J.C. Moore Online
Current Events from a Science Perspective

Effect of Increasing CO2

     Posted on Fri ,27/08/2021 by admin

Science is about using observation and reason to understand the physical world. Here are some of the latest observations showing how increasing greenhouse gases are changing the Earth. https://www.sealevel.info/co2.html

CO2: Man is now putting about 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. About half of it dissolves in the ocean, making them 20% more acidic, and the rest increases the concentration in the air.

  CO2: Man is now putting about 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. About half of it dissolves in the ocean, making them 20% more acidic, and the rest increases the concentration in the air.

Temperature: CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases that warm the Earth, and NASA’s graph shows how its increase is changing the Earth’s temperature:

.                            NASA GISS Data.

The Sun: The current global warming is often wrongly attributed to an increase in intensity of the sun. The sunspot activity does not show up above the noise in the temperature record above – and the solar irradiance increased slightly until 1960 and has declined slightly since then.

Arctic Ice: Many of the changes in the Earth are subtle but this NASA picture clearly shows  how the Earth is changing:

Arctic ice:  The next two graphs show quantitatively how both the extent and the volume of the Arctic ice is changing.

Arctic ice volume at each years minimum.

Antarctica: Research by Steig and by O’Donnell  show that Antarctica is warming. The warmer oceans result in more snowfall which increases the inland glacier mass, but the erosion of ice by the warmer oceans is causing an overall loss of ice mass.

Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.

Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.

Greenland: The Greenland ice sheets are also beginning to decline.

Ocean Level Rise: The melting ice sheets, melting glaciers, and thermal expansion are causing the oceans to rise by about 3 mm per year which, though it seems small, amounts to an increase in ocean volume of 1190 cubic kilometers/yr.

Rise in Sea Level.

Severe Weather: Warmer temperatures increase both the rate of evaporation and the energy and moisture in the air. This has doubled the incidence of severe weather, floods, droughts, and wildfires.

Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.

Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.

Economic Costs: Large insurance companies such as Suisse Re now consider global warming a risk factor as there has been a fivefold increase in billion-dollar weather events in the last 30 years.

Droughts: The Palmer Drought Index below includes most of the continental areas used for food production. Zero represents average rainfall and -4 represents extreme drought. Since 1980, drought conditions have grown worse worldwide, and no one disputes the effect of droughts on food production.

Food Production: The increasing CO2, temperatures, and droughts are expected to decrease food production worldwide.

Figure-28

Extreme Temperatures: Climate scientists now have enough data and computing power to estimate the probability of extreme weather events. The figure below, from a paper by Hansen et. al.,shows how the distributuion of temperature have varied over the past 60 years. Extremely hot temperatures, those over 3 standard deviations from the mean,  are now over 20 times as probable as for the 1950 – 1980 period and 10 times as probable as for the 1980 – 2010 average.  That means that extreme temperatures that affected less than 1% of the landmass in 1980, now affect almost 10% of the landmass annually.

Note: This was posted on 08/31/2011 and updated on 04/03/2012,08/11/2012, and 02/12/2013. It was reposted on 08/27/2021.

(c) 2011  J.C. Moore

Related

Science, Global Warming, and the Ice Age MysteryDecember 31, 2010In “Climate Change”

Is Global Warming Naturally Occurring?November 12, 2010In “Climate Change”

Science, Climate Change, and the Greenhouse EffectDecember 13, 2010In “Climate Change”

Tags: Acidic OceansAntarctica iceBillion-dollar weather eventsClimate ChangeCO2droughtsextreme temperature probabilities.global WarmingGreenhouse Effectice-agesjames-hansenKeeling CurveMunich ReNASA’s temperature graphOcean level risePalmer Drought Indexpolar ice meltingSolar irradianceSunsunspot activity

Why the Rich Are Getting Richer and the Poor Poorer

     Posted on Mon ,09/08/2021 by admin

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act (TJCA) really did a job on the American people. The results were predictable. A similar tax cut in Kansas in 2012 was a disaster for Kansas. It benefited the rich, led to a stagnant economy, took money from infrastructure and schools, and put Kansas far in debt. States cannot run a deficit, so Kansas finally had to make up for it in 2017 with the largest tax increase in Kansas history.  

The TJCA was based on the trickle-down theory which, as experience has shown, increases public debt and makes the wealthy wealthier – at the expense of the middle class and low wage earners. The CBO estimated that the TJCA would increase the national debt by almost $1.9 trillion over the next 10 years. It cut the corporate tax rate from 39% to 21% and allowed companies to bring their intellectual assets (GILTI) back to the United States at an even lower tax rate. Those who profited the most were the wealthy and corporations, as it gave permanent tax cuts to corporate profits, investment income, inheritance taxes, estate taxes, and preferential tax treatment to pass-through income*. Some banks, for instance, will pay far less than the 21%. Some of the tax cuts went to the middle class, but they will sunset in 2025 while the tax breaks for businesses and corporations do not sunset.

What is better than lobbying? It is electing Legislators who the large corporations can depend on to cut their taxes. For Republicans, adding to the national debt has always been anathema. Sadly, it was a Republican President and Legislature who passed the TJCA. The chart above lists some of the corporations who donated heavily to Republicans who they could depend on to vote to cut their taxes. It also lists the amount they gained from the tax cuts. Those corporations received about a 6000% return on their investments in electing compliant politicians. Not bad, especially when your bank pays you about 2%. Not only that, but the New York Times reported that there were 55 very profitable companies, such as Nike, FedEx, and Duke Energy, that paid no taxes at all last year. Considering subsidies, some of them had an effective tax rate of as much as a -50%.

Also, the US subsidizes oil and gas companies so that investors never lose. Every year, the U.S. federal and state governments pour around $20.5 billion in subsidies into the oil and gas industry. New research, published in Environmental Research Letters, puts a value on the effect that the16 tax breaks and exemptions will have on the 1,000 U.S. oil and gas fields projected to be built before 2030. The paper found that if fossil fuel prices stay high, most of the subsidies — 96 % in oil, 87% in gas— will go directly to the pockets of investors as profit. And if prices go down, these subsidies will help 60% and 74% percent, respectively, of new oil and gas fields to remain profitable.

So there you have it. If you’re wondering why you pay so much in taxes yet receive so little back, it is because your state and federal governments give away so much money to help the wealthy and profitable companies become wealthier and more profitable. Please consider that when you vote.

*A recent study by Treasury economists found that the top 1% of Americans by income have reaped nearly 60% of the billions in tax savings created by the pass-through provision. And much of that went to the top 0.1%. 

Observations of Climate Change in Kolkata

     Posted on Fri ,30/07/2021 by admin

This is a guest post from Pabitra Mukhopadhyay, who is a hydrological engineer in Calcutta. It was originally written in Bengali, and a rough translation is below.

” · আজ থেকে দশ পনের বছর আগে যখন ক্লাইমেট চেঞ্জ নিয়ে লিখতে শুরু করি তখন অধিকাংশ মানুষ বুঝত না, ব্যাপারটা কি। অনেকের ধারণা ছিল ক্লাইমেট চেঞ্জ মানে বরফ টরফ গলে শুকিয়ে মরুভূমি হয়ে যাওয়া। এখন কলকাতায় বসে একটা বাচ্চাও বলে দেবে ব্যাপারটা ঠিক ওরকম নয়।পরপর তিনবছর আমরা কলকাতায় সুপার সাইক্লোন দেখছি। নিশ্চিতভাবে কয়েক বছরের মধ্যেই বছরে একাধিক সুপার সাইক্লোন দেখব। বেশ কয়েক বছর হল বর্ষার ধরণ লক্ষ্যনীয়ভাবে পাল্টে গেছে। এখন বর্ষাকালেও নিম্নচাপের বৃষ্টি হয়। একদিনে একমাসের বৃষ্টি হয়। আমরা যারা নদীসংক্রান্ত কাজ করি তারা জানি গত এক দশক ধরে নদীতে জোয়ার ভাঁটার পূর্বাভাসের তুলনায় জলস্তর ক্রমাগত বৃদ্ধি পেয়ে চলেছে। এখন উচ্চফলনশীল বীজে ধানচাষ হয়, এই প্রজাতির ধান বৃষ্টিপাতের হেরফের অনেকটাই সহ্য করতে পারে। তবুও চাষীদের কাছ থেকে জানা যাচ্ছে কৃষিতে ফলন কমছে। এবং আশ্চর্যভাবে যে সব ফল বা সব্জি দেশের এই অংশে কোনদিন ফলত না, সেগুলো ফলছে।সবচেয়ে উল্লেখনীয় যে পতঙ্গবাহিত রোগের স্থানীয় মানচিত্র বদলে যাচ্ছে। পতঙ্গও বদলাচ্ছে। দার্জিলিংএ মশা, ভাবা যায়? ডেঙ্গু মনে হয় কলকাতায় স্থায়ী হয়ে গেছে। হেমন্তকাল বলে একটা ঋতু ছিল কোনকালে। এখনকার কোন টিনএজারকে জিজ্ঞাসা করে দেখুন, তারা ঐ ঋতুর অস্তিত্ব জানে না। আমার এক মিডিয়ার বন্ধু বলছিল টিভিতে আবহাওয়ার খবর দেখার টিআরপি ক্রমশ বাড়ছে। চ্যানেলগুলো ওয়েদার ফোরকাস্ট সেলেব্রিটি তৈরী করার কথা ভাবতে শুরু করেছে।তার মানে স্কুলে স্কুলে ইভিএস পড়ানোই শুধু নয়, ক্লাইমেট চেঞ্জ আমাদের জীবনে ঢুকে পড়েছে পুরোদমে।”

“When I started writing about climate change ten or fifteen years ago, most people did not understand, what was the matter. Many thought that climate change meant melting ice or turf turning into a desert. Now even a child sitting in Kolkata will say that the climate is not the same. Three years in a row we have seen Super Cyclones in Kolkata. We will likely see multiple super cyclones per year in a few years. The Monsoon has changed significantly over the years. Now it rains with low pressure even when not in the rainy season. It now rains enough for one month in a day.

Those of us who work at the river know that water levels have been continuously rising compared to the forecast of tides in the river for the past decade. Now that high-fruit seeds grow in the paddy, this species of paddy can withstand much rainfall. Still, it is known from the farmers that the yields in agriculture are decreasing. And surprisingly, many fruits or vegetables that never grew in this part of the country, are now growing. Most notable, the local map of insect-borne disease is changing. The insects are changing too. Mosquitoes in Darjeeling, can you imagine? Dengue fever seems to now have settled in Kolkata.

Once upon a time, there was a season called autumn. Ask a teenager now, and they don’t know that season existed. One of my media friends said that TRP of watching weather news on TV is increasing. Channels are starting to think about creating weather forecast celebrities. That means that not only are we teaching it in schools, but climate change has entered our lives in full swing.”

A Road Trip in an EV

     Posted on Fri ,30/07/2021 by admin

This is a guest post written by Darrel Hart of Wichita, Kansas. Many people have expressed fears about the range of Electric Vehicles or about finding charging stations. This article should put those fears mostly to rest.

“The last 10 days we drove an electric vehicle over 2,700 miles from Wichita Kansas to a mountain resort in West Virginia. We went up and down from parks to waterfalls to cabins, then on to Maryland and back. The cost of the (one way) trip going east was about $70. Charging prices ranged from 1/4 to 1/2 the price of fossil fuel, and sometimes charging was free. The state of West Virginia has free charging in the state parks we visited. Some businesses install charging devices to draw customers. In Frederick Maryland, I know of 2 grocery stores providing free charge while you shop, as does a wine serving establishment, and some hotels have slow chargers at very low prices for overnight.

Tesla has charging stations scattered along the interstate highways. Other brands of charging equipment are already in some markets and the VW/Ford agreement (to increase the number of chargers) is financing more. The (my) car’s computer looks ahead and schedules charging and directs you to it. We zoomed along at 70. Charging times were from 5 minutes to 40, but we ate or bought a coffee and we were back on the road with very little time difference. No time was spent over the fumes and oil spots of a gas station. Your next car should be electric. If you plan to use it on road trips, look for a range of 250 miles or more.”

Please Stop Stereotyping Republicans

     Posted on Fri ,09/07/2021 by admin

There are a lot of articles and posts on social media lately which blame Republicans for a variety of ills in our society. The people responsible for those ills are not necessarily Republicans, and certainly not traditional Republicans. Abraham Lincoln started the Republican Party, freed the slaves, and established that all men are created equal. There been many great Republican presidents since Lincoln, up until Eisenhower. Below is Eisenhower’s Republican platform for 1956. It defines what a traditional Republican mostly supports.

After Eisenhower, with the exception of George H. W. Bush, the Republican Party has had as their presidential candidates a crook, an actor, a cheerleader, and a reality TV star. And, each of those has had a deleterious effect on the Republican Party.

We can probably blame President Johnson for planting the seed. Up until his presidency, the Democrats were mainly responsible for segregation, voter suppression, and human rights violations. Johnson championed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, which angered southern Democrats, and many of them changed to the Republican Party. That may have been the reason that Nixon won. Nixon did some good things such as creating the EPA and proposing an affirmative action program for federal employees, but he also expanded the Vietnam War and resigned from office under threat of impeachment.

Presidents Reagan signed the Montréal Protocol, which limited the greenhouse gases which were damaging the Earth’s ozone layer. Reagan also brought the Moral Majority into the GOP and, by sowing distrust in the government, brought in a number of right wing groups who didn’t like Federal authority. He also brought in the oligarchs by cutting their taxes from 70% to 26%. This greatly increased the national debt and began the income inequality that has plagued our nation since. He also appointed Justice Scalia, who led the Supreme Court in gutting the Voting Rights Act and deciding Citizens United, which allows almost unlimited cash into politics. Reagan, more than anyone, was responsible for starting the GOP down a bad path.

George H. W. Bush gets a pass, as he labeled Reaganomics as voodoo economics, which it is. Though he led little to do with it, it was during term that the Tea Party came into existence at the behest of the oligarchs who didn’t like taxation. As a third party, they would have had little political party power, so they took up residence in the far right wing of the Republican Party.  

George W. Bush won the presidency with the support of the Texas oil companies and he went from being a cheerleader at Harvard to being a cheerleader for the oil companies. He won without the popular vote, due to a controversial ruling by Scalia’s Supreme Court. With the help of Cheney and Rumsfeld, Bush began to undermine environmental regulations –  which brought the anti-environmentalists into the Republican Party. When 9/11 occurred we had the support of almost all the nations in the world, and Bush could have brought them together to root out terrorism and end human rights violations. Instead, again with Cheney and Rumsfeld’s encouragement, he invaded Iraq on a pretense and started an ill-advised war in Afghanistan which has drug on for 20 years, costing over a million lives, destabilizing the Middle East, and adding $3.5 trillion to the national debt.

Donald Trump used his experience with the media and his international business connections to win the presidency, again without the popular vote. Though he was impeached twice, investigated for his ties to Russian interference in our elections, and tried to overturn the results of the last presidential election, he is still being supported by a number of Republicans who describe themselves as conservatives. They apparently are not too concerned about conserving democracy.

Some Republicans have now changed to the Democratic Party. There are still a number of traditional Republicans who support what the GOP was under Eisenhower and want to reform the party. Please try to understand how the Religious Right, the oligarchs, the Tea Partiers, the anti-environmentalists, the militants, and the self-described conservatives managed to establish themselves in the right wing of the Republican Party – and most of all, please do not stereotype traditional Republicans. All Republicans are not the same.

Sustainability Comes to Wichita

     Posted on Wed ,16/06/2021 by admin

The Wichita City Council voted on June 15, 2021, to form a Sustainability Board. This was due to the work of several environmental groups, especially SOAR, who had that as one of its main goals.

In 2017, a group of citizens in Wichita, Kansas formed the Society of Alternative Resources (SOAR) as a way to improve the sustainability of their city. The purpose of SOAR was to advise and assist local government, businesses, and residents on alternative resources, sustainability, and renewable energy issues. Its long-term goal is to ensure that our children and grandchildren have clean air, pure water, and a livable Earth.

SOAR decided to use the STAR communities rating system to interact with the local government. Below is the matrix that STAR uses to evaluate a community’s sustainability. It also acts as a guideline for ways to improve the community and evaluate its progress. 

Each item in the matrix has a further explanation in the STAR-V2 guidelines ( This site is under construction.) Many cities invest millions to attract businesses and make their city more competitive in job creation,  entrepreneurship, workforce development, and capital investment. They also need to invest in their communities’ Sustainability.  The things that attract and keep the millennials, the talent, and the young entrepreneurs to a city fall under Sustainability. Below is a letter from the local Wichita Eagle newspaper designed to promote SOAR and its goals.

 How to Improve the Qualify of Life in Wichita  11/10/2017

“Local Sustainability Issues” was the topic of the October Luzzati Lecture Series at WSU. Zach Baumer, Climate Program Manager of the Office of Sustainability in Austin, talked about the city’s effort to “green” its environment. Sustainable practices and a healthy environment are important issues for businesses, young professionals, and entrepreneurs when they consider locating in a city.

STAR ratings give an overall picture of the quality of life in a city and the desirability of living there. The STAR system considers a city’s progress in nine categories: Built Environment, Climate and Energy, Economy and Jobs, Education, Arts and Community, Equity and Empowerment, Health and Safety, Natural Systems, and Innovation and Processes. Austin rates as a four-star community with 476 points of a possible 720. Wichita has a three-star rating with 231 points.

Clearly, we have room to improve our community’s sustainable practices and our STAR rating. It will take effort and resources, but our businesses, city leadership, Chamber of Commerce, and our citizens should support improvements in the Wichita community. After all, we all have to live here.

(c) 2021 J.C. Moore

Mank: A Warning about Fake News

     Posted on Thu ,20/05/2021 by admin

“Though Mank was about the writing of Citizen Kane in 1934, it carries a valuable lesson about fake news that is relevant today.”

Mank is a movie about the life of Herman J. Mankiewicz, who collaborated with Orson Welles to write Citizens Kane. Citizen Kane was modeled on the life of media magnate William Randolph Hearst. Mank explores Hearst’s longtime friendship with one of Hollywood’s most powerful studio moguls, MGM’s Louis B. Mayer. Hearst’s newspapers helped Mayer ensure the success of his Hollywood films and stars for decades. Citizen Kane, though, was a most unflattering look at Hollywood’s powerbrokers. Before it was released, Mayer offered RKO, the studio that produced it, a million dollars if they would destroy it. Though that was a fortune in 1934 dollars, it is fortunate that RKO refused the offer. Citizens Kane has been acclaimed as one of the best movies of all time.

In his newspapers, Hearst had a reputation for going after anyone whom he wanted to target. One theme of the movie was Hearst and Mayer’s machinations to defeat Upton Sinclair in his 1934 campaign for governor of California. Sinclair had won national acclaim for his 1906 novel, The Jungle. It exposed the abuse of slaughterhouse workers and showed he was certainly no friend of the wealthy and powerful. The state’s Republican establishment, led by Hearst’s California-based papers and Mayer’s Hollywood studios, decided to do whatever it took to defeat Sinclair. They not only considered Sinclair a socialist, but they also feared his promises to raise their taxes. Back then, Mayer was the highest-salaried executive in the nation and the finance chair of the national Republican Party. Mayer was portrayed in the movie as using the Great Depression as an excuse to extort large salary cuts from the writers and actors guilds.

It was no great stretch, then, when Hearst’s California newspapers began running stories in 1934 that “reported” on Sinclair’s plans to expropriate small shops and homes – but Sinclair actually had no plans to do so. Perhaps the most consequential element of the campaign against Sinclair was a series of fake newsreels created by Hollywood film producer Irving Thalberg. These videos, featured “reporters” speaking to “people on the street,” many of whom were actually small-time Hollywood actors reciting scripted remarks. Well-dressed individuals criticized Sinclair and praised his opponent. And there was footage of men jumping from freight cars, which the newsreel narrators said were shots of dangerous “hobos” arriving in California in anticipation of a Sinclair regime that would pay them to live off the state. The “hobos” were actually from footage taken from the movie, The Wild Boys.

The videos depicted Merriam supporters as good, solid Americans and Sinclair supporters as foreign-accented Bolsheviks.  This material was bundled together and presented as regular newsreels to the millions of Californians who went to the movies every week. It was all fake, but the public bought it – there it was in the newsreels. Thus bolstered, Merriam staged a remarkable come-from-behind victory in November’s general election.

Ironically, Mankiewicz was one of the very first film industry figures to sound the alarm about fake news. He penned an anti-Hitler drama in the month following the Nazis coming to power in 1933, which predicted the murderous violence of the then-fledgling Third Reich. He wrote a script about the fake news that Josef Goebbels had produced and the anti-Semitic falsehoods that played a central role in the Nazis’ rise to power.  Mankiewicz tried to find a studio with the courage to produce it, but the studios wouldn’t as they feared the loss of their German market. Too bad, Mankiewicz’s script would certainly have made a timely movie, alerting the world to the dangers of Nazism. It should still be a warning to democracies today, about the fake news created by extremists on the far right.

The Mythical Magic Hydrogen Economy

     Posted on Tue ,02/03/2021 by admin

There’s a little bit of truth to every myth, and the hydrogen economy is no different. Hydrogen fuel cells would be wonderful for the environment. They combine hydrogen with oxygen from the atmosphere to produce electricity, and they emit pure water. The hydrogen can be made by electrolysis of water, and the energy for the electrolysis can be provided by renewable energy such as solar and wind. Though hydrogen must be stored at high pressures or low temperatures, it can be transported and used to replace fossil fuels in most of their applications. Then why are the fossil fuel companies so eager to transition to a hydrogen economy? They now are applying for grants from stimulus money for research on hydrogen power. There must be more to the story and that is where magic comes in.

It would take a tremendous amount of magic to make hydrogen a viable source of energy within 30 years. Currently, 95% of commercial hydrogen is made from fossil fuels, primarily methane. Producing hydrogen from methane is energy intensive. It requires that methane be reacted with steam-heated to about 1100°C. That reaction produces hydrogen and carbon monoxide – which is then treated with additional steam at 380°C to convert the carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide. Not only is carbon dioxide produced as a byproduct, but it takes a tremendous amount of fossil fuel to heat the steam hot enough to carry out the reaction. Hydrogen produced in this way is called Brown hydrogen, because of all the fossil fuels used. You’re probably beginning to see why fossil fuel companies are so eager to transition to a hydrogen economy.

But wait. All we would need to do is capture the carbon dioxide produced in making Brown hydrogen and store it underground. Hydrogen could then be produced without adding more CO2 to the atmosphere, so it is called Blue hydrogen. Fossil fuel companies are now pursuing grants and subsidies to develop Carbon Capture and Storage Systems (CSS) to do just that. But there are a few problems. Fossil fuel companies knew as far back as 1979 (see memo below) that adding more CO2 to the atmosphere would cause global warming and damage the environment. A CSS system requires little new technology, so why did they not develop CSS then – and global warming would never have become a problem. Fossil fuel companies did not do it because it would have made their products more expensive, and demand would have gone down. And they are even less serious about developing CSS systems now. With prices dropping on renewable technologies and energy storage systems, CSS would make carbon or hydrogen fuels so expensive that it would accelerate the transmission to renewable energy and battery storage.

Though there are currently large supplies of methane available from fracking operations, using fracked methane to produce hydrogen just isn’t a good idea. The main problems associated with fracking are methane leaks and earthquakes (caused by the disposal of fracking fluids). It has been estimated that about 20% of the methane produced at the wellhead is lost through transmission losses and leaks. Because so much methane is lost during production, France has recently prohibited American fracked methane from being sold there. Though the amount of methane in the atmosphere is small, methane is 72 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. As the graph below shows, the methane concentration in the atmosphere has grown exponentially – and it now accounts for about 1/4 as much global warming as carbon dioxide.

That brings us to hydrogen produced by electrolysis, called Green hydrogen. To create the infrastructure to produce enough Green hydrogen to transition to a hydrogen economy would take more than 30 years. To get there, we would have to start now. That would require Black and Brown hydrogen to be used while we develop a CSS system, and then Blue hydrogen could be used until we have a fully operational Green hydrogen infrastructure. We would be dependent on fossil fuels for at least 30 more years, and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would certainly go up. The best carbon capture systems are trees, oceans, and soils (through regenerative agriculture). Currently, those systems have not been able to keep up. Deforestation, commercial farming, and the acidification of the oceans are exhausting those systems’ abilities to capture CO2. The environment of the Earth cannot absorb much more carbon dioxide, and we certainly can’t wait 30 years on the chance that a commercial scale CSS system will be developed.

Hydrogen is very useful for things such as welding, food processing, ammonia production, and rocket fuel – but it will never be useful to power our economy. That is because a hydrogen economy would be terribly energy inefficient. If you were to use electricity from wind to produce hydrogen, transport the hydrogen to where it is needed, and use hydrogen fuel cells to power your car, about two-thirds of the energy would be lost in the process. The electrical energy that would take you 300 miles in a battery-powered car, would only take you 100 miles in a hydrogen-powered car. There is also no infrastructure in place to conveniently transport large volumes of hydrogen. Natural gas pipelines could not be used, as hydrogen reacts with metals and makes them brittle. I contrast, transmission lines for electricity are already in place and, if upgraded to handle the larger load, they could deliver power directly to your home and your car – and do it three times more efficiently.

Finally, hydrogen is explosive. If you have ever seen a hydrogen filled balloon exploded, you are probably aware of the tremendous power of a hydrogen explosion. Hydrogen explosions are rare, but are bound to happen if hydrogen were in wide use. A hydrogen explosion occurred in an AT&T Uninterruptible Power Source battery room in 2020. The explosion blew a 400 square foot hole in the roof and collapsed walls and ceilings throughout a large portion of the 50,000 square foot building. Fortunately, the computer/data center was vacant at the time and there were no injuries.

All things considered, unless you own a fossil fuel company or believe in magic, trying to convert to a hydrogen economy is a really bad idea. 

© 2021 – J. C. Moore. All rights reserved.

Thermodynamics: A Tour through the Three Laws

     Posted on Thu ,18/02/2021 by admin

I’m not sure how they got to be laws, but they do appear inviolable in most instances.

The First Law: “Energy is conserved, i.e., it can be neither created nor destroyed.”

However, it may change from one form to another, such as heat to work. This law allows you to trace energy as it changes from one form to another and to identify all the places it ends up in the environment.

 It was a little embarrassing when atomic physicist discovered you could convert mass to energy. Before that, there was also a Law of Conservation of Mass. However, the amount of energy produced is given by Einstein’s Law: E = mC2. So mass is now considered to be another form of energy and energy is considered to be another form of mass. It is difficult to convert energy to mass, but then, again, there is the Creation Story.

The Second Law: “It is impossible to convert heat completely into work.” …Lord Kelvin

There are many different statements of the second law, all supposedly equivalent, although it may take several pages of equations to show it. The second law of thermodynamics was originally an empirical observation about the workings of heat engines. It was later realized that it was a fundamental law of nature, and it was most useful as it introduced the concept of entropy (S).

“In an isolated system, a process can occur only if it increases the total entropy of the system.” … Rudolph Clausius

One very useful derivation based on the second law is that for an engine converting heat to work, the :

 Maximum Efficiency = ( Th – Tc ) / Th

Here, Th is the higher operating temperature of the engine and Tc is the colder temperature of the exhaust. Using this we can show that the maximum efficiency of a coal-fired power plant is about 35%, while an extension of the formula shows the maximum efficiency of an internal combustion engine is about 15%. This, for instance, means that an electric car reduces carbon emissions by about half – even if charged from a coal-fired power plant.

Chemists have found entropy very useful as it can be used predict whether a chemical reaction will be spontaneous and how much product will be produced when equilibrium is reached, as:

”The entropy of an isolated system which is not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.”

With the advent of quantum mechanics, a better understanding came of how entropy relates to individual particles. Particles tend to arrange themselves in their energy levels in such a way as to reach a minimum in energy and a maximum probability. Which arrangement of particles below is more probable?

                              A                                                                         B

Clearly, B is more probable as there are more ways to arrange the particles in the energy levels. The relationship between entropy and energy is made clear in this model. To move from arrangement A to arrangement B will require energy to move the particles up in the energy levels. The entropy of each arrangement can be calculated by:

                                  S = kln(W)

where k is Boltzmann’s constant and W is the number of ways the set of particles may be arranged in the energy levels. Arrangement A is very interesting as there is only one way, and S= kln (1) = 0. That would be the arrangement at 0° Kelvin, and that leads us to the Third Law.

The Third Law:  “As the temperature of a system approaches absolute zero, all processes cease and the entropy of the system approaches a minimum value.”

In other words, at 0° Kelvin ( –273 oC), all particles are in their lowest energy states.  At that temperature, all motion ceases, except for the vibration of molecules and the motion of electrons, and those energies are in their lowest possible states. Attempts to achieve 0° K have been unsuccessful, as cooling an object requires extracting energy from it and depositing it somewhere cooler. And, there is nowhere cooler. The lowest temperature achieved has been a little less than 1 billionth of a degree Kelvin, which is cold enough for most purposes.

 It is convenient to have an absolute scale with which to measure thermodynamic properties, as absolutes are otherwise hard to find. I once witnessed an argument between a colleague, called barracuda Beth by students, and a humanities professor about whether there were absolutes. My colleague won the argument by claiming that the atomic weight of oxygen-16 was absolutely 16 amu, and humanities professor had no come back. Unfortunately, she picked the wrong absolute. The next year, the standard for measuring mass was changed to carbon-12, and oxygen became 15.995 amu. Wisely, I did not mention that to my colleague, and that also explains the first sentence in this article.

Note: I have somewhat simplified the laws of thermodynamics and have avoided mathematical equations as much as possible. The goal was to give you a feeling for the laws and to entertain you. I hope you find it interesting.

© 2021 – J. C. Moore  All rights reserved.

Global Warming: The Rise of Methane

     Posted on Mon ,15/02/2021 by admin

New

Greenhouse gases play a huge role in keeping the surface of the Earth warm. Without the greenhouse effect, the temperature of the Earth would average about -18°C, and all the water on the Earth’s surface would be ice. The average temperature of the Earth’s surface is now about 15°C and rising. The graph below shows the concentration of the main greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, and how they have changed in the last two millennia. 

Inarguably, an increase in the greenhouse gas concentrations will warm the Earth – and we are seeing that happen. The average temperature of the Earth is now 1.2°F warmer than it was in 1850. The temperature of the Earth was fairly constant over the thousand years before the industrial age, and people, plants, animals, and our agricultural practices have adapted to that temperature. What will happen as the Earth’s temperature rises? We are finding out, and the effects are alarming.

Of the greenhouse gases, water accounts for about 70% of the greenhouse effect, carbon dioxide about 20%, methane 4%, nitrous oxide 1%, and the other greenhouse gases together about 5%. Our efforts to reduce global warming have focused mostly on carbon dioxide, as its concentration has increased over 40% from our use of fossil fuels. It will take time to phase out fossil fuels and transition to the use of renewable energy. The concentration of methane has grown appreciably in the last century, from about 800 parts per billion (ppb) to over 1900 ppb and it is rising rapidly. Methane has about an eight year half-life in the atmosphere before it is converted to carbon dioxide by natural process. The methane in the atmosphere would decrease quickly if we stopped putting it there. That is important, as methane has about 72 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

The main cause of the rise in methane is commercial leaks, oil production, and fracking operations. In commercial sales, it is sometimes less expensive to ignore small leaks than to fix them. But many small leaks add up and it has been estimated that about 10% of natural gas put into pipelines is lost before it reaches the end user. Some of those problems could be fixed. Methane is also produced as a byproduct of oil production. If the amount of gas is too small to be sold commercially, it is often flared, i.e., lit like a torch. That converts it into carbon dioxide, which is less damaging to the environment. 

Fracking operations now produce a tremendous amount of natural gas for commercial use, and considerable amounts of methane escape into the atmosphere from the drilling operations and pipeline leaks. It requires effort and resources to contain the methane at the wellhead and to fix storage and transmission leaks. The EPA requires that leaks be self-reported, but often they were just ignored. Just recently, it has become possible to detect methane from GHGSat satellites. Below is a map that shows eight leaks in a 25 mi.² area in Turkmenistan, as they were seen by satellite. Estimates were that those leaks accounted for about 10,000 kg of methane a day. The methane was from fracking operations, pipeline leaks, and unlit flares.

Before satellites, most methane emissions were discovered by infrared cameras. Using them, it was found that the methane emissions from the Permian basin in Texas and New Mexico were much greater than those reported. Much of that came from unlit flares, which could easily be corrected. One accident at a gas well in Ohio is now thought to be the largest methane leak ever in the United States. Three different oil and gas facilities in Algeria were found to be leaking methane amounts equivalent to the carbon dioxide produced by a medium-size coal-fired power plant. The detection of leaks has been spotty and regulation of leaks has been difficult in the past. There is considerable economic incentive for gas companies to reduce methane emissions from leaks. However, it is expensive to send out crews to detect and repair smaller leaks, and many companies have just let them go.

The EPA expects the oil and gas industry to self-report and to repair leaks, but many companies just don’t. There are plans to deploy seven more GHGSat satellites to monitor greenhouse gas emissions. With them, it will be possible to detect and enforce the regulation of many methane leaks. It has been estimated that cutting methane emissions by 40% would have the same effect as taking 60% of the world’s coal-fired power plants off-line. And, we could easily cut methane emissions by 40% within the next decade.

(C) 2021 J.C. Moore All rights reserved.