up because our corn is being used to heat homes and fuel. Well if it cost more to feed them it'll cost us more at the stores.
I have been warned about MILK prices alone. I know someone who was just in Flordia and it's almost $4.00 for milk.
We had something on TV where they "THINK" (I love it when it's put that way) here in Ohio that we will be paying over $5.00 a gallon for it! Yikes, if that happens ice cream, cheese, and other products (meat will also go up because they feed grain.)
Another little side note is about hay prices! All have gone up this year.. More money to feed our food..lol.
I don't know why I just went on about all of that. I guess just to say that I enjoyed your post and that I understand there is a problem with this stuff... I don't know the answer but I can see a problem..lol..
Great blog!

Dora Renee' Wilkerson

markali52 said...

Until we know the actual truth about global warming how can we stop it, different scientists have different theories, yes theories not facts, from solar sunspot activity to carbon dioxide levels, we know a volcano can churn out more in a day than humans do in a decade so who do we believe, this does not mean that we should not be doing anything and I am all for recycling, alternative energy and partial self sufficiency my garden has a lawn, garden furniture, flower beds and a large veg patch where I grow carrots, runner beans, cabbage and even a few potatoes, I also have strawberries and a cherry tree, I do try but we need the truth.

Pauline said...

Although there is little doubt that we have some effect on our planet more and more scientists are moving away from the fact that global warming is soley us, it more likely a natural planetary mechanism, the goverments will not back this because they can tax people more through scaremongery, most companies are now employing greener production processes and many use sustainable materials, Ikea garden furniture is constructed from wood where tree planting is used, many companies although profit drives them know they have to make some effort.

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