Tuesday, September 26, 2006

James Hansen Threatens the World: Not One Degree More Dammit! I'm Warning You, Not One Degree More!!!

James Hansen appears to have gone around the bend in his latest claims of measurement precision for temperatures over the past million years! One degree--ultra precision by proxy. Amazing.

Climate Audit blog re-introduces a huge dollop of sanity into the debate by placing Hansen's claim into context. Be sure and read the comments too. Climate Audit allows a rough and tumble debate that you will never find at the heavily censored "realclimate" site.

The article itself is a bizarre and undisciplined hodgepodge in which they discuss Hansen’s congressional testimony in 1988 for a while, an ocean sediment record in the Western Equatorial Pool, then sea levels and species extinctions, musing on Dangerous Anthropogenic Intervention and the Framework Convention - which Stephen Schneider set out as an objective some time ago. (Ross twigged to the increasing mentions of Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference - the trigger phrase for the Framework Convention - to which the U.S. is a party.

The article was presumably peer reviewed, but then in today's atmosphere of "fashion science", the criteria for publishing are a bit skewed from conventional scientific standards.

The fascinating thing is the number of people who take these latest claims by Hansen seriously. Independent thought must have been bullied out of them by their conformist educations, or perhaps they never had the facility to begin with.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reduce Energy Use? Don't Be Ridiculous!

Bringing in the promise of the future requires vastly increased energy production and use, not less! This new energy should be increasingly from clean and renewable sources, of course, and energy use efficiencies must constantly increase. But thinking in terms of cutting energy production and use is stone-aged thinking, not worthy of anyone who intends to walk into the future as a free person.
MIT engineering student Carl Dietrich is continuing to develop his flying car. Dietrich recently started the company Terrafugia to continue the development and marketing of the "roadable aircraft", as Dietrich likes to call it.

The Transition is designed for jumps of 100 to 500 miles. It will carry two people and luggage on a single tank of premium unleaded gas. It will also come with an electric calculator (to help fine-tune weight distribution), airbags, aerodynamic bumpers and, of course, a navigation unit with a global positioning system.

....Dietrich came up with the idea while a student at MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Earlier this year he won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, which recognizes invention and innovation. He also holds a patent for the centrifugal direct injection engine, a low-cost, high-performance rocket propulsion engine. Dietrich conducted his rocket engine research as an undergraduate at MIT.

The conventional wisdom on technological innovation is that it requires large teams of engineers working under the auspices of a large corporate research lab. That is of course rubbish. Take a recent significant improvement in the design of lead-acid batteries. Any half-way creative 8 year old given the proper education could have devised this patented improvement, daydreaming in the classroom.

# 4 times greater surface area for electroplates
# 60-68% efficiency (compared to 30-40% for conventional batteries)
# 30-50% smaller and lighter
# Environment friendly - Uses significantly less lead then typical lead-acid batteries
# Recharge quickly at any standard household outlet
# Utilizes same external case as conventional batteries
# Can instantly increase energy output and replace conventional battery with no retrofitting of vehicle
More details and links at source. A simple innovation that promises improvements on many fronts.

On the other hand, this revolutionary new engine required the effort of a distinguished professor of chemical engineering, and many graduate students.

* The StarRotor engine is projected to be very efficient (45-60%). By simply replacing conventional engines (15-20% efficiency) with a StarRotor engine, fuel economy will double or triple. For example, a conventional luxury car getting about 25 mpg on the highway would get about 75 mpg. A conventional economy car getting 40 mpg would get about 120 mpg.

* It should produce very low pollution. Advanced combustor technology reduces pollution, including unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides.

* It has multi-fuel capability. Any liquid or gaseous fuel can be burned, including gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel, alcohol, methane, hydrogen, and even vegetable oil.

* It should be inexpensive to mass produce. The parts count of the engine is about 10% of a conventional automobile engine, and the majority of parts do not require complex machining.

* There should be no vibrations. All moving components are in pure rotation; there are no oscillating components therefore it is in balance.

* It should be quiet. Because the gas is fully expanded, there is low exhaust noise.

* The engine is expected to have a long life and low maintenance. The compressor and expander of the StarRotor engine have a slight clearance between the rotors, resulting in no friction or wear. Also, it should require very infrequent oil changes, perhaps every 100,000 miles. Because it has very few moving parts, it is expected to be very reliable and require very little maintenance.

* The engine should be smaller than conventional internal combustion engines. The StarRotor engine volume and mass are about half that of a conventional internal combustion engine. A 130-hp engine will occupy approximately 2 cubic feet.

* It should have a high turn-down ratio. The engine is efficient over a wide range of speeds and torques.

* The StarRotor engine should be easily scalable. Designs from 50 W to 50 MW are possible.
I encourage those of you with mechanical minds to visit the source website and think about the concepts involved. Lectures explaining this innovative engine are available at this link.

Finally, adjusting to climate reality. Frances Cairncross, president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, says it is time to start learning to adjust to a warming world. The Kyoto Protocol is worthless, she suggests, and continuing to ignore the necessary adjustments that have to be made will only make conditions worse for humans and other living inhabitants of the globe.

On Monday Cairncross described the Kyoto protocol as "ineffectual" and called for the world to accept that "a hotter, drier world" is coming - even if everyone fulfils their obligations under Kyoto and pegs levels of carbon dioxide back below the 1990 baseline. "Adaptation policies have had far less attention than mitigation," she told the BA. “A hotter drier world is coming even if everyone fulfils their obligations under Kyoto.”

Now Cairncross is saying the UK should prepare for the inevitable by developing drought-resistant crops, constructing flood defences and perhaps even banning dwellings close to sea level. "We cannot relocate the Amazon or insulate coral reefs, so we need mitigation too, but the [UK] government could and should put in place an adaption strategy straight away," she said.

Mping at Fat Knowledge Blog presents a very thought provoking post dealing with levels of carbon dioxide in earth's past, and why CO2 may not be the boogeyman that so many evangelical proponents of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming try to portray it.

The earth's climate system is temporarily warming, although there is a lack of scientific consensus in explaining the cause of the warming. Climate models project a wide range of scenarios, in spite of the rampant "fudging" and "tweaking" involved.

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Revolutionary Superconducting Power Transmission Cable

A second generation superconducting power transmission cable, using liquid nitrogen as the coolant, has been energised at a station outside Columbus, Ohio. The Triax HTS cable utilises 3 concentric super-conducting layers to allow 3-phase current transmission in a single cable!

-A new technology that holds promise to transform the global transmission and distribution of electric power was formally energized today near Columbus, Ohio. The $9 million project uses a second-generation High Temperature Superconducting (HTS) cable system to efficiently deliver electric power to approximately 8,600 homes and businesses in suburban Columbus.

The Columbus project is the first demonstration of the new Triax HTS cable design, which dramatically reduces the cost of superconducting systems and brings the technology one step closer to commercial viability. The system was developed by Southwire Company and its partners, American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), Praxair (NYSE: PX), American Superconductor (NASDAQ: AMSC) and the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Approximately 200 meters (660 feet) of Triax HTS cable from Southwire are part of the system distributing electric power to residential, commercial and industrial customers through AEP's Bixby substation in Groveport, Ohio. The installation phase of the two-year demonstration project came in on time and on budget.

Superconducting cables, operating at extremely low temperatures, eliminate virtually all resistance to the flow of electric current. HTS cables can deliver up to five times more electricity than traditional conventional copper or aluminum cables and have the potential to address the challenge of providing sufficient electricity to densely populated areas. In an increasing number of cities, there is little room to expand underground cable networks and the cost to lay additional cable, including building new tunnels or ducts, is prohibitive. With their higher capacity, superconducting cables have the potential to increase the supply of electricity to an area using the existing underground cable footprint. Additionally, because HTS cables can carry more current at a lower voltage over longer distances, large power transformers could be located farther from urban centers and densely populated areas freeing up valuable real estate for development or green space.

Check out the flash animation at this website, that shows how an urban landscape can be transformed by the space efficiencies of superconducting cable such as the Triax HTS system. Urban real estate can be highly expensive, and anything that can free up land for more profitable use would be welcomed.

High-temperature superconductive cables are simple enough in principle. Encase a ceramic material in a silver tape, submerge it in liquid nitrogen, and run current through it. Temperature is the key. A conductor that carries 200A at -321 °F can carry 240A at -334 °F. Turn the refrigeration up and you get more capacity. You’ll lose about 0.5 percent of the power you transmit, where traditional power cables lose from three to eight percent. The trick is being able to manufacture your design. In the center of Southwire’s superconducting cable is a flexible pipe carrying liquid nitrogen. Superconducting tapes wrap around the pipe, followed by a dielectric layer, then a second layer of superconducting tapes that act as a neutral conductor. A double-walled outer cryostat surrounds the cable core and provides a return path for the nitrogen.

Hat tip to Energy Blog.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Improved Oil Discovery Under the Sea--Expect More

The recent discovery of a huge new undersea oil reservoir in the Gulf of Mexico is causing more intelligent people to rethink the issue of "peak oil."

The well sustained a flow rate of about 6,000 barrels a day, strong enough to encourage analysts to predict that the field may contain anywhere from three billion to fifteen billion barrels of oil, although the results of a second well test scheduled for 2007 will sharpen the accuracy of those figures considerably. If the higher-end estimate is correct, though, the discovery would approach Prudhoe Bay in size, and possibly increase total U.S. reserves by some 50 percent.
Technology Review.

This huge undersea oil field was found by improved seismic techniques. But oil discovery science is not limited to seismic methods. A new generation of petroleum prospectors are learning to use these new techniques, which promise a new wave of oil discovery that could last for decades.

Other parts of the world that once appeared beyond the pale may also come into play. Areas believed to have oil deposits extremely deep beneath the ocean floor, which could now become commercially recoverable, include the North Sea off the coast of Britain, the Nile River Delta off the coast of Egypt, and possibly coastal Brazil, says Andrew Latham, a vice-president at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie in Edinburgh, Scotland. Other analysts say West Africa could harbor lots of ultra-deep deposits. The areas have produced oil before but never from these depths.

Of course, these huge new oil fields will take time to develop. Much of the new oil reserves will probably lie undisturbed, like the ANWR oil fields in Alaska, due to lack of desperate need for it. Oil prices of $70 US per barrel are not economy busters by any means. Yet those prices are high enough to encourage development of renewable sources of energy, as well as novel uses for coal, and increased use of nuclear energy. The current price level also encourages oil companies to stretch their nets of oil discovery wider and deeper.

So, although the move away from petroleum and toward alternative fuels is real and probably irreversible, it is still in the early phase, and is not due to any hardship associated with the old "catastrophic peak oil" quasi-religious belief. It is basic economics combined with a desire by developed societies to move toward cleaner and ultimately more sustainable forms of energy.

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