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Author Topic: Can coal's reputation as a dirty energy source be redeemed?  (Read 4506 times)

Offline Hadrian

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<font color="green"><font size="4"><font face="Comic Sans MS">Can coal's reputation as a dirty energy source be redeemed?
there is going to be a radio programme on this on Wednesday 14 June, 9pm BBC Radio 4</font id="Comic Sans MS"></font id="size4"></font id="green">



<i><center><font size="1"><font color="blue">What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. </font id="blue"></font id="size1"></center></i>
« Last Edit: 08/06/2007 22:48:02 by chris »


 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Can coal's reputation as a dirty energy source be redeemed?

My reply is: maybe, but only if the Carbon generated in burning the coal can be recaptured and kept out of our planetary atmosphere. That's a difficult task that nobody has managed yet, but it may not be impossible.
Natural Gas is a far more satisfactory fuel from the standpoint of global warming as well as air pollution, because there is very little carbon in natural gas, and no lung-clogging particles either.

chris wiegard
 

another_someone

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quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian
My reply is: maybe, but only if the Carbon generated in burning the coal can be recaptured and kept out of our planetary atmosphere. That's a difficult task that nobody has managed yet, but it may not be impossible.
Natural Gas is a far more satisfactory fuel from the standpoint of global warming as well as air pollution, because there is very little carbon in natural gas, and no lung-clogging particles either.



I don't see keeping carbon out of the atmosphere as a feasible outcome of burning coal; but the particulate issue has had considerable work done on it, and I don't see it as being as serious a problem as it once was (ofcourse, one of the arguments in its favour maybe that the particulates may contribute to global cooling).

Another issue is that water, which is a major product of burning methane, is also a greenhouse gas.

Since you and I are not going to agree about the significance of CO2 in global warming (at least not while it remains in the region of 300ppm that it is at present if it becomes 20% of the atmosphere, then I may well reconsider the matter, but by that time we will all have died of suffocation anyway).

Thinking on a wider issue on global warming (and following on from my comments about nuclear power), there seems to remarkably little comment about the direct heat that humans generate.  Urban areas are always a couple of degrees celcius warmer than the surrounding countryside, and this is not a consequence of CO2, but simply a consequence reduces albedo (lots of grey tarmac) and of human generated direct heating (whether a byproduct of the internal combustion engine, or of domestic heating, or industrial processes but not a consequence of the gases generated thereof).



George
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Another someone, that global dimming thing is actually fascinating. I refer to the effect of particulate pollution and airplane contrails of increasing the albedo of the atmosphere which partially counteracts the heating effect of CO2.
The problem with it is that we desire to eliminate the particulate pollution because it is damaging to human health, but if we do that we lose the beneficial reflective values in the atmosphere. It seems to be a classic example of solve a problem make another worse.
That's my spin of course.

chris wiegard
 

another_someone

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Originally posted by VAlibrarian
The problem with it is that we desire to eliminate the particulate pollution because it is damaging to human health, but if we do that we lose the beneficial reflective values in the atmosphere. It seems to be a classic example of solve a problem make another worse.
That's my spin of course.



I agree totally, but that is in my view an inevitable part of the human condition, that with each solution you simply create the next set of problems.  That is why I am not willing to condemn our ancestors for the imperfect world they left us, nor to assume that all we need to do is solve a hand full of problems and then we will be able to leave a utopian world to our descendent.  All the problems we seek to fix today will merely be the source of the problems we leave our descendent.

Ofcourse, if that seems totally defeatist, and saying we should do nothing; it is not quite so.  All I am saying is that we should not be in too much of a haste to do things.  Nothing we do will solve all the problems that the next generation will face, but doing less but with greater care is in my view more important that trying to do too much and doing it recklessly.  I don;t believe that even doing nothing would be a catastrophe, although I would accept that it would amount to a lost opportunity to do something to make things just a little better than it might otherwise be, but whatever it is, we will never be able to perform miracles.



George
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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I agree in principle with the critique of human nature in problem solving. However-my favorite criticism of the current generation of humans, which I concede that I repeat ad nauseam, is that we are running up against the limitations of sustainability but in many cases in no great hurry to address long term problems when the solutions may detract from our creature comforts.

This behavior can truly be described as no different from that exhibited by humans living in the year 1000 or even the year 10,000 B.C.E. The difference is that there are now 6 billion of us, and that we will reach 9 billion before populations stabilize, and this planet is not as large and resource rich as we all wish it was. I am uneasy about our ability or willingness to shift mental gears and deal with sustainability issues before we run into the limits of growth with a nasty crash.

chris wiegard
 

another_someone

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quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian

I agree in principle with the critique of human nature in problem solving. However-my favorite criticism of the current generation of humans, which I concede that I repeat ad nauseam, is that we are running up against the limitations of sustainability but in many cases in no great hurry to address long term problems when the solutions may detract from our creature comforts.

This behavior can truly be described as no different from that exhibited by humans living in the year 1000 or even the year 10,000 B.C.E. The difference is that there are now 6 billion of us, and that we will reach 9 billion before populations stabilize, and this planet is not as large and resource rich as we all wish it was. I am uneasy about our ability or willingness to shift mental gears and deal with sustainability issues before we run into the limits of growth with a nasty crash.



This is purely a matter of perception.

If you'd have asked someone in 1000 C.E. Whether the planet could sustain 6 billion souls, they'd have laughed at you, and considered it considerably more incredible than we might regard a planet sustaining 9 billion souls.  Then again, many people thought the world would come to an end at the end of the first millennium anyway.

Ofcourse, many species do go through rapid cycles of feast and famine, and they have massive population growths, followed by famine and population collapse, followed by renewed population growth.  The problem with modern humans is that with our continued decline in fecundity, any massive population decline could prove fatal because we simply no longer have the capability to replace the population that rapidly (or, at least, not to replace it with more humans, but we increasingly can replace human shortages with machines).

In fact, this really is the big difference between human kind now, and human kind at the end of the first millennium.  At the end of the first millennium, most work for human society was done by humans or domestic animals, and most energy was consumed by humans or domestic animals.  What is true at the start of the third millennium is that most work within human society is performed by machines (even if it is to the benefit of human kind), and most energy is consumed by machines.  It is not the 6 or 9 billion humans on this planet that now consume most of the energy on this planet, but it is the billions of machines, whether they be in factories, or in transportation systems, or wherever.  It is true, that without these billions of machines we could not create the conditions to even begin to sustain 6 billion human souls on this planet, so there is no way out of feeding these machines in order to allow these machines to feed us.

Will there come a crash in human population?  Very possibly, if for no other reason that because of reduced birth rates.  Will this lead to a commensurate reduction in the machine population?  I doubt it.  In fact, the general trend is that those countries with the fastest growth in machine population are also the countries with the slowest growth in human population.



George
 

Offline Atomic-S

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quote:
Another issue is that water, which is a major product of burning methane, is also a greenhouse gas.
Yowee! And 3/4 of the planet is covered with the stuff!
 

Offline mark71

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except everyone is afraid of enviromentalists lobbying governments for tax on coal generation...so it is all exported to china for them to burn uncleanly...who don't believe in misguded enviromentalists...
 

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