SEARCH BLOG: ENVIRONMENT ENERGY ECONOMY
In so much of what I have read and even written, there are issues of environment, energy and the economy that overlap and may conflict. It is a difficult challenge to separate much of the particulars into neat categories and identify conflicts or contradictions.
For example, let's look at the issue of oil and it's alternatives.
The use of oil is primarily an economic one. Oil has the advantage of amply supply, great distribution and a transportation market designed around oil products. Oil as an energy source is superior to ethanol in the mileage it delivers per gallon. It has distinct environmental drawbacks from all manner of pollution from spills to emissions that foul the air.When one looks at the alternatives to oil, the same issues face us. For example, ethanol has been pushed as an alternative fuel.
Ethanol is not a good economic alternative at the present price of oil; it requires significant subsidies, it disrupts the corn market, and does not have a good distribution system. It does not produce as much energy per gallon as gasoline. Ethanol has environmental issues because of emissions of pollutants that cause smog plus it continues to create CO2 which has become a political pariah.How about battery-powered cars?
There is both a technical and economic issue with batteries as a replacement for gasoline. The range of battery-powered vehicles is limited without a supplemental small engine and overall energy usage may be more than a small gasoline-powered vehicle. Then there is the overriding environmental issue of what to do with the dead batteries.How about hydrogen-powered vehicles?
Hydrogen gas as the source of power for vehicles sounds great, but there is presently no economical method of producing large quantities of this gas and distributing it for consumption. Furthermore, hydrogen gas is essentially a battery... a storage medium... that requires other sources of energy for production... such as nuclear or coal-powered electricity generating plants which have bad environmental reputations.So when dealing with issues such as "global warming", one must critically look at the alternatives. Alternatives to oil are just one area of discussion. A similar discussion is necessary for coal... and another for nuclear power.
There are many potential alternatives being tossed around. For example, plasma arc technology is being developed for destruction of virtually all wastes except nuclear waste. Plasma arc incineration plants could be built at current landfills and eliminate the need for further landfills. They reduce all waste to its atomic components and, in the process, creates more electricity than it consumes... one disposal site could power a city and eliminate most environmental threats... while actually reducing the cost of waste management. That's a potential win in all three categories of economy, energy and environment. The problem is that this alternative is only getting a start.
There is a tendency to be one-sided in response to perceived problems. The CO2 alarmists want to focus only on efforts to reduce CO2 whether the efforts have detrimental economic, energy, or environmental side-effects. The rush to action... especially political action is often at the expense of other real human concerns.
Here's one: safe water. With population growing ever faster, the availability of safe water may be more pressing than "solving" the CO2 "problem." It just doesn't have the PR that other issues have.
Economic, energy and environmental concerns need critical and balanced solutions. Otherwise, we can "solve" one area of concern and bring chaos in others.