MY ECOENERGY PAGE
by Charles H. Tankersley, 1998
you can E-MAIL me.
July 8, 2007
This article was started several years ago but still applies today. I am editing it to include some updated information, primarily as a result of Al Gore's Global Warming argument. However, it is not only the global warming pollution from CO2 but to note that Methane, CH4, is a several times global warming threat than is co2. It is interesting to note, too, and some CO2 is required for plant life to survive, so we cannot eliminate it completely. In addition, CH4 and sunshine combine to form one of the sources of smog and surface ozone. This becomes a breathed in poison to our elderly and children. It is important to note, also, that as global warming continues and the oceans becomes warming, it threatens to release trillions of cubic feet of methane held in the oceans depths as a hydrate ice and potentially cause warming on earth beyond human life's endurance.
If one were to approach any of our coal fired power plants one would see a black haze covering the entire site for miles around. This is coal dust, a serious carcinogenic as well as a atmospheric pollutant. This coal dust, too, is oxidized and is a source of smog and ozone. This, too, it true for areas around oil refineries. Houston, Texas, is an example of petrochemical pollution. During the long hot summers, Houston is almost daily under a sever ozone warning.
It is not only the atmosphere pollutions we have to fear from the CO2, CH4, coal dust and hydrocarbons, but we must fear the pollution of our water and soils. We have read many stories of this sort of pollution and the pockets of cancer they can cause. All-in-all, it is not just global warming that threatens us by our use of fossil fuels, coal, oil, gas, but all the other poisons they produce, combined. The pollution, alone, is enough to cause us to say: "Hey, enough is enough!". We can no longer wait for others to do it for us, we must start taking positive action now. With the spin-off articles mentioned in this essay, I have indicated some of those steps we can start taking ourselves, as private citizens. We cannot just stop using fossil fuels, we must use a transition period and as new technology and tools become available, incorporate these into our daily living. We must use some common sense and insist that our government and industry stop letting greed stand in the way of making our lives, world wide, a better and safer place. The survival of our species depends on it.
begun 1998, last edited, July 7, 2007
As a child, I enjoyed the "outdoors" and relished running through the woods, exploring along the banks of ponds and lakes, and in general observing all of God's creations. When I grew into adulthood and entered the work force, I began learning how to alter the earth to suit man's needs and wants. Usually, man's wants outweighed the needs. As fate would have it, I learned how to design dams, waterways, power plants, chemical plants, and refineries. When I began working in the Power and Petroleum Industry I became worried and concerned with what we are doing to this little space station called earth just for a little profit. I have seen the chemicals we bury in the ground or dump in our rivers and streams. I have seen the smoke stacks as they pumped their toxic fumes in the air. I have built the systems that fuel aircraft, trucks and cars. I have helped design the gas and coal boilers for electric generation. I have distributed the gas used for cooking our food and for heating our homes. Because of all this pollution we created we are now facing a global climate change! Global warming is man's own doing. mankind's demand for "comfort and convenience", regardless of the consequences, is catching up with him.
The past 100 years has seen pockets of increased cancer, untimely deaths, and genetic harm industry and government contractors have done with pollution left in the soil, in the ground water, and in the air. There are even cases air pollution from atomic power plants. Mostly, though, all that is heard from the general population is, "They ought to do something about that" and that is the end of it. What is not realized is that the "They" in the foregoing sentence is "We, the People of these united states...and the world...", you and I; we are the "THEY". But people do not want to give up automobiles or even second automobiles. Man does not want to turn off electric lights, does not want to stop using lawn mowers. People do not want to haul old empty paint cans to a safe place to dispose of them. It seems mankind does not want to take the action needed to clean up this junk yard earth. Yes, it is true, the human being is the most deadly and wasteful animal on this earth. It is greed, waste and complacency that will lead mankind to the dinosaur's fate. Science has been warning of this for years, yet, even today the warning goes unheeded by the majority.
One of the problems faced with trying to clean up the earth is to give a viable alternative to the current infrastructure. The oil companies, the power companies, and the the appliance and automobile manufacturers have enjoyed an almost uninhibited road to wealth and power. They respond to the wish for more and better luxuries, happily lining their pockets for the pleasure and entertainment of civilization. They build bigger, faster automobiles which give out more carbon dioxide so the drivers can get to the hottest night spot to booze it up with their favorite sex objects while becoming deaf to the 100 DB sounds of a over amplified rock bands with flashing colored lights designed to drive everyone insane. It all runs on energy, dirty energy. However, hidden way to the back of this runaway bus are a few who will try to make a difference. These brave few offer alternatives to dirty energy demands and point to clean, safe energy. This web page will offer a few of these alternatives. This web page will page will offer some suggestions and collect a few links to others who are working to help clean up the earth.
To begin, a viable and feasible alternative must be suggested. It is foolish to say stop using oil, there is no question that oil must remain a part of the infrastructure and must be used in some form. The most noticeable uses are lubrication, plastics, and, discovered in the early 90's, nanotechnology. Carbon is a very important building block. What is suggested here is to reduce the burning of carbonaceous (fossil) fuels. The space program is pointing a way to do this, too. The quest for space exploration has produced several advancements or spin-offs. Most notable in the energy field is vastly improved batteries. They are used on portable, hand held re-chargeable tools. Even the old flashlight battery lasts longer. But this will not solve any polluting energy problems. Some of the spin-offs to solve the major energy problems are solar cells, fuel cells, and the use and storage of hydrogen. Hydrogen is the most energetic of all the fuels, and at the same time is the most abundant, by far. Hydrogen is the atomic fuel that keeps our sun burning, yet, has a large chemical energy too. Also, as a chemical fuel, it is almost non-polluting, because, as it is used, it produces water as its exhaust gas. Yes, pure water. So, how can hydrogen be used to replace organic fuels? Let me suggest a few ways, perhaps you can think of more ways, and perhaps even the automobile and oil companies will see the light and the profits and join in, too. I know of some manufacturers and energy producers have begun research toward this. And you will find links to our government's Department of Energy initiative toward developing non-polluting energy, also.
The first effort must be toward defining polluting and non-polluting or "zero emission" energy. Here is an article, "Zero Emission Energy", which attempts to define exactly what zero emission means. Let's not forget to consider reduced emission, too. One way being done now is to research and build more fuel efficient automobiles. Others are working on electric automobiles, and still more on a hybrid of the two, both gas and electric. One way to reduce emissions right now is to inject Hydrogen into the natural gas pipelines used to deliver heating and cooking fuels to homes and businesses. Additionally, work had been done on an all hydrogen/oxygen
fuel cell powered cars and buses. The latest estimate is that the fuel cell cars should be available around the year 2010± but prototypes may be available now. Both Ford and Chevrolet are working on it, as are several companies in other countries.
After looking at zero emission energy, it is clear that all energy has emission, and that these emission can be either harmless and harmful. We are protected from most of the sun's harmful emission by our magnetosphere and atmosphere. The one fly in the ointment, however, are fluorocarbon and chlorocarbon propellants that used to be used in aerosol deodorant sprays and as the working gas in air conditioners. These tend to last indefinitely and mix in the atmosphere where they remain relatively inert except in the upper atmosphere. There, they react with the ozone which protects life on earth from the sun's harmful UV rays and creates holes that allow the UV to reach the surface. This UV is not only harmful to humans, but to other animal life and plant life as well. And when it is absorbed into the earth, it heats the soil and is re-radiated as infrared (IR), or heat, which is trapped in the atmosphere by the greenhouse gases which include CO2 and various hydrocarbon. The UV rays also are absorbed by the oceans, heating and evaporating more water, which goes into the atmosphere carrying the heat with it. High school science class teach that water can hold enormous amounts of heat, especially in the gas phase (vapor). The sun does pollute the earth with Ultraviolet Radiation (UV). We have done things to make it worse. Thank God we have created laws and treaties to help stop damaging the protective ozone shield. Let's hope the laws are in time and are enforced.
What about atomic energy? Adds on radio and TV claim it is safe, clean, non-polluting energy. If we believe that, then I think someone in Arizona has some beach front property for sale. If atomic energy is safe, then why was Three Mile Island shut down. What about Chernobyl? These are emission's that are deadly, but even if the atomic power plants were made 100% safe to operate, there are still emission. First of all, a great fear exists called atomic proliferation. That means that a power plant can be configured to produce weapons grade atomic fuel. It stands to reason that if a few terrorists can get their hands of an atomic bomb, they will. The Iranian's would love to have a couple A-bombs to use on almost anyone. Weapons grade fuel is not the only harmful emission of a "safe" atomic plant, either. When the fuel rods are spent, they are still deadly radio active, and remain so for thousands of years. What should be done with them? Some have been cased in concrete filled drums and dropped in the sea, but these are already breaking down and can leak radio active material. Some are stored in deep caves, again in concrete, yet the caves are running out of room. What should be done with spent atomic fuel? Its half life is so long and it remains dangerous for centuries. Atomic energy has its uses, and could be considered the fuel of choice once in outer space. There it is safe because the emission already there from the sun and stars and as the left overs from the big bang. Empty space is not empty, it is full of radiation, atomic particles, sub atomic particles, plasma, dark matter, rocks, and other natural stuff used to build the universe, even stuff we have yet to discover. Dark matter and dark energy make up 90% of the universe. By "dark" we mean we know it is there but can't see or find it.
The California brownouts and blackouts do show one place where work can be done to provide better service while improving emission difficulties at the same time. Why not suggest the people in California produce their own electricity? It can be done although, to start with, it will be expensive. But don't California people have a lot of money to spare? System #1 would be to use solar cells to disassociate water into hydrogen and oxygen, storing hydrogen in pressure tanks and releasing the oxygen into the air. use the hydrogen to power fuel cells as needed. System #2 would be to use a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell to convert natural gas to electricity. this system had already been demonstrated to be 60% to 80% efficient, which in it's raw form would be about twice as efficient as the best gas or coal fired generator. This means that the emission of CO2 would be cut in half per watt of electricity produced. This could be further improved if we were to use the hydrogen produced in the first system to enrich the natural gas stream for the second system. Of course, there is always system #3 which is in use now, to use the solar cells to charge batteries for use as needed when the sun is not shining. To get things going, consider designing a self contained house using system #2. Let's call this demonstration design "THE EARTHBOUND SPACE STATION". We may want to consider using wind turbines, too, in areas of wind especially. Wind turbines seem to work quite well where the wind speed averages 8 mph or better. This includes most of the Midwest from the gulf coast to Canada, between the Rockies and the Mississippi River and many of the Valleys in Southern California. One more thing is to be added to this discussion is to produce fuel from household, yard, and garden wastes. This will involve bio digestion and fermentation and the new technologies that will make these technologies far more feasible in the very near future.
Guess what! We have built our home, it is working fine. Now we must keep the outside working nice, cut and edge the grass; plant trees, shrubs and flowers. So, we buy a lawnmower, a gas powered edger, and a gasoline leaf blower. Thus, all we have done is to make our clean energy powered house dirty again by using one of the most polluting of all products we can use around the home, the small gasoline engine. So now, to save all our hard work, let's invent the "ULTIMATE LAWNMOWER". Perhaps we can extend the design to the edger and the blower, too. The lawnmower can charge itself by sitting in the sun when not in use. Putting it away would be leaving it in the sun on a slab out back to "recharge" its supply of hydrogen. As for the edger and blower, let's see if we can use some access hydrogen from the house and the lawnmower.