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playing with methane hydrate deposits

“This is not the first time this research team has extracted methane from gas hydrates. In 2002 they drilled down at the Mallik site and heated the gas hydrates to bring methane to the surface. Using heat required a large input of energy. In this experiment they lowered the pressure of the gas hydrates. Lowering the pressure for extraction required significantly less energy than heating.

“Scott Dallimore, with Natural Resources Canada and chief Canadian scientist for the program, said the results of the Mallik tests were promising.

“ "A sustained flow (of methane) was observed," he said.”

“The Japanese are interested in tapping undersea gas hydrate reserves off their coast, but they must first find out if it is economically feasible. The Mallik site is of interest to them because it is easier and cheaper to research the gas hydrates from the surface.

“Dallimore said this was only early research, and it could be years before it is ever determined if gas hydrates are economically and environmentally feasible as an energy source.

“As a fuel, methane is much cleaner burning than gasoline or oil. If countries like Japan could tap into gas hydrates they could significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

“However, methane gas can release naturally from certain permafrost environments and on its own it is a potent greenhouse gas that is 21 times more active than carbon dioxide.

“ "We need to undertake long-term research and development and quantify the amount of gas hydrates in the Delta if we want to realize the commercial potential," said Dallimore. "We also must address environmental issues including the processes controlling methane release in the natural environment." ”

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methane hydrates

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a diesel tree!

“Mr Jubow said a large mature tree would yield about 40 litres of diesel a year, which equated to about 12,000 litres per hectare of trees.

“ "It becomes astonishingly viable for a farmer to have a piece of his most productive land to get the tree up and running and then he can be independent from the fuel companies for the rest of his life," he said.

“They are known to produce fuel for 70 years.

“While the fuel cannot be stored for more than a few months it can be tapped.

“But even if it is left too long, it thickens into copaiba oil, which is used in alternative medicines and fetches around $100 a litre in the United States.

“And at the end of the tree's life, it can be milled to produce a light brown timber favoured by cabinet makers.”

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another solar energy approach

“coolearth solar energy plants consist of inflated mirror concentrators which gather sunlight and focus it onto photovoltaic cells. These concentrators [...] cost orders of magnitude less per collected area than conventional mirrors.”

“By suspending the concentrators, vast areas of land can be easily converted for solar energy production, with limited environmental impact. The ground beneath the concentrators remains free for other uses, such as farming or ranching.”

Map showing area need for 'full' solar energy production worldwide. Credit: coolearth
Note that the efficiency rating for such a solar farm is not specified.

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incremental improvements in farming increasing biodiesel returns (soybean sourced)

“A new analysis shows that the energy balance of biodiesel is a positive ratio of 3.5-to-1. For every unit of fossil energy needed to produce the fuel over its life cycle, the return is 3.5 units of energy, according to new research conducted at the University of Idaho in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The announcement of the increase - up from 3.2 - was made today at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Orlando.

“The Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and USDA had produced the first comprehensive life cycle inventory for biodiesel in 1998. That landmark research found a 3.2 energy balance for biodiesel, while petroleum diesel yielded only 0.83 units of energy per unit of fossil energy consumed. The many changes that have occurred in the U.S. biodiesel and agricultural industries since the 1990s prompted researchers at the University of Idaho to update the study in cooperation with the USDA. Both the 1998 and 2007 study are based on biodiesel production from soybeans, which according to U.S. Census data is responsible for more than 80 percent of 2007 estimated biodiesel production. Biodiesel’s energy balance improved in the 2007 study even though the new analysis is more comprehensive than previous work, and even extends to the energy required to manufacture the farm machinery used to produce soybeans.”

“The researchers found national soybean yield data from 1975 to 2006 shows that the yield has increased at the rate of 0.6 bushels per acre per year. Yet, the fertilizer application rate has essentially remained the same and the herbicide application rate has declined to one-fifth of its rate in 2000. Reduced herbicide applications have the added benefit of requiring less diesel for field spraying.

“At the processing level, technology improvements at soybean crushing facilities led to 55 percent less energy needed than what was reported in the NREL study [...]”

At the bottom of this Biodiesel Conference blog entry is an audio interview with Jon Van Gerpen from Idaho University, who headed this research. In this interview, Van Gerpen forsees the gain rising to about 3.9:1 when 2007-2008 database figures are included.

Biodiesel-fueled car from Idaho University
Biodiesel-fueled car from Idaho University

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how to deal with a century’s uk high-level radio-active waste - build a windmill ...

.... and bury it underneath J

“Contrary to environmentalists’ claims, Britain is not overwhelmed with radioactive waste and has no radioactive waste ‘problem’.

“By 2040 there will be a total of 2,000 cubic metres of the most radioactive high-level waste (9), which would fit in a 13 x 13 x 13 metre hole - about the size of the foundations for one small wind turbine.”

From a useful item for educating watermelons.

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replacing fossil fuels: the scale of the problem

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another nuclear protestor does her research and converts

“[...] Gwyneth Cravens, a novelist, journalist and former nuke protester. Her new book, Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, is a passionate plea to understand, instead of fear, atomic power.

“Her conclusion? Every day spent burning coal for power translates into damaged lungs and ecosystem destruction. If the world wants to keep plugging in big-screen TVs and iPods, it needs a steady source of power. Wind and solar can't produce the "base-load" (or everyday) steady supply needed, and the only realistic -- and safe -- alternative is nuclear.”

  • “A family in four in France, where they reprocess nuclear fuel, would produce only enough waste to fit in a coffee cup over a whole lifetime. A lifetime of getting all your electricity from coal-fired plants would make a single person's share of solid waste (in the United States) 68 tons, which would require six 12-ton railroad cars to haul away. Your share of CO2 would be 77 tons.”

  • “The nuclear navy has operated more than 250 reactors since the 1950s, and they have never had an incident involving a release from a reactor. This is because (naval nuclear chief Adm. Hyman) Rickover ensured that every individual was considered accountable.

    “When Three Mile Island happened, and there was a commission held to investigate why it happened, Rickover basically said you need to do things the way we do in the nuclear navy. The nuclear utilities and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission took that advice to heart.

    “If you just leave a reactor alone, it will shut itself down. If a reactor doesn't have enough water, it will shut itself down. Humans probably do make mistakes, but they have tried to make these reactors as human-proof as possible, and I think everyone has learned from Three Mile Island.”

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interesting summary of generation of nuclear power - ‘split an atom, save a tree’

“[...] The average cost of producing nuclear energy in the United States is less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, comparable to coal and hydroelectric.”

And, of course, without the externalised filth of coal.

5 pages and diagrams:
page 2 page 3
page 4

“Our whole approach is that you don't construct a reactor, you assemble it," Kadak says. "Think about LEGOs: You just clip them together." This could shorten construction time to as little as two years; if a part breaks, the module containing it could be replaced quickly. Kadak envisions small 250-megawatt reactors, with additional units added to meet demand, making the initial cost lower than that of current 1000-megawatt giants.

“Starting next year, both China and South Africa intend to build full-scale prototype pebble beds based on a design developed in Germany in the 1960s. However, the concept being considered in Idaho will produce hotter gas. "The Chinese and South African reactors will be close to 1550 F," says Weaver, who is coordinating the pebble-bed program in Idaho, "and we want 1650 to 1830 F. Those 100 degrees can make a huge difference." The extra heat will run the electricity-generating turbines more efficiently, and--crucially--meet the threshold for efficiently generating hydrogen from water.

“Hydrogen is currently produced from natural gas by a process called steam reformation, which releases 74 million tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. As a cleaner alternative, researchers are trying to figure out the best way to split the H from H2O. A team at Idaho National Lab recently showed that electrolysis--using electricity to split the water molecule--is nearly twice as efficient at the high temperatures made possible by a pebble-bed reactor.”

page 5

“Nuclear weapons are no longer inextricably linked to power plants. Centrifuge technology now allows nations to produce weapons-grade plutonium without a reactor. Iran's nuclear weapons threat, for instance, is distinct from peaceful nuclear energy.

“Nuclear reactors offer a practical path to the hydrogen economy. Excess heat from the plants, instead of fossil fuels, can be used for electrolysis. It also can address the increasing shortage of fresh water through desalinization.

“Together with a combination of solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric sources, nuclear energy can play a key role in producing safe, clean, reliable baseload electricity.”

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