Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years Since 911




Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the 911 tragedy. I think about 911 often and probably a day does not go by that I do not think about the horror of that day. Perhaps because I blog about energy and humanity’s almost total reliance on hydrocarbons for energy, I think more often of 911, the Middle East, and the War on Terror. The war on terror is actually a dumb phrase as all war is terror but CNN has used this term fifteen times in the last day, so I too refer to past decade as a war on terror. This war on terror actually has resulted in crimes against nature as well as humanity. As a thermodynamicist I will opine on the crimes against nature.

In 2001 the US produced 1.8 billion gallons of bio ethanol primarily from corn in the Midwest. In 2011 we will produce 13.5 billion gallons of bio ethanol. We now use 40% of our corn crop in bio ethanol production. Of course not all the components of corn end up as ethanol as distiller’s grain, corn gluten feed, corn gluten meal, and corn oil are by products of the bio ethanol production process. The starch in the corn is what is converted to ethanol. But 40% of the corn crop is processed through the 214 bio ethanol refineries in the USA. The Americas (North and South) produced 21 billion gallons of bio ethanol out of the 23 billion gallons produced worldwide in 2010. Brazil and the US produced 20 billion gallons in 2010. Sugar is used in Brazil and corn is used in the US. The poor of the world starve while a massive fraction of fertile land in the US and Brazil is used to promote and subsidize the folly of bio fools who propel themselves in 4,000 pound vehicles an average 15,000 miles a year. Is this not terror perpetrated on the planet? Does the starving child in Africa really care about our Brady Bunch Lifestyle or does the child feel hunger's constant pain from the lack of corn that could have been used for food?

In 2001 we had almost zero installed PV solar cells. We have expanded the installed base of 40 gigawatts of PV cells but as I have often opined with a massive subsidy on cost per ton of CO2 emissions removed. The 40 gigawatts equals 40 million kilowatts and if PV cells produce power on average for 2,500 hours per year approximately 100 billion kilowatt hours of energy can be generated from this installed base. Each kilowatt hour of electricity generated from a combined cycle natural gas facility emits 0.8 pounds of CO2. The planet is therefore being saved 80 billion pounds of CO2 a year or 40 million tons of CO2. The problem is this is equal to removing only 7 million cars from the road. As Asia loves our Brady Bunch lifestyle and wishes to mimic the US, the total number of personal vehicles on the planet increased by over 200 million since 911. We are treating cancer with an aspirin. Prince Charles has gotten this and is now speaking of a need for massive sociologic change in how we live. Gore is still lost and is trying to get more money from government to support his VC investment in Betamax technologies. On 911 as we reflect on that terrible day we should also reflect on the 3,652 terrible days for the planet in the past decade and resolve to really change our lives and what is valuable.

The article below from The Telegraph of London quotes Prince Charles

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
2:34PM BST 08 Sep 2011

In his first speech as the new President of the Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) UK, Prince Charles suggested 'surviving ourselves' should be a priority.
Referring to himself as “an endangered species”, he warned that the world is already in the “sixth extinction event”, with species dying out at a much faster rate than at any time since the death of most of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Despite campaigning for years on global warming, he said climate change was not the only problem but merely speeding up the “rapacious” destruction of natural resources like water, land and food that humans need to survive.
The Prince said if the world carries on “business as usual” then the human race itself could be in danger.
“We are, of course, witnessing what some people call the sixth great extinction event – the continued erosion of much of the Earth’s vital biodiversity caused by a whole host of pressures, from the rising demand for land to the corrosive effects of all kinds of pollution," he said.

“This is an important point that needs to be stressed more than it is, because its ultimate impact is plainly not at all clear to most people – without the biodiversity that is so threatened, we won't be able to survive ourselves.”
Alluding to his “spiritual connection to nature”, the Prince said mankind must also protect other species from extinction.
“It may not seem to make much difference economically if the swallows, swifts and house martins no longer turn up each spring, but what would life be like if we just accepted their extinction because their habitats have been destroyed?”
The Prince follows in the footsteps of his father the Duke of Edinburgh who was President of the UK arm of WWF UK before taking on the top role of the international organisation.
The Royal joked that as a “rare species” himself, he has always felt a close connection to the work of WWF.
“Perhaps I warmed to your work from such an early age because, from the outset, you stood up for endangered species!”
The WWF was set up 50 years ago to protect endangered species like the panda but Prince Charles said that the challenge today is far greater.
He said the only way to protect wildlife and ultimately the humans who rely on these ‘ecosystem services’ is to transform the world economy so that growth is not at the expense of nature.
He referred to a “sustainability revolution” that would force people to change their lifestyles so they consume less petrol, food and other resources.
“History will not judge us by how much economic growth we achieve in the immediate years ahead, nor by how much we expand material consumption, but by the legacy for our grandchildren and their grandchildren,” he said. “We are consuming what is rightfully theirs by sacrificing long-term progress on the altar of immediate satisfaction. That is hardly responsible behaviour. There is an urgent need for all of us to concentrate our efforts on sustaining, nurturing and protecting the Earth’s natural capital and, moreover, reshaping our economic system so that Nature sits at the very heart of our thinking.”
In a speech at St James's Palace to environmentalists, staff the Prince warned that the WWF “may regret” taking him on.
He has faced criticism for his views on the environment and voiced frustration at the failure of governments to address the issue, but he insisted that by working together humanity will “perform remarkable feats of innovation to secure a stable environment”.
“As many of you will know, I have been harping on about these challenges for many years and although this leads to inevitable criticism from some quarters, I must tell you that I put up with it because the issues we face are so important. None of us must be afraid to be stand up and be counted.”

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