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Power to the People

ViestiLähetetty: 02.09.2009 17:33
Kirjoittaja Antti Roine
Energy conservation and climate change are now in fashion. Typically, common sense and fashion seldom have anything to do with each other. This is also the case with energy conservation and climate change.

We need energy to convert our good ideas into reality, in form of jobs, schools, medicines, houses, food, art, culture, or any kind of material or emotional wellbeing. This is a plain fact. Conserving energy and raising energy prices make no sense, because they imply a general increase in prices, poverty, and unemployment.

The improvement of energy efficiency is a meaningful activity, of course, but it is simply not enough on its own. Today half of the energy is used by the richest one-sixth of the world's population. The global energy demand will be at least tripled if the remaining 5,500 million poor people want to achieve our standard of living. In addition, the world's population is growing at a rate of 80 million every year.

We will also need a great deal more energy to mitigate damage from climate change. This is a fact, whether climate change is due to human activity or not. The latest evidence shows that the Earth's climate is constantly changing; since continuous change seems to be the normal state of nature. These changes have created and destroyed huge empires within history of the mankind. Actually, we should be talking about the temperature change of the oceans, because they control the climate - and there is 260 times more seawater than air on the Earth.

Many climate activists believe that the temperature of the atmosphere and the acidity of the oceans rise due to carbon dioxide in air. The truth may, however, be the other way round. Ice cream consumption increases at warm weather in the summer time, but still the ice cream is not the cause or the reason of the warm weather.

Several times within the past million years the seawater temperature has began to rise BEFORE the similar growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane concentrations. The temperature changes may be due to changes in solar activity but also variations in Earth's orbit, rotation and axis, as well as geothermal activity changes, must have effect on climate. Of course, the huge amounts of energy which we have released from coal, oil, uranium and bio-fuels must have heated up population centres and settlement areas where most of the meteorological stations exist.

The air, water, and marine calcite (limestone) are in balance with each other. Chemical equilibrium calculations prove that the water vapor and the carbon dioxide pressure of the atmosphere, as well as marine acidity will increase along with the temperature of the oceans, because calcite becomes less soluble in water as the temperature increases. The carbon dioxide (calcite) reserves of the oceans are huge. Most likely, carbon dioxide contributes to global warming, but it is hardly the primary reason for global warming.

The oil, coal, and uranium resources of our planet are limited. We should do something rational now when we can still afford to; we should not wait for the day when energy producers have exhausted our bank accounts. We should not waste our time and limited resources in developing marginal energy sources, which a brief assessment can prove to be insufficient. However, the biggest problem is that the most enthusiastic climate activists cannot calculate energy balances for entire life cycles. Partial or deficient energy balances often lead to the wrong conclusions. Therefore, they are unable to compare fairly the benefits and disadvantages of different energy solutions.

We cannot solve climate and energy problems by relying on treaties like the Kyoto Agreement, because doing so only transfers emissions and jobs to those countries which do not care about environmental issues. The results of the 12-year-old Kyoto Agreement are now available: the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere is increasing faster than ever, unemployment is rising, the ownership and core know-how of our industry is shifting to oil producers and to those countries that are increasing their emissions and energy consumption.

Kyoto type emission trading increases emissions because sellers and payees will use the funds to increase the wellfare and population. New post-Kyoto agreements must channel emissions trading funds to the development of new sustainable technology and commit to curb population growth.

Our energy problems could be solved by converting all agricultural land into energy production, but what on earth would we eat then? The energy efficiency of traditional biological production is extremely low, especially if we take into account total life cycles, fertilizers, insecticides, etc. Clearing new arable land and utilizing forest for bio-fuel production simply means the destruction of natural carbon sinks, biodiversity and the beauty of our nature.

Utilizing waste materials and by-products in bio-energy production is, of course, a rational solution but that would not be enough. We could also fill all of the landscapes with swishing forests of windmills, to compensate for the poor annual efficiencies of wind energy; but why not select a better, cheaper, and more efficient option?

The sun gives us one 100 times more energy than the other sources could ever offer. The entire European energy consumption could be covered by using a small piece of desert near the south coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Desertec Project will utilize solar energy to boil water and turbines to convert steam to electricity, which will be transported using high voltage, direct current transmission lines to European customers (Supergrid). German engineers and companies have calculated that this technology could keep the price of electricity at a sensible level.

This project will not fail on technical issues, because it uses existing and proven technology. Naturally, we can further lower costs and increase efficiencies by investing in research and development. Important targets are more efficient solar cells, heat pumps, and energy transmission, as well as better energy storage technologies.

In addition, the Desertec Project will create jobs in Europe and North Africa. People will not need to come to Europe as refugees to live in poor conditions, because they will be able to get jobs and training in their own homeland. This way we'll be helping each other. In fact, a better solution to the European refugee problem is difficult to imagine. Each continent has it's own sunny deserts - now all we need is some wise, worldwide political decision-making.

Antti Roine, Ulvila, August 21, 2009
Helsinki Times, August 27, 2009

Re: National Geographic

ViestiLähetetty: 02.09.2009 17:37
Kirjoittaja Antti Roine