New Paper shows Inverse Relationship between Global Warming and Coal-Fired Power Plants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 6th, 2013

Week in Review

In the Seventies they were scaring kids about a coming ice age.  And about air pollution so bad that we would one day have to wear gas masks when going outside.  The planet is a lot cleaner now.  And there is no talk about Americans one day having to wear a gas mask when going outside.  And that coming ice age?  Well, they were just wrong about that.  For what they thought was global cooling was actually global warming.  An easy mistake to make.  Because they’re both about temperature.  One just moves in one direction.  While the other moves in the other.  And unless you do something like record temperatures periodically how are you going to know which direction those temperatures are moving?

Then again, perhaps there was cooling then.  Before that cooling turned into warming.  For it now appears the reverse is happening.  A move from warming back to cooling.  Thanks to the Chinese and the Indians (see Climate forcing growth rates: doubling down on our Faustian bargain posted on IOP Science).

Remarkably, and we will argue importantly, the airborne fraction has declined since 2000 (figure 3) during a period without any large volcanic eruptions… The airborne fraction is affected by factors other than the efficiency of carbon sinks, most notably by changes in the rate of fossil fuel emissions (Gloor et al 2010). However, it is the dependence of the airborne fraction on fossil fuel emission rate that makes the post-2000 downturn of the airborne fraction particularly striking. The change of emission rate in 2000 from 1.5% yr-1 to 3.1% yr-1 (figure 1), other things being equal, would have caused a sharp increase of the airborne fraction (the simple reason being that a rapid source increase provides less time for carbon to be moved downward out of the ocean’s upper layers).

A decrease in land use emissions during the past decade (Harris et al 2012) could contribute to the decreasing airborne fraction in figure 3, although Malhi (2010) presents evidence that tropical forest deforestation and regrowth are approximately in balance, within uncertainties. Land use change can be only a partial explanation for the decrease of the airborne fraction; something more than land use change seems to be occurring.

We suggest that the huge post-2000 increase of uptake by the carbon sinks implied by figure 3 is related to the simultaneous sharp increase in coal use (figure 1). Increased coal use occurred primarily in China and India… Associated gaseous and particulate emissions increased rapidly after 2000 in China and India (Lu et al 2011, Tian et al 2010). Some decrease of the sulfur component of emissions occurred in China after 2006 as wide application of flue-gas desulfurization began to be initiated (Lu et al 2010), but this was largely offset by continuing emission increases from India (Lu et al 2011).

We suggest that the surge of fossil fuel use, mainly coal, since 2000 is a basic cause of the large increase of carbon uptake by the combined terrestrial and ocean carbon sinks… Sulfate aerosols from coal burning also might increase carbon uptake by increasing the proportion of diffuse insolation, as noted above for Pinatubo aerosols, even though the total solar radiation reaching the surface is reduced…

Reduction of the net human-made climate forcing by aerosols has been described as a ‘Faustian bargain’ (Hansen and Lacis 1990, Hansen 2009), because the aerosols constitute deleterious particulate air pollution. Reduction of the net climate forcing by half will continue only if we allow air pollution to build up to greater and greater amounts.

Let’s review.  The airborne fraction carbon dioxide has fallen since 2000.  And, as a result, global temperatures did not rise as projected.  Even though there were no large volcanic eruptions.  Which cause global cooling.  Tropical forest deforestation and re-growth are balancing each other out.  So that’s not a factor in this decline of airborne carbon dioxide.  Which leaves the sole remaining answer for the decline in airborne carbon dioxide levels as China’s and India’s explosion in new coal-fired power plants.  Yes, the wonderful air pollution from burning coal apparently cools the planet.  Like a volcanic eruption does.

Are you seeing the bigger picture here?  For a hundred years or so the Industrial Revolution belched so much ash, soot, smoke, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the air that it left black clouds over cities.  And a layer of soot and ash on everything.  This is why we electrified trains in our cities.  To keep coal-fired locomotives and their great black plumes of smoke out of the cities.  Was there a global warming problem then?  No.  That didn’t come into vogue until Al Gore started talking about it in the Nineties.  When the planet was doomed if we didn’t act immediately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Despite only a few years earlier the climate scientists were warning us of the coming ice age.  Probably because of all that global cooling from our coal-fired power plants, steam engines and locomotives.

As oil, gas and electricity replaced coal-fired boilers everywhere (we even used coal in our home furnaces) all that pollution from coal went away.  And then came the Nineties.  And catastrophic global warming.  Just as China and India began to incorporate some capitalism into their economies.  Which they fed with electricity provided by more and more coal-fired power plants.  And as they belched all that wonderful pollution into the air the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide as well as global temperatures fell.  So I ask again, do you see the bigger picture here?

Yes, global warming is man-made.  At least this is what one can conclude from this paper.  And it is the climate scientists who made it.  By telling us to reduce all of the cooling emissions from our coal-fired power plants.  But, thankfully, the Indians and the Chinese still care enough about Mother Earth to pump those cooling emissions into the air.  And gave us a reprieve from the global warming apocalypse.  But if the climate scientists get their way they’ll bring on that apocalypse.  By pressuring China and India to stop putting those cooling emissions into the air.  And for the sake of the planet we can only hope that they don’t succumb to that pressure.

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The Rise in Global Warming Alarmism coincides with the Decline in Sulfur Dioxide Emissions

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 3rd, 2013

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.

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The War on Coal to Fight Global Warming is actually Contributing to Global Warming

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 27th, 2013

Week in Review

Al Gore became filthy stinking rich by scaring people about global warming.  He even won an Academy Award for his movie An Inconvenient Truth about how global warming was coming to kill us.  He and his fellow leftists throughout the world jumped onto the global warming bandwagon to do things they’ve always wanted to do.  Regulate and tax businesses to transfer as much wealth from the private sector to the public sector they controlled.  Giving them the power they so covet.

And they used that power to further regulate businesses and change the way we live our lives.  Launching wars on oil and coal.  And pouring billions of taxpayer money into green energy initiatives that they and their crony capitalist friends control.  All based on some data they gathered in the Nineties.  That they then put into their flawed climate models.  And laugh with all-knowing condescension at anyone who dares challenge them on the facts.  And belittles them.  Even punishing them where they can.  With further regulatory controls.  Legislation that favors their competition.  Or a brutal colonoscopy performed by the IRS or local and state tax authorities.  Just as a reminder of who has the power.  And who belongs to the privileged class.  The American nobility.  The new aristocracy.  Just like the old aristocracy.  The ruling class.  The federal government.

Well, it turns out they were wrong.  And the deniers had good cause to not believe in man-made global warming.  Because their models were flawed.  Based on temperatures from a natural warming period.  A warming caused not by man.  But by the planet (see Global warming less extreme than feared? by Bård Amundsen/Else Lie (translation: Darren McKellep/Carol B. Eckmann) posted 1/24/2013 on The Research Council of Norway).

Policymakers are attempting to contain global warming at less than 2°C. New estimates from a Norwegian project on climate calculations indicate this target may be more attainable than many experts have feared…

After Earth’s mean surface temperature climbed sharply through the 1990s, the increase has levelled off nearly completely at its 2000 level. Ocean warming also appears to have stabilised somewhat, despite the fact that CO2 emissions and other anthropogenic factors thought to contribute to global warming are still on the rise…

A number of factors affect the formation of climate development. The complexity of the climate system is further compounded by a phenomenon known as feedback mechanisms, i.e. how factors such as clouds, evaporation, snow and ice mutually affect one another.

Uncertainties about the overall results of feedback mechanisms make it very difficult to predict just how much of the rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature is due to manmade emissions. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the climate sensitivity to doubled atmospheric CO2 levels is probably between 2°C and 4.5°C, with the most probable being 3°C of warming.

In the Norwegian project, however, researchers have arrived at an estimate of 1.9°C as the most likely level of warming…

For their analysis, Professor Berntsen and his colleagues entered all the factors contributing to human-induced climate forcings since 1750 into their model. In addition, they entered fluctuations in climate caused by natural factors such as volcanic eruptions and solar activity. They also entered measurements of temperatures taken in the air, on ground, and in the oceans.

The researchers used a single climate model that repeated calculations millions of times in order to form a basis for statistical analysis. Highly advanced calculations based on Bayesian statistics were carried out by statisticians at the Norwegian Computing Center…

The figure of 1.9°C as a prediction of global warming from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration is an average. When researchers instead calculate a probability interval of what will occur, including observations and data up to 2010, they determine with 90% probability that global warming from a doubling of CO2 concentration would lie between 1.2°C and 2.9°C.

This maximum of 2.9°C global warming is substantially lower than many previous calculations have estimated. Thus, when the researchers factor in the observations of temperature trends from 2000 to 2010, they significantly reduce the probability of our experiencing the most dramatic climate change forecast up to now.

Professor Berntsen explains the changed predictions:

“The Earth’s mean temperature rose sharply during the 1990s. This may have caused us to overestimate climate sensitivity.

“We are most likely witnessing natural fluctuations in the climate system – changes that can occur over several decades – and which are coming on top of a long-term warming. The natural changes resulted in a rapid global temperature rise in the 1990s, whereas the natural variations between 2000 and 2010 may have resulted in the levelling off we are observing now…”

The project’s researchers may have shed new light on another factor: the effects of sulphur-containing atmospheric particulates.

Burning coal is the main way that humans continue to add to the vast amounts of tiny sulphate particulates in the atmosphere. These particulates can act as condensation nuclei for cloud formation, cooling the climate indirectly by causing more cloud cover, scientists believe. According to this reasoning, if Europe, the US and potentially China reduce their particulate emissions in the coming years as planned, it should actually contribute to more global warming.

Some things to take away from this.  Climate is very complex.  And climate models require a boatload of assumptions.  Guesses.  Not even educated guesses.  But politically-driven guesses.  Also, they based their models on the temperatures in the Nineties being the new normal when the Nineties was in fact a natural warming period.  Where temperatures were temporarily above normal temperatures.  Volcanic eruptions and solar activity also influence climate.  And that sulfur actually causes global cooling.  Which is why volcanic activity causes global cooling.  Because volcanoes release sulfur particles into the atmosphere.  Just as burning coal does.  So the war on coal to fight global warming is actually contributing to global warming.

When you remove the politics from climate science you can arrive but at one solution.  Al Gore needs to return his Academy Award for An Inconvenient Truth.

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Coal Mines, Steam Engine, Electric Motor, Coal-Fired Power Plants, Water Pumps, Ventilation Fans, Strip Mining, Draglines and Coal Washing

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 12th, 2012

Technology 101

The Steam Engine pumped Water from Mines allowing them to go Deeper as they followed Veins of Coal

Petroleum is the lifeblood of advanced economies.  It propels our airplanes, ships, trains, trucks, ambulances, air ambulances, fire trucks, cars, etc.  It moves everything.  Our sick and injured.  Our families.  Our food.  Our goods.  The raw materials that build the world we live in.  You would not recognize the world if we removed petroleum from it.  There would be no aviation.  No emergency vehicles that could respond in minutes.  No family car.  But we could still have ships and trains.  Because before petroleum there was coal.

Before the Industrial Revolution we used animals to move people and things.  We were using fuels for other things.  But not to move people and goods.  Until there was a problem getting that fuel.  The British were mining coal near the coast.  But there was a problem.  As the coal veins they mined moved under the sea they filled with water.  Limiting how far they could follow those veins.  They had a pump.  Driven by a crude steam engine.  But it just didn’t do the job very well.  Until a man came along and improved it.  James Watt.  Who improved that crude steam engine.  And changed the world.

The steam engine pumped water from coal mines allowing them to go deeper as they followed veins of coal.  But the steam engine had other uses.  They could power a drive shaft in a factory.  Allowing us to build factories anywhere.  Not just by moving water that drove a waterwheel.  And using a steam engine to move a train allowed us to connect these factories with other factories.  And to the stores in the cites that bought the things they built.  Steam-powered tractors replaced the horse and plow on the farm.  While steam locomotives brought coal from distant coal mines to our homes we burned for heat.  Coal was everywhere.  We had a coal-based economy.  And a coal-based life.  The more we used the more we had to mine.  Thanks to the coal-fired steam engine we could mine a lot of it.  And did.  It powered the Industrial Revolution.  And powers our modern economy today.  Because coal even powers the engines that replaced the steam engines in our factories.

The two largest Electrical Loads in a Coal Mine are the Water Pumps and the Ventilation Fans

We’ve replaced the steam engines in our factories with the electric motor.  Instead of having a main drive shaft through the factory and a system of belts and pulleys we put an electric motor at each workstation.  And connected it to the electric grid.  Greatly increasing our productivity.  And the electric power to drive these electric motors came predominantly from coal-fired power plants.  Coal has never been more important in the modern economy.  It provides about half of all electric power.  Followed by natural gas and nuclear power at about 20% each (though natural gas is on the rise).  Hydroelectric dams provide less than 10% of our electric power.  And everything else provides less than 5%.

Just as the steam engine made mining more efficient so did electric power.  Mines can go deeper because electric pumps can more efficiently pump water out of the mines.  And large fans can circulate the air underground so miners can breathe.  As well as disperse any buildups of methane gas or coal dust.  Before they can explode.  Which is one of the hazards of mining a flammable and, at times, explosive material.  The hazard is so real that you will not find ventilation fans inside the mine.  You’ll find water pumps deep in the mines.  But not the ventilation fans.  Because if there is a fire or an explosion underground they’ll need to protect those fans from damage so they will still be able to ventilate the mine.  For if the mine fills with smoke surviving a fire or an explosion will matter little if you cannot breathe.

The two largest electrical loads in a coal mine are the water pumps and the ventilation fans.  Mines consume enormous amounts of electric power.  And most of it goes to fighting the water seepage that will fill up a mine if not pumped out.  And making the mines habitable.  Electric power also runs the hoists that haul the coal to the surface.  Transports miners to and from the mines.  And runs the mining equipment in a confined space without any hazardous fumes.  As critical as this electric power is to survive working in such an unfriendly environment more times than not the power they use comes from a coal-fired power plant.  A plant they feed with the very coal they mine.  Because it’s dependable.  That electric power will always be there.

Coal will always let you Charge your Electric Car Overnight and Surf the Web in the Morning

But we just don’t mine coal underground.  We also dig it up from the surface.  With strip mining.  Most of the coal we use today comes from great strip mines out West.  Where they use mammoth machines called draglines to scrape away soil to get to the coal.  And then they scrape out the coal.  These machines are as big as ships and actually have crew quarters inside them.  They even name them like ships.  They operate kind of like a fishing rod with a few minor differences.  Instead of a rod there is a boom.  Instead of nylon fishing line there is a steel cable up to two inches in diameter.  And instead of a hook there is a bucket big enough to hold a 2-car garage.  The operator ‘throws’ the bucket out by running it out along the boom.  Then drops it in the dirt.  Then drags the bucket back.  The massive scale of the dragline requires an enormous amount of power.  And the power of choice?  Electric power.  Often produced by the very coal they mine.  Some of these machines have electric cables even bigger around than the cables that drag their buckets.  At voltages of 10,000 to 25,000 volts.  Drawing up to 2,000 amps.

These draglines can mine a lot of coal.  But it’s a lower-quality coal than some of our eastern coal.  Which has a higher energy content.  But eastern coal also has a higher sulfur content.  Which requires more costs to make it burn cleaner.  In fact, before any coal ships today we wash it to remove slate as well as other waste rock from the coal.  And it is in this waste rock where we find much of the sulfur.  So the washing makes the coal burn cleaner.  As well as raise the energy content for a given quantity of coal by removing the waste that doesn’t burn.  There are a few ways they do this.  But they all involve water.  Therefore, at the end of the process they have to dry the coal by spinning it in a large cylindrical centrifuge.  So a lot happens to coal between digging it out of the ground and loading it on a unit train (a train carrying only one type of cargo) bound to some power plant.  And chances are that it will go to a power plant.  For our coal-fired power plants buy about 80% or so of all coal mined.  So if you see a coal train it is probably en route to a coal-fired power plant.

Coal created the modern world.  And it powers it to this day.  From the first steam engines that dewatered mines to the coal-fired power plants that power the massive server farms that hold the content of the World Wide Web.  Yes, coal even powers the Internet.  As well as our electric cars.  For only coal will be able to meet the electric demand when everyone starts plugging their car into the electric grid overnight.  Because solar power doesn’t work at night.  And wind power is even less reliable.  For if it’s a still night you’ll have no charge to drive to work in the morning.  But if you plugged into coal you’ll always be able to charge your electric car overnight.  And surf the web in the morning.

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Sea Levels are Rising and there’s Nothing we can do about It so go ahead and Fire Up those Coal-Fired Power Plants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 1st, 2012

Week in Review

Good news.  There’s nothing we can do to lower the sea levels.  So we can stop all of that global warming nonsense.  And live life normally again (see Rise in sea level can’t be stopped: scientists by Nina Chestney posted 7/1/2012 on Reuters).

Rising sea levels cannot be stopped over the next several hundred years, even if deep emissions cuts lower global average temperatures, but they can be slowed down, climate scientists said in a study on Sunday…

“Though sea-level rise cannot be stopped for at least the next several hundred years, with aggressive mitigation it can be slowed down, and this would buy time for adaptation measures to be adopted,” the scientists added.

You know the best thing we can do to try and stop the sea levels from rising?  Stop trying to stop the sea levels from rising.

Volcanic eruptions have lowered global temperatures by throwing soot, ash and sulfur into the atmosphere.  Some famines have been blamed on volcanic activity shortening the growing season.  Making it cooler and wetter.  So volcanic eruptions lower global temperatures by throwing soot, ash and sulfur into the atmosphere.  You know what else throws soot, ash and sulfur into the atmosphere.  Coal-fired power plants.  Interestingly, the catastrophic rise in global temperatures corresponds to the attack on coal.  Could this mean that the global warming alarmists have caused global warming by their efforts to stop global warming?  Yes.  It could very well mean that.  And when some of their own talk about pumping sulfur in the atmosphere to combat global warming it’s even harder to dispute this.

It looks like the climate scientists may be responsible for global warming.  While the coal-fired power plants were keeping the global temperature down all along.  How about that?

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The Australians raise Electric Bills to pay for Solar Panels and to Punish Carbon Sinners

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 16th, 2012

Week in Review

The ‘dangerous rise’ in global temperatures roughly corresponds to our actions to lower global temperatures.  In particular our attack on coal.  First we put scrubbers on our coal-fired power plants.  Then we turned to shutting them down in favor of renewable energy.  Which may have been a mistake.  For those coal-fired power plant emissions actually cooled the planet.  Thanks to the soot, ash and sulfur they threw into the atmosphere.  Like a bunch of tiny volcanoes.  Which have been blamed for some cooling spells that have led to famines.  Because all of that soot, ash and sulfur in the atmosphere kept the sun from heating the planet.  And shortened growing seasons.  But this knowledge hasn’t changed anything.  Because the attack on coal is good for government coffers (see Renewables blowout as wind, solar hit harder than tax by Sid Maher and Michael Owen posted 6/16/2012 on The Australian).

SUBSIDIES for rooftop solar panels will cost consumers about $2.3 billion over the next year as the combination of a federal government solar subsidy program and state government feed-in tariffs add about $140 a year to household power bills.

The figures emerged as the South Australian government’s electricity regulator yesterday announced an 18 per cent rise in electricity prices for the state’s households, with the cost of the state’s solar feed-in tariff scheme outstripping that of the carbon tax. State and federal governments are facing calls for reform of the schemes as they are driving electricity prices higher, in addition to the increases associated with the carbon tax.

That’s billion with a ‘b’.  That’s a lot of money to spend.  And governments just love spending money.  So what if it raises our electricity prices?  As far as they are concerned burning coal is as bad as smoking a cigarette.  And this is just a sin tax for everyone.  For the sin of being human.  And taking control of our environment to create the modern world.  Which the environmentalists disapprove of.  We belong in caves.  Hunting and gathering like our ancestors.  Well, gathering, at least.  For the environmentalists would rather we coexist with our fellow animals.  Share our pristine environment.  And not eat them.  Of course, that wouldn’t stop them from trying to eat us.  But that would be okay.  For they could take control of their environment.  As long as they don’t burn coal.  Or are overly flatulent.  Because too much methane released into the atmosphere could raise global temperatures, too.

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The Solution to Global Warming is more Coal-Fired Power Plants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 10th, 2012

Week in Review

Volcanoes are amazing things.  They can belch so much soot, ash and sulfur into the atmosphere they can lower global temperatures.  British Airways Flight 9 (callsign Speedbird 9) flew into a cloud of volcanic ash in June 1982 over the Indian Ocean.  In the black of night.  All four engines flamed out with the crew unable to figure out what was happening.  They continuously tried to restart the engine as the plane lost altitude.  When they saw they wouldn’t clear some high mountains on the island of Java they began turning the plane back over the ocean.  To try a water landing.  But then an engine sputtered to life.  Then another.  Till all four restarted.  They didn’t know it but as they passed through about 13,000 feet they emerged from the bottom of the ash cloud.  Which let them relight their engines.  Allowing them to fly the plane safely in.

Periods of high volcanic activity have cooled the earth so much that it has affected agriculture.  Colder and wetter growing seasons led to poorer crop yields.  And famine.  So volcanoes are powerful.  They can dramatically cool global temperatures.  Even kill us by reducing the length of our food growing season.  Now someone is thinking about deliberately pumping sulfur in the atmosphere to combat global warming (see The black sheep of climate engineering by Doug Craig posted 6/9/2012 on redding.com).

In his book, Hack the Planet, Eli Kintsch explains “manually tinkering with Earth’s thermostat to reverse global warming” was seriously proposed in 1997 by Lowell Wood, also known by some as Dr. Evil, and the conservative Edward Teller, “the father of the hydrogen bomb,” because “geoengineering was a better way to tackle the climate crisis than the Kyoto accords.”

A decade later, Wood recommended burning sulfur and “then dumping the particles out of high-flying 747s, spraying them into the sky with long hoses or even shooting them up there with naval artillery. They’d be invisible to the naked eye, Wood argued, and harmless to the environment. Depending on the number of particles you injected, you could not only stabilize Greenland’s polar ice — you could actually grow it. Results would be quick: If you started spraying particles into the stratosphere tomorrow, you’d see changes in the ice within a few months. And if it worked over the Arctic, it would be simple enough to expand the program to encompass the rest of the planet. In effect, you could create a global thermostat, one that people could dial up or down to suit their needs (or the needs of polar bears).”

As I read this all I could think about was the attack on coal.  And the correlation between the rise in global temperatures and this assault on coal.  From adding scrubbers on coal-fired power plants to phasing out coal-fired power plants because they purportedly contribute to global warming.  But much like the volcano burning coal has a cooling affect on the planet.  For it throws up soot, ash and sulfur into the atmosphere just like a volcano.  Who’d a thunk it?

Funny, isn’t it?  By trying to save the planet from global warming they’ve actually caused global warming.  Perhaps we should fire up more coal-fired power plants.  And remove those scrubbers.  To cool the planet.  But not too much.  We wouldn’t want to cause a famine now, would we?

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Carbon, Carbon Cycle, Crude Oil, Petroleum, Hydrocarbons, Oil Refinery, Cracking, Sweet Crude, Sour Crude, Gasoline and Diesel Engines

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 25th, 2012

Technology 101

Crude Oil is made from Long Chains of Carbon Atoms Bonded Together with a lot of Hydrogen Atoms Attached Along the Way

Carbon.  It’s everywhere.  And in everything.  Like all matter it cannot be created.  Or destroyed.  It just changes.  As it creates the circle of life.  The carbon cycle.  Plants and trees absorb carbon out of the atmosphere.  And converts it into biomass.  Into wood.  And into animal food.  Where the digestive system converts it into carbon-based living flesh and blood.  That exhales carbon.  Plants absorb carbon and release oxygen.  Plants can’t grow without carbon.  And we can’t breathe without plants growing.  Carbon is constantly changing.  But never created.  Or destroyed.  From diamonds to pencils.  From sugar to carbonated soda.  From plastics to human beings.  It’s everywhere.  And everything.  Why, it’s life itself.

Carbon is a time traveler.  Carbon that once traveled through the atmosphere disappeared millions of years ago.  Buried underneath the surface of the earth.  Under intense heat and pressure.  Plankton and algae and other biomasses decayed until there was almost nothing left but carbon atoms.  Long chains of carbon atoms.  Forming great, restless pools of black goo beneath the surface.   Waiting for the modern world to arrive.  Waiting for the internal combustion engine.  The jet engine.  And plastics.  When they could be reborn.  And see the light of day again.

Crude oil.  Petroleum.  Black gold.  Texas tea.  Hydrocarbons.  Long chains of carbon atoms bonded together with a lot of hydrogen atoms attached along the way.  In the ground they’re mostly long chains.  When we get them above ground we can break those chains into different lengths.  And create many different things.  C16H34 (hexadecane).  C9H20 (nonane).  C8H18 (octane).  C7H16 (heptane).  C5H12 (pentane).  C4H10 (butane).  C6H6 (benzene).  CH4 (methane).  Some of these you may be familiar with.  Some you may not.  Methane is a flammable gas.  Hydrocarbon chains from pentane to octane make gasoline.  Hydrocarbon chains from nonane to hexadecane make diesel fuel, kerosene and jet fuel.  Chains with more carbon atoms make lubricants.  Chains with even more carbon atoms make asphalt.  While chains with 4 carbon atoms or less make gases.  All these things made from the same black goo.  A true marvel of Mother Nature.  Or God.  Depending on your inclination.

Older Coastal Refineries make more Expensive Gasoline than the Newer Refineries due to the Availability of Sweet versus Sour Crude

Another great carbon-based product it bourbon.  Made from a corn sour mash.  We heat this and the alcohol in it boils off.  That is, we distill it.  We run this gas through a coiling coil and it condenses back into a liquid.  And after a few more steps we get delicious bourbon whiskey.  Distilleries give tours.  If you get a chance you should take one.  You won’t get to sample any of the distilled spirits (insurance reasons).  But you will get a feel for what an oil refinery is.

An oil refinery works on the same principles.  Boil and condense.  And cracking.  Cracking those long hydrocarbon chains apart into all those different chains.  Long and small.  Into liquids and gases.  Even solid lubricants and asphalt.  All made possible because of their different boiling points.  The gases having lower boiling points.  The solids having higher boiling points.  And the liquids having boiling points somewhere in between.

Refineries are complex processing plants.  Not only because of all those different hydrocarbon chains.  But because of the crude oil introduced to these plants.  For there is light sweet crude.  And heavier sour crude.  The difference being the additional stuff that we need to remove.  Such as sulfur.  An environmental problem.  So we have to remove as much of it as possible during the refining process to meet EPA standards.  The sweet crudes are lower in sulfur.  Making them the crude of choice.  But this has also been the most popular crude through the years.  So its resources are dwindling.  Making it more expensive.  As are all the products refined from it.  Especially gasoline.  The more sour crudes have higher sulfur content.  And require more refining steps to remove that sulfur.  Which means additional refinery equipment.  So the older refineries that were refining the light sweet crude can’t refine the heavier sour crudes.  Which is why the refineries along the coasts make more expensive gasoline than the newer ones in the interior refining the heavier sour crudes.  Due to the availability of sweet crude versus sour crude.

The Modern World is brought to us by a Complex Economy which is brought to us by Petroleum

One of the main uses of refined crude oil is fuel for internal combustion engines.  In particular, gasoline engines and diesel engines.  Which are very similar.  The difference being the mode of ignition.  And, of course, the fuel.  Gasoline engines compress an air-fuel mixture in the cylinder.  At the top of the compression stroke a spark plug ignites this highly compressed and heated mixture.  Sending the piston down.  If the combustion occurs too early it could place undo stresses on the piston connecting rods and the crank shaft.  By trying to send the piston down when it was coming up.  Causing a knocking sound.  Which is a bad sound to hear.  And if you hear it you should probably make sure you’re using the right gasoline.  If you are you need to have you car serviced.  Because continued knocking may break something.  And if it does your engine will work no more.  So this is where octane comes in the blending of gasoline.  It’s expensive.  But the more of it in gasoline the higher the compression you can have.  And the less knocking.  Which is its only purpose.  It doesn’t give you any more power.  The higher compression does.  Which the higher octane allows.  Using the higher octane gas in a standard compression engine won’t do anything but waste your hard earned money.

And speaking of higher compression engines, that brings us to diesel engines.  Which are similar to gasoline engines only they operate under a higher compression.  And don’t use spark plugs.  These engines compress air only.  Which allows the higher compression without pre-ignition.  At the top of their compression stroke a fuel injector squirts diesel fuel into the hot compressed air where it combusts on contact.  Diesel fuel has a higher energy content than gasoline.  Meaning for the same volume of fuel diesel can take you further than gasoline.  Which is why trucks, locomotives and ships use diesel.  But diesel tends to pollute more.  The smell and the soot kept diesel out of our cars for a long time.  As well as the difficulty of starting in cold climates.  Advanced computer controlled systems have helped, though, and we’re seeing more diesel used in cars now.

The modern world is brought to us by a complex economy.  Where goods and raw materials traverse the globe.  To feed our industries.  And to ship our finished goods.  Which we put on trucks, trains, ships and airplanes.  None of which would be possible without a portable, stable, energy-dense fuel.  That only refined petroleum can give us.  It’s better than animal power.  Water power.  Wind power.  Or steam power.  For there is nothing that we can use in our trucks, trains, ships and airplanes other than refined petroleum products today that wouldn’t be a step backwards in our modern world.  Nothing.  Making petroleum truly a marvel of Mother Nature.  Or God.  Depending on your inclination.

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