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Friday, September 30, 2011

BIOFUELS FOR ELECTRICITY

It was only two weeks ago that I said:

  c.  While biofuels for power generation are also baseload, and Hawaiian Electric installed a liquid fuel combustion system expressly for this purpose, I think biofuels are too valuable for this application.  They should ALL be used for vehicles.  However, that 300% factor will weigh in and we will also burn this precious fuel for electricity.  Not smart!





  d.  The difficulty, in any case, is that, with federal subsidies soon to disappear for ethanol (a fight has begun to qualify this fuel if produced from non-food biomass--but in these debt reduction days that could turn out to be difficult).  This is the problem with the renewables.  The rules change over time, as it could take a decade from R and D to commercialization, and while the investment might have made sense in the first year, by the time you are about ready to make money, you go bankrupt. 

  e.  The biggest hurdle faced by biofuels producers is the cost factor.  I doubt that they will be able to produce this sustainable option cheaper than oil...for the next decade at least, if not much longer.  Externalities do not count today, which is shortsighted and unfortunate.  While it is admirable to plan for the total life cycle (that is, oil surely will increase to $150/barrel and higher sometime in the future, so you might as well start now--but will it, for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange never shows oil beyond $100/barrel through December 2019, and only at $96/barrel that month).

2.  Renewable ground transportation will advance, but I don't know if this mode will proceed much in Hawaii because we only pay from 10-20% more for gasoline than the national average.  If you run through the calculations using the "Gasoline Prices" section to the right, you will get 12% today.  The plug-in electric car is getting a lot of good publicity.  I'm more happy than not, but I worry, because I don't think this is the optimal path.  Biomethanol makes more sense, but the Department of Energy has been prevented by lobbyists from developing the direct methanol fuel cell, and this is the key to the next few generations of ground transport.  Maybe in a century it will be hydrogen fuel cells or cold fusion.







The most promising future biomass is marine algae. We will re-visit this option in Chapter 4 on the Blue Revolution, but to quote a colleague, Jaw Kai Wang, from personal notes (gallons oil / year / acre):

o Corn 18
o Soybean 48
o Sunflower 102
o Palm oil 635
o Marine algae 10,000

Thus, the most productive biomass is algae. Efficiencies of greater than 10% have been shown in the laboratory, and one way to help the environment while making a profit is to bubble fossil fuel power plant stack gases into an algae raceway so that carbon, sulfur and nitrogen oxides can be reduced, while producing a marketable product. I was involved with several such projects beginning in the 70’s, and the prospects are now improved with genetic engineering and the future possibility of a carbon tax.


Actually, the above is a direct quote of the biomass section from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, which had a paragraph particularly relevant to what is happening with biofuels and electricity today, especially in Hawaii:




 Don’t! It would be a waste to produce ethanol, for example, and burn it for electricity.  Use any liquid biofuel for transportation. 

Utility companies have been known to propose the utilization of ethanol and biodiesel for a combustion turbine, with a caveat, usually not well publicized, that this will be done if the fuel is cost-effective. Solicitations are floated, but the awardees never get to actually build anything because, unless there is a government-provided incentive, a locally produced biofuel will not be able to compete with fossil options. Thus, the utility, while certainly showing good citizenship for being a partner in helping to reduce fossil fuel consumption, is, actually, more than anything else, minimizing static in the installation of a new fossil-fired power plant, while gaining some public relations points.

Unless the $500/ton carbon tax becomes real, in the near term, any liquid fuel for any facility of this type will invariably be petroleum-based. But what can a conscientious utility company do if the public utility commission and ratepayer demands the lowest price?


Apropos to all the above the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Pacific Business News today had two articles on biofuels for electricity:

  1.  PUC rejects biofuel plan as too expensive:  as much as I continue to remain a skeptic on any program that wants to convert any type of biomass into a liquid fuel to power a combustion turbine for electricity, one of my long-time colleagues, Melvin Chiogioji, I thought had a relatively sensible plan, and, of all the locations:  the environs of Hutchinson Sugar Company in Kau on the Big Island, the site of my very first job after graduating from college.  For Aina Koa Pono to be denied can only omen the worst for this pathway, for if this system is not deemed commercial, than all those other minimal (restaurant wastes) and exotic (algae) plans have no chance to make a real difference.  Which leads to the second article.

  2.  HECO inks biofuels deal with algae-based producer:  reading the Star-Advertiser version was like deja vu, for the details have not changed from three years ago.  The problem is that, today, a fuel from terrestrial feedstocks is much cheaper than anything from algae.  If #1 above did not make the cut, there is no chance for #2 to eventually gain approval.

Mind you, liquid fuels from algae will someday be competitive, but only for ground and air transport.  What distorts the current reality is that Hawaii pays 300% more for electricity than the mainland average.  You no doubt have noticed that the media these days harp on the unfair high price of gasoline in Hawaii, when the reality is that our gas only costs 20% more (you can make this calculation by going to the "How Much Does Gasoline Cost?" section to the right, and, true, this differential has increased from my previous calculation of 12%).



So here is the bottom line analysis.  Liquid fuels from cane, palm oil, jatropha, algae, whatever, will not compete with oil at $100/barrel (it is $79/barrel today), and will have difficulty even, perhaps up to $150/barrel.  Certain tax and other governmental incentives can help, but how long will this be justified (remember ethanol)?  

What is my current attitude about biofuels and electricity?  Actually, I've shifted my views and see some of this encouraging commercial activity as  more good than bad.  I think it will bad for the companies, but good for developing the field.  I do worry that some of these empty pocket new firms are breathing some of the ethers they're producing and are hoping for the imminence of Peak Oil so that they can sell out to an oil company or equivalent.  The risk is that the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has oil futures in December of 2019 at $93/barrel.  But how often have those oil guessers been right?  This current anomaly of Hawaii and electricity does serve as a bridge for these pioneering biofuels companies, so nothing wrong with that.  Maybe the timing will all work out at the end. 

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Another bad day on Wall Street, as the Dow Jones Industrials dropped 241 (-2.2%) to 10,913 (high for year was 112,876), now nearly 6% below what it was at the beginning of 2011.  World markets were also all down.  The worrisome factors are volatility, Greece (short term) and China (long term).  Gold dropped a buck to $1623/toz, while the WTI Cushing is at $79/barrel and the Dated Brent at $104/barrel.



I noticed that Kodak was down as low at 54 cents today, but ended at about a buck/share.  Five years ago on this day, Kodak was at 22, having dropped from nearly a hundred less than ten years prior.  However, it looked like they were ready to recover by shifting away from film cameras, and I therefore considered investing a few bucks.  However, against my normal tendency (I only invest when things are down--which Kodak was) I decided to go with Amazon.com (which I had bought five years earlier, in 2001, for around $5--so it was way, way, way up) at $32.  Well, amazingly enough, Amazon today is at 216.  For around the same general cost of investment in 2006, the difference today is $216 versus $1.04.  Luck and gut feeling sometimes work.  The leadership at Kodak pronounced bankruptcy was not an option.  I guess that means bankruptcy.  Conversely, Amazon has a new browser considerably cheaper than the latest Apple iPad.  Amazon could well yet double.

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Hurricane Ophelia, 115 MPH, in the Atlantic is now at Category 3, but seems to be following the previous storms, and will slowly weaken, brush Newfoundland and go on towards Scotland:


Typhoon Nalgae, 130 MPH, is now a Category 4 and will slam into northern Philippines in a few hours and will skirt by southern Hainan in a few days.




Interesting how these ocean storms are following the same general track as their predecessors even though there should be a cooling effect caused by the upwelling.

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The Blue Revolution Hawaii Board met today and, in addition to helping solve the problems of Hawaii and the World, had a photo taken, with Guy via the power of electronics




Fujio Matsuda - Patrick Takahashi - Guy Toyama - Leighton Chong - John Farias


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Then dinner at Ming's with Christina, Grace, Ed and Jeff




The bon voyage gathering was hosted by Grace and Ed Cheng (with a Yellow Flower Fish from China in the foreground):




Ming's specializes in Shanghai cuisine.  An excellent meal with bottles of Meritage and Pinot Noir.


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Thursday, September 29, 2011

SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS: What About Free Hydrogen? (Part 1)

The following is Part I or four from SIMPLE SOLUTION Essays:


Every so often, I’m compelled to reach outside the box for a solution.  On 2July08 I extemporaneously blurbed at an awards ceremony to make hydrogen free.  Having said so, I now felt responsible to follow up.  In four parts I morphed through various stages of belief and disbelief about this notion.

What About Free Hydrogen? (Part 1)


Over the next couple of Green posts I will discuss the matter of free hydrogen. Yes, just make hydrogen free by, say, 2020, and let industry, with government assistance, develop the infrastructure and systems to handle the Age of Free Hydrogen. At first glance, the concept appears insane. For one, many (mainly government officials, actually) of the responses I received to this suggestion expressed concern that energy use would get out of hand, for then no one would conserve. Well, maybe that might actually be okay, but, clearly, the matter is complex. The details will need to be well thought out. For example, the hydrogen, in this context, must, of course, come from renewable energy. Then, will it be possible to differentiate between cheaper dirty hydrogen and the more expensive clean hydrogen? Also, who will be providing this free energy? As to be discussed, you will, the taxpayer. However, this simple solution should ultimately be able to eliminate the negative repurcussions of Peak Oil and onset of Global Warming. Interestingly enough, over the past year since the book was published, I began to appreciate the value of, possibly, a more logical sustainable pathway, to be revealed in the final post of this series. Anyway, the following is from Chapter 3 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth.


On March 21, 2006, at the annual luncheon of the National Hydrogen Association (NHA) Conference in Long Beach, California, I received the Spark Matsunaga Memorial Hydrogen Award, usually given to an elected official. However, as I was the individual who U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga assigned in 1980 to write the first draft of his hydrogen bill, I guess I was considered to be close enough to qualify. 
The second recipient, in 1992, was U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, whose letter of congratulations was read by Jeff Serfass (that's him next to Senator Akaka above) of NHA. Other awardees have included Congressmen and Senators, although Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger received this honor in 2004. Walking up to the podium, aside from the assorted obligatory thank you, I wondered what I was going to say. (Pardon me for mentioning all this, but a degree of credibility helps when one leaps beyond the edge of the envelope.)  

It then came to me in a moment of splendid inspiration, bursting forth from a third of a century of deliberation--MAKE HYDROGEN FREE. Deep in my memory might well have been a statement by Jeremy Rifkin in his book on The Hydrogen Economy, where he imagines a future a century away where the cost of producing unlimited amounts of hydrogen should virtually be zero. This sounds too much like atomic power being too cheap to monitor, but let me proceed.

Some say that hydrogen will always be a bit, if not a lot, too expensive. Then, too, this is a chicken or egg problem. The dilemma is in the infrastructure and free market system for what is an artificial commodity. Where do you start?

As great as, say, clean hydrogen sounds to some romantics, you can't force this gas on society just because it seems to them so logically sensible as the universal fuel of choice. If mankind is, indeed, at a decisive juncture, a means must be found to more effectively induce the world to quickly transition from a fossil economy to something better.

We'll come to the how later, but an ideal alternative worthy of discussion would be one powered by clean and sustainable hydrogen. The fuel would be produced everywhere. There would be no OPEC, no nuclear terrorism, and only a vibrant and healthy Planet Earth. World Wars would be minimized because most of the big ones, including the current action in Iraq, were fought over limited resources.

WHY NOT CONTROL THE ISSUE BY MAKING HYDROGEN FREE? What a heck of a simple solution for energy and our environment! If the perfect vision of 2020 is not possible, push the operational date back a bit. If the crisis is upon us, do it now. As opposed to waiting for economies of scale reducing the price to a competitive level in a century, start with zero and keep it there. There will be a transition period for the hardware to become available, but there are ways to administrate this process, and wouldn't it be wonderful if it works? The Free and Clean Hydrogen Age would eliminate our growing climate warming problem, while going a long ways towards preventing world wars forever and enable our civilization to hurdle over the Peak Oil problem.

(To be continued.)

Comments (32):  This article also drew respondents out of the woodwork.  I thought input would be provided after all four parts were posted, but, no, many wanted to comment now.  As a result, some of the feedback was premature or irrational.  A few got the idea right, but let’s see how the series evolves.



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The Dow Jones Industrials were up more than 200, then made a steady descent, but recovered to plus 143 at 11,154, while world markets were mixed.  Gold rose $26/toz to $1617 and oil went up slightly, the WTI Cushing Spot at $83/barrel and Dated Brent Spot at $104/barrel.

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There are five ocean storms.  In the Atlantic, Ophelia, at 70 MPH, just about to be come a hurricane, and will move towards Newfoundland, then on to Scotland.  Typhoon Nesat in the West Pacific rolled over north Hainan and Typhoon Nalgae will become a Category 3 hurricane before striking the Philippines, looming to follow the same track:


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ISN'T A CANTALOUPE HERMETICALLY SEALED?

The answer is yes, a cantaloupe is hermetically sealed.  However this latest health scare involving the listeria bacteria, is generally found on the ground (although up to 10% of us naturally carry this germ in our intestinal tract) and can adhere to tiny crevices outside the canteloupe.  If you don't sufficiently wash well--and who does, really, as no one actually eats the thick skin--in the cutting process, some of the transferred microbes can contaminate the flesh, then you.

Thirteen (nope, up to 16 now and counting, yet, not as bad as the 21 hot dog deaths in 1998, also caused by listeria) people have been confirmed to succumb to listeria from the cantaloupes originating from Jensen Farm in Colorado.  There are contradictory reports on whether all Rocky Ford cantaloupes can be trusted.  One additional problem is that the incubation period could be as long as a month or more, so the worst is probably yet to come.  As this fruit was shipped to 25 states, you're never sure if you're really safe.  On plus side for most of you is that the average age of death from this incident is 78.  Thus, if you're really old, avoid cantaloupes for the next few weeks.

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The Dow Jones Industrials fell 180 to 11,011.  There was more than a 300 point swing today as the market is volatile.  Markets in the Orient were fine, but the rest of the world went negative.  Gold is crashing, another $49/toz to $1591.  Just a couple of weeks ago the talk was, maybe, $2000.  Both the dated Brent and WTI fell about 3 to 4 bucks, the Brent now at $105/barrel and the WTI at $81/barrel.

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Typhoon Nesat, after pummeling the Philippines, will next strike Hainan Island, then move into Vietnam.  The new worry is Tropical Storm Nalgae, now at 65 MPH, but soon to attain hurricane force status, and is predicted to hit the north end of the Philippines as a Category 2 storm.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

LATEST UPDATE ON THE GREAT TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE, TSUNAMI AND NUCLEAR DISASTER

Nuclear power is dead, on to the renewables.  Right?  Nope, not necessarily, as in Kaminoseki, a town just south of Hiroshima, a pro-nuclear mayor, Shigemi Kashiwabara (above with a tie), beat out a pro-renewable challenger, Sadao Yamato (below).  How quickly they forget.  Well, I have long felt that the various utilities there would have to re-start their idled nuclear reactors, anyway, as their lifestyle would plummet if all of them were de-commissioned.  However, there is a strong nuclear lobbying organization in Japan, and they made sure that Kashiwabara won.

If you were in a coma these past 25 weeks (photo above of Great Tohoku tsunami on 11March2011 from Kyodo News), click on

The Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami: The Aftermath



Life today around Fukushima remains depressing, for, to quote a typical farmer and mother (Sachiko Sato to the right, photo from crisisjones.com):

  "the scenery in Fukushima is as beautiful as last year but all over us is radiation." She adds, "can you understand the pain of farmers who have to abandon the land they have cared for?"

The national government raised the safe level of radiation exposure for children from 1 milliSievert to 20.  Asks Sachiko:

  "were they saying that people's ability to withstand radiation exposure had increased miraculously?"


To recap:

1.  There are six nuclear reactors at Fukushima, averaging around 1000 MW each. According to Tokyo Electric Power, the temperature of all of them has dropped below the boiling point of water.

2.  There were 15,805 confirmed deaths, while 4,000 are still missing.

3.  There are 300,000 children in the radioactive zones around Fukushima.

4.  The exclusion zone will ultimately be in range of 50 square miles, while that of Chernobyl was almost 1100 square miles, and 200,000 people were relocated, slightly more than in Japan.

The region around Fukushima, translated to mean, ironically enough, Lucky Isle, had a population of 2 million.  Farming, last year a $3.2 billion industry, is decimated and there is now very little tourism.You might wonder how Fukushima compares with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, now thriving cities, including those areas just below the epicenters.  Click on:


Why Worry About Fukushima When Hiroshima and Nagasaki Are Safe?



You will be surprised and disheartened.  All the more surprising why the first test case of public decision-making, as reported in the first paragraph, was resoundingly in favor of a pro-nuclear mayor.

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The Dow Jones Industrials jumped 147 (+1.3%) to 11,190, with world markets also up, especially Europe, on order of +5%.  The Dow remains down 3.34% for the year.  Gold increased $30/toz to $1652, while the Brent Crude Future is at $107/barrel and WTI Crude Future at $83/barrel.

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There are five ocean storms, but only those two in the West Pacific look troublesome:


Typhoon Nesat stormed over the Philippines and is strengthening to next hit Hainan Island.  Only a tropical depression today, but Nalgae will get stronger and threaten the Northern Philippines.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

WHY DOES THE USA REFUSE TO SIGN INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS?

President John Kennedy signed a nuclear test ban treaty in 1963.  Then how come the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, 15 years awaiting Senate ratification, signed by 182 countries, is still awaiting American approval?  According to President Obama, because the Republicans are blocking it.  What?  Maybe this has something with our allies of this insidious international agreement:  China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and Pakistan.

More than a thirty years ago when I was the point staff person for the congressionally passed Hard Minerals Act, led by U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga, I got involved with the intrigue of the Glomar Explorer (left) searching for a Russian submarine in the Pacific, participated in a range of totally boring Law of the Sea Treaty (known as LOST) conferences and got wined and dined by a range of major U.S. corporations interested in seabed minerals, I learned an interesting lesson.  It is okay to enact certain laws to position the U.S. with government support, but, my gosh, don't sign any international treaty which would only limit the ability of the private sector to make profits.

LOST, for example, compels American companies to share technology with other nations, just one of a host of negotiated positions that, according to corporate America, provides advantages to China and Russia.  Patriotism, as best advocated by Republicans, have thus prevented ratification for all these decades.


  -  an international effort for labor to organize (waiting for approval since 1949)

  -  Convention on Human Rights (1978)

  -  Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1980)

  -  Convention to control the illicit manufacturing and trafficking of firearms, ammunition and explosives (1998)

  -  Landmine Ban Treaty (agreed to by 150 countries, but not the USA, China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Russia--something to do with conservative policymakers and the fact that the military does not like taking orders for civil society in general)

Democratic senators tend to support these international agreements, but you need a two-thirds majority to pass any treaty, and there are always more than 33% Republicans in the U.S. Senate.  The problem is as simple as that.  If I sound cynical, it is because I deservedly am.

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The Dow Jones Industrials zoomed up 272 to 11,043, with world markets mixed.  Gold fell $35/toz to $1624, while the WTI Cushing Spot is at $81/barrel and Dated Brent Spot at $107/barrel.

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Hurricane Hillary in the East Pacific is at 125 MPH, but will turn north over the next few days and cool off.  In the West Pacific, though, Typhoon Nesat is just about up to 100 MPH and now slamming into the Philippines, north of Manila.


Nesat will weaken, then by midweek regain typhoon status, and strike Hainan Island, probably on Thursday.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

THE ALOHA SHIRT



The history of the Aloha Shirt is a story of Hawaii tourism itself.  The female equivalent is the muumuu (modeled to the right by Homer Simpson), although the holoku is the upscaled version, like a long-sleeve aloha shirt.  Suffice to say that Hawaiian women, in the days of the early missionaries, walked around bare breasted, triggering the invention of the muumuu and aloha shirt.

The ideal aloha shirt is made from rayon, which to the surprise of most, is itself manufactured mostly from wood.   First invented in the middle 1800's as artificial silk, the manufacture was expensive, and some forms, unfortunately, flammable.  A sixteen step manufacturing process to produce a stronger rayon that could breathe finally evolved in 1950, setting the stage for the ultimate aloha shirt, the Kabe shirt, below.  Surprisingly enough, rayon is more biodegradable, plus cheaper, than cotton.  You might not see rayon on your shirt, for trade names are used--Bemberg, Modal, Tencel, Galaxcy Danufil, Viloft, --and India produces one-fourth the world production.

The aloha shirt was first registered by Ellery Chun in 1936, 55 years ago.  Beachboys, luau feasts, Aloha Fridays and, now, everyday, made this piece of clothing something that many tourists must buy.  Movie stars wore them.

The aloha shirt, tucked in, is the standard business attire in Honolulu today.  I don't like the current evolution because, first, that shirt is usually made of a not totally comfortable material, and secondly, this is all too formal for me.  Made of rayon, a long sleeve aloha shirt, left out of your trousers, is the epitome of high style in Hawaii.  Even La Mer will allow you in without a sports coat.

Designer Amos Kotomori has become a kind of icon for these shirts.  How many times have you paid more than $100 for a shirt.  Probably never.  Kotomori's Nieman Marcus specials only sell for $245:


Well, if I had kept my father's Kabe shirts, I would be rich today, for they sell for thousands of dollars, each.  Oh, I'm grieving, but a few months ago I donated a bunch of my clothes to Goodwill, and one of them was that print at the top, which I now learn is a particularly famous aloha shirt.  Want more information?  Go to The Hawaiian Shirt:  Its Art and History.

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From out of nowhere comes Typhoon Nesat (also known as Bagyong Pedring), only 80 MPH now, but in about a day will reach Category 4 status (meaning higher than 130 MPH), and slam into the Philippines, with the eye just north of Manila.  Watch out for this one.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

OUR DARK UNIVERSE



The news flash from Italy and Switzerland that the speed of a neutrino particle exceeding the speed of light made me wonder about the miracle of our Universe.  Here, numbers become almost meaningless when contemplating everything there is.  Ten to the first power is ten, and ten to the second power is 100.  Ten to the 100th power is a googol, which is one followed by 100 zeroes, and the googolplex is one followed by a googol of zeros.  How large is this?   The size of an eight point character is

0

Imagine a 1 point font, and how small that is.  A one point character is about 0.001 inch, something you can hardly see, and maybe can't.   However, if you attempt to write a googolplex, that one point font zero, end on end, would stretch beyond the diameter of our observable Universe.

So back to reality, sort of, the mass in pounds of our globe is 1 followed by 25 zeroes.  All living matter is guessed to be about one followed by 11 zeroes.   Humans represent 0.33% of all living matter, which is a lot more than I thought.  Just the bacteria in our ocean amount to 150 times human mass. So we Homo sapiens represent this infinitesimal amount of Planet Earth.  As our Sun in pounds is 4.4 times 1 followed by 34 zeroes, we are, approximately...well, almost nothing, and our Sun is, relatively, even less, when compared to the mass of our Universe.

Here is the part, though, that truly confounds.  At one time we thought that everything could be represented by atoms:  protons, neutrons and electrons.  Call them baryonic matter.  Then only recently (say a quarter century ago), it was determined that all this baryonic matter (you, me, bacteria, all the stars, everything theoretically observable) only represents 4.6% of the Universe.  Now, we learn from astrophysicists that dark energy, something we can't even detect, is 72% of our universe, and dark matter, something we can't see, is 23%.  Doesn't quite add up to 100%, but who cares at this point, so let's toss in neutrinos, that elusive particle that supposedly now can exceed the speed of light (packets of energy), into that mix.

First the obvious.  According to Einstein, energy equals mass times the speed of light times the speed of light, or


E = mc2   


This is the most famous equation of all time.  How beautiful and simple and elegant and utterly counterintuitive, for the concept of energy and matter being related, and only by the speed of light squared, is not logical.  There is something about space, time, energy and matter that just does not make any sense to me.


Albert Einstein, born in Germany, was not an extraordinary child, but when 15 or 16 (photo of him about then to the right) sent to his mother's brother (his weekly tutor, an uncle) a paper entitled "The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields."  Aether, or ether, from Einstein?  He failed in his first attempt to gain entrance into a university, got his first real job as an assistant examiner in a patent office, then received a PhD at the age of 26 from the University of Zurich.  About a decade later he first wrote on his general theory of relativity, gaining a Nobel Prize at the age of 41.  In 1939 at the age of 60 he signed that famous letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which resulted in the Atomic Bomb, something he later admitted was the one great mistake he ever made.

Enough about history, as now comes the really confusing part:  neutrinos (mean small neutral ones in Italian and are kind of like electrons, but with no electrical charge--no scientist can draw a neutrino, but some seventh and eight graders tried, to the left).  First, there are various types, and second, there are anti-neutrinos.  Don't ask.  Sixty five billion of them, mostly from our Sun (neutrinos are produced in many ways, but for the purpose of this discussion, also in the fusion process of hydrogen being converted into energy, or sunshine), pass through (they go right through, like a bullet going through fog) each square centimeter of our planet each second.  They supposedly travel at the speed of light, but only last year evidence was found that neutrinos have mass.  But if matter reaches the speed of light (which has no mass), according to Einstein, the mass becomes infinite!  So how can neutrinos reach, and, I guess now, even exceed, the speed of light?


Of particular relevance is the pioneering research John Learned of the University of Hawaii has accomplished, for he has been at the forefront of both the neutrino mass and velocity developments.  He was quoted in the New York Times yesterday, stating that:


"if the results of the Opera researchers turned out to be true, it could be the first hint that neutrinos can take a shortcut through space, through extra dimensions."


He even finds interest in SETI, for with his colleagues, suggested are notions that an advanced civilization would not be so gauche as to communicate using electromagnetic signals which decay over distance.  They think that the use of a terrestrial (actually on the bottom of the ocean or perhaps through the Antarctic ice) neutrino telescope, or, maybe, from the other end, the application of Cepheid variable stars as beacons.  No idea what they are?  Just click on those options.

You should be totally confused by now, but just accept the fact that the laws of physics are changing. Yes, there are terrorists, our society will no doubt fall into another economic recession, if not depression, and yet another potential doomsday might well be around the corner. However, in the totality of what is our Dark Universe, what is truly important? Perhaps for us recent intruders* into this space-time-energy-mass warp, Homo sapiens, will all this eclectic research lead to saving Planet Earth and Humanity in time? And, for 92% (but this embarrassingly high percentage actually was 98% half a century ago) of Americans, does this change the nature of God, and will their afterlife somehow be affected? But that was Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity. *If the time from the Big Bang till today can be represented in a 24-hour clock, Homo sapiens appeared at half a second to midnight.

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There are six ocean storms, but only one, Hurricane Hillary, at 140 MPH, is of any interest, and she will weaken before getting anywhere close to Hawaii:


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Friday, September 23, 2011

SIMPLE SOLUTION ESSAYS: Geoengineering of Climate Change

The following continues the serialization of my Book 3, SIMPLE SOLUTION Essays:


The notion of geoengineering at a global scale scares most.  Their argument is, we have so screwed up our planet that to entrust any group to solve these problems at mega-scale is insane.  They have a point, but the concept merely suggests we talk about these super solutions.  My 1July08 posting reviewed these early thinking steps.

Geoengineering of Climate Change


There are those who feel that there is no cause for concern at this time about the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, and if you trace who they are -- as for example by perusing through the comments of postings like this -- organizations like the Advancement of Sound Science Center or the Heartland Institute seem to regularly pop up. Searching further, you see that companies like Exxon Mobil provide supporting funds. Our White House provides encouragement and Republicans more than Democrats side with these detractors.

For all I know, they might actually be right. However, let's, for the sake of discussion, say that global heating is real and our world leaders are unable to agree on a workable solution in time. What if the situation gets so bad that virtually instant solutions will be required to save our civilization? I provide a wide variety of answers in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, but for the purpose of this article, let us look at something called global geoengineering.

Various international conferences on this subject have been held over the past few decades, but, in general, proponents have generally been relegated to the lowest level of respectability by academics and funding agencies. Until, maybe now.

The concept is not new. The industrial revolution, farms, cities, transport systems and remedying the ozone hole can be considered to be forms of geoengineering. The Montreal Protocol actually seems to be working for the latter, but the Kyoto Protocol has been less than successful.

How can you quickly reverse global warming? It has been hypothesized that reducing sunlight by only 1% should eliminate this problem. Various ideas have been floated, from placing reflective sheets on the ocean or in space to exploding a controlled series of hydrogen bombs to stimulate a nuclear winter. Yes, some of the propositions have been certifiably insane.  (To the left is a cloud ship, a concept from the University of Edinburgh, as funded by Bill Gates.)

One I favor (see the chapter on the Blue Revolution in the book mentioned above) has to do with an Apollo Project equivalent of building an armada of open ocean grazing platforms powered by ocean thermal energy conversion to suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while providing new habitats, green materials, next generation fisheries and sustainable fuels. Alas, such an effort will take decades and, horrors, maybe result in a United Nations of a thousand members.

The concept that has gained the greatest traction is the stratospheric sulfate solution (S-cubed), where large amounts of sulfur dioxide are, through various mechanisms, placed at altitude. This gas would form droplets of sulfuric acid in stratocumulus clouds to reflect back sunlight into space. Names like Freeman Dyson, Paul Crutzen and Edward Teller appear as advocates. This cure might cost $100 billion/year, for the effect wears out after a year, but that is a piffle in comparison with the $45 trillion exclaimed by the International Energy Agency as necessary to insure that our surface temperature only increases by 4 degrees Fahrenheit by the turn of the century.

Surely enough, Mount Pinatubo in 1991 blew its top and threw 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere and the globe cooled about a degree Fahrenheit that year. So the basic S-cubed concept has been largely verified by nature.

Before anyone gets too irrational, let me underscore that no one, not even the most extreme supporter, is even suggesting that anything of any magnitude be initiated today. It wouldn't hurt, though, to set aside a small amount, perhaps 1% of the global climate change budget, to comprehensively study the more reasonable suggestions, especially reviewing the environmental implications, so that if that one in a hundred chance that a perfect global heating storm (as, perchance, depicted in The Venus Syndrome chapter of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth) actually happens, we will have a few rational emergency options worthy of consideration.

Comments (4):  I thought this issue would have drawn a lot more irate responses, but those that did provide input either missed the point or supported my “insurance” strategy.

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The Dow Jones Industrials hovered above and below no change, and ended up 38 to 10,771, while world markets were mixed.  Gold crashed$91/toz to $1653, while oil prices continued to dip, the Dated Brent Spot now down to $106/barrel and the WTI Cushing Spot at $80/barrel.

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Tropical Storm Ophelia in the Atlantic is weakening, but there is another disturbance trailing from Africa.  Hurricane Hillary at 145 MPH remains powerful, but will continue to move West and in time weaken:



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