Thursday, August 19, 2010

Let's get real

This article examines what we're up against to replace oil with wind and solar:

But the problem of scale means that these hydrocarbons just won't go away. Sure, Mr. Obama can double the output from solar and wind. And then double it again. And again. And again. But getting from 76,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day to something close to the 47.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day needed to keep the U.S. economy running is going to take a long, long time. It would be refreshing if the president or perhaps a few of the Democrats on Capitol Hill would admit that fact.

Let's Get Real About Renewable Energy

I think even a sprinkling of common sense will tell you that wind and solar require lots of land, and we do not currently have the battery technology to overcome the fact that both are dependent on the sun shining or the wind blowing. And we don't have the time to build all we need even if these other issues were resolved.

To my mind nuclear power is our best hope. But it takes years (5 to 10) from plant inception to production. Some 30 plants are being considered and 13 have applied for permits. I was surprised that 20% of the US electricity is already provided by only 104 nuclear power plants. To replace oil, coal and gas electricity generation and meet anticipated growth in demand, we need to build more than 400 new plants.

World Nuclear Power Reactors & Uranium Requirements
NEI (a wealth of info)

And this was totally under the radar for me

NEI Welcomes Approval of Nuclear R&D Bill by House Science and Tech Subcommittee

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The House Committee on Science and Technology’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee approved H.R. 5866, the Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act of 2010, last week. The bill authorizes the Department of Energy to fund advanced research and development programs on various aspects of nuclear energy.

But how much of the dirty fuels are used for electricity vs other stuff? Well, that's complicated, so let's just do some back of the envelope calculations...

If we went all electric (residencial and commercial buildings... who'd pay for that?) we could cover roughly 38% of current energy usage.

And if industry went all electric there's some fraction of the 33% usage in that sector that could be carbon free.
And if we all buy plug in electric cars? There's another 28%

Go look for yourself
Energy in the United States

The bottom line is that if the world built enough nuclear power plants and invested in converting its infrastructure to all electric we could actually reduce our carbon emissions so significantly it might avert us crossing the dreaded 2 degrees C warming threshold. All it takes is money. Yeah, good luck with that.

Plastic accumulated in regions called gyres, where currents circle and push water toward the center, trapping the floating bits. There are five major gyres in the the world, one in each major ocean.

Massive North Atlantic Garbage Patch Mapped

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