Iraq Death Toll and Monetary Costs

I need to rant about the loss of life in Iraq because it is nothing less than total insanity, but more than that, this war does not make any sense in terms of our national security.

I heard the news regarding the number of US servicemen who have died in Iraq so far, it’s just passed the number of people who died in the 911 event.

I wish it were only this many. Just like Viet Nam the numbers are manipulated.

If a soldier is seriously injured and airlifted to a hospital outside of Iraq, say Germany, and subsequently dies, that soldier is not counted in the Iraq death toll.

In years past, functions like security and supply lines would have been handled by the military. The deaths of people performing those functions would have been counted in this death total. Now these functions are outsourced to private corporations and when those people, civilians, die, they are not counted in the death count. It’s been some time since that number passed the 10,000 mark.

The Iraqi civilian death count is estimated to be at the lowest 14,000, and highest, in excess of 100,000. There is no official estimate, most estimates seem to fall between 40,000 and 50,000 deaths and between two and ten times that number of injuries.

We have spent 316 billion dollars prosecuting this war. 316 billion dollars could have bought us about 316 Peak GW of wind power generation capacity. In real terms, because of wind variability, that would be equivalent to 105 GW of thermal capacity. 1 GW is a fairly ball park figure for a nuclear power generation station (often multiple reactors of 500-600 Mw), so this is would have displaced approximately 105 nuclear reactors. That would require no fuel, produce no radioactive waste or CO2.

To put this in perspective, with a 30% thermal conversion efficiency, one barrel of oil can generate approximately 500 kwh of electricity. Iraq produces approximately 500,000 barrels per day, between sabotage incidents, that’s 250 million killowatt hours per day energy equivalent for all the oil Iraq produces.

105 gigawatts of real wind generation capacity (316 megawatts peak), equals 105 million kilowatts x 24 hours/day = 2.5 billion killowatt hours per day from wind. So we could have had the ten times the energy equivalent of all the oil Iraq produces for the same amount of money we spent on the war in the last four years. And that capacity would go on generating electricity for decades.

Never mind the moral issues of all the lost life and suffering that has resulted from this war, from a purely economic standpoint we would have done much better investing in renewables, wind energy in particular, and we’d have something sustainable, the oil fields will deplete.

Economic strength is of greater significance in terms of world influence than is military strength. We proved this in the cold war with the Soviet Union. They sacrificed their economy for military capability. When their economy fell apart, so did their military capability.

We are doing the same thing the Soviet Union did. China is concentrating on their economic prosperity and becoming increasingly more influential in the world. The US is concentrating on military strength. Our economy is being destroyed in the process. When it totally collapses, so will our military.

Large investments in wind power are now happening simply because the economics are favorable. Between 1999 and 2005, our wind generation capacity quadrupled. Installed capacity is forecast to grow by 60% in 2006. Wind power has become competitive with energy generation from coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy, but requires no fuel, produces no carbon dioxide or radio active waste, nor are there huge decommissioning costs. The lifespan of a nuclear power plant is limited by neutron embrittlement of the reactor vessel. Decommissioning is expensive because the reactor vessel and internal structures are radioactive as a result of neutron activation. There are parts that wear on a wind turbine, eventually bearings and other components will need to be replaced just as with any mechanical device, but save for these maintenance issues, there is no finite limit on the useful lifespan of a wind turbine.

We should be putting our energy into making this happen even faster instead of stealing another formerly sovereign nations resources. It’s not just the moral thing to do, it is also the economically sensible thing to do. If we control all the worlds oil, it will still run out in the not too distant future. The reality is that even with our military force, we can’t control the worlds oil resources. China’s growing economy will buy them increasing influence and the ability to acquire much of that oil. If we build wind generation capacity, that’s ours, and it’s renewable, it will keep producing energy for generations to come. We can adapt our transportation to utilize this energy.

Maybe we can do the hydrogen fuel cell thing but I don’t think that’s going to be the most viable option. Battery technology exists today that would enable the production of electric cars with a 300+ mile range that could be recharged in three minutes IF the infrastructure existed.

The best approach might actually be a combination of both technologies. The best way to move large quantities of electricity from where it is produced to automotive charging stations would be via DC high voltage superconductive transmission lines. The technology exists now. There are companies already commercially producing superconductive transmission lines. Another advantage of combining both of these technologies is that surplus power can be used to generate the hydrogen, helping to reduce the effects of variability in wind generated electricity.

One proposal that I think makes a lot of sense is to use hydrogen as the cryogenic cooling fluid for these superconductive lines making them act simultaneously as enormous capacity electricity transmission facilities and liquid hydrogen fuel delivery systems.

Think about the possibilities, check my numbers. I did try to utilize realistic figures, a 30% thermal conversion factor for power from oil is actually quite optimistic. The drive train of a car does far worse. The 30% capacity factor of wind power generation is based upon existing wind farm operational data. The costs of wind power installed capacity includes transmission and ancillary support costs.

To summarize, what we have spent on the war in Iraq, so far, could have bought us ten times the total energy output of Iraq, every day, essentially forever, without the loss of life and without the generation of all the CO2 burning 500,000 barrels of oil per day would create.

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