Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Giant Microwave Oven Says: Fuck You, Peak Oil!

What if you could take your used plastic containers, and turn them into oil and natural gas? What would that mean for peak oil? Especially if the plastic containers had been made from potatoes? Peak oil, meet Mr. Microwave Oven
A US company is taking plastics recycling to another level – turning them back into the oil they were made from, and gas.

All that is needed, claims Global Resource Corporation (GRC), is a finely tuned microwave and – hey presto! – a mix of materials that were made from oil can be reduced back to oil and combustible gas (and a few leftovers).

Key to GRC’s process is a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials. As the material is zapped at the appropriate wavelength, part of the hydrocarbons that make up the plastic and rubber in the material are broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas.

GRC's machine is called the Hawk-10. Its smaller incarnations look just like an industrial microwave with bits of machinery attached to it. Larger versions resemble a concrete mixer.

"Anything that has a hydrocarbon base will be affected by our process," says Jerry Meddick, director of business development at GRC, based in New Jersey. "We release those hydrocarbon molecules from the material and it then becomes gas and oil."

Microwaves can do a lot of things. And they take their abilities very seriously. Seriously. Don't piss them off!

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Uranium Prices Stimulate Mining Rush for Nuclear Fuel

With uranium prices shooting upward with the news of a surge in worldwide construction of nuclear reactors, uranium prospectors have gone a little crazy.
Utah mining prospector Kyle Kimmerle has more than a hunch that uranium will make him rich. It is a conviction so strong he has bet his house on it.

"We literally spent every dollar we had in savings, hawked and sold our houses and put everything we owned into this. We went all in," said Kimmerle, who runs a funeral home in this Canyonlands city. "My wife is scared, but I'm not."

He is among a rush of prospectors in the Colorado Plateau mineral belt who are thumping stakes into public land and registering claims, hoping to get rich on the back of record uranium prices.

The boom is reviving the fortunes of a storied mining area in the U.S. Southwest where large uranium ore deposits were first tapped for the voracious Cold War nuclear weapons program in the early 1950s, before suffering a slump.

The Bureau of Land Management said this month a new wave of prospectors have registered some 3,700 claims in the Moab and Monticello areas since October 1 last year, more than twice the total for whole of the previous year.

Prospectors are banking on strong demand for uranium from a resurgent nuclear power industry, as high oil prices and a global effort to clamp down on greenhouse gases blamed for climate change have pushed prices for the metal to $135 per pound, from just $7 in 2000.

This is a modern gold rush, for uranium. Modern societies are addicted to high doses of concentrated energy, and the addiction will only get worse with time. With oil production currently on a plateau, nuclear and coal are the natural fallback options.

There are many safer reactor designs, than the ones most commonly in use around the world. In China, with a heavy death and sickness toll from mining accidents and pollution/contamination of air and water, nuclear power makes sense. Even in the US, where pollution decreases every year, and mining deaths are less common, trading fossil fuel for safer nuclear plants is reasonable.

Certainly there are better means of long term waste disposal than are currently utilised, and the idea of recycling nuclear wastes back into fuel is beginning to catch on with planners and policy makers.

If you own stock in uranium mines, and have no need to sell immediately, you might want to watch and see how things develop.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Finally! A Rational Carbon Tax

Carbon trading schemes are hopelessly mired in corruption and fraud. A fair carbon tax may work better, if a rational scheme for such a tax could be devised.
The IPCC predicts a warming rate in the tropical troposphere of about double that at the surface, implying about 0.2C to 1.2C per decade in the tropical troposphere under greenhouse-forcing scenarios. That implies the tax will climb by $4 to $24 per tonne per decade, a much more aggressive schedule of emission fee increases than most current proposals. At the upper end of warming forecasts, the tax could reach $200 per tonne of CO2 by 2100, forcing major carbon-emission reductions and a global shift to non-carbon energy sources.

Global-warming activists would like this. But so would skeptics, because they believe the models are exaggerating the warming forecasts. After all, the averaged UAH/ RSS tropical troposphere series went up only about 0.08C over the past decade, and has been going down since 2002. Some solar scientists even expect pronounced cooling to begin in a decade. If they are right, the T3 tax will fall below zero within two decades, turning into a subsidy for carbon emissions.

....Under the T3 tax, the regulator gets to call everyone's bluff at once, without gambling in advance on who is right. If the tax goes up, it ought to have. If it doesn't go up, it shouldn't have. Either way we get a sensible outcome.

But the benefits don't stop there. The T3 tax will induce forward-looking behaviour. Alarmists worry that conventional policy operates with too long a lag to prevent damaging climate change. Under the T3 tax, investors planning major industrial projects will need to forecast the tax rate many years ahead, thereby taking into account the most likely path of global warming a decade or more in advance.

And best of all, the T3 tax will encourage private-sector climate forecasting. Firms will need good estimates of future tax rates, which will force them to look deeply, and objectively, into the question of whether existing climate forecasts have an alarmist bias. The financial incentives will lead to independent reassessments of global climate modelling, without regard to what politicians, the IPCC or climatology professors want to hear.

Policymaking in the real world is messy, and ideas that sound good in theory can come out hopelessly gummed up with extraneous provisions that dilute or contradict the original purpose. But as a thought experiment, I find the T3 tax clarifies a lot of issues.

Read the whole thing. It is clear that apocalyptic prophecies that aspire to public policy need to be called to account. Alarmist bureaucrats and "scientists" must be forced to "put their money where their mouths are."

Alarmist predictions that can not possibly come true before everyone now alive is long since dead, are not worth taking seriously. Benchmarks must be set and adhered to. Otherwise it is all a cynical game on the part of the IPCC and its pet computer modelers.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Methane Hydrate Reserves--Up to One Half the Amount of Other Fossil Fuel Reserves Worldwide

Methane hydrates may contain up to half the energy of other fossil fuel reserves. China does not want to be left out of the act, and is actively working to develop the methane hydrates lying in the northern part of the South China Sea.
China announced yesterday it had made a breakthrough in excavating natural gas hydrate, the so-called “flammable ice”, which is believed to be a potential natural energy source. Zhang Hongtao, deputy director-general of China Geological Survey (CGS), said gas hydrate samples were successfully collected from the northern part of the South China Sea last month. China is the fourth country after the United States, Japan and India to make such a technological achievement. Zhang said the development was expected to ease the country’s dependence on oil and coal.
Methane hydrates, or "fire in ice", will require special technologies in order to be exploited, because they lie underwater off continental shelfs. As you can see on the map, the China Sea deposits are not considered among the larger deposits. It is quite likely that current estimates of undersea fossil fuel resources are woefully understated.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

New Lighting Technology

We need better lighting. Incandescent bulbs are inefficient, but fluorescent bulbs contain toxic materials such as mercury. Fortunately scientists at the University of Illinois are working on a new lighting technology that is brighter than incandescents, and may eventually be more efficient than fluorescents.
“Built of aluminum foil, sapphire and small amounts of gas, the panels are less than 1 millimeter thick, and can hang on a wall like picture frames,” said Gary Eden, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the U. of I., and corresponding author of a paper describing the microcavity plasma lamps in the June issue of the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.

Like conventional fluorescent lights, microcavity plasma lamps are glow-discharges in which atoms of a gas are excited by electrons and radiate light. Unlike fluorescent lights, however, microcavity plasma lamps produce the plasma in microscopic pockets and require no ballast, reflector or heavy metal housing. The panels are lighter, brighter and more efficient than incandescent lights and are expected, with further engineering, to approach or surpass the efficiency of fluorescent lighting.

The plasma panels are also six times thinner than panels composed of light-emitting diodes, said Eden, who also is a researcher at the university’s Coordinated Science Laboratory and the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory.

A plasma panel consists of a sandwich of two sheets of aluminum foil separated by a thin dielectric layer of clear aluminum oxide (sapphire). At the heart of each lamp is a small cavity, which penetrates the upper sheet of aluminum foil and the sapphire.

Such lightweight, thin profile lighting would be in demand by upscale designers, even if the efficiencies were not much better than that of incandescents. But with efficiencies challenging fluorescents, this lighting technology should find ready acceptance if efficient production methods are devised.


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