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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth and Humanity


Planet Earth
and Humanity (

Bookends in Kailua
Sometime this Summer

From SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth:

PREAMBLE: Not only has petroleum shot past $100/barrel, the current price is nearing $120/barrel. You might recall in the 70’s when the first and second energy crises catapulted $3/barrel oil all the way up to $12/barrel. At the time of the 1973 crisis we were importing about a third of our oil needs…today, we are in the range of two-thirds. So, we decided to replace gasoline with ethanol. Hmm, the World Bank just reported that global food prices have risen 83% in the last three years, and the primary cause was our decision to convert corn into ethanol, plus surging oil. So what is the SIMPLE SOLUTION? Come to the book signing…read the book.

Tax Black Energy: You Will Pay for Global Warming

Coal is the worst fossil fuel for global warming. Incredibly, today, coal is the fastest growing energy source. China uses more coal than the U.S., European Union and Japan combined. Each week or so, a new coal power plant is commissioned in China that would satisfy all the households in Dallas or San Diego. And India is right behind China. In 2030, India is expected to pass the population of China. The USA is scheduled to build a 500 MW coal-fired power plant (to supply electricity to 500,000 homes) ONLY each month for the next 22 years. How, then, can we reduce the use of coal and other fossil fuels? Find a way to invoke a 10 cents / carbon dioxide investment credit (also known as a tax) program. Who will pay this penalty? Ultimately, you, the consumer, of course. We don’t, yet, because we don’t value our environment enough. This the fatal flaw of our society: we don’t do anything much until it is too late.

The World is Already Suffering from $7/Gallon Gasoline

Even at $4/gallon, gasoline is a bargain in the USA. That is only because our government is kind and does not tax this fuel enough. The U.S. Department of Energy in one year allocates about a billion dollars to sustainable energy research. We daily spend that amount on gasoline. A simple solution would be to add just $1/gallon to the pump price, call it the smart investment incentive, and apply this fund to develop sustainable fuels for humanity.

Some relative costs per gallon:

Gasoline in USA $ 3.50
Gasoline in Hong Kong $ 7.50 (similar to Europe)
Scope Mouthwash $ 15.00
Gallon of Beer in Restaurant $ 20.00
Evian (naïve backwards) $ 21.00
Brake Fluid (mostly oil) $ 34.00
Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch $ 160.00
Vick’s Nyquil $ 180.00
Channel #5 Perfume $4000.00
Computer printer ink $5000.00

Yes, petroleum shot past $110/barrel, but that is only $2.62/gallon. Energy is expensive, but cheap.

Green Energy Would Be Cost Competitive…If Polluters Were Charged for Dumping Carbon Dioxide into Your Atmosphere

Electricity from coal and nuclear sources costs about 3 to 4 cents / kWh to produce. Under ideal conditions, wind power and geothermal energy electricity is in the range of 4 to 6 cents/kWh. Solar photovoltaic electricity is today more than 20 cents/kWh, and even with the latest Nanosolar thin film development, will exceed 10 cents/kWh, although utility scale facilities show promise.

Electricity in Hawaii averages higher than 25 cents/kWh. The Nation is about 10cents/kWh. But there is no charge for polluting the air with carbon dioxide. A 10 cents / pound carbon dioxide tax would make even solar photovoltaic electricity competitive with coal/nuclear power. Well, actually, nuclear power would then become the cheapest, but that is another issue.

The Answer for Biofuels: Methanol, Not Ethanol, Stupid!

The national policy is to produce ethanol from corn. This has doubled the price of corn and tripled the price of wheat. The World Bank has reported that the global food prices have risen 83% during the past three years, and blamed corn ethanol, plus the soaring price of petroleum. Farmers are happy, and their lobbyists will spend $80 million this year to insure for the next $300 billion farm subsidy bill.

Ah, but they’re thinking, and the next phase will be to ferment the fibrous part of plants to produce more ethanol. However, given biomass, it is cheaper and more convenient to gasify and catalyze this cellulose into methanol. There are other clean liquid fuels, of course, but methanol is the simplest of them all, and that should translate into better economics. Plus, methanol is the only biofuel capable of being directly processed by a fuel cell, the possible next generation automobile “engine.” The direct methanol fuel cell iPod will soon replace one powered by a battery.

Our Nation will soon be faced with two types of White Elephants: corn to ethanol facilities, where the feedstock will be too expensive, and biomass to ethanol fermentation factories, which taxpayers will continue to subsidize in some way. Within the decade, they will not be able to compete with biomass to methanol processes.

Hydrogen is the Silver Bullet for Sustainability

Hydrogen is the simplest molecule and the most abundant element in our Universe. It can be burned to cook food, where water vapor is the by-product. Processed in a fuel cell, electricity can be produced. The future of aviation could be hydrogen powered, for this is the lightest fuel. The sun fuses hydrogen to provide energy to Planet Earth. Yes, nuclear fusion is solar energy.

But hydrogen is expensive and the infrastructure will take a generation or two or more to develop. If Peak Oil and Global Warming is as serious a problem as feared, one solution would be to make hydrogen free by, say, the Year 2020, and provide funds to industry to build the infrastructure and make available the fuel. Otherwise, given business as usual, it will take a century to get there, maybe.

As such, methanol might well be an ideal bridge to a future hydrogen economy, for the business system is largely already in place, and, amazingly enough, one gallon of methanol has more hydrogen than one gallon of liquid hydrogen. Thus,“Silver Bullet” might well be the operative term when today applied to hydrogen, for that metaphor has negative connotations. Hydrogen seems fated to eventually prevail, but not very soon.

Hawaii Can Lead the Coming Blue Revolution

One thousand meters below the surface of the ocean is deep cold water at 4 degrees Celsius, which can be combined with the warmer surface water to produce electricity through ocean thermal energy conversion. The resultant effluent is also rich in nutrients to fertilize marine biomass plantations and support next generation fisheries. The Blue Revolution is the concept to produce sustainable energy, food, materials and habitats from the riches of the sea. In the process it is possible that global warming can be remediated and the formation of hurricanes prevented. Hawaii is ideally located to lead the effort.

Global Warming: Would You Believe if our World Temperature Rises to 900 °F?

The increasing carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is projected to raise the atmospheric temperature a few degrees. However, there is another Greenhouse Gas, methane, the major component of natural gas, which can be found in the frozen tundra and bottom of the ocean encased in ice. It is reported that there could be twice the amount of energy in these marine methane hydrates than all the known coal, oil and natural gas. Gas and ice rise to the surface if jostled. Worse, one molecule of methane is at least 20 times worse than a molecule of carbon dioxide in the warming of Earth.

Under a worst case scenario, could Planet Earth be transformed to Planet Venus, which is at a temperature of 900 °F? Sudden increases in atmospheric temperatures have been experienced in the geologic history of Planet Earth, supposedly caused by higher methane concentrations. Could we be triggering this effect through global warming? So what is the simple solution?

If a Mega Tsunami Destroys Seattle, Can Hawaii be Blamed?

Should there be a major earthquake in the bottom of the ocean, the highest tsunami possible is only about 10 meters. However, if a good portion of an island falls into the sea quickly and deeply enough, a mega tsunami of 100 meters and higher can be generated.

The Nuuanu Landslide of about a million years ago could well have caused a mega tsunami. Looking from Kaneohe towards the Koolaus, that magnificent scene represents the inside of the crater that remained after the other half fell into the ocean. The remnants can still be seen in the deep sea.

Hawaii is known to have had the greatest number (17) of such events. Can the Northeast side of the Big Island (which would include Hilo, unfortunately) fall into the sea to cause a mega tsunami six hours later in Seattle? Probably not, but…maybe.
From SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

PREAMBLE: Book 1 of the SIMPLE SOLUTIONS series focused on energy and the environment. Book 2, for Humanity, provides simple, but extreme, solutions for crime, war, eternal life, education, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and religion, concluding with a suggestion on where might be the place to live. These thoughts are shared to stimulate discussions about what is real and what might be attainable.

Three Strikes and You’re Dead: This Could be the Simple Solution to Crime

Have you had a car stolen by a criminal who has been convicted 47 times? There are “three strikes and you’re out” laws gaining in popularity, but that only results in your taxes paying for more prisons to keep the condemned in air conditioned comfort. What if we had a three strikes and you’re dead law? The crime rate will almost surely drop, the judiciary and enforcement agencies will largely become unnecessary and the money saved can go towards education and human welfare. Unfortunately, there will then be fewer lawyers (sorry, had to add this, as most of my advisors seem to be lawyers). Anyway, don’t get too carried away, as society is humane.

Make Democracies, Not War!

Professor Rudy Rummel of the University of Hawaii conducted a comprehensive study and found that, over the past 200 years, no two democracies have ever waged a major war. President George Bush’s plan to democratize the Middle East might well be a reasonable solution to wars.

Are We Ready for Eternal Life?

Scientists have found the aging gene and are tinkering with immobilizing it or reversing the process. A more immediate option, though, might be to clone yourself, store your memory in a computer (which should become available within the decade) and place your memory into a younger, better looking and smarter new you. We are closer to these prospects than you might think. Society is resisting, as human cloning seems to be universally disparaged.

We have a Terrible K-12 Educational System…So Live with It!

American students are generally below the world average in math, science, analysis, geography and whatever is worth measuring. Our teachers are not paid well for their responsibility. Is this terrible? Perhaps, but this is what we, apparently, want. Your elected officials—meaning, of course, you and other voters—determine spending priorities. You get what you deserve!

However, why, then, is the USA the #1 world power? Is there a method to our madness? Probably, for we spend more for higher education than any other country. Seventeen of the best twenty universities are in the United States. Something like the top 5% to 10% of our society is said to be mostly responsible for creativity, progress and ultimate success. We do a terrific job of insuring for this continued dominance through an exceptional university system. Keep complaining about our poor school system, but you can now do it with less anguish and guilt.

What if Aliens have been Trying to Phone Earth?

Our solar system is only about 5 billion years old, but the Universe has been around for at least 12 billion years. What if life occurred in some of the billions and billions of galaxies out there, and some life forms are sending signals to us with the cure for cancer, solution to universal peace and the like?

NASA is today prohibited by Congress to conduct research on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Is this smart? Why not divert only ten percent the cost of one space shuttle flight (which is around $1 billion) each year to conduct a comprehensive search? Sometimes you need to try something extraordinary to attain the monumental.

The End of Religion?

All religions agree on one or more, but usually different, God; but none can prove an afterlife. Can this basic immorality—promising something without proof—serve to undermine one of mankind’s greatest social inventions?

As there is no rational reason for pure faith, our educational system surely must by now have sufficiently edified us? Nope! Around 90% of Americans believe in God and an afterlife. This figure is closer to 10% for those in France, Israel and Japan. And why do only 5% of National Science Academy biological scientists believe in an afterlife? How can intelligent Homo Sapiens think so differently?

Some say that 9/11 would not have happened if the Muslim terrorists did not believe in an afterlife. Can there be a golden evolution for religion? Can a society continue to progress without religion? Given time—maybe a millennium—most probably.

Where is the Best Place to Live?

Hawaii! Why? Read the book.