Global Warming – The Eloquent Engineer

In today’s politically charged environment, we are increasingly confronted with people supporting their particular agenda with misinformation and distortion. This form of dialog has reared its ugly head in our politics, in our schools, and even in the slightest interaction with strangers. Commentaries printed on the opinion pages of my local newspaper the last few weeks are prime examples of this rising epidemic of global hot air. The authors are not interested in reason, logic, or facts, just in pursuing points for their particular political viewpoint without regard for the absurdity of their argument or the results if they are wrong. 

Recently, the East Valley Tribune’s editorial board cherry-picked from a ruling by British High Court Judge Michael Burton concerning Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. It seems the good judge was asked by a part-time school official to prevent the film from being shown to English secondary school children. The judge agreed with the science and decided to allow it to be shown but with some reservations. It is from these that the Tribune quoted out of context and touted as proof the whole idea of global warming is false. Right in the middle of this nonsense, they slide in propaganda from the Competitive Enterprise Institute[1] thereby giving respectability to CEI misinformation by associating it with this English judge. CEI is a conservative think tank funded by Exxon Mobil, Philip Morris, General Motors, and Pfizer, just to name a few, whose main purpose is to promote corporate interests and gut government regulations. When I read articles like this, I want to scream at the top of my lungs for people to do their own research. Do not rely on others to tell it to you straight. We all have an agenda. Find out what it is. 

As to why my local Tribune editorial board is carrying water for these folks is beyond me, but one thing is clear, their commentaries on climate change have nothing of real substance in them, just more of the same denial, delusion, and deception that puts everyone’s future at risk. Here are a few indisputable facts that every reader should check: The world pumps 85,000,000 barrels of oil out of the ground every day, most of it is refined and burned, releasing its carbon into our atmosphere. We mine over 5,000,000,000 tons of coal every year worldwide. The world annually extracts over 82,000,000,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas and burns it.[2] At the same time, our planet is losing an average of 32,000,000 acres of forests a year, an area larger than the state of Mississippi. What took the Earth several billion years to contain, we are releasing into our environment almost overnight, where, according to the Tribune and the CEI, it does nothing.  

However, on the off chance that all this human activity is affecting the climate, they put forth the laughable claim that it will benefit the world to warm it up just a bit. On the one hand they say global warming is simply Gore’s hype and on the other, that a warmer climate will be beneficial. Which is it? Resorting to simple facts, the Southwest is in the midst of a 13-year drought, Georgia is looking an environmental disaster square in the face, the Great Lakes are shrinking[3], the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain snowpacks are in decline, and these folks want me to believe this is good? Perhaps Canada will benefit from longer growing seasons but not here in Arizona where each year we break the previous year’s record temperatures. The summer of 2007 was not only the hottest on record, we eclipsed the number of 110 degree days and now, well into November, we are still in the 90’s, another record.

I sincerely hope the CEI is right, that global warming is a fad that will go the way of pet rocks and mood rings, but I seriously doubt it. The haze over the Valley of the Sun comes and goes as it disperses into the atmosphere but it does not cease to exist simply because I can no longer see it. Common sense dictates that the incredible amount of hydrocarbons we are dumping into our atmosphere day after day, year after year, decade after decade, must eventually have some affect, and it is probably bad. If the CEI and the Tribune are wrong, and we do nothing to slow and eventually reverse global climate change, then we are witnessing the first stages of our beautiful green world turning into an endless desert. If, however, they are right but we still commit to doing what a virtually unanimous majority of climate scientists insist is necessary, we end up with clean air and water, oceans that will sustain a global society, and arable land in which to grow food and forests. Is this so bad?

CEI would have you believe our economy would suffer if we demanded clean energy but nothing could be further from the truth. Research, development, and deployment of these technologies worldwide will stimulate America’s economy, not stifle it. Done properly, corporate profits may take a hit in the short run but over the long haul, they will thrive. More importantly, the people who make up the corporations and their customers will live in a world worth living in. Regardless of the fate of short-term corporate profits, we must look past the end of our noses and straight into the eyes of our children and grandchildren. In a hundred years, will they curse us, or thank us? Perhaps a better question, will they exist at all?

On their website,CEI advocates allowing the corporations producing our electricity to voluntarily cleanup their emissions. They do not want laws, or regulations, or government bureaucrats looking over their shoulder. Ohio faced this same situation last century when Cleveland businesses became infamous for polluting the Cuyahoga River.[4] At the time, limited government controls proved inadequate in protecting the environment. You can bet there were the 19th century equivalents of CEI saying not to worry, that forcing them to clean up their act would put them out of business. As a result, over the next 100 years, the river caught fire 10 times, in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, 1948, 1952, and in 1969. I quote from a 1969 newspaper article:  

“Some River! Chocolate-brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gases, it oozes rather than flows. Anyone who falls into the Cuyahoga does not drown, he decays,”Cleveland’s citizens joke grimly. The Federal Water Pollution Control Administration dryly notes, “The lower Cuyahoga has no visible signs of life, not even low forms such as leeches and sludge worms that usually thrive on wastes. It is also — literally — a fire hazard.” 

Only after the fire in 1969 was something finally done, and it took the power of government by the people, for the people, to do it. This Republican administration has repeatedly demonstrated that it would like to return to the good ol’ days of limited government interference. This is reckless and suicidal. Business, big or small, will not self-regulate. History has shown this time after time. We end up with rivers on fire, or Love Canal, or mines caving-in, or bridges collapsing, etc. etc. etc. There must be balance between governmental oversight and economic freedom. 

To make matters worse, the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2007 reports that the world’s energy needs will increase by over 50% by 2030.[5] They describe a future dominated by global warming and crippled by severe energy shortages, a lethal combination. We are not only poisoning our atmosphere with dangerous gasses, we are quickly reaching a point where supply will not meet demand regardless of what we are willing to sacrifice in the name of economics. In the decades to come, we must prepare for the time when oil and coal are no longer available and, at the same time, protect our environment. This is a global struggle worthy of our best effort. 

Last month, an answer to this growing dilemma came from a surprising source. According to a report commissioned by the Pentagon’s National Security Space Office,[6] solar power satellites beaming energy down from orbital space could solve the coming energy crisis while reining in global warming. Beaming solar power from satellites is not a new idea. It has been around since the Apollo program. In 1975, NASA demonstrated the technical feasibility of using microwaves to beam power.[7] With oil approaching $100 a barrel, what once was expensive pie-in-the-sky has become financially attractive. The Pentagon’s report goes on to say it is a matter of national security and recommends the US government sponsor projects to demonstrate the technology and provide financial incentives for further development. It recommends investing $10 billion over the next 10 years to build a test satellite capable of beaming 10 megawatts of electrical power down to Earth. That is what the Iraq War costs every two weeks. 

For perspective, Palo Verde[8] is the largest nuclear energy generating facility in the United States. It is located about 50 miles west of Phoenix in Tonopah, Arizona. It sits on about 4,000 acres and employs over 2,000 people. Construction began in 1976 and was completed in 1988 at the total cost of $5.9 billion. Palo Verde supplies 3.2 gigawatts of power to about 4 million people in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. (note:1000 MW = 1 GW) 

The Pentagon’s proposal is just for a 10MW pilot plant to prove the technical feasibility and develop the infrastructure that this program will ultimately require. The report envisions a constellation of scaled-up fully-operational power satellites each capable of supplying 5 GW of electricity to our nation’s energy grid. They estimate we will need about 70 of these to supply baseload energy just for the United States. This is a humongous undertaking that will ultimately free us from the cradle of humanity, giving us access to the vast resources of space. There is no doubt we should develop wind and ground based solar power but the sun is the only sustainable source large enough to replace the burning of hydrocarbons and Space Based Solar Power is the only realistic way of harvesting this energy.

Google this for yourself. It makes sense.


[1] Competitive Enterprise Institute

A non-profit public policy organization dedicated to advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited government. We believe that individuals are best helped not by government intervention, but by making their own choices in a free marketplace. Since its founding in 1984, CEI has grown into a $3,000,000 institution with a team of over 20 policy experts and other staff. (from their website)

http://www.cei.org/sections/section.cfm?section=1

[2] World Energy Production and Consumption Statistics

http://energy.cr.usgs.gov/energy/stats_ctry/Stat1.html

[3] Global warming is shrinking the Great Lakes30 May 2007, NewScientist.com news service, Jessica Marshall, Duluth

[4] Cuyahoga River Fire

http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=1642

[5] World Energy Outlook Sounds the Alarm

Oxford Analytica 11.08.07

[6] Space-Based Solar Power as an Opportunity for Strategic Security

10 Oct 2007, Report to the Director, National Security Space Office, Interim Assessment Release 0.1

http://spacesolarpower.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/final-sbsp-interim-assessment-release__01.pdf

[7] Wireless Power TransmissionOn June 5, 1975, NASA successfully beamed 34,000 watts (34 kw) of power from the Goldstone Dish over 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) to a JPL-built rectenna on the Goldstone collimator tower on a nearby ridge – at more than 82% efficiency. Watch this 2 minute Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd47JXuz0g8

[8] Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant

http://phoenix.about.com/cs/utilities/a/paloverde.htm


Comments

Global Warming – The Eloquent Engineer — 3 Comments

  1. I would like to dedicate to all of you the following lines, courtesy of the film : “The Matrix”

    It’s from that part of the movie where Morpheus is captured – handcuffed and being questioned by agent Smith :

    [Agent Smith]: “I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals.
    Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not.
    You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area.
    There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern.
    Do you know what it is?
    A virus.”

  2. I think of this phenomena more as bacteria and the Earth is our petri dish. But you are right, life is evolved to survive and that means making babies. Only humans have become so successful at this endeavor, our petri dish is beginning to bulge at the seems.

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