Beam Me Up! (With Fossil Fuels?)

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This article originally appeared as:

The Fossil Fuel Paradigm
25 October 2013
https://www.counterpunch.org/2013/10/25/the-fossil-fuel-paradigm/

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“Beam me up, Scotty.” That phrase is as well known to science fiction aficionados as “Gort, Klaatu barada nikto.”

James Tiberius Kirk, the lead character and commanding officer in the futuristic space fantasy television series Star Trek (1966-1969) would call through his wireless communicator for his chief engineer Montgomery Scott to initiate the process of “energizing” him, to be instantly converted into pure energy, and propagated — “transported” — from a planetary surface or another spaceship back to Kirk’s own spaceship the Enterprise where he would be returned to his bodily form.

The popularity of the Star Trek series and its many sequels, spin-offs, imitations and entertaining derivatives all show how entrancing people find the idea of being able to pursue their private dramas with unlimited energy and unflagging power at their disposal, literally at the push of a button. And, one of the most attractive fantasies about having such power would be the ability to hop in a flash across great distances at a moment’s notice: the transporter.

Today as our fossil fuel diggers frack their way under the skin of Planet Earth with their noses pressed tight against the grindstone of profitability, and we burn up oil squeezed out of tar sands and coal hollowed out of mountains to keep up the high-powered freneticism of modern times, dismissing concerns about increasingly turbid choking cancerous air (as in Harbin, China) and global warming with its negative effects on the polar regions, on oceans and marine life, and on weather and climate, the longed-for science fiction fantasy of unlimited kilowatts and unlimited horsepower without undue environmental consequences can seem so cruelly distant. Why can’t we have that now? When will we get it?

In our (humanity’s) attachment to the fossil fuel paradigm, too many of us find it so much easier to imagine how we would employ unlimited push-button power for our expanding and instantaneous personal wants, instead of imagining how to fashion lives of timeless fulfillment liberated from fabricated desires, and expressed with elegant and graceful efficiency.

Given all that, I though it would be interesting to consider the physics problem of building a “beam me up” transporter. To start this speculative analysis, let us consider the energy and power needed to convert a 70 kilogram (154 pound) person into pure energy for electromagnetic transport.

First, a few words about notation:

The symbol x means multiply.

The symbol ^ means exponent (of ten).

The unit of mass is a kilogram, with symbol kg. 1 kg = 2.20462 pounds.

The unit of energy is a joule, with symbol J.

1 Exajoule = 10^18 joules = 1 EJ.

The unit of power is a watt, with symbol W.

1 joule/second = 1 J/s = 1 watt = 1 W.

1 Kilowatt = 1 kW = 10^3 W.

1 Terawatt = 1 TW = 10^12 W.

1 Exawatt = 1 EW = 10^18 W.

3,600,000 J = 1 kilowatt x 1 hour = 1 kWh.

Albert Einstein famously showed that mass (m) and energy (E) are two aspects of a single entity, mass-energy, and that the pure energy equivalent of a given mass is E = m x c^2, where c is the speed of light (c = 3 x 10^8 meters/second, in vacuum).

The physical universe is 13.8 billion years old (since the Big Bang) and presently has an extent (distance to the event horizon) of 1.3×10^23 kilometers. The total mass-energy in the universe can be stated as a mass equivalent of 4.4×10^52 kg, or an energy equivalent of 4×10^69 joules.

A 70 kg mass, whether a living person of just inert stuff, has a pure energy equivalent, by Einstein’s formula, of 6.3×10^18 joules (6.3 EJ). So, our desired transporter must supply at least 6.3 EJ to beam a 70 kg mass.

For comparison, the total US energy use in 2008 was 95.7 EJ, and the total world energy use in 2008 was 474 EJ. The combined pure energy equivalents of 15.2 people of 70 kg equals the total US energy use in 2008. Similarly, the combined mass-energy of 75.4 such people is equivalent to the world energy consumption that year.

Given that there are 3.15569×10^7 seconds in one year, we can calculate the average rate of energy use during 2008 (the power generated) in the U.S.A. as 3 TW, and in the world as 15 TW.

At the US power rate, it would take 24 days to convert one 70 kg individual or object into pure energy for transport if the entire national power output were devoted to this task. If the entire world were yoked to this purpose, it would take 4.9 days.

Aside from considerations of monopolizing national and world power consumption, the idea of “disassembling” a living person and converting them to pure energy over the course of one to three weeks seems unappealing long. How do we assure we don’t lose the life whose bodily form is being disassembled and dematerialized so slowly? The whole point of a transporter is to achieve near instantaneous relocation.

For the sake of simplicity we will continue a little bit further with the convenient assumption that a 70 kg transport, whether of a human being or a lump of lead, only requires 6.3 EJ. This implies 100% efficiency of mass conversion to energy, and that no extra energy is required to collect the information needed to materially reconstruct the individual or object on arrival, rather than just deliver a 70 kg puddle of gunk.

If this transporter were to accomplish the 70 kg conversion process in 24 hours exactly (86400 seconds), it would have a power rating of 6.3 EJ/day or 72.8 TW. This is a much higher power consumption than the US national average (3 TW). To operate such a transporter would require an energy storage system with a capacity of at least 6.3 EJ to feed the transporter (discharging over a 24 hour period), and which storage system would be charged up over a longer period prior to transport.

Obviously, if we could build transporters of increased power, the conversion would occur in less time. Thus, a transporter that could convert the 70 kg traveler to pure energy within one hour would operate at 1,747 TW (and draw power from the storage bank at that rate). A 1 minute transport conversion would require 104,846 TW. A 5 second transport converter would require 1,258,157 TW (1.26 EW). For any of these machines, it would take 24 days of total US power generation to store up the energy required for one transport, or almost 5 days of total world power generation.

The power generated on Planet Earth, in reality not science fiction, is just not enough for a transporter. Why not use the power of the Sun?

The Sun’s luminosity is 384.6×10^6 EW. If totally harnessed, it would take the Sun 16.4 nanoseconds to supply the 6.3 EJ needed for our 70 kg transport converter. A 5 second (1.26 EW) transport converter could be powered from only 3.3 billionths of the Sun’s luminosity.

The solar mean distance to Earth is 1.496×10^8 km, which is used as a convenient unit of distance in descriptions of the Solar System, and known as 1 AU (one astronomical unit).

A disc 34,224 km in diameter at 1 AU would capture the 3.3 billionths of the Sun’s luminosity needed for our 5 second transport converter. That solar collection disc (assumed 100% efficient) would be 2.7 times larger in diameter than the Earth. Since we wouldn’t want to give up our sunshine by using Planet Earth as a solar collector (for the transporter), nor risk shadowing Planet Earth with an oversized collection disc in nearby outer space, it would seem best to have the entire collector and transporter system away at a distance comparable to the Moon. Travelers and cargo from Planet Earth scheduled for deep space transport would first have to shuttle to their embarkation point on the Moon by relatively sedate rocket technology.

Let us return to the question of the extra energy required to collect the information needed to materially reconstruct an individual or object on arrival after beaming. The immense amount of information about the molecular, atomic and sub-atomic bonds and their many dynamic structural arrangements that in total make up the biophysical self of a particular individual will necessarily require a huge investment of energy to ascertain and code electronically.

One can see that such vital information about the actual relationships between particle and cellular forms of matter, which actually form a specific living organism, has an equivalent mass-energy being the sum of the energy required to program the information and then convert that program into transmissible electromagnetic waves. Because a human being is much more complex than the sum of his or her elemental and chemical composition, it is possible that the information mass-energy of a human being will outweigh their bulk mass-energy. Hence, the transport of a 70 kg person that only accounts for the 70 kg of bulk mass will undoubtedly deliver a dead blob of stuff unlikely to even duplicate the original chemical composition. To deliver the same living person, who happens to posses a particular physicality of 70 kg bulk mass, will require much more energy, a vast overhead to account for the great subtlety of living biochemical reality and consciousness. So, perhaps our 70 kg transporter will be able to deliver 70 kg of water, or a 70 kg salt crystal or slab of iron, but only safely transport a much simpler living organism like a small plant or an insect.

Actually, it is only the fully detailed structural code of the individual that would be essential for dematerialized transport. We imagine that such a code would have to be determined by disassembling the materiality of the individual (or object), by “energizing” them. It is then only necessary to transmit the code, not the now destroyed physical materiality converted into pure energy. Otherwise, if such unique structural codes could be determined nondestructively, then the transporter system would advance into being a duplicating system, a 3D cloning printer.

On arrival, the electromagnetic message that is the coded person or object being transported can be rematerialized from energy stored at the destination. Otherwise, the electromagnetic forms of both the structural code and the bulk materiality of the person or object would have to be transmitted, and the materialization at the destination would involve reading the code to use it as a guide in reconverting the beamed-in energy back into the original structured bulk mass.

Other problems for transporter system designers, which we will not explore here, include conversion efficiencies, distortion and loss of signal during propagation, and transport through through solid material.

It seems that we will be earthbound without transporters for quite some time.

Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,

Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,

Or that the Everlasting had not fixed

His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God, God!

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable

Seem to me all the uses of this world!

Fie on ’t, ah fie! ‘Tis an unweeded garden

That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature

Possess it merely. That it should come to this.

Today’s reality may seem so primitive, constricted and decayed in comparison to the fantasy worlds of Star Trek, unbounded by physical science, but perhaps the liberation of the spirit so many imagine through science fiction can be experienced here by having the right attitude rather than just wanting unlimited power.

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Climate Change Denial Is Murder

Climate change denial by government is murder by weather.

By now everyone everywhere knows that climate change is a reality, especially the deniers who are simply lying to cover up their real intent, which is to continue with their capitalist schemes of self-aggrandisement even to the point of knowingly letting people die as a consequence.

During the last two weeks, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and José, in succession, have formed in the tropical Atlantic Ocean to sweep northwest through the Caribbean toward the southern coasts of North America. Harvey has flooded hundreds of thousands of dwellings in the Gulf Coast area of Texas around Houston. Irma, the “lawnmower from the sky,” and the strongest Category 5 (out of 5) hurricane ever recorded, is just making landfall in Florida after razing a number of the smaller Caribbean islands; and Hurricane José is now sweeping into the Caribbean Sea from the east. Climate change denier and right-wing propagandist Rush Limbaugh, lounging in his Florida Xanadu, had called the official weather forecasts of Hurricane Irma’s path “fake news,” but has just heeded those same forecasts by evacuating from the storm, as well as from personal responsibility.

Climate change (as global warming) doesn’t “cause” hurricanes, it makes them more powerful and more frequent. Warmer oceans more easily evaporate, increasing the atmospheric moisture available for rain, and increasing the atmospheric heat energy available for driving winds. It takes heat to evaporate liquid water into vapor. Such vapor rising from the ocean surface mixes with the atmosphere. At higher elevations where the air temperature is lower, or in the presence of cold air currents, water vapor can lose its heat energy to the air and condense into droplets of liquid water. The heat energy released by water vapor to condense back into liquid – the latent heat of vaporization – is sizable (per unit mass of H2O) and adds to the energy of motion of the air molecules and air currents: wind. So, global warming makes for more moisture in the air over tropical ocean waters, and more heat energy in that air to drive winds and storms.

The scientific facts about global warming have been known for a very long time, and were largely learned through government-funded research. US Government officials, as in the George W. Bush administration and now in the Donald Trump administration, who publicly deny these facts – excruciatingly documented and warehoused by the scientific, technical, military and commercial agencies of the US Government – are simply voicing bald-faced lies, and are thus betraying their official and constitutional responsibilities to the American public. Since this lying (and its enabling of continued greenhouse gas pollution) is done knowingly and for monetary gain, and the consequential more violent weather (droughts, hurricanes, floods) erupting from today’s global warming climate change always causes fatalities, then that climate change denial is at the very minimum an accessory to criminally negligent manslaughter, and without a reasonable doubt to premeditated murder.

Outline History of Awareness of Climate Change

What follows is a timeline, which I first made for myself in 2013, of the development of scientific knowledge about climate change. This summary outline includes some of the incidents of the intimately related “world energy crisis,” which I define as getting enough energy for a decent standard of living worldwide, coupled with the commercial competition between: fossil fuel energy versus nuclear energy versus solar/green energy.

Both fossil fuel energy and nuclear energy are intrinsically capitalist forms of resource hoarding and market exploitation, because they are extracted from the Earth at specific locations, burned to generate electricity at large and complex industrial plants, and distributed widely and distantly through a large electrical transmission line distribution grid.

On the other hand, solar/green energy is intrinsically a socialist or public commons type of energy resource because it is naturally abundant everywhere – like sunshine and wind – and is easily converted to electricity wherever it is collected. It is because of its intrinsic socialist (anti-capitalist) nature that solar and green energy are being legally attacked and restricted in US political jurisdictions controlled by rabidly capitalist special interests. The outline now follows.

The clock for a public policy response to the “energy crisis” (now enlarged to “Global Warming” and “Climate Change”) started ticking in October 1973 with the First Arab Oil Embargo (1973 Oil Crisis), and we’ve yet to get off our asses in response to the alarm (40+ years later).

Four years later, the energy problem was serious enough for President Jimmy Carter to address the nation about it on the 202nd anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride (18 April 1977). See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tPePpMxJaA

Peak Oil was the fear in 1977, not Global Warming, even though science had been certain about Global Warming since 1955-1957.

What follows is a very brief synopsis of the scientific development of knowledge about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW, which is human-caused, CO2-driven Climate Change), along with incidents of the parallel World Energy Crisis.

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide is a gaseous insulator and high capacity heat-storage medium. It can retain much more heat energy per unit mass than the two dominate atmospheric gases making up 99.03% of the atmosphere: diatomic nitrogen (N2, 78.08% of the air), and diatomic oxygen (O2, 20.95% of the air). The remaining 0.97% of the dry atmosphere is a mixture of rare gases (with low heat capacity) and organic vapors (with high heat capacity), which include the high heat capacity species: methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The water vapor (H2O) carried along by the otherwise dry air is also a high heat capacity medium.

Quotes below are noted as from one of:
(HCCS): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_climate_change_science
(HS): http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/156308/

(JEA): John E. Allen, Aerodynamics, Hutchinson & Co. LTD, London, 1963.

In 1896 Svante Arrhenius calculated the effect of doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide to be an increase in surface temperatures of 5-6 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, another Swedish scientist, Arvid Högbom, had been attempting to quantify natural sources of emissions of CO2 for purposes of understanding the global carbon cycle. Högbom found that estimated carbon production from industrial sources in the 1890s (mainly coal burning) was comparable with the natural sources. (HCCS)

In 1938 a British engineer, Guy Stewart Callendar, attempted to revive Arrhenius’s greenhouse-effect theory. Callendar presented evidence that both temperature and the CO2 level in the atmosphere had been rising over the past half-century, and he argued that newer spectroscopic measurements showed that the gas was effective in absorbing infrared [heat radiation] in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, most scientific opinion continued to dispute or ignore the theory. (HCCS)

In 1955 Hans Suess’s carbon-14 isotope analysis showed that CO2 released from fossil fuels was not immediately absorbed by the ocean. (HCCS)

In 1957, better understanding of ocean chemistry led Roger Revelle to a realization that the ocean surface layer had limited ability to absorb carbon dioxide. (HCCS)

In a seminal paper published in 1957 [Roger Revelle and Hans Suess, “Carbon dioxide exchange between atmosphere and ocean and the question of an increase of atmospheric CO2 during the past decades.” Tellus 9, 18-27 (1957)], Roger Revelle and Hans Suess argued that humankind was performing “a great geophysical experiment,” [and called] on the scientific community to monitor changes in the carbon dioxide content of waters and the atmosphere, as well as production rates of plants and animals. (HS)

AGW became common knowledge among aerodynamicists and atmospheric scientists by the 1960s, as witnessed by the following passage from John E. Allen’s 1963 book surveying the field of aerodynamics “for the non-specialist, the young student, the scholar leaving school and seeking an interest for his life’s work, and for the intelligent member of the public.”

Scientists are interested in the long-term effects on our atmosphere from the combustion of coal, oil and petrol and the generation of carbon dioxide. It has been estimated that 360,000 million tons of CO2 have been added to the atmosphere by man’s burning of fossil fuels, increasing the concentration by 13%. This progressive rise in the CO2 content of the air has influenced the heat balance between the sun, air and oceans, thus leading to small but definite changes in surface temperature. At Uppsala in Sweden, for example, the mean temperature has risen 2° in 60 years. (JEA)

22 April 1970: On this first Earth Day, MG,Jr decides to aim for a career in energy research, for a brave new future.

October 1973 – March 1974: The first Arab Oil Embargo (formally known as the 1973 Oil Crisis) erupts in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War (1973 Arab-Israeli War, October 6–25, 1973).

Evidence for warming accumulated. By 1975, Manabe and Wetherald had developed a three-dimensional Global Climate Model that gave a roughly accurate representation of the current climate. Doubling CO2 in the model’s atmosphere gave a roughly 2°C rise in global temperature. Several other kinds of computer models gave similar results: it was impossible to make a model that gave something resembling the actual climate and not have the temperature rise when the CO2 concentration was increased. (HCCS)

18 April 1977: President Jimmy Carter’s Address to the Nation on Energy.

The 1979 World Climate Conference of the World Meteorological Organization concluded “it appears plausible that an increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can contribute to a gradual warming of the lower atmosphere, especially at higher latitudes….It is possible that some effects on a regional and global scale may be detectable before the end of this century and become significant before the middle of the next century.” (HCCS)

1979-1980: The 1979 (or Second) Oil Crisis erupts from the turmoil of the Iranian Revolution, and the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980.

March 28, 1979: A nuclear reactor meltdown occurs at the Three Mile Island power station in Pennsylvania.

July 15, 1979: President Jimmy Carter addresses the nation on its “crisis of confidence” during its 1979 energy crisis (oil and gasoline shortages and high prices). This address would become known as the “malaise speech,” though Carter never mentioned “malaise.” See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kakFDUeoJKM. Have you seen as honest an American presidential speech since? “Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation.”

November 4, 1980: Ronald Reagan is elected president and the “big plunge” (the neoliberal shredding of the 1945 postwar social contract) begins. Poof went all my illusions about an American energy revolution.

April 26, 1986: A nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power station in the Ukraine explodes, spewing radioactivity far and wide, and the fuel core melts down. The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident until the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011.

1986: Ronald Reagan has the solar hot water system removed, which had been installed on the roof of the White House during the Carter Administration. The official US energy policy was obvious to me: solar energy and conservation were dead.

In June 1988, James E. Hansen [in Congressional testimony] made one of the first assessments that human-caused warming had already measurably affected global climate. Shortly after, a “World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security” gathered hundreds of scientists and others in Toronto. They concluded that the changes in the atmosphere due to human pollution “represent a major threat to international security and are already having harmful consequences over many parts of the globe,” and declared that by 2005 the world should push its emissions some 20% below the 1988 level. (HCCS)

All that AGW scientific research has done since 1988 has been to add more decimal places to the numbers characterizing the physical effects. That was over a quarter century ago. So, I take it as a given that the American and even World consensus [so far] is in favor of probable human extinction sooner (by waste heat triggered climate change) rather than later (by expansion of the Sun into a Red Giant star). And, yes, the course of the extinction will proceed inequitably. Not what I want, but what I see as the logical consequences of what is. (End of the outline.)

Global warming is Earth’s fever from its infection with capitalism.

So, whenever some government, corporate or media potentate discharges another toxic cloud of climate change denialism, realize that what they are actually and dishonestly telling you is: “I am going to keep making my financial killing regardless, and I don’t care who has to die for it.”

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Also appearing at:

Climate Change Denial Is Murder
8 September 2017
https://dissidentvoice.org/2017/09/climate-change-denial-is-murder/

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Added on 11 September 2017:

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My Mind’s Ramble in Science

Ferrari P4 (2004)

(Above: 13, 17, 24, 28)

1972 US GP: Ferrari F1 engine (3 liter, flat 12 cylinder).

(Above: 14, 18, 19, 22, 28)

1972 US GP: Ferrari F1: Car 7 = Jacky Ickx (5th), Car 8 = Clay Regazzoni (8th), Car 9 = Mario Andretti (6th).

(Above: 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 28)

P-51 Mustang (EMG photo, 1992)

(Above: 01, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 24, 28)

Spitefire Mk. XVIe (1987)

(Above: 01, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 24, 28)

Supersonic Jacob’s Ladder – Static

(Above: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33)

Supersonic Jacob’s Ladder – Flow

(Above: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 40, 42)

Imagine a 1 nanosecond snapshot of a nuclear explosion.

(Above: 26, 28, 30, 31, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39)

Sunflare Blue Sky Clouds

(Above: 27, 28, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45)

Longwood Gardens Greenhouse

(Above: 27, 28, 44, 45)

My Mind’s Ramble in Science (1952-2007):

01. Airplanes
02. Tinker Toys
03. Godzilla
04. Rodan
05. Invaders From Mars
06. The Day The Earth Stood Still
07. Forbidden Planet
08. Tom Swift, Jr.
09. Nuclear Power
10. Submarines
11. Bicycles
12. Skateboards
13. Race Cars
14. Piston Engines
15. WW2 Aircraft
16. Supercharged Piston Engines
17. Race Car design
18. Piston Engine design
19. Engineering
20. Mathematics
21. Computer programing
22. Thermodynamics
23. Fluid Mechanics
24. Aerodynamics
25. Supersonic Flow
26. Fusion Energy
27. Solar Energy
28. Photography
29. Gas Physics
30. Plasma Physics
31. Ionized Flow
32. Molecular Physics
33. Gas Lasers
34. Nuclear Explosion Radiation
35. Electrical Physics
36. Nuclear Explosion Electric Generators
37. Magnetohydrodynamics
38. Solar Physics
39. Cosmic Plasma
40. Lightning
41. Atmospheric Physics
42. De-NOx chemical physics
43. Global Warming chemical physics
44. Solar thermal-to-electric generators
45. Publicly Owned National Solar Electric System

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Climate Change, Life, Green Energy

(You can download the above JPEG image, for easy reference.)

>>> Earth will survive Climate Change, humanity may not. <<<

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<> MG,Jr. on Climate Change  <>
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In response to questions like: How do we know? See:
Climate and Carbon, Consensus and Contention
4 June 2007
http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2007/06/climate-and-carbon-consensus-and-contention/

In response to questions like: How do we know? See “Addendum” (at bottom of):
How Dangerous is Climate Change?, How Much Time Do We Have?
5 December 2015
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/12/05/how-dangerous-is-climate-change-how-much-time-do-we-have/

In response to questions like: Is it even a major threat? See:
How Dangerous is Climate Change?, How Much Time Do We Have?
5 December 2015
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/12/05/how-dangerous-is-climate-change-how-much-time-do-we-have/

In response to questions like: Exactly how do we cause global warming? See:
Closing the Cycle: Energy and Climate Change
25 January 2014
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2014/01/25/closing-the-cycle-energy-and-climate-change/

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Life, From the Big Bang to the Climate Change Era:
Outline History of Life and Human Evolution
29 January 2017
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/01/29/outline-history-of-life-and-human-evolution/

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<>  MG,Jr. on Renewable Energy <>
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Of all the articles I have ever written, the one I most wish had gotten wide attention and actually affected public thinking and action, is linked below.
Energy for Society in Balance with Nature
8 June 2015
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/06/08/energy-for-society-in-balance-with-nature/

Renewable Energy (and war and peace):
Green Energy versus The Uncivil War
18 April 2017
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/04/18/green-energy-versus-the-uncivil-war/

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Green Energy versus The Uncivil War

Chris Hedges hosted the political writers Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton on his television program (yesterday, on the RT network/channel) for a discussion of the Syrian War, and its many current harmful impacts, as well as its possible grave future consequences for the Middle East, Europe, the United States, and the world. (That episode of Chris Hedges’ program is linked near the bottom.)

My reaction to that program follows.

The problem, as presented so compellingly by Chris Hedges, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton, is of such large scope that it is difficult to see how any one nation – even the United States – could act alone to “solve it” (forever).

However, the recommendation that the U.S. stop funding destabilization groups in the Middle East (and everywhere), and that the U.S. “pull back” from or “pull out” of the Middle East, would be a very, very helpful step for the reduction of suffering in that region: for example reducing the incidence of wars and the displacements causing huge refugee streams. Such a change in US policy would also benefit the American people by freeing public money now absorbed by covert and overt militarism, to be used instead for much more domestic socialism (like Medicare-for-all, and free college for all).

However, even were such a change in US Middle East policy to occur, there would still be many evils in the region:
– authoritarian and oppressive regimes continuing to hurt the people under them,
– the export of Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia and Qatar,
– the regional Sunni-Shia proxy wars (basically, Saudi Arabia vs. Iran),
– the war by Israel against the Palestinians (who include Muslims and Christians),
– Israel’s agitation against Syria (for regime change, and to keep the Golan Heights),
– Israel’s agitation against Iran (which helps prop up Hezbollah in Lebanon),
– Israel’s agitation includes its own covert and overt military actions, as well as lobbying for the United States to make war against Israel’s designated enemies.

As an engineer without expertise on the Middle Eastern affairs, I have believed since 1973 that the best long-term plan for the U.S. to insulate itself from Middle Eastern turmoil would have been to use the U.S.’s vast fossil fuel resources (and even the nuclear ones) as a stop-gap energy source to power the building of a national solar (“green”) energy collection and distribution system.

That national green energy system would be made of many local solar energy networks interconnected into regional systems, which in turn would be interconnected into a national system. The local power sources would include:
– direct solar-collection to electrical-output arrays (solar panels),
– solar heat collection for boilers that power steam turbines cranking electric generators,
– river hydroelectric (the dams we already have),
– ocean-tidal hydroelectric,
– land-based wind-electric,
– offshore wind-electric,
– a few sites for solar-powered desalination for potable water,
– and solar-powered hydrogen recovery from water for H2-O2 fuel-cell propulsion for civilian aircraft, and road and rail transit.

Given real energy independence, the Unites States could stop funding and supporting Saudi Arabia and Israel (arming them to the teeth so extravagantly). I realize that defunding Israel would be harder to do regardless of circumstances, because of the metastasis of the Israel Lobby within the US body politic. But, if the U.S. could shut off its massive dollar streams currently paying for Middle East petroleum (and bribes to Egypt and Jordan to not annoy expansionist Israel), then many of the Middle East oppressor regimes would be weakened and likely overthrown by more popular and democratic alternatives, and the U.S. would be immune from blackmail by oil embargoes.

Also, a green national energy system for the U.S., replacing the 19th and 20th century fossil and fissile fuel system still in use, would offer a long term, sustainable and low-(no?)-pollution energy-flow for domestic consumption: it would not accelerate climate change.

Obviously, myopic greed such as by fossil and fissile fuel companies opposes such a strategy as they prefer to make private capital gains by extractive exploitation of Nature, and by setting off “pipeline wars” at public expense. The green energy vision and strategy described here is at its core socialist (it is best for the US commons), and it is also internationalist without being belligerent and interventionist, because by sharing such green energy technology internationally the U.S. would help boost the standard of living globally: the human development index (HDI) would increase everywhere, and poverty would decrease everywhere.

The Uncivil War, with Max Blumenthal & Ben Norton
CHRIS HEDGES
16 April 2017
https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/384914-uncivil-war-blumenthal-norton/

or, on YouTube:

Of all the articles I have ever written, the one I most wish had gotten wide attention and actually affected public thinking and action, is linked below.

Energy for Society in Balance with Nature
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/06/08/energy-for-society-in-balance-with-nature/

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Energy for Society in Balance with Nature

“Solar power at 1% conversion efficiency on 2% of the land area of the United States of America would produce the total electrical energy use of the nation, 4 trillion kilowatt-hours per year (4T kWh/y).”

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<> The Economic Function Of Energy <>

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Economics is the consumption of energy to process matter and produce action for the maintenance and renovation of society. Just as form follows function, the right choice of an energy technology for any society is a function of its economic model and socio-economic goals. Politics is the process of determining the allocation of costs and the distribution of benefits for an economy. Therefore, the selection of the energy technologies to power a society is based on political consensus and political power.

Industrialization is a synchronized and mechanized form of economics. For example, suburbia and exurbia are industrializations of the concepts of village, town, and city. They are the stretching of human settlements into 2D space with a compensatory time contraction provided by an energy-intensive kinetic network of unitary transport vehicles.

Public debates on the influence of industrialization on the global heat balance (the average temperature of much of the biosphere), and the sensitivity of climate change to inputs of industrial waste heat and waste matter (e.g., CO2, methane, soot), are political debates on economic forms couched in terms of the relative convenience, profitability and environmental impact of different energy technologies.

Energy For Human Development

The United Nations uses an economic parameter called the Human Development Index (HDI) to characterize the typical standard of living of every nation. It is observed that affluent nations have high HDI scores (HDI ranges from 0 to 1) and a high use of electrical energy per year per person (in kilowatt-hours/year/person the range is from 0 to 30,000), while poor nations have relatively low values for both quantities. (1)

Data from 2005 include the following:

1. The range of annual per capita electrical energy use among 177 nations was between 40 kWh/year/person and 29,247 kWh/year/person. The range of HDI was from 0.281 to 0.963.

2. The United States of America ranked 10th in HDI, at 0.944, with 13,456 kWh/y/p for 4.5% of the world’s population, which produced 24.4% of the CO2 emissions from human activity.

3. The People’s Republic of China ranked 85th in HDI, at 0.755, with 1,484 kWh/y/p for 21% of the world’s population, which produced 12.1% of the CO2 emissions from human activity.

China is racing to develop, and a momentary digression is necessary on account of its rapidly changing data. Between 2004 and 2009, China’s primary energy use grew by 40%, electricity use by 70%, energy imports by a factor of three, population by 2.7%, and CO2 emissions by 44%. (2) After 2007, China’s CO2 emissions exceeded those of the United States (though per capita emission remains far below the US level). Between 2008 and 2010, world CO2 emissions rose 12.1%, US CO2 emissions by only 0.57% because of the economic slowdown during 2009, and Chinese CO2 emissions rose by 17.2%. In 2010, China’s CO2 emissions were 24.6% of the world total, and the US share was 16.4%. (3)

The United Nations calls the striving of each nation to elevate the standard of living of its population its economic development, and a fundamental part of such development is a greater availability of electrical power.

We can visualize the sequential stages of economic development as an HDI climb up an energy ladder. People who burn matter to generate heat, and have a pre-industrial society, advance their economic development by shifting to fuels of higher chemical energy content: from crop waste and dung, to wood, charcoal, kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, and then ethanol and methanol.

The higher stages of economic development are those experienced over the last two centuries by the now highly industrialized nations. Coal was the fuel of 19th century industrialization. Oil and natural gas are the fuels of rapid mass mobility and heating, and power the hyper-animated form of industrial society we know simply as “the 20th century.” Civilian nuclear power became available near the middle of that century, and remains our most concentrated source of energy for producing electricity.

In 2005, the world average HDI was 0.741, and the world average electrical energy use was 2,465 kWh/y/p. People whose lives are characterized by the low end of the HDI scale (near 0.3) can be said to remain, for the most part, in the 18th century. Those in mid-range HDI conditions (0.5-0.6) experience 19th to early 20th century living with some sprinkles of the 21st century, perhaps occasional encounters with consumer electronics like cellular telephones, or militarized police with all too modern automatic guns. Nations with HDI near the world average (0.7-0.8) are clearly modern, though they will still experience many austerities. The plateau of affluence is defined by those nations with HDI above 0.9, and energy use above 6,000 kWh/y/p.

The different levels of economic development existing today mean that no single strategy for advancement is appropriate worldwide, even though it is clear that every national strategy for development must include an effort to improve the reliable availability of energy broadly.

Several nations in the affluence plateau, like Germany, are seeking to make a transition to a post-nuclear, post-fossil fuel economy without a loss of HDI. Energy sources being explored include: solar (photovoltaic and thermal), wind, ocean (wave and tidal), hydroelectric (river power), biomass (agriculture for fuel), and conservation, perhaps the richest though least popular source.

Nations that are industrializing now, like China, and are heavily reliant on coal and oil, could decide to skip the atomic age of mid-20th century America and Europe, and leap-frog to a post-nuclear, post-fossil fuel and ultimately high HDI economy by the middle to late 21st century. A recent report in Spiegel Online International notes: “In 2004, Germany held a 69 percent share of the global solar panel business. By 2011, it had declined to 20 percent” because “Chinese competitors offer systems of equivalent quality at significantly lower prices.” (4)

Nations that remain largely pre-industrial and struggle to meet the basic needs of their people, as outlined by the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG), (5) might conclude that duplicating the 19th and 20th century developmental path of America and Europe is just not possible today, nor conscionable since the raising of their people’s HDI cannot wait two centuries. They might decide to leap-frog from the 18th to 21st centuries, bypassing the intense industrialization of the coal through nuclear economies, and instead invest in the low capital development of many local sources of renewable energy, which would be distributed near its generation sites through low-power micro grids. Such a ubiquitous, frugal, renewable-source and essentially “gridless” power system is in contrast to the concept of a few capital-intensive technologically complex and large coal, oil and nuclear power plants feeding electricity through massive regional and long-distance transmission line systems, to eventually fan out to each particular home. Just getting enough electricity to illuminate homes (enabling reading and study at night) and to power simple machines like water pumps and refrigerators (and hand tools, and perhaps even recharge cellular telephones) everywhere in a currently low HDI nation would be a revolutionary improvement.

At this point we can pose a multitude of questions with one simple query: what are the best energy technologies to power our economy into the future?

Energy Choices For An Uncertain Future

Consider the selection of energy technologies to be: renewables (R), coal (C), oil and natural gas (O), and nuclear (N). Under renewables we group the technologies that harvest energy without resorting to burning (solar, wind, ocean, hydroelectric, geothermal and conservation), and may include some biomass schemes, like methane-generating digesters of farm, household, and municipal wastes, despite the fact that they produce a fuel for burning, which produces carbon dioxide gas. Under renewables, we exclude schemes for the industrial scale agriculture of crops intended to be processed into liquid fuels and methane; this is just the depletion of soil that could be producing food to instead fuel automobiles, farmed oil.

If we think of economic development as a process of concentrating technological complexity and capital for the purposes of improving a society’s well being, then the right fuel to power that society is one whose degree of energy concentration is compatible with the technological concentration of the society. Here, we are referring as much to E. F. Schumacher’s concept of “appropriate technology” as to the earlier description of the energy ladder. (6)

Forms Of Energy In Our Quests For Power

The appropriate choice of an energy technology for any given society will usually be some mixture of the major technologies, labeled here as R, C, O, and N. Let us identify the major attraction of each of our four technologies as follows:

R: achieve MDG, power to end poverty (social power).

C: commercial power.

O: military power.

N: political power.

Renewables can be deployed locally with little capital and are thus the first choice for moving pre-industrial people out of poverty and into the upper half of the HDI range, which corresponds to lives in humane and secure conditions that Americans and Europeans would see as elementary 20th century life.

Coal is abundant, it can fuel the great furnaces of heavy industry, and it can provide the heat to generate electricity for billions of people. This is why China burns so much coal, and why also America and Europe continue to use it. Coal is the fuel of commercial power gained through heavy industrialization, a 19th and early 20th century technique of development that is perfectly suited to countries whose typical experience of life is of a comparable time, and who have much greater ambitions.

Oil is the “liquid gold” that is refined into the fuels that make the automobile culture, the airline industry, and the highly mobile global reach of the United States military possible. The many large, heavy, complex, low-mileage, high-power vehicles of the US military could not exist without jet fuels, high-octane gasoline, diesel fuel, and fuel oil; the Air Force would be grounded, the Navy tied up at port, and the Army reduced to marching or horse-drawn wagons, since their trucks, tanks, and helicopters would be immobilized.

Civilian America could probably live quite well with only renewable energy, but it would be impossible to maintain today’s military capabilities without petroleum-based fuels. Renewables are low concentration technologies, they require large collection areas, and are completely unsuited to military mobility. If very high energy density batteries were available, perhaps the US military could maintain solar energy farms (probably all of Arizona), that constantly charged them up, to power its electrified vehicles. However, electric battery technology has not achieved anything near the energy concentration of liquid hydrocarbon fuels. Electric cars remain rare because their batteries take up more space than the gas tank, which they are far heavier than, and they provide less range before being exhausted and requiring a lengthy recharge.

Nuclear reactors can power large ships like aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines, as well as large static bases, but are far too cumbersome for most military tasks. Coal can be liquefied into a fuel (producing more CO2 than the extraction of crude oil and its refinement to liquid fuels) and is probably what the US military would turn to in the event that petroleum ceased being available.

The many liabilities of nuclear power are well known, and today are being highlighted by the Fukushima disaster. But, nuclear power always has one irresistible draw: it is the source of nuclear weapons. The fascination here is entirely that of political power, the belief that in possessing nuclear weapons one possesses the ability to make the ultimate threat: to obliterate an enemy. What is often forgotten is that in order to carry out the threat one needs a reliable and accurate delivery system, usually missiles. As more nations acquire nuclear weapons and missile systems, another consideration becomes the ability to survive retaliation. As purely war-fighting tools, nuclear weapons have become obsolete because Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) guided chemical high explosives conveyed by missiles and drone aircraft can destroy targets with an accuracy of meters, eliminating the need for large-area blasts to compensate for the targeting inaccuracy of unguided gravity bombs and ballistic missiles. However, possession of nuclear weapons certainly gets their keeper the attention of other nations.

A Simple Model Of Energy Choices

So, the first method we might try for prioritizing a society’s investments in energy technologies would be to rank the four types of power the decision-makers might want (political, military, commercial, to end poverty), and then by the corresponding code letters shown earlier, we arrive at a preference ranking of energy choices. We might guess at the following two examples, and then compare them to reality:

United States:
military, commercial, political, social; (O, C, N, R).

China:
commercial, social, military, political; (C, R, O, N).

In 2009, the United States produced 37% of its energy from petroleum, 25% from natural gas, 21% from coal, 9% from nuclear power, and 8% from renewables, the bulk of which was hydroelectric. Grouping petroleum and natural gas together, these portions become: O at 62%, C at 21%, N at 9%, and R at 8%. (7)

In 2005, China produced 81% of its electricity from coal-fired plants (C), 17% was hydroelectric (R), and 2% from nuclear power (N). Petroleum is refined for the liquid fuels used for transportation. China is the world’s leading producer of renewable energy, the bulk of which is hydroelectric. With an eye to the future, China is also the largest producer of wind turbines, solar panels and solar water heaters. At the UN climate summit in 2009, China pledged to have 15% of its energy generated from solar power within a decade. (8)

An Improved Model Of Energy Choices

The previous type of analysis is too simple — we want greater insight into the politics of energy. Decision making in most countries is a blending of competitive interests, how do we account for the many possibilities of this? My response was to devise a detailed model based on the decision theory of Richard C. Jeffrey. Decision theory combines ideas from statistics, probability theory, and logic, and is the result of work by philosophers, mathematicians, economists, and logicians. (9)

The essential points of my improved model are as follows. The agent making the decisions about national investments in energy technologies is assumed to be a composite of several characters. Each of these characters represents a major constituency or interest as regards national energy policy. I considered three single-minded characters: “no nuclear,” “stop global warming,” and “maximum energy now.” The deciding agent is a weighted sum of these three characters. For example, if all three characters had equal political power, then the agent’s preferences would be an equal blending of “no nuclear,” “stop global warming,” and “max energy now.” If the portions of political power for the three characters happened to be 1/7 for “no nuclear,” 4/7 for “stop global warming,” and 2/7 for “max energy now,” then the preferences of the deciding agent would be a composite of the single-minded preferences in these same proportions. Five case studies, each with a different set of political weights, were calculated from the model and are described below.

When the deciding agent is entirely the single-minded character “stop global warming,” the ranking of investment choices is R, N, O, C (renewables, nuclear, oil and gas, coal). Clearly, this character holds off on burning as much as possible, and only reluctantly agrees to it when there is no other source of energy. Notice that a single-minded concern for global warming leads to a preference for nuclear power over combustion power.

A deciding agent that is equally split between “no nuclear” and “max energy now” (and does not care about global warming) is most likely to rank investment choices as C, O, R, N. The numerical results show that this agent is equally comfortable choosing coal or oil, so the ranking could just as easily be O, C, R, N. If this deciding agent had less of the “no nuclear” character, so that its preference ranking placed R last, then this agent would mirror the actual character the US energy mix: O, C, N, R.

A deciding agent that is equally split between “stop global warming” and “max energy now” (and does not care about avoiding nuclear) is most likely to rank investment choices as R, C, and then N and O equally. The numerical results show that the single most preferred technology is coal, but the concern over global warming boosts the incentive to invest in renewables. If this deciding agent had less “stop global warming” character, so that C was first in its ranking of investment choices, then this agent would mirror the actual character of the Chinese energy mix: C, R, N, for the generation of electricity (O is used for transportation fuels).

A deciding agent that is equally split three ways between “no nuclear,” “stop global warming,” and “max energy now” is most likely to rank investment choices as not-N, R, O, C. This agent’s first priority is to stop, end, and prevent funding for nuclear power. The next priorities are positive investments in energy sources, ranked as R, O, C.

Because of its natural preference for nuclear power, the “stop global warming” character is directly opposed to the “no nuclear” character. A deciding agent that is one part “no nuclear” and two parts “stop global warming” (and has none of the “max energy now” character) will most likely rank investment choices as R, N, O, C. This is the same ranking as that of a single-minded “stop global warming” agent. However, because there is a minor portion of the agent with the “no nuclear” character, another ranking that is nearly as probable is R, O, N, C.

While it is possible to elaborate models of this type into systems of great complexity to capture many types of opinions on energy policy and their relative political weights, and to use computers to calculate projections on the possible directions of a society’s energy politics, I think it’s better to keep the models reasonably simple and to use them as guides that help the mind organize the information from which decisions are to be drawn, and then to bring out the most important points. John von Neumann (1903-1957) said: “The purpose of computation is insight, not numbers.”

International Energy Politics

Based on what has been presented up to this point, we can propose the following as six points of probable conflict [1-6].

High HDI environmentalists, whose major concerns are the consequences of global warming (R, N, O, C), are:

[1] at odds domestically with their military and commercial sectors (O, C, N, R), which are interested in immediate power and profits,

[2] at odds with high HDI anti-capitalists, whose major concerns are political opposition to war, nuclear weapons, and nuclear power (R, O, C, N).

Low HDI economic developers, whose major concern is the immediate raising of living standards (C, R, O, N), find themselves:

[3] at odds with high HDI environmentalists on the issue of economic development (coal),

[4] they find high HDI anti-capitalists disinterested in low HDI economic development (interest is opposition to high HDI power),

[5] they find high HDI commercial sectors competitive with and thus hostile to their industrialization.

Low HDI economic developers are aware of and concerned about global warming, which is why they seek to develop R technology (C, R, O, N).

[6] They find themselves at odds with high HDI commercial sectors, who are disinterested to pay the cost of reducing their CO2 emissions (O, C, N, R), or of developing R technology suitable to low HDI conditions.

If we imagine that each of these conflicts is a simplified reflection of reality, then it is easy to see why the 2011 UN Convention on Climate Change, in Durban, South Africa, resulted in setting to 2015 the completion of an international agreement to limit carbon emissions, and waiting till 2020 for that agreement to take effect.

Now for a change of focus. Instead of trying to answer how societal choices on energy have been and will be made, we give free rein to realistic imagination and ask: what could we do to produce and use energy if there were no political barriers?

The Energy Systems Of Two Imaginary Futures

Let us sweep away all the conceptual restraints placed on the imagination by the fractious politics and societal indecision of our times, and instead visualize energy systems that are physically possible, to power economies that feed some subset of enduring human desires.

US National Solar Electricity System

Solar power at 1% conversion efficiency on 2% of the land area of the United States of America would produce the total electrical energy use of the nation, 4 trillion kilowatt-hours per year (4T kWh/y).

We could imagine a single site in the American southwest that was a square with sides 427 km (265 miles) long; or 100 sites of 43 km (26 mi) square sides; or 1000 sites of 14 km (8.4 mi) square sides. If the conversion efficiency of sunlight to electricity is increased to 10%, then only 18,232 square km (7040 sq. mi) of collection area are needed; this could be one site of 135 km (84 mi) square sides. The combined land areas of the White Sands Missile Range, Fort Hood Texas, Yuma Proving Grounds and Twentynine Palms Base is 18,435 square km (7118 sq. mi); imagine them being used to host a national (publicly owned) solar electricity system, US NSES.

The conversion efficiency of solar (photovoltaic) cells varies with type, age, and conditions, the extreme range being 2% to 43%, where efficiencies beyond about 20% are for specialized devices in research laboratories. One expects 15% to 19% efficiency of solar cells in the field. (10)

Solar-thermal systems convert sunlight to heat, and are of many different types. (11) A solar-thermal-electric system captures sunlight as heat in a transfer fluid (synthetic oil, pressurized steam, molten salt), which is used to generate steam that powers conventional turbine-generators of electricity. One such system, Nevada Solar One, nominally produces 64 MW of electricity from a collection area of 1.2 square km (300 acres), an efficiency of 5.3%. (12)

With a combination of photovoltaic and solar-thermal-electric systems, the United States could use 18,400 square km (7,100 sq. mi) of publicly owned land (converted military bases) to provide 4T kWh/y of socialized electricity, converted from sunlight with 10% efficiency (sunlight at 1000 Watts per square meter is assumed for only 25% of the time to account for nights and cloudy days).

The obvious difficulties with solar energy are nighttime, clouds, and dust on the reflectors or their glass covers. A solar power system can supply electricity steadily if it is paired with an energy storage system that is filled during daylight hours, and discharged during darkness. We could imagine half the electricity generated during daylight being stored for use at night.

The form of storage could be electrical, in batteries, or mechanical, as the spinning masses of large flywheels, or gravitational, as the pumping of water into elevated tanks or uphill reservoirs. At night, the batteries would be discharged, the flywheels spin down by rotating the shafts of electric generators, and the pumped storage recovered hydroelectrically. We can imagine the US NSES pumping water into Lake Mead (Nevada) during the day, for hydroelectric recovery at Hoover Dam during dark times.

As for the dust, it seems we will always need people to clean windows.

Carbon Neutral Free Market Economy

Americans reached a four-fold consensus: carbon emissions must be reduced drastically, it was absolutely essential that anyone be able to own a 13 mile-per-gallon two ton, four wheel drive SUV (a truck-based automobile), the US military required enough fuel to move all its vehicles all the time, and civilian nuclear power was acceptable if the reactors were well sealed, and the radioactive wastes were moved permanently offshore.

The Athabasca Oil Sands of Alberta, Canada, (13) a vast sludgy deposit of mixed crude bitumen, sand, clay, and water, with a viscosity like cold molasses, is strip mined and softened by high temperature steam into a pressurized oily slurry that is piped to US synthetic fuel plants along the Canadian border. The large amount of viscosity-reducing heat needed along the entire length of the pipeline is supplied by electric heaters, which are powered from Canadian nuclear reactors dedicated to this purpose.

The large amounts of carbon dioxide gas released by the production of synthetic gasoline is contained at the synfuels plants and piped to the National Carbon Sequestration Portal, by the Pacific Ocean at the Oregon coast. This site has large underground tanks for the temporary storage of pressurized CO2, and its own nuclear power plant, which generates the energy needed for pumping CO2 into the National Carbon Sequestration Site at the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate.

The CO2 is pumped offshore 300 km (186 mi) and down into undersea basalt below a depth of 2,700 m (8900 ft), where it reacts to form stable carbonate minerals. (14) That these accumulating carbonate deposits may lead to an acidification of the local oceanic environment, and adversely affect marine life, is not seen as likely by the designers of this scheme.

Coal is still mined in the U.S., but it is all processed into synthetic liquid fuels for civilian and military transport. Electricity is generated primarily from nuclear power, with a small portion being hydroelectric. To compensate for the loss of coal as a fuel for producing industrial process heat (blast furnaces and such) a much larger quantity of electricity is generated than in the past, to provide industrial heat electrically.

The nation’s 531 nuclear reactors (up from 104 in 2008) are now of a new modular design. When the reactor core has been used up, the control rods are fully inserted into it, the containment vessel is filled with coolant and sealed, and the entire assembly is removed for disposal; a fresh replacement is installed. The spent sealed vessels are shipped to the National Nuclear Embarkation Facility in South Carolina. These sealed vessels, called “plugs,” are carried by specialized container ships to sites along the Mid-Atlantic Bathymetric Disposal Line. This line runs along the ocean floor about 4,000 meters below the surface, parallel and to the west of the rift valley in the middle of the tectonic spreading zone known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

The plugs are unloaded through the bottom of the container ship’s hull, and guided by robotic submersibles to prepared emplacement holes, which have been drilled into the ocean floor. The rate of tectonic spreading is about 2.5 cm (1 in) a year, so the Mid-Atlantic Bathymetric Disposal Line moves west, along with the rest of North America, at a rate of 25 km (15.5 mi) every million years.

By these means, Americans are able to continue with their preference for luxury truck-like road vehicles, suburban sprawl, air travel, and a high HDI lifestyle, without increasing the carbon emissions of the nation. However, these emissions remain high on a per capita basis, and global warming continues.

Parting Thoughts And A Fantasy

Life is effort, and effort is energy in use. As a society, the types of energy we use and seek to acquire are reflections of who we are. Our political conflicts are like the squabbles of scavengers assembled around a fallen carcass on the Serengeti Plain, and they have their echoes as conflicts over national and international energy policy. Regardless of whether we choose to tear our earth apart by competitive selfishness, or to nurture it communally, we will have to do a great deal of work to maintain reliable cycles of energy use that sustain our many nations. I believe that working cooperatively releases more energy for improving the HDI for everybody.

An African Fantasy

The Sahara Solar Energy Consortium includes the countries Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara. With technical experts from Germany and Spain, and armies of workers from the host countries, the SSEC has built many solar energy farms across the Sahara, transmitting low-cost electrical power to all of Africa, and easily paying for itself (and the African development it enables) by exporting electrical power to Europe via the undersea Trans-Mediterranean Conduit. The SSEC is the world’s leading supplier of hydrogen gas produced by the electrolysis of water. Hydrogen gas is used to power fuel cells used as back-up generators of SSEC electricity. A hydrogen fuel cell is a device that converts the heat released by oxidizing hydrogen (burning it into steam) into electricity. (15) The steam is captured for reuse, naturally.

Notes

1.  M. García, Jr., Energy For Human Development, (a series of reports from 2006),
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2011/11/09/energy-for-human-development/

2. “Energy Policy of The People’s Republic of China,”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_policy_of_China

3. “List of Countries by Carbon Dioxide Emissions,”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions

4.  Alexander Neubacher, “Solar Subsidy Sinkhole: Re-Evaluating Germany’s Blind Faith in the Sun,” Spiegel Online International, 18 January 2012,
http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/solar-subsidy-sinkhole-re-evaluating-germany-s-blind-faith-in-the-sun-a-809439.html

5. “Millennium Development Goals,” United Nations,
http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

6. “E. F. Schumacher” (1911-1977),
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._F._Schumacher

7. “Energy in The United States,”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States

8. “Renewable Energy in The People’s Republic of China,”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_China

9.  Richard C. Jeffrey, The Logic of Decision, 1965, McGraw-Hill Book Company.

10. “Solar Cell Efficiency,”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell_efficiency

11. “Solar Thermal Energy,”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_thermal_energy

12. “Nevada Solar One,”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevada_Solar_One

13. “Oil Sands,”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_sands

14. “Carbon Sequestration,”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_sequestration

15. “Fuel Cell,”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell

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Originally published at Swans.com on 27 February 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci41.html

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How “The Economic Function of Energy” came to be written.

As part of my professional technical work in 2006, I devised an improved analytical fit (a curve) to the correlation between national HDI and average electrical energy use per capita, for 177 nations. My employer (Livermore Lab) hoped to use this result in grant applications seeking funds for nuclear energy research, arguing it was a social benefit (this was for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, GNEP, a program thankfully now dead). I continued in this job effort by applying the decision theory of Richard C. Jeffrey to devise simple models of how an agent (such as a government policy-making body) might rationally select what type of energy technology to invest in for the best results in raising a nation’s HDI.

Given that raising HDI was my stated goal, and not maximizing profits to a group of speculators (such as corporations), my decision theory models always pointed to renewable energy technologies as better than gas, oil and coal. It is obvious that climate change and environmental improvement or degradation have significant impacts on HDI. So, I combined my technical work on HDI curves and decision theory to justify my recommendation that my employer instead focus on the improvement of solar and renewable energy systems. This was my last project before retiring in 2007. I found much of the data quoted in “The Economic Function of Energy” during 2006-2007.

In 2007, I was urged (by two academics) to write a clear explanation of climate change science, aimed at convincing Alexander Cockburn (1941-2012), the political journalist, and the publisher-editor of Counterpunch (along with Jeffrey St. Clair), that his climate change skepticism was misplaced. That article is

Climate and Carbon, Consensus and Contention
4 June 2007
http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2007/06/climate-and-carbon-consensus-and-contention/

and it did not change minds one way or the other. Also, it is a very good article.

In 2011, I thought I would write a book on energy and climate change politics based on all I had learned in my investigations into

Energy for Human Development
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2011/11/09/energy-for-human-development/

, HDI, energy policy decision theory models, and climate change science.

In December 2011, I completed an outline for this planned book, and that outline is now published on this blog.

Closing the Cycle: Energy and Climate Change
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2014/01/25/closing-the-cycle-energy-and-climate-change/

Once I had the outline, I realized that my imagined book would be encyclopedic, which is to say impractical for me to write. I decided that the best way to make use of all that I had learned was to write reasonably-sized articles for a general readership, articles that were informative and clear without diluting the technical insights, and which provoked thought (I hoped).

“The Economic Function of Energy” is the result of that focus. It is my favorite of my essays to date, I think it is my best work of synthesis. It won’t change minds one way or the other, but I am very happy I developed to the point where I could and did produce it.

Enjoy!

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Closing The Cycle: Energy and Climate Change

Closing The Cycle: Energy and Climate Change

Manuel Garcia, Jr.
7 December 2011

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Contents:

Preface

Open Cycle Industrialization

Thermodynamics
– Defining Sciences of Heat in Continuous Matter
– Heat Engines, Thermodynamic Cycles and the 1st Law
– The 2nd Law, and the Heat Gradient Across a Cycle
– Waste Heat, and the Cold Point Infinite Heat Sink
– Disorganization, Irreversibility, Entropy and the 2nd Law

Chemical Thermodynamics of the Biosphere
– The Civilization-Producing Heat Engine
– Complete Heat Engine Cycle of the Biosphere
– Industrial Heat Engine Cycle

The Global Heat Balance
– Incident Solar Energy
– Conversion of Light to Heat by the Earth
– Radiated Heat Energy
– Converting Absorbed Radiation into Atmospheric Heat
– Biosphere and the Surface Temperature of the Earth
– General Equation for the Global Heat Balance
– Sources of IR Absorbing Gases in the Atmosphere
– IR Absorption Coefficient Depends on Temperature
– Defining Global Warming

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Closing The Cycle: Energy and Climate Change

(Toward Naturally Stable Energy Cycles For Enduring Societies)

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Preface

Global Warming is a fact. What are we going to do about it?
This article is intended to prompt responses to that question.

The plan of this article is to proceed through a sequence of topics:
– global warming is the environmental response to open cycle industrialization
– a combination of heat flow physics and chemistry produces global warming
– the politics of deciding on forms of energy between options with uncertain futures
– international energy-climate conflicts reflect disparities in levels of development.

Global closed cycle industrialization will require equalizing levels of development:
– assistance from “high” to “low,” of value comparable to reparations for colonialism
– move from “open cycle” politics to morally “closed cycle,” domestic & international
– global warming can be seen metaphorically as the entropy of economic warfare
– the inertia of self-interest will resist halting humans’ stimulation of global warming.

Open Cycle Industrialization

Industrialization concentrates energy into mechanized work to build up civilization.

Industrialization is organized as capitalism predominantly powered by fossil fuels.

Capitalism is open loop economics in either of two forms:
– “the free market,” financial speculation by massed private capital; or
– “communism,” state-directed centrally-planned economic investment.

Open loop economics is Resource, Labor, Social and Environmental exploitation:

Resource: the extraction or seizure of assets from the environment and society:
– mining, forestry, farming, herding, land seizures, water, air, public subsidies.

Labor: purchase labor at minimum cost by exploiting human survival needs:
– fragment work into small repetitive tasks, for efficiency with low-cost low-skill labor

Social: dump wastes on and shift liabilities to society, “socialize costs” as in:
– dumping wastes, instead of recycling the usable, and reprocessing the unusable
– avoiding taxes, even through buying political influence to weaken democracy
– evading regulations, increasing risks to the public, for privatized gains
– shielding owners from responsibility by legalism, corporate personhood (or state)
– bailing out corporate bankruptcies with public funds (or by nationalization).

Environmental: expect the environment to complete the industrial cycle, to:
– endlessly supply “natural resources”
– steadily maintain society that supplies labor & profits, absorbs production & costs
– have infinite capacity to disappear wastes, both material and heat; to be a sink.

The open cycle pretends to be closed by depending on the environmental sink as:
– “free”
– infinite
– unchanging.

Global warming disproves the infinite sink assumption about the environment.

The naturally stable alternative is closed cycle industrialization:
– closed loop economics
– mutually supportive resource, labor, social and environmental interactions
– full cycle responsibility coincident with cycle ownership.

“Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions.”
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics)

Energy and Climate Politics
is how we make collective decisions about closed cycle industrialization.

Thermodynamics

Defining Sciences of Heat In Continuous Matter

Thermodynamics is the science of:
heat causing, and being released by, the mechanics of chemically inert matter.

Chemical thermodynamics is the science of:
heat causing, and being released by, the mechanics of chemically reactive matter.

Examples:
Thermodynamics: a full tea kettle heated so boiling water spills out, and steam flies.
Chemical thermodynamics: rocket fuel and oxidizer reacting to form a jet exhaust.

Heat Engines, Thermodynamic Cycles and the 1st Law

Heat engines produce mechanical work from absorbed heat.

A heat engine has a working fluid (gas, liquid) that makes a thermodynamic cycle:
– fluid temperature and pressure increase by absorbing heat from a heat source, it
– returns heat by doing work, exerting pressure against a movable surface (motion),
– finally, it rejects unused heat to the environment (cooling) to begin a new cycle.

Cyclic change in the internal energy of the working fluid equals the difference of:
– the heat absorbed, and
– the work done plus heat lost as waste.
– This is the 1st Law of Thermodynamics.

The 2nd Law, and the Heat Gradient Across a Cycle

Spontaneously, heat flows only:
– from higher temperature zones
– to lower temperature zones.
– This is an observable effect of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

In a thermodynamic cycle typical of industrial heat engines, the working fluid is:
– heated and compressed from an initial low temperature, low pressure state, then
– expanded as it does work, cooling to that low temperature and pressure state;
– work done (+heat lost) equals the heat flow from cycle’s high to low temperatures.

Heat engines operate in either a closed or open cycle:
– closed cycle: the same mass of fluid repeats the same thermodynamic cycle,
– open cycle: a fresh mass of fluid is used for each cycle, then expelled.

Engine efficiency and output increase with a larger cycle temperature difference:
– to release more heat, burn fuels with higher chemical potential energy,
– cool the low temperature site of the thermodynamic cycle.

Waste Heat, and the Cold Point Infinite Heat Sink

Not all the heat released from the fuel enters the working fluid:
– engine efficiency is always less than 100%, often much less,
– some of the heating is lost into the mass of the engine, and conducted away,
– some of the heating is lost with the expulsion of hot exhausts from open cycles,
– some of the heating is lost into the mass of passing external coolant streams.

Where does this waste heat “conducted away,” “exhausted,” and “cooled” go?
– to an infinite heat bath, or heat sink,
– also known as an infinite heat reservoir at constant temperature.

An infinite heat bath can:
– absorb any amount of heat from a hotter body, without a rise in temperature,
– release any amount of heat to a colder body, without a drop in temperature.

The environment is assumed to be the infinite heat sink for practical heat engines.

Global warming seems to show:
the environment is a finite heat bath to industrialization’s accumulated waste heat:
– but waste chemicals are crucially involved to produce observed global warming
– so, will show later that the environment is a finite chemical thermodynamic sink.

Disorganization, Irreversibility, Entropy and the 2nd Law

Consider a thermodynamic system with three elements:
– hot source at temperature T-hot, produced by combustion (internal or external),
– heat engine,
– infinite heat bath defining the cold point, T-cold, of the thermodynamic cycle.

In its initial state, this system is highly organized:
– only a few chemical forms of matter (fuel, air, working fluid if different), and
– potential energy is well-confined in the form of chemical bonds of fuel molecules.

System organization degrades through the thermodynamic cycle (1-4):

1. At the beginning of one cycle:
– a charge of fuel and oxidizer is injected into the engine
– the working fluid is in a cool relaxed state
– none of the chemical potential energy of the charge has been used or lost.

2. During the cycle’s transition from heat absorption to working:
– chemistry produces heat by breaking up fuel molecules into numerous species
– the working fluid is hot, compressed, in motion and agitated
– waste heat has been released to the environment.

3. At the end of performing work:
– combustion has produced many species with less total chemical potential energy
– the working fluid is too cool and expanded to produce more work in this engine
– any remaining heat in the engine walls and working fluid is lost as waste.

4. The rejection of waste heat and mass to the cold infinite sink resets the cycle:
– closed: the working fluid is cooled and expanded to initial conditions,
– open: the working fluid of warm combustion products exits, replaced by cool air.

This cycle is not perfectly reversible (5-8):

5. It is not possible to recreate the initial degree of organization of:
– chemical energy stored in a well-defined single molecular species of fuel mass,
– a charge of cool air,
– working fluid in a cool relaxed state…

6. … By “starting” with:
– the end products of combustion drawn back from the cold infinite reservoir
– through the engine operating in reverse
– by applying an equivalent amount of work to it, as was produced earlier,
– (remember the losses to waste heat)…

7. … And compressing the working fluid:
– so as to convert the work being applied into heat,
– which the working fluid is to release to the hot source point
– by a sudden and spontaneous cooling, so it returns to its initial cool relaxed state.

8. Some reversibility may be possible (work into heat), but never completely:
– some of the “organization” or “information” of the initial state is irretrievably lost
– we can never recreate the initial state by a reverse cycle given the same energy
– to reconstitute the initial state from the final products requires more energy
– a reversible cycle is one with no heat lost to waste (or work lost to friction).

Entropy is the thermodynamic property that quantifies system disorganization:
– the more disorganized the state of a system, the higher its entropy.

The increase of entropy over a cycle quantifies its degree of irreversibility:
– there is zero net entropy change over a reversible cycle.

For every thermodynamic cycle of any thermodynamic system:
– the entropy always increases,
– or at a minimum remains unchanged; it never decreases (macroscopically).
– this is the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

One lesson in irreversibility, preserved as the memory of a famous “top egg,” is:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Chemical Thermodynamics of the Biosphere

The Civilization-Producing Heat Engine

Humanity is a Heat Engine that Digests Energy to Produce Civilization.

Parallel statements of the civilization-producing heat engine (1-6):

Natural energy is tapped to flow down the gradient of human energy use (1), degrading from its pristine state of sharply defined natural organization (2), as (primarily) fossilized storage and photosynthetic cycling (3), as it cascades through our industrial forms (4), to wash out into a stagnant and disorganized global heat sink (5). It is left to Nature to be both an infinite waste sink and infinite fuel/heat source, to absorb the waste output, and reset the cycle to its initial conditions (6).

Natural energy is tapped to flow down the gradient of human energy use (1), entropy increasing (2), from a “hot” reservoir and/or an initial state of concentrated energy/information (3), through humanity’s motor (4), exhausting to global warming, the “cold” reservoir, high entropy end of the cycle (5). It is left to Nature to be both an infinite waste sink and infinite fuel/heat source, to absorb the waste output, and reset the cycle to its initial conditions (6).

(1) Natural energy is tapped to flow down the gradient of human energy use,

(2)
– degrading from its pristine state of sharply defined natural organization
– entropy increasing,

(3)
– as (primarily) fossilized storage and photosynthetic cycling
– from a “hot” reservoir and/or an initial state of concentrated energy/information,

(4)
– as it cascades through our industrial forms
– through humanity’s motor,

(5)
– to wash out into a stagnant and disorganized global heat sink.
– exhausting to global warming, the “cold” reservoir, high entropy end of the cycle.

(6) It is left to Nature to be both an infinite waste sink and infinite fuel/heat source,
to absorb the waste output, and reset the cycle to its initial conditions.

Complete Heat Engine Cycle of the Biosphere

The Life Cycle has 2 complementary processes that are the reverse of each other:
– photosynthesis
– aerobic respiration

Photosynthesis (simplified reaction):
6CO2 + 6H2O + light (energy) -> C6H12O6 (sugar) + 6O2
carbon dioxide + water + solar energy -> sugar (food) + oxygen

Aerobic respiration (simplified reaction):
C6H12O6 (aqueous) + 6O2 (gas) -> 6CO2 (gas) + 6H2O (liquid) + energy
sugar (food) + oxygen (breath) -> carbon dioxide + water + metabolic energy

Autotrophs (self-feeding organisms)
– like plants, algae and many bacteria
– carry out photosynthesis
– producing organic compounds (food) from inorganic matter (CO2, H2O)
– by absorbing sunlight; or
– carry out geochemical synthesis
– producing organic compounds (food) from inorganic hydrogen compounds (H2S)
– by absorbing heat and, e.g., hydrogen sulfide from vents submerged in darkness.

Heterotrophs (organisms that feed on others)
– like animals, fungi and many bacteria
– carry out aerobic respiration
– releasing food energy and then storing it as adenosine triphosphate, ATP,
– while also producing organic and inorganic (CO2, H2O) wastes;
– ATP is stored metabolic energy, which can drive cellular processes like:
— biosynthesis (the formation of more complex molecules, like enzymes),
— locomotion (the movement of structures, like proteins, within cells), and
— transportation of molecules across cell membranes.

The Stable Energy Cycle of the Biosphere (the Life Cycle):
Autotrophs process inorganic matter and heterotroph waste into food and O2,
– food is solar energy captured in organic chemicals (carbon-hydrogen bonds).
Heterotrophs consume food and O2 to produce metabolic energy stored as ATP,
– waste products are CO2, H2O and organic matter.

Industrial Heat Engine Cycle

Industrial use of heat is loosely analogous to aerobic respiration by heterotrophs.

Combustion of methane (CH4) is shown here as a representative heat source:
CH4 + 2O2 + ignition -> CO2 + 2H2O + heat
– actually, create many C, H and N oxides, and nitric acid, by burning CH4 in air,
– we depend on nature (autotrophs) to reprocess industrial CO2, and supply fuel,
– there is no re-organizing/re-concentrating of waste heat: entropy only increases.

The Global Heat Balance

Incident Solar Energy

Insolation: solar constant (source)

Milankovitch Cycles (distance and local incident angle):
Describe the collective effects of changes in Earth’s movements on climate.
Gravitational interactions in the Solar System cause long-term periodic changes of:
the distance and orientation of the Earth with respect to the Sun:
Orbital Shape (eccentricity)
– change in the elliptic shape (variation from circular) of Earth’s orbit
– with an approximately 100,000 year period (cycle).
Axial tilt (obliquity)
– a 2.4 degree shift of angle between Earth’s axis and orbital plane, and a return,
– with a 41,000 year period.
Precession
– trend in the direction of the axis of rotation relative to fixed stars,
– with a 26,000 year period.

Transmission (filtration of insolation by atmosphere):
– atmosphere is transparent to visible light (radiation)
– absorption of ultra-violet (UV) in the high altitude ozone layer

Reflection (Earth’s albedo, its net reflection coefficient for visible light):
– ice sheets and snow (extent of the area has long term stability; Milankovitch cycle)
– clouds (extent of the area is highly variable over very short time; unpredictable)

Absorption:
– oceans and land absorb visible light (reflectivity is low)

The Conversion of Light to Heat by the Earth

– Atoms and molecules absorb incident light, and redistribute it in matter as heat.
– Matter holds heat as the agitation, rotation and vibration of molecules (& atoms).
– Motions of positive and negative parts of molecules launch electric waves.
– Wavelengths are set by molecule sizes and deflections: infrared radiation (IR).
– IR radiation is that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum we sense as heat.
– IR radiation is emitted by the surface of the Earth (land, oceans and organisms).
– Typical frequency of thermal radiation increases with the emitter temperature.
– Quantity of thermal (Black Body) emission increases with emitter temperature.

Radiated Heat Energy

Transmission through the atmosphere:
– gases made up of symmetric molecules (N2, O2) are transparent to IR radiation
– gases made up of atoms (Helium, Neon, Argon) are transparent to IR radiation

Absorption by the atmosphere (reflection is negligible):
– gases of asymmetric molecules (have positive and negative ends) absorb IR
– IR absorbing gases also emit thermal radiation characteristic of their temperature
– IR absorbing gases are: H2O, CO2, NOx (pollution) and volatile organic vapors
– trapped IR is continuously absorbed and radiated within the mass of atmosphere
– the greater the mass of IR absorbing gases, the greater the capacity to store heat.

Converting Absorbed Radiation into Atmospheric Heat

Kinetic theory of gases:
– Gases are mainly empty space with a huge number of small particles in motion.
– These particles are the atoms & molecules of gaseous elements & compounds.
– The faster a particle’s speed, the higher its kinetic energy, its energy of motion.
– The sum total of particle kinetic energy in a gas volume is its heat content.
– Temperature is defined as the ratio: [heat content in volume]/[mass in the volume].
– Temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy of the particles.
– Moving atoms and molecules in a gas collide frequently, randomizing directions.
– Particles transfer kinetic energy by collision, from energetic to lethargic particles.
– Collision frequency is high, so most particles have comparable kinetic energy.
– Also, the high collision frequency diffuses a “hot spot” into a larger volume.

The positive & negative poles of asymmetric molecules make them IR antennas.
Received (absorbed) IR radiation can be stored:
– internally: bending and vibration of the atom-to-atom chemical bonds
– internally: rotations of the entire molecule (rolling, spinning, flipping)
– kinetically: linear motion through the space between particle collisions.

Molecules can transfer some of their internally stored energy during collisions:
– internally stored IR energy can be transferred into kinetic energy by collisions
– one species’ internal energy can be spread kinetically to all other gas species
– collisions distribute IR radiation absorbed by one species into uniform gas heat.

Adding vapors to the atmosphere that increase IR absorption will cause it to heat.

The Biosphere and the Surface Temperature of the Earth

Biosphere is from the top of the stratosphere (50 km above sea level) down to:
– about 5 km below the surface of the land (at 124°C, too hot for bacteria), and
– about 11 km below the surface of the oceans (just below the deepest ocean floor).

The heat content of this outer region of the Earth is affected by Milankovitch cycles.

Earth’s temperature increases with depth (land) at an average rate of 22.1°C/km
– but the flow of interior heat out through the Earth’s surface is negligible.

Global Warming refers to the average temperature of the atmosphere and oceans:
– assumed here: a layer of the biosphere bracketing “the elevation at sea level”
– from 20 km up, the top of the troposphere, including nearly all atmospheric mass
– to 10 meters below ground, which day/night and seasonally temperature cycles,
– and also the fluid mass of the oceans, whose currents redistribute heat energy;
– this layer’s temperature is set by the balance of solar heating and radiant cooling.

Earth’s average surface temperature during 1901-2000 was 13.9°C = 57°F.

Define:

T = average surface temperature of the Earth
H = the heat content in the surface layer (the essential layer of the biosphere)
C = the heat capacity of the mass of the surface layer (average material property)
ΔH = a change in the heat content of the biosphere layer (a gain or loss)

The relation of heat content to temperature is:

H = C•T

When a quantity of heat ΔH is added to the surface layer then:

H(new) = H(old) + ΔH

T(new) = T(old) + (ΔH)/C

When, in the above:
ΔH is positive, heat was added, and the new temperature is higher,
ΔH is negative, heat was lost, and the new temperature is lower.

General Equation for the Global Heat Balance

Global warming is determined by the balance of solar heating and radiant cooling.

The general equation for this global heat balance is:

ΔH = S•(1-A) – Q•(1-F)

ΔH = change in the heat content of the biosphere/surface layer
S = incident solar energy (light reaching the top of the atmosphere)
A = albedo: reflection coefficient of the Earth (0 < A < 1)
Q = radiated heat energy (infrared emitted by Earth’s surface)
F = IR absorption coefficient of the atmosphere (0 < F < 1).

A (albedo), F (IR absorption), Q (thermal emission) depend on Earth’s temperature.

Change in Biosphere Heat Content =
(Incident Solar Energy) • (1-Albedo) +
– (Radiated Heat Energy) • (1 – IR absorption coefficient of the atmosphere)

Heat flow from Earth’s interior to the surface is negligible, equal to about S/10,000.

During a period of stable climate:
ΔH = 0, incoming (light energy) and outgoing (heat energy) flows balance.
Q•(1-F) = S•(1-A), thermal emission into space = solar irradiation at Earth’s surface.

For an interval during which climate changes:
ΔH ≠ 0, incoming (light energy) and outgoing (heat energy) flows are not balanced.
Q•(1-F) > S•(1-A), thermal flux to space > solar irradiation if the Earth is cooling
Q•(1-F) < S•(1-A), thermal flux to space < solar irradiation if the Earth is heating.

Sources of IR absorbing gases in the atmosphere

Evaporation
Aerobic respiration
Terrestrial emission of organic plumes from:
– volcanic and geothermal venting
– methane outgassing caused by rising temperature (tundras and oceans)
Industrial emission of organic plumes from:
– chemical, mining and manufacturing facilities
– concentrations of agricultural and livestock activities
Air pollution from combustion-derived heat energy for industrialized civilization.

IR absorption coefficient depends on temperature

Evaporation of liquid H2O, and organic vapor plumes increase with temperature:
– cloud dynamics and distribution is the most contentious aspect of climate models
– terrestrial outgassing of IR absorbing gases increases with Earth’s temperature.
Hotter wetter eras may also be cloudier with both higher albedo and IR retention,
– compensating effects, which slow rate of heating.
Colder drier, large ice sheet eras may have higher albedo and lower IR retention,
– mutually amplifying effects, which accelerate rate of cooling.

Defining Global Warming

“The environment” is the 20-31 km thick surface-of-the-Earth layer of the biosphere.

Global warming shows that:
– the environment is not an infinite chemical thermodynamic sink,
– it cannot endlessly absorb waste heat and IR absorbing chemicals isothermally.

Global warming is:
– the increase of entropy in the environment.
– the degradation of organization of the environment.

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The above is the outline of the physical science half of my never-to-be-finished book on the politics of climate change. Some of the energy-use policies and technologies that could be implemented in response to climate change were described in my article

The Economic Function Of Energy
27 February 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci41.html

“The Economic Function Of Energy” covers the topics listed as the third and fourth lines itemized in the preface (at the start).

The last four lines itemized in the preface are discussed in a haphazard fashion in several of my articles posted on the Internet (see http://manuelgarciajr.com or https://manuelgarciajr.wordpress.com), most recently in “AGW And Malthusian End Times.”

I think that today everybody understands that Anthropogenic Global Warming will not be addressed, nor resource and energy conservation practiced, until capitalism is rejected globally, and that humanity will never reject fossil-fueled capitalism.

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