What are China’s Priorities?

There is somewhat of a standoff going on between all the countries in the world over this cap and trade emissions idea.  Most notably is the US and China as we account for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions.

So what happens if we cap our emissions and China does not?

First we should look at what China wants because this is a hard thing to pin down.  It seems clear that the people in charge in China do not put the same value on human life or quality of life.  It follows that they could really care less about the environment or it’s inhabitants and wouldn’t pursue alternative energy on the grounds it poisons the planet.

China does want to be THE new superpower in the world and if they are clever they will have figured out that long term growth will inevitably require alternative energy infrastructure.  China already has some alternative energy initiatives in place.

if we cap and they don’t we could put carbon tariffs in place but that might just lead to a large black market…

So until peak oil declines and coal reserves run out, China won’t actually cap emissions because it is a short term economic restriction. They will invest in alternative energy but like everyone else they will use fossil fuels to the bottom of the barrel.

Of course we might be told that they have capped emissions but like most regulations in China, they will go unenforced.

garbage river

Gas Hydrate solid methane

gas-hydrate

collected from the bottom of the ocean. vast amounts. Why can’t drill for it like we do for oil?

Those were the questions I had about the large amount of natural gas trapped mostly on the bottom of the ocean by the pressure and cold temperatures. One obsticle with drilling is the extreme depths…not like offshore oil drilling which is done in relatively shallow waters.

Gas hydrates are crystalline solids consisting of gas molecules, usually methane, each surrounded by a cage of water molecules.  Gas hydrate looks and acts like ice, but it contains vast amounts of methane.

The real problem with considering this as a fuel source is the fuel would be Methane. Methane is a Greenhouse gas and when it is burned for fuel it produces Carbon Dioxide.   Taking the Hydrate out would also destabilize the sea floor and cause giant Tsunamis. So let’s not spend a lot of time and money on this kind of pipe dream.

Turtle in commercial fishing net

Turtle in net by Carlos Villoch from Spain

turtle-in-net

I don’t know where this was taken but there are very simple contraptions that can be attached to a fishing net that will filter out the turtles.

Dividing up the Arctic Oil

There are many issues concerning what used to be the great white north.  As global warming advances more and more of the arctic will become land without glaciers on top.  This means that the environment will change drastically, essentially a new ecosystem is being born and life will colonize the new land.  How much of that new life will be human remains to be seen.

All Countries bordering the arctic will lay claim to some portion but clearly this will mainly be a battle between the US and Russia.  Both nations will take advantage of the vast untapped oil fields currently trapped under miles of ice.

Territorial disputes may lead to military conflict as some russian newspapers are preparing for but whoever ends up with the land, what they do with it will have a huge impact.

Oil spotted wasteland or refuge for the displaced creatures of the world?

arctic-oil-90b23jul08

Tidal Power barrages and ebb generation

marine_tech_018

It’s such a simple concept I wonder why it’s not a “popular” idea for alternative energy.

Exploit the difference in potential energy between high tide and low tide.  Dig a ditch or basin into a beach or cliff and then make a dam with flood gates and put some turbines where they will be turned by releasing the trapped water.

The main advantages of this kind of tidal power vs the more popular idea of turbines trapping underwater currents are environmental. When we look at the design of these windmills under the sea, they are very similar to food processors in that any wildlife coming close will be chopped into slurry.  Not to mention the fact that they would only capture a small fraction of the tidal power compared to a tidal barrage.

It is important to distinguish between tidal barrages created on rivers or estuaries and totally man made barrages.  The former types of barrages have the same kind of environmental problems because they interfere with extablished marine ecosystems.  Creating a new inlet would allow for a screen-like divider that would exclude animals that could be harmed by the turbines or other mechanisms.

The potential is almost unlimited for countries like the united states due to our extremely large coastlines.  The construction of these barrages would also creates lots of jobs a la the Obama plan for saving the economy. 

In the coming years we will have to make important decisions about which technologies we chose to implement for a sustainable future.  If we choose without full disclosure as to the dangers and benefits of each technology, the results could be disastrous.  If we were to make huge investments into bio-fuels instead of more truly sustainable technologies, at some point we will have food and water supply problems.  I understand the appeal of bio-fuels because they use already existing technologies and thus can be immediately implemented.  I also understand the desire for a quick fix but long term thinking is the only way we will survive peacefully into the next century, after oil has run out.

Radiation from the sun, Gravitational pull from the moon (ocean Power), Geothermal from plate tectonics and volcanic activity, and wind power are the areas we should be putting massive investment into.  Other technologies may serve as a fine transition between fossil fuels and true sustainability but we must plan for the long term using inexhaustible sources of energy.

The Wind Farm Debate pt 1

offshore-windfarm

I am from Boston and my family has a place in Buzzard’s Bay, near Cape Cod.  The debate around placing an offshore wind farm in the Nantucket sound has been a hot topic for many years in the area.  As in most debates over public policy, the spectrum of opinions runs along a socioeconomic axis.

The more affluent do not want any windmills cluttering their view of the “pristine” ocean and the people who live in the area year round would love a drop in the electricity bills.  The problem with the pristine ocean is that it is full of garbage and chemicals.

I am twenty-four years old and I can clearly remember a time when you could walk down to the ocean near my house and pick up as many mussels, oysters, and clams as you wanted.  Now there is nothing on the shore except barnacles and seaweed.  You could hit a deer by accident easily because there were tons of them all around. Now you would be lucky to see one all summer.  Greenbrier, poison ivy and other resilient horrible weeds have taken over from roses and blueberry patches.  The point is that toxic chemicals and invasive species have done far more damage to the pristine ocean than a wind farm could ever do.  This is in addition to the fact that wind farms might lessen the oil barge traffic that regularly runs through these waters, even in winter.

The opponants of wind farms need to understand that how the world looks needs to change in order for us to survive and prosper.  If we decide to cut down trees, then we will have to look at windmills instead.

codman-point

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