Looking at Our Energy Future

Discussions related to the issues of forest preservation and environmental conservation

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dbhguru
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Looking at Our Energy Future

Post by dbhguru » Wed Jun 02, 2010 1:56 pm

Lee,

Glad you weighed in on this weighty topic. http://www.ents-bbs.org/viewtopic.php?f ... t=10#p2828 I'm also glad you reminded us of the two definitions for theory. Obviously, the latter use is much in vogue these days as a tactic used to shoot at anything one doesn't agree with.

I'm encouraged that you are making inroads with some of the traditionally conservative types, who in years past were arguably the backbone of the nation. The staunch Mid-western farmer getting the message is indeed satisfying news. I've always had deep respect for Mid-westerners of the land.

However, in terms of the nation as a whole, I find myself despairing, wondering what it takes to get through to the doubters of what should be ever more obvious. How does the population increase to nearly 7,000,000,000 people, with most having carbon footprints several times to several thousand times bigger than those of our ancestors of a few centuries ago. How do we clear so much forest and spew so many greenhouse gases into the air without it eventually having an impact on climate? Duh!

If there's anything good to come out of the Gulf oil spill, maybe it will be an acceptance by a greater percentage of the voting public that long-term use of fossil fuels has lots of consequences. However, shortsighted interests are going to make the most of the spill. There will be a new push for biomass as a viable alternative to oil and gas. Biomass is not the answer.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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James Parton
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Re: Looking at Our Energy Future

Post by James Parton » Wed Jun 02, 2010 2:40 pm

Bob,

I see hydrogen as the only real replacement for fossil fuels. Hydrogen as a fuel. Hydrogen Fuel cells for cars, etc. And hydrogen ( D-T ) fusion plants for electric power. It may take time but that is where the private and government research dollar should go. We could lead the world out of the Oil Age into the Hydrogen age. Remember, hydrogen burns much cleaner than petrol and it's main exaust is water!

JP
James E Parton
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gnmcmartin
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Re: Looking at Our Energy Future

Post by gnmcmartin » Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:17 pm

JP:

I am a big fan of hydrogen. You can split water into hydrogen and oxygen with electricity, and that electricity can be produced by wind, solar, and any other "green" energy source.

Just one problem with hydrogen--it is a bit hard to store in a very concentrated form and cannot produce a concentrated enough energy source for some uses, such as to propel a jet airplane, or run a chainsaw. But it could serve as the source for a lot, if not most of our energy needs.

Until we can develop our hydrogen production/infrastructure, I would support the "Pickens plan," that is to use more of our natural gas. Do you know that the US is the "Saudi Arabia" of natural gas? The country is simply drowning in it, and we are not using it. A headline story in a recent issue of “The Economist” was, “The US, Drowing in Natural Gas.” This gas is not really "green," but per unit of energy, it releases half the carbon as oil and/or coal. And with coal it is not just the carbon, but the mercury and other dangerous pollutants. And in the Appalachians they remove mountain tops and dump them into valleys and bury streams--forever--to get it. Unbelievable that some think this is preferable to nat gas.

A major new source is gas from shale deposits. Just for one, if you are interested, Google "Marcellus Shale." Each time they come up with a new estimate of this reserve, it seems that they double its potential. At first they thought 10% was recoverable. Now they think 20 to 25%. Next estimate based on new methods?? There are a number of other gas shale deposits in other parts of the country.

Want to hear a really crazy thing? There is a proposal to build a massive--and I mean really massive-- new electric transmission line from the Appalachian coal fields to parts of the NE. This line (called "PATH"--again, you can Google it and get all the info) will devastate much of our landscape (it is slated to pass just 3 miles south of me here in VA ). Its cost in terms of right of way and construction is astronomical, and it will encourage even more burning of coal and more mountain top removal mining.

What is the alternative, assuming the power is really needed? Just tap into the Marcellus shale, build a pipeline at minimal coast and disruption to the landscape, and build clean, efficient power generating plants near where the power is needed.

Or build windmills and solar plants, etc., etc. I have explained all this to my congressman--fingers crossed, but really have little hope that any sense will be applied to this issue. But I do my duty as a citizen.

Drilling in the deep ocean where repairs are so difficult is not a good idea. How many accidents are acceptable? One every 50 years? That's way to much in my opinion, and they will probably happen much more often than that. The drillers always tell us its safe. Then they tell us, "oh, accidents happen."

--Gaines

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James Parton
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Re: Looking at Our Energy Future

Post by James Parton » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:24 pm

Gaines,

Maybe not chain saws but they have made hydrogen powered jet engines work. In fact one of the earliest, the HE S1 by Hans Von Ohain was hydrogen powered. It was a successful experiment in 1935. They are also considering a hydrogen jet powered hypersonic replacement for the Concorde. It would fly at great altitude at mach 5. It is on the drawing board now.

BMW has been testing hydrogen fuel in cars for a number of years. Storing hydrogen and fueling the cars safely will have to be overcome and due to hydogen's low density the cars do not have as much horsepower as their gasoline counterparts.

A better alternative to autos is the hydrogen fuel cell. They power an electric motor(s) to run the vehicle. But they don't work in cold climates. That too will have to be overcome.

James
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edfrank
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Re: Looking at Our Energy Future

Post by edfrank » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:29 pm

Gaines,

As someone living in western Pennsylvania, I am not as enthralled with the prospect of extraction from the Marcellus Shale as you seem to be. In order to get even a 10% extraction they will need to do extensive fracting of the boreholes. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, that means they will use explosives to fracture or breakup the bedrock around the bore hole in order to create openings to collect the gas. I personally have seen examples of one poorly capped abandoned gas well pumping enough salt, acid, and iron to completely destroy an entire watershed and leave the surface streams running lifeless and barren and colored a bright orange of ferrous trihydroxide.

With the Marcellus Shale there will be thousands of wells, with extensive fracting. If even a tiny percentage of these wells are not perfectly sealed the groundwater in the surrounding area will become so contaminated as to be useless. And I guarantee in far less ambitious gas extraction wells, the percentage of failure and surface and groundwater contamination is much higher than a tiny percentage. Who wants to live somewhere where they don't have a fresh water supply? Where all of the water needs to be trucked in? Where the contaminant levels are so high that a home purification system won't work? The contamination will persist for centuries and the gas for only a short time. The loss in land values from the potential contamination is enormous and much more than the total value of the gas that can be potentially extracted. This does not count the lives that will be disrupted and ruined, nor the environmental damage. It is a bad idea to try to extract the gas from the shale unit.

The increased forecast extraction percentage fro the Marcellus shale is not because of improved technology, it is just fairy dust given out by the gas companies to make the potential threat, grossly understated, to the lifestyle and livelihoods of the residents and the environment more palpable and politically acceptable. it is not even close to what they realistically will be able to extract. Just smoke ad mirrors. Just like BP told us that the chance of a leak was virtually non-existent, ad that they were prepared in case something did go wrong. It is unfortunate that the politically conservative and generally pro-industry population are deluding themselves to believe whatever snake-oil the gas companies tell them.

Ed Frank
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Looking at Our Energy Future

Post by gnmcmartin » Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:36 pm

Ed:

Good points about the problems with extracting gas from shales. I am not sure the picture is as bad as you suggest, but the issue needs more study. What doesn't need more study is the effect of coal mining on water. My timberland is over mined country, and the water is mostly gone or ruined. The acid etc. seepage from a huge gob pile behind my timberland will continue for centuries. Lets study the gas extraction process further and make sure that it is as dangerous as some think before we trash this resource in favor of more coal mining with mountain top removal, deep water drilling, etc.

--Gaines

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edfrank
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Re: Looking at Our Energy Future

Post by edfrank » Fri Jun 04, 2010 11:05 am

Gaines,

For example, just now on the local TV news there is a story about a rupture today of a gaswell in Clearfiled County PA tapping the Marcellus Shale. There is water contamination and evacuations of the local residents. Thye have a news crew on-hand but no further details at this time. Ths is what can be expected on a regular basis and worse.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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dbhguru
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Re: Looking at Our Energy Future

Post by dbhguru » Fri Jun 04, 2010 2:38 pm

ENTS,

More and more, we see that there are no free lunches. Each major source of energy has its pros and cons. Here in western Mass, wind energy is showing its cons to those of us who don't want to see the profiles of the Berkshires and Taconics compromised with huge wind turbines. By contrast, everyone of the tall buildings of Boston can have its wind mill. Going higher vertically is no big deal if it can be done. Maybe all the hot air emanating from the streets below would turn the turbines. Worth a try.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
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Co-founder, National Cadre

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Don
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Re: Looking at Our Energy Future

Post by Don » Sat Jun 05, 2010 7:46 pm

Bob-
Oddly enough, probably the most environmentally successful job I ever had was one spent in Saudi Arabia for two years. Working for Fluor Engineers and Constructors (our client was ARAMCO...:>), we built a natural gas liquification plant from scratch in just over two years. When I arrived (as a surveyor), there was nothing developed at the site, but for a square mile compacted sand pad. By the time I left (as a pipefitter supervisor of thirty-five Third Country National pipefitters), we had completed the pre-commissioning of the plant, with a ceremonial button pushing some three months after my last contract.
What was so environmental? Since 1944, Aramco had been flaring off the natural gas from the oil reservoirs, to regulate pressure (never once saw the grasshopper looking oil pumpers/derricks like you see in Texas and California (Pennsylvania too I imagine, huh, Ed?). They just had valved stub-ups that connected pipes to distributing points.
From ACC Shedgum (my worksite), you could see about 30 flares around the compass...each of these and more were 24" gas mains that had 50' high flames or more...running day and night since 1944! All those flares were capped, and the natural gas went into our plant, and was converted to liquified petroleum gas, and stored in my area (Product Surge and Refrigeration), before being sent in 60" diameter pipelines to Yanbu, on the Red Sea, where the product would be transferred to a an LPG tanker, bound for wherever. By the way the product surge (needed storage capacity for variations in pressure) reservoirs were spheres 100' in diameter, and were made from two and a half inch plate steel.
So instead of venting these gas mains into the atmosphere, the otherwise wasted natural gas was converted to a form that was transportable and provided relatively clean burning fuel for many nations.
dbhguru wrote:ENTS,

More and more, we see that there are no free lunches. Each major source of energy has its pros and cons. Here in western Mass, wind energy is showing its cons to those of us who don't want to see the profiles of the Berkshires and Taconics compromised with huge wind turbines. By contrast, everyone of the tall buildings of Boston can have its wind mill. Going higher vertically is no big deal if it can be done. Maybe all the hot air emanating from the streets below would turn the turbines. Worth a try.

Bob
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dbhguru
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Re: Looking at Our Energy Future

Post by dbhguru » Sat Jun 05, 2010 8:29 pm

Don,

An interesting account. When we get together in Durango, we must talk about you writing your memoirs. That needs to happen. You've accumulated the life experiences here and abroad, and you think deeply about life and its meaning. By golly, between good food, good drink, good entertainment, good company, good trees, fabulous scenery, a worthy mission - life is going to be good - real good. Oh yes, and sherbet measured by volume in cubic feet.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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