Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is Carbon Dioxide a polutant?

I hear many argue in support of the EPA ruling that CO2 is a pollutant. On the site I found the following statement:

One need only look at our sister planet, Venus, to see that too much "life" can be a bad thing. There, an atmosphere of 96% carbon dioxide has created a hellish greenhouse effect. The temperatures of 860 F at the surface are hot enough to melt lead. There's not too much life there!

I understand this site purports to be a scientifically based unbiased site. But I would think the fact that Venus is quite a bit closer to the sun would account for most of the difference in temperature. Also, the difference of a water vapor atmosphere affecting planetary shading would secondarily affect the temperature difference much more than the CO2 level. Even Al Gore admitted in sworn testimony to the U.S. congress water vapor is the main green house gas. In fact more than 95% of greenhouse gas is water vapor. So maybe we should be more concerned about the amount of water on the planet. I suppose then water should be classified a pollutant as well.

The following excerpt comes from the same site:

Webster's also has the definition: "to contaminate (an environment) esp. with man-made waste." Carbon dioxide is a waste gas produced by fossil fuel combustion, so can be classified as man-made waste.

To follow that logic one could argue as follows: Men plant crops. These human planted crops produce oxygen as a waste product. Oxygen is already at 21% in the atmosphere (many times higher than carbon dioxide). Therefore oxygen should also be regulated by the government as a pollutant.

This site also argues in so many words that we should immediately dismiss any points raised by any party having a financial interest in a side to an argument. So, any argument coming from the farmers who profit from this business should be completely dismissed and they should have no voice in the argument. Of course they also fail to point out that billions dollars of funding go climate research organizations that depend on the ongoing portrayal of an impending crisis to stay in business. Therefore, any "non profit" or government sponsored research organization should be immediately suspect. Keep in mind that "non-profit" doesn't mean that those running the organizations are not paid handsomely.

If these sites want to be taken as scientifically valid then the silly arguments should stop. Real science requires the use of scientific method. Man made global warming is a theory. In order to be a scientific fact it must be validated scientifically. By the way, consensus is not scientific method. At one time the consensus was that the earth was the center of the universe. Scientific method proved that to be incorrect. So far scientific method has not proven that man's activity has caused any harmful global warming. Temperature data has been tampered with by those with salary to be earned by continuing the portrayal of crisis. The number of sampling stations have been reduced dramatically. The reductions have been heavily biased toward removing the sites reading lower temperatures. The reduction produces the perception of a warming trend. Even with all that tampering there has been a cooling trend since 1998 event though the CO2 level has continued to rise.

Climate changes continually. It has changed dramatically before man lived on the planet. It has been warmer than the present if you go back more that the tiny 150 period many site. That is minuscule by geological standards. Imagine looking outside and observing the darkness has increased from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM and extrapolating how dark it is likely to be in 60 days. There is a light to dark cycle that repeats every 24 hours so any trend must be many times that to be meaningful. Similarly, there are cycles of around 800 years in geological history where we go from very warm to very cold and back again. Look at the temperatures over a few thousand years to see a trend. We are within the range of normal. Imagine the arrogance of someone declaring a specific temperature arbitrarily plucked from 150 years ago as being more ideal than the present temperature.

Let's focus on reducing real pollution and real waste. Let's promote the use of natural gas as a bridge fuel to cut current levels of pollution in half. Let's promote the use of nuclear energy that produces a very small amount of waste material that reduces naturally to equal the background radiation level in around 100 years more or less and does not produce CO2. Let's continue to research and develop wind, solar and geothermal energy sources to the point that they are financially feasible. Let's not fall for the carbon trading schemes that put money in the pockets of people portraying a crisis for the purpose of becoming personally wealthy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bloom Box - Power of the future?

Bloom Box was featured on 60 Minutes last night. This was a very interesting presentation. Fuel cells have been around since the 1800's but no one has managed to produce a practical fuel cell for mass production consumer and routine corporate use. The closest to meeting that in the past were Ballard Power of Canada(NASDAQ:BLDP) and Fuelcell Energy Inc. (NASDAQ:FCEL) Ballard has sold off most of the technology for automotive fuel cells to the auto industry. They still produce products for backup power use in telephone offices and computer server farms and larger more complex units for hospital power and heat. Fuel Cell Energy is focused on large industrial sized applications only.

Bloom a Sunnyvale California privately held company is aiming for the home consumer as well as small and large business. They are targeting $2000 for a refrigerator sized home unit to power the standard U.S. household needs. This would likely be connected to the city gas mains or absent that option a propane tank at the customer site.

There is a lot to be said for being independent of power lines and substations for the powering your home or business. I don't remember a single occasion in the last ten years the gas has been out. Unfortunately, I can not say as much for the A/C power. This would also be a great improvement for the environment as it would supplant a great deal of coal produced electricity. In some cases bio gases from decaying land fill contents can be used to power these devices. This gas would otherwise vent to the atmosphere unused.

Bloom already has an impressive list of industrial customers actually using the "beta" form of the boxes. The current cost of these boxes is between $700,000 and $800,000 for industrial size units. EBay is using eight of the units to supply 15% of their electricity from bio gas and have reported saving upwards of $100,000 per year.

Only time will tell if the price of the units can be brought down to practical levels for in the home use.

The first official public announcement of this product is coming shortly so check back for updates.

In the mean time the video below features the Bloom Energy founder K.R. Sridhar in a 60 Minutes interview.

I'm sorry the video is no longer available.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wind Turbines

Windmills power generators or wind turbines are usable over a large area of the U.S. if the right type of mill and the right mounting is used. Areas that have a high average wind rate are the easiest though. An average wind speed of 12 MPH or higher insures good power. Wind turbines complement solar panel power because the turbine will often produce the most power on blustery days when the solar panels put out a little less. Many times the windmills will also produce in the dark when the solar panels are complete idle.

There are two basic types of wind turbines and several verities within those two categories. These are the Horizontal Axis (HAWT) and the Vertical Axis (VAWT).

Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines

The horizontal axis windmill is much more common. Examples include the Dutch irrigation windmills and the water pumping windmills commonly seen in the plains states in the central and southwest parts of the U.S. The horizontal axis wind turbine (HAWT) properly designed and sited is more efficient in generating power from the total cross section of air that flows through the space encompassed by the blade rotation. The trade off is complexity and expense of the supporting structure. The HAWT needs to be 35 feet above any trees, hills or other structures within a 100 foot radius. This can add quite a bit of cost to the initial installation. Also, the high tower can make maintenance more difficult. These windmills need precision balancing because of the high rotational speed. The blades cut through the air at a faster rate than the wind speed because of the twist in the blades. There is a lifting effect somewhat like an airplane wing provides. In this case the lift pushes the blades around in a circle. Another issue is the wind changes direction and the HAWt windmill has a facing direction. There is usually a tail that drags in the wind and causes the wind turbine to rotate left or right to where it makes best use of the available wind. This means there are actually two axles. One for the spinning blades and one for the orientation. Usually there is a concern that the windmill will turn too fast during high winds and some dampening must be provided to prevent the mill from excessive vibration and torque that could destroy it. This is remedied by a process called furling.

Vertical Axis Wind Turbines

Generally, the vertical axis wind turbine works by creating a drag on the wind flowing across the blades. The radial speed never exceeds the wind speed. This makes the VAWT quieter. Also the balance is a little less critical. This type of generator works by having higher drag in one rotational direction than in the other. It turns out the drag type of windmill peaks in efficiency well below the maximum wind speed. There is little concern of it spinning out of control. Also the VAWT can take advantage of wind from any horizontal direction. This means that even during turbulent winds power is still available. Several of these factors make the Vertical Axis Wind Turbine more practical for the home experimenter. Especially for the first one or two attempts. An easy type to build at home is based on a design by an inventor named Savonius. This type can be build from PVC pipe or discarded buckets or barrels. The circular material is cut in half forming two half circles. The ends of the half circle materials are then mounted between two disks forming the top and bottom. The two halves should be mounted with the open sides facing and offset so there is about 1/3 of the circle overlapping. This allows the air to flow into one curve and pass through the center and out the other curved side. This provides rotational push and increases efficiency compared to having no overlap. This arrangement also helps with the start up of the spin. Even better you can stack another set of pipes or buckets and one more disk to have two blade sets on a common axis. The second set should be mounted 90 degrees around from the first set. This allows the start up to occur in lower wind speeds.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are we at the mercy of China?

It seems the proceedings are being held up at Copenhagen because China is refusing to allow third party verification of their CO2 emissions. Since China is one of the largest users of coal to generate electricity that makes me a little suspicious. If they are not cooperative the rest of the world will not be able to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Has Global Warming gone away?

Have you noticed the references to “Global Warming” have greatly reduced of late. Perhaps our arguments are starting to have some effect on the thinking public. One would be hard pressed to say that “Global Warming” is a threat with the cooling trend that has lasted now over ten years and is showing no sign of reversal in the near future. The most recent peak in temperature was 1998 - eleven years ago. So the great panic that our destruction is eminent because of the constant warming of the atmosphere is not a tenable argument. The CO2 levels have not decreased during the 11 year decline in temperature so this should lead to immediate doubt that the CO2 is the cause.

Admittedly, this is a fairly short period but one of the problems I have pointed out with the alarmists theories is the cherry picking of a relative brief time in global history and projection from that. Exploring further, we can go back to the heart of the industrial revolution and we find the temperature dropped for 35 years there too. This was during the period the industrial air pollution was at it’s highest. So the period of focus by the “Global Warming” alarmists - about 150 years has several periods comprising a large percentage of the total where the temperature is not following the CO2 levels.

The NASA probes on Mars have detected warming periods similar to those observed on earth. Obviously, there is no industrial pollution causing “Global Warming” on Mars.

The science indicates the source of heat - the sun - varies in the amount of heat that it supplies to the earth. This fact is conspicuously absent the in the alarmists “science”. There is no adjustment factor or allowance to subtract out the solar changes. If one looks at the sun cycles that are traceable with ice core samples there are cycles of near 800 years carrying the largest temperature swings. There are smaller sub cycles during these intervals that are 100 years and less. Looking at the 800 year cycles it is obvious that we are currently near a peak. The exact year could easily vary two or three decades because of the smaller cycles.

Rather than admitting that the theory of man made global warming is a mistake some will just change the argument. They will now say “Climate Change” not “Global Warming”. I think the fact that the term “Global Warming” is declining is evidence that the tide is turning away from the alarmists.

Let’s be true environmentalists and fight real pollution. Let’s find ways to reduce wasteful energy consumption. Let’s not waste time and money with useless carbon capture and “cap and trade” that does not reduce pollution but does increase waste, poverty and joblessness.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It is great to see Ford is getting on board well with higher MPG cars. The 2010 Fusion gets 41 MPG in the city. That’s not bad for a midsize car that can easily carry 5 people. It uses hybrid technology. There is electrical motor propulsion that is used at lower city driving speeds and then at highway speeds the gasoline motor takes over. The battery is also charged from the gasoline motor and there is no provision for plugging into home electrical power. So, sometime into your city drive the gasoline motor may come on to charge the battery. Ford provided a demonstration drive in the north eastern United States to demonstrate the effect of the new technology. They target driving over 1000 miles on a single tank of gasoline. I understand the tank holds about 17 U.S. gallons. The expert drivers drove the unmodified production Fusion for several days and ended up going over 1400 miles on that single tank of gasoline. That put them well over 80 MPG. Of course they used fuel saving techniques such as driving with the windows closed and not using heating or air conditioning. Still the point was well made.

I have generally purchased from Fords competitors (not GM or Chrysler, either) because of quality concerns but they seem to have overcome much of that problem. I have read there is a $1700 tax credit if you buy before October 2009.

It is good to see a U.S. based company in the lead again with some cars. I hope this will continues. We need to reduce the consumption of foreign oil and we need to put less pollution into the environment. This is in my view a good bridge technology to migrate to full electrical propulsion. I believe the plug in version will be available as soon as the battery technology for cars catches up.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dihydrogen Oxide Worse than Carbon Dioxide?

In case you are curious, Dihydrogen Oxide is the chemical name for water. Even Mr. CO2 himself - Al Gore - testified before congress that the primary green house gas is water vapor. About 97% of green house gas is water vapor. Of the remaining 3% carbon dioxide is a substantial portion. The so called man made contribution makes up a single digit percentage of the CO2. Declaring carbon dioxide a pollutant is no more scientific than delcaring common water a polutant.

“Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. On the contrary, it makes crops and forests grow faster. Economic analysis has demonstrated that more CO2 and a warmer climate will raise GNP and therefore average income. It’s axiomatic that bureaucracies always want to expand their scope of operations. This is especially true of EPA, which is primarily a regulatory agency. As air and water pollution disappear as prime issues, as acid rain and stratospheric-ozone depletion fade from public view, climate change seems like the best growth area for regulators. It has the additional glamour of being international and therefore appeals to those who favor world governance over national sovereignty. Therefore, labeling carbon dioxide, the product of fossil-fuel burning, as a pollutant has a high priority for EPA as a first step in that direction.” - S. Fred Singer, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

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