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January 17, 2007

A 5 minute rant on “alternative fuels.”

The Gaia hypothesis is an ecological theory that proposes that the living matter of planet Earth functions like a single organism. It was first scientifically formulated in the 1960s by the independent research scientist James Lovelock, as a consequence of his work for NASA on methods of detecting life on Mars.

There is a new book by Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia, which I shall be reviewing one of these days. But . . . critical to the arguments about global warming, one of its foremost proponents takes on the Al Gores of the world. (I love it!) A caveat is necessary however. I do not believe in "man made global warming."

The author believes that Nuclear power as the only answer to the problem . . . inasmuch as we can (he acknowledges) contribute only partially to the amelioration of an otherwise natural occurrence.

I shall paraphrase one extended passages:

An outstanding advantage of nuclear over fossil fuel energy is how easy it is to deal with the waste it produces. Fossil fuels produce enough carbon dioxide that, if solidified, would create a mountain a mile high with a circumference of 12 miles. The same amount of energy produced by nuclear fission would generate a sixteen-meter cube. (In more understandable parlance, the nuclear waste could be hauled away in about 25 moving vans . . . the carbon would take about 625,000 moving vans. The math is mine, and approximate.)

Continuing . . . to supply England’s present electricity would require 276,000 windmills—three per square mile if parks, suburban and industrial areas were excluded—and would function only 25% of the time, meaning that 75% of the power would still have to be made by fossil fuel burning. Even when the windmills were working the power plants would have to be on standby, idling.

As for bio fuels he notes that if they were used only for fuel for land vehicles, ships and aircraft, it would require two to three gigatons of carbon. Our current yearly food consumption is about a fourth to a sixth of that amount (half a gigaton), and requires more than half of the productive land on the planet. That is, we’d need the land area of several earths just to grow the bio fuel. “How can we expect Gaia to manage the Earth if we try to take the rest of the land for fuel production?”

Nuclear fuel is far less dangerous than any of the alternatives, and it is about time we decided to do what is necessary. Even the author allows that this is part of Earth’s natural cycle, and that our output simply aggravates the problem. If we are to be serious about the situation, it is time for serious people to discuss rational alternatives, avoiding the kooks like Gore.

Posted by respeto at January 17, 2007 2:29 PM