Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Natural vs. Unnatural Gas

There’s gas and there’s gasoline and then there are gaseous elements such as Oxygen, Helium, Hydrogen, Neon and Nitrogen and there are gaseous compounds such as Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Sulfur Dioxide and Methane. And that brings us to our current interest: Natural Gas.

Methane is the main component of natural gas and in its pure state is said to be nontoxic, abundant with a clean burning process.

So what’s all the current fuss about natural gas not being a truly “green” fuel?

Ok, a short reminder of what “a green fuel” is. The general meaning of Green Energy is energy that is produced in a manner that has less of an undesirable impact on the ecology or environment of the earth than do more harmful energy sources like the fossil fuels, coal oil and gas.

The “greener” energy forms are solar, wind, geothermal and most important and cleanest – hydropower.

So the argument for natural gas being a cleaner or greener form of energy turns out to be one of degree. In other words, as we will see, natural gas (NG) is only somewhat cleaner than the other fossil fuels.

Examples: When burned NG produces 29% less carbon dioxide than oil and 44% less than coal. When it comes to sulfur dioxide NG is 1,122 times cleaner than oil and 2,591 times cleaner than coal. But NG only appears green when compared to the other fossil sources. Actually it burns cleaner than the others BUT IT IS NOT CLEAN!.

And then there are always greenhouse gasses (GHGs) to consider. NG produces less of them than coal or oil but it still emits a large amount of the GHGs also. As one expert in Otego, New York pointed out, “Burning as much as possible of something producing relatively less GHGs is not the best way to reduce GHGs.” True enough

There are lot of concerned voices out there and among them are Stan Cox who in writing for CommonDreams.com has said, among other meaningful things, “Holding out the prospect of vast new domestic resources, the natural gas industry is promising to make the United States an energy-rich nation once again. But we should be careful what we wish for. Spending those riches could endanger water supplies for millions of Americans while still failing to solve the climate crisis.”

In other words natural gas is not the natural candidate to clean up the atmosphere and the planet.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hydro Today

Anyone who has followed our writings in the past year or so is aware of our almost fierce dedication to the cause of replacing all the fuels that criminally pollute our air, water and lands with power generated by the flow of clean reusable water.

One might also remember that our reverence for ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau knows no bounds and would remind everyone that the words pollution and saccage had new meanings due in part to his use of them.

We have also bombarded our readers with statistics galore: Water covers 70-75% of the earth; 3% of the earth’s water is fresh but only about half of that is available – the rest tied up in glaciers; 97% of the earth’s water is salt (brackish) the rest usable; only 1% of the earth’s water is drinkable, etc, etc, etc.

As a result of these statistics and a lot more, the question arises as to how can water be the answer to our fossil fuel generation pollution, including clean air, water and land if so little is available?

The answer is – it can with a lot of serious and continuous efforts on the part of humanity all around the world.

An example is in Africa, part of the so-called third world. Africa is a major area in which there is not enough clean water for children to drink resulting in abysmal infant and child death rates. In that same continent there are a number of huge waterfalls that could be “tamed” and made to generate millions of kilowatts of power which in turn could be used in to generate clean water – life saving water so badly needed today.

The desalination of water – also a subject of earlier writings – is another source of clean water – unlike hydropower developed by flowing or falling water. To desalinate (remove the salt from) sea water great amounts of heat are required and that heat is developed by burning of a fuel such as oil or natural gas. Fortunately coal is not used for desalination because sources of coal are not found close to the seacoasts.

We can, and will, go into the details of how unclean water is made safe to drink and use. There are a number of processes used and the history of their development and regularly improved use is one of the 20-21st century’s inspiring stories.

For now, we can all agree that clean water, clean hydropower and resulting clean ecology are certainties when the best efforts of humanity are put to their development and growth.

The Hydro Folks, as we have come to be known, are an expanding group and having more and more to say about relieving the fossil fuels of their burden very soon!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More on the Oxymoron

The oxymoron, just so we’re clear, is defined as “a figure of speech in which two contradictory terms appear together for emphasis.” An example: “deafening silence.”

Here we have applied the term to Clean Coal and with very good reason.

We say this in spite of (or perhaps because of) the recent rash of “clean coal” commercials being aired on TV and radio – using actors with very calm and reassuring voices. There is an awful lot of coal out there and we are supposed to believe it is the answer to using imported oil!

If it could be burned without polluting the air and ground it would be a serious answer the ecological and political problems connected to Arabian (Mideast) oil.

But it can’t. Why?

Well, look at what coal is made up of. Depending on the type of coal, its carbon content is between 70% and 92%. And it’s that carbon which is released into the atmosphere polluting not just the air but ground and water as well.

Well, there are a lot of people who cares less about coal’s impact on our ecology and our children’s future health than they do about the fact that coal is plentiful and cheap (maybe not so much) and that coal is the major fuel used for the generation of “cheap” electricity.

And the coal industry has been busy selling the “goodness of clean coal.”

So listen to David DiMartino, spokesman for the Clean Energy Works campaign who says, ”The coal industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars misrepresenting what they do and the health effects on the American People” (Italics ours)

CEW campaign is a coalition of about 60 environmental groups, labor unions, religious organizations and veterans groups that want climate legislation. “It’s hard to believe anything they say when they’ve been caught using phony people and they’ve been caught writing phony letters.”

Josh Dorner with the Sierra Club points out the environmental as well as health costs to using coal: “They pretend to have an easy, no-cost solution to all of our problems,” he said. “If you say that there’s a solution to something and there’s absolutely no cost, that’s not very genuine. There are tons of hidden costs.” ” When you realize the true cost of coal, it’s not the cheapest resource,” he added

And that’s our case for today. And tomorrow