Sunday, October 25, 2009

Plans for the Future

[two energy solutions]
This is in response to an article in the Seattle Times about the Puget Sound area having been chosen for the introduction of a network of electric car recharging stations. Ford has devised a hybrid car that will drive 40 miles on battery before resorting to its gas engine. Used carefully it might never use gasoline.

The author points out neatly why the Puget Sound area was chosen. After some local pride about how hip everybody in the Seattle area is, he mentions the real reasons, availability of hydroelectric power and mild climate (to minimize use of both power-draining air conditioning and battery-killing sub-zero temperatures). Of these the power issue is the more important one.

There are two important effects of electric cars - one is that they raise the efficiency of power generation by centralizing it from millions of small engines to one large power station. And the other is that they reduce emissions by doing so.

But ordinarily, though they change the locus and efficiency of power generation, in the great majority of cases, power is still generated by the combustion of fossil fuels. In the case of coal-fired plants burning high-sulfur coal (as is still done in China and such places), the net pollution may rival or even exceed that of the automobile gas engines replaced.

The problem is thus not only how much energy do cars use, but where do they get it.

For this reason I have long been an advocate of nuclear power plants. Though endlessly decried for their production of nuclear wastes as though that were an insoluble problem, they power the electric grids of France, Japan, and many other countries. The populations of which have somehow not become extinct.

Of late however, I am beginning to rethink the problem. Widespread use of nuclear reactors contemplates widespread use of Uranium-235, a rare substance and expensive to separate from Uranium-238, a reasonably common one. (This is what the whole fight about Iranian centrifuges is about) One solution is that, once one has reactors available, as we have had since the 1950's, one can use them to irradiate Uranium-238 with neutrons, transmuting it to Plutonium-239. These are the so-called breeder reactors which generate more nuclear fuel than they use. Breeder reactors provide a pathway to the future with effectively unlimited energy resources.

The problem is that it brings lots of plutonium into the world, which scarcely exists in nature. Pu-239 is the deadliest substance imaginable. It is far easier to make into a nuclear weapon and requires smaller quantities for a nuclear weapon than U-238 (it is said to be "more fissile").

A few pounds of plutonium were delivered to the people of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 killing 39,000 of them. We are used to thinking of it as a bomb, B-29's, the Manhattan Project, the wrath of the United States over Pearl Harbor. But in the end it was a few pounds of plutonium.

That is aside from the fact that it replaces calcium in the body and causes bone cancer upon ingestion of mere micrograms, making it one of the most toxic substances known. It is worth noting that the same amount of plutonium would likely have killed even more people in Nagasaki, albeit more slowly, had it been introduced into their water supply. It is fitting that it is named for the god of the underworld, the god of death.

An energy future based on reactors and Pu-239 would require that nowhere, in no country, for centuries to come, would any plutonium ever be diverted. Not even by governments wanting to achieve military nuclear power status quickly and cheaply.

Ours is a world with many contending sovereign governments, some of them dictatorships, some of them irrational. Others, including capitalist democracies, are merely venal and conscienceless. They are all too rational and too calculating, but only of short-term benefits. It is a world containing a billion or so Muslims whose religion teaches jihad. The prospect of this, our world, full of breeder reactors, is worse than the prospect of a world burning fossil fuels.

So I have changed my mind. My new theory is reduced production of CO2 by green everything, and reforestation for increased CO2 uptake. That will leave us dependent on fossil fuels for a long time but sustainably so until they run out (a sustainable oxymoron).

The problem with ethanol from crops like corn and switchgrass is that it produces more CO2 than it saves. But that objection puts on corn ethanol the burden of solving two separate problems simultaneously. If one asks that it simply replace fossil fuels and finds a separate solution to CO2 emissions, it will work handily. Again reforestation is the leading way to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.

I do not know enough about it to speak knowledgeably, but I am told that restoring the oceans to pre-industrial conditions would greatly enhance their ability to process CO2 to oxygen as well.

I have long intended to write either a long essay or a short book about reforestation baselines but I am forever stalled by my own inertia.


  1. Christy2:11 AM

    You were going great until you lumped 1 billion Muslims into the Jihadist camp. Do you really feel so superior? (I'm waiting for the 'I'd expect that sort of comment from an Irish drunken fenian' routine)

  2. Christy is right. The Quran doesn't say that. Even if it does say it over and over and over. Along with constant indignant condemnation of Jews, Christians, pagans, and non-Muslims generally.

    It doesn't say that because it is not politically correct for the Quran to say that, no matter what it actually says. When you know what a document says without reading it, you are sure to be right - so long as you never read it.

    Which is the distinguishing character of political correctness - holding views that are mere postures, independent of actually knowing anything.

  3. Christy6:13 AM

    Deuteronomy 25:11-12, Genesis 19:30-38, Genesis 19:4-8, Deuteronomy 23:1...


    I accuse you of being an unrepentive bigot Jack kessler. What a horrible bigoted hypocritical little cunt you are.

  4. Deuteronomy 25:11
    "When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets:"
    Deuteronomy 25:12
    "Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her."

    Is there a lot of that going on in Ireland, women getting their hands cut off for grabbing the balls of someone fighting their husbands?

    Though minor news compared to the wave of ballocks-grabbings sweeping over Ireland, it was also reported that 155 were killed and more than 500 injured in two coordinated suicide bombings in Baghdad yesterday.

  5. Christy's second biblical reference is to the story of Lot and his daughters. Christy might want to check with his political correctness guide before mentioning this. The children of Lot's incestuous unions with his daughters were Moab and Ben-Ammi, by tradition the ancestors of the Arabs and the Syrians.

    His second reference is to the wickedness of the people of Sodom who wanted to abuse Lot's guests because they were strangers.

    This is an especially apt charge to lay at the feet of their presumed descendants, the inhabitants of the modern Sodom, the Palestinian village of Khirbet as-sudūm near the Dead Sea.

    That has been the problem between the Jews and the Palestinians all along hasn't it - the wickedness of the Palestinians in wanting to abuse people they see as strangers? But again, probably not the politically correct conclusion Christy intended.

  6. Deuteronomy 23:1
    "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord."

    I agree with Christy that this is not fair. But I suspect that such a person would have more serious problems on his mind than whether he was in or out of the congregation.

    One assumes that this is a related problem to the wave of Irish ballocks-grabbings.

  7. I think Christy is having the same dialect difficulties as I was in calling him a Fenian. It isn't an insult (nor was it intended as one).

    Similarly, calling me a cunt doesn't work as intended. Cunts, whether referring to the whole woman or the part, are my favoritest things. I love women and I especially love their cunts. So far from an opprobrium, it is a warm and fuzzy.

  8. Christy8:26 AM

    I was merely pointing out your glaring logical weakness - namely that a Jew or Christian who follows his holy text has little cause to castigate Muslims and their following of the Koran. There is some crazy shit in all of those ancient texts, in short.

    I especially dislike the passage where it is advised that homosexuals be stoned upon approaching the walls of Jerusalem. And the requirement that lepers wear cowbells. Not very nice.

    But sure you might as well focus on the 'bad' shit in the Koran. Here's a New Testament one for you Jack (And I'm obviously paraphrasing) 'Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?'

  9. Christy makes the conventional assumption that the Quran is simply the Muslim bible. And that like the bible it contains some bad parts here and there but that the bulk of it basically exhorts to loving G_d, and avoiding sin.

    But it isn't. The Quran is almost ALL the bad parts. The Quran is angry, indignant, self-righteous, and condemnatory on almost every page.

    The Quran constantly condemns the Jews, the Christians, the pagans, and all other non-Muslims. The thing is one long harangue against people Muhammad does not like.

    Comparing the bible and the Quran as though they were equivalent documents is Western ethno-centrism. They are not even remotely alike.

    For starters, the Old Testament has forty books, all of them by different writers, compiled over 1300 years of Jewish history. The New Testament has 26 books compiled over a century, though most of it is by Saint Paul.

    Of those 66 books, only Revelations and possibly Jeremiah were written by people who were certifiably crazy.

    The Quran was written solely by Muhammad. I challenge Christy or anybody else to read the whole Quran and then conclude that Muhammad was not severely obsessive (every translation has to be edited to remove the endless repetitions) and clinically paranoid.

    Unlike the bible, the Quran constantly exhorts Muslims to violence against non-Muslims. It is NOT scattered bits here and there. It is a central, constantly recurring theme.

  10. Christy2:39 PM

    I'm not defending Islam. I'm not defending religion. I'm merely saying its absurd for a Jew or Christian to pontificate on the immorality of the Koran whilst swearing blind that the Bible or the Talmud (Or whatever else takes your fancy) is true and without flaws.

    I'm an agnostic. I think Mohammad was a paranoid schizophrenic. I think Jesus was gravely exaggerated by later writers and was later corrupted by the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD. Don't think I actually give a rats ass in particular about what either the Koran or the Bible says.

  11. Later reports from Baghdad about the truck bombings there are that at least 24 children were also killed by the certainly-not-representative-of-all-Muslims Muslims.

  12. Which is to say you have it exactly ass-backward. Substantially no one claims the Bible or Talmud are literally true and without flaws.

    It is the Muslims who insist - insist to the death of whomever disagrees with them - that the Quran is true and without flaws.

  13. Christy6:42 AM

    The Koran is the direct word of God as told through Mohammad. The Bible is inspired by God told by many people. That doesn't mean you can just pick and choose the 'acceptable' bits.

    Anyway, your wriggling and writhing is tiring me. Hope you'll enjoy your bigotry to your solitary, lonely grave you horrible horrible man.

  14. Graves are beyond lonely. But with any luck my deathbed will be attended by some loving woman, one of those cunts you disdain so much.

  15. Christy6:04 AM

    I suppose you might get a salvation army lady to stand over your deathbed. You'd probably be too busy to ask whether she was Muslim or not to appreciate it though.

  16. Tell me more about this Salvation Army lady. Nice figure? Got her phone number?