Alternate Energy Sources

Browsing the web looking at developments in energy, particularly renewable sources, I ran across something being utilized in China called DME, which is short for Dimethyl Ether.

It is a water soluble gas that can be used as a substitute for liquefied natural gas, gasoline, or diesel. It can be made from natural gas, coal, or biomass. The first two wouldn’t buy any net gains in terms of the environment, but the last might if it actually yielded more energy than it took to grow the biomass in the first place but I haven’t found any good references.

If anyone has any good sources of information regarding this please do send me a note with that information (just comment to this post).

I felt the need to mention this article, “New Energy Source Wrings Power From Black Home Spin“, published on Science Daily, not because it is a source of energy we could harness, but because the physics of it have me completely confused.

Here’s my conundrum, theory has it that a black hole is an object so dense that it’s gravity is too strong for even light to escape, light being not just visible light but any electro-magnetic radiation.

But this article asserts that a black hole has a magnetic field, and that in spinning, the magnetic field lines spin with it imparting energy to surrounding gas.

Now a couple of things I don’t get about this theory. The first is that magnetic fields are a component of electro-magnetic force, which in turn is light, which isn’t supposed to be able to escape from a black hole, but here we have these magnetic field lines escaping.

The second thing, at least in some black hole theories, matter has collapsed to a point, and if that is the case how is a magnetic field generated?

Wind energy, this is an area that has a lot of promise if morons don’t ruin it. I hear claims of noise pollution, I’ve ridden horses in fields where these giant wind turbines were turning and I could hear nothing from them.

There are people that find them aesthetically unpleasing, I wonder how aesthetically pleasing people find those large nuclear power plant cooling towers, or for that matter how aesthetically pleasing they are going to find radioactive waste? Cancer has to have a lot of aesthetic appeal right?

There are people who are concerned that they kill birds and bats. I am sure bats serve some ecological purpose, especially those that eat insects, but I strongly suspect their population is limited by food supply rather than windmill deaths. The deaths of both birds and bats is unfortunate, but I think it pales compared to the environmental damage done by every alternative presently available to us.

All energy sources available to us today have some environmental consequence. Arguably all energy sources we will ever have will come with environmental consequences. We can not eliminate those consequences entirely, but we can minimize them and that is what we should be doing.

Even if we brought controlled hydrogen fusion online, we would still have thermal pollution (heat) because no source of energy is 100% efficient and neither is the transportation or utilization of that energy, and the waste shows up as heat.

We will always be balancing our needs against environmental risks, and we have to consider that too much damage to the environment will make life miserable to impossible for us.

A clean and unlimited energy source, essentially what controlled hydrogen fusion represents, would allow us to recycle many materials which are not economical to recycle today, correct human induced problems on a large scale, and eliminate pollution caused by producing energy through less clean methods.

Coal for sustainable energy? Are these guys on drugs? This is from the World Coal Institute. Who else would even suggest such an absurd concept? How can something that is limited in supply, extremely damaging to the environment to extract and utilize, be a “sustainable” source of energy?

U.S. Sustainable Energy Corp is an interesting company. Their mission statement says, among other things, ” Produce 100% of it’s energy needs using biofuels derived from soybeans and corn (not biodiesel or ethanol).”, but does not elaborate on exactly how they intend to do that. I would like to know more about this company but their website seems lacking in real information content.

I have mixed feelings about opening up more of the Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling. In the near term we need to meet our energy needs, but I am concerned these efforts will detract from long term efforts to move towards truly sustainable energy sources. In my view, what we should be doing is making an aggressive national effort, on the scale of Apollo or the Manhattan Project, to bring controlled nuclear fusion online as soon as possible. We could do this if we made the national effort. China is making the effort. What is it going to mean for us if they bring this source online and we’re still drilling for oil? I don’t think it will be good.

To be honest, I don’t believe we have any real shortage of fossil fuels, just a shortage contrived and promoted by the oil industry to extract as much money as possible. I’ve elaborated on why I believed this in the past. The Russians, who have long since embraced the abiogenic theory of oil production, have succeeded briefly at becoming the worlds largest oil producer and took a back seat to Saudi Arabia only because of the Russian governments clamp down on Yukos, the second largest Russian oil producer.

Their huge production has been made possible by drilling through granite capstone to find oil pooled under these capstones, biotic theory says no oil should exist there.

What we lack is not hydrocarbons to burn, it’s atmosphere to react with the hydrocarbons. First is the problem of carbon dioxide causing global warming. If we use technologies such as carbon sequestration to stop the build up of carbon dioxide in the air, then we are still depleting the oxygen, and with the carbon dioxide sequestered, plants can’t turn it back into hydrocarbons and oxygen. In case anybody is unaware of this, humans breath oxygen, we require it to live.

A word about the proposed hydrogen economy. Hydrogen is only a source of energy if it’s used in controlled nuclear fusion. The hydrogen economy envisioned by our illustrious leader is only using hydrogen as an energy storage medium. We would need to produce hydrogen either by splitting it off of natural gas, which is cheap but produces carbon dioxide and natural gas is not a renewable resource, or by electrolyzing water which requires some other energy source.

If we were to bring controlled nuclear fusion online, the current candidate technologies for fusing hydrogen, are physically too large and heavy to use in transportation applications such as automobiles, trucks, planes, and even trains. It might be usable in aircraft carrier sized ships. Unless some future technology allows hydrogen to be fused on a smaller scale, we will need some intermediate storage medium in order to utilize this energy for transportation. They hydrogen economy being proposed could be useful in that scenario, but unless a clean primary source of energy is available, it is only adding inefficiency to the fossil fuel consumption and making the energy problem worse not better.

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