Earth as a planet will exist for an extremely long time. Whether or not we are here is another thing. I feel that a lot of the save the earth attitude is really "save the earth, so we can still live here" which I feel is just as neccessary. I mean, we should figure out how to live on this planet well before we move to others. [ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re:Maybe it is because we are skeptical... (Score:2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on 04-17-04 11:57 AM (#8892061) Climate change is real. Anthropogenic global warming isn't. We have warmed over the last 25 years, but the vast majority of that warming is due to the prevalence of El Ninos in the past 30 years. However, there is a lot of research lately that shows that we are due for a climate regime shift back to cooling which should occur within the next 5 years.
Unfortunately, global warming isn't a scientific issue...it's a political one. [ Reply to This | Parent ]
Its happening right now (Score:2) by g8oz (144003) on 04-17-04 12:42 PM (#8892311) (http://www.xamount.ca/) Warming Climate Disrupts Alaska Natives' Lives
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=57 2&e=20&u=/nm/environment_warming_dc [yahoo.com] [ Reply to This | Parent ]
Nuclear (Score:2, Interesting) by ttfkam (37064) on 04-17-04 12:54 PM (#8892386) (http://geekspeak.org/ | Last Journal: 10-27-02 03:17 PM) No CO2 emissions. No 10% more sunshine/10% less rain.
Americans used 3,720 billion kWh (kilowatt hours) in 2001 according to the Energy Information Administration [doe.gov], a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy [doe.gov]. Yes, that's billion with a 'b'.
From the Wikipedia: "Sunlight provides about 1.36 kilowatts per square meter, and most solar cells are between 8 and 12 percent efficient." There are 9,158,918 square kilometers in the U.S. Each square kilometer is equal to one million square meters (remember 1km = 1,000m; so a square of 1km by 1km is 1,000m by 1,000m).
A kilowatt hour (kWh) is 1 kilowatt of output sustained over one hour.
So, 9,158,918 (number of square kilometers in the U.S.) times 1,000,000 (square meters in a square kilometer) times 0.68 (number of kilowatts with 50% efficiency) to get kilowatt hours. Multiply that by 8 (average number of hours in the day with usable sunlight) times 365 (days in a year).
18,185,947,580,800 kWh. That's more than 3,720,000,000,000 kWh by a factor of five, right? Solved!
Oh...ummm... This assumes that all of the cells are at that 50% laboratory record-setting level as opposed to the ones in use today. If we go off the 8%-12& mark, we're already at the bare minimum for energy requirements with no margin for error.
And this assumes that all of the panels are kept clean; Remember, less power if there's dust and grime on the solar cells.
And this assumes that it's never cloudy/rainy/snowy.
And this assumes that U.S. never increases their power usage from 2001 levels. (Note, I'm not getting into a discussion of the value of energy conservation. It's immaterial here. If you can get all ~300 million Americans to halt the growth of their usage let alone lower it, I will kiss the ground you walk upon.)
And this assumes that materials are sufficiently abundant and practical to build all of those panels.
And leaving things out in the sun for extended periods of time tends to do bad things to most items: sun-bleached hair, ruined paintings, less efficient solar cells, etc. Solar cells drop in efficiency by 2%-5% every year of their operating life; Best case scenario, your solar cell is working at 90% after five years; 80% after twelve years. (Remember, that's 90% of 12%.)
And, most important, this assumes that all the land area in the continental U.S. including Alaska is covered in solar panels! This means no food grown, no basking in the sunlight, an epidemic of Rickets Disease, etc.
Solar is only good for supplementary power generation: lowering the drain on the grid.
It's not about nuclear being warm and fuzzy. It's not about going with the solution with no risks. No technology available to us today can provide even close to all of the power used with 100% safety. Large scale energy is not and will never be 100% safe. However the use of fossil fuels is worse. Fossil fuels emit too many pollutants that get into our air and water.
It's time to bite the bullet and go for the IFR [anl.gov]s. Why it is called an "Integral" Fast Reactor? Once the initial fuel is loaded no fuel goes in and no waste comes out for the entire 70 year life cycle. This will greatly reduce the current 90,000 nuclear shipments a year on trains and trucks. At the end of the 70 years, the nuclear "ash" of the IFR needs to be stored for only 300 years as opposed to 30,000. The actinides are used and recycled over and over until they are depleted. Current nuclear waste and the material for nuclear warheads can be reused as fuel for an IFR instead of being dumped in Yucca Mountain. The purity of that fuel once used in an IFR cannot again be easily transformed into weapons-grade material. It is as hard as converting the original uranium ore. If IFRs are implemented, uranium need not be mined for 500 years; Existing stock piles of uranium ore, nuclear waste, and obsolete weapons will be more than adequate.
Need more prodding? Don't think of it as displacing wind, microhydro, or solar. Think of it as replacing coal, oil, and natural gas. A little more than 50% of all US electric power is produced with coal. The Journal of the American Medical Association claims that 30,000 US citizens die each year from respiratory illness due directly to this burning of coal for electric power. France produces 75% of its electric power with nuclear. Since France went nuclear, the country experienced a five fold decrease in air pollution. Why do you think they had such a hard-on for the Kyoto Accords? Reducing emissions wasn't a problem for them, and it should be such a problem for the U.S. either. Plus nuclear could be used to generate hydrogen for use as a transportable fuel.
Finally, for those who say that we should just cut back on luxuries and use less energy, that's a hard sell. And it's wrong-headed. We can make just as much power that doesn't completely wreck either the environment or the economy. It's not an either-or choice. But the knee-jerk protectors of coal and the knee-jerk defenders of solar/wind/microhydro, and the knee-jerk anti-nuclear need to come to grips with the actual numbers. Least environmental damage (that can do the job!!!)? Nuclear. Least number of deaths per megawatt (once again, for technologies that can do the job)? Nuclear.
However, if solar, wind, and microtidal can reduce the number of needed IFR plants by 10 or 20, I am all for it! The more homes that are basically self-sufficient, the better. For the rest of us: IFR nuclear.