Week in Review
Coal gave us the Industrial Revolution. And it made America the world’s number one economic power. But what does it get for transforming the world? Allowing us to enjoy the air conditioned comfort of surfing the net at our local coffee house? Those on the Left call it public enemy number one. Poor coal. The Rodney Dangerfield of energy.
So we’re building a lot of solar power and wind power to replace coal. Spending a fortune. But the only thing really reducing our use of coal has been our burgeoning reserves of domestic natural gas reserves. That we’ve tapped with hydraulic fracturing. Something the Left hates perhaps even more than coal. Now that we’re burning coal cleaner than we’ve ever had before (see Coal Is History. Or Is It? by Christopher Helman posted 3/1/2013 on Forbes)
The good news for the anti-coal crowd, is that we’ve made coal a lot cleaner. Thanks to mandated installation of emissions-reduction technology, since 1990 U.S. emissions of sulfur dioxide have dropped from more than 15 million tons per year to less than 4 million tons.
But is this a good thing? For one way to combat global warming is to mimic a volcano (see How Geoengineering Works: 5 Big Plans to Stop Global Warming by Andrew Moseman posted 10/1/2009 on Popular Mechanics).
A volcanic eruption can bellow many million tons of sulfur-dioxide gas into the atmosphere, creating a cloud that blocks some of the sun’s radiation. By injecting the atmosphere with sulfur, some scientists believe they could likewise block solar radiation and potentially cool the planet.
Sulfur dioxide reacts with water in the atmosphere to create droplets of sulfuric acid, says Rutgers University environmental scientist Alan Robock. Those droplets are particularly good at scattering the sun’s light back out into space. And because sulfur doesn’t heat the stratosphere as much as other aerosols, it wouldn’t work against the cooling effect…
But while a volcano has intense underground pressure to propel sulfur upwards, human means to do so are limited. “There’s no way to do it today,” Robock says.
It seems like we’ve been trying to solve the wrong problem. We’ve been trying to reduce sulfur emissions. Instead of trying to get those sulfur emissions into the stratosphere. Of course it is curious how the man-made stuff that causes global warming gets to where it needs to be to warm the planet. But the manmade stuff that cools the planet doesn’t. And it is coincidental that all the global warming alarms began right around the time we started lowering our sulfur emissions. Making one to wonder if the climate scientists know what they’re doing. For it sure seems the more they’ve changed our lives with environmental regulations the worse global warming got.
Trying to reverse global warming, should it exist, is an act of futility. For the Chinese burn twice as much coal as we do. Whatever we don’t burn we’re selling to them so they can. The only one coming out ahead are the Chinese. They’re getting more reliable electric power. While the same amount of coal emissions are entering the atmosphere.
Tags: Coal, cools the planet, Global Warming, sulfur, sulfur dioxide, sulfur emissions, sulfuric acid, volcanic eruption, volcano, warm the planet
Week in Review
Droughts are a sign of global warming. Excessive rains are a sign of global warming. Little snow fall is a sign of global warming. Powerful blizzards are a sign of global warming. Let’s see, what else? Meteorites threatening the planet are a sign of global warming. Gun violence is a sign of global warming. Obesity is a sign of global warming. And pretty much anything else is a sign of global warming. Because climate ‘scientists’ and journalists say so (see Climate contradiction: Less snow, more blizzards by Seth Borenstein, Associated Press, posted 2/18/2013 on The Detroit News).
Ten climate scientists say the idea of less snow and more blizzards makes sense: A warmer world is likely to decrease the overall amount of snow falling each year and shrink snow season. But when it is cold enough for a snowstorm to hit, the slightly warmer air is often carrying more moisture, producing potentially historic blizzards.
“Strong snowstorms thrive on the ragged edge of temperature — warm enough for the air to hold lots of moisture, meaning lots of precipitation, but just cold enough for it to fall as snow,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. “Increasingly, it seems that we’re on that ragged edge.”
The ragged edge of temperature? So what this climate ‘scientist’ is telling us is that if it’s too warm it won’t snow. It will just rain. They’ve been telling us for DECADES that rising temperatures will melt the Arctic icecap. Raising the ocean levels. Swamping our coastal areas. Causing our farmlands to turn into deserts. And moving our warmer climes further north. Keeping the snow further north. So if temperatures have been rising and pushing the collisions of these hot and cold air masses further north we should be getting less snow in the mid latitudes and more snow in the higher latitudes. Burying them in snow. Especially in Canada around the Great Lakes. Because it’s the same amount of snow but in a smaller area. Building huge snow masses to provide a long snowmelt to fill those Great Lakes all spring and summer. Raising their levels to record highs. It’s a sound theory. Only one problem. The Great Lakes are at record lows.
But wait a minute, you say. What about rain? The reason it didn’t snow as much in the higher latitudes is because all that moisture fell out of the sky as rain before it got to those higher latitudes. An excellent point. Only one problem. North America suffered one of the worst droughts on record. Devastating our corn crops. And raising the price of food across the board.
But wait a minute, you say. That doesn’t prove anything. Because of rising temperatures it’s just not precipitating as much. Less moisture in the air because of higher temperatures means less rain AND less snow. Another excellent point. Only one problem. It has been raining. A lot. The UK suffered above average rainfalls this past year. Sending her rivers over their banks. And causing some of the worst flooding the UK has ever seen.
But wait a minute, you say. And I say, enough. Everything cannot be the result of global warming. Warmer temperatures and cooler temperatures cannot both be the result of global warming. Droughts and flooding cannot both be the result of global warming. Less snowfall and greater blizzards cannot both be the result of global warming. Every contradictory piece of empirical evidence cannot prove global warming. Real science doesn’t work that way. Water freezes at zero degrees Celsius. And boils at 100 degrees Celsius. These are distinct states of matter. And they cannot exist at the same time. For there are rules in science. And you can’t keep changing them to prove a theory.
Scientists won’t blame a specific event or even a specific seasonal change on global warming without doing intricate and time-consuming studies. And they say they are just now getting a better picture of the complex intersection of man-made climate change and extreme snowfall.
Then why have we been listening to you for close to three decades now? Why do we have laws that change the way we live going back decades when you’re only now understanding man-made climate change? If you were wrong decades ago how do we know you’re right now?
Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann points to the recent Northeast storm that dumped more than 30 inches in some places. He said it was the result of a perfect set of conditions for such an event: Arctic air colliding with unusually warm oceans that produced extra large amounts of moisture and big temperature contrasts, which drive storms. Those all meant more energy, more moisture and thus more snow, he said.
Do you know who Michael Mann is? He’s the guy that created the ‘hockey stick graph’ that supposedly proved global warming. Temperatures were relatively constant for 900 years. Then rose. Giving the shape of a hockey stick. He took data from tree rings, lake sediments and ice cores and calculated temperatures for the past 1,000 years. Giving us the hockey stick graph. But in 2010 some emails came to light showing other climate scientists, Phil Jones, Keith Briffa and others, were not all on board with the hockey stick graph. Despite the powers that be in climate ‘science’ adopting Mann’s hockey stick (see Controversy behind climate science’s ‘hockey stick’ graph by Fred Pearce posted 2/2/2010 on the guardian).
…Briffa…sent a long and passionate email. “It should not be taken as read that Mike’s series is THE CORRECT ONE,” he warned. “I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’, but in reality the situation is not quite so simple… For the record, I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago.”
What’s this? If you take the data beyond the starting point of Michael Mann’s data, back before man was creating any global warming, there was a matching rise in temperature? Or so said the hacked emails from the University of East Anglia’s climatic research unit. So Michael Mann is a guy that likes to look at limited ranges of data. Just enough to support his hypothesis. And not too much so it doesn’t refute his hypothesis. So one cannot help but to take whatever he says with a grain of salt.
So what does all of this mean? Global warming is more politics than science. Most of the accepted research was done by people funded by governments that want to take ever more control over the private sector economy. To increase the size of government. And to increase tax revenues. If you don’t believe this consider the volcano. When they erupt they tend to cool the climate. Because they put smoke, soot, ash, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. The same things coal-fired power plants put into the atmosphere. Yet volcanoes cool the planet. While coal-fired power plants warm the planet. Go figure. Two things doing the same thing. Yet each producing completely opposite results. To understand this you have to enter the world where there are square circles. And intersecting parallel lines. A place where there are no scientific laws. Only wild imagination. For it is a wacky world when it comes to the field of climate ‘science’.
Tags: ash, blizzard, carbon dioxide, climate scientists, coal-fired power plants, cooler temperatures, drought, flooding, Global Warming, Great Lakes, higher latitudes, hockey stick graph, hypothesis, man-made climate change, melt, Michael Mann, mid latitudes, ragged edge of temperature, rain, smoke, snow, soot, sulfur dioxide, temperatures, volcano, warmer temperatures
By burning Coal to Boil Water into Steam to Move a Piston we could Build a Factory Anywhere
We created advanced civilization by harnessing energy. And converting this energy into working power. Our first efforts were biological. Feeding and caring for large animals made these animals strong. Their physiology converted food and water into strong muscles and bones. Allowing them to pull heavy loads. From plowing. To heavy transportation. To use in construction. Of course the problem with animals is that they’re living things. They eat and drink. And poop and pee. Causing a lot of pollution in and around people. Inviting disease.
As civilization advanced we needed more energy. And we found it in wind and water. We built windmills and waterwheels. To capture the energy in moving wind and moving water. And converted this into rotational motion. Giving us a cleaner power source than working animals. Power that didn’t have to rest or eat. And could run indefinitely as long as the wind blew and the water flowed. Using belts, pulleys, cogs and gears we transferred this rotational power to a variety of work stations. Of course the problem with wind and water is that you needed to be near wind and water. Wind was more widely available but less reliable. Water was more reliable but less widely available. Each had their limitations.
The steam engine changed everything. By burning a fuel (typically coal) to boil water into steam to move a piston we could build a factory anywhere. Away from rivers. And even in areas that had little wind. The reciprocating motion of the piston turned a wheel to convert it into rotational motion. Using belts, pulleys, cogs and gears we transferred this rotational power to a variety of work stations. This carried us through the Industrial Revolution. Then we came up with something better. The electric motor. Instead of transferring rotational motion to a workstation we put an electric motor at the work station. And powered it with electricity. Using electric power to produce rotational motion at the workstation. Electricity and the electric motor changed the world just as the steam engine had changed the world earlier. Today the two have come together.
You can tell a Power Plant uses a Scrubber by the White Steam puffing out of a Smokestack
Coal has a lot of energy in it. When we burn it this energy is transformed into heat. Hot heat. For coal burns hot. The modern coal-fired power plant is a heat engine. It uses the heat from burning coal to boil water into steam. And as steam expands it creates great pressure. We can use this pressure to push a piston. Or turn a steam turbine. A rotational device with fins. As the steam pushes on these fins the turbine turns. Converting the high pressure of the steam into rotational motion. We then couple this rotational motion of the steam turbine to a generator. Which spins the generator to produce electricity.
Coal-fired power plants are hungry plants. A large plant burns about 1,000 tons of coal an hour. Or about 30,000 pounds a minute. That’s a lot of coal. We typically deliver coal to these plants in bulk. Via Great Lakes freighters. River barges. Or unit trains. Trains made up of nothing but coal hopper cars. These feed coal to the power plants. They unload and conveyor systems take this coal and create big piles. You can see conveyors rising up from these piles of coal. These conveyors transport this coal to silos or bunkers. Further conveyor systems transfer the coal from these silos to the plant. Where it is smashed and pulverized into a dust. And then it’s blown into the firebox, mixed with hot air and ignited. Creating enormous amounts of heat to boil an enormous amount of water. Creating the steam to turn a turbine.
Of course, with combustion there are products left over. Sulfur impurities in the coal create sulfur dioxide. And as the coal burns it leaves behind ash. A heavy ash that falls to the bottom of the firebox. Bottom ash. And a lighter ash that is swept away with the flue gases. Fly ash. Filters catch the fly ash. And scrubbers use chemistry to remove the sulfur dioxide from the flue gases. By using a lime slurry. The flue gases rise through a falling mist of lime slurry. They chemically react and create calcium sulfate. Or Gypsum. The same stuff we use to make drywall out of. You can tell a power plant uses a scrubby by the white steam puffing out of a smokestack. If you see great plumes puffing out of a smokestack there’s little pollution entering the atmosphere. A smokestack that isn’t puffing out a plume of white steam is probably spewing pollution into the atmosphere.
Coal is a Highly Concentrated Source of Energy making Coal King when it comes to Electricity
When the steam exits the turbines it enters a condenser. Which cools it and lowers its temperature and pressure. Turning the steam back into water. It’s treated then sent back to the boiler. However, getting the water back into the boiler is easier said than done. The coal heats the water into a high pressure steam. So high that it’s hard for anything to enter the boiler. So this requires a very powerful pump to overcome that pressure. In fact, this pump is the biggest pump in the plant. Powered by electric power. Or steam. Sucking some 2-3 percent of the power the plant generates.
Coupled to the steam turbine is a power plant’s purpose. Generators. Everything in a power plant serves but one purpose. To spin these generators. And when they spin they generate a lot of power. Producing some 40,000 amps at 10,000 to 30,000 volts at a typical large plant. Multiplying current by power and you get some 1,200 MW of power. Which can feed a lot of homes with 100 amp, 240 volt services. Some 50,000 with every last amp used in their service. Or more than twice this number under typical loads. Add a few boilers (and turbine and generator sets) and one plant can power every house and business across large geographic areas in a state. Something no solar array or wind farm can do. Which is why about half of all electricity produced in the U.S. is generated by coal-fired power plants.
Coal is a highly concentrated source of energy. A little of it goes a long way. And a lot of it produces enormous amounts of electric power. Making coal king when it comes to electricity. There is nothing that can match the economics and the logistics of using coal. Thanks to fracking, though, natural gas is coming down in price. It can burn cleaner. And perhaps its greatest advantage over coal is that we can bring a gas-fired plant on line in a fraction amount of the time it takes to bring a coal-fired plant on line. For coal-fired plants are heat engines that boil water into steam to spin turbines. Whereas gas-fired plants use the products of combustion to spin their turbines. Utilities typically use a combination of coal-fired and gas-fired plants. The coal-fired plants run all of the time and provide the base load. When demand peaks (when everyone turns on their air conditioners in the evening) the gas-fired plants are brought on line to meet this peak demand.
Tags: ash, boil water, boiler, Coal, coal-fired power plant, combustion, electric motor, electric power, electricity, energy, fly ash, generator, heat, heat engine, lime slurry, power, pressure, rotational motion, scrubbers, steam, steam engine, steam turbine, sulfur dioxide, turbine, waterwheels, windmills